The Cavern, Liverpool

For some reason I had been under the impression that The Cavern had been demolished years ago, but it turns out that they only knocked down 25% of it, so it was a must visit destination for us during our recent trip to Liverpool with our friends Martin and Sue.
The Cavern

Just imagine how many famous performers have traipsed down the stairs into The Cavern! It seemed a long way down too.
The Cavern stairs

The place was packed out with drinkers and people like ourselves who were just there to soak up a wee bit of the atmosphere. There was a chap on the stage playing guitar and he discovered that a woman at the front had come over from Belfast, Frances was celebrating her 40th birthday and she asked him to play Give Peace a Chance which he did. Perfect for a sing song! And I imagine something often in the mind of a person from Belfast.

The Cavern

I had a good walk around the place, the walls are covered with old photos of the many people who have performed there over the years, not only The Beatles. But it was their photos that I found strangely moving, it’s all so sad that the best two are no longer with us.

Beatles Memorabilia

Fans from all over the world have written their names all over the brickwork. Above the photos a sign says that The Beatles played there 292 times between the 9th of February 1961 and the 3rd of August 1963
Beatles Memorabilia

A very young looking Chuck Berry was one of the many others who have played there.

Chuck Berry Memorabilia

The photo below is of the entrance, which is ‘new’, well certainly not the original, presumably that one was what was demolished for some reason – years ago – that 25%.
The Cavern new entrance

If you’re going to Liverpool, even if you aren’t a huge Beatles fan but are into music then you should definitely make time to visit The Cavern. I think there will always be a bit of a Beatles sing-song going on mind you!

Penny Lane, Liverpool, and more

I still have lots of Norway photos to share with you, but I thought I would relive our recent visit to Liverpool, we were staying with our good friends Martin and Sue in the north of England and they had arranged a Beatles open top bus tour. Close to the bus stop there are statues of The Beatles, they’re larger than lifesize, about seven and a half feet tall I believe. This actually looks better in the photo than it does in real life I think. My favourite – George, second from the left is particularly anonymous looking.

Four Liverpool Lads

Penny Lane sign

The first stop was Penny Lane. I don’t know what I had expected but I didn’t expect a quiet leafy road. Obviously the original road sign was nicked years ago, and I suspect they still are stolen because this one is just a modern plastic thing.

Penny Lane

Most of us piled out of the bus to take some photos anyway. Apart from being given Beatles information from the tour guide Damien, he was also quite handy with a guitar, so we had a sing-a-long too. There is still a barber there and a bank.

The other end of Penny Lane is residential although some of the buildings have been turned into workplaces. A few computer bound upper office workers are happy to wave back at you, maybe it brightens up their day to have a tour bus pass them every now and again.

Penny Lane

Strawberry Fields Forever – but not THE gate apparently. Yoko Ono took the original after John Lennon was murdered. I believe she put them somehere in the US. These replica gates were made, but I don’t think they should have allowed her to remove the originals. Strawberry Fields was of course the name of a Salvation Army children’s home and it had a lot of ground around it, the local kids used to play in there, it was their bit of paradise. It seems that fans have come from all over the world to scrawl messages on the gatepost.

Strawberry Fields

Meanwhile back; onto the bus and the street in the photo below is where Paul McCartney grew up. Apparently he still goes back there now and again, to show people where he grew up.

McCartney's Road

Then on to Aunt Mimi’s house below. This is where John Lennon grew up, staying with his Aunt Mimi when his parents lost custody of him, both being deemed unfit parents. He was lucky to have his aunt and uncle who stepped in to bring him up here. The people who own this house now must be really fed up with constant tour bus stops, they have the bedroom window curtains drawn and I don’t blame them.

Aunt Mimi's house

You can see the front porch has been fairly recently refurbished, but that is where John Lennon and Paul McCartney used to practice their guitar playing when they were kids. I think it was supposed to be less annoying for the neighbours if they were out there.

Aunt Mimi's house

If you are a Beatles fan then the trip is well worthwhile – even worth getting soaked as happened to us up the back of the open-topped bus.

