20 January, 2012


I've never been to Liverpool before, even though it was one of the Universities that examined me for 'O' and 'A' level. I have been to Manchester, Leeds Sheffield and Brumagem but never to Liverpool.

It was with some trepidation I approached because I once read a piece of poverty porn called 'Twopence to cross the Mersey' and of course Liverpool was the childhood home of John Lennon who wrote the miserablists anthem 'Imagine' which is breathtaking in its nihilism. There are other examples - Alan Bleasdale the Liverpool playwright springs to mind. So I wondered what the city would be like - children in rags perhaps, dour, grumpy people and streets filled with beggars. I don't know about the suburbs, which may well be quite dire but I was very pleasantly surprised by the City Centre. Firstly the hotel room had a view of both the Cathedral and the RC Cathedral which both looked very fine in their diverse ways.

First port of call was the Museum of Liverpool which concentrated on the history of Liverpool including its popular culture, engineering and sporting achievements. Apart from the rude schoolchild this was an amazing space in a modern building on the waterfront near to the Three Graces, the Liver Building, The Cunard Office and the Port of Liverpool Offices. All these buildings are very fine and display very well in their waterfront setting.

After the museum, it was time to go to the Cathedral. Liverpool Cathedral, the largest in the UK, was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (a Roman Catholic - the RC Cathedral was designed by Frederick Gibberd who was Church of England) in the Gothic style, brick with ashlar facings and incorporating concrete into the structure for the vaulting. It is a soaring space, reminiscent of Guildford, and was concieved in 1901. The Lady Chapel was the first part of the cathedral to be built in 1910 and contains a window paid for by the Girl's Friendly Society commemorating women of local and national influence including Kitty Wilkinson (friend of the poor and needy of Liverpool) Elizabeth Fry, Grace Darling and Baroness Burdett Coutts as well as others. There were artworks in the cathedral two different pictures of the Good Samaritan in very different styles but very good.
The lift to the tower top followed by 108 stairs above the bell chamber was quite scary but also thrilling.
On a better day - it rained when I was up there, I could have stayed there for a long time. Sight lines were not good from the tower top as there were small embrasures to look out of rather than something a little wider.

The second day was wet so we went to the Maritime museum which had lots of artefacts relating to the see including ship models which I like.

I get the impression that there is much more to see and do in Liverpool and I shall definitely be coming back. As for those children in rags and grumpy people - they were nowhere to be seen.

17 January, 2012

Morcambe - Beauty surrounds and health abounds

A visit to Morcambe in Lancashire. There does not seem to be much to do there - there is an indoor market but not much else. I think that Lancaster Council does not do much to promote Morcambe. Morecambe does have its attractions though, even though it faces north. Eric Morcambe took his stage name from the place and his statue is on the sea front, in a charachteristic pose. There is a panorama of the Cumbrian Hills in iron on the front too.

Morcambe is also fond of seagulls which appear on the bollards and sculpture in the town, including this one on the stone jetty. The Jetty was built in the 1850s as a rail terminal for people catching ferries. It didn't catch on though, and now is just a pleasant walk out into Morecambe Bay. There are various artworks, including 'Magpie Hopscotch'.

The main attraction is the Midland Hotel, built in the 1930s as a new railway hotel the war interrupted any hope of it making a profit. Until recently it was derelict but has now been restored by Urban Splash, although sadly some of the minor artworks have been destroyed.

Some do remain including this cieling painting at the top of the central staircase.