Friday 27 November 2009

The nostalgic and the pilgrims

I was watching a program a few days ago about Brittain as seen by tourists. It was not very good (some critics hated it), but there was one section about Liverpool and of course the Beatles, and seeing all these American tourists doing their pilgrimage there got me thinking about my relationship with the city. Not bored yet? I probablyblogged about something similar at some point, but there you go.

I lived in Liverpool for only a year, but it was a significant year to me, on many levels. I did not live there enough to absorb the accent, let alone to become a Scouser, but I have a profound sentimental attachment to the city. I am no Beatles groupie. As a teenager, I used to listen to them, of course, but I cannot say that I never was, at any moment of my life, a fan. For many people in the world, Liverpool is only that, the cradle of the Beatles, the heritage of Beatlemania (often a cursed heritage for the locals), Liverpool is their Mecca, their Santiago de Compostela. For me it is a rainy, windy city, with an up slope leading to my (then) working place, it is two cathedrals, one old and Protestant, one ridiculously futuristic and Catholic, facing each other like brothers or enemies (or both), it is an English city miscegenated with Irish blood and culture (and some weird displays of Catholicism). In my mind, the Beatles are an afterthought of Liverpool history.

For me, Liverpool has the feeling of the familiar, which calls for another sort of deference than the pilgrim has. When I go back there, it is as a nostalgic. It is when I walk in Manchester that I am a pilgrim. The pilgrim will love a city only in regards to its association with the object of worship. The nostalgic will love the city in and for itself.

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