(trip report on Liverpool & Chester) Guest writer :  Les

Scoused, soused and Yanked by Liver Birds.

Life goes on day after day

Hearts torn in every way” – ‘Ferry cross the Mersey‘ – ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers.’

“Liverpool ONE”.

The destination board on the front of the bus flashed just a little too brightly for my liking in the growing gathering murky Merseyside skies that threatened ‘a hard rains gonna fall.’ (The rain came down later that afternoon too for the Scouse football fans. The sign could have read Liverpool ONE, Man. Utd. 2)

And fall it would, as if Niagara herself had been towed Eastwards from three and a half thousand miles away behind my American friends London bound plane and she would then dump herself over this North-West area of the British Isles, which she duly did with the worst rainstorm to hit this land in thirty years.

But for now it was just the odd spot of rain that was trying to force its way through the still gently glowing skies and so for the moment it was just a mild midday threat this Sunday 23rdSeptember 2012 as I strolled through the heart of Liverpool ONE to meet a ‘Baltimore ‘bird’ (*) Jeannette, who was on a flying visit with three of her ‘sisters’, Kelly, Pat and Ellen, from the US of A, the three of them here for a few days to see the city that gave birth to ‘four lads who shook the world’.

‘The Beatles’. (‘De’ Fabs’ as scousers call them.)

(*) ‘bird’ in Scouse is a girl.

I had never been to Liverpool, never come close in fact and though I was aware that the city had changed so much this last ten years or so, I still had an unwarranted prejudicial view of the place, to me it was still an old Dockers city, rough and ready, a watch your step, watch your back kind of place. When I said to some workmates that I was meeting the sisters in Liverpool they said, ‘Liverpool? Why Liverpool?’ The Beatles I said, what more reason do you need?

“Az if”, they may have said (“Az if” – scouse for ‘I don’t believe that’.)

So I was just a little wary as I set off, as it turned out, way too early on Sunday morning on the road to Merseyside. Early because I had noticed the previous night that Liverpool were playing their arch enemies Manchester United on Sunday. Just my luck! The roads will be chock-a-block. So in my wisdom I set off from home at 9. 15 am, hoping to hit the Royal Nelson Hotel by 12 30, giving me time to check in, park the car and stroll to the Albert Docks where the Magical Mystery Tour would begin.

Well the drive was fine, the roads were fine and the extra traffic I anticipated was non-existent and so I arrived at 11 30 am, with time to kill. The hotel seemed good and I got my first real taste of a‘scouse’ accent from the female hotel receptionist. I was too early to check in to the room and she said there was no sign of four American birds, sorry ladies, yet, so I parked up at the nearby Liner Hotel (£6 for 24 hours for non-residents) put a few things in a flight bag, checked out the rolling skies and decided to ‘bundle up’ not really knowing whether the ‘plan’ would come together and I would be out in the howling gales and heavy rain that was promised later. In fact, what I was wearing were two ‘vests’, a‘Baltimore Ravens’ T-shirt, a thick (and I mean thick!) woollen jacket, topped off with a hooded sleeveless jacket. I was 20 pounds heavier than my body weight and looked like a man in serious need of a diet.

I paid the Liner Hotel receptionist my £6, signed the book with name, address and car registration number, asked how long I had to park before getting out (24 hours) and strolled off, anticipating returning later that afternoon to check in properly at the Lord Nelson and unpack the rest of my clothes from the trunk of the car.

Little did I know.

Liverpool was blood red by then. Everywhere I went I saw red, T-shirts were red, scarves were red, bags were red, hats were red, faces were red, everything was doused in red. Maybe some of the redness in their faces was due to the freshening breeze that was blowing off the Mersey. Liverpool fans were everywhere, like the red diamond and hearts sections of a pack of playing cards scattered after a game of poker, men, women and children were littered all around the Royal Nelson Hotel, queuing for taxi’s, hopping on to buses or walking to where they would worship their Gods of choice at their own sacred Temple, Anfield Football Stadium. There was an atmosphere about the place, excitement, anticipation. I felt it too.

The road drifted downwards from the Royal Nelson past the Railway Station, Lime Street, which features in the song that John Lennon’s mum Julia, introduced to John and which is about a Liverpool whore,“Maggie May” and which mentions Lime Street in the chorus. The song is a traditional Liverpool seaman’s song and makes up part of the soundtrack to the film “Nowhere Boy”, about, at least mainly about John Lennon’s teenage years, pre-Beatles.

The road opened up in front of me and a big Beatles guitar chord hit me.

“CHAAAAANG!!”

16 Corinthian columns stared me in the face, flanking the side of a huge Greek neoclassical building. I had never been here, but somehow I knew this place. Of course, I know what this is, this is where the opening scene from ‘Nowhere Boy’ was shot, mimicking the opening scene from the Beatles film, ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ and that opening chord is from the song of the same name. In ‘Nowhere Boy’ a young Lennon is seen running through the colonnades accompanied by the scream of invisible adoring girl fans, but then he wakes up, he’s in a dream, only its more like a premonition.

I walked around the outside of this magnificent building, ‘St. Georges Hall’ and there’s a beautiful elegant war memorial there too and wedding cars waiting for a hopeful and hopelessly in love bride and groom and so then I head towards the city centre, skipping through the huge shopping centre, Liverpool ONE, before emerging by the Mersey and the Albert Dock, a vast redeveloped area of docklands, now converted into shops, restaurants, museums and places of interest, usually concerning ‘The Beatles’ and Merseyside music. All built in a style that complements the scene, nothing too flash or fancy, but solid, dependable, built in tune with the city and its people. This City surely does have a soul that I had not fully realised existed.

Our meeting point for the Magical Mystery Tour was near to the Tourist Information Point on the Dock and so I had a gander over there to get my bearings before searching the dock for something to chew on.

I found a little café, grabbed a fair portion of pizza and a bottle of water and was tucking into that, when out of the blue, a text message came through on the phone.

“Meet at albert dock 130 pm tourist centre for our beatle tour”. (Lady J, just checking in)

I text back,

“Yes Boss. Already here”.

I walk slowly past the shops, wending my way back to the Tourist Centre when my eyes catch sight of Teddy Bears. Beatle teddy bears. I step in the shop and have a casual look around. Its full of stuff, Beatles, Elvis, Monroe and then I see the Bears. Well after Ted its too irresistible, so I bend down and see a little one with a Yellow Submarine vest on. That’s it, that’s the one. I grab that and then see next to it a Beatles ‘mop-top’ wig, I grab that too, though not really sure what I’m going to do with it, I pay and the shop keeper puts them in a bag.

Out of the shop and I’m strolling past the ‘Big Wheel’ that’s turning against a still just bright sky and it seems the weathers still holding out for now and at the Tourist Centre I decide to take up position, leaning against a large bollard and just wait and see who turns up. I confess, I was a little nervous about meeting them all, but then a little bit of nervousness before a performance is not a bad thing apparently. There’s people everywhere and the backdrop of the Mersey brings to mind some lyrics from the song ‘Ferry cross the Mersey’, which seemed to be on a loop in my head most of the time and here it was right in front of me, reliving the experience of these singers and songwriters.

