Friday, 31 July 2009
This morning started with a bang, literally, a thunder storm and torrential rain. However this didn’t deter us too much as we had plenty to do on the computer until things improved. We had to go into town on some personal matters which happily didn’t take too long to resolve.
This afternoon as we were going over to the Maritime Museum we spotted 2 guys working on the Electricity junction box who informed us that power was now available on the pontoons.Yippee, the only snag there is that we leave here tomorrow. All the meters appear to be showing 2 units of power available (probably for test purposes) so tonight we will be on mains power and not the inverter. Don’t know how long 2 units will last but we will give it a go.
Mid afternoon and we thought that we would try and complete our visit to the Maritime Museum as we still had not been in the first floor naval display. This covers everything from the Royal Navy to the Merchant Navy, both world wars and how Liverpool became so important as a port.There were plenty of first hand experiences of ships being torpedoed, working across the Atlantic in mid winter and many others. Quite a large section was devoted to the Titanic, Lusitania and the Empress of Ireland. All three of these ships (in listed order) were sunk by hitting an iceberg, torpedoed by a German “U” boat and rammed by the Storstad, a Norwegian freighter. The Empress was travelling in thick fog at the time and the death toll was higher than that of either of the other 2 ships. Before we had completely viewed the whole floor we were ushered out of the building as it was 5pm and closing time.
Thursday, 30 July 2009
With the British Summer not getting any better it was another good day to spend indoor’s which luckily Liverpool has plenty of indoor attractions for such occasions.
Today it was the turn of the Beatles with the new FAB 4 3D visual attraction and the.original Beatles story in Britannia vaults Albert dock. We started at the FAB 4 in the new Pier Head Pavilion. For this we had to wear 3D glasses and we were ushered into a nice new theatrette. Inside we were asked if we minded being filmed as there was a film crew doing a documentary.We were told just to let our legs hang down and not touch the bar in front of us. As the show progressed we were sprayed with water, had bubbles blown around us, smelt fresh strawberries (for Strawberry Fields) and our seats went bump at the appropriate moment. Only about 10 minutes in duration it was very well done. After this we went through the White Feathers presentation which is done by Cynthia and Julian Lennon, John Lennon’s first wife and son. The white feather was symbol of peace given by John to Julian. When John left Cynthia Paul McCartney wrote the song “Hey Jude” which was originally entitled Hey Jules for Julian but was altered to Jude for simplicity. Julian didn’t find this out until 20 years later. It was very interesting and on occasions very moving as Cynthia told her story of living with a legend.
After lunch it was down into the Britannia Vaults for the Beatles story. Unfortunately we had only been in there about 20 minutes when the fire alarm went off and we were evacuated out of the building. Luckily it wasn’t raining and we were back inside within 15 minutes. From the Quarrymen to the Beatles was quite some transformation. The Quarrymen was so named after the school some of the lad’s attended. John already had the Quarrymen up and running before he was introduced to Paul and at first was not too keen on taking Paul on as he could see he was a better musician than himself and he was afraid Paul would take over as king pin but he never did.
There were quite a few changes in the Beatles line up before the final four eventually went on to fame and fortune. The most infamous change was Pete Best who although being a better drummer than Ringo his personality didn’t fit in with the other 3. Quite a few other musicians went on to join other groups or even started their own. During the height of Beatle Mania Merseyside rang out to the tune of many, many groups all trying to emulate the Beatles. Some succeeded but many just went on to enjoy the scene of the Cavern, the Casbah club and the White Star and Grapes pub’s among many other venue’s.
All the top songs were all documented as to how, where they were written and the inspiration behind them. It truly is a magnificent exhibition with many first hand stories from people than came into contact with them. After their manager, Brian Epstein died they just seemed to lose their way and in setting up the Apple Corp they took on friends to run it for them who quite honestly were not capable and within 7 months it’s Apple boutique ceased trading as they were just about broke. Other branches of the corp also came under scrutiny and were eventually managed by the Beatles ex road manager Neil Aspinall. The rest as they say is history and a fascinating history it is.
The final part of the story is of the individual stories of each of the four up to the present day or in the case of John and George their untimely death’s which put an end to any speculation of the Beatles ever reforming as so many other groups have done many years on.
Wednesday, 29 July 2009
This is the name lovingly given by Liverpudlians to the Catholic Cathedral which is at the opposite end of Hope St where the Anglican Cathedral is built. The correct title is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King at the suggestion of Pope Pius XI.
The foundation stone was laid in June 1933 in what is now known as the Lutyens Crypt after its original designer. The original design was very conventional as far as Cathedrals go but the outbreak of WWII bought a standstill to the construction and the Crypt wasn’t completed until 1958. Due to escalation in costs the whole Grandiose scheme had to be halted at the Crypt.
It wasn’t until 1960 that a scheme to complete the cathedral was started with a design competition and the winning design was to be a circular affair with the altar in the centre. Due to cost of materials it was decided to build in more modern cheaper materials and the building was completed in 5 years (1965). It was built over the original Crypt which is now being incorporated by a new entranceway. This cathedral is only 86m high and the organ only contains 4565 pipes.
Some twenty or so years later the cathedral was in a sad state suffering from metal corrosion and fatigue, water leaks and many other faults. The Archdiocese sued the architect and builders which was finally settled out of court but it still left them with the problem of repair or rebuild. In 1987 it was decide to repair the building and a fund raising appeal was started. After fitting water proof membranes and a stainless steel roof as well as replacing corroded steel work the £8m restoration was completed in 2003 but still leaving the diocese short of a little over £1m which they are still fund raising.
The most impressive part of this cathedral was the stain glass roof and wall panels and use of natural light but I am afraid that we are not advocates of modern architecture and I’m afraid we left feeling somewhat flat and unimpressed.
Today was a good day to be indoor’s so we decided we would visit the two cathedrals of Liverpool. First up was the Anglican Cathedral which is the largest Anglican Cathedral in Europe and the UK and the second largest in the world. It was designed by a young 20 year old by the name of Giles Gilbert Scott (later to become Sir) who’s other claim to fame was to win a competition to design the British phone box for the Post Office as it was in those days. As a reminder there is one of his phone boxes within the cathedral in working order. Talk about the sublime to the ridiculous.
The stone used in the cathedral came from a quarry at Woolton about 5 miles away and many stone masons were employed including several fathers and sons. Building started in 1904 but due to two world wars it wasn’t completed until 1978. It should stand the test of time and be around for generations to come.
The original design had two towers but over time was reduced to one central tower which stands 331ft high (101m). Other impressive parts are the worlds highest and heaviest peal of bells, highest and widest Gothic arches and the largest organ in Britain built in four separate housings and contains 10,268 pipes. Boy, I would love to hear that fired up.There were many displays and a 10 minute video explaining the whole building process and it’s final consecration.
With it’s various chapel’s and rooms it caters for events, conferences, catering, receptions as well as weddings and dinner parties. It truly is a living cathedral with something happening all year round. We have been in other cathedral’s but this one is definitely something special.
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
With the fickle minded summer we have been having, today seemed to be the best day for a trip to the seaside according to the long range weather forecast. We only had to walk across the road from the dock to catch a bus to Southport.
One hour and twenty minutes later we were heading down to the beach and the pier. We did a detour into the Model Railway which for those of you who know, it was similar to Bekonscot Model Village and railway at Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire. This village was not a patch on Bekonscot but what there was of it was realistic enough. The railway was running continental outline Garden Railway stock and we were also given a quiz upon entry in which we had to find things, more for the kid’s really. The winner get’s a £20 W H Smith voucher.
From there it was off down the pier which I believe is about a mile long and the second longest in the UK. When we reached the end there was still no sign of the sea as it was low tide and the tide goes out for about 3 miles at this point. Being a fine but cold and blustery day we could see Blackpool Tower and the BHP Billiton Petroleum gas drilling platform in Liverpool Bay. We took shelter in one of the huts/shelters on the pier and had our picnic lunch that we had taken with us.
After wandering along Lord St which is the main road through the town we spotted Holy Trinity Church which has a very distinct bell tower. We were very lucky as the church is only open between 2pm and 3.30pm and there is always somebody in attendance. We were told that the church was made with Lancashire sandstone which doesn’t do too well in the salty air atmosphere and the tower was paid for by the Elder family (shipping magnate from Manchester) and it cost the princely sum of £1250 when built around 1900. The town of Southport was expanded by the cotton traders of Manchester as an exclusive housing development for themselves and has of course grown over the years.
In the centre of town is probably one of the biggest cenotaph and war memorials that we have seen outside of London. With the cenotaph in the middle of the roadway and a memorial archway on either side of the road it would have taken up the size of a soccer pitch.
Another interesting place we found was the Wayfarers Arcade which is a grade 2 listed building which has recently renovated. It was originally opened in 1898 as the Leyland arcade after a parliamentarian and took 8 years to build, it was truly like walking back through time as the whole place still has that Victorian look and feel about it.
Another attractive building which had been and still is a bank building but a different company now. The entrance foyer was lined in ceramic tiles and above the main banking chamber was a stain glass roof, truly awesome.
Monday, 27 July 2009
Well after yesterdays beautiful Summer’s day today was a complete opposite with rain, wind and squally showers. Luckily we didn’t have anything organised except Tracey had bought a little carpentry job for me to sort out. With only a limited amount of space on the back deck it took me a couple of hours with it being a fiddly job, but I finally succeeded.
After lunch Dot and Tracey went over to the Seized Exhibition for a quick look around before Tracey had to head off to Lime Street Station to catch the train back to London. I spent the time working on the computer putting more captions on some of our thousands of photo’s of the past couple of years. In future this will be done at the time they are downloaded from the camera.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Weather wise today has been the best day we have had in Liverpool and was certainly the best day to take the trip on the Mersey Ferry and the open top tour bus.
With the River Mersey being about 1 mile wide the view from the Liverpool side is deceiving because the area’s of Birkenhead, Wallasey and New Brighton are actually quite scenic. There has actually been a ferry on the Mersey for six hundred years even before Liverpool was built. The Mersey is not a river to be trifled with as it has a rise and fall of 9m and runs so fast that if you fell in, by the time you surfaced you could be 500 yards away from where you fell in.
Even the open top bus tour showed us a completely different picture of Liverpool and after doing the circuit we headed back to St George’s Hall which only reopened in 2007 after a £23m restoration. The hall originally incorporated the Crown Law Courts and you can follow the path of the prisoners from the cells to the dock and stand as they did in front of the Judge. Depending on the Judge of the day whether you got 30 lashes and hard labour, deported to the colonies or an appointment with the hangman. Men, women and children were all treated equally.
Within the Hall is what is known as the Great Hall where a beautiful organ which the 3rd largest in Britain after The Albert Hall and Liverpool cathedral, stands at the end of the Minton tiled floor which is protected by a wooden floor. The wooden floor is only lifted on special occasion’s for people to view the beautiful tiled floor.
After another busy day pounding the cobbles of Liverpool we retired to the Walkabout pub to watch the All Blacks play South Africa. Unfortunately the All Blacks were not the better team of the day and lost.
Saturday, 25 July 2009
This afternoon we spent visiting the Pier Masters House which is open to the public and the Maritime Museum. As we headed across the bridge at the entrance to Albert Dock British Waterways guys were lowering the stop gate between Albert and Canning Half Tide lock. This is operated by one huge hydraulic ram. As the gate went down, (It lays flat on the dock sea bed) we could see the water starting to pour into Albert Dock. By the time the gate was fully lowered there was quite a torrent pouring through the gap which last for several minutes. We spoke to the BW guy who told us that after the narrowboat movements for the day, which were just 3 outward bound, they had let Spirit of Fairbridge out into the Mersey at high tide. Because of this the two Canning docks were now higher than Albert and Salthouse Docks so he had to correct the levels. Normally they just open some sluices to do this but these apparently take hours so he took a short cut and just lowered the gate which did the job in minutes.
Getting back to the Pier Masters house which has been set up as it would have been in 1940 as a museum piece. There were originally 4 of these houses but 3 were destroyed in a German air raid during WWII. The kitchen had all the CWS (Cooperative) products of the era on the shelves, ration books and the house had been converted from gas lighting to electricity. Outside proudly stood the outdoor loo and a small garden that they managed to grow fresh vegetables as part of the war effort. The latter is still maintained today with a good crop of pea’s, rhubarb, brussell sprouts, marrow’s or courgette’s, potato’s,lettuce and bean’s.
From here we went back to the Maritime museum to view the Slavery, Boat Building, and the History of Liverpool sections which covers another 2 floor’s of the museum. The slavery exhibit was interesting with many audio visual displays by all sorts of people talking about how slavery affected them and that even today, Black Americans are not as free as the world have us believe because they are trapped by their skin colour into poverty and poor race relations. Perhaps President Obama will change all that.
Other nationalities spoke of entrapment or slavery, working in domestic service for a pittance and their lives not being their own as they were not allowed outside the front door or discouraged from trying to obtain a better education to further themselves. We tend to think of slavery when European's went to West Africa to catch African natives and ship them back to the Western world for a life in slavery but that is only part of the story. Today Haiti is the slavery hot spot of the world where 1 in 5 children never live to see their 5th birthday and the parents are entrapped by poverty. A mind provoking exhibit.
The ship building exhibit was of the ship builders on the Birkenhead side of the Mersey and how ship building progressed from wooden ships and sails to steel ships with mechanical propulsion. There were many models of ships that have graced the Liverpool waterfront in their day but of course have long gone to the scrap yards.
