All that you have is your soul (Tracy Chapman).

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

My Liverpool Diary

I'm back! I drove for nearly four-and-a-half hours, directly from Liverpool to London, traversing the UK from the North West to the South East.

Throughout my week in Liverpool, I kept a diary of my trip and submitting postings or rather, notes, to my Facebook page, via my phone. I felt it only fair to reproduce these for those of you who have not read my entries on my Facebook page.

So, now, without further ado, I proudly present to you....


My Liverpool Diary:


Day One (22nd August 2007)

Having returned to one of my favourite places on earth, it feels as though I'd never left. The sun is out and the city is radiant.

I am sitting in Sefton Park writing up this post on my mobile phone...ah the wonders of technology. The parents are talking with their friends as the children run about, feed the ducks' fall over, cry when dogs approach...in other words, pretty much like in London, but oh so very different .

This morning, I was treated to two amazing guided tours, one after another.

The first was around the magnificent Princes Road Synagogue, built in 1874 and not like any other I've ever seen, by my host, the Rabbi, who is an old acquaintance. His breadth of knowledge was incredible and he explained the history of Jewish settlement in the city - and detailed the origins of the synagogue.

This was followed by a wonderful tour of LIPA (the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts), which had formerly been the Liverpool Institute, as attended by my good friend, M.

I was invited to join two old boys who were touring the school (one of whom who had not been back since his graduation in 1976!) and as we walked around, they reminisced together and compared the renovated building with its predecessor, noting where their classrooms used to be - and who their teachers were.

It was fascinating to be a fly on the wall as we walked around the building - to the extent that the very nice LIPA guide said very little and let then get on with it. He realised pretty early on that it was rather pointless trying to get us interested in the modern day structure as we/they were constantly looking through '60s and early '70s rose tinted spectacles!

So here I am, still sitting in Sefton Park, soaking in the atmosphere. I will fill you on my next Liverpool adventures tomorrow.

Tarraa from Liverpool!

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Day Two (23rd August)

Hello again!

Today, I am writing to you from Mathew Street, the epicentre of Beatles activity in the city. Just around the corner, one can visit numerous places of interest, not least, the restored Cavern Club (and much more authentic unrestored 'The Grapes' pub).

Anyway, last night, whilst sitting on my bed, I was looking through a book I bought when I was here last year, called (shockingly) "The Beatles' Liverpool". In an early chapter, the author suggests a detailed two hour walk around the city and points out (in some detail) forty or so different landmarks in the history of the group.

Two hours' walking didn't seem too excessive, so I parked the car near to the Albert Dock and commenced my trek.

One minor detail my erudite guide omitted to mention was how hilly Liverpool actually is and so I soon passed the two hour threshold as I climbed up the city.

Truth be told, the author also hadn't banked on how attractive some of the sights were (especially the shops) and so, here I am some SEVEN hours later, most grateful that my pleasure trip, which eventually turned out to be an ordeal as the shopping bags I was carrying, miraculously started to multiply!

I have bought a ticket to see a few Traveling Wilbury tribute bands at The Cavern and my only wish is that I manage to stay awake throughout the show.

Until tomorrow, I am reporting live from Mathew Street...

ADDENDUM:

I spent the evening at The Cavern Club and it was phenomenal. We were in the adjoining room (for ticket holder only!) and we heard three live bands, two of whom played tracks from The Traveling Wilburys albums and the third who were a Lennon tribute band called Instant Karma. When this band was on stage (they were the second ones to come on). Julia Baird, John's half-sister who looks very much like him appeared in the audience and they played 'Stand By Me' at her request. We had a brief chat and she will be at the convention on Sunday, so that should really cool.

I came out of the club after midnight with the wonderful sounds ringing through my ears (quite literally).

ps: Dana, if you are reading this, thank you SO much for letting me come up here. I can truly state that unless one comes to Liverpool and spends time in the Cavern Quarter, you can't really call yourself a true Beatles' fan. I am very appreciative of you right now xxx.

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Day Three (24th August)


Penny Lane is in my ears and in my eyes...

I am sitting just off the Penny Lane roundabout, or rather, to give it its accurate title, the junction between Penny Lane and Smithdown Road, writing this post.

I have just had a haircut by a barber whose predecessor enjoyed 'showing photographs. of every head he had the pleasure to know’. However, mine was a very nice lady who cut my hair but didn't take any shots.

Unfortunately, as there were very few people about, not one person did 'come and go' and no-one at all 'stopped to say hello' either. No matter.

This morning I went on the amphibious Yellow Duckmarine ride around the city centre. All was going smoothly until we went into the water, travelled around the numerous docks and found that we couldn't get back onto dry land as the water level had decreased! We had to be rescued by the engineers and disembarked from the vehicle onto the key side. It was absolutely hysterical watching the driver trying to get the boat back onto dry land, only having to see it slipping back into the water. I shan't forget THAT ride!