People they rush everywhere

Each with there own secret care”

I always loved that song, ever since I was a kid. Very emotive, poignant and full of affection for the City and its people.

I realise that, apart from Jeannette, the others may not recognise me, so I decide to sit it out and see who passes by and see who spots who first. A few minutes pass by and I think, ‘isn’t that Julie walking by?’, but she’s about 15 yards away and she goes straight into the Tourist Centre courtyard with a lady I kinda recognise, who turns out to be her good friend Janet, I didn’t shout, I figured she was in a hurry to get somewhere quick, either that or she recognised me and whispered to Janet, ‘Quick, that’s him, lets move it”. So I wait a while longer. Then out of the blue I see a face I definitely recognise, Lady Jeannette of Baltimore and in front of her walking cautiously towards me it can only be her partner in crime, Kelly. Kelly moves towards me and is now standing a foot away from me, face to face, looking at me and calling to Jeannette,

‘Is this him, or am I about to hug a complete stranger?’

“Yes its me Kelly”, I laugh and then look into those blue eyes and think, ‘jeepers creepers, where d’ya get them peepers’. Kelly has eyes like those paintings of portraits of people, in that wherever you are in the room, her eyes , seem to follow you. Its alluring, alarming and charming.

We hug and then the rest of the girls come tumbling over and we are all introduced and its good to meet up with Jeannette again after 18 months and her friends, Kelly, Pat and Ellen who brings up the rear after snapping a few more of the thousands of photos (and they are damn good too!) she takes.

Chris is there too and we share a hello and they all march over to the tourist centre to check in, whilst I sit with Jeannette to say hi and catch up a little.

So then our guide leads us to the Magical Mystery Tour Bus and we check in, the guy asks us where we are from, which country, town or area and we take our seats, managing to get our seats together as a group. Just before we set off I whip out my Ted in front of Jeannette and she’s surprised, but not too much I guess, she’s got use to my surprises then I slip the Beatles mop-top wig on, the wrong way apparently and just as the coach tour guide is about to begin, the girls point over to me, bringing his attention to my stupid grin and my apparent back-to-front Beatle-head.

“Oh, that’s a nice wig”, he laughs nervously.

“Its not a wig”, I joke back, which gets a laugh from the coach.

Off we go and our guide is great, he is filling us in story-like on the birth of the Beatles as the coach winds its way around the houses and districts of Liverpool. He talks us through the town and the little terraced houses that Ringo and George lived in, tiny and quaint perhaps, though these 1950’s houses in the middle of a cold English winter, no central heating, small coal fires that heated some of the rooms and smoked out all of them and maybe sharing your bedroom or even bed with other family members, may not have been the romantic ideal that we look back on with affection now. It was just the way things were.

A few days later I talk to Chris in front of the other girls about the 50’s and 60’s and how we used to bring in an old tin bath that hung on the garden fence. The little old Ascot water heater stuck on the wall over the kitchen sink would work overtime to heat the water, before we swung the pipe over the edge so that it hung over and dribbled stupefyingly hot water into the bath. It took ages and then we had to mix cold water to get the temperature just right. We bathed one at a time, Mother first, then Father, then the whippet, then me. Ok so the whippet was a joke……….it was an Alsation. Chris said yes, been there, done that, but corrected me as I had said it happened on Friday nights, but in her house it was Sundays, the day before school. Of course it was, one bath a week, which had to last a week too. Amazing now that we just turn on the tap whenever we like. No, times were a little tough for some back then, but we survived, a bit bruised and battered maybe, but intact and perhaps appreciative of those hard times too.

Even though its only 50 to 55 years ago when all this began, it seems like a different age, a different time, as they say, perhaps a more innocent age. An England coming out of the war years was austere, money was tight for the working man, family mattered and the work was hard and sometimes there was non, non but the mines, the council or the Docks. Oh and you voted Labour, no doubt. Liverpool must have been a tough town back then, full of drama, duty and death, but then slowly but slowly it emerged to be this place where music became one of its biggest exports and whether you like the Beatles or not, their legacy lives on, here and across the world. I bumped into two girls in their twenties from California last year in a hostel in Sicily and whilst playing Beatles songs on my I Pod and speakers, they were singing along.

“You know the Beatles?”, i say.

“Sure, we love them” they said.

It should not be a surprise these days with the internet, but somehow it was, the fact that they should know them so well and find them….well, relevant perhaps. But then their music will always stand the test of time.

As we looked on at George Harrison’s little abode, I remembered reading an article some time ago in which someone, I forget who, someone obviously a friend of the great man, Sinatra that is, walked into Sinatra’s home and Ole Blue Eyes was walking around the room singing along to an LP of Beatles songs. He recorded very few of them, ‘Yesterday’ being perhaps the only other one, but he spoke highly of ‘Something’, which he regarded as the best love song written in the last 50 years. I guess it doesn’t get much better than that. Not bad is it, for a humble guy like Harrison, coming from such lowly beginnings to be praised in such a way by one of the greatest. George was witty too, in a laconic way, with a casual laid back and sardonic voice that found its way through a very thick Scouse accent.

By 1962, the Beatles had signed their recording contract with EMI. George Martin, their recording engineer, who perhaps came across as a very English fatherly and old fashioned figure to the cheeky foursome, was not overly impressed by their initial recordings and invited them up to the control room of the recording studio. When their urbane producer politely asked them to have a listen and see whether there is “anything you don’t like?”, Harrison quipped: “Well, I don’t like your tie for a start”. Martin said it was just so cheeky but it endeared George to him straight away and sort of broke the ice too. The rest is history.

We stop outside a pub, the worlds smallest pub I shouldn’t wonder. “The Empress”, which Ringo featured on the front cover of his first solo album, which he dedicated to his mother. I’d love to have gone inside. John Lennon, in his acerbic way once made a quip that went, ‘Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the world, y’know. In fact Ringo wasn’t the best drummer in the Beatles’. Well, I watched a programme on drummers a few years ago, including guys like Dave Grohl etc., and they all expressed how much Ringo was a huge influence of them and drummers all over the world, with his ‘feel’ for a song and just how much he complimented Lennon and McCartney. Maybe he wasn’t the best drummer, but he was the right drummer.

On to Penny Lane now and the images from the song come at you thick and fast. Now its not a beautifully pristine area, all scrubbed clean and I suspect its not changed too much either since the sixties, with its worn and grubby yet homely streets, its lived in, like a face that’s experienced life with all its ups and downs. The bus shelter in the middle of the roundabout, where McCartney and Lennon would change buses to go home and go to school. The teenagers secret meeting places that Lennon described in the lyrics with his not so obvious then, but now more overtly sexual connotations , describing their teenage awakenings. Where kids played in the street until the sun went down. Lamp posts for wickets, jumpers for goal posts. The barbers shop, the pretty nurse selling poppies from a tray, the banker and the fireman with his clean machine, its all there, the whole world in that little microcosm of England, and most people of a certain age would recognise somewhere like that in their own home town and the memory of those places is as warm and comforting as snuggling up to your mum when 9 or 10 years old, or the carefree teenage years, a time of innocence maybe, before the reality of a hard world comes rushing in to kick you around and rough you up.

