Having missed my usual UK visit last year, I am most pleased to be landing here first after crossing the Atlantic for this year’s adventure. My travels last year took me to the magnificent Greek island of Santorini, where I met a lovely British couple on a sailing ship who were celebrating their 5th anniversary. They possessed winning personalities, a sly wit, Northern English sensibilities, and most importantly, hated Morocco as much as I did.
NORWEGIAN AIR – A very nice economy airline with good entertainment and friendly flight attendants with cool hats.
So, after a bus, a jet, three trains, and a Merc, I arrived with Corey and Sarah at their home just outside Chester, a charming English town just a stone’s throw from Liverpool. Once there, I was ladled into the lap of luxury, where I found myself in a cozy ensuite bedroom ensuring I would enjoy a fantastic stay amongst good company. Our first business would be to see a proper Jazz show at an amazing local venue, featuring a quartet from the legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club.
The pianist knew his way around Ray Charles, and we were treated to an evening of his material before jet lag inevitably took its toll on me. The sax player kind of looked like Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd after a hard night of drinking.
COMFORTLAND – I’m going to be in trouble when I head back to my Hostel existence because my time in Drover Manor has made me as soft as the bed I was sleeping upon. Being chauffeured about in a brand new Mercedes hasn’t helped matters either.
IDYLLIC INDOOR SHOPPING
The Beautifully Restored Town Clock
CANCER PREVENTION CHOIR
Corey prepares to tuck into his Steak & Shake burger, a franchise he discovered in Ibiza last year. Those shakes are five quid each. I wonder what Travolta would have had to say about that. Probably, “Do they put bourbon in that?” This is the only franchise in all of Great Britain so he gets to come by and reminisce about his beloved Ibiza. What a break. Whenever he feels like a vacation, he can just stop in and transport his stomach back to Ibiza through a tasty burger.
MORE CHARMING CHESTER
CÔTE BRASSERIE – Sarah and I had a delicious three-course lunch here which included coq au vin for only 13 pounds each. The only wrinkle was the clueless Eastern European waitress. When asked for a recommendation between a couple of dishes, she essentially responded that she didn’t find any of the main courses the least bit desirable.
It’s a good thing the chef didn’t overhear the conversation. He would have probably filleted her with his favorite carving knife. I suspect the dullard probably arrived in the UK in a packing crate and is working for slave wages. It really is the only explanation for such dimwitted service. Because of this, we felt it only humane to leave her a decent tip since she didn’t seem to have a malevolent bone in her body.
Evidently, this is a chain restaurant, so if you happen to spot one in the UK, you can’t go wrong. If you happen to be in Chester and need a laugh make sure and seek out the waitress with the Eastern European accent.
THE ANTIQUE SHOP – Before going for lunch, Sarah & I had embarked on a mission in downtown Chester that had its origins in my first visit to this town two and a half years ago. I had purchased some gifts at a local antique store on the main street, and they had failed to turn up under some sketchy circumstances. I later called the shopkeeper to get my money credited back to my card which never happened either.
The time had come. Armed with my original receipts as well as Sarah Drover, I made tracks for The Antique Shop which was conveniently shut tight even though it was well past opening time. We walked about looking at the shops to work up an appetite, with hopes that the proprietor would turn up shortly. Emerging from a toy store across the street I spotted him struggling to get the door open. Sarah and I steeled ourselves and went over our revamped relaxed strategy. After all, we still had our ace in the hole. If all else failed there was always Corey who is an ex-marine and personal trainer who is built like a brick shithouse.
We gave the guy a few minutes to get the lights on before we entered. The shop was a bit disheveled, and he apologized for the condition of the store. We assured him it was no problem and carried on exchanging pleasantries. After five minutes or so, I reminded him of the details of my first visit and produced the receipts. So far so good. He seemed to be amenable to me taking merchandise equal to my prior purchase of one hundred pounds which was pretty much my plan anyway. Sarah was ready to go for the cash and run.
I decided I didn’t really want to get anything I would have to ship, and I spotted some Medieval rings that I had seen on my previous visit. With the advent of Game of Thrones, these things were quite popular, and are big sellers for him. I tried on a few and found a couple that I liked. My favorite was one that I had picked out when I first visited his shop. It had been waiting for me upon my return, and just happened to cost ninety-five pounds.
So I left the shop with a fiver, a 12th. century Medieval ring and a big smile on my face. Mission accomplished. No arguments. No grousing. No chocolate mess.
THE DROVERS – SARAH & COREY – I’m so glad Sarah shot down the first photo because this one’s a real winner. Just a word to the wise, putting up anything but top-grade photographs of a lady on a blog can result in serious consequences.
CELTIC ARMS – On my last day we went for Sunday Roast in Wales. The Celtic Arms did not disappoint.
The food here is as good as the interior design. Our meal took a while to arrive. I tucked in so voraciously that I failed to get a photo of my giant lamb shank with potatoes dauphinoise and root vegetables in a sweet red wine reduction sauce. Jesus H. Christ, it was without question the best I’ve ever had. A picture may have engendered too much envy anyway.
STICKY TOFFEE PUDDING – One of the few classic British desserts of which I was completely unaware. Corey was gobsmacked, as I assured him that my ignorance was not so deeply ingrained as he suspected. I informed him of my familiarity with puddings that few Americans know such as trifle and gooseberry fool, but his incredulity was still not satisfied. I guess I’ll have to wait to turn the tables on him in Paris if he manages to overcome the fear the infinitesimal chance that he might tread in the leavings of a local dog. You really have to work hard to step in it in Paris these days.
The next day, after one final latté and pastry, there was a “ticket to ride” waiting to take me to Liverpool at Chester Station. My road rash fully healed and lip on the mend, I am now prepared to face the world refreshed and renewed. One more day at the Drover’s, and I may not have been able to tear myself free.
LIVERPOOL – BIRTHPLACE OF THE BEATLES
MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR – Beatle’s Tour I availed myself of during my previous visit. Liverpool has come so far over the past few decades. Once a scruffy, down on its luck seaport, it is now a walkable, shiny little city on the banks of the Mersey.
Home to world-class museums, live entertainment, good restaurants, and ground zero for Beatlemania, is a must-see town even if you’re not a diehard Beatles fan. In a world where cities are so often deteriorating, it is refreshing to visit a place that just keeps getting better all the time.
The Liverpudlians (Scousers) are proud of their city and rightfully so. Hanging out with Corey in Chester gave me the feel of Liverpool, and warmed me up before I even arrived.
EUROHOSTEL LIVERPOOL – This is in the restaurant/bar attached to the hostel which is just on the corner from Matthew Street which is arguably the birthplace of the Beatles. It is home to the Cavern Club, numerous bars, clubs, restaurants, and shops all dedicated to the Beatles. If you want a good hostel in Liverpool, this is the place. Nice staff, comfortable beds, hot showers, and good, inexpensive food in the bar.
THE CAVERN CLUB – The original is no more, but this is a reasonable facsimile minus the smoke, sweat, and other authentic smells. The Cavern is where Brian Epstein came to listen to the Beatles, and made first contact. The Beatles played the Cavern Club 292 times, and many locals have cherished memories of having seen the Beatles perform there.
RUBBER SOUL – One of the many tourist traps on Matthew Street.
WALL OF FAME
OASIS – The band’s founders, Noel and Liam Gallagher, are both big Beatles fans. Noel was known to tip his hat to them in the lyrics of his songs. I have really gotten into a lot of their material lately. They visited Matthew Street when Oasis was still together. Hopefully, they managed to avoid getting into any fights with each other during their time here. As much as they loved the Beatles, they never seemed to grasp the love part of the material, at least in terms of each other.
DUKE OF WELLINGTON
THE WALKER MUSEUM
LITTLE HEAVY – Chair – Designed by Ron Arad – 1991
YVES SAINT-LAURENT – EVENING TROUSER SUIT – 1985
MOORE, Henry – Falling Warrior – 1956
Moore’s well-known sculptures of reclining women are usually embodiments of grandeur and stillness. By contrast, this warrior shown in the moment of falling is both unstable and painfully contorted.
HEPWORTH, Barbara – Two Spheres in Orbit – 1973
THE SINGH TWINS – The King is Dead: Long Live the King – 2017
Make America Great Again – Detail
Donald Trump abandons Paris climate change agreement – Detail
HAYS, Dan – Harmony In Green – 1997
MOON, Jeremy – Cape Red – 1965
RILEY, Bridget – Cataract – 1967
KING, Phillip – Point X – 1965
FLANAGAN, Barry – Heap 4 – 1967
TUCKER, William – Thebes – 1966
SPIROGRAPH – KID’S TOY or ART SYSTEM? – I had one of these and really enjoyed it.
The Spirograph was first developed as a toy by the British engineer, Denys Fisher in 1965. They are still made and sold. The Spirograph can make lots of different geometric patterns, and can create complex designs which can be very colorful.
JAGGER, Charles Sergeant – The Sentry – 1921
Jagger served as an officer during the First World War. After the war, he was in great demand to work on war memorials. His sculptures were based upon his own experiences in the trenches.
BONE, Stephen – HMS Mauritius, The Four Inch Guns – 1944
In 1943 Bone became an Official Naval War Office. The following year he painted this picture of the light cruiser HMS Mauritius. During the summer of 1944, she patrolled the English Channel. Bone spent time onboard and recorded life at sea.
BRABBINS, Oliver – Submarine Torpedo Bay – 1945
Brabbins worked as an artist in the Royal Naval Film Unit. His tasks include making paintings and drawings for educational films.
In this painting, he has captured the tense, claustrophobic atmosphere of a submarine. Three men struggle to load a torpedo in the hot, cramped space. All the time anticipating an attack by an enemy ship.
BERTIERI, Pilade – Lady in Black Furs – 1910
FINE IRON OCTAHEDRITE – Namibia, Southwest Africa
MEGALOSAURUS – A carnivorous dinosaur found in Southern England.
JAWBONE FRAGMENT OF AN ICHTHYOSAUR
TURTLE SHELL – Oligocene – 23-35 million years old
An Exquisite Specimen
HEAD OF KING AHMENHOTEP III – New Kingdom (1390-1352BC)
Bronze Chariot of the First Emperor – Modern Replica
STONE HELMET – QIN DYNASTY – EXCAVATED IN 1998
A total of 43 stone helmets were found in thousands of pieces in a pit identified as an armory for the afterlife. This is the only helmet to be fully reconstructed. It is an accurate representation of the iron helmets which were first used in the late Warring States Period.
STONE ARMOR – QIN DYNASTY
Sets of stone armor and helmets were discovered in thousands of fragments in a pit east of the First Emperor’s mausoleum. They are too heavy to be worn by real soldiers and would have offered no protection against weapons in battle.
THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
ARMORED GENERAL – QIN DYNASTY
HEAVY INFANTRYMAN – QIN DYNASTY
LIGHT INFANTRYMAN – QIN DYNASTY
MILITARY OFFICER – QIN DYNASTY
CHARIOTEER – QIN DYNASTY
KNEELING ARCHER – QIN DYNASTY
STANDING ARCHER – QIN DYNASTY
This typically narcissistic emperor was so busy chasing immortality that he clearly failed to seize the day. Regardless of the excessive wealth, hundreds of concubines, and a massive kingdom, he really failed to properly enjoy his life. He was either obsessed with living forever or ensuring himself a comfortable afterlife like the pharaohs of Egypt. What an incredible waste of vast wealth on a person who rarely occupied the present. What wonderful irony that he perished from mercury poisoning meant to extend his life. I’m sorry, but what a douche.
PAINTED TERRACOTTA INFANTRYMEN – HAN DYNASTY
PAINTED TERRACOTTA CAVALRYMEN AND HORSES
DOMESTICATED ANIMALS – More tomb supplies for the afterlife.
GOLD INGOTS – HAN DYNASTY
More than 400 gold ingots dating to the Han Dynasty have been found in China so far. Emperors used gold ingots as gifts to reward their subjects or as gold reserves to store their wealth. Many ingots were stamped or engraved with inscriptions such as family names or good luck messages.
The Liverpool Museum can be seen on the left.
THE BEATLES STORY – This museum located near the Albert Dock has many exhibits and mock-ups of numerous important Beatle artifacts and locales.
GEORGE HARRISON’S FIRST GUITAR
CASBAH COFFEE CLUB – SIMULATION – (Visiting the real one coming later in the post)
STAR CLUB – MOCK UP – NO LONGER EXISTS
CAVERN CLUB MODEL – The Beatles played the Cavern 292 times.
CAVERN CLUB STAGE – Mondrian-style back wall.
SNACK BAR – That’s Rory Storm on the right who will come up later at the Casbah Coffee Club.
Pete Best playing with the Beatles at the Cavern.
BEATLEMANIA – Screaming girls high decibel simulation space.
BRIAN EPSTEIN’S WOOL & CASHMERE COAT – Made by Aquascutum of Regent Street
EXACT REPLICAS OF THE SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND UNIFORMS – 2000
He could be a bit of a bastard at times, but he was the driving force of the greatest pop group in history.
John tried hard to use his fame to bring positive change to a world gone mad even at the risk of appearing foolish at times. I never really could stand Yoko, but it has been said that she may have kept John from going off the rails. Many blame her for the breakup of the Beatles, but it is likely that the Beatles had run their course and that it had ceased to be fun for them anymore. We were lucky to have had them as long as we did, and also that they knew when it was time to call it quits.
I think that took a lot of integrity.
The last album released was “Let It Be” however the last album recorded was “Abbey Road”, a respectful nod to the studio where so much magic was conceived. What a way to go out on top! One last drum solo from Ringo. Cue the dueling guitars, followed by a plaintive, repeated piano chord by Paul, a final glorious harmony with a symphonic flourish, and finally some last gorgeous guitar licks from George. “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”. The perfect reprise to an amazing era aptly titled “The End”.
This is a re-creation of the room where John & Yoko shot the video for “Imagine”.
One of the things Lennon most loved about New York was that people pretty much left him alone as he went about his business in the city he called home for the rest of his life. As a long-time proponent of peace, John moved to the most warlike country in the world with the largest military on the planet. I find it incredibly ironic that it is America’s love affair with guns that led to his untimely death outside the Dakota on December 8th. 1980. If John had remained in England, he’d probably be alive today.
And finally, Quincy Jones has been in the news lately for talking rubbish about the Beatles. He stated that the Beatles were the worst musicians in the world.
HEY QUINCY, GO FUCK YOURSELF!
Here’s a little teaser for my brother Buell in the hopes that he might finally bring his Beatle fanatic wife, Margaret to Liverpool.
CUNARD’S RMS CARMANIA
ORIGINAL LIFE PRESERVER – It was obtained by the skipper of a fishing boat from Kinsale, who helped with the rescue. He gave it to a fish merchant Arthur Miller later displayed it for many years in his office in Passage East, County Waterford.
RMS TITANIC MODEL
CASBAH COFFEE CLUB
The Casbah Coffee Club was a labor of love opened by Mona Best who was Pete Best’s mum. His father met her in India where they lived for a time before moving back to Liverpool where he received a hero’s welcome, having been a very popular boxing promoter for many years.
Mona was a free spirit who had become quite bored and needed a bit more stimulation than Liverpool had come to afford her. She decided to turn the basement of her home into a club where she could feature local bands. Paul, John, and George played here before their Beatle days and Mona gave John a thrashing for carving his initials in the wooden wall with a pocket knife at one point and they went on hiatus to Hamburg shortly thereafter.
ROAG BEST – The son of Neil Aspinall who was the former road manager of the Beatles. I was most fortunate to have a private tour from this informative, passionate and colorful purveyor of Beatles lore. I knew most of the material in the other Beatles exhibitions. Roag filled me in on the untold stories, and numerous they were. The Casbah Coffee Club was the birthplace of the Beatles and the whole Merseybeat by extension.
Paul McCartney used this piano frequently in the old days. Sadly it was gutted to make a bar. The front panel pivots down to give access to bottles, etc. If it were intact, it would be worth a fortune.
This is a piece of equipment the Beatles left behind along with Pete when they headed off the London to record their first album with Ringo.
The tiny space where John, Paul and George performed with another guitarist before becoming the Beatles.
Eventually, the space became untenable since bands would spread about the full length of the space.
So Mona busted out a couple of walls and created this area that became the stage where many founding participants of the Mersey played. John, Paul, George, and Pete painted all the walls and ceilings in the club. The Beatles had received an offer to play in Hamburg and needed a drummer so they recruited Pete and started playing the Casbah Coffee Club in earnest. The is a truly hallowed space as it is the very first place the newly formed Beatles played for the first time on December 17th. 1960.
The ceiling was painted in a Mondrian pattern. That hole was made by the head of Rory Storm when he jumped up in the air. His band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes were the band from which the Beatles would eventually pilfer their future drummer, Ringo Starr. That brings us to the unfortunate business of letting Pete go right on the brink of the band’s ultimate unparalleled success. The unpleasant task was left to Brian Epstein.
There is much speculation as to the reasons for his firing. George Martin evidently was not satisfied with his drumming, and his sullen personality never really fit in with the other wisecracking Beatles. Many said that it was due to his popularity with their female fanbase since who needs another token pretty boy when you’ve got the multi-talented Paul McCartney on the roster. I certainly sympathize with Pete’s plight and the poor handling of his dismissal, but I just don’t believe he was right for the Beatles.
He certainly deserves a lot of credit for doing a lot of the heavy lifting for the two tours of duty in Hamburg. His mother Mona’s contribution needs to be recognized as well. Not only did she create a safe space for the Beatles development, but she went to bat for them and helped to arrange numerous gigs, including helping to transform the Cavern Club on Matthew Street into ground zero for the Mersey Sound.
In the end, I feel that Pete was the odd man out who never really fit in. He wouldn’t even adopt the now-famous Beatles haircut, first administered by Stu Sutcliffe’s girlfriend, Astrid Kirchherr in Hamburg. If you look most any picture of Pete with John, Paul, and George, the guy just doesn’t look like he belongs.
One of these blokes is not like the others.
Upon his return from hiatus from the Casbah, John carved this into the ceiling tile.
Roag Best shows off the mic that Paul McCartney used when he performed at the Casbah. The tour given by Roag was outstanding, and there was no hint of bitterness or even mention of Pete’s dismissal from the band. I’m sure Mona was furious when the whole thing went down and rightly so, but her sons have chosen the high road and focused on her contribution to a musical phenomenon as well as her role in nurturing the careers of many budding bands in the Liverpool area. I believe Sir Paul McCartney’s current cooperation in shooting an interview at Apple Studios with Roag is a result of this magnanimity, and certainly leaves one feeling better about things all around. Roag has written a great book about this little-known chapter in the Beatle’s development.
Holding Macca’s Mic!
ROCK AND ROLL SISTINE CHAPEL – Painted by John Lennon – Current Value (One Million Pounds)
That’s probably about 250,000 pounds worth.
This is the radio/record player that the Beatles crowded around when they heard themselves on air for the first time!
If you are a Beatles Fan visiting Liverpool, the Casbah Coffee Club is a must-see. I cannot stress this too much. Gone are the clubs in Hamburg as well as the original space in the Cavern. This was their hangout and performance space, and it’s nice to put a few bob in the Best’s pockets to pay back Mona’s contribution and offset the suffering that Pete went through back in the day.
In 1964, Pete Best attempted suicide by gas and was stopped by his mother and brother. Thankfully, he has moved on and found peace of mind. Now happily married, he will always have a place in history as the Beatle’s first drummer, and he has already outlived two other bandmates. One can always find a reason for gratitude.
PETE BEST & THE CASBAH were finally honored with their own street signs in Liverpool. Let’s face it, Pete played the Cavern and went to Hamburg with John, Paul, and George, and made a contribution to the development of the Beatles. So he absolutely deserved this recognition. The Casbah Coffee Club speaks for itself and is one of the most important spots in Beatle History. The irony is that everyone visits Matthew Street, Strawberry Fields, and Penny Lane but most miss out on the band’s actual birthplace.
WALL OF FAME – Famous Merseybeat Musicians and visiting celebrities add their signatures to this mural.
This is the booth in the Grapes where the four lads would stop in for a pint before they played the Cavern. Girls would come straight from work into the pub to change in the ladies before the show. The Beatles were strategically positioned to view them in various stages of undress. Some things never change! Here I am with a couple of local birds to dress up the shot.
Paul, Pete, George, John. Poor Pete, he always did look distant and a bit out of place.
I highly recommend a visit to the Grapes as it is an authentic experience on the Beatles trail. So many of the establishments on Matthew St. are fun tourist traps with no historical significance other than the fact that they might have a Beatle reference in their name and are situated on Matthew Street. Even the Cavern Club is a reproduction. Come to the Grapes for the real McCoy and a good pint, and plant your bum on a seat where history was made.
My time here in Liverpool has been fraught with cold and snow. My trip to Salisbury was curtailed by train cancellations winter storms which forced me to return to the Eurohostel. The next day was still looking a bit dodgy so I will end up with two extra nights in Liverpool. I’ll get to Salisbury eventually, but it’s really nice to sit here next to Matthew Street to get caught up on my Beatle-saturated blog post.
In my travels, I try to find the silver lining to any mishaps I may encounter along the way. Case in point, that I find myself stuck in Liverpool for two additional days. Firstly, there are far worse cities in which to find oneself stranded. And secondly, I’d failed to avail myself of any live music on Matthew Street during my visit.
Being a Saturday night, I made the 100-meter trek to the Cavern Club to see what sort of Beatle fare they were serving up for the evening. The place was packed with locals and the band was playing Beatles tunes and other Merseybeat favorites. I wandered about looking at the exhibits of Beatles instruments and souvenirs available for purchase when I spotted a couple of bouncers in front of a curtain. Being a “behind the curtain” enthusiast, I approached to inquire about the nature of the goings-on within.
THE EARLY YEARS
It turns out that every Saturday night, they host a Beatle Tribute Band behind the said curtain from 9:00-Midnight for the cost of a 20 Pound note. The time on my watch: 9:00 pm. Once again travel mishap has turned into discovery gold. I had spent the prior four days on Beatles trivia pursuit and mop-top foreplay, only to find myself in the Cavern about to experience a tribute band that completely looked and sounded the part. Yeah, Baby! Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!
I’ve seen quite a number of Beatles tribute bands over the years, including “Beatlemania” on Broadway, but to be here in the Cavern really makes it special.
THE PSYCHEDELIC YEARS
THE FINAL YEARS
So they went all the way from the explosive energy of “Twist and Shout” to the final flourish of “The End” on Abbey Road. I emerged victorious from the Casbah a might peckish and went on to McDonald’s for a Quarter Pounder along with half of Liverpool. What followed was far from appetizing. I returned to my hostel unaware of what vile experience awaited me.
Ready to slide comfortably into my cozy bottom bunk, a green light flashed as I presented my key card to the door’s sensor. I entered a room lit faintly by my roommate’s laptop. As I approached my bunk, I detected some sort of apparatus preventing ingress to my sleep space. It turned out to be a cumbersome wheelchair.
Slowly a large mass began to come into focus atop my mattress. Two trunk-like, misshapen calves emerged from my former sheets. They were attached to a woman so morbidly obese as to beg the question, “Did she start out disabled, or did she eat her way into that wheelchair.”
My curiosity was short-lived, however. Frankly, I didn’t care whether she was disabled or not. It was 1:00 AM, I had a train to catch in the morning, and Mrs. Creosote had stolen my clearly claimed and tousled bunk. I went downstairs and managed to terrify the two poor Scottish lads behind the desk. I put them at ease and requested another bunk as well as some assistance with moving my gear.
Back in the room, my assistant managed to maneuver the wheelchair out of the way so I could rapidly pack my stuff. Luckily I was able to reach around the bunk beds and extract my international power plug. That left a most daunting and revolting task. I had remembered leaving my Macbook power cord in the middle of the bed. Just imagining my cord being transformed into a piece of butt-floss for this behemoth made me throw up in my mouth a little. Fortunately, my assistant managed to persuade her to rearrange her girth long enough to extract my much-needed accessory. Mission accomplished.
CREOSOTE BOTERO – Just imagine finding this in the flesh in your hostel bunk.
I was subsequently transplanted into a room completely free of roommates, and I thanked the lads for sorting me out. Now the most important business at hand was to break out the anti-bacterial spray that I bought for my busted lip in Guadeloupe and proceed to disinfect my Macbook power cord. All is right in the universe once again.
My three trains to Salisbury came off without a hitch, and that included some nice conversations with the same fellow on two different trains. As I pulled into the station, Sergei Skripal, a retired Russian military intelligence colonel who was a double agent for MI6 convicted of spying for Britain, was fighting for his life in a nearby hospital. It seems the man and his 30 something daughter had been poisoned and were found slumped over on a park bench in a Salisbury shopping district.
Men in hazmat suits were dispatched to the area to neutralize any possible threat to public health. As usual, it seems as though I’ve arrived where the action is. This is the second time a Russian spy has been poisoned on British soil. This incident has yet to be connected to Vladimir Putin, but it certainly has his typical signature, fond as he is of poisoning treasonous operatives.
Disengaging from the latest controversy just 15 minutes away, I sat down to a nice home-cooked meal with Faith, Alexa, Ken, and Charlie. I settle into 3 nights and two days of family bliss in the English countryside.
BRAMBLEDOWN COTTAGE – Home Sweet Home – For 3 Nights
Surrogate uncle delivers a new Recon Observation drone to happy chappie, Charlie. In my childhood, some of my best memories were of visiting uncle types bearing exciting gifts and other contraband so I considerate it my responsibility to pay it forward.
Here is Charlie sitting in front of a debris field of pieces and parts that can be assembled into various creatures and other compelling objects.
Scooby languishes nearby on his pillow doing his best “Boris Johnson” imitation.
Sitting at the dining table of a charming cottage, I have a view of the back yard and sheep grazing in the adjacent field, as I finish breakfast just before blogging about my time in Liverpool.
Ken and Alexa work from home upstairs as I busy myself with my travel planning on the ground floor. I have been treated to some lovely meals and good company which for me is just as important as my adventures. After all, I’ve got all of the adventures anyone could want. Good times with special people are in far more limited supply. This trip to the UK has been a most emotionally nourishing experience and will make my challenging travels to come all the more enjoyable.
Charlie is back from school, and the time has come for the maiden flight of the Recon Observation Drone. We all hop in the car for a ride to a nearby field to avoid crashing it into various obstacles.
Off we go…..and go and go and go…..until the drone sails out of control over some adjacent houses. Ken is too far from Charlie to help bring it under control as the drone continues to climb.
Finally, it drops down a considerable distance away, and completely out of our line of sight. Houston we have a problem! We had a general idea of the direction it went, but how far was a matter of guesswork.
Having passed the first row of houses, we scanned the area but reckoned it had probably reached the back yard of one of the houses in the second row. Things were looking pretty grim for poor Charlie. He gets a cool toy and loses it on the very first flight. But we persisted in ringing bells and searching back yards. After searching the first one, I could also check the yard on the right side by looking over the fence. Ken, Charlie’s Dad, in the meantime checked the house on the other side. The lady welcomed him to look, and lo and behold, there it sat on its landing struts in the middle of the path in her backyard.
With great relief, and triumphant in the retrieval of the cherished drone father and son can once again get back to the business of flying the thing. I must give Charlie a lot of credit because he didn’t lose his cool during the incident. Of course, he could have been in shock. I found out later that he did indeed lapse into somewhat of a catatonic state which you can actually see him emerging from in this picture.
Upon resuming the experiment, Charlie came to grasp the concept of controlled ascent and hovering. This laid the groundwork for his next outing that in all likelihood will be calamity-free.
After the excitement, Alexa and I took a scenic walk back to the cottage past the river.
ELEVENTH CENTURY CHURCH
Brad Pitt learned to fly fish in this well-stocked river. It costs 1000 pounds per day to fish here! Good gad, I wouldn’t pay that even if Angelina Jolie cooked the fish I caught, and then fed it to me off of her naked body.
Thank goodness walking alongside the river is free.
I will say this, they live in a damned charming neighborhood.
Oozing with charm, I sez.
Charm can cost you, however. You’re looking at about $300,000 to replace that roof.
THE COMPASS – A truly exquisite little British countryside pub.
Let’s have a look around, shall we?
Dripping with atmosphere.
Madonna and Guy Ritchie once tried to buy the place and failed. Thank God the place is Madge-free.
Mom is liberated from the kitchen and reunited with a nice lager. Charlie probably could have used one after the drone calamity.
TOP FLIGHT PUB GRUB – Lamb Bangers and Mash with sun-dried tomatoes and green beans.
Awaiting a beguiling, sticky apricot pudding with créme Fraiche. It was so amazing that no pictures were possible.
The Travel Zealot, Alexa, and Faith.
THE COZY FACTOR
THE LANGFORDS – Alexa, Ken, and Charlie
Alexa and Ken are both talented artists and musicians who fronted a pop group called “Fancy” in the Nineties. With parental responsibilities, their music doesn’t get as much attention as they would like, but they carry on with their new project, The Langfords, with the time they can afford it. Charlie is not a regular member of the band, but he stepped in for a little rhythm work in the picture. He is a complete Beatle fanatic.