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was something in the air and, for a few moments, I became a better Andrew Lees, a no-nonsense libertine who lived for the weekend, appreciated the importance of humour and loved the sound of breaking glass. The sweet sadness of that wonderful afternoon was forcing me to go in search of a part of myself that lingered in the fragments of another life.

There were more cars and many of the houses now had satellite dishes and burglar alarms. The smells of brawn, stale ale and the dust of Woodbine tobacco had lifted. There were no urchins playing in the streets, but the pubs had become less barred. The bookshop window on Westfield was full of fables. Unauthorised oaks had formed a copse where the pit once stood, and on Cowley Hill Lane a peppered moth had turned white, asleep on lichened bark. But deep down, nothing had changed. The bones of Jesus lay undisturbed in the carboniferous swamps and light still shone from the earth. Creation had achieved in St Helens what evolution was afraid of.

In the Toast House, not far from where my mother had bought me miniature Hovis loaves, I pulled from my wallet a faded photograph of four small boys posing in a midden behind a line of terraced houses. I was on the far right, wearing a short-sleeved Viyella shirt and Windsor Woolies. Howard Railton had a patch over his eye and knee-length striped socks, and sported a discarded trilby. In his hands were a shield and a stump. Next to him was Peter Cale, dressed in


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