Saturday, 25 August 2007

Overflated Opinion of Oneself

I'm sorry, I really am. I had no idea that my galloping round the railway network of Liverpool would cause such damage. No sooner had I started my little quest than Merseyrail trains immediately start going mad ( The network operators are baffled as to what is causing all this; I'm choosing to believe that it's my legions of fans following my trail and riding the rails in hope of a glimpse of the MerseyTart.

Clearly under such circumstances I should cease and desist from using the network. I feel guilty now. Especially as I only went out last week. If you are the type of person who copies stuff they read on the internet, stop reading now! You're putting lives in danger!!!

I'd been thinking; my trip along the Northern Line previously had ended at St Michael's, in the south of the city. A little consultation of my trusty A-Z told me that finishing off the last few stations on the southern branch of the line wouldn't be too difficult - a couple of hours work, maybe. So I trotted out last week.

Unfortunately, I forgot about Sunday services. Grr. Trains only on the half hour, instead of fifteen minutes. The upshot was that I ended up loitering in Liverpool Central's bowels for half an hour while I waited for the next southbound train. To add insult to injury, a girl came and stood next to me and consumed what looked like half a tonne of fried chicken. It smelt repulsive. I could practically hear the cholesterol swimming into her veins.

I was glad when the train finally turned up and spirited me off to Aigburth (actually pronounced Eggberth, obviously). I have only limited experience of this end of the line, so I didn't really know where I was, but I was pleased to see that we had another Victorian country station building - one which had been carefully modernised, with automatic doors, but still retaining the charm. It also had an ALF.

I'm starting to get a bit bored of birds now. After the double whammy of Moreton & Leasowe's Evil Crane Type Things (note: I am not Bill Oddie), a slightly bemused looking seagull is not much of a draw. Otterspool Promenade is a relatively breezy strip of parkland beside the river, and while it's very pretty, seagulls are not really a feature worth seeking out. I'm tempted to write to Merseytravel and see who comes up with these things, and to ask if they have more reference material on their desk other than The Big Book Of British Seabirds.

The weather was excessively grey and threatening to rain, but it was warm, too, as I strolled along. The soundtrack for today's trip was Madonna's Erotica; either this signalled that I was going to spend my Sunday afternoon plunging into a world of kinky sado-masochistic sex, or alternatively, I was just enjoying the contrast between the straight laced Victorian surroundings and Madge's potty mouth. (It was on this trip that I first realised that Waiting finishes with the lines Next time you want pussy/Just look in the mirror baby - which I have to say I found hysterical).

I wasn't entirely sure where Cressington station was - wherever possible, I prefer to follow my nose, only turning to my A-Z when I feel lost. I have quite a good instinct for geography, with an inbuilt compass, though it occasionally gets me into trouble. I once walked from London Bridge to Bermondsey station on the Jubilee Line, not long after it opened, and I found myself in the centre of an estate of high rise flats with absolutely no idea of where I was. I trusted my instinct, and kept walking, and ended up almost bumping into Bermondsey station, but it was a slightly nervy time up until then.

I kept walking, assuming there would be a sign pointing me in the right direction, and there was. But it was a bit confusing; it seemed to be pointing into a park. Intrigued, I wandered through the elaborate Victorian gateway and into what turned out to be a private estate and a conservation area.

Apparently, during the 19th century, wealthy Liverpool businessmen established Grassendale and Cressington Parks, then built themselves some large, exclusive villas in the middle. I was simultaneously delighted to find this little suburb and annoyed. Delighted, because the architecture was lovely; big, attractive mansions, on tree lined streets. Annoyed, because of the signs like the one above, which struck me as just horribly snooty. I received some extremely dirty looks from an elderly couple climbing out of their car to go inside as they clearly disapproved of the riff raff who had the temerity to wander into their estate. Newsflash: public transport is for the public, and even if it isn't a right of way, technically, I absolutely have the right to wander into it. Live with it.

Fortunately Cressington Station made up for it. As was to be expected, it was a lovely little building, in keeping with the estate around it, and better still, it was utterly deserted. Not even a ticket inspector. I had a little wander around, taking in nice little features like this old water fountain, and the overbridge, which felt impossibly high because of the cutting, and induced a little vertigo attack in me.

Then a train came up, and spoilt my fun, and took me to Liverpool South Parkway. Never mind Doctor Who; this was a trip from the past into the future with just a train ride. From Victorian to modern Elizabethan in one trip, Liverpool South Parkway is only a year or two old, and it screams modernity from every pore. Built to serve the airport, it's like an airport itself, with soaring glass and massive metal braces. The station was built by combining Garston (on the Northern Line) with Allerton (on the City Line) into one complex, and it was strange to see. I once worked near Garston station for a time, and took the train there daily; it was another nineteenth century relic, tucked away down a back street - not a gleaming epic of Norman Foster-inspired transportation. I loved it, but I suspect I'm in a minority about this, because frankly, the thing was deserted. This massive transport complex - as you can see, there's a bus interchange outside - was playing host to around a dozen passengers. There were members of staff just milling, aimlessly. Well, not completely aimlessly; they were also eyeing up my photography with suspicion, as though I were a potential suicide bomber planning where to set off my waistcoat. Which is why the shots are a little blurry - I was snapping them quick, before fifty armed SAS men descended.

And from there, I went to Hunts Cross, walking around Allerton cemetary and through fag end suburban streets. It couldn't help but be a disappointment after the two previous stations, and it was; the station building you see behind me in the pic is now a pub, and was filled that afternoon with Liverpool fans getting hammered loudly. They had spilled out onto the pavement - the downside of the smoking ban is that this kind of drunken behaviour has now been carried out onto the street so they can have their Silk Cut and their Becks - and so I snapped a pic and hurried to the platform through the disappointing 80s box of a ticket office.

The station was drab, the end of the line in all senses, and frankly, I was glad to be going home before the rain finally gave in and hammered down. The plus side is, I've crossed off the branch from the map - so I'll never have to see it again...

(And a quick thank you, by the way, to Sue the very lovely Tubewhore herself, who gave me a gratuitous plug on her site!)

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