I have never lived in Liverpool, although for family reasons and one of the football teams, it is probably the city that I identify most with back home. Living in Berlin, and working in the hostel, it was the answer I gave when asked where I was from – unless the asker was from the UK, in which case I would add a “near” to the “Liverpool.” It was only if I heard a trace of a Scouse accent would I admit to Burscough which, despite its L40 postcode, never had the purple wheely bins.
Last summer we spent a couple of weeks back across the water, and I returned to Liverpool for the first time in a decade. Most cities will be different after a ten year absence, but I was struck by the dramatic nature of some of the changes in the centre of town, a re-development spurred (I presume) by the year as Capital of Culture in 2008. I couldn’t tell whether it was an improvement or not, and I guess I will leave that up to the locals to decide, but it was slightly unnerving to be standing in a place that I thought I knew and having absolutely no sense of direction or idea where I was in relation to anything else.
Other parts were reassuringly similar, although the situation around Anfield seems to have declined drastically. It is hard to imagine, in this era of overseas ownership and multimillionaire footballers, but there is no escaping the fact that delays in stadium development by the red half of the footballing city have left their local surroundings in a state of limbo, and to see street after street of boarded up houses, like something out of the Wire, was distinctly depressing.
Altogether it was great to be back, visiting friends on Lark Lane or an allotment close to Sefton Park, seeing for the first time the Gormley statues in Crosby or wandering the streets around the cathedrals… I just hope that it does not take another ten years before I get there again.
Words & Pictures: Paul Scraton