You catch a Wirral Line train from Bromborough for the almost Capital of Culture. Two years have passed since you last set foot in the centre of Liverpool and you are breathless with excitement at the prospect of seeing the city’s renaissance.
At Port Sunlight you are treated to a foretaste of the new sophistication: a scally carrying a bottle of mineral water and an apple gets on, sits down and launches into a conversation with a girl with the nouvelle slappère look (rustically-dyed hair set off with a plastic asphodèle the colour of an orange Smartie, stolen Armani jeans and an off-the-shoulder Yves St Laurent tracksuit top); frustratingly, they are just too far away for you to ascertain whether he is trying to impress her with a controversial personal view of the pre-Raphaelites in the Leverhulme Museum, or simply offering her a bite of his Cox’s Pippin.
Drama at Rock Ferry: you watch sympathetically as a skinhead clutching a tasteful reproduction statuette of Michelangelo’s David narrowly fails to board before the doors close. In an understandable fit of pique, the shaven-skulled aesthete hurls the figurine at the departing train, but this time Goliath is not to be toppled, and as David falls to the trackside it occurs to you that he resembles the Moyesie Dolls in the Everton Club Shop rather more than Buonarroti’s biblical hero. You have barely had time to reflect on the poetic potential of your error when the sight of Green Lane Station drives all other thoughts and images from your mind; cunningly sculpted from artisanally-blackened Dank Stone, Green Lane has long been a favoured destination for would-be suicides, reliably informed by their psychotherapists that there is a darker, more desolate hole than the one in their tortured soul. 365 days a year, burnt-out businessmen from Kitakyushu and alcoholics from Rovaniemi can be seen skipping rejuvenated onto trains and chanting merrily to the effect that “Nothing will ever seem so bleak again”. (By a cruel and tragic irony, those unfortunate visitors who unwittingly board trains bound for Ellesmere Port rapidly discover their optimism to be ill-founded, and end up terminating their existence at The Top-Yourself Centre close to the Stanlow Oil Refinery). Today, however, the fresh breath of Culture is pumping new life even into Green Lane: the fenced-off, dungeon-like pen – which you suspect was designed for train-spotters – in the corner of the For Liverpool platform has been converted into an impromptu wildlife sanctuary for dying pigeons, ailing moss and delinquent rodents.
You are now beside yourself with eager anticipation. If the hinterland has been so thoroughly transformed, then just how magnificent is the city itself going to be?