Liverpool: The Friendly City
“When they say ‘Ello love, you alright?’ – It’s like nothing else.”
Liverpool writer Carla Lane (quoted at the Museum of Liverpool.)
As a child growing up as a ‘woollyback’ (i.e. someone who lived just outside Liverpool), I wasn’t aware people in Liverpool were different. Although I do remember that getting on a bus was problematic if you ever wanted to get off in a hurry; everyone had a life story and any ear was good enough. I’ll never forget the day I got trapped in a giant group hug on the top deck of a number 31, half the passengers wiping tears of joy off the other half. That was the day Margaret Thatcher was unceremoniously dumped as Prime Minister. She was particularly unpopular in this left leaning city.
A friendly place.. unless you’re a Thatcher
Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is Liverpool is a friendly place (unless you’re a Thatcher). And it’s not just me that thinks so. It’s been named UK’s Friendliest City twice by readers of Condé Nast Traveller, most recently in September 2011. I can’t imagine how much hugging and loving there must have been at the finals with so many friendly contenders in one place.
I think we’re a pretty friendly lot where I live in Cumbria, especially compared to my experience in London. I mean at least we all say ‘Hiya’ in the street, even to strangers. But put us beside Liverpudlians and we start to look like we’re scowling. Liverpool is just in another league.
The owner of The Joker Boat starts calling me ‘Kirst’ two minutes into our second conversation; no one has called me Kirst since I was at school. People passing the boat ask to come in and have a look and I wonder if they’re going to stay for tea. And when Stuart is out taking pictures, he’s accosted by a youth with a spray can.
Friendly at the graffiti..
“I see you’re taking pictures of graffiti. Do you like graffiti?”
“Errrr..I was trying to capture the contrast between cathedral and graffiti…” starts Stuart.
“My mate Stok did that graffiti. Just type his tag into the net and you’ll get a YouTube of ‘im and his stuff. Or I can show you if you like?” says Stuart’s new friend.
“I like to get out and do photos of ‘em you know.. I could show the one near Bold Street..”
On our first night in the city we walk along the famous waterfront, past the Albert and Kings Dock and onwards up towards the Anglican Cathedral. By some cruel twist of fate we find ourselves walking through the graveyard of the Anglican Cathedral. I’m a little uneasy about this; it’s dark, secluded and unlit, and like all graveyards has an edgy feeling. As we wind past the gravestones, I sense a hoodie shaped shadow in the trees. Why is a hoodie hanging around a graveyard? In Toxteth? Pusher? Robber? Druggy?
Friendly in the graveyard…
“A’right mate. How ya doing?” The man greets us with enthusiasm, pulling his hoodie tighter. Dark i’n’it, cold too. I’ve lost me dog. In the trees. Messy!”
A small dog bounds out of nowhere, flying across graves and scooting to a halt in front of us, then launches itself onto our thighs. The kids scream and run away.
“Don’t worry that’s the small one. Oy Messy. Back off, leave them alone,” says the young guy, trying to grab his puppy. The dog runs in and out of our legs while the scouse guy circles us shouting at the dog. “Messy. Stop it. Messy!”
“It’s ok, he’s not that messy,” I reassure him.
“Messy’s his name.” Then his expression changes. “No, Messy, not on her white coat! Sorry love, did he mess your coat? You bad dog, you messed her lovely coat.”
Now I’m feeling a bit self conscious, wearing a white coat in a graveyard and feel it’s time to move on. But Messy’s having none of that. As we try to walk on he circles us, this friendly messy dog, leaving his hoodie master behind looking for the big dog. Messy follows us all the way to the top of the graveyard and into the street.
“He’ll get lost. We’ll have to take him back,” I say, panicking that we’re about to get a dog for Christmas, and for life. I grab Messy and march him down the path, back to his owner, who is very pleased to see us.
“A’right love. You’re a superstar you are.” He is so friendly I fear he is going to hug me.
On this dark night, in this edgy place, the hooded youth, his dog and I are bonded. On this chilly night this graveyard is full of warmth.
Conde Nast readers were so right. Although I bet they never checked out the graveyards.
- You can go to the Republic of the Moon, FACT
- Where’s there’s tea there’s hope
- I lost my tooth to art, Palaces at The Bluecoat
- Down the Rabbit Hole at Tate Liverpool
- Danny and Yazz take us on The Old Dock Tour
- Meeting the Locals in the Friendliest City
- Sleeping with the Joker in the Albert Dock
- It’s Like a Dream but Better
- I’m taking the kids back to my Liverpool Childhood