‘There are places I’ll remember…’ – Liverpool

15 09 2012

‘There are places I’ll remember

All my life though some have changed

Some forever not for better

Some have gone and some remain

All these places had their moments

With lovers and friends I still can recall

Some are dead and some are living

In my life I’ve loved them all.’

(Lennon & McCartney – 1965) 

Liverpool has dominated the news headlines this week – and rightly so. After 23 years the truth surrounding the Hillsborough disaster is out. As a result of the tragic events, of April 15th 1989, 96 Liverpool supporters never returned from an FA Cup semi-final against Nottingham Forest – victims of catastrophic failures in public safety and a subsequent grotesque campaign of lies, by the British establishment, in order to cover-up. 

As a Forest fan I had hoped to be at the Sheffield Wednesday ground that afternoon. As luck would have it, it was one of the few big match occasions, during the Clough years, for which I was unable to get a ticket. I can vividly remember tuning into the radio that afternoon, expecting to follow the match commentary, and being stunned as reports of the tragedy unfolded. 

It is scandalous that it has taken until this week for the Liverpool fans to be exonerated and to receive an unconditional formal apology from the Prime Minister for a ‘double injustice’. This after an independent enquiry into previously unseen documents had made it clear that the South Yorkshire Police, guilty of critical errors of judgement leading up to and during the tragedy, had, in its aftermath, systematically falsified reports to shift the blame for the 96 deaths on to their fellow supporters. 

It is high time that those found guilty of gross negligence, and complicit in this outrageous deceit, pay the price.  

Chris and I were in Liverpool on Sunday and Monday of this week, totally unaware, at the time, of the imminent, dramatic publication of the independent panel’s findings. 

My previous visits to the city, two or three times during the early ‘70s, had all been football related – with a Liverpool supporting student mate, David Dodds, but universally known by the highly original nickname, Scouse!

I remember being wedged into the world-famous Kop, swaying in unison, a sea of red and white scarves held aloft, belting out the club anthem, ‘You’ll never walk alone…’  It was the Bill Shankly era, and a Liverpool team that boasted Emlyn Hughes, Tommy Smith, Steve Heighway, John Toshack and Kevin Keegan. As I recall, on the occasion of my first visit, a tidal wave of red shirts swept Chelsea away, 3 nil.          

This time around, Chris and I were taking advantage of a remarkable Premier Inn offer, £19 for a night, in a tastefully converted red brick warehouse, overlooking the Victorian, Albert Dock – now a World Heritage site. 

As lifelong Beatles fans we had pre-booked places on the colourful Magical Mystery Tour bus, a thoroughly enjoyable an informative late Sunday afternoon trip around the parts of Liverpool which shaped and inspired the group.

It was a brilliant two hours, worth every penny, taking in the childhood homes of John, Paul, George & Ringo, and places which famously featured in their songs: ‘Strawberry Field'(s) – the former Salvation Army children’s home, St Peter’s Churchyard (opposite the church hall where John and Paul first met) – site of Eleanor Rigby’s gravestone, and Penny Lane – complete with barber shop, bank, fire station and ‘shelter in the middle of the roundabout.’ The only thing missing was ‘a pretty nurse selling poppies from a tray’!  

The tour wound up at the most famous club in the world, the cradle of British pop music, The Cavern Club (in Mathew St) where the Mersey-sound and Beatle-mania were born, while Cilla Black served espresso in the coffee bar.‘Surprise, surprise’, it wasn’t licensed back in the swinging ’60s!                        

On Monday morning, we strolled around Albert Dock, with its moored narrow-boats and tall ships, and along the regenerated waterfront, passing a remarkably life-like statue of another Liverpool pop icon, Billy Fury (the former tug boat deckhand who made it big as the British Elvis with hits such as ‘Halfway to Paradise’) and a pair of grazing superlambananas, before taking a return ticket from Pierhead to Seacombe on the ‘Ferry Cross the Mersey’ – immortalised in song by Gerry and The Pacemakers.

As we stood on deck admiring the famous Liver Building landmark, there was even time for a quick reprise of the theme tune from Carla Lane’s popular ‘70s comedy series The Liver birds  – ‘Are you dancin’?’ ‘Are you askin’?’ ‘Well I’m askin’,’ ‘Then I’m dancin’!’    

After a full English breakfast bap and coffee we managed to squeeze into ‘The Beatles Story’ ahead of an excited school party – a near miss! The award-winning exhibition, complete with headphone commentary, video and musical interludes, really brings to life the phenomenal rise of the Fab Four – well worth a visit.

There was also time to visit the dockside Liverpool Tate for the ‘Turner Monet Twombly’ art exhibition, and to take in a few of the splendid sculptures on display – including the controversial ‘Jacob and the Angel’ by Epstein ( Sir Jacob, not Brian) and Salvador Dali’s trademark ‘Lobster Telephone’! 

Finally I rounded things off with a spin on The Liverpool Echo Big Wheel, which affords spectacular views along the river and across the city, including its two cathedrals at either end of Hope Street – the gothic Anglican (5th largest in the world) and the modernist Catholic, affectionately known by the locals as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’!     

A brilliant short break, and hopefully I’ll be back in 2013-14 to see the Tricky Trees playing at Anfield and Goodison Park – but then again perhaps that’s wishful thinking!    

       

 

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