Just for a few minutes the whole of Penny Lane was transformed and I went back to the future and saw how it was for them and me. I remember at nine years of age the sound of the Beatles wafting out of the crackly radio at home, the derision they were met with by some, some who thought all this ‘pop music’ would last about 3 months. This was a generation finding its own voice, a new wave, new thoughts, new dreams for a new world, austerity transforming slowly like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon and birthing freedom and creativity, showing that anything was possible. Perhaps that’s the greatest legacy of the Beatles, we did it, now you have a go, see what happens, go on son, ‘ave a go.

Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies
I sit, and meanwhile back
Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes
There beneath the blue suburban skies…
Penny Lane.”


I remember young girls gushing over the early fan magazine photos of George, Paul, John and Ringo, whilst us boys remained cool about it, at least secretly, but really being just as excited. My mate would tease me about a girl in my class I fancied by singing ‘I wanna hold your hand’ to me. Their songs just got better and better, even though I could not have told you why, you knew they were getting better all the time. I lost track of them around 1967, before Sgt. Pepper as we didn’t have a record player at home and as they began singing about ‘All you need is love’ and you could tell they were on this voyage of discovery, going to places that the establishment and the old order in England could not recognise. It was too much for the stiff upper lip of an England still trapped in the 1950’s or even further back than that and the foursome were already off into the stratosphere along with Apollo and Neil Armstrong.

Well back down to Earth then, but not quite, as Jeannette decides to do some a jump for joy in the middle of the road…………….

We gather around street signs and houses for photo sessions, the kind guide taking our cameras and clicking away for us and I got dragged in to some scenarios with requests to wear my mop top wig, which was fun but at the same time seemed almost a little sacrilegious, but no harm done. The girls took many photos in and around the tour and I’m sure they will have lots of memories to look back on with fondness.

Mr. Lennon was next on the list, Strawberry fields.

We stopped close to the gates of this now iconic place. Strawberry Fields was a Salvation Army Children’s Home near to Johns house, or rather his Aunt Mimi’s house. The name of the home became world famous in 1967 with the release of The Beatlessingle “Strawberry Fields Forever” written by John Lennon. Lennon grew up near the home – one of his childhood treats was the garden party that took place each summer on the grounds of Strawberry Field. Lennon’s Aunt Mimirecalled: ‘As soon as we could hear the Salvation Army Bandstarting, John would jump up and down shouting “Mimi, come on. We’re going to be late.”He and his childhood friends Pete ShottonandIvan Vaughanoften played in the wooded area behind the building, which Lennon nicknamed in the plural “Strawberry Fields.”

We had our photographs taken in front of the gates and it was only then, and this may seem strange to think now, it was only then that I got it into my mind that so many of these Beatles songs were so very personal and I guess because they were so young when they composed them, they drew on their personal experiences from when they were children and transformed them into something way beyond what anyone had heard up until then. Much was read into their songs, probably too much and the psychedelic sounds of the times distorted many minds and perhaps led to interpreting them in a way that was never intended. They were having fun, being playful, creative, childlike even. Einstein would have understood, he used to think in pictures, using his imagination.

Imagine.

We stopped briefly outside John Lennon and Aunt Mimi’s home and our guide briefly told us the story of how his Mother Julia, with whom he had been reconciled with again when he was 17, walked out of Mimi’s house this one day, across this road, over the central reservation and was hit by a car and killed instantly. It happened right there, that’s where Lennon’s life really changed.

Our guide said that Lennon himself had said that even though he was always an angry young man, a violent one even at times, her death sent him off on an even angrier path, a kind of numbness and fog he lived in for two years and perhaps it even made him mistrustful of life, of who loves you and of giving love away, which he said was why he sang about love and peace so much. He knew from bitter experience what it was like to have love offered and snatched away many times in his early years, father, mother, uncle, friends, band members, manager and what it could do to a man’s soul. What would have become of them both had his mother lived?

Imagine.

I must admit at this point I was close to tears and had to get a grip, it was a poignant moment and made me realise that being a Beatle was sometimes more of a burden than a blessing. Perhaps its no wonder he sought out peace and quiet in New York where he believed he would be left alone, free to be himself for once in his life. In New York he was largely left alone, until one night he was left alone with one Mark Chapman, who imagined a nightmare not a dream. I can still hear the screams of the fans in the sixties, “Yeah yeah yeah” echoing with the screams of the shock on that day in the eighties, “Why why why”?’ I tried to imagine what he would be doing now had he lived and I swear at that moment I saw the young myopic Lennon walking out of his house with his Aunt Mimi calling after him, “Glasses John!”.

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all” “In my life” – John Lennon.

Our next port of call was the house where Paul McCartneyand John Lennon wrote many of their early songs, Forthlin Road and because Lennon’s Aunt Mimi wasn’t to fond of John’s ‘noise’, it was easier to come here and practice. Paul probably came up with the first versions of ‘When I’m 64’ here, aged just 16, which to me seemed remarkably mature for a guy of that age to be able to conjure up something like that. Paul had his demons too, with the early death of his own mother and though perhaps he dealt with with it much differently from Lennon, maybe channelling it through the music into happiness and whimsy, it seemed as if the two had this common bond of loss which bound them together. Even in later years when harsh words were spoken between them, (Is that not like two lovers who split and cannot work out their anger and just lash out at each other?), the love and affection can be seen only too clearly in a grainy and poor quality phone camera footage of Paul singing the song he composed for John after his death, ‘Here Today’. Paul can barely sing it, he’s in bits, struggling to sing it in front of a crowd who just totally understand him and respond with waves of love and sympathy. Its on ‘You Tube’. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drHgolHhNCg&feature=related

The last time I remember it bringing me to tears was when we were playing Amoeba Records Store in Los Angeles andI was singing ‘Here Today’ for John, which is always an emotional song because it brings back memories of me and John when we were kids. I was holding it together until I looked into the audience […] I just saw this girl who had totally lost it and was weeping and it got me. I tried to look away and forget it but it was impossible – I just went with her.” – Paul McCartney

You wonder where it all went sometimes, your innocence………

We whizzed past and through the local area passing schools where they met, lived and loved and fought, places that they may have never met and if not, may never have known each other and perhaps The Beatles would never have been, though fate seems to have lent a hand. Churches and Halls and the like sped by and all too soon a couple of hours had passed and we were back in the City Centre.

It was a thrill to see these places and sort of ‘join the dots’ in a picture puzzle and understand the reality of where these four young guys did what they did and where the origin of it all was, like tracing a giant oak tree back to that little acorn it grew from. What they did was kind of heroic in a way and heroes always dare to do things that are
different in order to grow and give back. The Beatles dared to do that.

Come to the edge, he said. They said: We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them and they flew.”

Guillaume Apollinaire ( French Poet )

So we jump off the bus, say our goodbyes and give our thanks to the guide and driver and have a wee walk to the Beatles Museum back at Albert Dock, on the way passing quite a dark fearsome statue of Queen Victoria who is mounted on a large plinth. Someone in the party of girls revealed that it was possible, in the right light and with the right angle, to get a photograph of the dear old Queen which would show her in a position not quite as regal or as dignified as she would have us and her wish. Somehow by sheer chance and fortune……..I managed to achieve this and yes its true, in one sense this ‘appendage’ that appears to be ‘showing’ from beneath and half-way up her monumental dress, does not flatter her and yet in another sense it was nothing to be ashamed of….if you get my drift.

