Two Nights in Liverpool

Robert and I took Jamie and Ana down to Liverpool for a couple of days last week. A couple of nights in the Holiday Inn Express – cheap, clean, functional and well placed for the Docks and the City Centre.

Last time I was in Liverpool it was 1996 and I was there for a final interview with the Health and Safety Executive. Success was admission as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Health and Safety.

I had an overnight in a nasty, fowsty, run-down, rent-by-the-hour ‘hotel’ just beyond what I think is now an impressive Chinatown. I didn’t sleep. For a place with only fifteen rooms there were a lot of doors banging and a lot of comings and goings… (pun intended). My door was tried at least twice. In the end I wedged a chair under the handle and scratched at the red lumps that were appearing on my legs.

I couldn’t have given a shit what happened at that interview.

That’s probably why I got the job.

Anyway. Liverpool was a derelict frightening dump of a place. The Liver Building was covered in mesh – presumably to prevent loosening masonry from braining some innocent passerby. The Liver birds were miserable looking craturs – tethered (as they are today) and scaffolded (as they are not).

It looked like what I thought a war zone might resemble.The aftermath of the ideological war was ugly. Liverpool was defeated – and there were only faint traces of rebirth. Some scaffolding here and there and development at the old Albert Dock area from where a popular morning tv show was broadcast- but I could only see this as a manifestation of contempt for what the old City had been.

Now it’s transformed. It’s been middle-class-ified. In that sense I suppose it’s no different from any other Northern ex-industrial behemoth. Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Newcastle. All regenerated. All to varying success.

We managed to avoid the Beatles and mostly everything Beatle-related (who were the Beatles, Mum? They’ve spelt the name wrong. Shouldn’t it be Beetles?). But we bored the kids with museum overload. The Tate Modern (Jamie enjoyed a binary art/not art trip around it – deciding he definitely didn’t think spots or splashes or anything installation-y was ‘art’). The Maritime Museum. The Museum of Slavery. The Museum of Liverpool Life. We took a Citysightseeing bus and short-circuited city knowledge. The Cathedrals are astonishing buildings – even for this non-religious family. The City Wheel went up too high for me. The Mersey was vast and chill – an astonishing river for one used to the Clyde.

The people, though – the people. They were funny and warm and acerbic. Certain in their sense of self. They wanted to talk and smile and show you things. They wanted to engage. The humour – self-deprecating, taking the piss – was one that I recognised from Glasgow. I felt at home. There was the same edge to things – a sense that someone might pull a knife as quickly as a laugh. But that was familiar, the known. And it’s been years since I saw anything violent in Glasgow – or felt afraid walking through its streets – so I was not afraid.

I’m glad we went. Really glad.

Liverpool Wheel – Ana and Robert in foreground

Albert Dock – view from the hotel room. Grey overcast and cold. It’s now a World Heritage Site.

Robert and Jamie freezing their balls off looking out over the Mersey vastness…

8 thoughts on “Two Nights in Liverpool

  1. Oh, Liverpool has been totally transformed from the city I visited as a girl. Yes, it's a bit of a generic regeneration product, but it's good that those fine buildings have been rescued and given new uses and there's so much to see and do. I'm glad you enjoyed your visit.

  2. What I hadn't realised Perpetua – until we arrived – was that the Docks area is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site (just like New Lanark, my home village!). Really was impressive what has been done to regenerate the area. And it's all busy and being used – which, as you say, is far far better than it lying in derelict decay and disuse. I'd love to go back. x

  3. We're only half an hour away so should visit more – the city centre has been transformed. Unfortunately many parts of the city are still very run down though. I agree with you that there's a kind of similarity between the character of the people in Liverpool and those in Glasgow. My husband who is from Liverpool loves Glasgow and feels at home there.

  4. It's funny how we do that, isn't it – somehow overlook the places we are close to. I live only a ten minute walk along picturesque countryside to the Falls of Clyde – but can count on the fingers of one hand how often I've actually bothered to walk up. We take for granted what we 'have' I suppose.
    I really was struck by the similarity between Glasgow and Liverpool – wonder if that's the shared Irish diaspora effect? Hope you are enjoying the break from the chalkface! x

  5. I won't repeat the discussions we've already had in another forum about the city of my birth but as a person who spends (and has for 40 years spent) more time in Glasgow than I have done in Liverpool since my 20s I cannot but agree that they are very alike in so many ways. When one considers their history in the last 150 years though that's not surprising. I felt completely at home in Glasgow the first day I set foot there in the 60s and I still do.

  6. Great post.
    I loved your description of your 1996 visit to Liverpool. Especially:

    'My door was tried at least twice. In the end I wedged a chair under the handle and scratched at the red lumps that were appearing on my legs.'

    There's a great short story in there.

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