Emerging from Winter/Part Two

The second of two linked posts, walking round the neighbourhoods where I live. Part One here.

This Sunday in late February arrives just as blue and just as cold as yesterday. Perfect then for another day of trying to walk my cold off around the streets of the neighbourhood. Starting by walking across to The Mystery, like yesterday, but after that who knows?

Under the London-line railway bridges and along to the Ullet Road/Smithdown crossroads. Past social venues old and new including a personal favourite, Naked Lunch. A co-op café and if there’s a friendlier place in Liverpool I don’t know it yet.

Once again everywhere looks great with the blue sky wrapped around it. A couple of Smithdown blocks full of stories here.

More nail and property offices than proper shops in this one at the moment. The white-fronted place there used to be W.A. Brady, Liverpool’s leading hi-fi shop in the 1970s. The upper floors were packed with demonstration rooms and equipment I could mostly only dream of and the family have long moved their operations to somewhere in Warrington. But every time I pass I like to imagine that, whoever the current occupants are, they’ve got a top quality but ageing 1970s hi-fi in there still. Linn Sondek, Naim pre and power amps and Isobarik speakers still thundering out their half-speed mastered ‘Rumours?’

Food, tattoos and what next? These are generally good days for Smithdown. Still Liverpool’s student area of choice, for all the Universities and other developers attempting to drag everyone into expensive new-build hutches in the city centre. People like it round here, with each other and all these places to go.

Just opened and apparently already causing queues down the street. Nice new shop sign there by Jason Hollis. Defend Vinyl a few doors along.

A good pub, then the Aldi for all life’s basics. After which the busyness of the road kind of dies.

And not so much because there’s a cemetery down the side of it, as because so many of the houses opposite have been empty now for years.

This is the ‘houses for a pound’ area, disastrously emptied of people early this century by the same reviled Housing Market Renewal Pathfinder that nearly did for Granby. Here half the streets have been replaced by a school and the others are, well you can see how the others are.

Currently the City Council are trying to revive these streets by selling the houses for £1 to people who can then bring in their own money to do them up and live in them. Which sounds attractive, and is currently the subject of a television series, but in reality is a long slog that is taking everyone years to pull off, if they ever will.

Obviously I wish everyone involved well with this, but that big blue fence has been there for a very long time now. And I know it’s a Sunday, but these streets don’t feel like they’ve got much energy in them.

Thinking about the desolation of the £ streets a couple of days later, everything about the Housing Market Renewal idea has been a disaster. From it’s neo-liberal conception as a way to revive the housing market by depriving people of their homes and forcing them into new mortgages they should never have needed, through the policy’s eager adoption by a previous council administration with no clear plans of how to replace the demolished homes, to the mess we have now.

Beyond the new school there are the big churches for the long ago population. Now being run by their new faiths – or reinvigorating their old faiths with brand values?

Up the hill at Earle Road to the Lodge Lane crossroads, I’m realising that I feel much better than yesterday. If there’s not quite a spring in my step then at least I’m not dragging my feet behind me like yesterday.

Crossing into Lodge Lane there’s an immediate lift in energy after the silence of the £1 streets. Cars being washed like Sundays everywhere, people on the streets, things happening.

Time for a sit and watch the world go by. I’m not sure how well this newly laid out area is working. No one else is sat here, but then again it is freezing cold. Maybe it works best as a market and social place for warmer days?

Behind me there’s this large open space where a school used to be, stretching half way to Granby. Any plans, does anyone know?

And opposite is the road’s big public success, BBC food retailer of the year 2015 and busy today like always.

Then before leaving Lodge Lane there a bit of leftover livery stables past and then Grove Park, another of those surprisingly grand enclaves that keep themselves to themselves all over the city.

Crossing over to Sefton Park a tower block here is having its cladding removed. This was once municipal housing but was sold off years ago. So I hope the people in here aren’t having to fund this removal themselves?

In the long avenue in Sefton Park the crocuses are out, or is it croci? Brought up by the longer light each day now, despite the intense cold.

Into Lark Lane and welcoming The Lark Bistro, to a building I first knew as The Amorous Cat bookshop. And saying goodbye to The Moon & Pea cafe and deli. While Keith’s of course goes on forever.

I wonder what the ‘late night parlour games’ are in The Lodge here?

Time for another sit.

I’ve been sitting on this wall, mostly on Sunday afternoons , for about 40 years now. Between Lark Lane and Ullet Road, sometimes with a sandwich, always with a book and sometimes with company, as people know to find me here. I don’t remember picking it as ‘my place’ but over time it must have picked me.

Today I read for half an hour, meet no one, and when the late afternoon drop in temperature starts getting through my thermals, I start walking home.

Across the park are the tower blocks I might have once lived in.

Back in 1990 these were still run by the City Council and, living nearby at the time with my daughter Clare, I quickly applied when I heard the Council had opened up their waiting list. Not quickly enough though, so we never did get the airy space overlooking the park I think we’d have loved. And now I never pass them without imagining another version of our lives, not with regret, but certainly with curiosity?

We were living with friends, along here on Cheltenham Avenue, when we tried to get our own place in the sky by the park.

Walking past today I count up living in five different places during 1990 and 91. A turbulent time but with much help from friends.

I’m also pleased to notice the Unitarian Church here is turning its attention to the Tango.

Back at the Ullet Road crossroads now, tiring, but all this walking really is seeing off the cold.

Under the bridge and irritated, as ever, by cars parked right up on the pavement. Really? Do you have to?

Then, anyway, it’s up the hill in The Mystery and back here where I’m writing this.  After two bright blue days, letting my camera lead me around the place I call home.

Yes, we don’t live merely between the walls that surround us, even if we’re lucky enough to have them. We live in the streets and the neighbourhoods of home, with the people who live around us, amongst the stories of all of our lives.

It has been a huge pleasure walking around my home place these past two days. And I’m feeling much better for it, thank you!

Read Part One of this weekend of walking here at “Emerging from Winter/Part One”

10 Replies to “Emerging from Winter/Part Two”

  1. Really enjoy your photos and comments. Childhood memories of Macdonald Street and the surrounding areas are brought vividly to mind. Lawrence Road School and Childwall Valley High School also figured largely. The Magnet Cinema and the Wavertree Labour Club were major factors in my childhood.

    1. Everything about the Housing Market Renewal idea has been a disaster. From it’s neo-liberal conception as a way to revive the housing market by depriving people of their homes, through its eager adoption by a previous council administration with no clear plans of how to replace the demolished homes to the mess we have now.

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