West Kirby: The Jekyll and Hyde of Wirral

West Kirby? Surely not! After all isn’t this the self-declared ‘St. Ives of the North’. A place on the coast boasting breath-taking sunset views, trendy bars, restaurants, opulence and all that is to be envied? Some would have you believe this town is a buzzing cosmopolitan settlement awash with millionaires driving supercars along the promenade or some funky artsy community grooving to their own trendy tune.

Intoxicating Veneer

A leisurely walk around the town in the glorious haze of a summer’s day may give you this impression as you soak up the bars, cafes, trendy nick-nack shops and so on, but beneath this intoxicating veneer there are layers waiting to be pulled back.

It’s true the town has a bit more wealth than other places on the Wirral, no disputing that. However, the sense of superiority this creates is an ugly facet that sneers down at others who are perceived not to fit in.

A façade of sophistication

West Kirby, or Wekka to some, is a town rife with small mindedness, conservatism and casual xenophobia hiding behind a façade of sophistication. At other times it’s a laughable pretence to being something it is not that reveals the ***** in the armour. Allusions and aspirations to be some coastal centre for cuisine excellence or funky hang-out for upper class foodies are dashed as the town is invaded by hordes of boozed up teenagers at the weekend.

Or perhaps the wannabe metropolitan loftiness of a new trendy watering hole-come-eatery collides with reality as it finds itself squeezed in between the flats and shops, and looks out directly into someone’s bathroom or perhaps the drinks terrace is perched above a noisy mechanic’s workspace.

Upper Manhattan this ain’t.

Ordinary and run-of-the-mill

Even when it gets a mention in the Guardian newspaper as a desirable place to live, places singled out as beacons of attractiveness are in fact are ordinary and run-of-the-mill that wouldn’t get a second look if there were located a few miles away. One of the town’s groovy breakfast cafés sits nestled amid the semi-dereliction of the railway station. On warm days diners sip coffee, scroll on their phones and eat with friends blissfully unaware of the potential avalanche of pigeon droppings that lies heaped above them on the dilapidated roof.

A (now closed down) Sushi bar that opened up with great aplomb and attempted to bring sophisticated Japanese dining to the town, had to accept the inevitable after a few weeks. The manager was forced place a hand written note in the window offering a pensioners’ breakfast special of tea and toast on certain mornings – so much for fine dining Nippon style..!

But it’s not all about food.

Sophisticate Knuckle Draggers

If you look a bit different, you stick out like a sore thumb. Sure, this isn’t a large metropolitan area enriched by a diverse cosmopolitan population – there’s nothing wrong with that. However, it’s the small mindedness this encourages that is wrong. Like much of Merseyside, de rigueur dress in town consists of a shaven (or bald) head, being middle aged, pot bellied and wearing a rugby top. Look like that and it’s your passport to normality. If you have any flair, individuality or ‘otherliness’ about you, expect unwelcome attention from the sophisticate knuckle draggers pointing and laughing at you through the window of a trendy restaurant.

In spite of such challenges, the town does have a noble cadre of eccentrics doing their thing who can tune out the white noise of the surrounding acceptable normality. These musicians, artists, beatniks and so on give the town some much needed actual individuality that all the bars and restaurants cannot deliver.

Yet all is not lost, and the meeting point for these two worlds is a craft beer bar on the main road – hipsters quaff exotic IPAs while boozed up middle age men fall about the place in a haze of weekend over drinking.

There is hope.

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