20 February, 2006

Dictionary corner

Apropos an au revoir...



A is for...

Yes, accents, not accent. For there is a plethora of dialects across Merseyside, and in each of the eleven years I've lived here I've discovered at least one or two more. The nicest hail from the Wirral, preferably West Kirby. The least tolerable seem to originate from Crosby. The ones I've had most difficulty with have involved girls or PYJAMA WOMEN (QV) adopting such flat, languid vowels that they sound like men (think Margi Clarke) or men combining a strangulated-sounding squeak with a preference for missing out important syllables (think Craig off the first Big Brother). Suffice to say, only people impersonating Liverpudlians sound like George Harrison in YELLOW SUBMARINE (QV). And all old people with Scouse accents sound ace.

B is for...

The quality of bakers in Liverpool is unparalleled in this country. Well, in all the parts of the country to which I've been. There are just the right number across the city, and they have just the right selection of goods. For many years there was a monopoly in the shape of Sayers ("So Fresh We're Famous" - a textbook non sequitur), but then Greggs came along and ruined it by opening outlets either next to or opposite them. To this day I've never set foot in a Greggs on account of brand loyalty, and the fact that Sayers make the nicest toast to takeaway in the whole world. Well, in all the parts of the world in which I've eaten toast.

C is for...

Heaven help anyone who believes in bad luck and who finds themselves leaving LIME STREET STATION (QV) by the exit opposite The Crown. For here lie the most uneven, damaged and ugly looking paving stones you will ever see, and you will be hard pushed to navigate your way across them without tumbling into the many lethal cracks and crevices. Plus it's all on a slope, so chances are you'll end up on your forehead or your arse. For as long as I've lived here Liverpool has always entertained clusters of cracked pavements, which combined with the amount of RUBBISH (QV) that's always swirling about the place makes it one of the grimmest of places to explore on foot, and one of the least sympathetic terrains for flimsy footwear of any shape and size. And hence the pavement is, literally, the city's Achilles' heel.

D is for...

For several years in the mid-90s a phalanx of locked-out dock workers turned the city into a bastion of mid-80s style crusading activism, which in turn was (inevitably) hijacked by the Socialist Workers Party, who in turn rendered the dispute an anathema to first the Tory then the Labour Government, and which in turn led to the dockers ultimately caving in and accepting pay-offs. But for a while the flames of solidarity burned brightly on Merseyside, attracting support and attention from the usual suspects (Billy Bragg) and the not so usual (Noel Gallagher, who did a "secret" gig at The Picket in Hardman Street), plus spawning a huge line in customised Calvin Klein T-shirts, famously sported by ROBBIE FOWLER (QV) during at least one crucial Liverpool FC match. It was a weird time, when Liverpool seemed trapped in a time bubble utterly separate from the rest of the country, forever threatening to burst and flood the place with unwelcome resonances of former battles and grisly defeats.

E is for...

Three cheers for the pound shops, of which there used to be loads in Liverpool, and which would furnish any property with the basics (a bin, a doormat, a toilet brush, teatowels, coasters, fridge magnets, broken biscuits et al) for, yes, a pound. These domains were a godsend when I was a student (and not just for the endless hours of amusement to be had by asking the checkout staff "How much is this?"), as were all branches of Home And Bargain, now stupidly rebranded as Home Bargains. There used to be a 50p shop in Bold Street as well, but that closed. And I always thought if you looked after your pennies, the pounds would look after themselves.

F is for...

I met him once. He was sitting by the bar in The Rose in Mossley Hill, completely alone, sporting watery eyes and a worried frown. As I walked in he stared straight at me, as if daring me to come any closer and engage him in conversation. Naturally I did nothing of the sort. I believe at the time he was the greatest footballer Liverpool had ever produced.


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