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This article is taken from PN Review 111, Volume 23 Number 1, September - October 1996.

A Circumambulation of the Self Grevel Lindop

No game is ever finished. Once, in a poem called 'Games of Chance', I satirised the fashion for writing of one's parents, grandparents, ancestors as if they had lived only to furnish subject-matter for a short poem which would say the last word. In reality, people and places go on working in us long after we have left them or they us.

The story told in that poem (of my banker grandfather, at home during an illness in 1910, using a telescope to spy on the builders high up on the new cathedral and reporting their idleness to the contractor) is 'true': I heard it from my mother. Maybe it typifies also the confident, even aggressive Liverpool middle class in which my roots are embedded, the prosperous class of Liverpool's seaport heyday, of the imitation-Wren churches, the West India trade cargo ships, the banks and hotels and boardrooms with their mahogany panelling and cornucopia plaster ceilings lovingly shaped by the same mastercraftsmen who trimmed the saloons of the Cunard liners. My grandfather was manager of Gresham's bank (later Martin's, later Barclay's) in Bold Street; and his father was the once-famous Methodist preacher Charles Garrett, to whom Central Hall - a terracotta Byzantine basilica in Renshaw Street - had been built as a memorial. My two middle names are his names and I grew up in a house called 'Lynas' after the lighthouse you pass, northeast of Holyhead, as you leave the English coast for Ireland.


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