At the end of a busy week I had to travel to Liverpool on Thursday and Friday. On Thursday I drove to Aintree Racecourse to deliver a lecture to GPs and mental health workers with one of my colleagues. I have given lectures in many different venues over the years including a football stadium (which was quite amusing as I have never been to a football match in my life) and Birmingham City Council House but never at a racecourse. Fortunately there were no horses and I did not have to wear an amazing hat as the racing season does not start until April. On the way I saw the ‘Pies Music’ slogan on a bridge at the north end of the M57 which complements those seen regularly on the M6. The lecture had to be delivered twice, once in the early afternoon and then again in the evening. The first session was disrupted by a fire-alarm and we had to evacuate and stand in the rain before they decided it was a false alarm and we could start again.
In between sessions we escaped to a colleague’s 18th century cottage in nearby Aintree village, tucked away off the A59 behind all the 1930s houses. The old Saxon settlement took its name from ‘one tree’ or a ‘tree standing alone’ sometime in the 12th century but the locals attribute the name to a much more recent tree which was felled in 2004. It was very interesting to learn about the history of the area from my colleague. On Friday morning I had a very wet start travelling by train to the city centre and walking to the hospital, a very familiar journey. On the train I was still reading Ian Frazier’s book ‘Great Plains’ and was interested to discover that the iconic plant of the plains, tumbleweed, was introduced from Russia with settlers in the 19th century. It has various names including Russian cactus, thistle, saltwort, prickly glasswort and wind witch. Presumably it also blows around on the Russian steppes. After chairing a meeting at the hospital, I could escape and on the way back to the station, visited one of my favourite bookshops in the city, Reids. It is the only remaining Georgian building in the city which has a business on the ground floor and proprietor’s living accommodation above. Most buildings have been divided up but not this one. The proprietor sits in the middle of the shop next to an open fire and I always find something of interest in here. This time it was a book about Istanbul, one of the cities to visit in the future.