Alexei Sayle: Roll up for the magical mystery tour of Liverpool – but don't visit my old house

It is an unsettling experience to take a tourist trip round your hometown

Share
Related Topics

Among various other anniversaries, this week has been Beatles week, prompted, I suppose, by the release of the whole of the band's back catalogue, digitally remastered. Attached to this event there have been programmes on the TV, early footage of performances at the BBC and a documentary of their first tour of the United States.

Watching all this footage and listening to all this music has brought back remarkably few memories. I was, I guess, a year or two too young to go and see the Beatles performing all over Liverpool at local dances and the Cavern Club in the centre of town, but even if I had been the right age I don't imagine that I would have seen the greatest band in the history of the world playing live, even though I would have probably had to travel only a few hundred yards to do it. The period when I was a wide-eyed teenager was the era of the Liverpool Poets – Adrian Henry, Brian Patten, Roger McGough, as important in their own way to poetry as the Beatles were to music and I never saw any of them perform live either.

It wasn't that I didn't want to be present when history was being made, but it was just that I was a very disorganised and confused young man. And so I would hear about or read about an event and I would would try to attend, but would either get to the venue on the wrong night or I would go to a pub that had the same name as the pub where history was being made but it would be the wrong pub, so I would spend all night in some grimy bar down by the docks, sipping on a half of bitter and wondering if the old bloke in the plastic mac talking to his whippet was in fact the beat poet Allen Ginsberg in disguise. (Sometimes it was.)

I do remember one evening we were watching the local BBC TV news programme Look North at home and they had a feature on a Japanese performance artist who was appearing, that night, at the Bluecoat Gallery behind Woolworths in the town centre. This extremely odd-looking woman wrapped herself in toilet paper and conducted her side of the interview, composed of various gnomic pronouncements in a high-pitched, heavily accented squeaky voice.

The presenters in turn treated her as if they were talking to someone in the novelty slot usually reserved for comical livestock or batty, 100-year-old men, who'd fought in the Boer War. At the end of the interview they turned simpering to the camera and announced that the woman's name was Yoko Ono.

"That's the last we've seen of her." I said to my dad and of course I was wrong. Indeed, since these days Yoko controls the estate of John Lennon and as John and the rest of the Beatles are now such a big part of the economy of Liverpool, Yoko's aura hovers over the city like a circling easyJet flight. In fact, Liverpool John Lennon Airport can be called Liverpool John Lennon Airport only because Yoko gave permission for it to be so. The motto of the airport is "Above us only sky", though I am told that the baggage handlers have another motto drawn from the same song: "Imagine no possessions".

I also find it spooky that one of the most successful and busiest flights is from Liverpool to Granada, so you can fly from John Lennon to Federico Garcia Lorca, from one airport named after a young man who was murdered to another named after another young man who was murdered.

Since I made my documentary series Alexei Sayle's Liverpool last year, I have spent a lot more time in my home city. If I am there for a few days I stay with my mum and if it is longer, at a serviced apartment on the revitalised riverfront. It was from there a few weeks ago that I took a very odd tour. English Heritage now owns both John Lennon's childhood home on Menlove Avenue and Paul McCartney's house on Forthlin Road. They have furnished them as they were when the boys were in their formative years and operate a very limited number of tours every day.

It is an extremely unsettling experience to take a tourist trip round your home town. At one point our minibus actually passed the end of my mum's road. At both houses you are greeted by a guide who lives in the house in a locked back room, cooking at night on John's or Paul's old cooker and being woken in the middle of the night by demented German fans who've climbed over the fence. Both of these men had the slightly faraway look of lighthouse keepers.

Already disturbed by the experience it was spooky to be looking at the porch where John and Paul wrote their early hits and the furniture and household products identical to those in my own childhood home. It was also a more solipsistic point that struck me most forcefully. I noticed that though they had the choice of a number of bedrooms, both had chosen the narrow back room for their room. This was exactly the same room as I'd chosen!

Unfortunately, my childhood home, 5 Valley Road, has not fared as well as John's or Paul's. I filmed outside my old house several times during the making of my documentary and the thing that struck me most forcibly was that every single house in the street, unusually for Liverpool, has been meticulously restored. The yellow bricks were burnished to a dull gold. The windows, a high-quality uPVC successfully replicated the originals. The roof slates had been carefully replaced with no gaps.

Every house, that is, apart from my old house. Number Five remains a dilapidated mess. The bay with its stone cornice has been removed at some time during the terrible 1970s or 80s; the whole front is now in danger of collapse. We met the woman who lives in the house I was born and brought up in – she appeared bemused as to why she alone in the whole street has missed out on the benefits of regeneration. I think she secretly blamed me.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Web Designer / Front End Developer

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast expanding web managem...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Why it won’t be the i wot won it – our promise to you

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
A relative of dead Bangladeshi blogger Washiqur Rahman reacts after seeing his body at Dhaka Medical College in Dhaka on March 30,  

Atheists are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and soon there will be none left

Rory Fenton
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor