Heather and I spent a few days in Liverpool. We were supposed to go there to see Dave Gorman, following my long tradition of travelling to his shows. Unfortunately the venue had to cancel due to late-running refurbishment work, which left us going to Liverpool just for the fun (and seeing Dave later). First though we went to Chester.
We went to Chester first class on Virgin Trains, because it was cheaper than standard. The experience isn’t as nice as with East Coast though. Arriving in Chester we made our way to our favourite B&B to recuperate a little before the evening’s entertainment.
Of course we were in Chester to see
Richard and Caroline Joseph. We met up for dinner in the pub across the road, where we marvelled at Hungry House’s doughnut burger. Little Joe wasn’t having one of those though; he had fish fingers and chips with peas. I helped him eat them, though was only allowed to use a spoon to do so, forks being right out.
After he and the rest of us had our fill we headed off to the racecourse to see flashes and bangs. This was the annual bonfire night fireworks display, delayed from its traditional date of the 5th in order to fall on the weekend. A busy racecourse saw people enjoying fairground rides as well as the fireworks (the hook-a-duck for some reason didn’t have swimming ducks). There were two displays, a smaller and quieter “toddler’s display” came first which seemed to capture Joe’s attention. The second display involved the bigger bangs and grander fireworks, thankfully shunning the modern tendency to set them all to music (though at times they seemed a little uncoordinated with themselves). Joseph wasn’t so keen on the bigger version, though I’m told he settled down once Richard had taken him a bit further back. All in all worth the fiver entrance fee.
Richard and Caroline were kind enough to give us a lift back to the guest house and then Heather and I headed back to the Oaklands for a nightcap before bed.
We’d arranged to meet Richard and Caroline (and Joe of course!) in town and so after a typically lazy start to a Sunday we wandered down there. They found us sitting around the Coach House Inn (which struck us as one of these places trying to be fancier than it is) where we had wiled away time watching one of the obviously substance affected patrons.
The plan was to then wander round town and maybe find something to eat. I was getting distracted by the football however and got deposited in the Dublin Packet to keep me happy. I was expecting to meet up afterwards but it wasn’t too long before Heather joined me, the wanderings cut short by an obviously not well Joseph.
We did eventually meet up again, heading over to Richard & Caroline’s for the evening. Poor little Joe still wasn’t particularly well though and, after a lovely evening involving pizza, everyone was sleepy (me particularly!) and so off to be it was.
If we ever get there…
We were up bright and early to head to the proper part of our break, only to find the trains weren’t playing nice. There was nothing for it than to retire to the pub across from the station to wait it out. At least we found a quiz machine there to entertain us, at least until it got bored too and decided to refuse to take any more money. Eventually the trains did pull themselves together though, and so off to Liverpool it was.
A Fab Room and an Evening Wander
The trains had delayed us long enough that by the time we reached Liverpool we could actually check into the hotel. So it was we got of at Moorgate (wait, this isn’t the tube!) and walked around the corner to the hotel. The room certainly had a style, with silhouettes of the Beatles’ facial hair adorning the walls (the Beatles are of course inescapable in Liverpool). The en suite shower room was pretty obviously a pre-manufactured pod dropped into the room, which was a little disturbing (it leaves a step into it and the door is impossible to open or close quietly—not good with a sleeping partner in the middle of the night). Still the room was comfortable enough and the keycard acted as a (presumably RFID) fob rather than needing to be “swiped” which meant it didn’t fail once, which makes a nice change.
All refreshed we headed out into the city around us, winding around past Lime Street station, where we found a map for Heather, to look at St Georges hall and the nearby galleries before passing the memorial to the Hillsborough disaster. Hungry we went in search of food, passing our first lambanana (more to come later), obviously very dangerous as it was caged. We stopped off for some Italian food at Ask.
Filled we wandered more, taking in the already present Christmas decorations—there seemed to be a theme of giant reindeer. We popped into the Old Post Office but it was a bit local feeling and not as good as the one in Eltham. We left after a single drink, though at least we had fun watching the meeting in the opposite Quakers’ Meeting House, and made our way back around towards Lime Street. Unfortunately the Vines was playing loud and disturbing music as we passed, so we settled for the Crown instead.
It was getting late though, and there was a busy day ahead of us, so soon it was off to bed.
The morning saw us wander around the corner from the hotel to find the full size, original Superlambanana—the small one we past the previous night was one of the ones produced as Go Superlambanas for the European Capital of Culture celebrations (of course, IMHO NewcastleGateshead should have won the race to be the 2008 capital). We were impressed enough that I’d spend the rest of our time quietly singing “lamb-lamb-banananana”!
