About this blog

This is a window into the weird world of Anglicanism, as experienced on a Cathedral Close. Has anything much happened since Trollope's Barchester Chronicles? You will still see the 'canon in residence' hurrying across to choral Evensong, robes flapping, as the late bell chimes. But look carefully and you will notice he is checking the football score on his iPhone as he runs. This is also a writer's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the novelist's life. And it's a fighter's blog. It charts the agony and ecstasy of the judo mat. Well, the agony, anyway.

Thursday, 6 April 2017


Contrary to the old song, it is the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me.  Five years is not long enough to get to the end of what this city has to offer.  But hold onto your mitres, everyone: we’re off to across the Peaks, when the dean of Liverpool becomes the next bishop of Sheffield.  I'll let other commentators navigate a path through this complex terrain.  I need a whole novel for that kind of thing. Instead, I will sing a little love song to this mad city I currently live in.  Five years is not long, but it's long enough to start feeling at home.  Long enough to put down roots, and feel the twang as they are pulled up. 

Before we moved here, I’d never lived in the North West.  I’ve spent a lot of my adult life in the North East and then the West Midlands, and it took a while to get used to the constant sense that the coast was on the wrong side of me.  I arrived here completely ignorant, to be honest.  I’d only ever visited Liverpool once, on one of those I-am-an-idiot trips to renew a passport at short notice.  But I hadn’t lived here long before I realised this was my kind of city.  I’ve probably gone native by now.  If you’re interested in seeing my avada kedavra stare, simply make a fatuous crack about Scousers, shell suits and car theft.

In some ways, I discovered that I fitted in from the start.  While my sons were growing up I committed many maternal crimes, but chief among them were ‘talking to strangers in shops’ and ‘trying to be funny’.  Liverpool was an emotional homecoming.  Talking in shops is normal, and everyone’s a comedian.

Liverpool is also a wildly glamorous city.  And here, again, (as someone who secretly thinks you can’t have too many feather boas) I felt instantly I was in the right place.  In a humble way, of course.  I have much to learn.  Fortunately, there are always people on hand to offer style advice in Liverpool.  Recently I ordered a pair of shoes online, and went to collect them from Liverpool One.  I believe every single person in the store, staff and customers alike, told me they were fabulous and a bargain and I should definitely buy them.  I sometimes wonder, though, if my fashion sense is now permanently skewed.  I can get on a train in Liverpool Lime St feeling woefully underdressed, and arrive in London (where a black North Face anorak is a flashy statement) looking like I’ve tried too hard. 

Liverpool’s friendliness is legendary, but the city also topped the Travelodge survey on random acts of kindness in the UK.  Kindness.  I prefer kindness to almost anything.  Holding doors open, smiling at strangers, letting people go ahead in supermarket queues.  These are all common pracitices round here.  As a runner and a pedestrian, I’ve often noticed the kindness of drivers waving me across side roads, and anticipating my zebra crossing use.  There is one quirk of Liverpool driving that sometimes catches non-locals out at traffic lights.  It’s not quite as simple as blatantly driving through a red light, but there’s a consensus that if you actually see it turn red as you approach, it doesn’t count.

So that’s been my Liverpool home for nearly five years.  I've lost count of the number of times I've thought 'What on EARTH is going on here?' and been forced to shrug and conclude 'It's Liverpool.'  Honestly, you’re a bit mad, you lot.  But I love you.  With your cathedral to spare, and your incredibly bare statue on the old Lewis’s building.  The docks, China Town, the museums, libraries, galleries, theatres, shops, the Phil, the football stadia.  I'll miss your quirky coffee shops and fabulous restaurants, your banter, your high heels and Velcro rollers, your purple wheelie bins, not forgetting the late lamented yellow duckmobile.  I love your churches and community projects and foodbanks, your tireless fight for justice, and the way you look out for people.  

I know I have it in me to love other places.  I’m looking forward to adding Sheffield to the list of great cities I can call home. I've already caught myself wondering whether I should commission Pete a pectoral cross made from upcycled vintage cutlery. (Maybe not.  He'd be forever getting it taken off him at airport security.)  

All shall be well.  Right now, there’s no denying: the leaving of Liverpool is going to grieve me. But at the end of the long pilgrimage, I may find those things I've loved and lost have all been treasured up.  I may reach the eternal city and find it has a Scouse Quarter.