20 March, 2006

Dictionary corner V



U is for...

It's a city constantly regenerating into half-finished versions of its former self. During my time as a resident, a cavalcade of initiatives, targets, deadlines and projects have come and gone, each blurring into the next with never a pause for reflection or respite. For as long as I can remember there has always been a crane on the skyline, always been part of a major thoroughfare restricted to one-way traffic, always been something getting painstakingly pulled down at the same time as something else is being equally laboriously put up. The next ostensible target is 2008, when the city enjoys twelve months as Europe's Capital Of Culture, but the building work won't stop. It'll just go on and on and on. Which engenders another problem: what to do with all the mess that's left behind. To which the answer, invariably, is: just leave it all behind. You only need to take a look at the sorry ruins of the Liverpool Garden Festival site to see proof of that.

V is for...

Because every city needs a dose of self-importance, but not without an equally proportioned dose of self-deprecation.

W is for...

Or, as any regular readers will know (a somewhat unlikely scenario, I grant you), what came to be my favourite place in the whole city. And I only discovered it a couple of years before I had to leave. When I went round taking photos a few weeks prior to departure, I was hailed from across the street by an old woman who'd suddenly appeared from behind a closed door to find out why I'd "chased the cat away". This wasn't, thankfully, some kind of bizarre euphemism, but was a reference to the way my snapping had inadvertently scared one of the local moggies that appeared to live on the village library steps. We fell to talking, she quite content to leave me standing in the pouring rain while she sheltered under a giant doorframe, ending up with her petitioning me to become a member of the Friends Of Woolton society. "We've got a couple in the Isle Of Man, and someone in Kent," she urged. I said I'd drop my contact details round later in the week if I was interested. Suffice to say, I strangely ran out of time.

X is for...

Somebody somewhere in the city has the job of approving advertising to go on Liverpool's public transport. Whoever it is either has extremely loose morals or a degree of ignorance that blinds them to the task in hand, because during the last five years there's been a huge increase in the number of adverts promoting sex shops plastered on the backs of buses smack bang in the eyeline of any motorists directly behind - and especially any youngsters taking a turn in the passenger seat. I'm not particularly prudish or censorious, but it always struck me as somewhat misguided (and counter-productive) to allow such exposure in such an unlikely place. The stores in question can't have done much trade on the backs of buses. Their clients, now that's another matter.

Y is for...

- aka an old World War II landing craft which journeys disconsolately around the city centre transporting tourists through various almost-notable centres of interest before (gasp!) driving into the MERSEY (QV) and turning into a boat. Not the best way to see the city (too rushed), or its river (too close), although you do avoid all those CRACKED PAVEMENTS (QV).

Z is for...

Finally, to one of the things with which I will forever associate Liverpool in my memory, and that is the temperature. I have spent the coldest days of my life in the city. Once it got so bad in my hall of residence that I actually started shaking uncontrollably and had to go and lie in one of the antique baths in the communal toilets (I put some hot water in it first, of course). Then there were the times I went to see various gigs at the Royal Court, each and every one graced by bone-chilling temperatures so bad that you could see your breath. I soon got to learn you had to dress up to go to events like that, and not in a decorous way; hats, scarves and gloves were the necessary armoury for those kinds of occasions. Indeed, when I saw Billy Bragg there in 1996 the only thing he was drinking on stage was tea to keep himself warm. Having no central heating in my first student house made for a ghastly wintertime which I had to spend permanently sporting at least four layers of clothing. Things got better after that, but even to the end the city would catch me out and suddenly rip through whatever I was wearing with an icy blast of wonderfully pure, yet thoroughly Arctic, northern air. And even though on many an occasion I would curse the unrelenting chill, already it's one of the things I miss the most. Cold? These willowy Londoners haven't seen, or felt, the like.


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