Last Friday saw us on the train to Liverpool to see the World Museum exhibition of ‘China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors’. I have heard that the reason the exhibition came to Liverpool this year rather than any other UK city, was that there are many Liverpool FC fans in China (known as ‘The Other Red Army) who campaigned for it. Liverpool has a very longstanding Chinese community, older than that in San Francisco. The warriors were discovered quite by chance in 1974. It estimated that there are around 8,000 figures and horses in total but only 2,000 have been excavated so far. We were seeing a very small sample of those. There were a number of displays of ancient Chinese history and the rise of the Qin dynasty. The Chinese Empire was bigger than the later Roman Empire. The tomb complex was huge, larger than the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. In addition to the warrior figures, there were horses and chariots, helmets, armour, weapons and items needed in the afterlife.
Other displays focussed on the Han Dynasty, the Silk Road and items which probably found their way to China via that route.
The warriors were perhaps the most striking items on display.
A lighting display of how the tomb might have looked in it’s setting:
We left the exhibition via a walkway with Chinese lanterns suspended above it.
Outside the sun was out, buskers were playing in the street and the city centre was busy. A group of people including the Merseyside Chief Constable, were abseiling down wires suspended from the Radio City Tower. Unfortunately they had just landed so I could not get a photograph of them. On the train back to Crewe, a guy was having a dispute with the train manager about the price of his ticket for the short journey to Liverpool South Parkway station. We began to wonder if the matter would be resolved before we got to his station but it was. The Terracotta Warriors exhibition continues until October so there is still plenty of time to see it.
For once, our journey to Liverpool was not for work but pleasure. James is a Bob Dylan fan and I had managed to get tickets for his Liverpool night in his current UK tour. We arrived in the morning as for some time I had wanted to visit the Anglican Cathedral with my 1927 guidebook. The Diocese of Liverpool was not founded until 1880 as previously it had been part of Lichfield and then Chester Dioceses. Giles Gilbert Scott was commissioned to design the building at the age of 22 in 1902. By 1910 the Lady Chapel had been built and consecrated. Although work did not cease completely during the First World War, fund-raising had not been as successful as hoped and was limited to preventing what had already been built from deteriorating due to the weather. It was still under construction when my guidebook was published and it was not until 1942 that the central tower was completed and the first bells rang in 1951. We wandered around admiring the mix of the sacred with modern art. Here is the west window with a Tracey Emin installation below it.
Charles Lutyen’s Sculpture from wood ‘Outraged Christ’
The Lady Chapel is beautiful
and the Children’s Chapel has a Craigie Aitchison painting
Sadly no-one was playing the organ
You can climb to the top of the tower to see the view but I left that for another time. After a coffee in the mezzanine cafe we headed back down the hill past the entrance to China Town.
Along Bold Street I browsed in News from Nowhere, the radical bookshop but nothing grabbed me. I did find two books in Oxfam. The store had a re-vamp last year but still has a large shelf of newly arrived stock unlike any of their other stores that I have been in. Further down the hill, buskers were competing to see who could make the most noise. It was so sunny and warm we could not resist sitting outside with a cold beer for the first time this year before checking into our hotel. Before we could get into the arena, Simply Dylan, a tribute band were playing on the terrace at Jury’s Inn near the arena and quite a large crowd were listening. Nearby is the John Lennon memorial.
The Echo Arena does not allow photography so no photos of Bob in action. He is renowned for not having a support act, not interacting with the audience and just coming on and playing. A friend had said that he always starts on time so we were a little surprised that his start was delayed by people still coming in 15 minutes after the start time. The vast majority of people respected the no photography law with fewer phones flashing than at other events. Afterwards I only had my phone to get an evening shot as we headed back to the hotel.
On Friday morning, I had a meeting to attend in Liverpool. Although I have retired, I still sit as a lay person on the Ethics Committee of the Fertility Unit at the Women’s Hospital. It is only four times each year and I enjoy meeting former colleagues again and engaging in what can be quite challenging discussions. On arrival at Lime Street Station I noticed that the block on the corner of Skelhorne Street and Bolton Street was being re-developed. There was a 24-hour convenience store there and I wondered where the guys I used to see at 8 am sitting on the station steps with their cans of Carlsberg and a morning cigarette were getting their supplies from now.
The meeting finished a little early so I headed back into town to pick up a couple of things. I always enjoy walking down Bold Street. There are independent shops including two bookshops, one of which is the radical bookshop, News from Nowhere. There is an art materials store, two outdoor shops, some vintage emporia and coffee shops amongst others. On Friday, I had to limit myself to popping into the Oxfam shop. It has had a re-vamp since my last visit. I did find a few National Geographic volumes to fill in the gaps in my collection. This comprises a few bound volumes given to me by my uncle which start in 1948, some my parents had from the 1960s and 70s and others I have picked up at various times. I currently subscribe and am filling in the gaps. I wonder if it was one of the drivers for my wanderlust as I have been reading it and enjoying the photography since childhood. I read the current issue on the train into Liverpool and learnt about the mistreatment of widows in Uganda who are expected to give up their children, land, homes and themselves to their in-laws when their husband dies. This is a cultural tradition, not a law so charities and others are working to challenge this.
In the city centre, a busker was playing Bruce Springsteen songs. I found what I needed quickly. I got back to Lime Street just as my train was pulling in and a group of guys from Glasgow were arriving all wearing T shirts announcing Lewis’s Stag Do. Back in Crewe, I saw a few slightly unusual vehicles. A Morris Minor was parked next to me in the car pack and had a sticker from the Annual Morris Minor Rally 2016 in the window. This is not an event I have heard of before. I passed a Landrover Defender with so much equipment stacked on top of it, it looked like it was about to embark on major trip in Australian outback, not drive through Crewe. Perhaps the owner runs off-road driving experience events. On the A534 I passed a vintage fire engine and have no idea where it was going. I was happy that I had clocked up 4.3 miles of walking as there were 250 miles to do in the car later that evening.
