June 2020

Mon 1 June — The tide is on its way back in at sunset. Orange pools gather around the cylindrical piles that once supported a pier and a landing stage for the Mersey Ferries. Now, the remaining piles prop up a brutalist pumping station.

Mon 1 June —

A seagull outside the bedroom window says “ha ha ha” in a slow and sinister voice.

There’s a gentle hum as an electric mobility scooter whizzes along the middle of the road and passes the London Plane tree. The driver, what I catch of him, looks a little like Bruce Dern in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska – wisps of white hair travelling separately above his head. The mobility scooter has a bright yellow cover over the seat, perhaps to protect from the heat of the PVC. Or maybe it’s come straight from the showroom next to the Marine Park bowling green.

The tide is on its way back in at sunset. Orange pools gather around the cylindrical piles that once supported a pier and a landing stage for the Mersey Ferries. Now, the remaining piles prop up a brutalist pumping station.

Tue 2 June —

Box trolley lady has a yellow head scarf on. A boy passes with a bandana around the bottom half of his face. The huskies pause on their way back from the dips. The larger of the two wees on the tree.

On an evening walk, the tide is right in, so it’s not possible to spread out beyond the width of the prom and walk along the beach. The red shipping cranes are all lit up across the water. The left-most crane is alone and upright, a large gap is followed by two more upright cranes standing next to each other. A small gap is followed by two slightly spaced-apart cranes that are both in the process of being lowered over a black MSC container ship. The ship stands out in silhouette – an erasure of dockside lights. There’s a gap in which the three concrete cylinders with their pairs of light-up robot eyes shuffle forth to see what is going on, followed by the three right-most cranes, one upright, two lowered, all clustered together.

Wed 3 June —

I wake to the sound of long awaited rain, stirring from a dream in which Boris Johnson visited New Brighton. I was walking down Victoria Road towards the rowing boat planter and the red buoy when he came out of the side of The Pier House flats (aka the old Chelsea Reach nightclub). He had an entourage around him and he ruffled his hair for the photographers. School children were clapping from the cantilever window box of the Floral Pavilion while their teachers looked on, less impressed (one of whom was an old Bluecoat friend, Louise, who isn’t a teacher in real life). I ducked into a tiny newsagent to buy a pocket-sized film magazine and found it impossible to keep socially distanced from other customers. There was a queue to pick up the magazine, another to pay at a self-service till, and a third queue to exit the shop. I threw down the magazine, abandoning the second queue, but still got stuck in the third. When I eventually got back out, I was on a cobbled street in Italy. Ed, an old Tate friend, ran over and said ‘Hi’, but I was distracted by a barking dog in the passenger seat of a battered white Fiat 500. The engine started up and the car drove off with no one driving.

The last anxiety dream I had about the pandemic was a recurring one in which I was leaving Manchester’s Nightingale Hospital (aka Manchester Central Convention Centre aka the old GMEX) and walking along a deserted Lower Mosley Street to wait for a yellow tram at St Peter’s Square.

The huskies pass the tree heading towards the dips. They have a third colour combination of leads on today. Not new leads, but not the usual plain ones either. The smaller dog has a frayed yellow lead on today and the larger dog has a dull blue-grey. The smaller dog is distracted by something behind it and wants to turn back.

Thurs 4 June —

The huskies pass with their normal plain leads on, and the larger of the two stops to sniff the base of the tree for twenty, maybe thirty seconds. The man and the smaller husky just stand and wait patiently. There is no hurry today.

The pair of magpies are back in the tree but they mostly disappear behind the full-size leaves now. The sky is grey and the tree casts no shadow.

Fri 5 June —

The huskies pass with plain leads and the large one on the wall behind the tree. The man gives an exaggerated shake of his head. He has a beanie hat on today and resembles Dominic Cummings.

Sat 6 June —

Rolls of fake grass are for sale on Moseley Avenue.

A decrepit Mini Cooper with one headlight is stashed in the front planter of a terraced house, side-on against both living room window and front wall.

