Sunday, 22 November 2015

Way Beyond Football

Scousers here, scousers there, scousers every f-...okay, well, you probably know how that one goes.
It's true, though. We get everywhere, and yesterday, myself and my friend and colleague Pat, ended up on tour with Soccer in the City!

The tour is run by a good friend of Homebaked, Peter Carney. We were picked up at the bakery, then off to the Shankly Hotel to gather together the rest of the tourgoers, a group of fans from Norway.

One of these fans was Trygg Johannsen, who played for a Norwegian team in the 70s.

The tour began in William Brown Street, near the Walker Art Gallery, World Museum, City Library and St. George's Hall, to name but a few iconic Liverpool places. As Peter pointed out, these buildings are Romanesque in their design, particularly St. George's Hall with its columns.

It was here, next to one of the fountains, that Peter got out a bag of old Liverpool scarves, and talked us through their history and what they represented. We also got given some noisemakers, because fan participation is a vital part of LFC. These came into play quite a lot while on the tour, particularly when remembering key moments in LFC's history. Little things like a night in Istanbull, that kind of thing...

This big one's noisy, but it ain't practical.

Back on the bus, we started to go out of the city centre, and learned a little more about Liverpool's history. We were heading for Hope University, but before getting there, Peter told us about another of Liverpool's famous universities, and its founder, John Moore, who also founded Littlewoods Pools

As well as being able to place a bet on the pools, football fans would also enjoy playing "Spot The Ball" - and we all had a little go ourselves while on route.

Then, we were at Shaw Street, near Hope University.
Here, we saw the famous street sign which is the only one in the country to list two premier league clubs ("and in the right order", says Peter).

It was here that Liverpool's fame as being a football city began. At first, there was just one club, "St. Domingo's", later becoming Everton, established in 1878. The fact that we can boast two "great" teams (opinions remain divided on this matter) is one of many reasons why people love this city.

We had to get a group photo - a 'shary stick' even appeared for one or two!

Next on our journey was Everton Park, a park which I love and holds a lot of nostalgic significance personally (though more on that another time).
Here, we heard a little about Everton FC's history, before learning more in depth later on at Goodison. While still on the bus, Peter talked to us about why Everton are nicknamed "the toffees", because of the 'Toffee Lady' who would sell sweets during the games.

Not the actual Toffee Lady, but what she would have looked like.

Everton Park has the best view of Liverpool, and though I've been many times, it's always such a grand sight to see. Not only can you see the whole of Liverpool, but also in the distance, the hills of Wales. 

I'm not scowling, it was just a very windy day.

Up here, we spoke of not only Liverpool as a city's history, and pointed out some historical buildings of note, but also other clubs that are nearby. The short-lived New Brighton football club, Tranmere, Chester and Warrington, to name a few.

As we came down from the park, Peter took us closer to the stadium, and to where the new stand is being built. As this (current) pile of rubble marks the place where the Hillsborough Memorial once stood, Peter told us his own story, as a survivor of the 1989 disaster, and read out a beautiful poem, "Tell Bill Shankly About Your Dad" (can be found here, along with the other poems from the 'Words of Tribute' anthology.)
It was a moving experience, and just goes to show that Hillsborough is something that will never, ever be forgotten by the people of this city (whether they were directly affected by it or not), and the victims will always be remembered.

As we came round to Stanley Park, and Kemp's Bistro/the Isla Gladstone, the tour bus was alive with the sound of football songs. I didn't know the words, but I'd have joined in if I did.
Peter told us his story of the first game he went to alone, as a child, and how he had enough money on him at the time to get an eccles cake to eat during the game.

Old money and (new, fresh!) Eccles cakes were passed out while he told the story, which was probably my favourite part of the tour. As with everything that happened on the tour, I've tried to keep this account fairly spoiler free, as it's really something you should experience for yourself.