The Beatles exhibition is wonderful, full of the details of every stage in The Beatles lives and is beautifully and tastefully done too. I wont go into any detail here about it as it would take too long and besides it would spoil the surprises, especially the last little section about John Lennon, which is stunning in its simplicity.

We all meet up in the café and sit down for a rest. I chat to Kelly as I am curious about Annapolis, as I’ve seen pictures and also know its an old Naval town.

“Kelly, is Annapolis a kind of oldie-worldie sort of place’?

Kelly looks at me as if I just dropped in through the ceiling, naked.

“Less (Americans have trouble with Les, I just console myself that Less is More) what is ‘oldie-worldie’, I have no clue what that is”

“Well its, …..(what is it, I think struggling)…its like an old place , y’know”, I look hopefully at her, but she’s got a blank expression and apparently I’m talking Mandarin, though I have a slight suspicion Kelly likes to have fun and is well aware of stuff and likes to have banter as we English do, just to tease someone.

With Chris’ assistance I get my meaning across to Kelly and she explains that no, if it once was ‘oldie-worldie’, it no longer is. Hmm..ok.

Kelly could be ‘blaggin’ me ‘ead’ – scouse for ‘fibbin’ to me.

By now the hunger pangs are beginning to kick in and we wander into town to find a cheap and cheerful eating place. In the shopping centre we get accosted by half a dozen young scouse boys whose opening line to me is ‘oo d’you support mate’?. I chicken out with no specific answer and they quickly lose interest in me and latch onto the female members of the party and it seemed to me, I could be wrong, but it was specifically Jeannette,…”she loves you yeah, yeah, yeah…”who they were interested in, they followed us for a while giving the girls a bit of banter and what not before tailing off into the centre. Funny things kids eh?

We find a pub lunch place, drag a table over to another to make room for us all and we get a menu and a drink and check out the food. We go up to the bar to order, I’m standing watching with a menu in my hand, and one by one the girls come up to order, trouble is, the food ran out, as the young scouse guy explains…”It’s bin relly buzy, am relly sorree like, ba is a zunday an now I’m on me own like, cannya chose sumtin elss”? The guys charming with it and doing his best an as he says…”Am on me own ‘ere”. It can’t be easy trying to keep this up all day with no staff.

I’m trying to keep up with what’s in the freezer and what isn’t and it comes round to my turn to order and I’ll play safe with fish and chips, he looks at me with a sorry smile….”Air, sordee mate, no can do, out of fish too”…ok no problem (I had a back-up plan)“Steak an Kidney puddin please”. Done.

Well the foods with us pretty quick and it all seems to go down ok, hey its a pub lunch, its cheap and cheerful I guess, My pudding isn’t on the plate too long as I wolf it down and I think that’s the last I have seen of it………

We drink up and walk down into the narrow streets in the centre and its all close knit, tight and very ‘oldy-worldy’ Liverpool, the streets full of bars and clubs and its now raining, the promised storm has arrived and we find our way to the Cavern Club and its at this point I begin to lose track of things a little bit, things like time and sanity and memory. I think most of us went into the Club initially to have a look around, but then some drifted away or said goodbye for the night.

Now there was an idea that we would go back to the hotel and ‘freshen up’ and then go out, but we never did, so here am I in the Cavern Club, underground, hot and getting hotter, its small, cramped, no sign of air conditioning, unless you count the open exit/entry door, and its starting to fill up. I’m still wearing my five layers of clothes and I have my flight bag still.

We make our way towards the stage and Jeannette manages to get up there and have a quick photo taken just before the band come on. I have no idea who the band is, but they are not in their first flush of youth, but, but they are brilliant, 4 of them, bass, guitar, rhythm guitar and drums. These guys have obviously been doing these numbers for years, Beatles stuff, Merseyside stuff, no matter, every song was perfect, the little runs on the guitar and they knew the words and harmonies. Trouble is, the reproduction of the Cavern Club is so perfect, even down to the fact that the sound they are pumping out must have been exactly like it was all those years ago………..lousy!, I mean I never heard a lyric all night, but hell it was great!

Soon the only two in our party left here are Jeannette and I and its getting warmer and warmer and another drink comes along, then another, then another song, and another and the place is starting to rock a little and so it goes. On and on, and then I put the Beatles wig on and people are standing by me (Russians I think) and having their photo taken and the people in front are getting drunker and its funny watching them fooling around, y’know like you used to do when you didn’t give a sh*t and Jeannette is bobbing up and down to the music and boy is that lead guitarist ‘fab’, a really together band, and then Jeannette tries to say something in my ear, but I’m half deaf now, so she shouts it….I look at her wide-eyed, I haven’t got a clue what she’s saying, she just thinks its funny, laughing at an old man like me, so she reverts to sign language, holding a half empty bottle of beer and pulling a face….ahh! she wants a cold beer….she can’t take the by now warm stuff, in this atmosphere even the beers jumpin’ and shakin so much it can’t stay cold, she disappears, returning 5 minutes later, two cold beers, it goes down well, it sets a pattern for the next hour or so. After this hour or so of cold beers the inevitable happens to a guy….yep, gotta take a leak….but where is it, I wander towards the ladies, just right of the stage where the band is just exiting for a break, I ask someone…’”scuse, where do I take a leak’?…..the drummer points his drumsticks back towards the ‘arches’….ahh gotcha.

The toilets are jumpin, my eyes aren’t so good as its as dark as hell in here, the urinals are full…I mean they’re all in use, I try the sitting down ones, I push the nearest door. It opens, a guys taking a leak, he shouts…’Come in’…..’sorry’….move on, next cubicle, empty. I sit down, I’m done and without getting up I pull up my underpants and trousers and sit back down on for a second, I turn and flush, ………oh no….oh no!…….I can’t believe it…….the toilet was blocked with paper…..flushing has just made the water rise up and now the pants on my ass are soaked and they’re boxer shorts….quite big boxer shorts, Spiderman boxer shorts. Now what? I strip off my boxers?

I can’t strip off in here, jeez, imagine, …..now that’s one verse of Imagine Lennon never wrote…….”Imagine there’s some boxers…..its easy they’re not dry……..only smell below us………oh bugger, why me God, why oh why?”…so I just pull my pants up, my pants which are made of blotting paper……and wander back in the club to Jeannette. I put my sleeveless top on the seat to sit on, Jeannette looks at me, I explain my predicament, hopeful of an answer of some sort that will remedy the situation.

Stand up, she says, turn round, she says. I twirl on command and sit down again. I look at her with a hopeful face. Maybe she will have us leave or something.

“It doesn’t show”, she says.

She turns away and applauds the band back on stage. No sympathy there then.

Well the night goes on, the band goes on, the dancing goes on and yes the drinking goes on. But I feel fine, honestly.

