‘Go to The Globe. It’s Liverpool encapsulated in one pub.’
I was off to the city where my grandmother was born in 1906 to research its pubs for my latest book. Twitter had been consulted. Amongst the blizzard of suggestions quite a few mentioned The Globe, but it was the above tweet that really stood out. Not only for the reason that I had been told about somewhere new, but that it also made me think about how a pub could represent a city or even a country, its inhabitants and the way they have lived their lives.
Those of us who visit pubs frequently will know what I am thinking about. From my early days in London I dredge out the memories of walking into local pubs in the East End and Islington (both of them in various stages of gentrification) and the voices that hushed as I walked to the bar, a stranger in an even stranger land. While I let myself think, that menace hung in the air with the discord of a gibbet. Looking back it probably didn’t but I was still someone who had entered the ranks of friends, families and neighbours and until I’d joked with the bartender and received a laugh in return did I and those in the pub relax.
So what did I expect from a Liverpool pub? If I was being lazy, I could have imagined a bevy of bevvied-up quick-witted drinkers flinging out cheery one-liners with the glee of a line of wedding guests chucking their forbidden confetti over the happy couple. Stevie Gerrard, John Lennon, Derek Hatton, Big Nev, anyone who had a heart, hats off for the Aintree iron and so on. Such are the cliches with which we live our lives when considering the regions of England. It was nothing like that.
The Globe is a three-storied, redbrick Victorian pub that looks like it should belong in a quiet market town, but instead is in the middle of the boisterous city centre, though located down a more tranquil side street. A duo of flower baskets hang on each side of the front window, above which is a colourful painting of local legend Lizzie Christian, who sold fruit from a nearby barrow for 60 years. It looked homely and inviting, a positive invitation to step inside love, and on this crisp winter’s day, my mind was set on shelter so I went in.
It was around 12.30pm and there were already several drinkers settled about, regulars, as they all had that sense of ease and belonging and feeling at home that playing the part of a local conveys. One man was standing at the entrance end of the bar with a branded pint glass of Stella, occasionally exchanging words with another older man sitting down at a table next to the front window. As I was served, I could overhear fragments of conversation and laughter, and I took my pint of Taylor’s Landlord to a table opposite the end of the bar.
As well as the hymnal of voices and scatterings of laughter, the chain-like shuffle of coins in the cash register drawer I noted the meow-like sound of the door opening as a man and a woman came in, a romantic lunchtime drink perhaps as it was February 14.
‘Hiya Val, Carling please, vodka and tonic, no lemon, she’s already had her five a day.’
The man at the end of the bar with the Stella let loose a deep chuckle, while the sun emerged from behind the clouds and illuminated the bar area with a soft luminosity. I felt safe in this compact pub, warm and snug, comfortable and possessed of a joined-up mood of happiness. With its framed photos on the wall, various items such as a brass diving helmet, pewter tankards and ancient tobacco tins I was transplanted back to my long dead paternal grandmother’s front parlour with its heavy wood fittings, various odds and sods and framed family photos. With its witty asides, the occasional gales of laughter and a respectful but chuckling atmosphere The Globe was a world away from the earnest conversations often heard in tap rooms frequented by Generation Untapped.
Someone received a phone message and let the bar know it was a message from his wife.
‘Happy Valentine to my dear husband, hope you’re not sozzled when you come home.’
In the background Jackie Wilson was singing that he got the sweetest feeling, while another man entered the pub and asked for a pint of Tetley’s as talk circulated around about the pub like the currents that encircle the world’s oceans.
So maybe The Globe’s spirit of Liverpool was the regulars and the sparse minimalist snatches of conversation and the laughter and the quick witted returns. I finished my beer and, as I left, the man at the end of the bar, along with Val and the Carling-drinking Romeo with his lawfully-wedded Juliet, were talking about the price of beer: ‘£8 for a pint of Leffe and the fella then said I’m going to Asda for my next one.’ The laughter faded away as the door’s meow let me out onto the street, but I had a smile on my face.