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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

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Local Author Matt Jacobson reflects on a taxi ride across Liverpool

‘For whether you stay or you stray’

The taxi arrived and I was now ready to travel across Liverpool to pick up my laptop which I had left behind at my friend’s house the previous evening. An invitation for a quiet drink in their house had led to several more, which led to the local pub and then into the city centre. So, I was wise to leave the electronic whizzkid box safely behind as on too many occasions, I have run back into pubs to pick up items including vinyl records, jackets and a supermarket bag full of shopping. For once I made the right choice to play it safe!

I shut the taxi door behind me, and the taxi driver greeted me with a warm opening “Hello my friend, where are you heading pal?” I outlined the street and the area, and the driver nodded with confidence. “No problem” he said, and we started to move slowly forward. He then leant forward and slightly increased the volume on his radio. I couldn’t work out the station, but I could work out the music – it wasn’t my cup of tea, but that’s fine. It was easy on the ear and easy on this delicate day. As the taxi churned out tunes and chugged along, I gazed out of the window thinking of nothing in particular, or spectacular.

The journey progressed and we headed further away from my home and I scanned the row of local shops that I visited and I could see the shop owners in the middle of their day. I could feel the passion and pride in what they do. Even more so, I could feel the relief that the world is open again. Unfortunately, they were located next to shops that had crashed and closed and could not trade again. Each one sat sadly in its retail grave with shutters shut firmly down with a tough weighted padlock that brutally blocks not only livelihoods but the future of human beings…

Local Author Matt Jacobson reflects on a taxi ride across Liverpool
Matt Jacobson – Photograph by Michelle Marshall

Further down, as the traffic lights were smugly showing red, I noticed a couple of cafes and bars were open with many already sitting outside soaking up the half sun. Families and friends, parents and children were in the middle of a meal or a drink and making each minute count. Children screamed with delight at the sight of ice cream and parents were smiling, capturing moments on their cameras to treasure. All sharing hearty tales at a table on the tarmac, filling each minute with what felt like ten minutes worth of laughter and conversation; ever so nervous as the rug could be pulled and the world may suddenly stop again. They were living in the moment and rightly so.

The taxi driver then took a sharp right as my phone and bag left the seat and said hello to the floor. I picked up the items and noticed we were heading past the leafy South Liverpool Park that houses colours of calmness and provides a personal invitation for deep reflection – and reflect I do. Life zips and zaps by but as we drive around the park, the trees, flowers, sky and lake are, for a time, mine to adore. They combine and send the senses to some other time zone. It is hard to define a question at times, but I know the time I spend reflecting in this park – is the answer.

We then headed through Allerton Road and onto the elongated Queens Drive. I haven’t really spent that much time in the areas alongside the drive but I’m aware of all and respect each street, lane and close. We then moved forward past The Rocket with the flyover that seemed to, at the age of nine, touch the moon and I then noticed a standoff with car indicators flashing and then drivers gesticulating two fingers to each other. Boy racers were angered by traffic lights and they fought for power, attention and a seat at the top of the table. It’s a battle never to be won. The taxi driver simply acknowledges it all with a grimace and a groan. We carried on towards St Matthew’s Church and then turned right under Broadway bridge.

Local Author Matt Jacobson reflects on a taxi ride across Liverpool
Broadway Bridge – Photograph by Michelle Marshall

I was now in the area I grew up in, Norris Green where I lived for 29 years and today the past caught me off guard. My soul was moved to tears as the taxi fare clock skipped to the sky, but I had my very own VIP seat in this regional movie set. Flashbacks of home, school rucksacks, footballs, fields and jumping fences, family, friends and roads that never end drop kicked my resilience and usual defenses as teardrops headed home towards my heart.

This is not just land, tarmac or earth but stepping stones to the past and these memories I selected from the memory shop needed no receipt; they were not going back to the shop, they were mine for keeps.

Norris Green

There is poetry in the pavements of Norris Green and those pavements belong to the people and their unrivaled unity in community. Pavements upon pavements upon pavements upon pavements provide scenes and dreams safely securing spellbound hearts.

These pavements are at times difficult to maintain. And just like life, they may disintegrate and become jagged. Paving slabs become uneven and cracked, they become broken paving slabs. Erosion can challenge us all but it’s a challenge accepted as no matter the damage, Norris Green paving slabs will still remain poetic pathways and rhyming runways leading and nudging you to a bigger world outside.

Norris Green, to many, is the heart, kidneys and liver of Liverpool as those surrounding areas sweetly serenade and function as the arms, hips, legs and elbows; all working and functioning in unison to perfection. Streets still display youthful schemes and plenty of discarded dreams, but a plethora of beautiful people pass with grit and wholehearted working-class determination to succeed.

Norris Green has historic places and poetry, placed amongst this wholesome community. The white wonky van that sold everything from crisps, pens and twenty No10’s – videos, cassettes and food for your pets. Never underestimate what this meant, a shop on three wheels on a poetic pavement. This is also a gathering and place of invaluable chat and voluptuous three-day debate on a council estate.

Broadway has its two infamous roundabouts, formed like two colliding planets planted precisely on earth to ensure we all stall on our first, second and third driving lesson. Broadway baths brought swimming to many with lifeguards also being asked “could you also guard us from life?”

And just peeking down, monitoring the activity below is Broadway bridge – unusable, unsure and uncertain, a window of the past but still a picture of promise and potential.

St Teresa’s social club and The Green Peppers social club housed a gazillion events. As locals drank with locals and their families, they formed friendships that will never end all sat near or amongst the nearby Parthenon, Bunnymen Drive.

The historic conundrum and fact or fiction game show centers around the statement that there was a time when there were no pubs in Norris Green, and this still haunts the minds of many. I still don’t know whether this is true. Even yesterday, I asked six people for an answer and received 126 answers, but at least people fought for inclusion which is caring and kind.

The ‘Boot estate’ wasn’t great – a tough fate for many, so let’s just leave it there. Inner Forum and Outer Forum caused junior school debate as the class wanted ‘a shake it all about forum’ and bookmakers on every street corner confused us all , by never making books. The lengthy Lorenzo Drive sounded like it was a place for the FBI, but the super Leo’s supermarket nearby brought everything to those who needed everything.

Stalisfield Avenue and Scargreen Avenue are two arms stretched out wide, keeping the East Lancs and West Derby at bay. Scargreen Avenue is a home for shops and back in the day, Bobbys and Chandlers were hubs for those with talk, chat and lots to say. Scargreen field brought a basketball game to those who didn’t really know what basketball was, but a new sporting task was born. Cottesbrook Road carefully cares for the collective and Braybrooke Road has a way to keep things at bay. Strawberry Road is sweet and secure and Norris Green park delivers more.

Norris Green is ours and it’s yours, let’s build it up, not build it down. Say hello or goodbye to it, either way just love it – because……… it loves you.

The taxi then headed out of Norris Green to nearby Fazakerley, and we pulled up at my friend’s house. I informed the driver that “I will be two minutes – I’m just picking something up”. I knocked at my friend’s door as the taxi engine kept running in the background. There was no answer. I knocked again and again, no answer and again – no answer and then my phone rang. It was the friend I was visiting,

“Hi Matt, I’m outside your flat with your laptop, where are you mate?’

With love and Peace

Explore Liverpool

Check out Matthew’s spoken word on Norris Green with Everyman & Playhouse project here.

Love, Liverpool: an A to Z of Hope. ‘There is poetry in the pavements’’ – On Spotify: Click letter 7: So Much More

READ MORE: Local Author Matthew Jacobson reflects on a long, long day in Liverpool

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