We stumble out of there at God knows o’clock and Jeannette says we have to try the Cavern Pub across the way, well I’m game, so in we go and its a biggish place, chock-a -block too and the band is a 6 or 7 piece kinda funk/rock band playing covers of Stevie Wonder and stuff with lots of interplay and riffing between the instrumentalists, which is kinda neat if perhaps a bit indulgent, whilst the goat-eed, guitarist looks like someone straight out of the Glastonbury marquee tent that time forgot, a Woodstock throwback whose in a not just a world of his own, but someone else’s world too.

Its rockin’ in here alright and now I know I’m a bit tipsy as after I take a swig of beer I see that Jeannette is struggling to see the band from the back of the room, so its no problem for me, in my now semi-inebriated state, I’ll just pick her up underneath her armpits and lift her onto the seat next to me. Easier said than done, Jeannette, as she says herself has developed this fairly new ‘fuller figure’ and I get half way up lifting her onto the seat, when my arms begin to bear her weight a little. Well, scientists do say that in moments of stress the human body is capable of great feats of strength, and so too in moments of great drunkenness the same universal law seems to apply, it was as if God himself had reached down with his Almighty hand and gently grasped Jeannette by the nape of the neck, lifted her up and she was gracefully landed on the seat.

That explains my exclamation on letting her go.

“Thank God for that”.

Jennette doesn’t appreciate my efforts and immediately steps off the seat…well it was a daft idea anyway.

So now I’m sharing the floor with a guy who is talking about the match today and I ask about the game and he’s Irish scouse and he’s seen me with Jeannette and he’s curious.

‘Who’s ya baird?’

‘No she’s not my bird, a friend, American, Baltimore, lots of Irish there too.’

So he starts chatting to Jeannette and then another guy approaches me and we chat,

‘She with you?’, he says.

‘Yep friends’, I say.

‘Do you mind if I talk to her?’, he says.

‘No, course not, knock yourself out’.

So then he has a word. I’m here introducing all these guys, what am I, a pimp? But they are all great friendly guys and this town is really a friendly place.

The bands pumping, my heads pumping and the beer is pumping, I’ve lost count, is that 4, 5, 6 beers? No idea, its not that many, I mean I don’t drink heavily, never did, but I really feel ok, well apart from my wet backside.

Jeannette has a jiggle with a guy on the dance floor and then its time to leave. Where now?

The Grapes pub, where The Beatles would slip in for a drink.

There’s bouncers on the door and we have to wait for the place to lose a few before we can go in, its chock-a-block. The place is full to the point that as people squeeze buy you, you can feel their extremities rubbing against you. Fortunately I’m taller than most and their extremities don’t coincide with mine. Some guy is at the bar with Jeannette and he turns and I get a pint thrust in my hand and I can feel myself starting to float. I stay for a while, then feel the need for fresh air. I step outside and lean against a wall opposite, watching the neons flash in the drizzling rain. There’s a big girl in a short skirt giving one of the doorman some chat, he’s giving it back and another doorman intervenes, peacefully, slowly working her away from the door, down the street. She won’t let up, she’s cursing the other guy, though I can’t hear a word, I’m deaf it seems, eventually she walks off and the doorman sits on some steps next to me, on his mobile. When he finishes, I tap him on the knee,

“Not being funny mate, but can I ask you, do you enjoy doing this’?

“No”,he says, “I’ve been doing this since I was 17, I hate it, but I have a wife and three kids. I gotta work”

“You get much trouble like that’?, I ask him.

“And worse. I’ve been shot at twice, stabbed 6 times and did a few weeks in prison because I threw a local drug dealer out and he came at me first“.

Jeez I think, you think your own job is crap sometimes, but….

He moves off to sort out someone else and I go back inside to see her Maj, I’m really ready for off, but she may want to stay. I tap her on the shoulder as she’s talking to some Russian folks and a few minutes later she’s out, we grab a taxi and were back at the RoyalNelsonHotel. I haven’t been back to my car to pick up the rest of my clothes, but then I can do that in the morning. The night duty guy unlocks the front glass door and we check-in. He’s new and got a real thick scouse accent and Jeannettes picking up on it, trying to understand him, he has a sense of humour too.

Ok off to bed, see you in the morning.

I find my room, hang up my wet trousers and pants, have a shower and go out like a light.

I wake with darkness and the sound of thunder in my head.

THROBBING HELL!!

Someone’s inside my head hammering with a road drill. I check my mobile phone, its 8 30. Chris is coming round at 10 am to get a lift with Pat in my car to go to the Casbah. Well, I’ll take two ibuprofen, clear my head, I’ll be fine.

I lie down again.

20 minutes later, I think, either I am going to rid this headache soon or 10 am is going to get here too quick. The headache doesn’t subside and then, oh dear, oh no, not this….. I stumble to the big white telephone and for the second time in 12 hours I see a steak and kidney pudding……this time with carrots.

I go back to bed, thinking that’ll do it, now I’ll be fine.

No, back and forth we go at least four times. (sorry for the details). I haven’t been like this for twenty years or more, I mean if I have a drink I never drink until I’m ill, I know when to stop, but still there it is.

By now its 9 30 and I realise I’m in no state to drive the girls anywhere but the trouble is I can’t phone anyone, my phone is on the blink and there isn’t a phone in the room and I can’t walk out of here because my pants are still so wet and my other clothes are in the car park 100 yards away and anyway I just dare not risk it. I send a text to Jeannette,

‘Im not edll’,

meaning, ‘I’m not well’ of course, I couldn’t see straight even. It doesn’t get through.

There’s nothing for it, all I can do is stay in the bedroom and wait and hope that someone comes up to the room wondering why I am not up. Just after 10 there’s a knock on the door, I open it about 3 inches and there’s a friendly looking guy standing there.

“Excuse me, but there’s two ladies downstairs waiting for you”

“Yes ok. Could you send one of them up please”. It sounded like I was ordering a sandwich.

A few minutes later there’s another knock on the door. I get up to open it, I open it 3 inches and see Pat standing there with a smile on her face. I must have looked a pretty picture, a sad ghostly face, like a clown with too much white make up on and because of my late night shower and sleeping on wet hair, I check the mirror after and see I have a Stan Laurel hairdoo, y’know when he takes his hat off and scratches his head in confusion and starts to blub, though I didn’t blub, I hadn’t the strength.

Pat says “Have we had to much to drinky-winky”?

“I’m really sorry Pat, but I’m not going to be able to make it, I’m really sorry”. God I felt really pathetic, promising to drive them to the Casbah and now letting them down and missing out myself too.

“Don’t worry we’ll get a taxi, it’s fine”.

“Ok Pat thanks”.

I’d had too many ‘bevvy’s’ maybe – ‘bevvy’ is scouse for beer.

