Today’s stop on our literary journey through my novels takes us back to Liverpool, to Sefton Park where a little piece of the action in You’ll Never Walk Alone plays out.
I lived within a short walk of Sefton Park for more than 15 years, moving from one bedsit, to three different flats and eventually my own house. We only have a fleeting glimpse of the park in the book, but the location gives the narrative a sense of place, particularly to anyone familiar with the city.
And now, as I imagine myself back in the park, I’m engulfed by a huge wave of nostalgia, which threatens to stay my fingers while I wallow in memories… but no, we must press on!
Sefton Park is a huge and glorious public park; a green island set amongst row upon row of terraced houses dating from the early 1900s, and encircled by impressive old mansions, once the homes of rich merchants, civic dignitaries and even a foreign embassy or two, although many of these have been converted into rather desirable flats. Over the years I spent countless hours in Sefton Park, wandering its paths, feeding the ducks on the lake, and on occasion, watching my friend’s husband playing cricket or, more accurately, sitting in the sun gossiping over a glass or two of wine (sorry, Jim, you scored how many?).
In all the time I lived there I don’t think I ever took a photo of any of the wonderful aspects of the park, so let me hand you over to another ‘tour guide’ whose blog I came across the other day. Take a moment for a spin around the park to see why it’s such a special place.
Click on the LINK
I hope that gave you a little flavour of a true Liverpool gem.
And now, we’ll take a tiny detour into Lark Lane, which is just across the road and where, if you’d met up with friends in the park of an afternoon, you’d be sure to end up.
Lark Lane was, and still is, a lively little street, full of trendy bars, ‘proper’ pubs, well-priced eateries and quirky shops. It’s popular with students and locals alike, and perfect for a Sunday lunch or a weekend night out. Needless to say, my friends and I spent a fair amount of time hanging out here over the years.
Now, back to the book. The house in which my principal characters live in You’ll Never Walk Alone, is based on a very similar house, also with a Chinese landlord, where I rented a room, back in 1984-5. Just a stone’s throw away from the northern edge of the park it’s a pleasant 15 minute walk over the grass and along the paths to Lark Lane where we join Gary and Bob for a lunchtime pint. Of course they choose The Albert, a traditional ale house, over one of the poncy wine bars (as Bob would, no doubt, say).
Excerpt from You’ll Never Walk Alone
Bob looked up from the Echo he’d found on the seat next to him as Gary put their drinks down on the scuffed wooden table.
“Cheers mate,” said Bob as he picked up his pint. He swallowed some of the golden liquid. “I keep thinking about that Pierre guy. Why would he have a load of Chinese thugs after him?”
“Who knows? Maybe we should ask Tony?”
Someone switched on the television. The highlights from the previous day’s football were showing. Bob and Gary turned their attention to the game. Neither of them noticed the three smartly dressed oriental gentlemen who’d just entered the pub.
The match highlights had finished as Gary and Bob drained their second pints. “Better get off then, I suppose,” said Gary putting his glass down on the table. Bob nodded.
Gary glanced towards the bar as he picked up his jacket. He grabbed his friend’s arm. Bob looked at him: “Wha…”
Gary put his mouth close to Bob’s ear: “Don’t look round, but there are three Chinese guys at the bar. “D’you think they’re watching us?”
Bob frowned and started to turn around. Gary jerked his sleeve. “Don’t look…”
“Don’t be daft, what would they want with us?”
“The thing with Lucy,” Gary hissed, raising his eyebrows.
“Look, you’re just being paranoid. C’mon, let’s get off.”
Gary let go of his arm. “Alright, but maybe we should get a cab?”
Bob rolled his eyes and put on his jacket, glancing across to the bar as he did so. The three Chinese guys were busy chatting and didn’t even look up. “Okay, let’s go.”
As the door swung shut behind Gary and Bob, the three men finished their drinks and headed after them.
Bob and Gary crossed the road into Sefton Park passing a queue of noisy children by an ice cream van. As was usual on a warm Sunday afternoon, the park was busy with families, couples and dog walkers. Bob sometimes went fishing in the central lake, not that he’d ever caught anything. Few people did. Gary cast a look over his shoulder, but there was no sign of the Chinese guys. Bob was probably right, he was being paranoid. They plodded across the grass, skirting around a football match between two teams of random players, before reaching the edge of the boating lake.
Suddenly they were aware of someone running behind them; there was a shout. Both turned to see one of the Chinese guys from the pub. The other two weren’t far behind.
“Shit,” Gary muttered under his breath.
“Look, we’ll just have to face up to them. There’s loads of people around. It’ll be fine, no-one’s going to attack us here in broad daylight,” Bob muttered back, flexing his fingers ready to fight if need be.
The Chinese guy slowed down to a walk and approached them. His friends had caught up and had fallen in just behind him. The guy in front reached into his jacket pocket.
Liverpool Echo, Visit Liverpool, Trip Advisor