Monday, 10 December 2007
City of Hope and Dreams
In addition to the cold I've had, I now have pulled a muscle in my shoulder. The pain radiates round to just under the left breast. Nothing I've taken even touches the pain, and I feel sick to my stomach with it. I've spent 13 minutes phoning and phoning my doctor only to be told there are no appointments left. I'll have to wait till this evening to go to the out-of-hours clinic. I'm almost in tears with the pain. This just sucks!
Thank God for Cranford. I so look forward to watching it every week. For those of you in the States, look out for it on PBS. It's as good or better than the Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth.
I also watched the Royal Variety Performance Show last night, held for the first time in Liverpool. I felt so proud of this city that I've come to know since moving to the UK. The Empire Theatre never looked better. In fact, I'd say it puts many London theatres to shame. My one complaint is they had Bon Jovi singing Beatles songs. Why didn't they get the two Beatles still alive on the stage? After all, the Beatles, more than anyone or anything, put Liverpool in the international eye. Mention Liverpool to most of the world and the Beatles is the connection. Paul McCartney started LIPA (Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts). He still has family and property around Liverpool. He should have been there. And why close the show with Let It Be?
For anyone wanting to read a book rich in Liverpool history, "Sacred Hunger" by Barry Unsworth is a must. It shows the effect of the slave trade on Liverpool, which certainly profited from it. It's set in Liverpool's heyday, in the 18th century. In fact, stroll around Liverpool and you can see the remnants of its onetime wealth. It has more Georgian buildings than any city outside London. Across the water in Birkenhead, where all the wealthy ship owners used to live, you can also see its onetime glory in its buildings. Birkenhead is a shadow of its former self. People only live there now because they can't afford to move out. It's earned a place in the Top Hellholes of the UK to live in.
My husband's father's side come from Liverpool. Actually, they came from the Norfolk/Suffolk border. A housekeeper had three children by her employer. He never married her because she was already married to a man who was in a mental asylum. There were two girls and a boy. The boy inherited land and wealth from his father's brother, but lost it all by a very early age. My mother-in-law and I have speculated that perhaps he gambled it away. However, there was a mini-depression in that area among farmers at that time so perhaps that is what happened. In any event he left his wife and children with relatives and made his way to Liverpool with the intention of getting on a boat to America.
That never happened. Perhaps he lost the money for the fare. He stayed in Liverpool and got a job on the docks. He sent for his family eventually. By that time, though, his wife had died. His two daughters and son joined him. One of the daughters married a widower who lived across the street. Inexplicably, this widower lied about his age on his marriage certificate.
The son had two sons, one of whom moved to Australia, the other stayed in Liverpool and did quite well for himself. The Australian branch was lost to all until two years ago when I did a google name search for my husband. It's an unusual name because of the housekeeper merging her employer/lover's name with hers for her children. Anyway, up came a search on one of those genealogy websites from a man in Australia for any descendents of the fellow who moved to Liverpool. I passed the info onto my mother-in-law, who made contact, and the rest is family history.
She and my father-in-law went to Australia last year for a giant family reunion, where my father-in-law was feted by all. My mother-in-law was a bit unhappy because she'd done so much work to find these people and was not acknowledged at all. I was a bit unhappy because I was the one who actually found out about the Australian side first, and my mother-in-law didn't even bring me back a pine cone from her trip (she had gifts for everyone else). Ah, such is family history.
The wealth of the Liverpool son didn't get passed on to even one generation. His grand house in Liverpool has been torn down to build some really crappy public housing. His son, my husband's grandfather, ended up living on a council estate, where my father-in-law was born. My husband's grandfather was by all accounts a miserly curmudgeon. He used to go to sea, then retired to become a decorator. A fall off scaffolding crippled him for life, but he still managed to be a night watchman at a hotel. His wife was a lively woman who must have been stifled by the man she married. She would kick her heels up every night after her husband went to work. She ended up being one of those genteel alcoholics who put whiskey in their tea but forget how much so keep adding some more. She loved cats almost as much as her whiskey and cared for many a stray. She developed dementia in her later years, which was a shame. It clouded the memories of those who loved her. When she could no longer care for herself on her own, my mother-in-law put her in a rest home. She thought it was a hotel, a lovely one at that.
The vista of Liverpool has changed dramatically since I moved here 15 years ago. I used to drive down Scotland Road three times a week to visit my cats in quarantine in Aintree, which is where the Grand National horse race is held. Scotty Road was and is a hellhole. I used to try to count all the pubs along the way but always gave
up. But the Liverpool city centre now is a maze of cranes as it prepares to become the 2008 European City of Culture. I want good things for Liverpool and its residents. It has been a city in decline for so long but deserves so much better.
I'm going to have to go to the pharmacist for some pain killers now. I won't last the day otherwise.