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

    Thursday, August 13, 2009
    Go to Shaw Street
    Go to Shaw Street to centre yourself. Find the gap in the fence and spend time with the round house. It's been here 300 years. Created as a lock-up for miscreants this round house sits quaintly on a green hill overseeing the skyline of a changing city. Pictures from long ago suggest that it has always been situated that way. Bottled up inside it are the hungover memories of the burly brawling boozers of yesteryear, but the lock-up has more recently become known as The Beacon, and its solid red brick walls exude a gentle peace.

    Go to Shaw Street to locate yourself. Look west-south-west from The Beacon out to the river, where countless new glass towers nestle in the business district of the city alongside the classic granite-layered gothic lines of the Royal Liver Building. Look south to the spire of SFX, the magnificent church of Saint Francis Xavier, once the largest Roman Catholic parish in England and still big in folk memory, and beyond it to the space-age dome of the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King. Look south-south-west along the Georgian terraces of Shaw Street and inbetween trees to the distant Anglican Cathedral, massive and brooding in sandstone. Standing here you know that you are - to quote Stewart Henderson - in a holy city, blessed with people ... a lonely city, bruised by people.

    Go to Shaw Street to root yourself. The lock-up is the centrepiece of the Everton club crest. You know where you are when you stand here. You know who you are. It's about football and belonging. It's about standing at the still point of a turning city, feeling the force of the place pull you downwards, closer into itself. It's about knowing your history, and feeling the old truth so often repeated on the terraces (and recently adopted as an amazing, commissioned, Maori Haka, here) that if you know your history, it's enough to make your heart ... fill up.

    Go to Shaw Street to ask questions of your city. Look across to the junction with Everton Brow where giant hoardings advertise Aldbury Homes' Green Brow, 'one of Liverpool's first Eco-friendly housing developments'; consider why, when you stand outside these apartments you see a prominent set of hand-written notices splayed across the windows of one flat reading: DO NOT BUY HERE.

    I go to Shaw Street because it is at the mid-point of a ten-minute walk between the hill top bus stop and the place where I meet the woman I love after she finishes work. I always allow more than ten minutes for the journey, so I can stop here.

    Pic from my Flickr photoset The Lockup, Everton Brow
    The lock-up previously blogged about in July 2004