I close the door, prepare myself for more sickness and lie down. A few hours pass and I don’t know if Jeannette and Kelly know of my predicament, I have to get up and check in with them and as they are catching the train to Chester and I am driving there, but in my state I don’t think I can. I shower again, transforming Stan Laurel bouffant into Steven Segal wet flatted comb back and then very slowly I have to draw my still wet trousers on and wander downstairs, very carefully. Jeannette and Kelly are there and instantly see my condition and they spring into action, well Jeannette does, as Florence Nightingale, fussing around, organising a cup of tea and telling me that I cannot drive, I must stay here and get well and only drive to Chester when better. Meanwhile Kelly is sat on the sofa in reception, as casual a you like, taking it in as if she has seen it all before, which she no doubt has, full of helpful comments like, ‘You check Les in Jeannette, I’ll take him for a greasy egg sandwich’ or ‘I could have told you this would happen, I had an early night’, really helpful stuff like that. It was like the good-cop, bad-cop routine you see in the movies, one the angel, one the devil and they are funny together Jeannette and Kelly, a good foil for each other, though at that particular moment I couldn’t laugh, it was too risky. The trouble is, Kelly’s remark about the egg sandwich has stuck in my mind and I can’t get rid of it, I try but, oh no here we go again. I just make it to the toilet in time, only now my stomach is empty, but my body is just checking and wants a final clear out.

Thanks Kelly, your bedside manner is wonderful!!

So I’m checked in again, I stumble back to my room, Jeannette behind me with my bag. I sit on the bed feeling totally pathetic, Jeannette says stay here, get well, then walks out of the room saying “I would give you a hug, but I don’t know what you’ve got” and smiles. I think she may think it was the steak and kidney pudding that did for me and frankly I’m willing to go with that too, somehow its much less sad and pathetic than saying I drunk too much, I can’t hold my liquor.

I lie down, I sleep, I wake up about 3 hours later, I shower (again), I stumble to the car to get fresh clothes, pack my bags thinking that I’m ok now, I can drive to Chester. I go down to reception to check out and the guy who came upstairs to my room, Tom, says “Your friends are back”. “What”?

The rain has been so bad that the trains are being cancelled and Jeannette and Kelly had to turn back and have re-checked in the Hotel. Outside its still raining and raining hard and we are in the middle of the worst rainfall in 30 years. Tom tells me what room numbers Jeannette and Kelly are booked into and so I wander off that way. I find one room and knock on the door and wait. It takes a while and then the door opens and a little young guy appears….what the…I realise I’ve got the wrong room…..”Sorry, wrong room”I mumble.

I knock with trepidation on 222 and 223 and from 222 I hear a familiar American voice…”One Minute” and then there’s a mechanical fumbling noise coming from the locks on the inside, Jeannette can’t open the door, meanwhile Kelly has come out of her room and we stand and watch Jeannette trying to make her escape which eventually she does. They quiz me sympathetically (well Jeannette does) if I am ok and yes I’m better and will need to eat and drink soon. So Jeannette suggests I go out with Kelly as she is pooped from everything and needs a rest. Kelly is going to a “4D” experience.

“A 4D experience”?, I say.

“Yes”,Kelly says “You sit in a chair, a film plays and the seat rocks about like your in the film”

“So, let me get this straight”, I say, “I’ve just spent half the day in bed recovering from a life threatening experience, going out with Jeannette, being sick and now you want me be thrown about in front of a moving screen. Are you serious?”

“No its not that bad (I don’t think Kelly could have cared frankly!). Now then, make your mind up, are you swishing with Jeannette, or are you swishing with me?”

“Is that a euphemism?”, I say.

“I can’t swish with Jeannette first then?”

“No”.

“And I can’t swish with both of you at the same time?”

“No. And if you swish with her, you don’t get to swish with me.”

Not a bad choice for guy to have to make is it? “Ok then Kelly I’ll swish with you.” Americano ladies swish pretty good I hear.

“Look after him Kelly, make sure he eats”, says Lady J.

Kelly does her hair, gets dressed and we hop into a Taxi and Kelly tells him to head for Albert Docks. We are there in a about 5 minutes and we need to look for this 4D thingy. Its still raining cats and dogs and we look on a large static street guide, but its so fogged up we can’t see, so we step inside a pub and Kelly has a ticket but the address isn’t on there, so we walk and I find a guy who tells us we have to walk another half mile or so. So were walking and talking and I like Kelly straight away, she’s easy to get along with, says what she thinks but she’s a gentle soul too. (I think!) Finally we reach the building which is at Albert Pier!

We go inside and its Deadsville city, not a soul about, sagebrush is blowing through the open door, a bell is gently tolling in the distance. There’s loads of memorabilia stuff, The Beatles, Elvis, Monroe and we go upstairs to the counter. Kelly asks me if I have my ticket, which apparently gets me in for free. I can’t think where that is, then I realise it was in my back pocket of my trousers that got wet, which probably destroyed the thing, but there’s no time to explain that one. The guy has checked Kelly’s ticket and needs mine, so quick as a flash she says,

“He lost it”, in an American kind of ‘this is my dumb husband’ way. I just play dumb whilst Kelly produces the receipt for what was my ticket. I feel a right ‘divvy’. ‘Divvy; is scouse for a genius….ok its scouse for a stupid person.

The guy takes an age checking it out. He lets us through, the doors open and…………..we’re the only people here, apart from one young girl who is on her own. The voice announces we are to take our seats, so we face the screen, sit down, the room darkens and ‘Roll Film!’ Already Kelly is giggling. “If you’re going to be sick Less….(I know)….can you look the other way please”, she says.

The film is a cartoon film, for children, with 3D glasses, that perch on your nose, its not the Beatles singing, its session musicians, it lasts 5 minutes, we get water squirted hard in our faces twice, and the seats jolt backwards twice, it stops, we get up, we hand our glasses back, we leave the cinema. Gosh!

Kelly laughs herself stupid at the whole daftness of it all, it was like a comedy sketch, tourists wheeled in, watch a film, wheeled out again, while I’m just bemused by the whole experience.

If I had had to pay for that I would have been sick again. In the main area, Kelly drops her phone which falls apart on the floor and we spend 10 minutes trying to put it back together again and get it to call, which was actually more entertaining than the bloody 4D film!

As we walk out of this place, the smart American wife and her dumb husband, Kelly says “Would you do me a favour?”.

“Sure”,I said, “What is it?”.

“Well, would you tell Jeannette that it was absolutely brilliant and that she should have been here? You see, she’s always doing that to me. She goes somewhere that I don’t, she comes back and says how fabulous it was, when really it was so crap. It’s only some time later she confesses it was rubbish.”

“Ok no problem, I can go with that”.

We walk and talk and Kelly makes contact with Ellen, who is in town and we meet and eat and drink (Chocolate and coffee only!) and we talk for an hour or so about life and love, and the lack of it..lol!! Kelly and I walk back a way and I talk about places to go that may be full and she throws some words back to me that she heard me say earlier that describes somewhere that is full to the gunnel’s. Kelly asked me if that meant the place was ‘chockie-blockie’, which made me laugh and though I say its ‘chock a block’, I still wonder whether she knew the words but was just being a smart-ass.

So we make it back to the Hotel and I follow Kelly to her room……………….but she heads me off at the pass. Jeannette comes out of her room looking like a million dollars and whilst Kelly goes into her room for a makeover, I slip into Jeannettes humble abode for a catch-up chat.

So we talk about this and that and the state of the dollar against the yen….oh maybe that was later, and then Jeannette asks the question I’ve been waiting for.

“How was the 4D experience?”

