Thursday 27 May 2010

Are You Being Served? (No.)

See, here's the thing: I never got the fondness for Lewis's. I accept this is because I'm a foreigner to Liverpool. This is one of those things about Scouseland that I will never understand, like the continued presence of the Orange Order, or Roger McGough, or how you decide whether to be a Liverpool or an Everton fan (I mean, Everton have never won anything. Why on earth would you ally yourself with them? I just don't get it.)

The point is that I've lived in the Liverpool area for fifteen years, and I've heard of Lewis's as this "legendary" store, but to me it's always been "that slightly naff store opposite the Adelphi". Even before the various refurbishments, George Henry Lee's peed all over Lewis's: it was like a bargain basement warehouse. And I don't mind that, per se, except Lewis's had the reputation of being the queen of Liverpool's stores, and it just couldn't cash that cheque. It's rather like the Adelphi, which has a name but nothing more: the Adelphi can't compare with the Hilton or the Racquet Club or the Hope Street Hotel, but it clings on due to affection and fame. Lewis's is like that but it's less understandable to outsiders. The Adelphi has a ballroom and a history: Lewis's has a vaguely well hung statue over its entrance. (And to be frank, I've seen bigger).

This is an elaborate way of saying, I wasn't too unhappy about hearing of Lewis's demise. A quick wander round Liverpool city centre reveals a load of stores doing the same thing as Lewis's only better, classier, cheaper: it was sad to see a local name go, but at the end of the day, was it worth keeping? And the scheme for its replacement - with cinemas, retail, plaza and hotels, plus a refurbishment of the station - strikes me as infinitely preferable.

But one way that Lewis's scored over other, lesser department stores, was in its transport links. It's one of those legends of metro transport that Henry Selfridge offered to build a glamorous ticket hall and an underground subway to his department store from Bond Street Tube station, but it was refused. Lewis's, however, managed to get its own subway from Liverpool Central, and furthermore was powerful enough to insist that it be retained in the 1970s rebuild.

With the store due to close by the end of May, I thought it was important that I headed there to check it out and to capture the station entrance for posterity. Though it is still the only store with a direct link from the station complex, the Lewis's link's importance has been lost over the decades, usurped by the mini shopping mall directly outside Liverpool Central's entrance. The subway looks distinctly shabby next to a Sainsbury's Metro and Games Workshop.

I've already reported on the station's beautiful Liver Birds, so I won't dwell on them here. All I'll say is that the Bf and I passed through the station and the subway, and not only learned - via the graffiti - that smoking spliffs is good, but also that Billy is a fag. You see, you don't get that kind of information everywhere, do you?

We entered the department store, and I got a picture of myself in front of the entrance that was no doubt not much longer for this earth:

I hope that I've managed to convey the embarrassment I felt at being in this photo. Because wandering round the store felt like picking over the heirlooms after a funeral tea. "I don't think much of the Capa de Monte." "Never mind, there's a widescreen telly here that's only a couple of years old - I'll slip it into my suitcase while you keep them talking." The Bf and I spent a frankly obscene amount of money on new bedding in John Lewis two weeks ago. Though the stuff in Lewis's was reasonably priced, what with the discounts as well, we couldn't bring ourselves to actually buy anything, because it felt like kicking an old lady when she was down.

Things got worse when we headed to the menswear department. The Bf needed some new jeans, so we thought we would have a look while we were there. Now, neither of us has ever been mistaken for Gok Wan, and in fact our main criteria for fashion is "something that conceals the beer gut": but we still recoiled in horror at the lurid, garishly discoloured "clothing" on display in the menswear section. Even Mr Humphries would have called for his smelling salts when presented with the pink paisley shirts and skinny fit polo necks of the first floor. It was like a display of "why we have failed", underlined by the checkout woman gleefully telling a shopper that she would turn sixty in a week's time. We found ourselves fleeing to the street, happy to leave and find a new place to shop. Every other shopper in the store was over fifty - I was the only person who remembered Going Live in the entire building. It made BHS look like a Voodou hair salon.

Lewis's, I'll miss you for what you were: a touchstone, a memory, an affectionate home for the citizens of Liverpool. I'll just ignore the reality.

