On most Wednesdays a friend and I go for a walk, sometimes with the local Ramblers, sometimes on our own, and usually in the lovely countryside around here. However, yesterday we went independently and, for a change, chose to visit Liverpool for an urban walk which my companion had spotted in an AA publication..
Although I've visited Liverpool before I hadn't realised that it is built on such a massive scale. It makes Leeds look like a village, and it's no wonder the people who come from there are so proud of it. Our walk started at the rehabilitated waterfront, past the massive Liver Building and the imposing but now rather tatty-looking Town Hall.. There was remarkably little traffic, whether the result of good organisation or a still faltering local economy I can't say.
Our route took us through the "Beatles" area, most of which is interestingly preserved, though unfortunately half the famous Cavern Club has been pulled down.
The Roman Catholic Cathedral is an inspiring piece of modern architecture, with some interesting side-chapels, one of which contains the tomb of the former Archbishop, Derek Worlock, who worked so closely with the Anglican bishop David Shepherd to heal sectarian divisions in the community and to promote economic as well as spiritual regeneration.
The walk from the Roman Catholic to the Anglican Cathedral took us to the pub our guide-book recommended for lunch, the Philharmonic. This is a splendidly preserved late Victorian pub, a massive slab of a building which in its way is as interesting architecturally as the cathedrals. As well as providing decent food it claims the only Grade 1 listed urinals in England. Well worth a visit.
Our big disappointment was being unable to enter the Anglican Cathedral. We were aware that a report on the Hillsborough disaster, in which 96 Liverpool football supporters were crushed to death 23 years ago, was to be published, and indeed that relatives and friends of those killed were to meet in the cathedral to discuss the report, but we did not expect the entire cathedral to be closed all day, It was, after all, built to outdo all others and is the fifth largest in the world with a seating capacity of over 3 000. I am aware of the key role the present Bishop of Liverpool has played in chairing the enquiry, and can understand the Church's desire to be seen to share the pain of the city and the bereaved, but it does seem rather silly to close down entirely a major tourist attraction, or place of pilgrimage, if preferred, when so many alternatives are available.
Unfortunately the day was also marred by frequent showers, which culminated during the afternoon in heavy rain, so we retreated indoors to the Museum of Slavery (on which much of Liverpool's prosperity was built.) This is a moving record of our callous treatment of the different, and a reminder, that, in less obvious ways (international trade rules dictated by the rich, our prosperity built on the export of arms, indifference to the effects of climate-change) we comfortable still exploit the weak..