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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Taking a break in the UK

UNITED KINGDOM | Wednesday, 18 June 2008 | Views [1271]

I had decided to take a 1 month break from traveling to return to the UK and catch up with family and friends. As it turned out, this was an interesting move as things didn’t all go to plan!

Geographically, most of the people I wanted to see are spread out across the UK, so had to focus on what was practical in the time I had. Before I set off traveling on May 10th 2007, I had retained my MG sports car at my mother’s house in he north-west of England, with the idea of it being an easy task to get it on the road. Little did I know the trouble that this decision would cause me!

First job was to get the MG back on the road. A friendly local garage came and sorted it out and then drove it away to do some things to it and get it MOT’d. Able to get it back on the road the following day, so mobile fairly quickly after arriving back.

Lots of things planned, so best get on with it. I had a stack of mail that had been delivered over the last year or so, most of which was rubbish but some were very important and future affecting, so prioritized them first.

The local town of Ormskirk has just about all you need from a town and easy enough to get around. Went in by bus, which are nice and clean and well organized. Met one of my sisters in town and met up with my friend Belinda at the Gallery in town. Met up for a meal a few days later and had a wonderful time catching up on stuff.

A few days after I returned I had a gathering with three of my sister’s at my mother’s house and went out for a meal at the Ring ’o’ Bells pub. A great time catching up…such a nice bunch!

One of my main passions is dancing, something I haven’t had much opportunity to do over the past year and Saturday night was dance night at the town hall in Stockport in Manchester. This turned out to be an awesome evening. About 300 or so dancers were there. Not many that I recognized from my last visit there, but that didn’t matter. Hardly sat down all night and had a fantastic time.

A major reason for coming back to the UK was to see my three kids (Katie – 11yrs, Tim – 18yrs and Amy – 20yrs), who live over In the Wakefield area, the other side of the UK from my mother’s house where I am based. Off to see them on the Monday and go out for a meal. Since I left the UK they had moved house and it was nice to see them in their new environment. They seem happy with the move and that is good for them. Not much has changed in the area over the past year other than the extension of a new business park on the main road in. Went to the new Swan & Cygnet pub. Excellent quality food, although a little pricey based on what I have been used to in Asia. A bit of a shock coming back is the high prices of everything. Petrol is extortionate at an average of £1.17 a litre…That’s over £5.20 a gallon!

Off to stay with a friend in Leeds in the evening who I know through dancing. A super evening with a visit to the Olive Tree greek restaurant in Headingly and many glasses of wine whilst we caught up on stuff.

Heading back to the north-west the following morning I decided to fit In a visit to my favourite outdoor centre and shop for a new back-pack. I have been carrying an 85 litre sized pack that has served my well, but I did feel the need to downsize, so ended up buying a 65 litre pack. You always manage to fill whatever size you carry, so going smaller should be a better discipline to carry less.

I needed to get some dental work sorted whilst I am here, so contacted my dentist, who had agreed to keep me on their books whilst I was away. Luckily, I managed to get a cancellation appointment rather rapidly, once I explained to them that I wasn’t in the country for very long and got a call-back with an appointment within hours of contacting them. Getting a dentist In the UK is very tricky and I have been lucky to have an excellent one.

Back to stay with my friend in Leeds again In the evening and a real treat. One of my favourite dance styles for sheer energy is Lindy Hop and I was lucky to be able to fit In a visit to the club my friend runs. So many faces there that I hadn’t seen in a while. Great evening of fun and exercise. Superb! More wine…..

Next day (Friday 30th May) was another treat as I went to visit the company I worked for before leaving the UK, at Emley moor, the tallest free-standing structure in the UK. Had a nice time catching up with some of my ex-colleagues that were there, before staying with a couple of friends that I had met up with in Bangkok in Thailand earlier in the year. Out for a nice Indian Balti meal and some catching up over a glass or two of wine until the early hours.

On the Saturday, the weather was superb. Sunshine and clear sky. Met up for the weekend with Belinda for a great day out in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near to Wakefield and a visit to the Bradford Museum of Media on the Sunday as the weather had deteriorated to heavy rain.

