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Flash back: Our world; TALES FROM THE PAST.

Byline: Tom Slemen

FAR above the burning streets of Toxteth that July night in 1981, the eternal stars winked in the perfect silence of space. Carried downwind through the humid trees of Falkner Sguare by a zephyr, CS gas drifted with the smoke of upturned flaming cars and a blazing Shell filling station.

The distant stars of summer, meanwhile - Arcturus, Vega, Altair, Spica, Deneb and Regulus - glittered on regardless and sparkled in the eyepieces of a 12-year-old boy's binoculars. His brown eyes beheld the night-time show in the heavens, as he stood in the backyard of his home on Harlow Street while the Toxteth riots raged in the distance.

Dennis made the mistake of leaving the backyard that night to take a look at another part of the sky. A policeman saw the binoculars and assumed he'd stolen them. The black amateur astronomer explained they were his uncle's, but the disbelieving policeman grabbed them and tried to take him in.

The boy managed to run away. He fled down an alleyway as the policeman swore at him and kept running, even after he'd lost sight of the officer.

Dennis tried to get home, but each route took him into the crowds of rioters hurling petrol bombs at the police. He embarked upon a winding journey to Harlow Street, but found his way blocked by looters, so he decided he'd try and reach his married sister's home in Aigburth, even though he wasn't too sure what street she lived in.

Dennis walked along, heartbroken at the loss of his binoculars. He glanced skyward and stopped in his tracks as he saw a falling star. Then he took a wrong turning, lost his bearings and ended up in the Dingle.

As the ghostly ashen light of dawn filtered into the eastern sky, Dennis spotted a lonely out-of-place boy as young as himself. He was pale-faced, spectacled, with red untidy hair, and he wore a black blazer and blue pyjama bottoms. Dennis crossed the road to ask directionsto Aigburth Road, but the spectacled boy seemed afraid at his approach and he went to the door of a house and in a well-spoken voice, he nervously said: "I live here.'"Dennis knew he was lying and said: 'Well knock then.'

"My dad's a policeman,' replied the boy. "He isn't,' said Dennis, 'stop telling lies. What are you doing out this time in the morning, hey?"

The boy said he wasn't lying, but when Dennis shook his head and walked on, the boy said: "Aigburth Road is in the other direction."

Dennis told the boy what had happened; about the policeman taking his binoculars and the boy, who eventually gave his name as Alex, said he had left home because his mother and father were splitting up, and he had decided he'd rather "live off the land" than live with either one of them.

'My dad left me mum ages ago when I was a baby,' said Dennis and, full of pity, Alex offered him a Toffo. The boys walked off into the beginning of a new day and, as Dennis chewed on the toffee, he remarked to Alex: "You speak posh; where are you from?"

"Woolton,"Alex told him, annoyed at being regarded as posh. Dennis thinned his eyes as he estimated how far his new companion had walked. "You've come all the way from Woolton?"

Alex told him he had planned to somehow stow away on a ferry to Ireland or the Isle of Man.

Dennis was intrigued by this plan and he and Alex took a short cut down an alleyway. The boys came upon a section of crumbled wall in this alleyway, and through the large crack in the bricks, they beheld what seemed to be a forest...

Continued next week
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jul 7, 2007
Words:630
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