Sunday, 1 June 2008

Mersey Blues

Very busy this last week or so. Rather well-travelled.

Jacqueline has just done a nursey course, she had trouble booking it close to home so she booked it up in Liverpool - so she could stay at Grandma's and get childcare to boot. As it happened I took a couple of days off and so the trip became a family visit.

We headed up last Friday. Me, a smooth journey up there, quite quick too, courtesy of Virgin trains; Jacqueline, a five-and-a-half hour trip mostly up the tortuous M6. Saturday we headed over to Manchester, it was basically just somewhere Jacqueline wanted to go, but she left there quite disappointed. She'd expected some kind of shopping paradise and got....well....Manchester.

Sunday we headed over to north Wales, despite somewhat murky weather conditions. Lunch at Llanrwst, my childhood holiday destination, what else but roast lamb, followed by a walk along the Conwy. The paths along the riverbank didn't exist when I was a kid, so they've put in some good work to make things accessible. Of course, times change and Llanrwst has changed lots since I last visited, but a lot of things still remain. Very beautiful. North to Llandudno, where we had a bracing walk along the promenade and pier, followed by a disappointing afternoon tea in one of the hotels on the front. Though the tea was disappointing the hotel itself had a wonderful conservatory and we had panoramic views of just how choppy the Irish Sea had become. It says a lot for the infrastructure improvements up there that a journey that used to take a half-day now takes less than a couple of hours, and we were safely back at Grandma's in time for supper.

Following two days of excursions, we spent the bank holiday pretty much at rest, though we did visit nearby Speke Hall after lunch. A lovely old house, it is situated rather unfortunately next door to Liverpool's new airport, and I'm sure all the noise and vibration can't be doing it any good. Stelios's legacy of progress, no doubt.

Monday evening, however, Jac and I went out for what turned out to be an excellent Indian meal at the Gulshan restaurant. I'd picked it out of the Michelin Guide, and it didn't disappoint.

Tuesday and Wednesday were Jacqueline's course, and save for dropping Jacqueline off in Liverpool city centre, were spent quietly with a couple of family visits. I can take these or leave them, but Alice enjoys meeting her extended family. When we visited Hilda it became interesting, since Alice has been doing a project about the Second World War, and Hilda, now in her eighties, told us how she was in the Fire Service. Fascinating. Of course it is a great shame since in most cases the lives of such "ordinary" people will go unrecorded, indeed in a few years nothing will be left, and yet they inform us more than anything about war and about our history in general.

Wednesday evening we travelled back home, and we were relieved that we had one of our best journeys ever. Door-to-door in three-and-a-half hours. But it still made for a very tired Thursday!

Overall, quite a tough week family-wise. My mother chatters away - she is unable to sit in a room quietly - and over time this grates enormously. Plus, she and Alice constantly bicker with each other, a further source of stress. And, of course, one cannot say a word against Liverpool (despite the fact that on picking up the local newspaper one reads of four shootings in the first two pages) without her getting on the defensive.
On that subject also, I would have to say that this "Capital of Culture" gimic is complete tosh. Even when I spoke to supposedly clued up tourism information people, they were totally switched off. Now, I'm sure that there must be some people up there who are trying their utmost to make a success of this, but I rather suspect that many people there see it as just another hand-out rather than a golden opportunity to improve the city's prospects in the long term. In that respect it'll be just like the garden festival that occurred there just before I left. No lasting impact.

Anyway, I'll climb down from my soapbox. Work Thursday and Friday - Thursday was a real struggle - but then this weekend had proved to be the perfect antidote to our northern ordeal. But right now it is breakfast time, so you'll have to wait until next time to find out!

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