My Liverpool Airbnb last night was a little room in The Albany – an old meeting place in the cotton trade (and likely the slave trade too – you’re not going one way with an empty ship). It was on Old Hall Street – originally called Whiteacre Street in King John’s 1207 charter for the city. One of only five roads that made the original town. Right in the ancient heart of Liverpool.
My host Nicholas was very concerned for my comfort. I’m a pretty relaxed guest, so I’d have been happy with a lot worse, but he took good care of me. I only hosted once, almost a year ago, and understand his concern. The room was booked by a pair of French interior designers and they were bastards. At the end of their stay Brian said “that’s the first time I’ve not felt that this place is my home.” I haven’t listed it again because if I don’t get five stars in my next booking then I’ll get delisted entirely.
When I eventually woke up he had coffee and eggs ready. We sat and had breakfast. He’s had a rough ride, our Nick. He carries a great big generous heart and he’s happy to show it to you. But people and circumstances have been kicking it about. The dominos have been falling, as they can. Three of his friends, all by their own hand, gone. He’s moving to Spain to be a paraglide instructor. “It was either stop living in Liverpool, or stop living. In Liverpool.” he tells me with characteristic open hearted candour and hurting eyes. I find myself giving him advice that people have given me: “You’re allowed to take care of your own needs too, you know.” His focus is firmly set on other people. And his mind is going twenty to the dozen as his language struggles to keep up. At one point he tells me “I’m a bit of an entrepreneur” which elicits a loud bark of laughter from his flatmate upstairs. He flushes as I raise my eyebrows. “Well yes, of course right now I haven’t got any money, but I can be. I will be.”
I like him. I hope he finds the change he seeks when he goes to Spain. When I ask him about paragliding his body changes and grows immediately less physically frenetic – more solid. I suddenly notice what good shape he’s in. He clearly loves it. He’s good at it. He’s at home in it. I think he’s right to seek this shift.
Spain might be just a chapter for him. Life is wide and strange and full. Big hearts can keep rolling a long way before they find a resting place. Or so I keep telling myself.
I take my leave of a Nick, who even runs after me with a handful of fruit. I spend a few hours walking the stone streets. Huge buildings. Warehouses. Majestic temples of commerce. This place was a hub of the Atlantic slave and cotton trade. No wonder the energy is strange – no wonder it’s affecting sensitive Nick. Last night my dreams were dark and muddy. All these monoliths built out of tears and greed. It’ll take more than the constant rain to wash it clean.
I end up at Albert Dock, right by the megabus stand, messing about on a 1938 Swedish Brigantine called Zebu. She’s a restoration project. No sails. She sank two years ago and so needs some serious work. For a quid I got to be attacked by 5 year old swabbers with plastic cutlasses, and took this photo at the helm.
Here’s me at the wheel of an impractical but strangely beautiful vessel, out of its natural time and that was almost damaged beyond repair, but now well on the road to recovery. Arrrrr.