Imagine No More Meresy

A seven-foot bronze statue of the late Beatle John Lennon greets travelers at the international airport in Liverpool that bears his name.  It’s fitting that Lennon’s impish image—hands inserted in pants pockets—is displayed at the airport adjacent to the Mersey River.  Lennon emigrated from blue-collar Liverpool, a one-time symbol of Great Britain’s manufacturing strength, to New York’s posh Central Park West.  His visage has a wry grin, but it is we who are laughing at ourselves when a porter explains how to put our left-handed stick in reverse—a maneuver, thankfully, we were not forced to execute on the 340-kilometer jaunt up various motorways (40, 6, 62) to Merseyside.  Before finding his faith, Thomas, the main character in Antonioni’s mod classic Blow Up (1967), drove a British-built Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud assembled in nearby Crewe.  Our rental is French.

Liverpool is not a Strawberry Field or Magical Mystery Tour.  There are pagans on Beatles pilgrimages and Hindus taking root in her postindustrial landscape.  The one eternal is the Mersey, rising from the Rivers Goyt and Tame near Manchester and flowing into Liverpool Bay and the Irish Sea.  British manufacturing and empire were ascendant in the 19th century, when cotton imported from the American South via Liverpool was a raw material for Manchester’s textile mills.  But...

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