Back into Leeds in the evening, and a bit of time catching up on TV. Luck has it that this is Liverpool’s year of culture, and to celebrate it, Paul McCartney was involved in a concert at Anfield football stadium in Liverpool. A nice evening of music, chat and yes…more wine over a Chinese takeaway.

Things then went as they say….a bit pear shaped!

Was on my way south the following morning to see my Son at 11am. Got off the motorway and BANG! A big cloud of smoke engulfed my car and seeped into the cockpit. Remember me saying that the MG was going to cause me some trouble…this is where it started! Noticed a garage across the road from where it happened so was able to keep on driving my car a little way to get around to it. After some time waiting for a mechanic to take a look, the prognosis was that it had blown a head gasket. A fairly serious cost. They weren’t able to look at it for another week due to being too busy, but rang around to see if anyone else could help. Alas, no. Luck happened though that there was another small garage down the road that they didn’t have a number for, so I took a walk along to them and amazingly….they were an MG specialist! Agreed to tow me in and get started on it almost straight away. Had to then sort out a hire car, as I didn’t have the time to sit around and wait for the car to be finished. That was an exercise in itself as, I didn’t have any documents on me. No driver’s license or proof of address, so had to get somewhere to print of a bank statement as proof and run a DVLA check on my ID. Got that sorted eventually and the whole episode almost wrote off the time I was supposed to have spent with my son. Typical!

With all that messing around with the car, I had to stay another evening in the Leeds area, so squeezed an evening in at a dance club I used to teach at before leaving the UK. A wonderful evening, with so many familiar faces, and fantastic dance. Loved it.

The MG was going to take many days to sort out according to the garage, so decided to carry on with my original plan and head south with the hire car. Easy enough to extend if I needed more time. First port of call was Stevenage to visit a friend I used to work with and stay the night.

The following day (4th June), off to Oxford to meet up with a friend I had last seen in Mombasa in Kenya last July. Went to the Trout Inn in Wolverton for a meal. Famous for the location shooting of some of the pub scenes from the Inspector Morse TV series.

Trying to cram in loads of stuff here! Onwards in the afternoon to Winchester to visit the HQ of my old company and catch up wit some ex-colleagues. Stayed the night and out for a curry at a favourite restaurant (the Ghandi) in the lovely city of Winchester.

Off now to Truro in Cornwall and a few days stay with a dear friend. Stopped in Bodmin on the way there for a meal. A place I hadn’t been to since 1989. The afternoon was superb…sunshine and cloudless sky. A wonderful time catching up and walking through the pretty seaside village of Mevagissey. Popped into the harbour museum and also the aquarium whilst there for a bit of local history.

Being in Cornwall, there are certain things that just have to be done….first is Scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. Back at my friend’s farmhouse where I am staying, operation scone! Out with the ingredients and tried my hand at making some. Fantastic result and spot on, right out of the oven, topped with Rodda’s clotted cream and some lovely red wine! Should have them with a cuppa tea, but as this is a special occasion…better with wine!

Getting really spoilt here as then treated to a gorgeous lamb roast dinner in the evening. The first I’ve had in a long long time…yummeeee….thanks Marguerite.

An evening of chat, playing guitar and tom-toms to round off an incredibly wonderful day with the boys.

One the Friday (6thn June) off to the Eden project. An eco-project set within a luscious valley and housing two enormous domes or ‘Biomes’. These are artificial worlds set up to recreate a tropical environment in one, and a Mediterranean in the other. The mastermind of the project has imported exotic plant-life from around the world and created a wonderful atmosphere that attracts visitors in their droves. Another dome called the ‘Core’, houses some educational displays and artwork by some really talented artists.

The afternoon was fun with another friend joining us who I had corresponded with over the past year (plays in a samba band), plus a rather fun neighbor. Much hilarity and of course….red wine!

If the day hadn’t been superb enough…a meal out at the idyllically located Lewinnick Lodge in Newquay, which has a grand view of the coastline around the Newquay area, and the sunset was super too, although a bit cccold……

Another action packed day on the Saturday (7th). First off to Truro. A pretty city with plenty going, on to satisfy everyone. The cathedral is a beauty and well worthy of an hour or so in itself. Luckily, today was market day, with street stalls selling some lovely local produce. Plenty of nibbles to sample as well as a traditional Cornish pastie. Tasty stuff!

