A German Sub that used to sit on the dockside of the East Float
I can see that the bus is full but the driver pulls up anyway. The queue of commuters ahead of me is slowly absorbed until the vehicle is packed tight enough for it to feel like we have been poured into a mould. There is a thick scent of Monday morning, cigarettes, coffee, breakfast and the poison created when all are mixed with the miasma of competing perfumes and aftershave. It is still a little before nine when we reach the city centre.
I get off the bus a couple of stops before the terminus to avoid being swept into an office job by the wave of workers that will eventually crash through the doors as the bus finally draws to halt. A few people followed me and then disperse amongst the glass doorways anointed by brass plaques. When I reach the docks I am alone save for a man wearing a captain’s hat and carrying a brief case, he descends a set of stone steps and boards what looks like a large sailing barge before disappearing below deck.
By the time I reach the Pier Head and the ferry terminus the rush hour is over and I am the only passenger to board from the Liverpool side of the river. In the lounge bar an oversized child of man is returning back over the water having just come along for the ride, he paces needlessly clutching a plastic bag as if it held some indescribable value.
Facing into the flooding tide the boat growls its engines to make headway from the landing stage. The course is set over the narrowest gap between the shores lines a little under a mile, but what a mile. The water here runs near constantly at speeds over five knots pausing briefly as the tide turns and with it the direction of flow. Apart from the speed and movement the colour of the river is a little more daunting varying between soft grey and muddy brown. This isn’t dirt in the dirty sense of the word but silt stirred up by the surge of the tides.
The ferry lands clumsily and I leave the man-child to ride out the day on the river and make my way to the East Float part of a vast dock network that was once an natural inlet of the Mersey, the river I have just crossed.
I last fished here when I was kid using garden worms for bait. Today I am spin fishing even though the water is too murky and my lure would probably only hook into a fish by pure fluke. Even so it is not long after nine and I am holding a fishing rod while decent folk are at work. A lot has gone from here the docks are no longer enclosed by warehousing and cranes but by naked concrete pads as vast as the water. I move freely where the cancer of fencing and barbed wire has yet to gain a foothold but it is to no end. I leave after a couple of hours empty handed but proud that I had kept a promise I had made to myself to fish on Monday mornings at nine am.
On the landing stage again an old guy spots my fishing rod and asks if I had had any luck. And so we fall into talk about fishing, the docks, the river, cod, dabs, and a sea trout he caught off the dock wall. I tell him about the fishing on the island I used to live on and that the water that was clean down until the light ran out. As the ferry moves down the river on its longer route to take in another landing stage he points out fishing marks and the routes of the shipping channels, and where he moored his boat before his wife made him get rid of it.