The final section of Liverpool’s history from the time of the civil war to the building of the first dock which started the ball rolling. The myth of how the Liver Birds became pseudonymous with Liverpool. The boom and bust days of the last 2 centuries with immigration, over crowding, pestilence and disease, unemployment and Liverpool’s link with Ireland which is where I think the Scouse accent is derived. There was plenty of original film footage on display, some on a big screen which showed just how busy and important Liverpool was to the Britain we know today.
This is the stone version of the Liver bird's. One of only 4. Originally at St Johns Market in the city, the other 3 are still in situ.
It is only since the mid 1980’s that Liverpool has started to fight back against it’s sordid reputation as a not very nice place to go, because with having the most Grade 1 listed buildings in the world it even outstrips London. With a vision bought about by Lord Michael Heseltine, Liverpool is becoming the tourist Mecca of the North.
Well it’s been another busy day here in Liverpool. The first activity was the divers moving their pontoon from one side of the dock to the other using nothing more than a very long rope and two men as Mules. Once on the opposite side there was a large crane waiting to off load gear and equipment. Even the pontoons have now gone.
Dot took herself off to the hairdressers as she was long overdue for a hair cut and looking a bit like a woolly Merino. As for me, I spent the time on the computer putting captions on some of the hundreds of photo’s we have accumulated since 2006.
Now you might be wondering what today’s Title is all about, well after today’s 3 departure’s there are only 2 narrow boats left in Salthouse Dock, one flying a New Zealand flag (us) and Matilda flying the Australian flag so the colonial’s have taken over Salthouse Dock and for the time being it is now Colonial Dock. Rule Britannia!
Friday, 24 July 2009
Today we have walked from Princes Dock right along the Mersey waterfront to Brunswick Dock and many parts in between. According to Dot’s Pedometer we have walked just a tad under 9 miles today and we are both feeling the effects on our legs and feet.
Brunswick Dock is where the yachts and large boats access the river Mersey from Liverpool Marina. We also found the 2 Navy Patrol boats that we had seen earlier hurtling up the river at a great rate of knots. Near the Marina is the Customs and Excise building which is actually built over what I would consider a dry or graving dock. It had terraced walls on both sides and mooring rings about every 5 feet around the dock.
Late this afternoon we heard a call from the top of the dock wall and went out to find Halfie and Jan who were visiting Liverpool for the day. After a short chat they had to leave to catch a train back to Chester. Hope to catch up again on the cut sometime. This evening we braved a chilling wind to farewell the Crown Princess which was due to sail at 8.30pm but didn’t actually get away from the wharf until 9pm. With a strong cross wind broad side onto the Princess the two tugs had their work cut out pulling her away from the wharf and turning her mid-stream. Considering it was low tide and the draft of the Princess it just shows how deep the River Mersey really is, very deep indeed.
The largest passenger ship to visit Liverpool in the port’s history.More a floating luxury resort than a mere cruise liner, Crown Princess arrived from Dublin this morning at 5am and is due to depart for Belfast this evening at 8.30pm.
At 116,000 tonnes the cruise ship carries 3114 passengers and has a crew of 1163.
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Today started with a walk along the banks of the Mersey from Albert Dock to Princes Dock. Passing the 3 Graces as they are known, The Liver building, the Cunard building and the Mersey Harbour and Docks building, we found many memorials to Merchant Navy personnel who died during WWII serving with the Royal Navy keeping the Atlantic supply route open and helping Britain survive the war. The memorials were from Holland and Belgium but there were also references to Chinese, Indian and going by the names some Middle Eastern men.
The Chinese plaque was very poignant in the fact that these men serve in the Navy and fought for Britain and yet after the war they were forced to return to China even though many had wives and children here who were allowed to stay. Now where have we heard that before and quite recently, I am referring of course to the Ghurkha soldiers.
On the way back we stopped at Princes Lock for a chat with the BW guys who were waiting for 2 boats out of Salthouse Dock heading back to Eldonian village. They had no boats inward bound today only these 2 outward bound and they reported no boat movements at all tomorrow. The reported waiting list for entry to the Liverpool Link is pure myth, it may be a different story next year once the word gets about how easy and good it is on the Link but for the time being it only requires 5 working days notice and you could be in Salthouse Dock in no time at all. So if the thought has crossed your mind, don’t hesitate, just do it, pick up the phone and book. They are working on internet online booking but that may not be available yet.
After lunch it was off to the Information centre to pick up the Magical Mystery Tour coach for the Beatles tour. This took in places like Penny Lane, Strawberry Fields, childhood homes and schools, a bit of general sight seeing and of course the place it all started, The Cavern Club, which was actually demolished in 1973 but has been rebuilt on the original site using as many of the original bricks that they could in 1997.