Next on the tour was Marazion, home to St Micheals’ mount. Didn’t have the time to go on to the mount, but had been before many years ago, so wasn’t too bothered. Met up with a couple and their kids (she local and he from Morocco) and went to St. Ives for a walk around. A really beautiful seaside port, that has been cleaned up a lot since my last visit here. The beaches are superb and the view out to sea was stunning, with turquoise waters in the shallow areas and pretty boats close in. Feeling hungry, so off for some traditional fish & chips at the great Becks restaurant just outside of St.Ives. Crowded with locals, which is always a good sign!

Whilst I had the opportunity in the evening, I spent some time getting a bit of planning done for the next leg of my world travels. After some research and mainly driven by the cost of flights, I decided to go to Japan, so booked a flight to leave on Thursday 19th June from Manchester airport. That at least sets a date to work towards with the rest of my plans here.

Sunday was time to start heading back north, as had to consider returning the hire car back in Wakefield. Stopped off in Redditch in the Midlands to visit a friend who I have known for many years, and corresponded with whilst on my travels. Carried on to stop in Leeds again for the evening.

Sorted the hire car out and collected my MG from the garage the following morning in Wakefield and headed westwards back to my mother’s house. Didn’t get very far along the M62 motorway and BANG! Again!! I couldn’t believe this, as I had only just picked the car up from being repaired. Extremely fed up with the MG now as haven’t really been able to drive it much and it is costing me a fortune to keep it on the road (plus what it cost to get it on the road in the first place). Some hours later and a struggle to find a garage to help me out, It was diagnosed again as not being able to be driven even a half mile! Had to organize to be towed all the way back to my mother’s house. More cost!

Tired and fed up just a bit!...Had to work out my alternatives as no longer had any transport to complete what I was intending to do here.

On the Tuesday, the weather was superb again and so spent the day with Belinda visiting the rather unusual Anthony Gormley steel men on Crosby beach. There are 100 steel characters cast in his likeness and buried in the sand facing out to sea. The tide was out and so some are raised above the sand. When the tide is at the right level, they can appear to be standing on the water!

Wednesday was a nice gathering of some of my aunties and uncles that I hadn’t seen for a long time. Amazing how some people don’t change, even after decades! In the evening, off to Kettlewell for a day or so to do some walking. A pretty place and set amidst the wonderful Yorkshire dales. Stayed at a nice pub in the centre of the village. In my days at junior school I, along with most of my class, had a pen-friend from kettlewell, who we visited one summer. It was lovely to re-visit the school and see how the surroundings had changed. The school had been extended and the field it used to stand in was now sectioned off. A good bit of reminiscing! Then off to the pub in Starbotton for a drink and sit and watch some roofers putting a slate roof on a barn conversion. Good to see the old crafts still being carried on.

Another trip away on Saturday. Aimed for Crosby again and had some fun looking around for somewhere to stay. Pulled in at the rather sweet sounding Park Hall Guest House, run by the ‘Augustinian sisters’. In the door and then ring the bell and a tiny white haired old lady answered the door with a soft irish voice. The wee little lady was sweet, but didn’t really fancy staying in a convent!

The following day (Sunday 15th) was awesome….

After a nice cooked breakfast, headed into Liverpool along the coast road. Walked past the Liver building (one of the 3 graces) and along front to the Arena. This brought back many memories of my childhood growing up in Liverpool. At present the pier head area is undergoing major re-development and is under wraps to keep the public out. The Liver birds on to of the building are one of the most famous symbols of this amazing city. Visible from a fair distance and a great sight when approaching Liverpool from the river Mersey.

Further along the waterfront and you enter the massive Albert dock complex, reclaimed from many warehouses that were a legacy of the heady days of Liverpool’s greater importance as a shipping port (which is gradually being re-built). A new museum is being built which has a funky ship-shape design. Will definitely be worthy of a visit when it is complete within the next year.

Our destination was the new Arena building that was only officially opened a week ago. Unfortunately, as it is Sunday, it is closed, but is still interesting to look around the exterior.

