Posts Tagged ‘St. Luke’s’

Milo has not been well. He has spent the past 48 hours clinging, limpet-like, around his mother’s neck. He has slept there (he slept, she got a crick in her neck), eaten there (he ate, she got banana and porridge mashed into her hair) and cried there (he cried and then added snot to the banana-porridge mix).

Although it’s quite nice to have your son cuddle you, Milo’s mother is starting to get a bit tired. Her arms ache from carrying him. Her head pounds from the lack of sleep. Her aforementioned neck is very, very stiff. She’s also, if truth be told, too tired to entertain a cranky baby on her own. So they go to Liverpool where they meet up with a friend.

Milo, despite having a new audience, refuses to smile, though he does grumpily allow said friend to carry him round for a bit. His mother pushes the redundant buggy. After a while, they happen across St. Luke’s Church.

Bombed on May 5, 1941, its insides blackened and burnt to a crisp, only its walls and shattered windows remain. When the people of Liverpool emerged from their shelters the morning after the attack, they looked in horror at the smoking remnants of St. Luke’s. They were five nights into what would become known as Liverpool’s May Blitz. By the end of the seventh and final night, over 1,700 would be dead and much of the city flattened.

So when the people of Liverpool wondered how they could remember their losses, they looked at St. Luke’s, its walls standing proudly even though its insides had crumbled into ash. And then they left the ruined church as it was. It became a memorial. Weeds grew up through the windows. Trees swayed in what was once the nave. Birds sang in what was left of the choir stalls.

Today, St. Luke’s is open. Milo, his mum and her friend can’t ever remember it being open. Curious, they step inside, bumping the buggy up over steps and potholes, and for the first time stand on the other side of the windows. The friend wanders off, camera in hand.

’52 years after it was bombed, I came here,’ whispers Milo’s mum in his ear. ‘I was 18. I sat on that big flight of steps out front and looked down the hill into town.’

Milo leans back and looks up at the gargoyles.

‘It was the last week in September and my first week in Liverpool. The sun was shining and it was one of those beautiful autumn days you get before the storms set in. I had my notebook and I was writing something, probably a letter to someone, telling them about the start of things here.’

‘I wanted to remember that moment forever. You know what I’m like, don’t you, the way I make up stories about my life? Well, I knew that moment was the start of one such story, the story of my new life in Liverpool.’

Milo wriggles. He’s still looking at the sky.

‘I was right. Because as I was looking down Bold Street, looking at the city that was now my home, a bus went past. Some kids on the top deck spotted me, lobbed a couple of eggs out the window and shouted, ”stuuuuudent”. They missed, of course, but it got me up off my arse and sent me scuttling back up to the Student Union. And there I met all the people who would become my best friends.’

‘Look at this!’

A voice interrupts the mother-and-son reverie. Milo and his mum walk to the middle of the church where the friend stands looking down into a pool of dank, greasy water.

‘Would you look at that,’ says the friend. ‘It’s a rubber duck, a bloody rubber duck.’

They all look down. Underneath the water, it’s colour slowly leeching away, is a little yellow duck. It greets them with a stupid smile.

‘How on earth did that get there?’ says the friend, wondering vaguely if it had just dropped out of the sky into the middle of a bombed-out, locked-up church.

‘You can only ever expect the unexpected in Liverpool,’ says Milo’s mother. ‘Eggs, kids and rubber ducks: there’ll always be something to keep you from disappearing too far up your own arse.’

Milo giggles for the first time in two days. The friend looks quizzically at them both, shrugs and then takes a picture of the solitary quacker.

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