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Living Between London & Liverpool For Love

Stepping off your train at Liverpool Lime Street feels strangely familiar to a Londoner at first. The impressive neoclassical columns of St George’s Hall wouldn’t look out of place in Trafalgar Square. There’s a queue of black cabs. And then you see pubs with signs offering pints for £1.75 and people you don’t know are smiling at you, and talking to you, and you suddenly feel very, very far from home.

Back in August, when I told people that my boyfriend had got a job in Liverpool, and we’d be splitting our time between London and Merseyside, reactions ranged from pity to fear to adopting a terrible Scouse accent and telling me to “calm down” (Harry Enfield has a lot to answer for). Occasionally people would profess their undying love for such a “cool city”, and vaguely insist that it had “so much going on” - even though it later transpired that most of them had never been north of the M25 but had read a ‘Let’s Move To’ article about it in The Guardian once.

I was worried about relocating to Scouseland. I mean, I like the Beatles and I watched a lot of Brookside as a kid, but actually living there? I love London in all its grimy, rude, expensive, black-snot-after-your-commute glory. I’m a complete wanker who likes going to Peruvian pop-up supper clubs and interactive theatre events. I’ve lived in London all my life. I shop in Waitrose. How would I survive?

On my first visit up, my boyfriend led me directly to the Whistles, Reiss and Kiehl’s in Liverpool One - the main shopping district - as if to say ‘Here be civilisation’. Obviously there’s more to life than overpriced knitwear and Creme de Corps, but it’s good to know you’ve got that stuff covered. From there we walked to The Baltic Triangle, which we’d been told was Liverpool’s version of Hackney. Here you’ll find art galleries, club nights and pop-up food trucks in former industrial spaces. But unlike east London, it’s not yet full of American Apparels and people Instagramming their avo on toast. It’s how I imagine Hackney was 20 years ago - and, I have to say, it’s pretty nice. Most warehouses are still warehouses. Not warehouses-cum-cereal cafes. In fact, when we visited on a Saturday there were only a few people wandering around. Massive tick in the Liverpool column. But also a bit like 28 Days Later to my London-centric brain.

In fact, the lack of busyness is a novelty that still hasn’t worn off. Going to a Jackson Pollock exhibition at the Tate on a Saturday? In London that would be a teeming hell pit. In comparison, the Tate at the Albert Docks was not even close to full. And the bars and restaurants in Liverpool aren’t so different to London - Bold Street has three “small plates” spots alone - and while the quality might not always beat the capital, the fact you can actually get a table in one on a Saturday night (and change from a twenty) certainly does.

But like any city, some tourist traps are best avoided. The Cavern Club smells like a toilet. The ferry you can take to “cross the Mersey” plays that song on a loop. But just walking around Liverpool for a day - and you can actually walk it, everything feels very, very close - is the best way to experience architecture that includes Georgian townhouses (apparently Liverpool has more Georgian buildings than Bath) and art nouveau beauties such as The Liver Building, which make you feel like you could be in Gotham City. Oh and did I mention the beaches? Twenty minutes from the centre of town and you’re making sandcastles among the Antony Gormley sculptures on Corby beach. Or at least you would be if you could feel your hands because it’s that bit colder up north.

But you haven’t really experienced Liverpool until you’ve had a night out there. And on the weekend, Seel Street is like a Hieronymus Bosch painting, but with more fake tan. I saw stag dos, hen dos, fights, heavy petting and a boy running into a bus stop with his trousers down while a group of onlookers cheered. This is probably what Carl Jung had in mind when he called Liverpool “the pool of life”. That concentration of clubs and chaos just isn’t found amid London’s more disparate nightlife areas. Back in the Baltic Quarter, drag discos and big techno nights provide an alternative to the screaming Jagerbomb set, there it’s the men who are more likely to be dressed up like Ladies’ Day at Aintree.

Having a LIV-LON relationship might be logistically tough, but dividing your time between two very different cities has its benefits. You feel a bit like you’re going on a mini-break every other weekend. You become incredibly well-versed in the difference between an off-peak and a super-off-peak train ticket (great pub banter). You start thinking it’s normal to strike up conversations with strangers in queues - don’t try this at home. And for now London is still home. But when I caught myself Googling the price of one of those ivy-drenched Georgian townhouses, and discovered it was half what my flat in Peckham cost, I realised that a more permanent migration to Merseyside might well be on the cards.

Liverpool: Heels you can’t walk in
London: Trainers you can’t run in

Liverpool: Brightly-coloured bandage dresses (aka “frocks”)
London: Skinny jeans cos you’ve not really made any effort yeah?

Listening to
Liverpool: Stealing Sheep (The Scouse Haim)
London: Adele (on repeat)

Liverpool: Dirty burgers at Death Row Diner
London: Sea bass at Kitty Fisher’s