Saturday, October 28, 2023

Love in Ruins

 In the midst of fitful dreams, mysterious voices summoned me to the Priory ruins of Dudley.  They were persistent...I felt compelled to obey their ghostly calling.

By the time I reached the Priory, it was daylight, but ominous clouds and an eerie silence - save for the low moaning wind caressing ancient stones - made me feel somewhat out of step with time.  Should there be any question that the barrier between the spirit world and ours was weakening, just around a darkened corner, the sight of a windswept harpist upon her lofty perch, removed all doubt.

Ms Lewis-Freeman was watchful, beneath her blackened veil, in mourning for her lost love, but answering a time transcending calling from him.

She felt his presence on the wind.

Noa, the harpist, too, sensed time and tide shifting; something was about to unfold.

Some kind of energy crackled, like electricity, on the breeze.

Ms Lewis-Freeman began to walk through the ruins, where several lifetimes before, she had confided her love for the elusive Mr Moore.  She searched high...

....and low.

Noa, initially fearful of the strange forces that had conspired to bring her here, hid her own face behind a veil.

Whist Miss Lewis-Freeman and Noa joined forces to find the former's lost love...I encountered a pale stranger, seated on the old garden bench.  I walked alone, back towards the ruins.  I swear the stranger had remained seated...

...but suddenly, he was there in front of me again.  I confess I was startled.  But then, a momentary distraction - the calling of a crow - and I found myself alone once more.

At once, the music started...mesmerising, like a siren's call.

Could it be?  

Could it really be?

Together at last...

...they fed off each other...both for sustenance and in an ungodly act of vampiric intimacy.

They roamed and reminisced like the old acquaintances they were...  

...entertained and bewitched by Noa's playing.

Immortality requires endless patience.  Noa observed from a distance.  She now had a better understanding of her otherworldliness and the complicated feelings created by eons of solitude.  She had found her kind.  The undead.

And so the music played on...and nothing else mattered.

                                                                                                        THE END

And back to reality!  These photos are the result of a Steampunk elopement shoot I had originally planned for a late September Sunday at a different location.  Forced to postpone due to the abysmal weather forecast, those of us located closest to each other, namely Sonia, the make-up arist, (Sensual Passions), Noa Harpist and Tracey and Kevin, major players on the Steampunk scene (and all round good eggs), were keen to risk it.  We hurriedly hatched our plan B, a Spooky Season photo shoot amongst the atmospheric Priory ruins in Dudley.  

In spite of the deliberately dour expressions, we all had a blast and attracted a fair bit of attention on the day.  Numerous people stopped us to ask us about the shoot or requesting photos.

The hours passed quickly and the whole team brought their A game.  It's not every day you get to hang out with Dracula and his missus to the heavenly sound of harp music.  

Because my skills don't stretch to fading out a soundtrack and overlaying an alternative audio track, I'm sharing a clip here of Noa playing the Metallica classic.  Isn't she great?

Winter Peach Photography (@winter_peach_photography) | TikTok

Thanks to all involved for making a miserable Sunday so memorable!  

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Rubber Soul and Blisters; A Trip to Liverpool

We're back after a heady few days in Liverpool.  To my shame, I've only been to Liverpool once before, some years ago.  We went as day trippers with our respective parents, saw the Liver birds, took a ferry across the Mersey and visited the Maritime Museum.  We were quite possibly hung over.  It was a day out, but somehow didn't really leave a lasting impression.  How wrong was I?  After three days in this friendly, vibrant and stunning city, I can honestly say I've fallen under its spell.  

I have something to share for my Halloween post, so this post will be photo heavy and feature the highlights of our city break.  I am painfully aware that despite walking everywhere (no open top bus tours for us), we only scratched the surface!

The forecast wasn't great, but Liverpool defied expectations and we were treated to wall to wall sunshine, although we did have to permanently battle quite a bracing wind.  Thank goodness for my hat!  

The sun setting on the first evening lined the pavements with gold.

The mythical Liver birds (5.5 m high) perch protectively, if precariously, on the Grade I listed Liver Building (opened in 1911).  Legend has it that the birds protect both the city and the sailors coming in to port.  If the birds take off, Liverpool will cease to exist!

Close to the ferry port, we encountered these lads.  Something tells me they are quite a big deal in this city.  We kept bumping into them during our stay.  

Unsurprisingly, the first music to hit our ears upon arrival, was a busker playing a Beatles song just a stone's throw away from these statues.

Our apartment was a minute's walk from the Cavern Quarter; a colourful area dedicated to the city's musical heritage and crammed with music venues, pubs and clubs.  

The Fab Four would pop into The Grapes for a pre-gig pint.

As a major port of the British Empire, Liverpool encompasses a variety of different architectural styles from the past 300 years and taking to the city streets I learned two things:- 

1.  The different eras seamlessly merge together; the architectural delights of one century often reflected in examples from the next.

2.  These boots weren't made for walking after all.  My usually comfortable Clarks boots had given me a blister by the end of the first day, necessitating a visit to the pharmacy for some blister plasters.  Not that it stopped me.

On day two of our visit, we headed to the Baltic Triangle - an area so called because major building projects earlier in the last century resulted in a shortage of oak, meaning that we had to import timber from countries like Poland, Germany and Norway.  Much of it was stored in warehouses in the area.  Nowadays, this area is Liverpool's answer to Digbeth; a creative corner of the city on the cusp of gentrification.

I told you they were everywhere!

We were thrilled to discover that the Baltic Triangle also had a Red Brick Market...

...although many of the surrounding bars and street food eateries were closed so early in the week.  

