Anfield is an area of North Liverpool. It is a place where there are extreme contrasts.
I was reminded of this as I was forced into the road just opposite the football ground. Where an old fashioned family bakers had once existed, there was now one of those pointless ‘art’ projects for very wealthy outsiders. It has changed its name over the years, but it was once known as 2Up2Down, and it has pretended to be some form of housing project, part of the process for which the copious funding allowed a selection of a few locals in to make cardboard versions of the houses they’d like to live in. The housing project has mutated into now being some form of community bakery. Except it doesn’t bake anything. Or sell anything. But it does have lots of self-congratulatory evenings or afternoons when people from far and wide come and chatter and laugh in their posh wine-bar accents that you’d not normally associate with North Liverpool.
This particular day I was forced onto the road, the ‘ok, ya, ok, right?‘ assembly had spilled out onto the pavement, in order to sup their wine and talk about how wonderful each other were. Who knows what they were there to launch this time, the next day the place was as shut tight as it is for most of the working week. I can’t help feel that in these austere times, the bogus and pointless ‘arts‘ need to be de-funded and those who make a fortune doing nothing of any actual social use go out instead and get real jobs. It would be interesting to know how much money has been wasted on this and other cons.
Immediately opposite this ‘art‘ project that has never provided housing or sold any bread, is a genuinely striving business. No hand-outs for Carlos and Michelle, the husband and wife team working long hours in the ‘Georgie Porgy‘ cafe. Theirs is a struggling business, with the cheapest ‘Full English’ breakfasts I’ve ever seen. How unfair would it be if the ‘art‘ people managed to get funding to actually supply bread and sandwiches using their handouts to subsidise the cost. Would this dent the hard-workers like Georgie Porgy in the fragile eco-system of this part of Anfield? It sure would. And, considering they have to endure constant break-ins and vandalism for which they can hardly afford insurance premiums to cover, one has to keep fingers crossed that the complete incompetence of those infesting the old bakers will remain unproductive.
Why do they suffer break-ins and vandalism? It could be because Carlos is Turkish, and so it’s racist. More likely, it’s just for fun, and done when the local youth are stoned, which of course is most of the time. Anfield residents abuse alcohol and cannabis from a very early school age. This leads on to the ashen faces that slowly stagger around in their grey clothing topped by a hoodie.
A church less than a hundred metres from Georgie Porgy sees many of these locals making their way from the pubs or wherever they’ve been shooting up, on the days it puts out a noticeboard giving away free meals with no questions asked.
To be fair, there’s a lot of development in parts of Anfield, with new housing estates slowly sprouting up to replace the long neglected and deserted original terraces of actual two up two downs that had been left boarded up and decaying whilst no money was available to do anything.
Enterprisingly, the locals turned a number of these old houses into skunk farms (stealing electricity from street lights), crack houses or would set fire to them for an evening’s entertainment. The entertainment not being watching them burn, but throwing bricks and stones at the Fire Brigade fighting to put them out.
I suppose the centre-piece of Anfield is the football ground of Liverpool Football Club. It is here that the players will arrive and earn in 90 minutes more than most of the residents of Anfield will ever see in their lifetimes, despite working 40 or 50 hours a week of unsocial hours, year after year, forever.
Most of the area immediately around the football ground is a succession of boarded-up homes or smartly and proudly looked after lower income family homes. Then, there are also the more luxurious, well maintained (by contractors not by the occupiers) and younger houses that are given freely to those who have decided not to work, but instead to live off the taxes paid by those who are trying to make ends meet.
In the main road that runs alongside the football ground, long boarded-up shops suddenly open to sell burgers on match days. The rest of the time, which is the majority of the time, they remain looking derelict and deserted.
Two roads away from the football ground is a local Co-Op. It, of course, is the target of attacks from those who need money to pay for their drugs. Only the other morning a frightened worker was threatened with a kitchen knife and had to hand over what float there was in the till. The thief calmly strolled off with his arm around his girlfriend who’d kindly waited outside for him as he terrified the shop assistant.
And a road away from that, a 19 year old boy was chased into or from a local launderette, by a gang that included 12 and 13 year olds, and he was stabbed to death in an alleyway behind the launderette. That was all rumoured to be over a drug dispute.
And the launderette is almost opposite a local Post Office, the cash machine always managing to get a massive queue at just before midnight on certain days of the week. People turn up, some with over-tired toddlers in tow. Midnight is when they can access their hand-outs in the form of whatever cash the State is paying them out of hard workers’ taxes.
And next to the cash machine is a phone kiosk from which they then make their drug orders.
This reality of Anfield seems so cruel and so unkind to the pockets of proud working class that also live there. The ones with the well looked after older houses, with jobs to go to. The reality I speak of is the reality of the obscene amounts of money that football players and clubs make, the huge free money the ‘art’ projects get, and the free money the scum get for doing nothing but getting stoned.
Nothing about Anfield or the many places like it seems fair on the actual working classes. Nobody seems to care about them.