Sunday, May 11, 2008

Liverpool - city of culture

Martin Edwards' post about his visit to the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool unleashed a whole set of memories of the four very happy years I spent in Liverpool in the early 1970s. I taught and lived in the residential School for the Deaf at Childwall until my marriage in 1973, when we moved into a flat in the lovely riverside district of Grassendale.

After moving to Hampshire in 1974, I found it was impossible to convince anyone that Liverpool was a city full of magnificent buildings, beautiful parks, theatres, art galleries and concert halls; a place where the people were friendly, witty and welcoming. Apart from football teams and the Beatles, most people associated Liverpool with dockyard unrest and slums and the Toxteth riots of 1981 marked the end of my public admission of a past association with the city.

So, thanks to Martin, I've been back to my photograph albums and scrapbooks and I have spent a very happy weekend recalling some of the many historic buildings I used to visit: the Walker Art Gallery, St George's Hall, Speke Hall, the cathedrals and museums. We often saw plays at the Everyman Theatre in Hope Street before they went on to success in the West End and we saw some of the world's leading orchestras and guest conductors at the impressive art deco Philharmonic Hall.
In my scrapbook for 1973, I found a programme (price 5p) for a concert at 'the Phil' for 14 February. I can recall it very vividly because it was the first real 'date' I had with the man I have now been married to for 35 years. Sir Charles Groves was the principal conductor at the time and he conducted the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra in Handel's Concerto Grosso in G, and Beethoven's Symphony No 7. The second half of the concert probably secured our relationship, revealing our shared appreciation of the absurd: Elgar Howarth conducted the London Sinfonietta, playing Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, with Mary Thomas as the reciter. Giant black moths, cranium drillers and 'cheeeeeeeeese cake' have become part of the vocabulary of our personal-history.

Here is a taste of Pierrot Lunaire for anyone who wants to know the basis of a long and lasting, frequently absurd marriage, which all began in that city of culture:


  1. What a wonderful post, M. And may you both enjoy many more years of mutual absurdity.

  2. Thanks, D. If you need more proof of our absurdity, how about this: first date 14 February 1973, wedding day 16 April 1973!

  3. Liverpool certainly got bad press. All I know of it is from those old black and white movies where people are always waving at ships sailing away to nicer locales. Dirty and dingy with heart wrenching poverty ...

    Glad to know those pictures are no more factual than what's seen on the silver screen of our cities.

    Every place where we are happy is a wondrous place. Your whirlwind courtship lasted 35 years and that's only the beginning, may there be many, many more wonderful years ahead.

    BTW - Our local PBS station is broadcasting "Cranford" on Sunday evenings. We've seen the first two episodes and are enjoying it immensely. I downloaded the book from Gutenberg and read it, but it was so different, I googled the production to find that they've taken parts of other books to tell a slightly different story. Serves me right for breaking my own rule and reading the book before watching the program.

    "The House of Elliott" arrives twice a week from Netflix and when the mail arrives, my husband asks, will the girls be visiting tonight? We continue to enjoy their ability to wrench themselves out of the most outrageous predicaments. Love the clothes, houses and furnishings, the old carriages and cars too.

  4. You are right about the false images of places given in the press and films, e. I suppose there is no story in 'nice', just as there doesn't seem to be enough story in the original classics for the makers of TV adaptations!

    Thank you for your kind wishes. Laughter has been an important element in those 35 years so we'll just have to keep on seeing the funny side of life.

  5. Just run those dates past me again M . . . I want the full story at our next meeting.

  6. It's true,D! Our kids held it against us every time we suggested they might curb their impulses!

  7. M - that was incredibly fast work!! But clearly the impulse was the right one! Congratulations.


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