Monday 24 May 2010

Rocket Cottage

I was off out yesterday, heading to Manchester for a Eurovision meet up. Yes, a Eurovision meet up. WANT TO MAKE SOMETHING OF IT? It was basically an excuse for a bunch of fans to gather together and bitch about how dreadful "That Sounds Good To Me" really is, while drinking a load of booze. We all took our own little scoreboards, and if I remember rightly, our chosen winner was Azerbaijan. Or maybe Romania. I think I was up to my fourth pint of bitter by then, so I can't really remember. (Go to Boom Bang A Blog for the full, and better written, story). Certainly my twelve pointer, Spain, didn't win, which was criminal. Still, here we all are:

Aren't we pretty? I'll say it again: SPAIN FTW.

So what has all this got to do with Merseyrail? Very little actually, apart from the fact that I finally indulged a curiosity on my way there. Hamilton Square dates back to 1886, and even though it looks modern - well, 1970s - with its cream and brown walls, it's actually all a veneer. Beneath the plastic walls is a Victorian relic, one that you can still spot if you look hard enough.

One of the hangovers from the nineteenth century is a bog. Yup, tucked right at the end of the Liverpool bound platform is a tiny sign pointing out a Gents toilet (sorry ladies, you'll have to cross your legs). It's barely visible, and in fact, I've never seen anyone using it. It's most visible from the train, just before you head into the tunnel, when its strange blue glowing doorway catches your attention.

As I had a few moments to spare before my train arrived, I decided to finally poke my head round the corner. The blue lighting, there to stop drug addicts from spotting a vein, gives it a strange, otherworldly air: as I stepped inside it felt like I was boarding the mothership. A mothership that stank of old urine.

All there was inside was the single trough, no cubicles, and it creeped me out. I don't know what it was about this tiled cell, but it just felt like a place to dump corpses. I stepped back swiftly, before someone came up behind me and bludgeoned me to death, leaving me slumped uncomfortably up against the urinal. Victorian gentlemen must have been made of sterner stuff than I.

I backed into the well lit station, glad that I'd finally satiated my curiosity about what was inside. I really didn't feel the need to go back. Ever. So despite what you may have heard, that's the last time I loiter round a public toilet taking photos...

Tuesday 18 May 2010


I hate to deal in stereotypes. No, really, I do. But sometimes you're confronted with a humanoid who is the living embodiment of a cliche, and all you can do is sit back, mouth agape, and take it all in.

I was getting the train to Liverpool with the Bf, and we squeezed opposite a girl who was busy chatting on her mobile phone. She was early twenties, blonde, long hair, Katie Price permatan and sprayed on leggings. When I say "chatting", I mean, "stream of consciousness being poured into a Nokia."

"Yeah, I'm on a train... I know! Well, I thought, if I got a train into Liverpool I'd be able to sit back and relax and read a book."

(Editor's note: she did not have a book on her lap, and at no point did she reveal one to be about her person. I suspect by 'book' she meant ''Circle of Shame' in Heat'.)

The train starts up, and she continues: "Yeah, it's moving now... I know! You'll have to tell me where to go in Liverpool, or I'll get lost and I'll just wander round all day."

(Editor's note: there are four stations in Liverpool City Centre. All are within a mile of one another.)

Right after Birkenhead Park station, the train enters the tunnel for the long underground section into the city centre. Our Blonde companion starts squeaking into the phone - "Ooh, tunnel! Are you there? Are you there?" She then looks at the phone with a mixture of puzzlement and irritation, before shaking it. Yes, she shook it, as though it was a pepper mill that had got blocked.

The next station, Conway Park, is below ground, but open to the elements, and so Blonde's phone sprang back into life. She immediately dialled her friend back. "Yeah, I don't know what happened there. The signal just went."

The train takes off. Back into the tunnel. The very long tunnel which will take us under the river and into the city. So Blonde lost her signal again. What to do?

Well, first you shake it again. Because it worked last time, didn't it?

Then you squint at the screen.

Then you hold it up to the window, because despite being several hundred metres below ground, the window is open, and so, you know, some of the signal might be able to get through, right?

Then you try dialling again.

Then, as we enter Hamilton Square, Blonde realises she won't be able to make a call. She squints at the map and realises she won't be able to make a call for quite some time.

There's only one thing she can do in these circumstances.

She starts texting.


Saturday 15 May 2010


While I was in Liverpool pressing up against the artworks I took the opportunity to check out the nearly completed works at Lime Street Station. For a couple of years now, Lime Street has been undergoing a massive redevelopment, which has seen the entire frontage to the station torn apart and rebuilt.