I pause a second and a devil enters my soul and I say,

“Well I’m not trying to pit you against Kelly or anything, but it was crap. BUT….as we came out, Kelly said to say to you it was brilliant, you shoulda been there. HOWEVER….she wanted to turn the tables on you, because apparently you do this all the time on her”.

A look of devilment comes over Jeannettes face and she nods.

Just then there’s a knock and the door swings open and in swishes Kelly. The first, and I mean the first thing that Kelly opens her mouth with is,

“Did Les tell you about the 4D experience?”

There’s a silence as the same sagebrush that rolled through that deserted 4D cinema now passes through Jeannettes room and her mind too. She looks up at Kelly, then down at me with that Lady Diana innocent smile and downcast eyes and says……….. absolutely nothing. She doesn’t have to, Kelly knows her far too well!.

“You told her. You told her didn’t you?”. Kelly is now beating me with her fists.

“I know you did, I can tell from Jeannettes face, you told her, you told her”.

“Yes I confess, I did a switcheroo on you, but she forced it out of me, honest”.

Well it was a funny moment and just a little close up of the the two sistas at play, the tag team, like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, like Rodgers and Astaire, like Tom and Jerry, like Taylor and Burton, like Thelma and Louise, like bacon and oysters, like,………..well, like Rhuebarb and Custard. Then just for a second, as you do sometimes, I came out of the moment and reflected a little on just how much more lucky can a guy be than to be here with these two beautiful funny women?

Next up is dinner and Ellen is on the ball with where to go. So we freshen up, get a taxi into town, passing a stationary ambulance with its blue lights on and as we go past it, someone says “Oh look there’s a poor man lying down ill” to which I add, “Well maybe he ate a pie too”.

The restaurant is wonderful, “Meet”, an Argentinian restaurant, with really great food. One worth remembering any-time you are in Liverpool. I sit pretty quiet really, for me, just enjoying some really good food and taking on board water whilst the four girls chat is enough and I try to squeeze a word in edgeways sometimes, but boy ya gotta be quick. Kelly picks up on this and asks me how it is eating with four ladies all talking going down. Hey one is enough sometimes, I say.

We get a taxi back and in reception whilst Jeannette sends texts, Kelly and I have some banter with the guy on reception, who is a real scouse character, and he says if he spoke to her like he spoke to his mates she would think he’s speaking in Spanish! She asks him if he ever does the tours around Liverpool.

“You muss be jokin’ like. I two’k me ttree kids on dat Yeller Submareen de udder week, an all tree fella sleep. I ad to put me oodee up to ide miself. Imagin if me mates ad seen me on dat, day’ed nevva speek ta me agaaan”

After an hour of this transatlantic/Americano chat and banter we hit the sack ready for Chester tomorrow. The
three of us pile into the the telephone box sized lift (elevator) and Jeannette presses the button………nothing. She presses again….nothing happens. I press it…..nothing, I press it several times …..nothing. Jeannette says“Ya gotta give it chance”. So I press it again. Kelly says something like, “Why are you winding her up?” in that casual enquiring English way which cracks me up. “I’m not”, I say. I have a brainwave and start to step off the lift and Kelly says, “It must have too much weight in it, thats right, you get off Les”. “Oi get out here, cheeky and look” I say.

There’s a notice written on a piece of paper stuck by the lift, “because of the noise this lift will be switched off between the hours of 10 30 pm and 7 am. Sorry for the inconvenience”. We stood there like lemons. Frustrated, Jeannette flounces off, “I’m having a ciggie”.Kelly and I plod upstairs to bed.

I wake up feeling…..great!

So this morning I decide I can actually manage breakfast and make it down to reception where the guy from the night before is still on duty. He ‘s about to go off and says “Maybe sees yous again, now yoo know us and dat were sound maybe yull stay agin?” “No problem, yes, I’d come back.” And off he goes on his cheery scouse way.

I grab some breakfast, continental and watch Alicia Keys being interviewed on TV which helps my digestion no end. I grab my bags from the room and come back to reception to check out and ask the girl how much I owe. Nothing, your friend Jeannette covered it when she re-booked you in. So now I’m taken aback as I didn’t realise she had actually paid for it as well as booking me in. The girl on reception is really helpful, she fixes my crappy phone, so now it works for the first time in 2 1/2 days and prints out directions to the hotel in Chester where we are due to have ‘High Tea’ later. I ask her about The Beatles and whether she’s a fan. Well, a little, but yes there’s lots of Liverpool people who wont have a word said against them she says.

“When they have the Mathew Street festival, which is really great, they have been known to wheel out Paul McCartney”, she said.

“Wheel out Paul McCartney?”, I said.

She laughs at her comment. “Well he is an institution I suppose”.

“Yes, but not in one”, I said.

This is a nice hotel, simple, plain and handy for central Liverpool, with friendly people too and some great photos of Monroe on the walls upstairs and a guy who comes in to do odd jobs who said to me not to worry about leaving your car in the Liner hotel car park, he left his van there for a week and only paid once. I cringed every time I went to check it out, expecting a clamp to be on the wheel, but I got away with it.

So now today is finally Chester day and well, we have to make it come hell or high water, which indeed there was, as Julie has laid on ‘High Tea’ at a very swish Chester hotel bang in the middle of the old Roman town. We hum and ha about how to get there and then Julie phones up and say that the trains may not be too reliable again. I already offered to drive Kelly and Jeannette and maybe Ellen too, though Ellen was maybe going to see if she could get in the Cashbah. Jeannette is not keen. What is it she is not keen on? Well let me see, there’s traffic; there’s roads; then there’s wet roads; fast roads; roads on the wrong side; people who drive on roads on the wrong side; roads that she doesn’t know; roads that other people don’t know; ……are you getting the picture now?

I try to ease her mind saying that the journey is about an hour, I’ll take it easy, it’ll be fine, but its only when Julie says that maybe that’s the best way, the only way even, that Jeannette says ok lets give it a shot.

I bring the car round to the front of the Hotel and start to load up and there’s not much room to spare in my Porsche,…….what?……..but we get the luggage in and we shoehorn Kelly in the back and Jeannette rides shotgun. I have to firkle with Kelly to find the seat belt and we’re off. I go left, left and left again and promptly end up in the Town Centre, turn around and finally find the Birkenhead Tunnel that runs under the Mersey, but just as we leave Liverpool, I see a bus coming towards us and the illuminated sign at the top I swear reads, ‘Liverpool ONE – derful’. I couldn’t agree more.

The tunnel is impressive, long and leak – proof and we come up on a road that’s full of suburban houses probably built in the 1930’s and Jeannettes taking it all in, Kelly too, though I notice she starts to nod off a little despite the coffee she’s sinking.

Well we hit Chester and we have directions to the Hotel, but to be honest, with a small compact old City like this, directions on a map bear little resemblance to reality, so I head for the town, we ask a couple of folks, the right ones, and we pull up outside the Blossoms Hotel. Julie finds us (its still raining by the way), we pile the luggage in the hotel and set off around the Town, with our guide Julie.

We stop at a small but really busy food shop where they’re making sandwiches to go and I see one made of half an avocado, bacon and veggies, then grilled and its wonderful. We hit the Cathedral and we take in the sights and sounds, wandering round with headphones which inform us of its history. Its a busy place, much going on and so much history here as the Cathedral dates back a thousand years, whilst Chester was a stronghold for the Romans and their cohorts.

