So we wander after formal class with a little direction to begin with, still herded as a group. We saw our first British police officers, who looked way too young to be cops, and Chip was immediately drawn to them. He bombarded them with questions in his classic style that we would all become very familiar with throughout and by the end of the trip, primarily charming in an awkward sort of way. And of course we had to take pictures of and with the Bobbies before going on our way. I took one of Chip trying to look like he was being cuffed and taken in, but they weren’t playing it up much for us and Chip looks like the happiest guy ever arrested in the photo!
Shortly after that we were set loose, the herd dispersed and I finally get off on my own. Ped seemed surprised and alarmed at this, but I have no time for compromise at this era in my life; a past, my person, were shattered by too much compromise. And living alone for the six months preceding the trip made it hard to give up to what I wanted, when and how I wanted it, perhaps especially given the amazing opportunity to live and travel like I found myself in. “Anyone who wants to come with me is more than welcome,” I explained, “But this is what I’m going to do today.” Which was, a quest for bookstores and the guitar shop we past on our walking tour the first day in Liverpool, the latter I didn’t find. In the process I went down to the waterfront and took pictures for my mom that would hopefully turn out well for her enjoyment, as well as be something my mom wanted to paint. And then, I got lost.
The first time I got lost consisted of riding the bus too long on that first Sunday before the African Goya, which was a pretty fixable mistake. I took the quick way on account of being exhausted and took a taxi with an awesome cabbi with a killer Scouser accent
He’d say: waryagoon?
I’d say: What?
He’d say: wAR ya goin?
I’d say: Ooohhh,
He’d say: sosya earloong?
I’d say: What?
He’d say: owloong yastye ear?
I’d say: oh yeah? Mmmhhhh. Cool (still no idea what he said)
The fun part with Scousers is that sometimes when you do, in fact, correctly understand and know what words they used, you still don’t know what they said. They take the magic of idiom in the English language to a whole new level. He was a beacon of patience and continued to chat the whole time despite my obvious deficiency in communicated at that juncture. We arrived at the living hall,
“Next time yoo take a taxi jus tell em Carnatic,” he said.
“What?” I said
“Carnatic, they’ll know that over Salisbury.”
“Oh.” I paid. I figured out the next day on the way to the bus what the hell he was talking about. There is a huge sign at the vehicle entrance: Carnatic Halls. It then lists the specific buildings, ours being Salisbury Hall. It was then I realized that I did not speak the language, but seemed too, an illusion that generally made me look like an idiot. Despite the frequent embarrassment, it made for a lot of fun.
This time I found myself and got back to the bus station, on the corner of Mulberry and Myrtle, where walking down the street was two of my instructors. They asked me if nobody liked me. I said no, I just wasn’t afraid of being alone. And then they asked me for a drink in the Caledonia, a little local hole in the wall pub, (old guy bar they said) which I would later come to intimately love. We talked about education differences, a little about Toxteth that I would be seeing tomorrow with one of them, that I was meeting for the first time that very moment, as guide and teacher. I noted they vacillated back and forth between Scous and something else, English I assume because I could mostly understand it. Given my love of all parts of language I couldn’t help but bring it up, but they were all over it. They most definitely did talk differently to outsiders and/or friends that didn’t grow up in Liverpool. How conscious a process was that I wondered? So then we talked about the phenomenon we humans have of auto-edit, e.g. I’ll (for the most part) edit out my swearing around my parents and kids. As one these fine gentlemen paid for me second Guinness, I worried.
Me: You really don’t have to pay for it.
Him: Psht! Don’t be ridiculous
Me: Well, it’s not that I’m thinking this is what your after, but back where I’m friend a guy buying you a drink generally means… ulterior motive.
Him: huh, well it doesn’t here.
It seems maybe the elder takes care of the younger, but I couldn’t be sure and never researched it, formal or informally.
Tipsy off me Guinness’s, I expressed concern for riding the bus drunk. After which one of the instructors said, nonsense! You’ve got to do that once in a while, one of those life experiences. Giggling I thought, Could I have cooler, more down to earth professors? Probably not.
The eldest of the two, who had bought the other’s drinks as well, headed off. I was still nursing my Guinness—not like me really, but half way through it I was feeling the buzz and it occurred to me that responsible, adult-like behavior might be in order. I envied their lack of such occurrences.
The night was cool and magically engulfing as I was escorted back across the street to the bus station. I was seeing the world shiny. I engaged my salutations as I saw the bus rattle up the street on the wrong side of the road—crazy Brits. Much to my astonishment my handshake turned into a kiss on the cheek.
Me: Oh! Uh-
Him: It’s the European way!
Awkwardly I repeated the process for the other cheek.
See you tomorrows, then only after I paid my pound and forty pence bus ride did I remember reading literature on how the UK didn’t participate in that ritual. What did it mean, if anything? I would later on in my stay figure it out.