It's had a rocky road getting here. The station consists of two giant, arc roofs: the left hand one was covered by the beautiful Great Northern Hotel, now a student hall of residence. The right hand one has always been visible from the street, but contrary to public belief, it hasn't always been accessible: there were shops in front of it for decades. Only the large central archway in the frontage, used for vehicle access, was left open. The messy, but charming, mass of shops were swept away in a 1960s scheme which saw the construction of a long arc of shops and a sixteen-storey office block, Concourse House.

It would perhaps be most polite to say the 60s scheme didn't age well. Faced in white tiles that either fell off or became discoloured, the shops were filled with a motley crew of tenants - a bookies, a leather goods shop, a hairdresser, a second hand bookstore. The cafe underneath the office block was a perfectly preserved example of a "caff" - all plastic seats and chipped tables and Luncheon Voucher stickers in the window. And Concourse House - seen here in its dying days, when a giant spider took up home on it - was by all accounts a miserable, dreary place to work, that had problems attracting tenants and turned out to be full of asbestos.

Something had to be done. A scheme was conceived. The shops would be ripped away, and the fine 1830 frontage of the station would be exposed for the first time in decades above a piazza. Replacing the tired Concourse House would be a 27-storey tower, with offices, apartments and retail units inside, with an observation deck at the very top for views across the city. It would restore this central point of the city's architecture to its former grandeur. Thousands of people arrive in the city via Lime Street every year, and it would finally match up to Liverpool itself.

You can smell the "but" coming, can't you? It seemed the shopkeepers weren't that keen to go. After all, the building might be a mess, but that wasn't their problem, it was the landlord's: and that's a heck of a lot of passing trade to give up. The consequence was that the scheme was dragged into the courts, with compensation levels being disputed and tenancies being debated. Some shopkeepers moved out, some didn't, making the whole row look even worse. By the time the shops were all empty, and work could begin, the scheme found itself credit crunched: suddenly there was no market for the tower, and it was shelved.

Instead, we got steps. Lots of steps. It's taken well over a year, but finally it seems that the Lime Street Gateway project is reaching its conclusion. There's still work to be done, but at least it's possible to walk around the station front again.

The station is now surrounded by a series of long, grey stone steps, with ramps built in. The steps are necessary to accomodate the severe fall of the land here: as you can see, there's a massive height difference from one end of the station to the other. Incorporated into some of the steps are landscaping, including the freaky tree things on the left which are clearly designed to force out SQUARE trees, which is clearly AGAINST NATURE.

As well as the usual access stairs, there are larger, deeper steps, designed to double as seating. It was a slightly dull Wednesday afternoon, but there were already punters using them to rest on - I should imagine by summer they will be packed with people watchers, and during the various street festivals in the city, it'll be a prime spot. This is where the tower would have been, by the way: that blue-glass construction is an electricity sub-station which couldn't be moved, so had to be hidden in plain sight. If the tower had been built, there would have been escalators here in its foundations to carry you up into the station.

Where there are steps, you instantly raise the question of disabled access, and the architects have chosen to incorporate a lift into the design to take you up to the station level. This is the most unsuccessful part of the scheme to me. Lime Street Station has three entrances: this one at the front, on Lime Street itself, and one on either side, in Skelhorne Street and Lord Nelson Street: is it really such an inconvenience to use these entrances? Not only that, the level sections between the steps have a "ramp" effect, meaning that the less able or people with bags could still get up to the front entrance. The lift just doesn't work, and blocks what would otherwise be a magnificent view out over St George's Plateau.

What's undeniably improved is the front of the station, now the shops have gone. The glass archways bring even more light into the station, and allow you to fully appreciate the mighty Victorian engineering at work. I bet it looks even better at night, when the lights inside make the whole station shimmer.

It's a nice, practical improvement scheme, which has brought a much needed air of class to a blighted area of the city centre. It'll give a much better impression to the city's visitors, as they step out of the front of the station and are confronted with the massive video wall and St George's Hall. There's also some artwork being incorporated into the final scheme: when it's all completed I'll go back and have a good look at that, too.

It's strange to think that for all the various "improvement" plans that have gone on here over the years, the scheme which works best is when you strip back all the facades and just expose it for what it is. There's a beauty in railway station architecture, a power and elegance: the hard stone of the arches topped with the delicate ironworks above, peppered with glass and light. Lime Street station was pretty good to start with, and it's great that we can finally appreciate her again.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Facts and Fancies

How did I miss this? Back in April last year, I blogged about the Art on the Network, Merseytravel's laudable attempt to bring more artwork into the region. It was a competition looking for pieces of art to be erected in public places around Merseyside, and I was thrilled to see it happening (even if I had a bit of a bitch about the entry form).

