We’ve been up North this weekend, driving m-i-l Bettine to The Wedding To Which We Were Not Invited, meaning that we got to spend a fun day or two with friends who live just down the coast.
On the way, we stopped for lunch at this cathedral to shopping, recently described as a fine example of postmodernism and, for us, a glimpse into another world. Are we really in the middle of a recession? Not here, it would seem.
We spent Saturday in Liverpool, exploring a different part of the city from where we’d been previously. First stop, St George’s Hall, which we’d seen on a TV programme some months ago and had remembered as a fine example of civic architecture without knowing much about it.
I didn’t know that a prison and assizes had been built underneath the hall – planning gain Victorian-style – and the first part of our visit was filled with dreadful stories and heartbreaking images of the poor souls who’d found themselves on the wrong side of the law.
One cell was filled with the mugshots of the day and some had left their mark in carved graffiti on the walls here and there. The charge sheets and personal descriptions of those appearing at the assizes revealed sorry tales of petty theft and drunken disorderliness though the list of crimes offered a slightly more sinister picture of inner city life in a Victorian port.
In stark contrast to all of this, a wedding fair (fayre?) was taking place in the main hall, but we were able to walk along the balcony to see what we could of the fine organ and stained glass windows.
Such a grand hall, built with all the exuberance of the Victorian age and not a penny spared when it came to the details.
Closer observation of the chandeliers revealed an array of ships on each one and as we stood trying to notice everything, the security chap drew our attention to the tiled floor, mostly covered with a wooden surface for the exhibition below, but visible in a couple of small places. What a great place!
We stepped outside into rather better weather than we’d hoped – the heavens were opening from time to time and boy, did it rain! There in front of the hall was the Liverpool Cenotaph and all four of us were really taken with the work of a sculptor we’d never heard of – George Herbert Tyson Smith – who had captured the time and mood so well in the faces of the figures he worked into the bronze relief.
I found the figure of the elderly man, standing with his hand to his mouth in grief so very moving
and the quiet dignity of this other group on the opposite side very much of their time in terms of their dress and demeanour.
There, in the background, behind all these figures, is row upon row of gravestones, a stark reminder of the huge numbers commemorated by this memorial, quietly stated.
Alongside the Cenotaph was a fine equestrian statue of a youthful Queen Victoria herself, in a rather more active pose than I’ve generally seen.
And having paid homage to her, we stepped inside the Walker Art Gallery for a bite to eat and a quick peruse of the exhibitions – we loved Like you've never been away and found Art in Revolution pretty interesting too. Yet again, we ticked off a place which has been on our go-to list for quite some time but realised that we need to return, to spend longer and visit the permanent exhibitions too.
But our friends had tickets for the theatre.
Now, we’ve known these particular friends a long time. When they said they had tickets for Moliere’s Tartuffe, we feared that they had overestimated our knowledge and understanding of the theatre. But of course, we should have known that they would choose well – we hadn’t realised that this particular version had been rewritten by Roger McGough and that it would not only be a brilliant production, superbly played but it would also be incredibly funny.
We appreciated the screen with rolling text, if only to revel in the wonderful rhyming couplets which might have otherwise flown past without time to savour them; who else would have rhymed sovereign with bovverin’ ?
As we drove back out of the city, we spotted a very Liverpool phenomenon; one which has so far completely passed us by.
Out along the road through Walton and Aintree, girls were out on the street with lime-green curlers in their hair and googling reveals this isn’t a recent trend but one which has been going at least a couple of years.
Who knew? For sure, I’ve not seen anyone in Cirencester out in their curlers recently!
Thankfully, we had no plans which involved getting dolled up and looked forward to a quieter evening in Lytham. We left the fun of the city behind and simply returned to enjoy wonderful seaside skies, fascinating conversations and simply relax in good company. What better way to spend a happy couple of days?
We even brought home some souvenirs.