Liverpool has the best skyline of any city in Britain. Viewed from the Mersey the Three Graces, the cathedrals and the docks are epic in their scale and as close to an American cityscape as anywhere this side of the Atlantic. Scousers always looked west and American music, style and food washed up here, with merchant sailors and cabin crew, years before the rest of the UK caught up. Stand a round in a pub and you’ll find an ageing Scouser who saw the world by the time he was twenty. When we packed our rucksacks for uni they went on shore-leave in Buenos Aires or Bangkok or Sydney.
Liverpool has undergone a massive regeneration and so at the waterfront and beyond the hard, backbreaking graft of dock work has long been replaced by tourism, commerce and football. More a case of Stevie G, not stevedore. Liverpool One has replaced some crowded, tired streets and ugly car parks with expensive shops. The Albert Dock is always worth a visit. There is an excellent maritime museum, the Tate gallery, the inevitable Beatles experience, great cafes and lots of shops selling you things you don’t need. For kids and James Bond fantasists there is an amphibious landing craft that crawls out of the murky waters, called the Yellow Duckmarine.
Thousands left these shores. Some left to fight or to start a new life. Many never returned. Stand and grip the railings and lean out over the Mersey; smell the stiff salt-fresh wind and imagine: How many hearts filled with joy at this sight at the end of an arduous six-month voyage? And how many passengers blinked away tears and swallowed their doubts to face a new life? The thick, puddled flagstones must have witnessed so much misery and hope.