We hit the road as soon as James got back from work. There were numerous accidents incidents and roadworks along our stretch of the M6 so I took the A50 north in the dark & rain. Joining the motorway on the slip road at junction 20 was the first of three occasions where a vehicle (this time a truck) moved out of his lane sideways and almost pushed me into the crash barrier. I managed to avoid him, another HGV and a car who also tried to shift me sideways into the outside lane when I was overtaking. Otherwise, the journey was uneventful and we got to Edinburgh before midnight.
We were in Edinburgh this weekend as the Six Nations Rugby Tournament begins and the Scotland-Ireland match was at Murrayfield. Here is the ground just before the match started:
Scotland won after a very exciting game. That evening we went to our local cinema to see Trainspotting 2 relaxing on their sofas and had walked 8.4 miles.
On Sunday morning, I popped into the Secret Herb Garden at Old Pentland to pick up a new lovage plant and then continued south to Dawyck Botanical Garden which has just re-opened after its winter closure. It concentrates on trees, shrubs and woodland plants.
As we entered, the woman on the welcome desk congratulated us on having brought the sun with us. The snowdrops were out and other spring plants were starting to emerge.
The leafless deciduous trees made their trunks more prominent. This is Betula utilis from the Himalaya. Lichens were also prominent:
A research project was underway and I need to learn about the relationship between lichens and the trees they grow on.
I spotted a sculpture which has been installed since our last visit ‘Gentle Presence’ by Susheila Jamieson.
We continued south on a B road which parallels the motorway as far as Gretna Green and then picking up the A6 in Carlisle. I am looking at the route I will walk next summer, spotting things to visit, great views between Penrith and Shap and places to stay. By the time we were back on the motorway the sun had set and we had a quiet run home.
Several years ago the overnight ferry we were due to take from Birkenhead to Belfast was delayed and we were told not to return to check in until 10.30pm. We headed into to New Brighton and found a bistro. On this journey we decided to go back there and eat before going to the ferry port and being restricted to the offerings on the boat. Despite summer Friday afternoon heavy traffic on the motorways, we made good time and had an hour to kill before our meal so parked up on the promenade and walked along to the end.
The tide was coming in fast and several fisherman were casting their lines. I asked one what he was hoping to catch; he replied ‘bass’ but they’re very slow tonight. Some brave souls were swimming but most families were heading back home after an afternoon on the beach. We were too late to visit the museum in Fort Perch Rock, a former defence building dating from 1820 as it closed at 5pm.
After dinner, it was time to head back to the port and after another wait, get onto the boat.
Across the water, lights were starting to come on in Liverpool and it was time for us to settle into our cabin before the 5.30am alarm tomorrow morning.
Despite working in Liverpool for almost seven years, there are still many sights I have not had the chance to visit so when James announced that he was attending a course there, it was a good opportunity to use some of my hotel points to get us a free night there. As the brief of summer weather had ended by Tuesday evening, we had a wet walk from the hotel to Panoramic 34, a restaurant at the top of a building. The views were indeed extensive and the food very good but as all the windows were covered in rain spots, photography was not an option. We ate our meal watching the Mersey and Isle of Man ferries departing.
This morning, I left James at the course venue and after a coffee, wandered down to the Pier Head to visit the Museum of Liverpool which I had never been in before and which is in a striking building. There were lots of things I had not known before and I learnt a lot about the city I have come to love. The photojournalist Lee Karen Stow, had an exhibition called Poppies: women at war which was very moving as I have had a number of patients who have escaped from war zones in several countries and are seeking asylum in the UK. Much of combat history is devoted to the men who are fighting so this was a refreshing change.
Afterwards I took a few photographs around the Pier Head and then visited one of the city’s secondhand bookshops, Kernaghan’s, in the Bluecoat. It was quiet so I had a good chat with the owner, his wife and her father covering caffeine metabolism, the school they used to run in Nepal and trekking in the Himalaya. I bought two books, one by some guys who did an overland trip in a Trabant. Their route covers a lot of the London to Sydney overland route we hope to do in a couple of years so it should be interesting. The other is on American myth, a topic of interest for this summer’s drive.
After lunch, James headed back to his course and I walked up the hill to visit 59 Rodney Street. Edward Chambré Hardman was a 1950s society photographer who lived and worked from the house for many years until his death in 1988. The National Trust have now taken it over and it is a fascinating insight into that era of photography and the Hardman’s lives, as they threw very little away. After the 90-minute guided tour which is a must for anyone interested in photography, I looked in both cathedrals as I had never been in them. I then walked back down Brownlow Hill towards the station, just as all the students were pouring out of the universities. On the short train journey back to Crewe, one of the staff was telling us which end of the first class section to sit in so that we had time to down the drinks and eat before we disembarked.
Various friends have been posting their plans for Lent on social media. I have been wondering what I will give up/do and was pondering this while walking back down to Lime Street Station after a meeting at the hospital. There has been a vacant plot of land on Leece Street for quite a while and various hoardings in place. Today, building work was under way and the new hoardings were decorated with some fantastic street art.
I could not get a straight on shot or I would have been mown down by the traffic. By the time I reached home I had decided that for Lent I will pledge to walk at least five miles each day. My last depressive episode which began in the early summer left me with little motivation to exercise and it is something I need to get back to. Hopefully most of my walks will be outdoors but bad weather or darkness might mean some are on the cross trainer in the garage. Hopefully the weather will improve and the days are getting longer. Today I did 5.6 miles just doing what had to be done in the city.
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.