Liverpool marks history

It’s an important time in Liverpool, UK. And we’re envious

The Merseyside city in England’s north-west, has recognised the golden anniversary of the iconic 1960’s Beatles record ‘Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

As well as special festivals, concerts, public art and light shows, the city has unveiled a giant mural named ‘Fixing a Hole’ as a permanent tribute to the album.

A former silo wall in Liverpool’s Stanley Dock has been transformed into a vivid, psychedelic image showing the Beatles either side of a gap in the building’s architecture.

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Photo courtesy Pexels

And, of course, there is the ever-popular statue of the band that attracts legions of Fab Four fans and visitors to Merseyside.

More than rock n roll

I feel privileged to have lived through the 1960’s – and Sgt Pepper was a sacred moment in that tumultuous decade.

It’s said that no album in the history of rock and roll has inspired such consistent approval from critics and fans alike – but it’s relevance goes a lot further than that.

When it was released in June 1967, I was a 14 year old boy feeling almost sufficated in a small Australian outback township.

Amid unprecedented worldwide cultural change, our only radio station played mainly country music and our television relayed grainy black-and-white images that switched off at 10pm.

Records were my way of feeling part of the 1960’s changes occurring so far away.

The Beach Boys masterpiece, ‘Pet Sounds’ had whet the appetite.

And then, Sgt Pepper turned everything on its head.

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I’ve since heard it described as a “burst of colour in a black and white world” and even “a decisive moment in the history of western civilisation”.

For me, it was an explosion!

A conduit for change

The most popular musicians on the planet – who had become so mainstream that even our parents loved their sound – had suddenly exposed everyone to the values of the counterculture.

Music was now undeniably a central plank of a genuine torrent of change – and Sgt Pepper was an important conduit that allowed it to happen.

Regardless of views on whether Sgt. Pepper was the best album ever made, it remains legendary not only because of its musical quality, but because of its profound cultural and social role.

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I played the record constantly, revelling in art that literally opened worlds for me.

That’s why the Sgt Pepper celebrations in Liverpool are particularly significant – perhaps historic.

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An embarrassing travel moment

I like snorkelling, but I’m certainly a novice.

For a start, squeezing my body into a wet suit can be a marathon business and far from a pleasant sight. How those stitches hold together I’ll never know.

And once I do make it to the water, it’s like someone gradually drowning.

Despite my best efforts, water inevitably gets into the goggles and rises steadily before my eyes.

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I’m on the surface spluttering and coughing more often than I am underwater – until I usually give up and head for the shore in utter frustration.

It’s probably inevitable, therefore, that one of my most embarrassing travel moments happened when Sue and I were snorkelling off eastern Australia.

The beach, near the northern New South Wales town of Port Macquarie, was deserted when we dived into an ocean pool known for colourful fish.

Sue is a natural and was soon weaving among rocky outcrops and swaying weed on the sea floor as fish darted around her.

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I tried to keep pace, but as usual I soon encountered problems and was forced to surface several times to empty water from my goggles and tighten their straps.

Glancing around each time, I noticed that the beach was still deserted.

After several attempts to join Sue, I finally gave up in exasperation and decided to return to shore.

With my head looking down in the water, I managed to catch a wave ashore – stopping only when my chest and face ran onto the sand.

Lifting my head from the water, I looked up and realised to my horror that the beach was no longer deserted.

Worse still, unbeknown to me, a young woman had apparently sat on the sand at the water’s edge – and I’d swum ashore head first between her knees.

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She moved backwards laughing; I rolled away apologising profusely; and her husband – quickly on the scene – gave me death stares.

And, to top off my embarrassment, Sue had surfaced just in time to see the whole thing – and was roaring with laughter.

That’s another place I won’t revisit!

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Awkward incident in Italy

There’s a certain hotel at Sorrento, Italy, that we won’t revisit.

To be fair, a toilet cistern perched two metres up the wall is definitely a trap for young players.

We’re hardly young and, in all honesty, we should have realised that the cistern would take quite a long time to refill after each flush. But it just didn’t register.

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That day dawned fine and clear in one of the most beautiful places on earth.

And, in 15 minutes, our bus was scheduled to leave on a trip of a lifetime to the fabled emerald  Isle of Capri.

