Authors: Katie Flynn
Tags: #Liverpool Saga
Also by Katie Flynn
A Liverpool Lass
The Girl From Penny Lane
The Mersey Girls
Rose of Tralee
No Silver Spoon
The Girl from Seaforth Sands
Poor Little Rich Girl
The Bad Penny
Down Daisy Street
A Kiss and a Promise
A Long and Lonely Road
The Cuckoo Child
Darkest Before Dawn
Orphans of the Storm
Little Girl Lost
Beyond the Blue Hills
Praise for Katie Flynn
‘Arrow’s best and biggest saga author. She’s good.’
‘If you pick up a Katie Flynn book it’s going to be a wrench to put it down again’
Holyhead & Anglesey Mail
‘A heartwarming story of love and loss’
‘One of the best Liverpool writers’
‘[Katie Flynn] has the gift that Catherine Cookson had of bringing the period and the characters to life’
Caernarfon & Denbigh Herald
The Liverpool Rose
Katie Flynn has lived for many years in the north west. A compulsive writer, she started with short stories and articles and many of her early stories were broadcast on Radio Mersey. She decided to write her Liverpool series after hearing the reminiscences of family members about life in the city in the early years of the twentieth century. She also writes as Judith Saxton. For several years she has had to cope with ME but has continued to write.
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Epub ISBN 9781446427590
Published by Arrow Books in 2001
Copyright © Katie Flynn 2001
Katie Flynn has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
This is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
First published in the United Kingdom in 2001 by William Heinemann
The Random House Group Limited
20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London, SW1V 2SA
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
For Jim and Eileen Greenwood, who introduced me to the delights of the canal and tried not to laugh when I steered us into the bank!
I am greatly indebted to the staff at the Ellesmere Port Boat Museum who provided me with a great many books dealing with the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, showed me round their excellent collection of canal boats and explained how everything worked. It is a truly fascinating museum. Anyone with a bit of time to spare and an interest in both the present day canal boats and those which travelled the canals in the past cannot do better than pay a visit.
I am also indebted to Deb and Graham McCleod who lent me an out-of-print book on the canal, and to Jim and Eileen Greenwood, who pointed me in the right direction for finding out some of the more obscure details I needed, and as usual, my thanks go to the Liverpool Local History library and to the Wrexham branch library for their never-failing help.
‘Lizzie! Lizzie Devlin! Our mam says you’re to go indoors at once or she’ll scalp the ears off your perishin’ head! She says she telled you afore breakfast that she’s gorra load o’ messages for you, only you slipped out on the quiet when she weren’t lookin’, and now, when she needs stuff, it ain’t there!’
Lizzie, about to throw her lucky piece of slate into the last-but-one hopscotch square, glared at the speaker, a pale, discontented-looking boy with spectacles perpetually askew on his puddingy, spot-speckled face. Of all the cousins, she told herself, wondering whether she could pretend deafness just until her slate had reached its mark, she disliked Herbie the most. He was a tale-clat, a cheat and a bully – but he was also nearly fourteen, two whole years older than she, and a great deal larger and stronger. It would not do to ignore him, she supposed crossly. But that did not mean to say she had to scurry to do his bidding. She turned to her friend Sally, throwing her bit of slate at the same time, seeing with some satisfaction that her friend’s had slithered sideways and missed its mark; with a bit of luck she might yet win the game! ‘Oh . . . I’ll just finish this game, Herbie,’ Lizzie said with pretended nonchalance, beginning to hop forward, her bare toes stirring up the dust every time she landed. ‘It won’t take but a minute, and me aunt won’t mind . . . besides, why couldn’t you go?’
She glanced at her cousin’s face as she spoke, turning neatly to pick up her slate and hop back again, and saw from the way his eyes slid about that he had probably been told to run the messages but had passed the job on to her. As usual. Aunt Annie was not a bad kind of woman. She had taken Lizzie in when her parents had died, after all, though she had four boys of her own to bring up. That had been five years ago, mind you, and since then both Henry and Ned had got work and were no longer a charge on their parents, though Herbie and Denis were still at home. And it’s only natural, Lizzie mused to herself, making her way back to number nine Cranberry Court, that Aunt Annie expects more help from a girl than she would from a boy: boys is pretty useless when all’s said and done.
The house in the court was a back-to-back, like all the others, which meant that the only means of entry was through the front door, so Lizzie skipped up the three filthy steps which her aunt was always meaning to scrub and whiten, pushed open the rickety wooden door and turned left into the kitchen. Aunt Annie was sitting in a creaking basketwork chair with a saucepan on her lap, rather inexpertly hacking a carrot into sections and dropping them into the pan. There were obvious signs that she had already butchered a large turnip and some potatoes – and also an onion, to judge from her streaming eyes – before she began on the carrot. Blind scouse, Lizzie told herself, mentally licking her lips. Aunt Annie, perhaps because she enjoyed her food, was a first-rate cook and could make even a blind scouse enjoyable.