Wandering down an alley way towards the water tower, I’m looking up at it and taking photos as I hear a loud squawk and look down to the floor, into the shadows of the terraced roofs, to see a tiny yellowy grey chick that I am about to tread on. I crouch down to say hi and to take a photo but an angry seagull swoops down within centimetres of my head. I stand up and go to exit the alley way and it swoops down at me again. I put both hands up and tell it that I’m sorry and I wind up pacing down a dead end in my efforts to flee the scene.

Sun 7 June —

Watching a DVD in the front room (Blow-Up, 1966), the only light in the lounge besides that of the TV screen is coming from a blue table lamp. The blue light illuminates two towers of CD jewel cases against the wall to the left of the TV. The film’s protagonist Thomas (David Henmings) enters a restaurant and starts playing with the Venetian blinds behind him, looking out and declaring that he is bored of London. The horizontal lines of the blinds stretch out of the screen as they line up with the illuminated CD towers.

Mon 8 June —

The pair of huskies pass in plain leads and neither stops at the tree.

The Scrabble app on my phone has gone offline. Unfinished games have been disconnected, high scores and game stats erased. The ‘S1’ loading tile spins on its corner in the middle of the title screen for longer than normal. I’d been invited several weeks ago to move across to the new ‘Scrabble Go’ app with its bonus challenges and its daily rewards and its contacts connector and its automatic opponent finder and its million things flashing up on the screen at the same time feature, but I stuck with the traditional game until it was finally bulldozed. The quiet, contemplative museum space will eventually, inevitably succumb to the all-singing, all-dancing interactive exhibition installation. Two old men playing chess at the side of a road in San Francisco will eventually be required to don helmets and kneepads as they’re handed giant pugil sticks from ITV’s Gladiators.

Tue 9 June —

The box-trolley lady passes the tree with her small dog in tow.

The red shipping cranes are more down than up. Left-most upright, large gap, second from left is also upright, decent-sized gap in which seagulls gather on the roof of the arcades, two lowered cranes crouching close to each other, tiny gap and a third lowered crane, decent-sized gap followed by the final three. The left-most of the three right-most cranes is upright while the other two are lowered. Despite their differences, all three are clustered together.

Wed 10 June —

A man cycles past the window in the rain. He holds the handle bar with his left hand and carries two ice creams aloft in his right.

The triangle of grass that forms the first of the dips is empty but for one man who is performing leg stretches and holding a downward dog position in the middle of the recently mown grass.

In the distance, the red shipping cranes are grey against a misty skyline. Left-most upright, large gap, next crane also upright, small gap, two cranes lowered and clustered together, small gap, another lowered crane, small gap, an upright crane clustered next to two lowered cranes, both of which are obscured by a small tree in the Morrison’s car park and the grey, boxy facade of Home & Bargain.

Thurs 11 June —

I spot something small, boxy and glass at the base of the tree, with a white square label in the middle. Initially I think it is the empty bottle of David Beckham Instinct that I saw on the pavement back in February, but on closer inspection I see that it is merely an upturned salad box.

Fri 12 June —

A yellow cardboard fruit-snack box is pasted across pavement by the rain. 3D became 2D and is now attempting to become 3D once more with a third of it reaching up against the wall.

Builders’ footprints in plaster or white paint run from next door to a grid on the other side of the road.

A colleague is going into the office today to collect a few bits that would be useful for remote-working in the longer term. It gets me wondering what I left in my desk drawers back in mid-March, and this in turn reminds me that I had a locker in the Tate Liverpool staff changing rooms that outlived my time working there. What did I leave in there? A black padded waist coat, designed by Paul Smith that looked like a bullet proof vest. An orange shirt from before the uniform turned to burgundy and then purple. Notes for talks on exhibitions that have long since moved to other galleries, been packed away in crates and returned to collections in other countries. Rotas with doodles on them and shifts scribbled out as the day went by. 4th Riverside, 2nd Dockside, CCTV1.

