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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, August 13, 2004
    In the smoke

    Took a walk around the city's business quarter today, while a dock road exhaust fitters fixed the rust-hole in my car's undercarriage. Old Hall Street. Where the new Radisson SAS hotel / health club tower is near completion. Where the old Littlewoods building where I spent three years is undergoing a lobby facelift and where the once-dark Post and Echo building now boasts a clear glassy frontage.

    One difference I noticed straightaway from my days along this road a decade ago: the presence outside every building of numbers of people leaning against walls, kicking aimlessly at litterbins, chatting, blocking doorways - smoking. These are the new banished; classless but of a very low caste in today's intolerant, health-possessed society. During office hours they clutter the streets of this part of town, just as in other areas the homeless clutter shop doorways at night.

    In Queens Square the city's main tourist information centre still carries little information on the Biennial, though it is only weeks away. But what they do have on prominent display is a campaign petition: SIGN UP HERE TO MAKE LIVERPOOL SMOKE-FREE.

    It's now official business, pushing smokers out. Casual visitors to the city are being enlisted in the cause. Meanwhile, men working on the Atlantic Avenue road widening scheme choke on heavy traffic fumes, which will become heavier once their work is completed.