Liverpool has and always will be known for its humour. In keeping with this and also I line with its status as European city of Culture, they have placed a large amount of 'Lamb bananas' around the city in important locations. Painted in various designs and slightly beyond description), and with many more to come, resulting from various design competitions, they are a fun sight to brighten even the cloudiest day. One of the other prominent sights in Liverpool is the Anglican cathedral. I spent many hours here as a kid as my school was opposite. The walk there took us through the Chinese quarter. Quiet today unfortunately, but usually buzzing especially I the evening. Arriving at the cathedral is always a touching moment as I have many memories of it. Even when I was working I had close ties with it as I was responsible for working with the local radio service that has a transmitter here. Lucky as it was sermon time, the choir were singing. Awesome sound that just raises the hairs on the back of your neck. We sat for a while and listened to the choir with their beautiful soft resounding voices. Aaaahhh…..

The stained Glass windows in this cathedral are fantastic. I am qualified in stained glass and possibly got my interest from when I used to come here as a kid. The light show through the windows is stunning and awesome!

Across the road to Pilgrim Street and LIPA...Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts. I used to go here when it was the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys, Leaving in 1976. It later got bought by Paul McCartney, who was an old boy from the school, and turned into the now famous LIPA. When I was there, the grand stone pillared entrance lead to a marble hallway, and onwards into a grand wood paneled assembly hall. Scrolled iron stairways lead off to the basement and the upstairs classrooms where we had some wonderfully eccentric teachers! Not going to mention any names… It would have been really nice to take a look around inside but it’s Sunday, so closed.

Across the road used to be the Old Tuck Shoppe where we used to get our lunchtime snacks and sweets. This has now changed of course, not sure what into as there are no obvious signs. Onto Hope street ...stone suitcases and guitars on pavements as a commemoration to the Beatles and a nice Sunday deli market on the pavements in this rather swanky area. Passed the Philharmonic hall and stopped off for a Guinness at the Philharmonic dining rooms. Of course, in my day, I couldn’t go In as I was under age. It is an amazing pub, done out with wood paneling, stained glass lampshades, and antique bar and old fashioned pumps. Rooms lead off the main entrance area with names such as ‘Brahms’ and ‘Liszt’! Each room was used by different apprentices, although there isn’t much around now to tell what their skills were.

A short walk to ‘The Egg’ vegetarian café for lunch. Down Bold street wich these days is full of really interesting shops, and stop off at the www.bluecoatgallery.com Gallery on Hanover street to see the intriguingly simple but effective artwork. Down Church Street and listened to a Peruvian pan-pipe group in the street then into the Bluecoat chambers centre. Some interesting artwork and the 'Wishing tree'. This used to be in a pot but has now been planted in the adjacent soil. The original wish tags that hung from the tree were removed and sent to Yoko Ono! And only three remain. Tradition has it that you hold a branch and make a wish, so we did that!

The centre is a beauty, with lots of fascinating things to see and some nicely designed buildings. Around Sir Thomas street, past a fluffy pink car standing outside a bar & restaurant and a major stop at the cavern for a glass of wine. The cavern….what can I say? Famous the world over as the home of the beginnings of the Beatles. The present cavern is not the original location though, and contains a great array of fascinating memorabilia, commemorating not only the Beatles, but other high profile musicians of the 60’s and 70’s, plus some more up-to-date musicians such as Status Quo and Bryan Adams, who have donated their musical instruments for display.

This has been one incredible day, full of so many experiences and nostalgia, all shared by a lovely friend to make it all that more special.

The MG situation continued to annoy as I tried to get a hire car to be able to visit my kids on Father’s day and couldn’t get one anywhere local. The cost of getting the car sorted is also prohibitive to many people and so interest is low. I also have almost no time t do anything about it myself….a total pain that has in many ways overtaken the plans I had whilst here.

The next blog will be from Japan….Fly out to Tokyo’s Narita airport via Munich tomorrow morning (19th June) at 11:15am from Manchester airport with Lufthansa, taking an overall 15 hours for the journey and moving forward 9 hours in shifting to their time-zone. Going to be a long journey!

 

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