Here I am resting my blistered foot outside the Yellow Sub Bar.

I loved the Victorian architectural details on the old Brewery.

On we walked, towards the Anglican Cathedral.  The street art and murals gradually petered out...

...and finally, we glimpsed it.

It's the largest church in the UK and the 8th largest in the world.  It was constructed between 1904 and 1978.  It features a neon sign by UK artist Tracey Emin.

"I felt you and I knew you loved me."  For me, given the troubles in the world - often rooted in religion - these seem like hollow words.

The boys braved the tower.  I remained firmly on terra firma and enjoyed a period of solitude, but here's a photo taken after they left the lift on the tenth floor before starting on the 108 steps up to the top of the tower.

A view from the top!

While we're on the subject of religion, we may as well take a peek at Liverpool's second, Catholic Cathedral, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King (constructed between 1962 and 1967).  That's too much of a mouthful for locals, who have christened this awe-inspiring building "Paddy's Wigwam" so called because the origins of the church are rooted in the fallout from the Irish Famine when many fled their home country and headed to England.  Large numbers embarked upon the journey from Liverpool to North America, but many opted to remain in Liverpool. 

Inside, I felt that we had somehow been beamed up into the bowels of a spaceship.

There was no mistaking that this building was a product of mid century design creatives.  

The cathedral's elevated position also placed it in a vortex; the sound of the howling wind outside was really eerie in the foyer.  If you ever visit, The Lutyens Crypt, all that is left of an earlier cathedral for Liverpool, is meant to be incredible.  Sadly, it was closed on the day of our visit.  Another excuse, if one were required, to visit again. 

I'm leaping about in time and space here, but now feels like a good time to mention my brush with the stars.  On our way back through the city one evening, we spotted a BBC stage being erected.  The UK premiere of series two of the BBC's acclaimed drama Time was due to take place that evening.  I opted to hang around and before long a paparazzi photographer next to me struck up a conversation.  This passed the time pleasantly enough and pretty soon I was able to capture the event.

This journalist, we can only assume, had to oil his legs to squeeze into these trousers!

Introducing our stars...Faye McKeever (left), also known for her role in The Responder.  I didn't catch the other actress's name unfortunately.

Nicholas Nunn (I'm not familiar with his work, but he did appear in two episodes of SAS Rogue Heroes)...

...Kayla Miekle (left of Nicholas)...

....Julie Graham (Benidorm, Shetland)...and you may just spy, peeping out from behind the Time backdrop, our final star...

...Bella Ramsey.  To my shame, I hadn't heard of her.  Apparently she was in some obscure little show called Game of Thrones.  She has 3.7 million followers on Instagram.

Last, but not least, Liverpool's own Jimmy McGovern, master of the gritty drama.

A woman in the crowd called out to him and I was able to capture the moment Jimmy warmly greeted Sheila. Clearly they were old friends.

All very exciting!

I realise that this blog suggests that we didn't sleep during our time in Liverpool.  That's not actually far off the mark.  The beds in our apartment were huge and very comfortable, but for some reason, insomnia took hold and I was usually awake in the early hours.  

In the background of the photo above, you can just see the city's World Museum.  We paid £8.00 each to visit the Return of the Gods exhibition, although our son, a former Classics student, was a little disappointed at the lack of detailed information for visitors.  Given my failed attempt to read and absorb the family tree in Stephen Fry's Mythos, I probably have no cause to complain and the first and second century statues collected by 18th Century antiquarian Henry Blundell of Sefton, were absolutely incredible...



The sculptures are comparable in importance and quality to the Charles Townley collection at the British Museum and to Roman sculptures at the Vatican and other European museums.

Onwards we go, across town...passing Brian Epstein outside Holland & Barrett... Liverpool's Town Hall.  

I had received a tip off from my father in law that the toilets were something to behold.  We turned up on a day when the hall was being used for meetings and I immediately confessed the main reason for our visit.  Unfortunately on that day visitors weren't really permitted and the ground floor toilets out of bounds, but Kelly took pity on us and allowed us to explore the impressive hallway.  This sweeping staircase inspired the ill feted Titanic's staircase with its domed ceiling.

Kelly kindly showed us the hiding place above the fireplace containing elaborate 17th century Flemish carvings...

...before relenting and allowing us to visit the toilets.  She admitted that our request was a first, but judge for yourselves.  Why wouldn't you want to visit these amazing examples of Victorian splendour?

The ladies was all dark wood, mirrors and parquet flooring...

The Ladies

The Ladies

However, I found the gents exquisite tiling infinitely superior.

A whistle stop tour if ever there was one, but we were so grateful to Kelly.  Liverpudlians are a friendly bunch and are quite rightly bursting with pride in their city.

So, to our last night in town.  No visit to Liverpool would be complete without a visit to The Cavern Club.  The club needs no introduction but has received millions of visitors since the early days of the "Mersey Beat" from tourists and musicians worldwide.  For a £5.00 entry fee you are guaranteed music and Scouse merriment. 

There's that bloke again!


Our visit coincided with a set from Liverpool musician Craig LW (he doesn't always have a Beatles mop top), who had a pretty long list of requests that evening.  However, when we put in our request, it was elevated to the top of the list (Craig is a friend of the band The Coral) and with a dedication to "our Black Country friends" here's the majority of his performance.  Please forgive my appalling grainy iphone video.

Here's the original.

A fitting end to a fab few days! 

Liverpool, we love you!


It's been a curious week of unexpected connections, conversations, sights and sounds, underpinned in some shape or form by panic. I was ...