Sat 13 June —

The evening brings a lightning storm with more double flashes than I have ever seen. The thunder is only milliseconds behind so it must be right above. From the landing window I see diagonal Blade Runner rain. The arched window above the front door, along with the three small panes of glass in the door are lighting up and blinking so frequently, it’s like a far-fetched black and white horror movie from the ’50s.

Sun 14 June —

The dark tabby cat has its eye on something. It crouches by the tree and then moves over towards the kerb and the Jet Ski shop, keeping low as it goes. Maybe it’s just playing a game… keeping itself entertained, but no, it has seen something and that something is a squirrel. The squirrel runs along the railings on top of the wall behind the bowling alley, taking a leap across to the tree trunk… It lands lower down on the tree than it aims for, loses grip for a moment, and dark tabby is half-way up the trunk to greet it. The squirrel scrambles up to the lowest branch and sits there with its heart racing. And my heart races. Dark tabby wanders casually out of view.

On a walk around the tennis courts and bowling greens of Marine Park, I notice more people are emerging, trying out the outside world again, with their dogs and their picnics. A man has brought his own plastic chair and eats sandwiches at the side of the Shopmobility hut. Perhaps he runs the Shopmobility hut and is awaiting the greenlight to reopen. Walking back towards the house, I spot something straddling the pitched roof of the Marine Park Bowling Clubhouse. It is a park bench. A proper old park bench with narrow wooden slats and black, cast iron sides. How did it get up there? How long has it been there? Why is no-one else looking at it?

Mon 15 June —

It’s sunny but hazy and the shipping cranes are almost not there. Six of them have their hands raised to alert me to their presence. A gun-metal coloured Thrifty van hire pulls onto the kerb at the side of the house, and as the driver’s door springs open and the double doors at the back are opened up, REM’s What’s The Frequency, Kenneth? blares out from the radio. Two Royal Mail workers don orange vinyl gloves and grab red satchels of parcels from the back. Royal Mail must be acquiring more vans for all the extra lockdown deliveries, and without the corporate identity, the posties can play music as loud as they like. I remember hearing What’s the Frequency, Kenneth? for the first time on the car radio in the Mini Neon as me and my older brother were driving up to Newcastle to catch the ferry to Norway in 1994. I misheard the DJ saying that the forthcoming album was called “Non-Stop” instead of Monster. Not an especially significant mistake to have made but it’s helped me remember a time and a place. A mnemonic of minor errors to fend off amnesia. An audio trigger sent to me by a teenager, 26 years ago, special delivery via Thrifty van hire.

Tue 16 June —

It’s rained overnight but is mostly dried up by morning. A few dark lines along the kerb edge and one patch of wet tarmac, between the flagstones and block-paving, where the second tree used to stand. I wonder if its roots still call for water.

Two magpies sit on high branches of the remaining London Plane tree, grooming themselves. Perhaps they are the same magpies who used to have a nest in the other tree. The same magpies who returned to find it gone that day. Who returned and hopped around the stump, looking up at the space where their home ought to be.

Wed 17 June —

The magpies are bobbing around in the tree again. I get occasional flashes of black and white between the waxy green leaves. Today marks three months since I last stepped foot in Liverpool. The longest period of time I’ve been away from my hometown in all my life.

The tide is right out and it is possible to walk right alongside the prom on the beach. Some of it is an alien landscape of seaweed and barnacles and as I look up at the worn sandstone of the river wall, it is disorientating to think I am walking on the river bed. On numerous occasions I have strolled in parallel to this, up on the prom alongside Vale Park and the brown tiled shelter en route to the Magazine pub. And as I’ve walked on those evenings, the waves of the Mersey have been whacking the side and sending spray over the wrought iron railings, or sloshing calmly but still at great height, reflecting Liverpool’s Pier Head in its black surface. And yet here I am, down on the river bed. The sand is wet here, the tide hasn’t long left, and on this particular stretch at least, it won’t be gone long.

Thurs 18 June —

I’m awake at 4am, in a heat that all these thunderstorms have collectively failed to clear. I hear seagulls through the open window, and a helicopter-like hum of the Liverpool docks.

