Day-saver to Town Green: a story of Liverpool suburbia

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This article originally appeared in The Modernist magazine 
 
My train slows to a halt: a squeaky, can-I-really-be-bothered? stop. 
 
I grab my holdall, packed with underwear, shirts  and an Apple laptop (a predictable anchor to London), and step onto the platform. 
 
There, as ever, is Dad. Hand up, waving. His big grin – a family trait we share – shining from under his battered New York Yankees baseball cap (my dad is from West Yorkshire, and knows nothing about baseball). 
 
“Son!”
“Dad!”
 
He’s pleased to see me. Good. The feeling’s mutual. 
 
We’ve been meeting at this station every couple of months since I left home 29 years ago (I’m 47). His car, a 20-year old Audi, is parked by the tennis courts (‘New members always welcome!’ ‘Book a court!’ ‘Line dancing and keep-fit!’), dwarfed by the BMWs and Mercedes that are the norm round here. 
 
I look up and see *that* sign: ‘Town Green’ – the name of the station. A name so lacking in geographic character it could be anywhere: middle England, deepest Surrey, that bit of south-west London full of posh people. 
 
But we’re not in the south. Look down the line, and you can see the St John’s Beacon and the gleaming towers of the waterfront, and behind them, in faint watercolour-blue, the hills of north Wales. 
 
Town Green is the third stop from the end of the Northern Line of the Merseyrail, Liverpool’s railway network, the second-biggest in the country after the London Underground. Town Green, located in Aughton – where the city bleeds into the outer suburbs, was built in 1875, its location perfect for Liverpool big-shots looking for a semi-rural pile to commute from. 
 
Mum and dad, in typical early-’70s fashion, moved here to be near to the city – but not in it. In Aughton – and its neighbours, Maghull and Ormskirk – you could clean the car in peace (one woman by ours had a TR7!), buy your Vesta curries in Fine Fare and get the train into town to eat at the Berni Inn on the Pier Head. This was a land of Alans, Keiths, Jeans and Maureens, of well-done steak and “something’s got to be done about the unions”. Of upwardly mobile Scousers getting ‘bought houses’ in the suburbs. 
 
And for me, its station, Town Green was the gateway to everything this south-western bit of north-west England could offer. Some of my clearest memories involve standing on that platform, waiting for the train into Liverpool city centre: the day we went to Lewis’s to buy the Liverpool FC away kit (“We don’t have the Umbro one, sadly – but this one’s nearly the same”), the regular trips to eat Greek-Cypriot food on Hardman St, and, as I got older, the starting point of awaydays following my football team. 
 
And the best bit of those journeys came with the descent from Sandhills station, 20 minutes down the line. 
 
Because Liverpool not only has a rail network that makes Manchester’s tram system look like a medieval cart track, but part of it is underground – with real tube stations like the ones in London. There’s Central, whose majestic Victorian train shed was knocked down in the 1970s (obviously) and replaced with the world’s most uninspiring shopping centre. I once had my prized Celtic/Liverpool bobble hat nicked there by scally on a bike in 1985. 
 
To Moorfields, which serves the financial district and until recently had an incredible 1970s mural, which showed a load of kids in flares, one of whom was carrying a ‘Liverton’ flag. Then there’s James Street, which has a stunning tiled entrance, and the feel of Manhattan subway stop. The crossing to the Venetian splendour of Birkenhead Central – seriously, look it up – is the oldest deep-level railway tunnel in the world. 
 
These stations, linked by Merseyrail’s underground ‘loop’, demonstrate Liverpudlian arrogance at its best – the superiority complex that marks us out from other northerners. If fishing villages like New York and London have got fancy metro systems and stations that buzz with hundreds of thousands of commuters, then why shouldn’t we? 
 
Which brings us back to Town Green. Every time I return from London, the trip up the Northern Line from Moorfields makes me feel just that little bit special. That while I’m leaving the capital, I’m going to somewhere every bit as significant. I take a silly amount of satisfaction from being the only person I know whose journey home ends with an underground railway ride. 
 
And though Town Green is just a suburban stop, one that’s mainly used by stressed commuters, middle-class scallies (Under Armour is *very* big at the moment) and talkative nans, it carries so many memories. Memories that continue to be made as I make my way to the car and dad drives us through the housing estate to our 1960s semi. 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

   








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