Unfortunately, what with last year being a bit tumultuous and all, I missed the results. So the appearance of a giant piece of writing at Liverpool Central came as a bit of a shock.

It is, admittedly, tucked away a bit, by the subway to Lewis's and the Fairclough Street exit, but it's ten feet tall and a great find. Designed by Tony Fitzpatrick, the words follow the history of the city, alighting on Liverpool's historic touchstones. You start at the top left, with the granting of letters of patent by King John in 1207:

and work your way down the centuries to the construction of the West Tower, the city's tallest building, and the Capital of Culture year:

It's marvellous, fascinating stuff, and if there hadn't been three drunken homeless people squatting on the stairs of the Lewis's subway I'd have probably been there all day. Just looking over the pictures, I've been drawn in, not just by the facts, but also in the way they've been arranged - Tony Fitzpatrick's done a great job in arranging colours and fonts to pull your eyes around, make you look, make you search. You can click any of the photos for larger versions.

Yup, Merseyrail's on there, along with mentions of the Blitz, Brookside, the cancelled Merseytram, Ken Dodd, the Cathedrals, the Liverpool & Manchester Railway, the Royal Liver Building, Cilla Black... I'm guessing Fitzpatrick's a Liverpool fan, given the prominence of Bill Shankly front and centre (though Everton still make an appearance). There's mention of the Cavern, famous for me getting extremely drunk and trying to cop off with straight boys in the mid-Nineties, and also for being the place where some pop group played in the Sixties (interestingly, though all four members can be seen quite prominently, the words "The Beatles" are in the tiniest script and barely visible - I really had to hunt for them).

Well done, Tony Fitzpatrick: it's a great piece. If you're in Central, go and see it. It's more interesting than standing on the platform waiting for your train, anyway (and less dangerous).

As for the other winners - they were announced in December last year, and I can only apologise for not reporting it here before. Ron Davies' piece Magical Backdrop won the right to be displayed at Waterloo Station, while Daniela Visone's Journey will be erected at Whiston. I'm not sure if they have actually already been put up, to be honest - the press release says "early 2010", so I'll have to make a couple of return visits to be sure. I'm looking forward to seeing them.

Together, the three winners represented the boroughs of Liverpool, Knowsley and Sefton: embarrassingly, Wirral and St Helens couldn't rustle up decent enough entries between them, and so their stations will remain unadorned. This is quite shameful, and I wish I had some artistic talent so that at least Wirral could be represented. There must be some artists out there, surely?

Monday 10 May 2010


This is something to play with on your tea break: can you name every Merseyrail station in ten minutes?

I did my best, but I only managed 64 out of 67. I have a mental block about the top of the Southport line, for some reason, and I missed one station on the Ormskirk line (I'm not saying which one - no hints!). I'm particularly annoyed about the second one because I used to go past it all the time!

Let me know how you did, but no cheating. And be warned: if you did better than me, I might have to block your IP address, you smug git. You've been warned.

Saturday 8 May 2010

OK, the Merseyrail map can't, and never will, compete with the Underground map for icon status. It's never going to reach those dizzy heights.

It has none the less achieved a level of fame and acceptance across Merseyside, to the extent that you can have something like Centre of the Universe playing with its forms. As Mark Ovenden's excellent Metro Maps of the World book said, a good transit map defines the city, and its ubiquity means that the Merseyrail map does that. Certainly, as someone who's not from Liverpool, I find it hard to place areas that aren't on the map - districts like Childwall or Knotty Ash are mysteriously "over there somewhere", while I could find my way to Orrell Park blindfolded.

That doesn't mean that the Merseytravel version is the only map out there. It's interesting to find alternatives to the established map elsewhere.

This one is from the back of my Liverpool A-Z, and as one would expect from a classic mapmaker, it's a pretty decent effort. Sorry for its grubbiness: that A-Z has been carted all over Merseyside down the years. I should also apologise for it being a few years out of date (no South Parkway), but I'm just trying to get my money's worth out of it.

One aspect that I do like about this map is its attempt to ape the diagonal of the Mersey, and the way it then affects the Wirral. Rather than have the simple vertical the "proper" map does, this one shows a fairly accurate angle. The Mersey itself only appears where the railway crosses it - an interesting choice, especially since there's plenty of room to show it. Not sure if I'm keen on that, especially as it doesn't reappear at Runcorn (considering you can actually see the river from the platform, this seems a particularly odd choice).