The cranes are faint in the murk. Left-most upright, large gap, next crane also upright, small gap, three lowered and clustered together, regular gap, one upright and two lowered, clustered together.

Fri 19 June —

Kate Bush’s Something Good is Going to Happen comes on the radio and I’m reminded of a school trip to Ludlow to watch an outdoor Shakespeare play. It might have been As You Like It or Much Ado About Nothing or A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I don’t quite recall. I do remember walking into Ludlow’s Woolworths and buying Utah Saints’ Something Good on cassette single though. And the coach trip back with all the speculation about whether one of our friends had got off with a girl, and whether or not she was albino or just blonde.

Sat 20 June —

Awake at 5.20am and the sun is up, a sharp, bright pencil puncture, low over Liverpool behind the shipping cranes.

Sun 21 June —

I would have been in Manchester today, to see Thom Yorke perform at Victoria Warehouse. The gig has been rescheduled to June 2021. Perhaps next year should be relabelled 2020A. I read that the Tokyo Olympics will keep the branding of Tokyo 2020 when it takes place next summer. Thom Yorke’s song The Clock has the lyric “Time is running out for us / But you just move the hands upon the clock”.

Mon 22 June —

A pastel orange sunrise behind the shipping cranes at 4:45am. Left most is upright, large gap, five upright cranes, tiny gap, two right-most cranes are lowered and clustered together.

A yellow Beetle (the new kind) is dropped off behind the arcades on the back of a truck. Bonnet, boot and doors are all opened and closed to show that it is openable. I remember working on an advertising brief at Uni for the new Beetle when it was brand new.

Tue 23 June —

A wood pigeon is staring at me from the tree. Two young volunteers paint the One Way signpost in black gloss as high as they can reach. The wood pigeon and a magpie are sitting very close to each other.

I take a long walk along the river bed to Egremont Ferry. The tide is right out for the whole stretch of wet sand, slime-coated bedrock, and sea-worn bricks half covered in barnacles. Part-way along I spot something sticking up. Seaweed hangs down from it, and the top is so encrusted in barnacles that its original shape is hard to make out. Nearby there is the partial curve of a tyre and I realise that the protrusion is a bike pedal. When I reach the gangway outside the Ferry pub, and go to climb back up onto the prom, I notice some of the rocks have been coated in bitumen with large chunks of gravel in. It pools and gathers in the gaps, either melted in the sun or poured carelessly in the first place. The rocks look like giant Wall’s Feasts.

Sounds of the docks through the open bedroom window approaching midnight. Reversing beeps and the sound of rubble being released by diggers.

Wed 24 June —

A woman in a white Fiat 500 pulls in next to the tree. Stops on double yellows, jumps out with a bag of something and empties the contents onto the pavement. She is immediately surrounded by seagulls, including grey baby seagulls, and she leaves them pecking at the food, heading back to her car with a smile of satisfaction. There is also an upturned ice cream cone on the kerb next to the tree. A classic dropped ice cream, but the seagulls haven’t spotted it yet.

Sorting through boxes and over-filled tote bags in the box room, I find a small, see-through plastic bag with four spare watch strap links inside (in pairs of 2). I must have had them removed and kept onto them in case my wrist got bigger. No doubt it has, but I don’t recognise the watch strap anymore. From another time. Or another wrist. Neither of which can be adjusted. Still, I’ll keep hold of the links for now.

Thurs 25 June —

The huskies pass at lunch. The smaller of the two crouches for a wee on the tree, confirming my suspicion that they are one of each sex.

On an evening walk I see some illuminated railings on the beach at the water’s edge. A platform of some sort with rails on two sides, vertical bars are lit up white, and horizontal handrails that slope down diagonally at the front, are lit up red. Like a set of banisters, or a balcony, all covered in Christmas lights, that’s broken free from its apartment for the night. It makes engine noises in the dark and there is a smell of petrol. It begins to move out of the water and up onto the shore. It is being pulled up by a tractor, big tyres front and back, and once my eyes adjust I see there is a lifeboat dinghy on the back.