Other interesting facts are that many of the street signs associated with the Fab 4 kept disappearing with souvenir hunters so the council finished up painting the names on walls etc: It has only been in the last 2 years that the council have once again been erecting new street signs and removing the painted one’s.
The other thing to get taken as a souvenir were the gates to Strawberry Fields which used to be an orphanage. They were quickly found and have now been welded in place as they are apparently worth a cool 1.5 million pounds to collectors. The orphanage was run by the Salvation Army and John Lennon and his second wife Yoko used to give the kids presents at Christmas.
It transpires that between the four of them they have given quite a lot back to Liverpool and Liverpool remembers them with a week long Beatles Week held over August bank holiday week-end. There were so many other stories and anecdotes but we don’t have the space to write about it all. The tour naturally finished at the Cavern Club where we obtained a small souvenir, had a beer and listened to the music for a while to take in the atmosphere. The Beatles appeared there no less than 274 times in a little over 2 years.
The Cavern Club. Can you imagine John, George , Paul and Ringo on stage here.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
No, our engine hasn’t seized nor has the boat been seized by Customs and Excise but we have been through part of the Maritime Museum which is a display all about taxes, contraband and smuggling. With hands on displays to keep not only the kids amused but adults as well there is plenty to see,read and inwardly digest.
Dating back to the 1700’s when Tea smuggling was all the rage as is tobacco, alcohol and drugs in today’s era the ingenuity of smugglers to evade tax was at times very inventive. There was the case of 16 steel box girders that were assembled in Europe but before the ends were sealed they were stuffed with 80,000 cigarettes and then shipped to the UK but somebody in Customs smelt a rat and had one of them cut open and bingo, what do we have here then? Anything from toys to ornaments and souvenirs they have all been used.
One form of tax evasion that we don’t often think about is forged brand names in cosmetics,perfumes, toys, clothing and would you believe batteries. Duracell plus was the brand on display but they were not the genuine article. All of these are made with inferior ingredients and occasionally poisonous materials so buying cheaper products doesn’t always pay off.
The display about the Customs and Excise rummage squads who search ships and occasionally aircraft was a real eye opener in the fact that they are very much a self contained unit because if they get into difficulty the ships crew won’t help them. Crawling into small spaces were the air is foul or poisonous they have to wear a divers suit with an air line as air tanks on their backs would make it impossible to get into narrow passages. They also are trained in Fire Service rescue techniques so if they are injured on the job they can rescue each other. Not a job for the faint hearted.
The last part was all about the 9 million immigrants that have passed through the port to America, Canada and Australia in the 18 & 1900’s. Many of these came from Europe to Hull or Grimsby travelled across England to Liverpool and sailed from there as it was cheaper than their home country ports. There was also a mock up of the accommodation that was provided in the old sailing ships in which these immigrants had to live for up to 16 weeks and it doesn’t bare thinking about. Perhaps the conditions in their homeland were so bad that they would endure anything for a better life elsewhere.
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
There is never a dull moment around here. While having breakfast we watched a diver and some assistants working on the dock wall by the entrance to Salthouse Dock. They started by pulling metal shutters or panels up out of the water. The first thing to come to mind was concreting under water? Well I wasn’t far wrong because on our walk later we stopped for a nosey and the guys on the floating pontoon were preparing grouting with some sort of liquid, rolling it into balls about the size of a cricket ball and passing it down to the diver who must have been packing it into the dock wall. Who would ever have believed it.
With the unpredictable English summer we are experiencing it was a case of getting out and about while the going was good. This morning we walked around the docks and checked out the toilet and shower facilities which unfortunately are not as close to the moorings as we had imagined. Still not a great problem.
As the water and power are still not available at the pontoons yet we found the water point in Albert Dock which is the next dock over. We won’t need it for a while but we will have to check with the Port Manager when it’s permissible to move from dock to dock. With 4 Duck Marine Tours (ex WWII American amphibious vehicles that can go on road or water) diving in and out of the dock it gets quite busy at times.
After lunch we met up with one of today’s new arrivals who are flying the Australian flag. The boat has a name with an Aussie ring about it, ‘Matilda’ as in “Waltzing Matilda”. They are very alike to ourselves in that he is from Lancashire, she is Australian and they met in Wellington New Zealand. They came over here for 3 years in 2003 and are still here but they have been back to Aussie a few times.
After this surprise meeting we walked up into town past the new Liverpool One shopping centre which is something out of this world if you are a shopaholic. We then carried on up to Lime Street Railway Station so that we know where to meet Tracey on Friday when she visits us from London. The station is also undergoing a major facelift so along with the Docklands area, Liverpool is really being rejuvenated ready for the 21st century.