There is much to admire in the Cathedral, but whilst wandering, I caught up with Kelly and ask her if she has seen the statue outside in the garden cloisters. Yes, she says, but there’s a notice on the exit door for the gardens which says that it will be locked in wet weather due to people slipping. I try it anyway and it opens. This sculpture is to me amazing, just so wonderful. It has to be seen. Here is the sculptors own description of his work.

A sculptural water feature that presents the life changing encounter between Jesus and the woman of Samaria, as told in John’s gospel, celebrating the literal and spiritual, life-giving properties of water. The circular shape brings the two figures face to face, lending intensity and tenderness to the encounter. Water flows continually from the shared cup, over the hands and into the pool in the dish below, from where the sculpture is illuminated, through the water. Around this dish are the words; “ Jesus said, ‘ the water that I shall give will be an inner spring always welling up for eternal life.’ “John 4:14”
Commissioned by Chester Cathedral and funded by Capital Bank. The sculpture was dedicated by the Dean of Chester Cathedral, Dr. S. Smalley, on 8th May 1994.

Now I don’t know whether Jeannette will give her own account of her latest trek into Europe, but I will tell this part how I heard it. I have been walking around the cloisters and I am aware that refreshments are available somewhere in the Cathedral, but so far have not seen them. As I walk round I see a section of cloisters where people are gathering, but it looks too bare to be a tea room and so I walk on. When I bump into Kelly later, again near to this cloister, she says there’s a funeral going on in there, or at least, the drinks afterwards thing. So, you kind of avoid it, don’t you?

Guess who wandered innocently into it, just because she saw people raising wine glasses? Yep! Innocence is a wonderful thing, but therein lies danger. It wouldn’t have surprised me to see Jeannette sat in the back seat of a family funeral car, with a pained smiling expression on her face, as she somehow got invited back to the unfortunate wife’s home and didn’t like to refuse, her Maj waving cheerfully at us as the car sails past. I don’t have the full details of the encounter in the crypt, Jeannette may supply them.

We eventually find the refectory after we are re joined by Chris and of course we have hooked up with Pat again, which gives me chance to apologise again for the Casbah let down. We meet up with a vicar, I think he was a vicar, who apparently Julie saw in the pub the night before, healthily swigging back the beer and with a definite twinkle in his eye, so she said. So we have a brief introduction and he’s a cheery chappy, like someone out of Father Ted. We bump into him again in the town, well things come in threes and God doth move in mysterious ways.

The middle of Chester is ‘oldie-worldie’ and we take in the remains of the Roman amphitheatre, the wall walk, old cottages with doors a foot shorter than I am and just unwind and take some fresh air before the English Tea back at the hotel. Chester is a place worth a lot more time than we could possibly give it.

In the Blossoms Hotel we are seated in an ante room just off the Main Reception and we await the tea. We chat and then in walks a waitress with proper English 3 tier plate stands. Sandwiches at the bottom, little cakes in the middle and scones, jam and cream on the top. This is a posh place, the sandwiches have had their crusts removed. I know some people like that.

It’s all very civilised and with pots of tea being passed around and Jeannette trying it, which, correct me if I am wrong, is not something she would normally drink and Kelly tucking in to, well, everything really, its all very nice. But then, horror, Chris notices that Kelly and Jeannette have moved from the lower plate up to the middle plate without asking permission first and then they move back down again. OMG! People have had their heads chopped off for less. We try in vain to correct they wayward manners but alas they go unheard. Well when a Baltimore lass wants her sweet tooth satisfied, there’s no stopping her.

Suddenly Jeannette decides that its Her maj time and she leaves the room with Julie, bent on wearing her bejewelled crown whilst consuming ever so politely the English tea. I stand on the door and make the annoncement as Her Maj enters, fully supported, if I may use that phrase, by her maid of honour, if I may use that phrase also. I scatter rose petals (imaginary) on the ground and Her Maj perches ever so gently on the edge of her throne before gently masticating her sandwiches the standard 26 times. A very Royal scene.

There’s more than enough food here, in fact too much, but its very good stuff and it all goes down very well. At some stage the girls start talking about film stars and TV stars who they fancy and I’m sort of listening in, when suddenly Kelly announces a little sheepishly,

“Do you know who I really fancy?”

“No Kelly, who?”, someone says as the world stands pregnant with expectation.

“Tony Soprano”……………………………………..

The hotel doors blow open and another sagebrush rolled in on the gusting wind as a bell gently tolled in the distance and a lonely raven, perched on an old wooden picket fence, cawed its lonely vigil…………………

Thanks Kelly.

So its near the end now, tea is over, we get the girls luggage out, the taxi rolls up and its that damn awful moment, for me at least, that goodbye game we have to play. I hate this game, and as the heavens are still opening their floodgates on us, one by one they embrace me and slip away into the taxi, Julie, Pat, Chris, Jeannette and last of all Kelly, who lands me a smacker on the lips, turns and heads for the taxi and shouts ‘and you never called me Rhuebarb once!”  (my nickname for her)

“No Rhuebarb I didn’t”, is all I can manage as my breath has all but left me. I walk away in the rain and wave as their taxi splashes past me and I wonder if I will ever see any of them ever again.

I hope so.

I have just finished watching a short film called ‘Finding Joe’, which in a nutshell is about a thing called ‘The Hero’s Journey’, something which is in stories, books, films, you name it, its a universal theme that runs through all of these and what’s more, if we take time to look, it runs through our lives too.

These ladies have been on a hero’s, perhaps ‘heroines’ journey in not only their vacation, which was to continue in Ireland, but that too would then become just a small part of their continuing journey throughout their lives. The journey starts with a call to adventure, then the initiation and then the hero’s return, but within these three basics lie many paths and roads and adventures. So not only were they filling their lives with stories of others along the way, they returned home to give those stories back to others, an endlessly repeated cycle of life thousands of years old, that enriches them and everyone connected with them.

So ladies thank you for enriching my life, if for 3 days only, and who knows we may yet all meet again.

Thank you –Janet.

Thank you –Julie

Thank you – Chris

Thank you -Ellen

Thank you – Pat

Thank you – Kelly ‘Blue Eyes’ and of course Her Maj, Jeannette.

Yes it was still raining for days after and although my heart was kept warm and dry, it wasn’t too long after that it began to ache a little as the journeys memories came up on the screen in front of me and I saw exactly what I was missing, but perhaps these memories began to prepare me for another hero’s journey I may make myself in the not too far distant future. Who knows? But in the meantime, if you should find yourself without a sista or a friend and feel a little lost, remember;
“Iwish I could show you

When you are lonely or in darkness,
The Astonishing LIght
Of your own Being!” – Hafiz of Persia.

Comments
  1. julie says:

    Great read Les ! Glad you liked it up my neck of the woods ! And no sympathy from me either… self inflicted lol xx

  2. Chris says:

    Crying and laughing at the same time. What memories your words bring back, Les. Thank you!

  3. Pat says:

    Les I had tears in my eyes from laughing and crying. You write so beautifully…..

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