23 October 2009

Old Friends and the Beatles

This past weekend we had a mini-reunion of sorts in Liverpool. In 1999-2000, I lived and taught English in Japan. It was an amazing experience to learn not only about Japan, but about the cultures of all my co-workers from Australia, England, Ireland, etc: the important things like how to ‘take the piss' out of someone, the awesome disgustingness of Vegemite/Marmite, and the healing powers of Baraka. Anyhow, two friends who I lived with in Japan trekked up to Liverpool to hang out this past weekend. Dave lives in Melbourne, Australia, but was in the UK on business and Noreen lives a few hours south of us in Northampton.

They got here on Friday and we took them to the old standby The Moon and Pea. Our last experience here was very disheartening as the waitstaff and food quality both seemed to have dropped considerably. However, we had a great meal and the downward trend seems to be swinging back. Afterwards we had a quick drink at the Albert where we were afforded a direct view of some of our more unique neighbours. Unfortunately we did not get any pictures but our seats made us privy to not only their exuberant drug use, but also their penchant for deodorizing repeatedly in public.

Kathleen and I have had many visitors come through our fair city, but not one of them have had a remote interest in the Beatles. After Dave casually mentioned it would be funny to take a Beatles bus tour, I immediately started to look into it. There are many tours of this kind in Liverpool, but due to its name I figured the most legit was the Magical Mystery Tour. Now there are also private taxi tours, that were cheaper than £15 a head, but after a quick discussion, we decided the other tourists would be half the fun. Also a private tour might prove a bit awkward considering none of us really even like the Beatles.

We made it to Albert Dock just in time to hop on the bus. Immediately, we were a bit disappointed as our bus was not the colourfully painted bus on the brochure, but a normal coach. As we settled into our seats, Beatles music blaring in our ears, Kathleen took a quick video to capture our excitement:

I must also state here that out of all of us, Kathleen was the least excited. I had to sort of beg her to come along as she not only does not like the Beatles, but she actually kind of detests them. Who knew I married a hate-monger? Anyhow, she was a champ and came along with smiles (ok, maybe not smiles).

As our tour began, we quickly realized we were in for an hour and forty five minutes of pain. Our tour guide began the tour by pointing out the Anglican Cathedral and telling us how Paul McCartney tried out for the choir when he was a kid but was rejected (a fact he would repeat at least 5 more times during the tour, occasionally varying to say that it was another Beatle being rejected from another choir). However, it was not this meaningless factoid that alarmed us, it was how he told us. There is no way to accurately describe his manner, but it was pretty much how you would read a children’s book to a group of kids. Except, it was how you would read it if you were really annunciating every word and were reading your favourite book to them and in fact you were reading it aloud more to hear yourself than for the kids.

I won’t bore you with a complete play by play, but we sawmany sites including: all of their childhood homes (Ringo’s was not the nicest), Penny Lane (which Kathleen and I pass every day), a pub where one of their mother’s worked (scary), a cemetery where there is some woman’s gravestone (apparently no relation to any of the Beatles, but they took her name and wrote a song about it) and Strawberry Fields (I have no idea what this actually is/was). Here is where Ringo grew up:

We filmed the drive up Penny Lane, but it would not upload for some reason. Anyhow, here is a video of our stop at Strawberry Field (s?). We stayed on the bus and heckled a bit. You can get a great sense of the other people on the tour here.

However, the best part of the tour was completely unexpected: the average Liverpudlian’s reaction to us. Firstly, people still live in some of the houses we were gawking at. They were not too stoked on a bus load of people taking pictures, I’m sure. Additionally it seemed like a lot of random people had a certain animosity towards us and the bus we were on. At the corner of Penny Lane, two ‘lads’ returning from soccer practice mocked hysterical behaviour over the street sign. A few others were writing all over the sign. In one neighbourhood, two kids came running up when we were stopped at a light, and stood there repeatedly giving us the finger. This was a long light and the kids just sat there flicking us off in new and imaginative ways. It was really really funny. Also, as we swung back towards the city, another kid threw a tennis ball at us and struck Dave’s window. Totally amazing!

Suffice to say, we all had a lot of laughs over this all encompassing tour of Liverpool. We also learned a few things. It seems that John Lennon was a total asshole. I mean the guy got married and had a kid, but kept it secret from pretty much everyone because it was not considered rock star enough... Surprised that didn't work out. We also found out that a lot of the new Sherlock Holmes movie was filmed in our city. The tour guide continued to educate us with his narration. He trailed off often. A favourite was when he said “Ironically…” and then never finished his thought and started to mutter under his breath about some biker in the street. However, the most enlightening comment by the tour guide was: “And on your left? ASDA: part of the Wal-mart family.” Yup, the guide was sure to point out our local Wal-mart for us. Below is a picture at the end of the tour. I think you can see who had the worst time. Despite all my sarcasm, the tour peaked my interest in the Beatles, and I'd now kind of like to go to the Beatles Museum downtown. However, Kathleen refuses to come with me, so if anyone coming over is interested...

I think my friends had an awesome time. We went out for Indian food that night and just chilled on Sunday. It was super good to see them, and again it amazed me what close friendships I developed with people on the other side of the globe. Dave and Noreen: Come back soon!

1 comment:

  1. Awesome picture! I love that kids were flipping you guys off and throwing tennis balls. That is hilarious!