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

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006
    The dis-order of mari-time
    "You need not attach great importance to the rioting in Liverpool last night. It took place in an area where disorder is a chronic feature."

    - this quote from Winston Churchill is one of many new to me in Edgy Cities, a small book and short DVD package I discovered today in News from Nowhere. Written by Steve Higginson and Tony Wailey, Liverpudlians and also tutors at the London College of Communication, Edgy Cities is a set of stories which reflect on the particular character of port cities. Liverpool is the pivotal point of reference but like the port itself this writing reaches outwards to Naples, New York, New Orleans, Kingston, Boca.

    Time, Memory and Movement are the themes through which Higginson and Wailey weave their tales. And I found the opening chapter on time fascinating, in its insistence that port people work to mari-time, a time frame based on the irregularity and unpredictability of the tides. 'Port cities are 'irregular' places', they assert, and they regard this as the reason why Liverpudlians (and workers of other ports) never got to grips with the strictures and structures of rigid 'industrial time'. Scientists now agree, they tell us - we do have a biological clock, affected by our environment, which means that if we live in a tidal area then our behaviour will tend to clash with the movements of the solar clock.

    The book is short enough to leave the reader with the task of testing such ideas. It's a joyful thing to reflect on, this illuminating writing which edges us closer to what our culture really is. As does this liberating little gem, also quoted in the book, from a Communist report of 1935:

    'Liverpool is an anarchic place where spontaneity and the flamboyant gesture are preferred to the disciplines of tactical thinking and planned interventions. Liverpool is an organiser's graveyard.'