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

    Friday, August 08, 2008
    Tracing the gentle beast around Wapping

    Patricia chose the map square at random: E15. And so the southern tip of the Albert Dock became the location for the nose of the gentle beast, our outline Superlambanana, and the route of our trail - as we traced it on our copy of Andrew Taylor's Liverpool City Centre map - had a watery, dockland look to it.

    Shy of drowning in the wash of one of the many Yellow DuckMarines in the docks today, we refined our route a little to stay on terra firma as we went about our mission to explore this heavily-redeveloped segment of the city. A mission secondary to the main purpose, which was of course to spot as many little Superlambananas as we could, whilst blessing the ground beneath our feet by treading into it the outline of Liverpool's currently best-loved beast.

    Notable moments in a hugely-enjoyable walk:
    Lunch beside the Duke's Dock where children and teenagers tried their luck at scrambling up three Superlambananas whilst parents and friends - and we - looked on. All over the city people are doing this: part of the joyous art of these sculptures is their tactility, the way they invite people onto and alongside them.

    Crossing the arid piazza cityside of the Echo Arena and BT Convention Centre to find all doors on the Arena closed against us, and security staff at the convention centre politely but firmly rebuking our curiosity, sending us out the way we came in, quite rapidly.

    Meandering through the fascinatingly mixed-purpose area between Wapping and Park Lane, including a detour into Jamaica Street. Here crumbling old warehouses stack against dead factories reconditioned as nightspots, Mexican restaurants, media labs, whilst sparks still fly inside MOT garages and steel fabricators sheds.

    Visiting Simros Carpets in an old warehouse on Jamaica Street, where on the wall hangs a picture of Elvis, 'signed' with a message from The King noting Priscilla's appreciation of the floor covering he'd bought there for Graceland.

    Glorying in the beautiful Nineteenth century houses on Great George Square, what few are left after wartime bombs and peacetime developments took their toll.

    Feeling unwelcome in the empty Tradewing Square, East Village, plotting to invert the signs posted on every wall so that rather than asserting that Please Respect Residents equals If You Don't Live Here, Keep Out they would instead welcome children, dogs, skateboarders, humans.

    Reaching the very tip of the tail of our Superlambanana on narrow Henry Street, outside John McCall Architects.

    Ruminating on the social tensions involved in apartment balconies - on narrow Shaws Alley and Cornhill where opposing apartments are almost within touching distance and there is no privacy for high-rise residents intent on sitting out in the summer air.

    Finding back routes into the next area to be gentrified - between the Baltic Fleet and the empty but still imposing Joseph Heaps Rice Mill.
    There were plenty of other good moments too, on a day when St John's Gardens were busy with summer school's out fun activities, and when - on our walk down to the docks - we dared to investigate the insides of The Three Graces.

    Unchallenged in the old Mersey Docks and Harbour Board building (with its glorious domed atrium bearing the axiom They that go down to the sea in ships / and do business in great waters / These see the works of the Lord / and His wonders in the deep); watched by security in the Cunard Building as we gasped at the high pillared rooms of the Government Office for the North West; refused entry to the Royal Liver Building but sent around the back by one kind security man with a wink that we might like to see the art exhibition in The Atrium... which of course, we did.

    30 pictures from the walk at Flickr photoset Superlambanana Trail, August 2008