personal travel

Reclaiming My Roots: A Liverpool Story

“A good place to wash your hair, Liverpool. Good soft water.” – John Lennon

Liverpool was the heart of my childhood. Coming from a working-class background my parents would often leave me in the care of my grandparents. We would walk around the Wirral and North Wales; but Liverpool was by far the most common.

I’m not a traditional Scouser in any sense of the word, my accent sounds far too south of the Mersey –  but my soul has always belonged to Liverpool. My grandparents on my Dad’s side are originally city natives, which is why we visited so often. My Great-great-grandfather on my Nan’s side was a resident of Llanwyddn, a traditional Welsh-speaking village that was later flooded to create the Liverpool reservoir in November 1889. That area is now known as Lake Vyrnwy. He was offered accommodation in another nearby Welsh village or the chance to move to Liverpool for work. Without a word of English in his brain, he chose the latter.

My Grandad’s side originates from Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, making their way over to ‘Ireland’s Second Capital’ for a better life. The towns name comes from the Irish ‘Inis Ceithleann’, referring to ‘Cethlenn’ – a goddess in Irish mythology. Her story is that she was wounded by an arrow and attempted to swim the River Erne to reach safety. She never reached the other side; the island the town is on was named in her honour. Luckily, he made it to Liverpool, and the Isle of Man isn’t called Andy’s Ancestor Island.

Born in his Nan’s apartment with a view of both Goodison Park and Anfield, my Grandad fortunately chose to support Liverpool. If not for that fateful decision, me and my Dad wouldn’t have our tradition of always watching the Champions League final together when we play in it, instead we would watch the Toffees limp to mid-table every season. So, cheers Grandad!

The reason my family left Liverpool was due to the overcrowding problem. They had moved from Everton to Kensington (where I would later live) and grown disgusted with the rat problems that plagued the area and all the demolition work that was going on.

Liverpool Council funded developments for population overspill in Skelmersdale, Runcorn and Ellesmere Port – the latter of which being the area my family decided to relocate, my Dad at the tender age of 18 months.

This was why we always returned to the city, so me and my brother could reconnect with our roots. I remember the Capital of Culture win in 2008 and being mesmerised by the dilapidated building with the rotating circle within it, fish and chips on the docks and the bustling streets of the pre-Liverpool One high street.

I’d boycotted my high school prom to see Blink-182 at the Echo Arena and I’d watched the Liverpool team bring home the 2006 FA Cup under the deafening hum of vuvuzelas, giddy as Pepe Reina waved at me personally. My Nan had been a painter and she used to craft canvas art of the Beatles in the static caravan at the end of her garden. The city was in my blood – there is no surprise I went for university.

There is a famous quote from one Margaret Simey, a politician and activist from Glasgow. She said that “the magic of Liverpool is that it isn’t England.” The city isn’t too fond of politicians named Maggie, but this one hit the nail on the head. Liverpool was a different world to me growing up, everyone was so friendly and outgoing. I was able to explore the city for myself, it was unique, it was bohemian and most importantly – it felt like home.

In my first-year studying International Journalism at John Moore’s, I lived opposite the still incomplete Royal Liverpool University Hospital, which has been a complete farce worthy of its own article (its actually been pushed back again until 2022 and has incurred a cost of £335 million).

Following that I lived in Kensington and understood straight away what my Grandad had warned me about the rats. They ripped bins to shreds and scuttled around chewing leftover student takeaway from the open-air dinner plate that was the pavement. It was grim. There were also two shootings on the street I lived on, both late in the night that woke me as the shots were fired. I’m also pretty sure we lived in an old drug dealers house as someone would turn up occasionally for a pick-up and bang on the door and scream through the mailbox.

It was during this second year that I’d frequent the Krazyhouse, which was in my opinion the best nightclub in the city before its closure. Sure, it was always dead, but it had a whole floor dedicated to 2000s Kerrang hits, so I loved it. I also bumped into my Dad there once.

Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling
Classy with his two-cans of Red Stripe (Krazyhouse, January 2015).