It was our first visit to Capri and Sue had used the bathroom to apply her cosmetics – a totally unnecessary chore in my biased opinion. It’s like trying to improve on the Mona Lisa.

Ten minutes before departure, I finally got to the bathroom ….. and suddenly the previous night’s huge pasta meal didn’t seem like such a good idea.

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Eight minutes and counting – and I make a dive for the toilet.

Instant relief!

Of course, in my haste, I completely forgot that the cistern was probably still re-filling from earlier use.

Those who have been in my position will know too well that sinking feeling when you pull the chain to no avail.

Just as the bus arrived.

Ice buckets full of water and even a few kettle loads failed to achieve the desired flush.

As Sue tried to stall the bus, my dilemma seemed to come down to two options:

  1. Miss the trip while waiting for the cistern to fill, or
  2. Miss the trip

I opted for Capri and have always cringed at the thought of the poor room service staff on that fine Italian day.

And, as mentioned, we will never revisit that particular hotel.

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The day Sue’s bra caused a near riot

We arrived at Frankfurt Airport in a particularly busy period, enroute from Prague to Rome.

Unbeknown to us, there’d apparently been a security scare.

Baggage checks were more stringent than ever and the metal detectors were sounding almost constantly.

Our incoming flight had been slightly delayed and we were in a bit of a hurry to catch our connection.

Frankfurt is a huge airport, covering 2,000 hectares of land and we knew there was quite a walk between its two terminals. It’s also the fourth busiest airport in Europe, behind London, Paris and Istanbul.

However, we were making great time through the complex and all was good until Sue reached the metal detector.

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Lights flashed; the alarm beeped and Sue was asked to step through again.

No big deal. It happens.

Sue walked back and promptly set it off again. And again – despite turning her pockets inside out this time to show they were empty.

It doesn’t take much to cause a bottleneck at airport security, particularly at one as big and busy as Frankfurt. By now, the throngs of travellers were getting restless.

A German airport officer took a nervous look at the build-up of people pressing toward the gates and asked Sue to step aside for a check with a hand wand.

The result was the same, as she vigorously explained that the culprit was probably wire in her bra.

No luck with the explanation. The officer, by now obviously panicking at the delay this was causing, pointed Sue to an adjoining area, where pat-down body searches were carried out.

She wasn’t alone. At least one other woman was on this ‘Group W’ bench – also attempting to explain about underwire bras.

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Finally, a female officer arrived on the scene and patted down both women, before agreeing that the bras were probably at fault.

We moved on, but the whole incident had taken almost 30 minutes, which forced us to sprint along the corridors to our boarding gate – arriving moments before the doors were closed.

Later, we read that – despite many incidents like this – both airports and airlines are generally slow to be convinced that wire in under-garments can set off metal detectors.

Our take on it: obviously the sensitivity of detectors can be adjusted as needed. We’ve seen people wearing jewellery walk through untroubled.

But, it would be good to hear an explanation by manufacturers of these machines. Perhaps they’ll talk if we make them empty their pockets into a little tray.

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We can’t deny it: we’re clock-watchers

It may seem a bit lame and even a trite humorous, but we always try to take time out of travelling to see extraordinary public clocks

Here’s an updated list of some of the best we’ve come across. Let us know which beauties we’ve missed.

Westminster, London

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Obviously, the daddy of all clocks is this one in England.

Nick-named ‘Big Ben’ this is said to be the biggest four-faced clock in the world. The tower at the Houses of Parliament was built in 1858.

These days, you can get a great view of Big Ben from the London Eye, on the opposite bank of the River Thames.

Weltzeituhr or World Time Clock, Berlin, Germany

Weltzeituhr or Worldtime Clock, Berlin

Standing 10 metres tall, the World Time clock is also a popular meeting point in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz.

It features a revolving cylinder with the world’s 24 time zones. The current time in each zone is visible.

The clock is topped by a model of the solar system, which revolves once a minute.

Verdensur, Copenhagen, Denmark

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Jen Olsen’s World Clock  is an astronomical clock in the Copenhagen City Hall.

This beauty boasts 12 movements and more than 14,000 parts.

Displays on the world clock include lunar and solar eclipses, position of stellar bodies and a perpetual calendar.

