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.

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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.


Dear Lancashire, an Unplanned and Extended Visit

Alright che,

For me, living in Lancashire was never on the agenda. It was a region I had knowledge of as my family roots stem from Liverpool, a former chunk of the historic Lancashire region before it broke off and became Merseyside in 1974. Manchester too is formerly a part of the region, a city which has been the backdrop for many a night out.

Historic boundaries of Lancashire (Red), and the current county (Green)

Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to travel, live abroad and see as much of the world as possible. The county of Lancashire just wasn’t somewhere I’d felt inclined to visit. My impressions if you’d asked me a year ago? Rain. Despite learning much more about the area and its rich culture and history, I don’t think I was that far off.

According to the Telegraph, Preston is the 7th rainiest area in the United Kingdom. The Met Office also claim that on August 10th, 1893, 32mm of rain hammered down on the town within five minutes. Soggy.

I ended up in that waterfall (the area, not the time it happened – this would be a much more interesting article) by complete accident. Some family issues meant I left my home in Chester and after spending a great few months in Ellesmere Port living at my Grandads, I eventually moved up to Blackburn to be with my girlfriend where she was staying with her Dad.

It’s the guy that sang the A-Team! (Royal Oak, Blackburn, September 2019)

Blackburn itself doesn’t have the greatest reputation, but I really enjoyed my half a year living in the former mill town. After all, it had been home for King Kenny when he won the Premier League with Rovers back in 1995. If it was good enough for him, it was good enough for me. While north of the West Pennine Moors I performed my first open mic at the royal Oak in Pleckgate, looked for witches as I climbed Pendle Hill and was able to connect with my girlfriend’s family – and for that I’m truly grateful.

A standard Lancashire advert. Source: shittyfoodporn on Reddit (lol)

Blackburn also opened my eyes to some of the strangest northern scran I’d ever seen (that I would admittedly come to love). The best of all being the ‘butter pie’, a savoury pastry with the contents of potato, onion, and lashings of real butter. I was first served this delicacy piping hot within a ‘barmcake’, or a bread roll for those of you outside the county borders. Call it what you want, a ‘Wigan Kebab’ or a ‘Pie Barm’ – I had no idea how to eat the thing at first. I’d ‘tret’ myself to a Greenhalgh’s one afternoon and attempted to eat it as I walked through a ‘ginnel’. One bite in and my palms burned as the sloppy buttered potato clung to them like napalm, I couldn’t have looked like more of an outsider if I’d tried. I even sounded like one as my Cestrian accent bellowed from my ‘cakehole’ with “ooos” and “aaahhs” as my hands scorched that cold October day.

Fried Spam as an addition to the already perfect full English breakfast was another I failed to understand on first listen. Firstly, for the addition itself, secondly, because of the broadness of the Blackburn accent. My first month I think those who knew me only thought I could say the words ‘what’, ‘sorry’ and ‘pardon’. After trying it for myself, I can safely say Spam is a more than welcome replacement for when your ‘binlid’ is lacking sausage, but you do have to swat away some strange looks from elsewhere on this floating island we call Britain.

Oh, and on the 3rd day, God said let there be gravy. However, due to its viscosity it failed to leave the north, and so the Northerners celebrated as they were pretty chuffed it never reached the Southern fairies. They could stick to their jellied eels.

In the end we decided to leave Blackburn so I could be closer to where I worked. I had a job on the docks in Preston and it was taking me nearly two hours to get to work everyday (when Northern Rail decided to turn up) and another couple of hours back. In response to this we moved to Bamber Bridge, a wee urban village south-east of Preston. The obscure name of the place translates from the Old English “Bēam and Brycg”, which means ‘Tree-Trunk Bridge’. I never saw one and the name still puzzles me now.

Bamber Bridge Train Station, 1963 (Source: Ben Brooksbank)

Bamber Bridge had been home to the American 1511 Quartermaster Truck regiment in the Second World War, which was racially segregated. All the soldiers in this regiment were African American, except the officers in power who were white. Fighting broke out between the officers and infantrymen in the ensuing tensions of the 1943 Detriot race riot, the African American infantry with the local townsfolk on one side – the white American military police on the other. The violence actually started at the pub we lived next to while we were there. Today, it is known as the ‘Battle of Bamber Bridge‘. It is a scene that could be reported on yesterday as the Black Lives Matter protests roll on. Go Brig* for being on the right side of history!

*Brig – a term the locals use for the village of Bamber Bridge.

The village is perfectly situated next to Cuerdan Valley park, an absolutely stunning area of greenery, trees and rivers that is 100% a side-effect of the aforementioned rainfall in the area. For as much as people criticise the rain, it really does birth some stunning scenery. I don’t think I’ve inhaled cleaner air or drank fresher water from taps. Where I grew up each sip was followed by the unpleasant sting of limescale, even after a filter through the Brita.

Cuerdan Valley Park in a rare moment of sun (March, 2020)

The town of Preston also has some killer nightlife. It is the only place I’ve seen where you can get a Tango Ice Blast cocktail. Odeon, if you’re reading this – make some notes.

The Ribble Valley and the Fylde coast also contain some fantastic spots if you’re ever around the area. Clitheroe, Downham and Lytham are some of my favourites. Not to mention the historically significant Lancaster.

The time came for us to move down south to enter the London lottery, but these slices of Lancashire will live on within me. Sure, it might not be the most eye-opening location of my life story, but for me it was just as much of an adventure.

Live life like a tourist and you’ll never be with ‘owt’ to do.

Ta-ra for now!