Her aunt looked up and grinned, displaying a number of gaps between her large teeth as her niece entered the room. ‘Lizzie, love, I’m meking blind
scouse for us suppers, but I thought if you could run down to the Scottie, you’d mebbe manage to get hold of a bone for stock and some bacon ends to cheer up the scouse a bit, like.’ She plunged her hand into her apron pocket and held out a damp and grimy paw with some coppers nestling on the palm. ‘I’ near on out of spuds, so get me tuppence worth, and if you manage to get some bones, better pick up some veggies for the stock pot – onions is nice, and I could do with a few more carrots, and peas are good at this time of year.’
‘If I get bacon bits, it won’t be blind scouse no more,’ Lizzie observed, taking the money from her aunt’s hand and pushing it into her skirt pocket. ‘The cheapest stuff is at the market so I’ll go there for the veggies, but I’ll shop around for bones and bacon bits, see what’s going cheap. And if I can’t get bones, you’ll not want the extra veggies for the stock, will you?’
‘You’ve gorra head on your shoulders, chuck,’ Aunt Annie wheezed, smiling broadly. ‘That’s why I’d rather you did me messages, ’cos it’d take me a month of Sundays to get Herbie to understand that there ain’t no stock without bones. But you’ll get bones, queen. You’re like meself,’ she gave another wheezy laugh, ‘all charm and beauty, the sort no feller can resist. You’ll charm some nice marrer bones out of some butcher, I don’t doubt it for a moment.’ She put the saucepan down on the floor, heaved herself to her feet and gave Lizzie’s cheek an encouraging pat, handing her the large canvas bag which she always used for bringing home a quantity of vegetables. ‘Off you go now, queen, and don’t be too long or you’ll get no scouse till tomorrer breakfast.’
Lizzie, grinning, let herself out of the house,
skipped down the dirty steps and stood for a moment, contemplating the game of hopscotch which her friends were doggedly playing, despite her absence. Sally glanced up. ‘Where’s you going, Lizzie? Shall I come along wi’ you?’
‘No, you stay here and finish the game,’ Lizzie said grandly. She glanced around the court with its blackened walls and high, narrow houses, so tall that the sunshine never penetrated the place. At the end where the houses finished were the lavatories, and beside them the one water tap which served all twelve houses in the court. Above the lavatories reared a blackened brick wall, all of twenty foot high, which did its own share of preventing the sunshine from ever making an appearance in the court. But by tipping her head right back, Lizzie could see the hazy blue of the sky and guessed that it must be a nice sunny day. So though under other circumstances she would have enjoyed Sally’s company, she thought that today she would be better off by herself. Aunt Annie had given her no extra money to buy buns or a toffee apple for running the messages and Sally, who was an only child and whose father worked on the docks, would not have dreamed of going a message without some reward. Lizzie knew her aunt was not mean and would have given her the odd ha’penny had she been able to do so, and had no desire for Sally to spread the news around that Mrs Grey was a miser, who wouldn’t even part with a ha’penny for messages.
‘Why don’t you stop and finish the game, queen?’ Sally asked plaintively. She would probably have enjoyed getting out of the court for a bit, but clearly did not like to do so once her offer had been rejected. ‘Surely your aunt can’t want her messages that quick?’
Lizzie hesitated, but only for a moment. It was not as though hopscotch was a game in which you won anything or even gained any particular kudos; if it had been ollies or cherry pobs she would have had difficulty in tearing herself away, especially had she been on a winning streak, but she could play hopscotch any old day and besides, if she did not get a move on, the scouse would not have time to become impregnated with the delicious taste of bacon – if she got the bacon bits, that was. So she looked around her and saw a small urchin, filthier than any of the others, hanging around looking wistfully towards the hopscotch squares. Lizzie indicated the child. ‘She’ll take over for me, Sal,’ she said grandly, then turned and addressed the younger girl. ‘You’re dyin’ for a game, ain’t you, queen?’
The small girl said that she was and Sally sighed and waved a hand to Lizzie, who hurried out of the court and into the sunshine of Burlington Street with a clear conscience. At least she had not spoiled Sally’s game, she thought, turning right towards the Scottie. As she had guessed from that glimpse of the sky overhead, it was a lovely sunny day and she trotted happily along the pavement, eyeing the shops as she passed them. When she reached Lime Kiln Lane she turned right again and presently emerged on to the main road, opposite Paddy’s Market, deciding she would try Staunton’s first, since it was the nearest butcher’s shop. Before reaching the butcher’s, however, she glanced into a nearby shop window, not to examine the goods on display but to check her appearance. Looking critically at her reflection, she pulled a face at her skimpy grey cotton dress – it had once been blue but had lost its colour and gained its greyness from rare and unenthusiastic washings –
and at her bare and dirty feet. However there was nothing she could do about either dress or feet so she turned her attention to her hair and face. Earlier that day, she had pulled back her thick, fair locks and plaited them into a pigtail, securing the end with a frayed and elderly boot lace. Now, she untied the boot lace and let her hair fall free. Then she licked the hem of her skirt, wiped it briskly round her face and, having checked as well as she could that she was reasonably clean, she abandoned her reflection and walked along to Staunton’s Family Butcher’s shop. She glanced in through the open doorway and saw that Mrs Staunton herself was serving customers along with Joe Lydd who lived in the next court to Cranberry, off Burlington Street.