09.11.2016 - 10.11.2016
As I made my way from Edinburgh to Liverpool the temperature struggled to rise above 3 degrees. I was excited to see snow falling, and decided on a quick detour off the main road and into the hills. Somewhat perturbed to find myself in a military firing range, I beat a hasty retreat!
Liverpool was added to my itinerary when I found that Van Morrison was playing at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. As a longtime fan, it's difficult for me to imagine not taking the opportunity to see him live, even taking into account his reputation as a curmudgeonly performer.
The Philharmonic Hall website very helpfully pointed me towards the Hope Street Hotel as a convenient place to stay. Convenient? Literally across the road, which was very helpful indeed on a wet and blustery Liverpool night. First though, we need to deal with the checking in process. I was warmly greeted on arrival, given directions for parking the car, and handed the key to room 503. I spotted the word "penthouse" on my paperwork, but thought it was presumptuous of me to imagine yet another upgrade had come my way. Presume away, I say! I entered at the lower level to the kitchen area and made my way up the stairs to the living room, bathroom and king-sized bedroom with a view over Liverpool. Amazing! On inspecting the bathroom, I was puzzled by the four nozzles mounted on the wall, but delighted to discover they produced a kind of standing hot tub effect when combined with the impressive shower head. Blissful!
This visit wasn't about the hotel though, impressive as it was, but rather all about Van. When I booked my ticket and asked to see the best available, I was offered seat 6 in box 12. Having never had the opportunity to sit in a theatre box before (is that where the expression "in the box seat" comes from, I wonder?), how could I refuse? Perusing the merchandise table, I was startled to hear an announcement that Van would be taking the stage - it was 7:50 and the concert was due to start at 8:00. I made my way to the box and was the first to arrive. I was joined shortly afterwards by John and Jill, and Colette and Steve, but we only had time for the briefest of chats before Van took the stage -at 8:00 precisely. Punctuality is such an underrated virtue! At 71, Van's voice remains strong and his saxophone playing masterful. There were songs from his new album interspersed with hit after hit. I always go to a concert with a mental list of must-hear songs, and they just kept on coming. Someone like you - tick. Have I told you lately - tick. Brown-eyed girl - tick. Moondance - tick, tick, tick! Van's not a man for onstage patter, and we barely had time to draw breath between tunes. He thanked us for applauding, and went about the business of performance without any extraneous words, leaving time for as many of those wonderful songs as could be shoehorned into his set. Just as well it was dark in there, or my fellow concert-goers may have worried about the weird woman in box 12 with the unrelenting smile.
It was over all too soon, but Liverpool was not yet done with me. My fellow box inhabitants asked if I'd like to join them for a post-concert beverage at a historic pub across the road. It would have been rude to refuse! The Phil, as the Philharmonic Dining Rooms is affectionately known, is a Victorian pub renowned for its architecture. Of particular note (apparently!) are the pink marble urinals, but I had to source this photo from elsewhere as I wasn't willing to brave the men's toilets. Fancy place for a wee, boys!
2 half pints of cider later, it was time to farewell my newfound friends and take the briefest of walks back to the hotel and my lofty room.
The next day dawned grey and gloomy, with a biting wind and the odd drop of rain. Undeterred, I headed to Albert Dock and the Museum of Maritime History. My great-great-grandparents John and Elizabeth Graham had sailed from Liverpool to Australia in 1852 and it was fascinating to gain some knowledge about the type of journey they would have taken. I imagined them taking a last look at the Liverpool dockside, and wondered what emotions they would have felt. Excitement, almost certainly, but perhaps trepidation at the unknown, and anxiety about the 3 month voyage ahead of them. I suspect there was no upgrade in the offing! In any event, they made it safely, and the rest is (a part of my) history.