The International Center of Cultural Exchange and Diplomatic Friendship: Day 3.

Penny and Dan say that they’ve only ever seen Column once, from a distance, and only for a moment. I’m riding fast down towards the city when I experience a similar thing. A slight, winding, dark grey line appears in my peripheral vision, but when I turn my head to look, it’s gone. As I get closer to town I see some anti-abortion activists outside the university. I stop and speak to them. One of my favourite things to do with anti-abortionists is to tell them that I think abortion should be mandatory unless you get a special licence to have a kid. The person I’m speaking to asks me how people would get a licence and I say that they’d have to complete gameshow style, physical challenges. Maybe like that weird show The Cube, presented by Philip Schofield. He says he doesn’t know the show so I spend five minutes describing it before he twigs that I’m either taking the piss or mental. He points at a police officer watching us and asks me to leave.

By the time I get to the docks the sun has started to set. I take a look across the water but can’t see anything. I figure I’ll go into one of the galleries and ask about it. Apparently different weather conditions affect it in different ways so I guess it’s best to ask instead of just wandering up and down the docks in the cold.
  I walk towards the Cunard Building where one of the exhibitions is happening. When I approach reception, there are two people there. A young, pretty girl, with a soft face, VOLUNTEER printed on her T-shirt, and a lanyard around her neck, and then an older, more authoritative looking woman with long frizzy hair. The older woman looks up at me first.

‘Hi, do you know where the column is?’
[Recognisably North American accent]
‘The water?’
‘I think so - on the water, Anthony McCall.’
‘Well, there you go’
[She grabs a Biennial guide and starts jabbing her finger at the little map on the inside cover.]

‘Have you ever seen it?’ I ask
‘Not to my knowledge.’
[I laugh but I don’t know what she means.]

‘He’s here you know.’
‘Who, the artist?’
‘Could be, could be someone who works for him’
[She says this conspiratorially, making eyes at some of the visitors in the gallery space, I look around but none of them look like the photo of the artist I saw on the internet.]

[She turns back to the map and points her finger at a point further up the docks.]
‘Here we go, just make sure you close your eyes.’
‘Amazing, thanks very much’
‘Yeah, because this is where we are, and that’s the Museum of Liverpool, and there is Open Eye Gallery…’
[She is moving her hand back and forth across the map, pointing at different Biennial locations.]
‘Ahh, thanks that’s amazing yeah.’
‘And this is the Walker Gallery, and this is where we are…’

This carries on and I start to move away from the desk nodding and saying, ‘Ahhh, yeah thanks that’s great, cheers, that’s perfect’, just before I turn around the younger woman with the soft face and the lanyard catches my eye and mouths something at me. I can’t tell what it is, but it looks like ‘Snot wheels, never wasp.’
  I look at her and make a subtle but clear indication with my face that she should mouth it again because what I think she mouthed makes no sense at all, but she shakes her head and her eyes look sad and I feel ashamed that I couldn’t understand what she wanted to communicate. The North American lady laughs and says, ‘Remember to close your eyes.’
  I head back to the docks, to where she pointed on the map. A porter from the Museum of Liverpool smokes and stares at me with barely concealed hatred. I look across the Mersea, to the sky above a cooling tower where Column should be. There is nothing. I search up and down the clouds, sweep my gaze across the old industrial landscape, empty of people. It’s funny in a way, because I guess when Liverpool was an industrial city or whatever then there would have probably been clouds of smoke rising up from everywhere, all the factories and stuff. I get my phone out and try to zoom in on the sky with the camera, hoping to some wispy traces; anything. All I get is a pixellated screen of clouds. I take some photos but they are just blurry grey, tinged pink by the setting sun.