I have got anxiety coming out of my ears, and though I love my house very, very much sometimes I have to escape it, in order to escape myself. So when I woke up to a beautiful morning, I knew there could be no better day than this one to take a bookish little jaunt into Liverpool.
And so I washed my hair and wrapped a flowery scarf around my neck and took the train into town. I was settled in my seat and took reading Tapestry of Fortunes on my Kindle, when I found myself chatting to the man who used to clean my Mum’s windows and then leaning over to tell the man facing me that my little boy would adore his rather crazy Dalek jacket.
It is new, this urge to talk to strangers. Where once I would have shied away from talking to anyone other than my closest acquaintance now I find myself eager for conversation. For acknowledgement and tiny kindness’.
We pass railways banks splendid with a thousand cheerful Primula and the urban wilderness that is now the dock road, home to the dilapidated grain silos and tea merchants of Liverpool in its Victorian hey-day, and then the train pulls into Liverpool Central and I am plunged into a city alive with entertainment on every corner: those strange men who dress as statues and stand still to spook the children, a reggae singer booming his music into the streets, a man skipping as he does headers with a football and delighting the crowd gathered around him by rolling the same football up and down his spine, another painting Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring onto a canvas taped to the floor, and weirdly Ricky Tomlinson of The Royle Family fame, having his photograph taken with a million strangers as he petitions to clear his name.
It is all horribly loud and I practically run to the Bluecoat Chambers to discover my favourite, closed down Southport antique book shop has been resurrected in this lovely building and is the oasis of literary, lovely calm it always was. I am delighted and search the bookshelves for my beloved Girls Own Annuals, but eventually come away with Anne’s House of Dreams and Rilla of Ingleside, pleased with my haul and delighted to know that this precious book shop has found a new home in a building dedicated to the arts..
Then it is next door to Cath Kidston, where girls with red-painted lips and Brocante-dotted dresses have stashed a gorgeous, signed copy of Coming Up Roses under the counter for me. I nearly swoon when I see the box it comes in and go out clutching my blue bag and beaming at strangers.
On to wander around Paperchase and Kiehls and the new Harvey Nicholls Beauty Bizarre. Into Lush to sniff things and on to John Lewis to prowl around the haberdashery. Then a cup of coffee on Bold Street, the bohemian end of the city, before disappearing into the Oxfam bookstore and coming out with this, and this and this: all procured for mere pennies.
Home time. I sat on the train next to the oldest lady in the world. Her Miss Marple suit a vision of lavender tweed, and her hand shaking as she clutched on to my arm as we chugged through the outskirts of Liverpool. I read and listened to the extra-ordinarily loud mobile phone conversations people hold on trains and then I was in Ormskirk again, lugging my bags full of books to the car and driving home to an evening of lovely inspiration, an Indian takeaway and a bottle of wine.
Anxiety be damned. There will always be books.