Slowly up the Mersey

This was the gorgeous East to us:
a place accessible by sea,
a sea much given to choppiness,
a choppiness most unwelcome
to me and my four-year-old sister,
miserable in a heaving lounge
that pitched and plunged.

Our parents didn't seem bothered,
though they knew, and we didn't,
that long old song
that all true Manxmen now remember
about the third day of the month December
1899, when a Steam Packet boat
tragically failed to stay afloat.

Past the lightship, things got better.
The estuary took us in,
shutting the door on the storm behind us,
stilling the restless poltergeist
who'd made so free with the crockery.

It was like recovering from a fever.
Walking on unsteady legs,
teetering past the sick-room smells -
the louring ghosts
of undigested breakfasts -
we took a turn on deck.
The wind chilled our sweat-wet brows.
New Brighton passed like a dream.
Further up, the mythic towers
shimmered in the haze.

Then it was getting the luggage
and the excitement of the gangplanks.
We were here.
It was like arriving in the world.
The Beatles were on Tango cans
and football was played by men in mud -
Big Ron Yeats, the Saint,
and, in goal, something most unlikely.
Everything was fab and gear,
it was a very good year,
it was 1964
and didn't we know it.

By David Callin