These nights of fun were paid for by a part-time job at Anfield. It was a dream come true working the kiosks of my beloved football club. My favourite shifts there were in the away end, where the staff and travelling fans would hurl abuse at each other. They were good times, but man am I sick of the ‘slippy Gerrard’ chant.

The Scouser in our team

In my third year, rodent problems persisted as I rented a flat in Toxteth with my partner. Our apartment overlooked Falkner Square; it was brilliant if not for the mice. On the positive side, the best thing about having mice is that there are no rats. As I wrapped up my degree, I had a chance to intern at the Liverpool Echo. I worked alongside cult hero James Pearce, David Prentice and Andy Kelly. The latter of which took me with him to the Liverpool Kirkby Academy to interview then academy player Matthew Virtue. On the drive there he mentioned to me an academy prospect destined for a bright future in the game, his name – Trent Alexander-Arnold. The rest as they say, is history.

I left Liverpool for Spain with a 2:1 degree, a lifetime of memories and a rekindling of my family history. I miss the city whenever I’m not there, and I know deep down I’ll be back again.

Thanks for reading.


Don’t Pursue Happiness, Let It Come to You

The Declaration of Independence guarantees all Americans the right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. Now, I am not at all American – and never have I desired to be. But having a right to pursue happiness appears to me like some sort of paradox. This is because, to me, happiness is not something that can ever be chased successfully.

By now we’ve all heard the age-old John Lennon quote, for the sake of inclusiveness I’ll paste it below for all eight of you that haven’t seen it regurgitated across the internet.

I tell you what, I’ll even post it how it looks when your Mum shares anything on Facebook. It reinforces my point.

Oh yeah.

It’s a lovely sentiment at its core and I do believe we should all aspire to be ‘happy’ in our own lives – of course I do. But I do feel quotes such as these are being misconstrued, making multiple generations believe that happiness is some sort of aspirational goal in a similar vein to a career, perfecting a craft or having children. I believe the act of pursuing happiness is in-fact making people unhappy.

Happiness at its core is not an attainable trait, it is a fluctuating feeling that comes and goes in fleeting moments. It arrives when you would never expect it to and aversely never appears when you think it’ll be there. Think of it as those little light specs in your peripheral vision that disappear when you look at them. Liberty and freedom can be achieved, but happiness? No – it is a side-effect.

Attempting to seek a consistently ‘happy’ state is foolish, in the same way that one cannot exist in a constant state of luck. None of us can decide to be luckier because our heart desires it. We can, however, seek contentment.

Being a happy person stems from the roots of appreciation. Instead of being envious of a colleague for their higher salary or their fancier car, realise that yours fulfils all your needs. Never look at another child and compare it to your own, do not strive for that even more expensive watch because yours is only a year old. Not only can living like this make you a more content human being, it pulls you from the material rat-race and saves you money by living through your own means. Spend the money on the things you want to experience. Nobody thinks about their designer clothes on their deathbed.

Actively pursuing material happiness is the best way to drive true contentment away. The moment you buy that new car, your eye is almost immediately on the next one and you think how much happier the other person with that better car is. This drives discontent in your situation once more, even though you longed for this car for a substantial period of time.

You’ve heard the age-old quote that money doesn’t buy happiness, and this is why. We’re using it wrong. I’m not telling you to donate all your money and live on the streets. Just reign it in a little bit.  While money doesn’t necessarily buy happiness, a lack of it often leads to unhappiness.

Money is your greatest tool to craft a path towards contentment. This constant strive for more is what makes the pockets of billionaire’s jingle.

Take note of what you’ve got around you, not your bank balance.

Close friends, a loving family, having new experiences or embracing your own creativity. Contentment comes from letting go of the idea that material possessions allow it to happen.

The U.S. may grant a ‘pursuit of happiness’ in its constitution, but I’ve spent time in some of the poorest areas of rural Tanzania and they are much happier than many people I’ve seen back on home turf.

Look internally, not externally.

Waffle over.