It seemed obvious retracing the route I’d taken might provide an answer how I got back so quickly to ours and maybe even a clue why the hell I’d gone down Plimsoll Street in the first place but when I now wound back to a little earlier I was stunned to find myself entering Plimsoll from Hawthorn Grove a route I’d NEVER take not only because accessing it required going out your way but using it made you even more vulnerable to the Gargoyle Brothers.
Winding back a little further though I now became all the more bemused to realise I hadn’t as I’d supposed entered Hawthorn cutting in at Dorothy Street’s Wavertree Road end but via the Gladstone Road end spectacularly hurtling round the corner almost completely rotated on my side not so much running as diving my shoulder dipped so low to the ground I all but grazed my cheek on the pavement my concern to avoid crashing face first in the gutter abruptly overridden by my sudden confusion I no longer knew where I was followed by stunned incomprehension why I was no longer running up London Road then shocked realisation I was staring at exactly the same shiny wet blue-black glassy-metallic Victorian basalt cobblestone cubes I’d only moments before started frantically rifling through my earliest childhood videos for giving me the eerie sense all the chaotic emotions provoking and indeed provoked by my newfound obsession with cobblestones might’ve somehow opened out a window onto that particular period.
But when I now tried winding back to the moment where I should’ve been coming along Dorothy before turning into Hawthorn I was startled to find myself coming along London Road instead and at seemingly the precise moment I’d first started using all those early childhood videos of cobblestones to wall out something my mind found so unbearable I couldn't admit to myself I was doing any such thing which possibly also explain why I didn’t seem to’ve recorded myself running up Pembroke Place passing the School of Tropical Medicine on my right and the Dental College the Royal Hospital and the blood bank place on my left not to mention all the other buildings and roads between there and Hawthorn Grove.
There was also of course the possibility their absence was merely some sort of artefact resulting from me processing the videos in reverse order but when I now tried things from the other direction the video still simply segued from London Road straight into me crashing round the corner into Hawthorn.
But there was also the fact me Mum’d been diagnosed as a petit mal sufferer meaning another perfectly feasible possibility was somewhere along the way I too could’ve blacked out ONLY coming to on reaching Hawthorn.
Yet all these hypotheses were seemingly ruled out by the inexplicably tiny amount of time it’d taken me to cover a distance which even in good weather should’ve taken me a good ten minutes nonstop running.
And even while I’d been heading down Plimsoll to ours almost propelled there by these peculiar waves of invincible optimism continually surging UP through me my chief concern hadn’t been what to do about the Gargoyle Brothers when I finally turned the corner into ours but with try’n’o convince myself it was perfectly feasible the freezing wind and the icy rain could’ve caused my watch to stall only for the period between London Road and Hawthorn and equally credible that unwittingly smacking it against something while hurtling into Hawthorn could’ve caused it to inadvertently wind back ten minutes (though given the conditions it had to’ve taken far longer than that).
But in between continually checking whether my watch’d finally confirmed it was on the blink yet or burying myself ever more deeply under ever higher mountains of childhood cobblestones another set of quite different images kept disrupting all my efforts to convince meself nothing out the normal’d taken place intermittently goading me to deny Pembroke Place wasn’t by any means the first place which'd vanished on me.
For instance back in the early Seventies when I was about thirteen I had a friend called Vinnie whose mum used to have him deliver sums of money to her cousin once a week only on this particular occasion in spite of taking the exact same route we always took and turning off Lodge Lane at the exact same point we always turned off his auntie’s house and street’d apparently vanished off the face of the Earth.
The thing to bear in mind about Boswell Street was it was probably the most easily visually identifiable and frequently visited street in the entire neighbourhood because not only was it where the most easily accessible letterbox was to be found but in those days you’d’ve been lucky to see one or two cars parked in any of the other local streets whereas Boswell wasn’t just lined with end to end cars but any spaces left were filled with caravans and even trailer mounted yachts.
In fact it was suddenly becoming aware they were missing as we made our way down the hill which caused me to observe to Vinnie we seemed to’ve picked the one time to visit Boswell when everyone’d in the street’d simultaneously decided to take all their cars caravans and yachts away for the weekend provoking his equally mystified observation how could that be since it was still actually only the middle of the week?
And even though our doubts’d continued growing all the way there it still shocked us to our core when we finally reached his auntie’s and it WASN’T his auntie’s or rather didn’t APPEAR to be because the theory I now quickly cobbled together was since they were supposedly minted maybe they’d had their front remodelled.
After momentarily frowning at me for bringing up the subject of family wealth Vinnie now snapped well they weren’t so minted they’d’ve been able to afford to remove the entire front of the building and replace it with something which didn’t even look like it’d seen a lick of paint in years but as I pointed out its oddly shadowy colourless appearance might simply be due to the fact we weren’t used to seeing it that way add to which the sun seemingly going down much earlier than normal might also be contributing to the unusual lighting conditions.
It made perfect sense to me at least Vinnie should knock just in case but he now insisted if someone answered the door with a face he couldn’t recognise he’d not only feel dead embarrassed but be completely tongue-tied whereas since according to him I was celebrated for me brazenness and me ability to think on me feet I shouldn’t have any such problems.
