We Let The Train Take The Strain….
Uncle John is a wonderful traveller; uncomplaining, relaxed, making the best of everything, and our trip by rail was really pleasant. I am definitely not as keen a motorist as Wendy, and I will always prefer to let the train take the strain, if that is in an option.
The only trouble with not having a car, though, is that it did restrict our sight-seeing. At 87, Uncle John was marvellous at walking, and kept up well, but I have to admit it would have been easier, if I had taken the car. We used taxis on a few occasions, which speeded up our visits to places of interest; the drivers were very chatty and interested when they learned Uncle John had been away from Liverpool for so many years. We had a problem only once, with a driver taking us to a restaurant for dinner. He had such a strong accent, and used so many dialect words – pure Scouse – meant we could barely understand what he was saying.
Uncle John kept looking at me, and I kept looking at him.
“What did he say?” whispered Uncle John.
“I don’t know!” I mouthed back.
We understood probably about one word in every half a dozen, and just hoped we were saying “yes” and “no” in the right places! It was a relief when we arrived at the restaurant we’d picked for dinner.
We’d arranged another date with the reporter from the Liverpool Echo, and at last we all met up at lunch time, on a beautiful day. A photographer was on hand to record the occasion; whilst Uncle John chatted to Bill Leece, he was photographed in the gardens of St Nicholas Church with the Liver building in the background. Afterwards, we all had lunch together; it was such an enjoyable interlude, and so good for Uncle John to be able to talk about his old home city.
|Uncle John in St Nicholas Church gardens,
with the Liver Building in the background
Reminiscing about his childhood and youth, Uncle John said, “I was born in Tuebrook and then we moved to Mossley Hill. Another family home was in Purley Grove, off Brodie Avenue; we went to see it, and the road seems so narrow, after all these years!”
Uncle John also wondered why the city had got rid of its trams? A few years ago, Croydon in Surrey installed a tram system and whilst there was great upheaval at the time, it has proved to be a great success. Uncle John said in Australia, Melbourne had refused to get rid of their trams, which was a wise decision; Brisbane, however, opted to replace trams with buses, which in his opinion were not as good.
Uncle John also remembered that his father had once worked as a window dresser at Lewis’s, a chain of British department stores founded by David Lewis in 1856; Bill said it was such a shame we had not been able to visit Liverpool a little earlier, because the store had only recently closed, and it would have been so good to have had the chance to go inside and look round.
|From this commemorative plaque…..
After lunch, we went back to Lewis’s and took photos; it was so sad to see how dilapidated the once-proud store had become.
We saw Jacob Epstein’s statue standing proud (in more ways than one!) above the building’s main entrance; officially named “Resurgent,” it was unveiled to celebrate Lewis’s centenary. It is known to the locals as “Dicky Lewis.”
Apart from all the excitement of visiting Liverpool, during Uncle John’s stay we also had more visits into London; we went to Greenwich, and photographed Uncle John with “one foot in the east and one foot in the west:”
We went for a flight on the London Eye:
And we drove to Portsmouth for the day, went on board HMS Victory, HMS Warrior, and saw The Mary Rose:
|Uncle John on board Nelson’s flagship
|A glorious day in Portsmouth – note my parasol!
Proving to Uncle John that England is not as cold as he may remember!
Although it was lovely to go out and about with Uncle John, and he was very happy with all the activities we did, I think possibly the best part of his holiday was being able to just sit and be with us; read the paper and do the crossword and the number puzzle pages; and have the cats love him, and wait for him to pick up the brush for a grooming session.
He introduced the cats to the lint roller – gently passing the sticky sheets over their fur, the roller picked up all the loose hair and fluff. Blackie especially could never get enough of this treatment:he could hear the covering wrapper being peeled off, from a hundred paces, and weaved around Uncle John’s feet until it was ready for use. “Only 10 sheets used so far? Keep going!” he seemed to say.
Uncle John never failed to remark on how good my cooking was; whilst he was with us, again he “filled out,” and looked really well. When he first arrived, he looked quite small and tired, but after a few days with us – and on my good food – he somehow blossomed, and looked years younger.
He and Mum got on reasonably well, too – Uncle John understood more clearly the problems we had with her moods, and did not provoke her, or disagree with her. That still didn’t stop Mum, right at the end of Uncle John’s stay, from picking a quarrel with him! He didn’t rise to it; he kept calm, and tried to change the subject, but in her state of mind, she was not to be diverted.
She stormed out of the dining room, declaring she “…would never speak to him, ever again!” and slammed the door behind her.
As we were getting ready to drive Uncle John back to Heathrow, Mum would not come out to say Goodbye to him, which made us very sad. We tried very hard to persuade her to change her mind, but she was adamant; she would not see him off.
Uncle John was philosophical. “She can’t help it,” he said. We were left hoping there would be another occasion when Uncle John would be back with us in England again, and Mum would be in a different frame of mind.
Happily, there was; of which more later.