I was a bit too young for the Beatles in their heyday but my sister was a teenager then so I grew up with their music. She was a fan and had George Harrison framed on her dressing table.

Meanwhile back to Penny Lane.

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window

Wandering further afield from the town centre in Ypres, Belgium, we were amused to see a dog sitting in the window of a shoe shop.

dog in window

That was our cue to start singing How much is that doggie in the window? of course. Well, we thought it was funny but the dog was not amused and took to pacing the length of the window, we were obviously dodgy customers as far as that dog was concerned.

Did you know that when Margaret Thatcher ‘did’ Desert Island Discs she said that that song was her favourite piece of music. It says a lot about her!

If you want a blast from the past have a look at Patti Page singing it.

Celtic Connections, Glasgow

Since the 21st of January Glasgow has been hosting Celtic Connections. The festival goes on until the 5th of February and as the programmes are on the radio I think they are available for people outside the UK to listen to. If you’re interested have a look here anyway.

Celtic Connections gets bigger every year and there are some amazing people performing this year, from all over the world – even Olivia Newton-John! Glasgow has become a real Mecca for fans of folk and traditional music.

The Willow Cabin by Pamela Frankau

The Willow Cabin cover

The Willow Cabin by Pamela Frankau was published in 1949, my copy is a 1951 reprint. This is the first book that I’ve read by the author and I’ll definitely be seeking out more of her books.

The Willow Cabin covers the years from 1936 to 1948 and the settings are various but mainly London and America.

Caroline is a 22 year old aspiring actress, in fact she’s really talented at it, but she’s also rather immature. Her relationship with her mother and step-father is fraught and when she falls for Michael a well-known surgeon who is much older than her she moves out of the family home into an hotel.

Michael is unable to get a divorce from his wife (hmmm) but that doesn’t put Caroline off and when war breaks out she throws up her acting career to follow Michael around, they’ve both joined the army.

For most of the book Mercedes, Michael’s Anglo-American wife is absent, apparently in France, possibly helping the resistance or even dead. But in the last third of the book the war is over and Caroline goes to America where Mercedes has pitched up. Mercedes had been very well off before the war but she has used the last of her money to buy a farm in America and to build a small house for a family of German refugees who are supposedly her employees along with a French family of refugees.

The two families can’t get along and have absolutely no sense of gratitude for everything that has been done for them. I’m sure that that was Frankau’s way of pointing out how the UK had been bankrupted by a war not of its making and had got nothing out of it but a debt that took generations to pay off and absolutely no thanks from the rest of Europe for all that had been done for them and the sacrifices made.

The atmosphere of wartime London in particular is very well portrayed I think, of course the book was written not long after the end of the war.

The title of the book was taken from Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and there seems to be some confusion on the internet as to what it means. However I have always understood that willow was worn by women whose loved ones were away from home – at war or at sea or whatever. It was a way of telling people (men) that they weren’t really on their own, they were waiting for the return of their lover.

All through reading this book I had the 1970s song All Around My Hat by Steeleye Span going around in my head, if you don’t know the song you might be interested in listening to it now.

I believe that Virago have reprinted this book as a modern classic so I’m counting this one towards my Classic Club Challenge, I’m not far off reaching 50 now.

Honfleur in France

Our last port of call on that cruise we went on in October was Honfleur in France. It’s north western France and the weather was very similar to British weather as it tends to be in that area. In fact we had to go into a shop and buy ‘une paraplui s’il vous plait’ – yes the rain was coming down in buckets! That was the only bad weather we had the whole cruise. Luckily we had taken most of our photos before the deluge.

aharbour 1

aharbour 4

But Honfleur itself turned out to be a wee gem of a town, very ancient as you can see.

old building 2

The town is just a very short walk from where our ship Black Watch was berthed.

aharbour 7

aOld building 3

aOld building 5

Some of the houses are very chocolate boxy and others are in dire need of some tender loving care, the one below looks scarily dilapidated!

