Magic and mystery have faded for some, but George brings a smile

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The Independent Culture

Few cities know how to grieve quite like Liverpool but in Arnold Grove, in the red-brick two-up two-down terrace where George Harrison spent his first seven years, there was a curious absence of tears yesterday.

"I'm very sorry about what's happened, but the way they talk about George and Liverpool annoys me," confessed Kathleen Hughes, 63, who's been living with George's fame since 1962, when she moved into Number 12, formerly the Harrison family home. "The only one who came back to Liverpool was Paul. The other three weren't bothered."

Mrs Hughes' mood may owe something to 39 years of returning from shopping trips at 3.30pm on Thursdays to face a struggle to get through her own door. Arnold Grove, in the southern suburb of Wavertree, is on the route of the twice-daily Magical Mystery Tour bus trip, which is packed out even in damp Novembers.

The subtleties of Harrison's abiding love of his home city seem to have escaped Mrs Hughes. He was, after all, awarded the freedom of the city in 1984. His financial donations remained unpublicised and some tell the story of a fan who thrust a £1 note at "Georgy" (as many here still know him) and asked him if he could sign it, in a pub where he had arrived with his brother, Peter, back in the Seventies. Harrison is said to have reached for his wallet, signed a 10 shilling note of his own instead, and handed both back. "You've got more money than me," he said.

The strains of his composition "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" were on the air yesterday near The Cavern club, where George, "the quiet one", first appeared in 1959. A simple tribute was chalked on the Cavern's door: "George Harrison, man of peace, rest in peace." Tom Robinson, who was performing on the Cavern's stage this week, said: "It's sombre to see 50 per cent of the greatest pop group of all time cut short."

Billy Kinsley of The Merseybeats was busy recalling Georgy's exhaustive memories of the locals he'd known around The Cavern – even the lad who used to nick guitar strings from Hessys, the music store.

The flag flew at half mast at Liverpool's city hall, and the reminiscing continued into the night. The best story belonged to Valmay. As a pupil at Harrison's school, Dovedale Primary, in the Fifties, she created the game "Catch a Boy". She said: "I was summoned before Miss Woolley, the head. Mrs Harrison had come to school because George couldn't sleep at night for fear of being chased."

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