I will be spending Shabbat with the Rabbi of one of the synagogues in the area and will post the next instalment after Shabbat.

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Day Four (25th August)


Hello from Childwall, one of the Jewish neighbourhoods of the city.

To my bemusement, I appear to have become a bit of a minor celebrity in the Jewish community here.

Apparently, they find it quite amusing that there are Jews in London who have come up for the week (in particular to be at the Mathew Street Festival, which takes place on Monday) and I am one of those bizarre people.

Yesterday, I was interviewed by the Liverpool correspondent of the Jewish Chronicle, whilst the Rabbi who had taken me around Princes Road Synagogue also mentioned my visit in the back page column of the regional Jewish Gazette.

I have to say that I didn't consider appearing in newspapers when I planned my trip!

Today was very restful until I decided to for a 'little' walk, from Childwall to John Lennon's house in Menlove Avenue. When I arrived there, I saw the custodian/curator who gave me precise directions of how John used to get to Paul's house, on the other side of Calderstones Park.

I thought it would interesting to retrace his steps and after half an trek, understood very well why they used to use their bicycles. It ain't exactly around the corner.

Having made the walk, I thought I would drop in on the custodian of Paul's house, but he was less than pleased to see me, as I seem to have caught him in the middle of a 'crisis' as he termed it.

So I set off back the way I had come, went to the Strawberry Field gates, with their ever diminishing foliage, saw the tourists (mostly Japanese) appear, disappear and appear again and came to my hosts pretty tired.
Another successful walking trip around Liverpool had been accomplished.

Ta-ra until tomorrow.

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Day Five (25th August)


In honour of the start of the festivities on Mathew Street, I am posting this note from around the corner.

Actually, the real reason is because I'm not allowed to go into The Adelphi Hotel...but more about that later.

I spent my second night at the Rabbi's house and made my way to the Adelphi Hotel nice and early, so as to catch the Magical Mystery Tour coach to the 'more unusual Beatle places'.

It was a very interesting tour which my friend Julian (who has also come up from London) joined. We were taken to parts of the city that I had not hitherto visited such as Anfield, Bootle and West Derby, where we saw the numerous pubs and halls where the band had played in as well as their early homes and even the former hospital in Walton where Paul McCartney was born.

Another place of particular interest was the first venue that John and Paul played in after their initial meeting at the Woolton Church Fete in July 1957.

However, for me, the most significant (and poignant) stop was at the cemetery where Brian Epstein and his family are buried. It is so sad that he died at such a young age, only six weeks after his father and that his poor mother had to also suffer the loss of her second son (and only surviving child) twenty one years later.

We made our way back to the Adelphi and I walked into the convention hall without being asked to pay the rather pricey entrance fee!

I spent the next six hours walking around the traders' fair spending far too much money on items that I couldn't resist and listening to some fascinating speakers being interviewed on stage in one of the conference halls.

These included Julia Baird, John Lennon's half-sister whom I had met at the cavern on Thursday night and whose new book I bought, which she autographed and dedicated, as well as ex-Wings front man Denny Laine who was a most articulate and amusing interviewee.

One particular highlight of my tour around the central hall where the stalls were situated was a lengthy chat with The Beatles' first manager, Alan Williams who was most affable and very proud to tell me that his grandson who was Jewish (although Alan is not) and attending a Jewish school was learning Hebrew! I taught Alan the Hebrew and Yiddish words for grandpa and he reciprocated with a very passable "Layla Tov", which means goodnight, even though it was morning but I appreciated the sentiment.

I walked around and eventually realised that I hadn't eaten all day (these things fade into insignificance when you're in Beatle heaven) so I made my way out to my car where numerous delectable delights lay stored (i.e. bread, cheese and tuna).

Coming back, I was stopped by a bouncer who asked to see my 'pass' - Oh well, it had been nice whilst it lasted, but my free entry to The Adelphi was no longer valid and hence you can now understand my sitting here amongst the bustle of a revelling Mathew Street.

The atmosphere around the city centre is truly electric and it is wonderful to hear Beatles' songs pouring out of nearly every pub you pass (and there are a lot of pubs in Liverpool).

I walk around the city wearing my kippah (skullcup) and aside from a few inane comments from drunk teenagers, people greet me with smiles.

The other day, when I was undertaking my trek, numerous people approached me out of the blue and offered to give directions. I wish Londoners were this friendly.

That's it for this evening...I'm going to make my way back to the gorgeous quiet of The Wirral. With the way people are partying around here, I doubt anyone will notice my absence.

Until tomorrow and in the words of my new friend Alan Williams, Layla Tov.

