Friday, 27 July 2007

Introduction by Deborah Mulhearn

Longing is the third volume in the Mersey Minis series. It’s a one-off, given away free on 28th August 2007, though it appears again within the complete five-volume set.
More than two thirds of the pieces in Longing result from a competition run by Capsica, the Mersey Minis publisher. The others were commissioned. We asked for a short piece of prose about Liverpool, the Mersey or Merseyside, on the theme of longing. The idea was to mix ‘ordinary' voices with established writers and well known names connected with Liverpool and create a sort of photo album full of literary snapshots, all written in 2007, the city’s 800th anniversary.
It was a pleasure and a privilege, as Mersey Minis editor, to be part of the panel of judges asked to select the competition entries. But not an easy task, I realised when I started reading. At first they were all clamouring for attention: slices of Liverpool life and longings that I’d either forgotten about or never knew existed. But slowly, distinctive voices started to emerge. Small details of longing stuck with me: wind chimes in a cemetery, a lone dandelion in cracked concrete, the salty lips of a long-ago lover. And then the large sweep of it hit me: for childhoold innocence, familiar streetscapes, the love and protection of parents and grandparents.
We all experience longing. It looks forward and back, like our two Pier Head Liver Birds, towards the city and out to sea, or to the future and the past. The two figures on the cover suggest these longings. The sculpture of Eleanor Rigby represents longing for what might have been, and the young girl longs for her life to begin. Perhaps.
The pieces selected weren’t necessarily the most polished, but they all have one thing in common besides Liverpool – they come from the heart.

Judges' comments

Charles Nevin: "This is me from elsewhere: ‘I’ve always liked Scousers, with the admiration of the timid for the daring, of the man below for the high-wire artist; in this case, high-wire artists of the over-dramatic, the anarchic and the riskily sentimental.’ The competition entries were like that, even from the non-Scousers: some pulled it off, as you can see; others didn’t."

Jane Davis: "Some pieces stood out because they were both well done and had something to say. Others were included because – after all this was Liverpool – they just had great stories. Still others were irresistible because they recorded lost Liverpool, or shared memories."

Karoline Fritzsch – a Beatles story

When I was eight years old, I discovered my dad’s Beatles album. In order to sing along. I started writing down the lyrics, and as I didn’t speak a word of English, I ended up with pages full of words that didn’t exist in any language, but sounded right. At 25, I still catch myself discovering the real lyrics.
When I was thirteen years old, I was a full-blown Beatles fan. I decided to go on a pilgrimage and cycle all the way from eastern Germany to Liverpool, a plan that I never realised and laughed at as I got older. At 25, I’m settled in the city that seems to have been with me all this time.
Mysterious ways, indeed.

Lewis Biggs – Bling it

Bling lies at the heart of the Liverpool experience, always present, but reaching maestro level on a Friday night. Liverpool people just love attention. Not that we are greedy or needy, like those poor stage-actors who curl up and die if they think that they are being ignored for a minute. No, we just feel that a glance of appreciation or envy is as much the currency of conversation as verbal wit. Bling’s the visual vocabulary of attitude, a kind of performance art. Within a group of people, it becomes a form of visual intercourse, the repartee of accessory. It’s what I miss when I’m away.

Dea Parkin – City lover

Liverpool. Like a lover, like an undependable, kiss-and-flee, love-you-leave-you-love-you charmer. Not so much a ne’er do well, more a don’t-stay-long-enough-to-tell. Defying commitment to category. Always flirting with tomorrow, dancing on the grave of your past. When will I ever know you? Sparkling in the light, moody in the shadow. Exciting. Stimulating. Passionate. I like that in a city.

Jennifer Moore – I say goodbye and you say hello

Every teenager yearns for escape, craving new horizons. At fifteen I flew all the way to America, only to find Liverpool waiting there for me. At the Hard Rock Cafe, Orlando, I bought the book, got the t-shirt and came away with a John Lennon recording and a tiny packet of dust for good measure. Not just any dust, you understand. Cavern Club dust.

William Backshall – The Scaldy

I learned to swim in the Cut. On summer days, we lads would scale the canal wall adjacent to our terrace house, undress on the towpath, and with those of us able to boast a swimming costume hurriedly changing, the rest would jump or dive into the dark canal waters with whoops of delight. The centre of attraction was a huge submerged pipe on the far bank constantly discharging pleasantly hot water from the grimy rubber-works boiler room. This was known far and wide as the Scaldy, which, over many years attracted boys with its free entertainment. In addition to swimming, youths would bring along bars of soap, and enjoy an al fresco bath, though whether they emerged cleaner was doubtful.
Others would daub their bodies in bizarre patterns with the clay that surrounded the area, and after cavorting around in imitation war dances of Redskin Indians seen at the local movie matinee, they would then jump into the waters and emerge again as palefaces.
Older lads engaged recognised swimming styles, whilst we kids adopted what was known as ‘doggy’. I eventually learnt to dive, progressing from belly flops that left my stomach red and smarting, to an improved crab-like entry. At the bottom of the dive the water was inky black, and surfacing, it would change to a dark brown, then lighter brown, becoming clear only inches from the top. What a brew! Why we never came down with dreadful diseases, I’ll never understand. Another hazard was the neighbourhood rubbish that lay jettisoned on the bottom, old beds and bike wheels, ensuring great care had to be taken not to become entangled.... (more)