Let’s talk about what is common between Liverpool and Hrisey. At first it might seem that there aren’t even capillaries running between them. Not even a stray hormone passing through. But what I adored in Hrisey is not so different to what I adore here. The birds are still at the forefront of my attention. Those wilful, ubiquitous creatures forever distract me. Then there is the sky. Hrisey’s sky was a rapturous endless ceiling over my whole experience there. But Liverpool has quite a sky too. You might not see as much as in Hrisey but it is expansive. The colours in the evening are a carefully selected palette, moving from rich pinks and oranges, then a gradient of deep blue pulls itself up from behind the buildings, and up and over us it goes. It’s an old man slowly pulling more duvet over to his side of the bed, across his rounded, curled shoulders, with his firm forearm and frail wrist. It is an agonising slowness with all the beauty of something so delicate.
I love looking up at night when the clouds are a darker shade than the sky behind them, a smear of bike oil on that navy duvet cover. I often wonder if it’s all a painting, like that final scene in The Truman Show when the boat hits the wall and Truman’s hand brushes against the painting of the clouds, supposedly in the horizon. If it is all virtual, this world of ours, I am impressed by the set designers. They have a masterful hand. Perhaps they could leave less dog shit around but then again verisimilitude is the sign of a real pro.
This sense of space in both places is humbling. I am only me, one little thing (even in human terms) in a huge universe – I cannot fuck up that badly. I am also the only version of myself that will exist, so I should do all that I ought to do as myself, for myself. I don’t want to feel like I missed out on anything. But I also want to enjoy nature, what ‘natural’ things I can anyway. So Sefton Park might not be eyjafjörður, but it is the most I have here and that, while I am here, is enough. There are a million miniscule beauties in Sefton that are captivating. Joy in the little things isn’t naivete, it’s reality. Grandeur alone has no place in nature.
I love the history that is inescapable. I like knowing all that has originated here. I feel part of a narrative. A contrived narrative, yes, but one nonetheless. I like the anonymity. In Hrisey it was because people kept to themselves, but in Liverpool it’s because of the numbers. I feel at ease here. Yesterday was the most Summer-like day we’ve had in months and I couldn’t stop smiling. And nobody cared. Happiness can be worn without looks of suspicion or envy. Moving to Smithdown has helped. I have to cycle past the Georgian quarter and Princes Avenue daily – areas once highly affluent, and now some of the cheapest areas to live in the city. This reversal is huge – once rich, upper middle class areas housing white merchants are now where the poorest members of society live: ethnic minorities, creatives, single-parent families. We can live in Victorian mansions, in these icons of value that history hasn’t shaken off yet. They resist the call of the New sung out by Capitalism, but also fight traditionalism and historical narratives. We do not want to become a ghost of what was once here. We exist in these mansions through necessity not emulation.
At night the city performs itself. There is a homeless man who sits at the top of Bold Street in front of the Sainsburys. He is surrounded by people spending their money on substances which give them escapism. They shun him for suspecting him of doing the same.
The lights are more invasive than daylight – in particular, if you walk through Liverpool One at night time you will be blinded. This is a perversion. It is a parasitic glow worm tunnelling through flesh. Time is irrelevant here. This outcome of commercialism undermines Liverpool – it makes it any city not A City, not Liverpool. The architecture of a city is just as Affecting as, let’s say, ‘Populist Media.’ There is of course joy in observing all this, passively, like bad TV shows, feeling superior but being just as susceptible to its call. Commercialism has an attraction to it. I do miss the immediate satisfaction you get when sucked into the consumerist mind-set. But even if I wanted new clothes, cycling daily means opportunities for wearing them are few and far between.
My lovely anti-capitalist transport
Cycling is a fertile bed for growing anti-consumerist behaviours. Cycling is an ideal method of transport – no carbon footprint, lots of exercise, and it forces practicality in everyday planning. The practicality needed for cycling reduces the want for extraneous goods: how will you carry about all these extra things; if you buy nice clothes, bags, or shoes, you will find them ruined by chain oil or rain sprayed up from the tires; you’ll sweat into everything and get used to the messiness of the body: fast. The perfect plastic body of capitalism is exposed as false. You have many routes open to you, unlike pedestrians or car, as you can get away with cycling on roads and pavements. You can also park it anywhere that there is a lamppost. Suddenly, the city isn’t about where you’re restricted to (don’t walk on the road, don’t drive on the pavement, don’t park there, don’t interact with the city in any way.) but what parts of it are yours to use. You also become much more aware of the problems of infrastructure: the cratered roads, the lack of cycle racks, the abundance of furious drivers make you aware of many problems that would otherwise go unnoticed. Cars have the gift of suspension, bikes do not. It seems as though the more difficult the transport, the better it is at undermining the ease that capitalism offers, but also the dangers. Like the feminists who cycled to give themselves freedom from men, in the 21st century cycling offers freedom from capitalist mindsets.