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Monday, 28 April 2008

The Plastic Scouser.

Liverpool was heavily bombed during the war and I grew up amongst old craters and more carparks than cars. In the 1960's planners conceived of building metropolis and other fine buildings were knocked down to be replaced by the tawdry. Mercifully they ran out of money or it might have been worse. These are the buildings that stayed in my memory when I left for University, ultimately becoming that most despised of creatures, 'the plastic scouser' or perhaps in my case 'the virtual scouser'. Buildings are too often taken for granted, but they shape the mind.

The Walker Art Gallery where I learnt to like paintings. Alongside it is the Central Library where I learnt to be a student.

St. Georges Hall. Who needs Athens?

Lime St. Station. Another building I once took for granted.

The Liverpool ferry

One of Liverpool's many mysterious lanes.

My time in Liverpool was coming to an end. My A levels approached and with it the possibility (though I still doubted it) of University. I checked out Sussex and opted for Swansea.

The rest now lay in Revision and I spent days in bed, reading and re-reading, occasionally drinking the tea my mother brought up. What I didn’t know about Paradise Lost books IV and IX, and Othello wasn’t worth knowing. English Economic and Social History 1750 to 1930 was in the bag. Even the British Constitution, a deadly dull subject, had been swallowed and digested. So keen was I to succeed, I even paid money to see an amateur production of Othello in the Neptune theatre.
That turned out to be a call beyond duty. Othello was a blacked-up white man in a dressing gown. He was also very small, smaller than Iago. Moreover he lacked stage craft so that in key scenes he was often at the wrong end of the stage. To make things worse his voice was high and gave a new meaning to camp.
When he came out with:

Farewell the tranquil mind! Farewell content!
Farewell the plumed troop and big wars
That make ambition virtue! Oh farewell!
Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
The spirit stirring drum….Pride, pomp, and circumstances of glorious war!

Well, the audience laughed.

The coup de grace came when, goaded by Iago’s hints that Desdemona was unfaithful, he turned on his tormenter. Unfortunately he was at the wrong end of the stage so he was forced to run across the boards, almost tripping over his dressing gown. Stage directions indicate Othello grabs Iago’s throat. Our man had to leap for it and barely made it. His line:

“Villain, be sure thou prove my love a whore…Or by the worth of my eternal soul, thou hadst been better born a dog than answer my waked wrath!”
was delivered in a squeaky pant.

Yes I was ready for my A levels.

They came and went, and I waited. Meanwhile Swansea sent me information on accommodation and asked me to make an informed decision. Informed decision!!! How the hell did I know? When I compare our journeys up and down the country checking out universities and accommodation for my son, the contrast is painful. We traveled from Oxford to Durham, Bristol to Nottingham making copious notes on departments and the size of residential bedrooms.

In my case it was a matter of spending a wet Saturday afternoon looking at brochures. The halls of residence looked nice. But which one? Whatever choice you made had to come with a reason. There was only one that vaguely stood out because it boasted ‘a world famous rhododendron garden.’ I’d never seen one of those, so I chose it, citing as my reason, ‘their world famous rhododendron garden.’ Not a good enough reason as it turned out. I ended up in a most peculiar place.

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