Orion, Prague

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This is a medieval clock in the capital of the Czech Republic.

First installed in 1410, the clock is said to be the third eldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one that is still working.

Mounted on the wall of the city hall in Prague’s Old Town, the clock  features an hourly parade of figurines known as the ‘Walk of the Apostles’.

A skeleton representing death strikes the time.

Eastgate clock, Chester, UK

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This clock and gateway mark an entrance to the original Roman fortress of Deva Victrix.

The Chester landmark is believed to be the most photographed clock in England behind Big Ben.

The original East gate was guarded by a timber tower, which was replaced by stone in the 2nd century.

Today’s gate dates from 1768 and the clock was added in 1899 to celebrate the diamond jubilee of Queen Victoria two years earlier.

Grand Central Station, New York, USA

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This four-metre (13 foot) clock decorates the facade of Grand Central Rail Station facing 42nd Street.

The clock is a popular landmark and meeting place for New Yorkers and has appeared in many movies and television shows.

It is the world’s biggest collection of Tiffany glass.

Chronophage, Cambridge UK

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Located in the British university city of Cambridge, this clock is certainly eye-catching.

Opened in 2008, it is called the Corpus Christi Clock or Chronophage, which means ‘Time Eater’ in Greek.

If the gold-coloured disc doesn’t catch your attention, the big grasshopper certainly will

The grasshopper moves around the disc, gobbling up time right before your eyes.

 

Ankeruhr, Vienna, Austria

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This colourful clock was designed in 1911 and completed three years later.

It shows the time by moving different historical figures across the clock face every hour.

The best time of day to see this clock is noon, when all the figures are on display.

Ankeruhr is located in the Hoher Markt.

Others

Other notable clock that we’ve seen, but not photographed, include Saint Mark’s clock at Venice and the Olympic Torch and Clocktower at Barcelona, Catalonia.

We’ve been told that the Cosmo Clock 21 at Yokohama, Japan (shown below) and the Santa Maria Cathedral clock in Comayague, Honduras are well worth seeing. The latter is said to be the oldest functioning clock in the Americas.

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Photo courtesy Popular Mechanics

Share your favourite clocks

Do you have any favourites? Love to hear your thoughts.

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The romantic call of carousels

You’re never too old for the magic of a carousel.

Perhaps it’s being part of such a long lost craft, or just plain nostalgia for the joys of childhood, but finding wonderful old carousels has become something of a travel ritual for us

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Photo courtesy Popular Mechanics

Carousels are particularly ingrained in European culture and we’ve seen some beauties in France; the United Kingdom; Denmark; Germany; Italy and Catalonia.

They also remain popular attractions in Northern America and Australasia.

Knights go round

Known as ‘roundabouts’ or ‘merry-go-rounds’ in many countries, the carousel was first developed as a cavalry-training device in Europe and the Middle East.

Knights would gallop in a circle while tossing balls from one to another – which doesn’t sound easy.

By the mid-19th century the platform carousel was developed; the animals and chariots were fixed to a circular floor that was rotated by an operator or a team of horses. The steam-powered mechanical roundabout is believed to have appeared about 1861.

These days, carousels come in all shapes and sizes, which is all part of the appeal.

Tivoli’s high flyer

For example, Tivoli amusement park, at Copenhagen, Denmark, boasts one of the world’s tallest swing rides in the ‘Star Flyer’ – or Himmelskibef – an 80 metre (260 feet) high carousel that provides commanding views of the city centre.

 

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Copyright: Memorable Destination

The ‘Star Flyer’ recently celebrated its 10th birthday.

Shadow of the Eiffel Tower

Carousels are numerous in France.

We found many scattered across Paris.

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Photo courtesy Utrip blog

Probably the most striking setting is the Eiffel Tower Carousel, on the Champs de Mars – a green park that runs down to the Eiffel Tower.

A beauty in Florence

In the magnificent city of Florence, Italy, a superbly restored wooden carousel is a highlight of the Piazza della Republica.

This is the antique carousel of the Picci family, which has operated the ride for four generations.

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Photo courtesy Jorge Royan and Wikimedia

On London’s southbank

On our last visit to London, we were delighted to come across a traditional carousel on the Thames Southbank, near the London Eye.

