Rina Wolfson

I’ll never walk alone thanks to Liverpool FC

As my brain tries to make sense of my recent cancer diagnosis, those formative Liverpool years carry more weight and meaning

July 02, 2020 14:29

When I was young, actually for most of my childhood, there was an unbroken rhythm to the year. As day follows night, the cycle of the year was constant and dependable. And for most of my formative years, the annual calendar of fixed celebrations went something like this:

September: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succot. December: Chanukah. March: Purim. April: Pesach. June: Liverpool win the football.

Liverpool winning the football occurred with such regularity that I honest-to-God believed it was a fixed event in the calendar. An annual fixture, celebrated and observed like clockwork, every year.

Just as there were set customs for celebrating the religious festivals, so too the football victory brought with it unbreakable rituals. We’d all of us — the whole family — stand outside the house, in LFC scarves and t-shirts, and wait for hours for the football bus to drive past.

The open-top double decker, with the players waving and shaking the silverware in front of jubilant crowds, would drive past our house on Queens Drive with the frequency and dependability of a religious festival.

To my childish brain, raised in a religious home in which ritual and custom were second nature, the annual football celebration felt as constant and important as the major religious festivals that gave the year meaning and purpose.

In later years, when the domestic trophies dried up, football retained its semi-religious stature. There wasn’t a family wedding or barmitzvah that didn’t include a heartfelt rendition of You’ll Never Walk Alone, belted out by three generations of Wolfsons, with the fervour and reverence usually reserved for liturgy.

I say this to explain that, whilst I don’t follow the ups and downs of the football season with anything like regular interest, and despite the fact that I’ve never actually been to see a live football match, winning the Premier League this week really matters.

It brought back powerful memories of my childhood, of the whole family standing in front of the house, waving and cheering. Of a pride and shared love for a team. Of a pride and love for a city.

Most of all, it brought back memories of Liverpool. It’s probably unsurprising that I’m in an increasingly reflective state of mind. As my brain tries to make sense of my recent cancer diagnosis, I find myself remembering long-forgotten people and places. Suddenly, those formative Liverpool years carry more weight and meaning.

We are probably all of us influenced by the place we were born and raised. For me, Liverpool was the city that raised me.

Liverpool in the 80s was a complex place. Politically unstable, economically fragile, it felt as though our city had become the poster child for a broken Britain, misunderstood and unfairly maligned by the media.

But growing up in 80s Liverpool was magical. We had a pride in our city that was unbreakable, a loyalty to it and a love for it that was boundless. London could keep its Buckingham Palace and its Big Ben. We had the Albert Dock, the International Garden Festival, Calderstones Park, two cathedrals, St Georges Hall. We knew that however the city was portrayed in the news, Liverpool was beautiful and wonderful and fantastic.

And my tiny corner of the city, the couple of blocks between Queens Drive, Dunbabin Road and Beauclair Drive was especially fantastic. On a single block, my primary school, high school, synagogue and community centre were all a stone’s throw from my house.

This was where I made my first friendships, learnt my earliest life lessons, made the choices that mapped out the rest of my life.

I know a childhood can be remembered through rose (or, in my case, red) coloured spectacles. I know that no city is perfect.

But, from my vantage point now, looking back and taking stock, it was as near to perfect a place to grow up as you’ll ever find.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see Liverpool win the Premier League again. And I don’t say that because I have Stage Four cancer. It’s taken us 30 years to win this title. You might not live to see it again either.

But, like the religious festivals that mark the year, that turn and return with dependable regularity, Liverpool winning the League reminds me that whatever happens, whatever the future holds, there are things in life that are constant and unchanging. And I find that incredibly comforting.

Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, you’ll never walk alone.

Rina Wolfson blogs at ‘Nobody Needs Another Cancer Diary’ on Facebook

July 02, 2020 14:29

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