High On Life, Part 1 of 2
Annotations By :
Adrian Brown

Click Here for issue synopsis

Page 1

Ellesmere Port is a town "over the water" from Liverpool on a canal which leads into the Mersey.

You can read the Ellesmere Port Observer online.

It is possible that Liverpool's rubbish is taken by boat to the sewage works in the smaller town. There is certainly a vile smell from the nearby Stanlow oil refineries (which observant folks will have seen as the distant cityscape in Richard Stanley's "Hardware" film and older readers will remember from an OMD song).

It is important to enunciate "garbage barge" with a Scouse accent, approx. "Gaahrbij baahj". This boat trip is an obvious negation of the romanticised view of Liverpool depicted in the folk song "Ferry Across The Mersey" (G. Marsden).

"Palaver" is usually used meaning "fuss", but it specifically means "negotiating with the natives".

Note that John is wearing a donkey jacket. Not a trenchcoat. Hurrah !

The location of the Dock Road is fairly obviously near the Liverpool docks (the working ones, not the poncified shopping centre of the Albert Dock) there was a pub there that used to have a jazz band that played at my wedding.

The bus is passing the famous Liver Birds, which are on top of the Royal Liver Friendly Society building. They are made most famous by one of them appearing on the crest of the Liverpool FC shirt. And a seventies sitcom starring Nerys Hughes and Polly James. There are several virgins in Liverpool, but no honest blokes, as they are all lovable rogues.

Shame the bus isn't a number 29, because then I could do my budgie joke.

Page 2

Everton. That's really what it looks like.

Harland and Wolfes - they built a boat that sank. In revenge, the Tories closed the docks industry down. Listen to "Shipbuilding" by Elvis Costello or Robert Wyatt to understand this man's low mood.

Page 3

A reef knot is used for joining ropes and gets tighter when it is pulled. Right over Left, over and under, Left over Right, over and under. He'd have been better off using a timber hitch.

Page 4

Graffiti over John's shoulder says "Liverbad" which is a joke aimed at the local football team. Scout badge is of course a reference to the knot in the rope. Had he lived, this man would have failed on account of using the wrong knot. More graffiti, this time "Everton", which is the other, less successful, local football team also known as the Toffeemen after a famous sweet. Their fans probably made the above reference to "Liverbad".

Cheryl is expecting more Jehovah's Witnesses to be knocking at her door , as opposed to someone selling Jimi Hendrix records.

Page 5

Cheryl thinks John died 18 months ago, in the prison riot of Hard Time. Her daughter, Gemma, was very close to John.

"His Nibs" is a light-hearted reference to the man of the house. It may be a contraction of "His Nobleness".

Page 6

Council accommodation is prioritised on various categories of need. Rich people wanting to buy them in desirable areas can usually get a decent profit by doing a deal with incumbent residents.

It looks like Gemma forgot to write "Angleterre" on the postcard. Let's hear it for the French postal system !

Page 7

Cheryl is knocking back the cans of white wine.

There is a pub called The Glebe on County Road.

(Note from the Straight To Hell management here - it's starting to look like someone over at the Hellblazer offices is an Everton fan as not only do we have the anti-Liverpool FC slang mentioned a little while back but The Glib is a popular meeting place for the fans of Everton Football Club.

Funnily enough, we here at STH have been Toffs for over twenty years now!)

Page 8

Uncle Joe's cafe may well exist. Uncle Joe's mints certainly exist. "They keep you all aglow". This is a classic British Greasy Spoon cafe (pronounced "caff") hence the fried bread (yum).

Kirkby is a suburb of Liverpool. It is not very suburban.

John gets his first inkling that something is going on in his sister's block. He also gets his first introduction to Angie Spatchcock whose name means a bird that has been cut in half and grilled. Or a young chicken, depending on your cookery book. Her famous first words "You want some brown sauce on that ?" will be remembered for a long time. Brown sauce may be HP or Daddies, and is an excellent accompaniment to fried bread.

Page 9

Angie engages John in a manner that suggests she knows who he is.

Paul Daniels is Britain's top magician and TV performer. He was infamous for wearing a wig. Although he has long since abandoned it, since it is hard to be a master of illusion when your most obvious attempt at illusion is failing.

Page 10

Did anyone else look for a footnote saying something like "see earlier ish - Wascally Will" ?

Angie paraphrases John's own introductory words to Swamp Thing from his first speaking appearance.

Page 11

Mr Dunbar looks a classic dodgy chap, I bet the local kids make fun of him.

Page 12

Stiffie/ Stieff - German manufactured teddy bears from the early 20th Century, came to prominence in the 1990s when "Antiques Roadshow" unearthed one that made several thousand pounds at auction. My Dad made a nice sum by selling one at Sothebys.

John is singing the Talking Heads song "Road to Nowhere".

Page 13

The all-seeing annotations oracle has a question. Are those squiggles around the door some sort of sigil, do you think ? Incidentally, if she lives at the top of an eleven-floor block of flats, she's unlikely to live at number 20 but the block only seems to have two flats on each floor(I feel sad now, sadder than James Brown).

John Collier is the name of a gents' clothing chainstore. There's a joke about this, but suffice to say, this is John's equivalent of Chevy Chase's aliases in the "Fletch" films.

Page 14

Something wicked this way comes.

The first appearance of Angie's Utility Bag.

Page 15

Do people still drink milk stout in Liverpool ? Blimey. There is no milk in it.

The interaction between Tony and John here (and on pages 17 and 18) sums up what I like about the character that some people think is a two-dimensional bastard. They don't like each other, and John makes fun of Tony, but John still knows Cheryl cares for her husband and is affected by Tony's comments. Furthermore, John is quite sharp at noticing people's evil spirits and the like, but he need Tony to point out his own sister's dependence.

Temazepam, is a prescription only benzodiazepine tranquilliser. Actually intended as a night-time sedative, but is used illicitly because of the usual euphoric effect. If Cheryl's having two at the start of an evening in the pub, she's got quite a tolerance already.

Page 16

Like I said, there's more to Angie than a brown sauce waitress.

Page 17

Cheryl says it's got nothing to do with the flat, but the suicide at the start of the issue was infected with despair, and John says Mrs Wren's flat has "no fear, no madness". Maybe good vibes rise like hot air ?

Page 18

"You are not going to mock my faith. Outside now !" is priceless. Liverpudlian religion is strong whichever side of the sectarian divide.

Another note from the STH management - the following is an excerpt from a Mike Carey interview which pertains to the sectarian divide in Liverpool - "...To be serious, it's really organised religion that I hate. With a few honourable exceptions such as the Ba'Hai (probably misspelled) and the Quakers, most organised religious groups are intolerant, ignorant and vindictive. I know that religion can be a positive force at the personal level, but it has a tendency to be appallingly destructive at the social level. Sorry. That's just how I feel. I come from Liverpool, where the sectarian divide between Catholics and Protestants is almost as strong as it is in Northern Ireland - and before you ask, my dad was Catholic and my Mum was Anglican. So I've seen families torn apart by religion, and on one occasion I've seen a ten-year old girl getting pepper sauce thrown into her eyes because she was marching in costume in a religious pageant. I can't be doing with this stuff at all...". The full text of this interview is available here.

"Carry out" is take away food of course.

Page 19

For all her "peace and contentment", Mrs Wren is obviously aware of what's happening to Angie.

Page 20


Page 21

Now we know there's something going on in Elster Tower ...

Page 22

... but Angie's comments are just damn cryptic !

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