Fri 26 June —

Walking down to the front, I pass an unoccupied three storey house that has recently sold at auction. There are wild weeds in the front yard and the sandstone windowsill is chipped, gashed and crumbling. Why do houses suddenly decay when there’s no-one inside? How would that windowsill be in better shape just by someone being sat in the living room watching TV?

Sat 27 June —

The shop shutters on Victoria Road have been painted with large carnival-font letters. The kebab shop has a ‘K’, but then there’s an ‘M’ on a tanning salon, and an ‘X, Y, Z’ opposite, so perhaps ‘K for kebab’ is a coincidence.

The Bow-Legged Beagle is doing take-out beers until the pubs are allowed to reopen. People queue outside to fill up their plastic receptacles, while others make use of the benches outside Habibi and the James Atherton. The area might not look all that different when the pubs do reopen on the 4th July.

Sun 28 June —

Sorting through more boxes in the box room, I find old staff cards with swipe-lines through foreheads, a bottle of discontinued aftershave (Very Valentino – a scent that can take me back a decade or more, but that might not exist at all in another ten years’ time), and a discoloured Super Nintendo (the light grey is now more of a fawn).

Shipping cranes against a grey sky stand mostly upright. Left-most stretches up, alone, large gap followed by the second upright, medium-sized gap followed by the third upright. Small gap followed by two upright cranes clustered together, small gap followed by a sixth upright crane. No gap, followed by the two right-most cranes, lowered and clustered together.

Mon 29 June —

The pair of huskies walk past in their plain leads. The larger male stops for a brief wee. The female looks around, distracted by something, posing like some super-alert white wolf.

Sorting through more boxes in the box room, I dig out a plastic wallet full of old concert tickets. Björk at Manchester Apollo on my 22nd birthday, plus the National Express coach ticket that I had to sprint for after the encore. ‘Radiohead Under a Big Top’ in Warrington’s Victoria Park, 2nd October 2000. Multiple dEUS, Mew and Wannadies tickets. Snow Patrol at the Lomax for £5, 31st March 2001 (ticket stub No. 00001). Beth Gibbons at the Guild of Students when she lost her voice in Feb ’03. REM’s summer ’95 Monster tour at Huddersfield Stadium, on that sweltering day when we had to pour our bottles of water away upon entrance, and then join a queue that looped around the ground for the one tap. I remember lying down on the plastic flooring that was used to cover the pitch and being mesmerised by the Man on the Moon projections as the light began to fade. Quarter of a century ago next month.

Tue 30 June —

A letter addressed to ‘The Owner/Occupier’ from the Council. “Notice of Application for Full Planning Permission: Proposed construction of a 5 storey, 68 bed hotel with ground floor bar, penthouse apartment and associated car parking following demolition of existing building.” That existing building being the Queens Royal Hotel, circa 1865.

The shipping cranes are arranged exactly as they were on Sunday. An ‘ACL’ ship is manoeuvring in front of the cranes. The Art Deco arcades obscure most of the ship from my view, but I can see the block-cap ACL initials in blue on white, and the navy funnel with a white italic letter ‘G’ on it. I look up the letters and learn that ACL stands for Atlantic Container Line and ‘G’ is a nautical signal for “I require a pilot”. In the phonetic alphabet it is Golf, and in Morse code it is dash, dash, dot. If it is a fishing vessel then the signal ‘G’, made by flag or any other method of signalling, may also mean “I am hauling my nets.”

The two wood pigeons are in the tree. One in the nest which is mostly obscured behind the London Plane leaves, and the other is on the look-out, perched in a hollow, staring at me and then over towards Liverpool. It flies off and the other one emerges from the nest to sit in its place. Then that one flies off too.

An orange paraglider drifts above the bowling alley, petrol engine sounds coming from it, or from whatever is pulling it along. A magpie lands in the tree, has a look in the nest and then bobs around, trying out several different branches. A high-pitched radio controlled car whizzes past the side of the house and I picture Philip Seymour Hoffman treading water in a lake, in Love Liza, shouting “Do you know who I am? I am a big fan of radio control!”