The single colour is also surprisingly good. You'd think you'd need to differentiate between the various lines but the map is still easy to read and use.

The downsides? Well, the interchange circles are not done very well. Look at this section of the map, and we see the circles being used in different ways. At Moorfields and Liverpool Central, interlinked circles show interchange between two through lines. At Lime Street, the same two circles show an interchange between a terminating service and a through line. At Hunts Cross though, one circle is enough to show the Northern Line ending alongside City Line trains. While at Allerton, the next station along, the single circle is used to show a split in the services, inadvertently implying that trains from Runcorn terminate there. Mixed messages throughout, and not so useful in planning a journey. I guess an A-Z is a road map, first and foremost, so it's not really there for route planning, but still.

As for the interchange at Earlestown - well that's pretty special.

There's no indication of service breaks, so the map implies you can get a through train to Meols Cop and Orrell from Liverpool city centre. And would it have been so hard to make the map an inch bigger so you could squeeze Bache and Chester in, and finish off the Wirral Line? They're the only Merseyrail stations entirely missing from the map.

Not a bad effort then - 7/10. If anyone's got any other Merseymaps they've come across, I'd love to see them.

Saturday 1 May 2010

In London, April is a Spring Month

Best laid plans, and all that. This should have been a deeply thoughtful, carefully considered treatise on the significance of past and future. Mentions of the passing of time, the fragile beauty of a desolate beach, the swirling skies embodying internal torment.

Instead it looks like it's going to be the same old sarcastic rubbish about train stations and beer. Oh well.

It started well. I headed for Birkenhead Park ready for an afternoon of Wirral Line voyaging. I began with a literal high. The man ahead of me in the queue for the ticket office reeked of marijuana. I mean, absolutely stank of it. One sniff of his jacket and I'd have been crouched on the floor air guitaring Purple Haze. As it was, I just got a mild buzz, like when you rub your feet on a nylon carpet for the easy thrill of the static.

Down on the platform, the skies were doing this:

I wasn't too worried. I'd come out in just a sweatshirt, no jacket, but I figured it was the last day of April, and therefore practically summer. The swirling clouds above me would pass.

Somewhere around Wallasey Grove Road, the Gods decided it wouldn't pass, and a constant, heavy stream of rain began throwing itself at the train. By the time I got off at New Brighton it had become a relentless wash of misery.

Now I don't mind the rain. I'm not one of these girlie-men who recoil at the sight of a couple of spots. I hate umbrellas, and I hate hoods even more, so I've regularly been drenched to the skin walking to work or a train station or something. In fact, I find it sort of refreshing: there's something very liberating about being stood inside a downpour, letting the water drive itself through your clothes until you feel it tingle your flesh and the cold slipping into your bones. I've stood naked in monsoon-territory weather abroad, just enjoying the ping of the droplets on my body. I put this down to being born in January 1977, and therefore having been conceived somewhere around Spring 1976: my poor mother had to carry me through the blistering heatwave of that year, and her no doubt horrific discomfort somehow worked its way through the uterus and into my subconscious.

Where I'm going with this is, I didn't mind walking through a bit of precipitation. What was depressing about the weather I encountered was its half-heartedness. It was grimy, grey rain, the kind that just falls onto you as though it couldn't be bothered hanging around in a cloud any longer. It splattered on my skin and face, not soaking me, but not being dry either: each droplet was marked against the stripes on my top. It was miserable rain, and as I walked along I just felt it driving my mood down with it.

The plan had been to visit a relative rarity on the Merseyrail network: a closed station that was probably going to stay that way. Unlike say, St James or Otterspool, where there are vague aspirations to reopen them sometime, Warren station was closed in 1915 and no-one is particularly keen on seeing it come back.

Warren was one of those "in theory" stations. When the railway to New Brighton was built, they built more or less evenly spaced stations, and probably hoped that there would be enough development as a consequence of the new train line to justify its existence. It didn't work that way. Even today, the site of Warren station is isolated amongst golf courses, parkland, and the bare open front of New Brighton. The Wirral is a crowded little peninsula, and the demand for seafront property has never been higher, but round here there's still a sense of wild open land.

So the anticipated passenger numbers never arrived, and soon Warren was only getting one train a day. Finally, it was destroyed by a combination of the First World War and a new tramline along Warren Drive, parallel with the railway line. Warren, barely a station in the first place, was handed back to nature.

