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

    Friday, February 18, 2005
    Lancashire, Where Women Die of Love
     
    Elvis, to Liverpool audience the other night: "Now I'm going to do The Delivery Man..."
    Scouse Heckler: "Mine's a pint of Gold Top!"
    Elvis, after due consideration: "You know, I've waited months to come to Liverpool to hear that joke...."
    Elvis, of course, hails from these parts, and shows it too with this quick-witted double follow-through:
    "Shows your age a bit, mate.... mine, too."

    I've spent today mostly with the thoroughly enjoyable Charles Nevin book, Lancashire, Where Women Die of Love. In his chapter on Liverpool he attempts, as all writers do, to summarise the essence of Scouse humour:

    "Nearly all of it is in the famous exchange between Cilla Black and her young audience during Jack and the Beanstalk at the Liverpool Empire: 'Now then, children, how are we going to kill the big bad giant?' 'Sing to him, Cilla!'"

    If you hail from these parts, you'll love Nevin's book too, honest. The title comes from the revered historian A.J.P. Taylor quoting Balzac, no less. Though Taylor goes on to say, 'I think this very unlikely. I have always assumed, though with little first-hand experience, that Lancashire women are brisk and businesslike in love-making as in everything else. The men provide the romantic atmosphere. It delights them to imagine that the women die of love. In reality a Lancashire woman would reply: "Come on, lad, let's get it over!"'

    It delights Nevin to roam the streets of the North-West asking folk what they think of Lancashire as the place where women die of love. Liverpool-born St Helens-raised London media wag, Nevin's style is wondrously witty and amply demonstrates what he regards as the strongest Lancastrian characteristic, whimsy.

    He finds the environs of Lancaster to be the true location of the Holy Grail, he finds romance in Rugby League, he spends a riotous day in Wigan with fifty Sons of the Desert, Laurel and Hardy fans, he proffers evidence that the streets of Paris were inspired by Southport, and at the Lancs medieval theme park Camelot he loves the Hollands Pies.

    As for his oft-repeated question, there are many illuminating answers. But perhaps the most Lancastrian one of the lot comes from Claire, on her hen night in Blackpool.

    "I asked Claire if she knew that Lancashire was the county where women died of love. 'I thought it was from the cold, or too many chips,' she said."