The Owl and the Cathedral
We left the half lamb, half banana behind and headed for our planned destination of Liverpool’s two cathedrals. On the way through town though we were delayed by a man, sheltering from the poor weather in a little alcove, holding an owl. This got Heather very excited, especially when it turned out that for a small donation one could hold and stroke the owl. So some time was spent with Heather balancing Tally (the owl) on her arm and gently stroking her, while chatting away to her carer.
Eventually Heather was dragged away (sans owl) and we made it up the hill to Liverpool’s modernist Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s a space I’ve liked ever since I first visited over ten years-ago (at an ISSC meeting in 2003, I think). The central lantern casts colours around the circular main space (which would have been much more impressive without the grey and rainy weather). We circled it, passing the almost standalone spaces around the perimeter, and then, while Heather went to investigate the huge undercroft beneath, I circled the outside. That meant I also got to watch some electricians close and open the great sliding doors across the front (which I hadn’t, until then, realised were doors).
The Pub and Other Cathedral
By the time we were done it was about lunch time and so there was really only one place to head. Part way down Hope Street, heading towards the second cathedral, we called into the Philharmonic Dining Rooms. The Phil is described by CAMRA’s historic pub interiors website as
the most spectacular pub in England – indeed, throughout the whole of the UK which is very difficult to argue with. Once past the beautifully ornate gates of the main entrance it is an amazing space. The food and beer were all right too.
We left the grandeur of the Phil behind and continued down Hope Street. There was the excitement of another Lambanana and then the interesting if somewhat random A Case History by John King. At the bottom of Hope Street the city’s huge Anglican Cathedral looms in its reddish sandstone. The gothic revival style gives it an appearance of being older than it is, something emphasised by the contrast with its modern cousin up the road.
Passing inside the cathedral does nothing to diminish its scale, great arching roofs high above supported by tall columns leave little of the human about it. I confess I found the whole thing too big, the vast space’s emptiness diffusing into me. There is even room for a bridge across the juncture of the nave and great space. The space does have some use; as we entered it looked like a choir were setting up for an evening performance and the practice of a soloist was beautifully conveyed by the great arching stonework. My favourite part though was the Lady Chapel, a much more human scaled adjunct which could almost be a small church in itself.
Another Quiz Machine
Emerging, passing by Tracey Emin’s For You glowing neon pink above the nave, back into the cold and dark evening, we found ourselves passing the city’s China Town, its impressively large gate illuminated in ever changing colours. The arts centre next door, itself a former church, is also an interesting looking building. We looped back round Lime Street, hoping again to investigate the Vines but its being closed forced us into the Crown again. From there we set off with the intention of rambling towards the Lion. We never made it that far though, calling in the Beehive before finding ourselves in the William Gladstone. There was a quiz machine. We got distracted for the rest of the evening, until bed time, never making it as far as the Lion after all.
To The Docks
On waking the next morning it was pretty obvious we hadn’t actually allowed ourselves enough time in Liverpool. As it was though we packed up and left our bags in the hotel before heading towards the docks. Our ramblings quite randomly took us past the Piazza Fountain (known as the Bucket Fountain), which we had to stop and admire. It’s a delightful kinematic sculpture by Richard Huws, a collection of steel welded buckets perpetually filling with water until their tipping point is reached, at which point the water flows into lower buckets or the pool below.
Leaving the fountain behind we reached the riverside and Liverpool’s most iconic vista, the triplet of the Cunard Building, Port of Liverpool Building, and, the most iconic of all, the Liver Building (not to mention the ventilation and control station for the Queensway Tunnel). It almost amuses me that the liver birds are chained down so they can’t leave and the city disappear.
We meandered around the famous buildings, marvelling at the sheer number of varied war memorials that occupy Pier Head. Much more jolly and exciting were the six lambananas ranged on either side of the Museum of Liverpool. We didn’t bother with the museum itself but did spend some time wandering around its gift shop acquiring things!
Around the Wheel and Home
We were running out of time, oh so little time, so sadly didn’t call into the Tate Liverpool when we passed it. We did call in the little gift shops next door though! Passing through the Albert dock we came to the Wheel of Liverpool which we decided we did have time for. It was a very quiet, empty wheel when we got on, spinning to the top where it paused with spectacular views across the centre of Liverpool on one side and the Mersey on the other. Around and around we went, which was fine but boring after about the third rotation. The bored looking operator seemed to have almost forgotten we were on until Heather caught his eye as we spun round the bottom for about the fifth time.
That was about it really. We started to make our way back to collect bags from the hotel, being treated to a really lovely rainbow as we did so. There was just time to admire some more of Liverpool’s architecture and then we were dragging cases back to Lime Street. There was a final lambanana to see us off at the Royal Court Theatre. We really didn’t want to go. Liverpool, we will be back.