aOld Building 6

And the house in the photo below is where the composer Erik Satie was born.

aOld Building 8

Sadly it was a Monday again and although most of the shops were open, because Honfleur’s economy must be massively boosted by the cruise ships that visit – the second-hand booksellers obviously didn’t think it was worth their while to open on a Monday. I was SO ANNOYED because I was dying to get in there and get in amongst those books. I wasn’t bothered that they were in French. I would have bought that old copy of Gulliver’s Travels if it had been open and I could see boxes full of old Tintin books in there.

abookshop

Some women press their noses up against jewellery shop windows but with me it’s the bookshops – or chocolate shops!

I’m sure you know who Erik Satie was but just because I love this piece of music by him I’m putting it on here. Gymnopedie.

Kelvingrove organist’s Bowie tribute

The organist at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow played Life on Mars today as a tribute to David Bowie and a chap called Gordon Wilson was smart enough to film it on his phone. The organ obviously isn’t the best instrument to play it on, but he makes a good job of it I think. The organ is played every day at the same time, but the last time we were there, when we had Peggy from the US with us, we weren’t lucky enough to hear it.

David Bowie 1947 – 2016

I blogged about David Bowie once before, early on in ‘Pining’s’ career, but I can hardly believe that I woke up to the news of his death this morning. So sad, for me he was much more important than John Lennon and streets ahead of Elvis Presley. Bowie was an all round genius as well as a being a good guy, those two things aren’t often found wrapped up inside the one body.

It was T.Rex and Marc Bolan who first got me interested in music as a real fan. As an eleven year old my bedroom wall was plastered with posters of them, mainly pulled out from the middle pages of Jackie magazine. But I grew out of T.Rex fairly quickly and moved on to Bowie. It helped that my older brother is a Bowie fan so he was playing his music full blast a lot of the time. It would have been murder if I hadn’t liked the music.

So I’ve been a fan since the early days, and I’m so glad that I was there to witness Bowie’s early years. It would have been awful if I had not been able to witness the development of his career first hand, mainly through his performances on TV. In fact I never did get to see him live, my mother wouldn’t let me go to his Ziggy Stardust gig in Glasgow when I was 13. I was desperate to see him then and in later years we didn’t live close enough to any venues, and probably couldn’t afford it then, way back in the days when people paid for everything with cash, and did without if they didn’t have the cash.

Suffice to say that in the grey days of early 1970s Britain, when we had political strife and umpteen strikes leading to regular power cuts, Bowie and the Spiders from Mars were something to behold when they exploded onto our TV screens.

Unlike T.Rex, there was no danger of growing out of Bowie as he was ever changing, constantly developing and maturing, like all the best things.

I still can’t believe that he has gone.

Starman is an early favourite.

When I came out of hospital with my first son in 1986 it was Absolute Beginners which was in the charts, which is exactly what we were, new parents and clueless, but we managed to muddle through!

Another of my early favourites is what I call Tactful Cactus from the Hunky Dory album, but it’s called Eight Line Poem.

And from 1974, Lulu Singing The Man Who Sold the World which was written and produced by David Bowie, who also sang the backing track with Mick Ronson.

When I was a Boy by Jeff Lynne

Jeff Lynne of ELO fame has a new single out called When I was a Boy. I heard it on the radio for the first time last week, and in my semi somnus state ( it was on the clock radio which had just woken me) I was thinking, – who is that singing? it isn’t Julian Lennon or Sean, but it sounds so Beatle-ish. Jeff Lynne has never made a secret of his love of The Beatles’ work so I should have realised it would be him, I suppose it’s an homage to them, whatever, I really like it – do you?

It sounds like the audio version of a patchwork quilt made up from bits of your family’s old clothes, a beloved memory in every piece.

White Christmas by The Drifters and Clyde McPhatter

I was listening to Radio Scotland the other day when this version of White Christmas was played, the DJ recommended that we have a look at it on You Tube, so I did and thought you might enjoy it too.

The Drifters with Clyde McPhatter