And then there was one…
The group of four, meant to be traveling this weekend to Liverpool, was quickly whittled down to one – my good self. Not being a pearl clutcher, and reasonably comfortable on my own, I decided that there was no point in wasting the forty euro Ryanair flight. I would go to Liverpool on my own.
Upon arrival, I had a wander around the neighbourhood. I am staying in Chinatown. As it so happens it is Chinese New Year, so the streets were abuzz, decorated, and festive. Very enjoyable. The only choice worth considering was Chinese food. Most delicious. I felt slightly odd at my table for one, among the throngs of party-goers. They didn’t know that I am a Gemini though. My inner voices and multiple personalities kept me well amused.
I awoke early, and went for a stroll down to the iconic Albert Dock. My intention was to go to the Beatles’ Museum. Upon arrival I discovered that it was not in fact a new museum – rather it was the same interactive show ‘The Beatles Story’ that I had visited on my afternoon in Liverpool, twenty years ago. An amazing exhibition granted, but as there was so much to see, I decided that I’d leave it. I may return on Monday, if I have run out of other sights to see.
The Docks in Liverpool give a good idea of the importance of this city during the British Empire – they are vast, and have been beautifully renovated. They now house many exhibitions and galleries. And of course eateries – but let’s not dwell on the negative.
I dawdled over to the Museum of Liverpool. I wanted to see ‘Tales in the city’ – an exhibition commemorating the golden anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 – when male homosexuality was partially decriminalised (lesbians apparently didn’t exist so they were never illegal). It told the story of Liverpool’s contribution to the LGBT culture over the past half century. It’s sort of odd that Ireland fully decriminalised homosexuality seven years before Britain finally did in 2000. The gays in Britain were only legal from aged 21 (whereas 16 years was the age of consent for the straights) in 1967. Full legal equality came decades later – years after Ireland in fact. Which is bizarre. A very interesting exhibition. Lily Savage (the drag queen alter-ego of Paul O’ Grady – who many people have told me I resemble) had donated several of his costumes to the display. I actually splurted tea when I read his self-description – ‘The blonde bombsite of the Mersey’).
The rest of the museum tells the story of the town from the time it was settled. My eyes were drawn to the year 1846. Jokingly, Liverpool has sometimes been referred to as the capital of Ireland, thanks to the huge percentage of its population having Irish heritage (Lily Savage among them.) Between 1846 and 1847, almost 400,000 Irish people came to Liverpool (most en route to America) to escape what the museum euphemistically calls ‘The Great Hunger’. In Ireland we have a different description for this time. We just call it ‘The Famine’.
A stroll up the waterfront for a view of the Liver Birds building followed. My ferry trip across the Mersey was postponed – another adventure from my afternoon years earlier- no point in repetition. Instead I went to the British Music Experience in the Cunard Building. It’s an interactive, multi-media space detailing Britain’s contribution to pop and rock music since the 1950s. The Beatles featured heavily. The hologram concert was by Boy George. It was strange how lifelike his image seemed. Technology is terrifying.
I circled back to the International Slavery Museum on the Albert Dock – for the horrifying tale of how the British Empire was responsible for enslaving 3.5 million African people (28% of the total slave population, brought against their will to the new world) and how the port of Liverpool played a vital part in this tale of misery, murder and brutality. It’s kind of understandable how the British Empire has sort of faded as a cause for celebration when recalling British history. Absolutely vile and appalling – the exhibition was enthralling to witness though.
The city is extraordinarily proud of the Fab Four – and their images are everywhere to be seen around the city. Having ignored the Beatles’ Story museum, I decided that I would pay a visit to the source of the band – the Cavern Club on Matthew Street – the dingy, cellar music venue, where they played 300 gigs between 1961 and 1963, until Beatlemania descended. The current Cavern Club is located a few doors down from the original space (which is now a shop, guarded by a statue of former coatcheck girl from the Cavern – Cilla Black – a woman alleged to be hated by flight attendants the world over for her antics while in the air). It has the same grungy vibe as the original place must have had. Obviously it is still a music venue, and a certain individual by the name of Richard Batty was entertaining the crowd.
I knew that it was going to be very touristy and crowded. But I expected more from the middle aged singer. Naturally he sang the Beatles. He took requests from the audience and engaged in vile laddish banter. A woman on her hen night was called to the stage, resplendent in a sash and a wedding veil. Mr Batty announced ‘Ey up lads, ‘ere’s the stripper.’ He then looked at her and said ‘I ‘ope yer’ve got yer ping pong balls well oiled for yer show luv.’ She took it in good stride. I was appalled, so I did what comes naturally to me in these circumstances – I laughed like a drain.
When Mr. Batty decided to take a break from the Beatles’ repertoire, I decided to leave. The fact that he chose a song by the biggest Beatles rip-off band of all time, who are arguably the best wedding band who have never actually performed at a wedding – Oasis – was what sealed the deal for me. The sound of ‘Wonderwall’ rang in my ears as I emerged to ground level.
I made my way back to my tastefully appointed AirBNB apartment, stopping en route at the Hard Wok Cafe in Chinatown for a duck supper.
Tomorrow I expect more of the same.
I love this town.