I’m standing at the crossroadsRobert Johnson
Believe I’m sinking down
The first of a linked pair of crossroads stories.
In ancient blues mythology the crossroads would be where the down on their luck likes of Robert Johnson would go to make a deal with the devil, in exchange for their souls. But though I looked for the devil here at the crossroads of Durning and Wavertree in Liverpool this morning I couldn’t find him, only some of his works.
A faceless warehouse with its back turned to the corner. The opposite corner’s windblown former job centre, and the dead landscaping where I’m standing. Bleak. Yet despite Liverpool’s recent troubles with corruption I doubt anyone sold their souls to the devil or his property developers for any of these. More likely they are the cumulative results of the kind of tick-box, that’ll do for round there, lack of imagination kinds of planning decisions, over decades, that gets inflicted on crossroads like this everywhere. A mile or two out of the city, emptied of most of the people who used to live and work here, with it’s only remaining function being to keep the constant traffic flowing to other places. Not a place where anyone would want to stop for the sake of itself then?
Well actually this could have all been so much better. Better anyway because there’s no excuse for any city letting its neighbourhoods degenerate into this. And then there’s the additional fact of this particular crossroads being the site of Edge Hill Station. The oldest passenger railway station in the world, and where Stephenson’s Rocket set off on its inaugural journey to Manchester in 1830. A very significant place then in the birth of the ideas ‘trains’ and ‘railways.’ And how is all that most obviously being remembered to the passing likes of me? In the name of a behind a big wall sheltered housing scheme is all.
While in fact, though you have to look hard to find it, the lovely 200 year old railway station is still here. Deep in a cutting, at the back of that Iceland building, down a still cobbled lane. The classical looking sandstone building you might have just about noticed from a West Coast main line train as it’s flashed by.
But you’d never notice it from the crossroads itself, which seems more than a shame. Stupid really.
But hey, there’s lots of empty land just next to the station where something better could be built. All protected by a long fence you can’t see through, more bleak, until you get to the far end near Lodge Lane and can just about photograph the mostly empty car park that the fence is protecting.
And at the next crossroads? To end on a positive note? Finally, finally, Stephenson and his Rocket get the memorial they’ve been waiting for. Since 1830.
Believe I’m sinking down.