I’ve just come back to work in Liverpool on a regular basis after being based away from here for about five years. As I walk through the streets at lunchtime, or pop into some of my old pub haunts on the way home in the evening, I see faces from back in the day and they acknowledge me casually – “Alright, laa!” – as if you haven’t been away for more than a day. Nothing much changes in Liverpool. It’s a friendly enough place, but it’s the world’s biggest village, where life plods on as it always has done, everybody knows everybody else and they all seem to know everybody else’s business.
I’m as guilty as the rest I suppose when it comes to having a monotonous routine to my Liverpool life. I’ve had five long years away, yet I have slipped seamlessly back into my old commuting ways. I drive to Maghull each morning to catch the 7:00 train into town. Sometimes, I go a bit crazy and dawdle across the car park, recklessly allowing the 7:00 disappear on its way and nonchalantly wait for the 7:15 instead. Mad as a carrot, I am!
I still find it bizarre though, that the same people are taking the same trains every day that they took five years ago and beyond, presumably going to work at the same place. For instance, there’s the ginger bird that always stands under the end shelter, leaning her left shoulder on to the glass facing towards town. No idea why, but she does that every day and on the train she always sits in the same seat, the last one in the carriage, facing in the direction of town. I have tried to race her to that seat just to piss her off but with no success; she’s all shoulders and elbows and full of gritty determination.
Then there’s Blondie. Always in a rush, she crosses the bridge and boards the train at the very last minute and spends the whole segment of the journey between Old Roan and Sandhills stations pointlessly applying layer upon layer of make-up. I really don’t know why she bothers. She is most definitely mutton and no amount of mint sauce would fool anyone into thinking that it’s lamb.
One couple have been arriving at the station in the same BMW for probably ten years now. I’ve never seen them smile or speak to each other yet, so I presume they are married. They get out of the car, walk to the platform, board the train, ride to town and disembark without so much as a sideways glance at each other. Perhaps they are blind, deaf mutes? Or telepathic? Or perhaps this is just the way to go these days as a married couple travelling to work together.
Another guy, about my age, maybe a bit younger, has clearly been undergoing a mid-life crisis for ten years now if his dress sense is anything to go by. Admittedly, when it comes to fashion I am more Victor Meldrew than Victoria Beckham, but I fear this guy is trying far too hard. Still, he always looks sharp and has the most purposeful stride I have ever seen, marching resolutely to the same lamp-post every day where he comes to a dead stop to read the sport pages of the Daily Mirror. Every day, it’s the same, without fail.
Finally, there’s the couple that surely have to be an item because they would simply spoil another couple. Far be it from me to comment but they aren’t the best two lookers in the world. They have faces that would frighten a police horse. As my mum always says, it’s not their fault. As my dad always responds, they could stay indoors.
But fair play to them, they arrive for the train via the number 234 bus together, they walk on to the platform hand in hand, the grip only being broken to allow her to reach up to brush bits of breakfast from his manky, unkempt beard.
This morning though, he was alone. I wonder where she was today? Is she ill? Has she taken a day off without him, because that has never happened before? Has she left him for another bloke?. Or woman? I wonder.
I wonder if I’m the only nosey-bastard, people-watcher on the platform or is everyone wondering where I’ve been hiding for the last five years? Have I been in prison maybe, or won the lottery but blown it all away and have had to return to work to make ends meet again, or just been out of work all this time and just got back in to the rat race?
They probably don’t wonder at all. After all, this is the world’s biggest village where everyone knows who you are. Somebody will know the score and will have already told them.