I watch as the ships come gliding in from the darkened Mersey that guides them home. The noise and shouts of men fill the air as the dock awaits its newest treasures. I see the giant sails vanish as the ship settles into the dock and an air of excitement can be felt. I love this moment as I hide behind the barrels on the waterfront to smell and see the fortunes within. My feet are cold and dirty and I shiver with the freezing winter, but the excitement keeps me alert. I pray a bag is open as sometimes the men throw me some exotic morsel that I can only dream of. The smell of spices and cocoa fills the air as the sacks are taken by hundreds of men to be put onto wagons and barges to go out of the city.
The whole world is here before me. The ships from all around a world I will never see, but whose exciting stories I dream of every night to take me out of this hunger and poverty that is my life. I see the ivory and horns from animals I can only imagine in my wildest fantasies. I see cotton and tea and silks that I have heard comes across vast oceans to get here to be made into fancy clothes that I will never wear.
From where I am hiding, I see rich men in grand clothes watching their wares unloaded, hardworking men with backs breaking to do their long days work. There is a shout goes up across the men. Have I been seen? For a moment I cannot move with fear. I’m too weak to run and too tired to take a beating from these rich men with their ivory walking sticks, or from the dockmaster with his hands as big as shovels. But it is not me that should be scared. Two men have been found taking goods from the store and the dockmaster is calling for the peelers. I feel sorry for them. My dad waits at the dock gates each morning to see if he can get work. But often he is turned away so we struggle to eat. They are probably just trying to feed their kids, just like me.
As evening descends, the docks grow quiet, and the men roll off to the many pubs on the waterfront, to spend the hard-earned wages. It’s safe for me to crawl out of my space now. I scrape up a handful of dust from the floor and hold it close. My ma will be happy that I have some tea and some crumbs of food given to me by one of the kind dock men. So now I go home and wait for Liverpool to come to life again in a few hours, as the ships line up for the Canning Dock for the next treasures to be unloaded.