Jane Merrick: That's not wallowing. It's emotion, the Scouse way

 

Share
Related Topics

Calm down, calm down! If you're a Scouser like me you would have heard that phrase about every 10 days for the past 20 years, usually coupled with the flat-palmed hand gestures and "'ey, 'ey". Thank you, Harry Enfield, for cementing a stereotype of Liverpudlians that has been harder to shift than a van full of shell suits.

When it emerged last week that Brian Regan had been jailed for perverting the course of justice after he drove the getaway car in a Liverpool pub murder, he was remembered not for his role as Terry in Brookside but as the inspiration for Enfield's Scousers, all Kevin Keegan bubble perm and bushy moustache.

The brilliance of Enfield's sketch, which appeared in the early 1990s but captured the 1980s, was in its accuracy. Everyone in Liverpool in the Eighties had a bubble perm, even my Mum. But it also got right the other bit of Scouseness that Boris Johnson got so wrong. To him, we are obsessed with "wallowing in grief".

What he should have said, had he been aware in advance of our ability to hold centuries-long grudges, was that we do emotion properly. Enfield's Barry and Terry (Gary Bleasdale) are always arguing (before calming down). Not for us British reserve. This ability to tap into our emotions may be part of our Irish Catholic heritage, or a determination to set ourselves apart from the rest.

I once went into a Manhattan bar so chic that everyone, unusually for shouty New York, sat in silence, aloof, sipping cocktails. With a smoking ban in force and -5C outside, I was delighted to be tipped off about a secret smoking room at the back. I opened the door and found a room full of people arguing, laughing or crying through a fog of smoke. And they were all from Liverpool.

It was, arguably, Scousers who gave the country the flowers and teddy bear shrine – Irish Catholic roots again? They are commonplace today: mostly associated with the death of Diana and derided for their sentimentality. Look at the reaction to flowers left for Fabrice Muamba at White Hart Lane last week. But, in 1989, after Hillsborough, when we tied our scarves to the rails of the Kop, this was new; a spontaneous public display of grief. Not wallowing, but wanting to show that we were upset and angry.

In Liverpool a few years ago, a drugs baron, already convicted, was recalled to court on a technicality, handcuffed to security guards. His lawyer asked if his client could be released from his manacles while he gave evidence. Why, the judge asked. My client finds it very difficult to speak without gesticulating, your honour, said the QC.

But has the Scouser finally calmed down? On Thursday, the Liverpudlian comedian John Bishop featured in a documentary for Sport Relief in which he cycled, rowed and ran 295 miles from Paris to London in five days. He suffered sleep deprivation, shin splints and exhaustion, but was stoical throughout, crossing the finishing line in Trafalgar Square not in tears but with a grittily controlled emotion. Bishop is emerging as the nation's favourite Scouser, but, while funny (we are, aren't we?), he does not fit the stereotype. We will cheer for you, John, in decades to come, but the Scouser we will remember most is Terry from Brookie. 'Ey, 'ey?

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Factory Manager - Food

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Environmental Account Manager - Remote Working

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Support / IT Sales / Graduate Sales / Trainee

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has now arisen for a Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Administration Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued growth an exce...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s Director of Communications  

i Editor's Letter: Poultry excuses from chicken spin doctors

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Women come back from the fields to sell vegetables at a market in Bangui, Central African Republic  

International Women's Day: Africa's women need to believe in themselves and start leading the way

Sylvia Bongo Ondimba
Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable