Thursday, 10 September 2009

Bold passage

There was in the 1990s a well-loved BBC series called Goodnight, sweetheart.

The plot of each episode was more or less irrelevant (to me); what I - and, I suspect, many other viewers - found so fascinating was the basic premise of the series: a young man, living in London in the early 1990s, strays into a backstreet and finds himself in - 1940. 

What makes the story even more interesting is the fact that he can walk in and out of 1940 as he pleases: the "passage" is open all the time, in both directions (although he seems to be the only one benefitting from it).

What I didn't know at the time, is that the series was supposedly (or so I was told) inspired by a series of apparently real incidents that, again supposedly, happened on the - now almost famous - Bold Street, in Liverpool.

The most widely publicised of these incidents is said to have happened one Saturday in July 1996 (so it could not have inspired the series, which started in 1993). The accounts vary (here is a nice version of the story; and here is another one). The story was originally told during a radio programme, either by the man who experienced it (that's one version I've heard) or, more likely, by Tom Slemen

It appears that this man- a Merseyside policeman (off duty at the time of the incident) - and his wife were shopping in central Liverpool. Near the Central Rail Station the couple parted company: the wife went to the Dillons bookshop (to buy Trainspotting, the novel) and he went to a nearby shop selling CDs.
Approximately twenty minutes later the man left the store and headed back towards Bold Street, to meet with the wife.

As he was walking up the incline near the Lyceum Post Office, he suddenly felt as if he had stepped into an "oasis of quietness". Then he heard loud honking: a small boxvan - a veritable antique on wheels, with the inscription
Caplan's - narrowly missed him. At the same time he noticed that the street pavement had changed its appearance: in fact, all of the sudden he found himself standing in the middle of the road.

As he looked around, in a state of utter confusion, he noticed that people were dressed in a distinctly old fashioned manner; their clothes seemed like relics from the 1940s or early 1950s. And when he looked towards the bookstore where his wife was supposed to be shopping, he noticed that the sign Dillons had disappeared - the store displayed the name Cripps, and it didn't seem to be selling books at all: there were ladies' shoes and handbags in the windows.

Then - much to his relief, I imagine - the policeman saw a girl wearing a distinctly NOT "vintage" attire: a lime green sleeveless top and an unmistakably modern handbag. She was heading towards Cripps.
He followed her and saw her stop in her tracks before reaching the shop (some accounts say she did enter the shop and then came out): the ladies' outfitters shop had "changed" back to a bookstore. Dillons was there once again, along with the rest of 1996.

"Did you see that?!" the policeman is said to have said to her.
"Yeah," said the girl. "What was that? I thought they were selling clothes, but now I see it's a bookshop... Weird."

Weird, indeed - and on more than count. Such "hybrid" timespace displacements, with mingling of people from different eras, are seldom heard of (but not totally unheard of, witness this head scratching-inducing story.)

Later it turned out that other people had experienced unsettling temporal and/or spatial displacements around the same area.
More on that some other time. 

And by the way, since Dillons has been defunct since 1999, I am sure many people would love it if the bookshop reappeared again - or at least be comforted, as the many grateful customers of old Cripps are, by the thought that, somewhere in time, it still exists... :)

For more - many, many more - reports of goings-on along this street, go here.

If you want to report a perceived dimensional anomaly, please do, but read this first.

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