Covent Garden has also been the site of numerous carousels over the years.

Colourful carousels of Barcelona

Like the surrounding city, the carousels at Sould Park amusement area in Barcelona are boldly designed and adorned in bright colours.

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Photo courtesy Mr Richochet and Flickr

In Berlin, Germany, the traditional carousel has been taken a step forward with the high flying ‘Merlin’s Apprentice’ swing ride at Legoland in Potsdamer Platz. We didn’t test ride this one, but it sure looks spectacular – especially for the young.

An Aussie gem

One of the most striking carousels we’ve seen holds pride of place in the Darling Harbour entertainment precinct at Sydney, Australia.

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Copyright: Memorable Destination

Horses for this rare Edwardian carousel were carved in London in about 1885 and the steam engine was made about seven years later at Norwich, England.

Imported to Australia, the carousel was given a galloping motion in about 1910 and became widely known for its appearances at country fairs and agricultural shows throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Central Park’s indoor carousel

One of the highlights of wonderful Central Park, in New York City, is the Michael Friedsam Memorial Carousel, that dates to 1908.

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Copyright: Memorable Destination

This indoor attraction is one of the biggest carousels in the US.

Jet-powered?

While discussing carousels with friends in the US, we were told about a jet-powered attraction that was given a test run several years ago by the  Madagascar Institute, an arts collective based at Brooklyn, New York City.

Apparently, the aim was to fit jet packs on the backs of each user, stand clear – and hope.

Our friends were unsure how well it worked, but the idea certainly took the ancient carousel to new heights.

(Main page photo: Classic Carousel, Tivoli, Copenhagen. Copyright: Memorable Destination)

 

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How the passion pit has changed

In 1977, we saw the first Star Wars movie at a Drive-In Theatre in Dubbo, an Australian regional city.

It was particularly fitting that we also watched the latest episode of the Star Wars story at another Drive-In Theatre in yet another Australian country centre – 39 years later.

Both movies were entertaining. But it was the circumstances that brought a few smiles to our faces.

When we first met Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo and Princess Leia, we were in our early 20’s and living at the height of the Drive-In Theatre boom.

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The drive-in was a key part of the culture of the 1960’s and 70’s and a coming-of-age rite for baby-boomers.

On the edge of cities and towns across the globe, lines of cars and panelvans would park side by side, facing big outdoor screens – each vehicle with a speaker hanging inside the window.

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An old drive-in speaker

Often there was also a local indoor theatre, but the drive-in had distinct and obvious advantages.

For the start, there were fogged car windows. In Australia, the drive-in theatre was known as the ‘passion pit’.

For parents with young children it was one of the few social occasions they could attend. By making beds for the children on the back seat of the car, they could avoid the cost of a baby-sitter – and have a reasonably priced outing.

Memories of the heyday of the drive-in came flooding back as we entered the outdoor theatre at Heddon Greta near Newcastle, Australia, for the latest burst of Star Wars.

The crunching of the gravel under the car tyres stripped away the years in an instant – and the retro-style screen and outdoor banner advertising brought a rush of nostalgia.

The Heddon Greta Drive-In Theatre is one of a handful still operating in Australia. The rest have gradually fallen victim to land development and digital entertainment technology.

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Some still stand deserted and disused, like ghosts of the past. However, as we were to learn, those that remain have gained an almost cult following among a whole new generation.

Today’s drive-in is a far cry from the icon of our youth. It is almost a community social event – more like an open air music festival or sporting contest.

Families unload lines of lawn chairs, bluetooth speakers, picnic baskets and drink containers – spreading blankets on the ground for the children.

Some youngsters sit on the front of cars, others sleep inside the rear of vans, after pleading with the adults to purchase traditional ‘hot dogs’ from the retro snack bar.

For people who had not set tyre in a drive-in for more than 30 years, we were flabbergasted by the social atmosphere at Heddon Greta.

It was heart-warming to see and, as we watched in the company of our eldest son, daughter, daughter-in-law, two grand-daughters and two grand sons, we realised that the drive-in – in one form or another – might just outlive us.

And, of course, we kept chuckling about the theatre’s quirky slogan “if you don’t like the film, then slash the seats”.

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