Thursday, 16 July 2009

Sentimental journey.

As soon as the last race was over and the crowds started to surge out of the exit gates, we all made our escape. Edgy was off to see his bird, as was Leigh. Mark wanted to hang out on County Road, he was too smashed to even consider going into the city centre. It took 15 minutes of dead-end, argumentative debate with him to settle the whole issue.

That left just me and Zippy.

God bless him, I thought he was a smashing lad. He'd give you the very shirt off his back if you asked him for it. And he was a top mate when you were in a jam.

But his endlessly repetitive wild-eyed, rabid rants about Shankly, Daglish, Rush, Barnes, Rafa Benitez and his squad rotation policy, Istanbul 2005, and how Gary Neville was an absolute TWAT - were getting too much to bear. It didn't matter that I was a blue - it was just the same old vinyl to me, stuck on a jumping needle.

There's a time and a place, Ste. I just wanna party.

I was somewhat relieved when he stubbornly insisted on staying in West Derby Village for a few pints. That did me just fine. I fancied hitting the city centre for a few before going home - Maybe catch up with Edgy and Leigh later on.

I made my farewells and headed to the Merseyrail station.

It was crammed with hundreds of people, singing, dancing, drinking, fighting and fucking. Nervy squads of painfully young, obviously inexperienced policemen tried to maintain order as the train flew into the stop, desperately trying to keep people from falling into the path of the rumbling machine. It was like central Tokyo at rush hour, but without the orderly, clock-work precision and that strange (to Western eyes) sense of silent manners that the Japanese seem to innately possess.

After much swearing, shoving and pushing, I found myself stumbling into a carriage near the front, trapped like a sardine between a blind-drunk overweight girl with a hideous Kermit-the-frog green dress on, and a young lad with fresh sick plastered all over his suit, seemingly falling asleep where he stood. There were muted cheers, whistles and cat-calls from the passengers as the doors of the carriage shut and started to jolt forward.

Maybe town was a bad idea, I thought. There would be blood spilled on the streets that night, no doubt. Always was when it was fine weather and people were trashed. I deliberated whether to get off and meet Mark or Zippy - the next stop wasn't that far. Safety in numbers and all that.

But a flash of a smile from the girl the opposite side of the carriage swung it.

No, I had bigger fish to fry. I tried to maintain eye contact, but she turned away as much as the confined space would allow, holding her mobile phone to her face as she laughed into it.

Town it was.

The journey didn't take that long.

Maybe 10 minutes or so.

It was enlivened no end by the guy across from where I stood with his shirt unevenly tucked into his trousers, shirt and tie ruffled, who suddenly decided to take a piss on his seat. He instantly created a torrential river of boozy urine that ran down the carriage mercilessly, sending people scattering to avoid it, screaming curses at him as he stood there, grinning idiotically to his mates, maybe around 20 guys, half of whom were collectively stood holding their heads in their hands, shaking their heads in shame.

He was ruthlessly panelled by four or five others for his trouble and thrown unceremoniously off face-first at the Sandhills station, rolling over himself several times with the momentum, eventually lying face up, staring at the sky mouth agape.

His spectacular exit was to a chorus of "WHA-HEEEEEE-EEYYYY!!! HA HA HA HA!!!" as the doors slid shut and we pulled away.

Comments bounced around our carriage.

"Young ones these days...No respect, eh Arthur??" muttered the respectable-looking old lady standing with her husband, shaking her head rhythmically.

"Thought yer told him to wait till we got ter the station?? What am I gonna tell his ma now??" said the lad's stocky, no-neck mate to the rest of his crew, shaking his first in exasperation.

"Was he with youse? He's a fuckin' disgrace!!!" screamed the big girl next to me in the pea-soup green dress, jabbing her finger at them accusingly.

Moorfields station finally pulled into view, and I wriggled through the ram-packed carriage to alight.

I made my way out of the station hopping up the escalator, deftly dodging a pissed-up couple on my way, who were sitting on the moving steps, having a blazing row.

It's a blessing being single a lot of the time, I remember thinking as I eased past them, their drunken slag-match reverberating up and along the tiled corridors.


A deep breath.

I thought about calling Edgy or Leigh.

No, scrub that, I'd wait till I reached a boozer.

Right, let's go. Watering hole of choice? Hmmmm....not too sure. Not too arsed that I'm on my own now. I'm my own best company, really. Just want to muse about the day and have a reflective couple of scoops.

The Hogshead bar on North John Street seemed handy enough.

I strolled through the square at the rear of the Town hall, soaking up the late afternoon sun, absorbing the great architecture for what felt like the first time. The Nelson monument, the war memorial, the imposing, powerful Exchange Flags buildings that loomed around me.

Britain had survived (and won) WW2 thanks to this remarkable area. The secret navy base that guided ships across the Atlantic Ocean against the Nazi U-boat fleets was hidden underground of this square, transmitting vital signals to those slow, vulnerable merchant vessels delivering food and essential materials to the nation.

It was now a tourist attraction, but my Grand-dad Joe and Grand-dad John, who had both served in every theatre of that savage conflict, had told me stories about it when I was a child, when it was still on the official secrets act.

You can't silence - or deny - the words of GREAT men, REGULAR Liverpool men who lived and fought in such a colossally historical event. There's no generation written about in the annals of human history that can compare with the mental, moral or ethical strength of those fellows.

They saved the world, plain and simple.

It was times like that, that I wished I'd had a jazzy digital camera on my person. You took the great, epic, crafted elements of your home town for granted sometimes. Only your aged eyes and first-hand experience of walking by them gave you the vision and insight to accept and understand how hard the people who made such magnificent buildings had slaved and toiled to design and construct them.

A police siren and the honk of a taxi horn snapped me out of my moment of historical fascination.

To the pub, I thought.

"Shuuuruup lad...I never knew that.....Abaaar the war and that....." uttered Dean, leaning forwards, utterly entranced by my storytelling.

"Yeah....Oh yeah....I gotta get to that bird, kinda lost track there forra minute....Hang on...Here we go....."