The first of two linked posts, walking round the neighbourhoods where I live. Part Two here.
I haven’t done this for ages. Come out from the house on a bright blue day and let my camera take me for a walk. Making no plans about where I’ll go, I’ll see where my feet and my camera take me.
Across Grant Avenue and into The Mystery first. The great big sloping field close to our house. Emerging from the terraced streets into the open blue sky on a cold late winter’s day.
Across the far side of The Mystery, then walking along Grange Terrace. I lived here briefly in 1991 before buying the house where Sarah and I live now. This place has been my home for longer than anywhere else.
In recent times The Eureka has moved here from Myrtle Parade by the University, when that was being demolished.
I’m just getting into my stride here, walking quietly without the expected stream of opinions that usually accompanies me and gets written down later, still feeling the cold that’s been infecting me for weeks now. Convincing myself that if I walk far enough on this bright cold day I’ll walk the cold off.
The library disappoints me as they’re closed for an hour for lunch. I’m glad it’s open at all this far into the make-believe austerity we’re having to live through. But still. On a Saturday? Oh well.
Wavertree didn’t get pulled into Liverpool until the late 19th century and in places along the High Street here it still feels like a slightly separate place. A ghost mosaic and some old buildings still holding agricultural memories.
Just off the High Street there are Georgian and Victorian streets that surprise new visitors just by being here. Well here they are, looking particularly beautiful with the blue sky above them.
Coming back round to the High Street there’s this lovely little park, mysteriously empty of children for the middle of a Saturday. And just next to it Liverpool’s last piece of common land, with an ancient lock up in the centre of it, in case us commoners get too keen on doing what we want?
As you can probably tell the cold isn’t getting walked off. But beneath the gruff exterior I am happy doing this walking round the beloved place that’s been my home now for the best part of 30 years.
I’m not from here but from up in Walton, Bootle and round the North Liverpool suburbs where I grew up.
Then when I got my housing job in the mid 1970s I moved from Walton to where everyone I was working with lived, around Liverpool 8 and along Aigburth Road.
Life happened and at the beginning of the 1990s I decided to move to a bit of Liverpool I hadn’t lived in yet. Partly to be somewhere near Penny Lane, because of The Beatles, and mostly because I liked it. I still do.
I walk along Hunters Lane here at least a couple of times most weeks as it’s the route between our house and the Co-Op where much of our shopping gets done. It’s a narrow slit of a road, leading down to The Mystery and containing the beyond precious Wavertree Congregational Church.
Turning left at the end of Hunters Lane brings our walk to another beautiful church, Holy Trinity. Georgian, I think, with a graveyard I’ve often come and sat in, and really one of the centres of my personal universe. From here I can look down across The Mystery, see both Cathedrals and feel that if everything’s not absolutely all right with the world, then it’s not all wrong either.
The steps outside Holy Trinity’s parish hall are for stepping up onto your horse. Of course they are.
Walking along past the Bluecoat school I turn into Newcastle Road.
This terraced house at No 9 Newcastle Road is where his mother Julia brought our John in October 1940 after he’d been born in Oxford Street maternity hospital. And it’s never made it onto the tourist trail but it was their home for a few years and John remembered it all of his adult life:
‘So long ago
Was it in a dream, was it just a dream?
I know, yes I know
Seemed so very real, seemed so real to me
Took a walk down the street
Thru the heat whispered trees
I thought I could hear (hear, hear, hear)
Somebody called out my name as it started to rain
Two spirits dancing so strange…’
Number 9 Dream, John Lennon
Standing here I haven’t particularly thought of The Beatles for years. They’re around, pretty much part of my DNA, and I’ve got used to what happened here and there as I walk around Liverpool. It was a long time ago after all.
But stood here today I’m surprised by a shiver up my back bone. This isn’t just anywhere and I walk away more aware than I have been in years that this is a quietly special place.
Just along the road is the Penny Lane bus terminus where the growing up John would meet his friends Paul and George on their way into school and art college and changing the world. So long ago.
Out onto Allerton Road now. A blue glass piece in the window of one of the charity shops here used to be Sarah’s. Bought years ago from the artist who made it in Chipping Campden. Now waiting to be off on its next adventure, for £2.
Glad to see the long empty old Odeon being turned into something else, a gym. Hard to see what else you’d do with a large, sloping-floored hall. Good luck to whoever it is?
Along the road here it’s worrying to see empty shops. But I’ve lived around here long enough now to see the pattern. The Tories get elected, the shops empty, in time they recover, then the Tories get elected again.
Anyway, well done to the butcher, the baker, the grocer, the fishmonger, the gift shop and even the dancing school that continue. We’ll all get by and better times will soon be on their way. Won’t they?
Passing Penny Lane again now. The useless Sergeant Pepper’s that’s been getting done up, or not for years. The Oxfam where half of my books come from, getting done up this week. And passing the end of our road, not time to go home just yet.
Then this was Sefton Park railway station once upon a long ago. A hotel on one side that never did open for want of a licence. And the station itself the other side of the bridge. Both now having their afterlives beneath the rushing London-line trains above them.
Past Bob’s Angling, reassuringly quiet, and on for a late lunch at ‘the third cafe’ just off Smithdown. Where a quietly splendid time is had and Captain Beefheart gets played:
‘Turn on, tune in, I told you once…’
Lunch over it’s round into Greenbank Park as the afternoon dwindles to take this photograph, of this perfect place, for the first time this year. I’ll be back.
Round the corner they’re rebuilding the student halls and the home of Eleanor Rathbone, my principal inspiration, is all wrapped up ready for its own renaissance, I hope.
Sarah’s allotment is here too. But I don’t go in today. The cold hasn’t, of course, been walked off and it’s time to turn for home. As the shadows lengthen, past the newly built halls, not real bricks and that sign will light up soon, across the London-line on Penny Lane, a 1790 map in a shop window and Beatles all around me.
Almost home. Past the misplaced apostrophe someone pointed out on Twitter last week, thanks for that I’d managed not to notice it since 1991, then into our road and home.
I love it round here. And if it can’t cure the common cold then walking round the neighbourhood has been good for my spirit, like always.