The problem with this idea though was since I always waited outside while he went in I didn’t have a clue what any of his auntie’s family actually looked like hence the plan now became I’d knock on the door then the moment someone answered it I’d immediately step to one side to give him a chance to sneak a good look at their faces from behind a nearby privet hedge and if it was someone he knew then he’d simply step out and take over.
But the strange shadowy looking oddly colour drained person who finally came to the door stared at me with such intense suspicion as if I was the weird looking one I instantly knew unless Vinnie’s auntie was married to Herman Munster we didn’t just have the wrong house or the wrong street but maybe even the wrong parallel universe.
But of course I could always’ve been mistaken hence my now taking a surreptitious glance back towards the hedge to try to evaluate the gormless expression I expected to see on Vinnie’s pale bespectacled face only to find somewhat infuriatingly he’d done a runner leaving me to explain to the now not just deeply suspicious but simmeringly aggressive householder how it’d come about me and my no longer present mate’d mistakenly knocked on his door at which point I quickly scarpered myself and started frantically looking up and down the street for Vinnie until he finally sheepishly appeared from behind another hedge with eyebrows raised and petrified look on his face suggesting he too’d started wondering whether we’d inadvertently stumbled onto the set of a Hammer horror film.
And I don’t know whether it was the sun seemingly starting to set way too early or the oddly unnerving overcast sky conditions or maybe even something like electricity discharging from the street lights but there was definitely something increasingly weird and almost oppressive not only about the street itself but also its actual inhabitants and even though the pair of us seemed strangely wary of emitting so much as a squeak we only had to look at each other out the corner of our eyes to know we both felt ourselves not only being spied on from behind every set of closed curtains or from the back of every darkened room but also being finally evaluated judged and condemned hence when this strange looking middle-aged guy appeared from nowhere with this weird looking little dog on a leash only to come to a dead stop and turn to abruptly glare at us as if WE were the Martians we both experienced a collective silent shriek roar at us get out ! Get out NOW! The authorities’re on their way!
And that was it.
The pair of us now just bolted hell for leather up the street feeling such relief when we finally reached the top because not only could we start breathing again but there was no bright red pillar box on the corner which meant we hadn’t been in Boswell Street at all.
No wonder it’d seemed so strange!
But as we now stepped back onto Lodge Lane where everything suddenly became so much brighter almost as if it was still much earlier in the day and surveyed the many very familiar landmarks all around us by way of working out where Boswell Street was we realised Boswell Street HAD to be right where we were standing!
More deeply confused than ever we now began to panic because how the hell were we go’n’o explain any of this to Vinnie’s mum?
Yet wasn’t it possible all the other times we’d been visiting his auntie’s the pair of us’d been yacking so much we’d never actually noticed where Boswell Street REALLY was?
Or wasn’t there that program called Candid Camera which pulled tricks on people like switching the nameplates of streets then filming the ensuing chaos for TV?
Then again everyone knew the local council were a bunch of real jerks who’d use any excuse to spend money and if they hadn’t done something so outrageous as literally dig up the streets and switch them around it wasn’t beyond the bounds of possibility they’d decided to change the streets’ names without telling anyone.
Anyway Vinnie now raced one street ahead and came back looking completely crushed so I raced one street back and returned not too surprised but still utterly mystified how any of this was possible especially with a civilian along.
“Oh god this’s bad so bad so very very bad!” Vinnie wailed almost tempting me to give him a movie style slap across the chops to calm him down until he now gave me a figurative one by blurting out “Me Mam already says you’n’your kid’re bad influence on me’n’our kid and now she’ll never let us go on any more messages with yous ever again and I can’t bare it because yous always manage to make everything seem somehow less black or less borin’!”
Suppressing the urge to take offence I now responded “All we do’s teach yous life can be more fun than she wants yous to believe and t’go in Jack’s shop an’ ask for Bum-Dicks instead of Drumsticks or Gleeblies instead of Climpies…”
“…or Arse Bars instead o’ Mars Bars…See…y’doin’ it again…I’m laughin’ instead o’ cryin’!”
“Look we’re both grammar schoolboys and we’ve both passed our Eleven Pluses so all we need do now’s prove none of this’s down to us arsing and we really did seriously look for Boswell Street or rather we should now be looking for that red letterbox because for all we know maybe the Post Office’s moved it to a new street or maybe they’ve just taken it completely away and even y’mum’d never find y’auntie’s that easily without that!”
So Vinnie now ran one street ahead of us again but instead of running back to tell me the postbox wasn’t there this time he stayed put and made a huge exaggerated dipping motion with his arm to signify thumbs down followed by me doing the same in the opposite direction.
Then he ran ahead to the next street on and made the same dipping gesture with his arm only this time with his blond head despairingly dipping too hence I now made the exact same equally pointless gesture of running to the next street on in the opposite direction only to send precisely the signal we both knew I would.
And we kept doing this until we ran out of streets at which point we switched ends and repeated the whole cycle.
Then just in case the reason we kept missing the red pillarbox was because only one of us at a time was doing the checking we worked our way down those streets as a pair.
But much to me and Vinnie’s surprise his mum calmly took his word for it there’d been no messing about but insisted he must go back to his auntie’s with the money this time accompanied by his dad though instead of me and to Vinnie’s extreme bemusement Boswell Street was exactly where it was supposed to be as was the red pillarbox.
And to the best of my knowledge it’s still there to this day.
Ditto Pembroke Place.