ADDENDUM:

Shortly after submitting this note, I was making my way across a grass verge back to my car, when I noticed that my rather temperamental belt had given up the ghost and as a result, my previously attached camera was no longer about my person. Granted that it contained all the photographs taken during the last three days, I was not best pleased. I scoured about in vain and was about to give up when I saw a man and lady across the road and appealed to them in the hope that they might have a flashlight, they didn't but the man graciously came over to help and to my immense relief, found the camera. I don't know what took hold of me, but I was so grateful that I hugged the guy! I assured him that this wasn't because I fancied him in any way...but I wonder what he must have thought of this strange Londoner!

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Day Six (27th August)


As the sun has gone down on my last full day in this wonderful city, I am posting this far away from either Mathew Street or Penny Lane. Tonight, this note comes to from my bedroom in the lovely B&B (bed and breakfast) I am staying at in Caldy, a picturesque village in The Wirral - a wonderful countrified tonic to the city.

Today did not start off that well. I was due to pick up my friend Julian along the dockside, but as the city centre was closed off for the Mathew Street Festival, I found myself getting later and later for a photo shoot in Penny Lane with a Jewish Chronicle reporter (he wanted some shots to accompany the article submitted by the journalist).

I gave priority to the photographer, got to the site on time, had the shots taken and then went to find Julian.

I can tell you that it's not easy being a (minor) celebrity - so much to do in so little time!

When I got to the pick-up point, Julian wasn't there and so I spent the rest of the morning either looking for him or waiting in his hotel.

I made my way to a pre-arranged tour around the legendary Casbah Club where The Beatles had played frequently with their popular drummer, Pete Best (the club was situated under the family home and was run by his mother, Mona).

I got to the location and who should I see but Julian who had been caught in some business and was unreachable by mobile phone (which had made contacting him all the more frustrating).

We were given a fascinating tour by Pete's sister-in-law Cheryl, followed by her husband, Pete's younger brother, Rory. Cheryl took a shine to us and our sixty minute visit soon overran into two fascinating hours, at the end of which, Cheryl invited us go upstairs, which was not usually permitted and see the office where the living room had once been. Added to this treat were some incredible framed photos and posters on the wall, many of which I had never seen.

Eventually, we felt we were outstaying our visit and so we reluctantly said our farewells and left.

What makes The Casbah such a fascinating place to visit is the fact that it looks exactly the same as it used to when the band played there. Standing in the different rooms, it was very easy to visualise what it must have been like on a Saturday night at full capacity.

The Cavern is a must to visit but you know that you're not in the same place that held those bands and their audiences - something that cannot be levelled at The Casbah. Even John and Paul's houses have been refurbished to look like they did in the '50s. The Casbah therefore ranks as the most authentic location I visited on my trip (aside from the cemeteries) which made it a very memorable experience for both of us (and the ceilings hand-painted by the Beatles is an added bonus).

The visit over, I wanted to quickly see the Beatle places I hadn't yet got to and of course, the first had to be St Peter's Church and it's environs, namely, the location of both the first meeting between John and Paul and also, the final resting place of a certain Eleanor Rigby. Have you ever heard THAT name before?....

We started off by visiting the graveyard and locating Ms Rigby's not-so-lonely gravestone. It was situated near the middle of the row.

I wonder if her face-in-the-jar-by-the-door told the undertakers to put the rest of her body in a pretty inaccessible location!

We then cheekily walked through the gates of the adjacent, unattended churchyard into the grounds where the famous fete had been held and took shots on the exact location of the stage (pathetic, isn't it?!).

I followed this by taking Julian to Strawberry Field. He took my guitar out of the car and there, in front of the gates gave a wonderful performance of Strawberry Fields Forever, whereupon a car stopped and two women stepped out, one of whom also a Londoner, joined in with the song.

So there we were, Julian serenading an attractive lady in front of the Strawberry Field gates and me filming the performance with this multi-purpose phone.

I swear that you couldn't make this up.

That done, we went to a few more places and ended the tour outside Brian Epstein's family home on 197 Queen's Drive, Wavertree.

I had finally seen virtually all the places I'd read about over the years and I realised that it was time to call it a day.

I dropped Julian off at The Liverpool Empire Theatre for the annual Mathew Street gala concert and came through the Kingsway (formerly know as The Mersey) Tunnel for the last time in a while.

I had conquered Liverpool and it felt...

fab!


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Day 7 (28th August)


Well, its a week later and I am but a few hours from leaving this unique city.

I have just read the comments many of you have written on these notes and they've really touched me to know that you were there with me throughout my odyssey around the city.

The incredible thing about my trip was that, although I was alone for a great deal of the time, there was not a single moment when I felt lonely. It was as though I had an invisible group of friends, perhaps John and George, keeping me company along the way. This from the city whose son once wrote "ah, look at all the lonely people".

Reading your comments this morning, I now know that you were there with me too.

I wanted to finish off this diary in the same place I began it, because after all, it is a creation of Liverpool.

So with this in mind, I look back in wonder on all that's happened and start counting the days and years until I return here again.

Adieu from Liverpool - one helluva place to fulfil your dreams.

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