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Tag Archives Liverpool

ORGANISED CRIMES

I watched the TV parade of affluent

(and mostly public school) chancers, liars,

fantasists, hypocrites, law-breakers

vie to top each other’s warmed-up clichés

and self-serving platitudes. The social

and economic future dystopia most

seemed to desire would, they assured us,

bring out the British best in all of us,

just like the Blitz. I thought of bomb-razed

building lots in major cities still empty,

and a tale a cabby told me years ago,

taxiing me from the railway station.

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CONVALESCENCE

We drove towards the River Dee – down walled lanes

with rhododendrons festooning the sandstone,

their attic blooms in imperial colours –

to visit a doughty friend convalescing,

from two knee replacements, in Seize The Day,

a recently opened upmarket care home.

 

As we turned into the drive, I realised

that this, long before rebuilding, was where

my mother had first trained to be a nurse –

sixteen, with her friend, Belle. They cared for children

with TB from the Liverpool slums.

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53 WILLIAM STREET

Our DNA is filled with wondrous

commonplaces, luminous platitudes:

refugees from pogroms in the Ukraine,

refugees from the Famine in Connaught.

*

This was the house my mother’s family moved to

from 7 Moses Street, off Sefton Park Road,

Liverpool, three years before she was born;

Ma, Da, her two small sisters, her two teenage

step brothers; a rented end of terrace –

with gas, running water, outside privy –

in a cobbled cul-de-sac, where bread

still warm was delivered in the Co-op’s

horse drawn van,

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LIVERPOOL, 3RD MAY 1941

This is one of the great public, civic

spaces of the world – the museum,

the library, the gallery, the court house,

Wellington’s column, the Steble fountain,

the Empire Theatre, Lime Street Station,

St George’s Hall,  St John’s Gardens, vistas

of the river, the Wirral, the Welsh hills…

 

During the worst raid of the Liverpool Blitz

the museum was set ablaze – a bomb,

one of so many, supposedly

for the docks, that razed history, neighbourhoods.

My grandmother,

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A SILK PURSE: THE EVERYMAN THEATRE, LIVERPOOL

Before it was the Everyman Theatre

it was Hope Hall Cinema – and bar –

frequented by Dooley, Henri, McGough,

the Liverpool Scene. I saw Jean Renoir’s

1939 black and white ‘La Règle

du Jeu’ – Chekhovian, dystopian

entre deux guerres – in what was an untouched

dissenters’ chapel four-square between

the two cathedrals on Hope Street.

 

It became a theatre known for new writing,

new music – all with a political edge

and with humour,

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LIKE A FIRE BELL IN THE NIGHT

‘It is an article of faith that knowledge of the past is a key to understanding the present.’
The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South Kenneth M. Stampp

 

While the patrols inflamed the sudden sky
with bodies charred beyond race, runaways,
still green from the deep forests of Guinea,
crossed Georgia’s strange, red earth then the barrens,
where pines sighed like ancestral ghosts, and swamps,
where vipers lisped in honeysuckle,
to reach the shore and walk home through the sea –
whose waters, as they drowned,

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EXTERMINATE THE BRUTES

For Alex Cox

‘I am strongly in favour of using poison gas against uncivilised tribes.’ Winston Churchill

As usual, he dresses for town
in anticipation of the King’s summons –
which never comes. After breakfast, he reads
The Times and the Daily Telegraph, notes
Ghandi’s lenient sentence of six years
in prison without hard labour – then,
reflecting on unrest throughout the Empire,
puts on his smock and his homburg and strolls,
cigar lit, the short walk to his studio.
He pours a small portion of Johnny Walker –

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SIX DEGREES: THE MAY BLITZ, LIVERPOOL 1941

For Lesley Johnson

 

Obviously they were after the docklands –

Liverpool, Wallasey, Birkenhead –

with a week long of raids but many bombs,

as usual, missed their targets entirely,

shrapnelling then burning streets – commercial

and residential – either side of the river,

upstream and down. The photos of acres

of devastation in Liverpool’s

downtown city centre prefigured Dresden.

 

There is a watercolour in the Walker

by Peter Shepheard –

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THE COAT HANGER

It is wooden, a gent’s, with ‘Elder Dempster’

machined then varnished into one of

the shoulders. It belonged to the shipping line

which plied between Liverpool and Lagos,

via Freetown and Accra. It was purloined,

accidentally or otherwise,

by my father or mother, possibly

the latter on her last trip home, with me

in her womb, to ensure a safer birth

in temperate climes –  U-Boats permitting.

 

He died of septicaemia three months

after I was born –

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