Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Swinging into Liverpool

It’s only 30-odd miles from Manchester to Liverpool on the motorway. On the water it’s considerably more but I guess you could do it in two-three days if you were determined, especially with the long days we enjoy this time of year, but most people, who require a more leisurely passage take a week or so. It certainly takes a while to leave behind Greater Manchester, and while most Wiganers we spoke to, think of themselves as Lancastrians, when you pass Wigan FC’s stadium you are still in Greater Manchester, even though you have left the city way behind.
Wigan FC's DW Stadium. Still in Greater Manchester though.
There is also a slow shift in accents and at the weekend, when we were halfway between the two we were as likely to hear the Liverpool “twang” as much as the Manchester “burr”. I think that is quite incredibly in this day and age, to have two cities so close, that have such different and defining accents. As for us, well we are used to having to ask for everything twice, while they get a handle on the way we speak.

In my last blog, I was moaning that Wigan seemed pie-less; well the main shopping area did, but it seems you have to know where to look. While in the area I had arranged to visit the Wigan Ukulele Club who met in a cracking pub in Crooke, tucked away on the canal, on the outskirts of Wigan.  We were able to moor opposite. The licensee told me that it was one of the venues for the national pie-eating championship and when on the event attracts huge crowds. Who’d have thought!

The uke club in Wigan is so popular that they have to split proceedings over two nights. It’s packed to the rafters, and membership has now been suspended. However, I had special dispensation and for my “oohhs” and “aahhs”, especially on the Beach Boys songs we played, I was awarded one of their coveted lapel badges, showing a ukulele enclosed in... a pie, of course. We have to come back through Crooke in a few weeks, so I am hopeful of a return visit. They played lots of tunes I have never played in an ensemble. A great night.
Wigan Ukulele Club badge, complete with pie!
We spent last weekend in the last largish town we will encounter before Liverpool. It’s called Burscough Bridge. We were able to get a good TV reception (for the football) and they have a good train service into Southport one way, and Manchester city centre the other. We chose to go into Manchester, and had a good nose around the city centre on Sunday. Pat bought some clothes and there were three Wetherspoons to choose from. While I was waiting for Pat outside British Home Stores, a fight broke out with a human statue, and a young lad who was tormenting him. Good old Manchester. We took a walk down to the Rochdale Canal at Canal Street, in Manchester’s Gay Village. We will not be going on this stretch, and I am quite glad of it. I can’t imagine how many chairs and cushions end up in the cut on a Saturday night from the endless bars and restaurants that line the canal there.
Never mind the local transmitter. Which way is Brazil?
Pat gets the lowdown from a local in Burscough Bridge
It's Central Manchester and the  chap with the flyaway tie is a living statue, who got into a fight when somebody prodded him.
Since leaving Burscough the scenery has changed dramatically, punctuated by pubs at nearly every bridge and a surprising number of swing bridges. Stopping Lancashire’s roaring traffic requires nerves of steel and a degree of good luck. Gates get stuck, the instructions have often been vandalised and you have no idea, whether it will be a manual operation or key-operated. Or so I am told, for Pat does these and I drop her off with a pair of reading glasses, a windlass, a watermate key and a handcuff key, just in case – a veritable tool box. 
Another pub on the left and another swing bridge
Pat goes into manual for this one
And we have a load more to negotiate on our approach to Liverpool, once we join our small convoy on Friday morning. It looks more like Cambridgeshire or Lincolnshire round here. Quite flat, and a bitmarshy with just a few sparcely-populated hamlets, but, surprisingly, loads of pubs. 
Our guests turn up tomorrow afternoon (Thursday) and we cruise into the city on Friday morning. The forecast looks pretty good, so it should be an interesting day.

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