(Incidentally, I should say I'm glad it's gone, because I used to know of someone called Warren, whose main claim to fame was that he had sex with some bloke in a glass telephone box on campus while I was doing my degree. Saying that I had "tarted Warren" may have turned my stomach).

I pushed on through the rain on Warren Drive so that I could check out this remnant of the old days. The station was located on the imaginatively titled Sea Road, right at the end. At one point this would have all been the gentle dunes of the Wirral coastline. Now I had the Warren golf course on one side, and a series of nouveau villas on the other. There is some quite marvellous architecture in New Brighton: if you're ever around there, you must check it out. There was a full on Spanish hacienda on Warren Drive, complete with barbecue.
The Sea Road houses were less grand, but seemed to say, "I've spent my life working hard, and now I'm going to retire somewhere with a bit of coast and a view of the 16th hole". There were buttoned up balconies peering over the fence of the course, their patio heaters shrouded in vinyl condoms and the seats upturned on the table. As I struggled along a BMW Z3 went past - it was a few years old, not fashionable any more, but it seemed to represent the "glossy aspirational" air of the place. It was caviar sandwiches on chip butty budgets.

The men on the golf course were fully kitted out with golf umbrellas (hence the name, I guess). I was a bit worried, because I thought you wasn't meant to golf in the rain? Isn't there an increased likelihood of being struck by lightning? I can't pretend that I wasn't mildly excited by the idea of one of them being turned into a pair of smoking Saxone shoes by an errant lightning strike. A quick flash and you become an anecdote and a black and white picture in the course bar. The rain couldn't be bothered with lightning though. That would have been too interesting.

So I pushed on to the site of Warren. "Nothing to see" is about right. I suppose, in fairness, it has been gone for nearly a hundred years. There's no reason there should be anything here. But I was hoping for some kind of sign of previous life, having battled my way through tepid moisture. A bricked up flight of stairs. The foundations of a ticket office. The ghost of Bernard Cribbins blowing a whistle. Anything.
There was nothing except some over elaborate brickwork and some borderline pornographic graffiti. If I'd scrambled up the bank, apparently, and stuck my head over the fence, I might - might - have been able to see the remnants of an old platform which was uncovered during engineering works. Possibly.
I'd had enough though. The pissy rain, the grey skies, the men clearing the rubbish from the path ahead of me - it wasn't exactly "breathtaking vistas" but more "drab". I felt fed up. I was wet, and cold, and my ambitious plans for the afternoon were gone. I'd planned on venturing further along the coast, right to the site of the proposed Town Meadow station, between Moreton and Meols. It would have been a really symbolic "past/future" kind of thing. I couldn't be arsed. It was too much to bear.

I slinked back to the moistened surroundings of Wallasey Grove Road station (even when it's a bad weather day, I still hate turning back on myself). There I was able to board a train that was dry, with the heating on, and after a while I started to feel human again. I needed a pick me up though. I needed something to make me whole again. What could that be?

(This is where I would normally insert a HILARIOUS close up of a pint of beer. I forgot to take one this time, so you'll have to use your imaginations).

Yes, I headed to the pub, or more specifically, I headed to the Wetherspoons in West Kirby. As I've said before, they have free wi-fi here, so I could Twitter and so on from my iPod touch to my heart's content: always a good way to pass the time.

Secondly, they have some, ahem, characters there. While I was in the pub I listened to the conversations of a group of "professional" drinkers who, it seemed to me, spent all their days working their way round Merseyside comparing the various different Wetherspoons for price, service, and comfort. High point for me was one of them talking about some woman who'd had the temerity to bring a baby into the bar, a baby which had subsequently wailed. As the man said to the manager (according to him) "If I made that kind of noise, you'd chuck me out." Well, quite.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I could get Jamie and Chris out to buy me drinks chat to, which is a far more pleasant way to round off a Friday afternoon than pressing up against fences in the middle of a rainstorm. They presented me with a genuine, one of a kind piece of Merseystuff: a real Merseyrail map, formerly sited at Meols station until it had faded beyond recognition. The City Line is hinted at, rather than actually being legible - it adds a frisson of excitement, if you ask me (where will my train go? What station is next? The thrills!). It's surprisingly big. You don't realise how large those posters are when you stare at them on the platform.
Unlike last time, we managed to keep the conversational topics reasonably clean until I had to dash off to Sainsbury's for my Friday night shop with the Bf. Which was a shame because, as always with me, once I start drinking I find it very difficult to stop. I had to go home and drink lager until I slipped into a coma to make up for it.