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Posts Tagged ‘southport’

I haven’t done much walking recently, but I did manage to get a few stationary miles in today at Southport Hospital, taking what is known as a ‘treadmill test’. This is a bit like going on a stepping machine at the gym, but with wires stuck on one’s chest, and lie-detector lines being drawn on screens and paper. I was advised not to look down, but instead to focus on the noticeboard filled with holiday postcards at eye-level in front of me – cheerful things, slightly faded, with a blue cast given the relative endurance of cyan pigment. There was a girl in a thong on a Greek island, and a star-shaped promontory in St Petersburg… While I rested from the unaccustomed exertion, Dr Mohammed gave me the result: ‘you have angina’. Not really a surprise, after two months of painful one-mile walks to work in the cold air, with syncope at the edges of my vision and a floundering collapse at the end. But still, I would rather have discovered that I was being a hypochondriac, or that these symptoms were a random after-effect of some virus.

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I had to take another test, so I stepped outside the hospital during the enforced break. It was a beautiful sunny day. If this was Dante’s ‘dark wood’, it was gleaming… but I felt lost nevertheless. Angina may not be very serious (I really don’t know; I don’t even know which brand of angina this is yet) but the diagnosis felt like being told which bullet has my name on it. It felt like… an end to having an everlasting body? In a way my inner being had always felt solid, ongoing, but now suddenly not so. Until today, like Norman Maccaig I might have said ‘Self under self, a pile of selves I stand/Threaded on time’ but (stumbling into the hospital’s Applejack cafe, with its surprisingly-unhealthy sausage-themed menu) I felt like just one, scared little self. A small meat object with temporary self-consciousness and a long to-do list.

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An ultrasound completed the day’s entertainment. All I can say about this curiously intimate experience is that my insides seem to have a soundtrack created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

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I finally left the hospital for the day. Feeling like a bracing bout of psychogeography, I headed for Southport’s ‘Sussex Road’, vaguely intrigued by the association between the beginning of my walk (Southport) and its end point (Sussex is where Brighton is). I walked this long street in the chilly bright sunshine. I have no idea what this angina gig will mean for the ‘walking home’ project – 20 mile hikes and Falstaffian drinking bouts may well be a thing of the past; worst of all I might even run out of words like the unspeaking couples in the hospital, simply losing life’s momentum. But I daresay I’ll power my way to the end point, buoyed by the chemical diet prescribed by Dr Mohammed (five daily pills and an optional spray), chemically-assisted arteries pumping away like fearsome cyborg engines and no worries.

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One thing I do know is that moderate alcohol consumption of the ‘two unit’ variety is supposed to be good for chaps in my condition. Heck, it’s probably compulsory. Frankly, I was ready for a couple of units – if ever the dictum that ‘a pint of plain is your only man’ had been valid it was now. So I went into the Guest House, a Southport pub that is sublime beyond measure. There, over a glass of Copper Dragon, I staved off self-pity with a conversation with a man who said he was travelling the country writing a book about the ‘death of Britain’. This conversation was more fun than it probably sounds. Afternoon light moved across the wood panelling and the strange abundance of life continued to flow.

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Approaching Liverpool

“Liverpool is at once a myth and a reality. People’s ideas of Liverpool must vary because Liverpool itself is both mythical and grittily real. There is so much to think about in Liverpool: so much to imagine. Liverpool isn’t just a World in One City – it’s as many worlds as you can envisage. Liverpool is so complex a notion, so complex a reality, it is impossible to pin down. When we think or talk of Liverpool, we reveal our own personality, interests, tastes.” So writes Pam Russell in just-published The Mersey Sound: Liverpool’s Language, People and Places. Reading this excited me, and made me realise how unformed my own image of Liverpool is. It has been my nearest city for the past eight years; I have visited many times, and been to many places (the top of Radio City Tower and the back room of Ye Cracke spring to mind.)

It will never be my city.

I had assumed that I was just indifferent to it, or the fact that I was always there for a reason, or passing through, meant I had never really engaged with the place. But perhaps the nature of Liverpool means I haven’t settled it in my mind – there is so much to it, so much difference in a small space, that it can’t be quickly ‘got’ the way Milton Keynes or Singapore might be (at least superficially.) Looking at some streets today, they seemed like collages of different cityscapes, an unplanned scrapbook of architecture now following some private logic of of its own. Golden domes, glass towers, Victorian wedding-cake buildings and art deco – trees grow through the tiles of the Futurist cinema and giant banners prompt you to think of passion, culture and the Pool of Life.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll be walking in along the Trans Pennine Way – a great sweeping curve that crosses the city. I hope to get at last as far as the infinity sign made by the double roundabout on the A580. Rambling, not purposefully heading for a meeting, bookshop, meal or train station. Actually arriving at Liverpool, maybe.

Technically I started the walk in Merseyside, as Southport is part of it (though originally in Lancs and with a Preston postcode.) And I did slip in to Lydiate and Maghull, damp and weary from the Moss. Ormskirk, and the independent academic state that overlaps with it, could be considered as being in Greater Merseyside or the City Region, but it isn’t a ‘Liverpool’ place despite the L postcode – more like a tamer, Lancashire version of the Interzone described by William Burroughs – people of many citizenships coming and going, beneath a big sky.

Tomorrow might feel like actually entering Liverpool. A quote of a quote of a quote: Eugene Victor Walter via Paul Devereux via Iain Sinclair: spiritual tourism as ‘a complex but organic mode of active observation’. That’s how I’d like to approach it, avoiding simply achieving the objective by crossing distance or just keeping this blog stoked up with wordage. So who knows – maybe I’ll see Blakean visions over Aintree and spend all day writing poems; maybe I’ll slog on in the rain and pop in to the Old Roan B&Q to get that washer I need.

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Starting to plan this walk, I need to do a few things. Some idea of route will help, including a start and end point.

Commencing at the end, the plan is to return to my birthplace. Brighton Maternity Hospital is no longer there; I could (and probably will) peer at the office block on the site, but that would be a bathetic end. I have no memory of our first home in Patcham. Sooo – I’m thinking of the end of Brighton Pier as the destination point. From there (on a clear day) I can look back at everywhere I’ve lived, worked, loved, drank, and just existed in the Brighton/Hove/Portslade locations that mean something to me.

That settled, a starting point is needed (and I suppose technically this is more urgent). My own front door would make sense, but I’m thinking of the end of Southport Pier. I’ll then walk to Ormskirk and onwards, probably joining the Trans Pennine Trail. Unfortunately this isn’t a Pennine Trail reserved for Trans people – it’s a coast-to-coast walking/cycling/ostrich-powered-rickshaw route, but it will get me to a point where I can cross the Mersey and veer south. (A massive detour to Sheffield, where some friends may give me a cup of tea, would be possible on this waymarked trail.)

These two points give the thing some symmetry – pier to pier, sea to sea, resort to resort…

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