We then went over to Goodison Park, to learn a little of Everton's history. It was a little busy there as there was a game on, so we had to put on disguises (dark glasses, and a wig, in Peter's case) in case any of the Blues fans didn't take kindly to us Reds!
(All in good fun, of course, as the rivalry between the teams is both a fierce and friendly one - though I do wish we had some photos of us all in our disguises!)

Then, back round to the Kop again, for a few little last looks and memories (as well as some more songs!) before the tour bus departed again into the city centre to take our Norwegian friends back (they were heading later on to Manchester to watch the game - I bet they enjoyed it, too!).

All in all, the tour was a fantastic experience, and, as it says on the Soccer In The City website, it goes 'way beyond football'. 

From the site:
"Soccer In The City is a unique, new Liverpool  visitor service, developed by Peter Carney (tour manager) to give visitors an enjoyable and interesting insight into the relationship between the City of Liverpool, its citizens and soccer, the beautiful game.

Soccer In The City offers a special perspective for supporters & cynics alike, visits to sites no other tour visits, views of the city not seen on any other visitor service. With live commentary and on board activities the tour brings football to life.

Soccer In The City really is unique, enjoyable and interesting.  If you want to find out the score, get on our tour.

Both tours last at least two hours and include live commentary, on board activities and hands on experience of historical/hysterical*  artefacts/arty facts."

After experiencing it myself, I can say that it's all true, and though this post about it doesn't give absolutely everything away, I can assure you there's a lot more I'd have wanted to speak about, but haven't for fear of ruining the experience for you if you want to go on it yourself.
(Which you really should.)

You don't have to be a football fan (I'm not as such, but I love the history and how football brings this city together with a sense of great pride), but if you are, I'm sure you'll love it even more.

Thank you Soccer in the City for a great morning out.

A Nostalgic City

I love travelling when I get the chance. I've been lucky enough to visit some really beautiful places in the world, and though there are some places I've really fallen in love with, there's one place that I still call home and always will: Liverpool.

I've been here all my life, and I doubt I'd ever really stray - it's that kind of place.

I've seen this city grow, I've even seen parts of it be torn down and replaced, I've seen it change. I'm part of a development team right now to help recreate a 'blighted' part of Liverpool and help revive it back into something lovely again.
Because, that's something the people of Liverpool are really about: what the city means to them and how it feels. The nostalgia it brings being here, no matter how old you are, or what your background is.

(Photo credit: Ronnie Hughes)

It was because of that sense of nostalgia I've found myself where I am today.
There was a little bakery I used to go to as a kid - Mitchell's. My grandad would take me and my mum there after they picked me up from school and I'd get a cat meringue (what it sounds like - a little meringue, in the shape of a cat, with chocolate pointy ears and Smarties for eyes!). I loved it there. 

(Photo credit: The Echo)

During the regeneration of Anfield, sadly, Mitchell's was one of the many places that was up for the chopping block, including my old home in Lothair Road.
A lot of memories, at least in physical form, cleared away.

(Photo credit: The Echo)

It’s very strange to think that it just doesn’t exist any more. Where once stood a proud, lovely home I grew up in is…well, I’d say rubble, but I suppose it’s been cleared up a bit since then.
When it comes down to it, that’s all a house is: bricks and mortar, as they say.
What makes a place ‘home’ is the people in it, and the sense of community, and a place that has a very proud sense of community behind it is Homebaked; a social enterprise and community bakery in the heart of Anfield; and it happens to be what Mitchell's has become.
(You can read a bit of the history here.)

I'm proud to be part of Homebaked.
I work there, and I write the blog and newsletter. It only makes sense, I guess, that I should have my own blog too, which is what this has become. 

It won't all be about what I do at Homebaked, or about Liverpool, though that will be a big part of it!
You can read more about that over at the Homebaked blog, and follow those updates via our Twitter and Facebook.
This blog will also be about the other things I do, such as art and non-blog writing, and things I'm interested in. Photography, travelling, retro videogames, vintage toy collecting...
A lot of nostalgic stuff in itself. But that's okay.
I'm a nostalgic girl in a nostalgic city.

Elenor Rigby and me are bezzies.


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