Blackpool had been cold and depressing and to be honest as we rolled out of town it was a relief to be on the way, not that we hadn’t enjoyed family and friends. But Blackpool itself just isn’t the place I remember, of course it can’t be can it, a friend had sent us a recent article from the financial times that sort of summed it up, it said “Can anyone save the town the economy forgot” ‘Soaring anti depressant usage, falling life expectancy, Blackpool embodies much of what is going wrong on the fringes of Britain’
I’d loved Blackpool as a kid and as a teenager, and we love the Rebellion Festival of course, held there every year, but the circus leaves town, we had left town, it just felt a little sad to me to see the place like it is, it had had such a vibrant energy was such a colourful creative scene back when I’d lived there. Now it looked and felt depressed and those heavy waters begun to seep in through the planks of our good ship.
We’d gone up to visit with Julie my brother Stephens wife, we’d all planned to sneak into Stanley Park to fix a brass plaque to a bench he liked to sit on, the idea had amused us and we’d thought it would amuse him. But she’d sensibly gone ahead and bought a bench with a plaque, so it’s permanent fixture now just near the Italian Gardens looking out onto the lake opposite boats with the bandstand to the right. We all have such good memories of times in that park.
Julie was as always great with us, veggie English breakfasts every mornings, evenings sat chatting about Stephen and all the things he’d got up too, we’ve become closer since he’d passed, and though Stephen has left us physically I like the new closeness, funny old world isn’t it. Dez Maloney and Juliette old friends of theirs from that world had popped in every day too, they sure know how to keep you entertained we liked them very much, warm loyal and open with hearts sewn unmistakably on their sleeves.
Another plus had been meeting with an old dear friend, the warm and sensitive Ronnie Ashworth, the excellent bass player with the Genocides. It was so good to see him again after all this time. He was right there when The Fits and the Blackpool scene erupted, we’d loved all the same bands, it was a joy to dust all that off. He now runs Taylors fish and chip shop on St Anne’s road near Squires Gate Lane, it was immaculately clean. Orsi and I have quietly been doing a survey of UK chip shops as we have rolled along its roads, it’s made us laugh many times, but we’re quietly quite serious, its an art you see and Ronnie’s place passed with flying colours, in our top five which is high praise believe me.We visited the Fentons too, (or the Clampits as I call em) My sister’s family which is always such a good laugh, irreverent, opinionated, sarcastic, loud and lots of laughter as always, Molly and Poppy have their daughters have emerged into beautiful young women and Charlie is my sparring buddie for another year or so till he become too big.
We Snatched a few hours with the wonderful Cheryl Swan as well who my family have known for so long she is family, champion body builder, X Clinical Nurse Manager and Assistant director of nursing/patient experience at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, it’s always good to run a few healing questions by her bright level head, she was as funny, cheerful and as youthful as ever
We really were tired after the strain of the last few weeks at the Clipper, the drive to London, my sickness, the focus and build up to Ireland, then the prep for this journey from London to Scotland and all the way back round to the French alps, we needed a rest; so why not drive to Scotland in November, yeah Good idea.
We’d shot out of Blackpool like a pair of storm driven crows, but my eyes were closing and jolting awake so I’d had to pull over into a service station 30 miles south of Carlisle on the M6, we climbed into the back and fell fast asleep. Both of us trying to shake off a feeling of anxiousness
I’d sensibly set the clock otherwise we’d have been there for a few days and a hour later we stumbled out into the fresh Cumbrian air, hurried across to the grim looking service station in search of coffee, then back to Pearl where we began to resemble our better selves, then; Hadrians Wall, I’d wanted to go there for a long time last time had been ruined by a lot of melodrama, I wanted Orsi to see it and to just be there.
Emperor Hadrian had ordered the wall built the in AD122 its said to mark the frontier of the Roman Empire and had been garrisoned for around 300 years; civilization to the South barbarians to the North, simple right? But it is turning out not to be such a fine stone line.
It had been the second, sixth and twentieth legions consisting of 5000 men each who actually built the wall, not slaves as had been suggested. It took just 8 years to complete which is truly astonishing, and it wasn’t just the wall which stood 16 feet high, 12 feet wide and which followed like a beautiful liquid stone snake over and across the undulating contours of this cold wet Cumbrian and Northumbrian land. There were also two huge defensive earth mounds that ran parallel on the southern side and a military road, which the modern road runs along, the whole thing stretching 73 miles, from Wallsend on the east coast to the Solway of Firth on the west coast and is not often appreciated that its wall and castles had also continued down the Cumbrian coast to Maryport and forts all the way to Ravenglass.
When stood on the wall looking south it’s hard to believe the hills nearest are actually man made and on the northern side was a deep ditch that ran along the whole length too. It had watchtowers at every mile too, coast to coast. A massive unbelievable military zone all built by auxiliary soldiers from all parts of the empire, Germany, Spain, Hungary, Rumania, Gaul, but notably not legionnaires from Rome-Italy itself because it’s said they couldn’t stomach the climate.
It’s remarkable to see just what can be done, the sheer scale, the beauty, the ingenuity and the will behind it. It is of course a shadow of what it must have been like as much of the stone blocks have been taken to build houses and farms of the surrounding area over the centuries, it stands mostly a few feet tall maybe 4 to 5 feet but just seeing it and to physically realize it was amazing
My Dad had walked the length of the wall coast to coast twice, so he’d been in my thoughts all the time we were there. The air was damp and heavy, the light turned down low, the landscape cloaked in ghostly vapours clinging on in the folds of the land. We stopped first at a place called Walltown, climbed up to the crags past the old roman quarry, honestly, just marveling as we scrambled up and then as we looked out and along the wall. Next along the military road to Housesteads Fort. It so good to see and experience the place in that light at the end of the day, wind blown, chilly, mists rolling across the great frozen waves of earth stretching out of sight east to west just as the sun was sunk down below the rim of the horizon, it pressed all the buttons of my imagination, of a time that we of course can never quite imagine, but what a place to have been stationed.
We contemplated stopping at “Brewed Twice” a one house village that night but we suspected those cold damp fingers were persistent and would creep in-between the rubber seals of Pearls doors. We shivered at the idea and shot off to the bright lights of Carlisle
We spun around Carlise city center for some time allowing instinct to rise and to guide, finally deciding on ‘Close Street’ under the shadows of a St John The Evangelist. We locked up and headed to the Weatherspoons Woodrow Wilson, we’ve come to respect that chain, but first called in a local chipy who impressed us trying to get as many chips in the tray as possible. He got points for portion but it wasn’t “Taylors” Ronnie Ashworth’s place in Blackpool
We tucked ourselves away in a far corner, with a few American IPA’s, laughing at 70’s cooking books of the shelves, Orsi ear wigging on the table behind us, and gossiping unashamedly. We slept deeply that night, with our new 12-volt electric blanket, happy cozy and quiet
We’d been so knocked out by Hadrian’s wall it was hard to leave next day, so conceded with a stop in at the excellent museum Carlisle Museum at Tuille house but finally had to tear ourselves away, we had to get all the way up to Irvine in Ayrshire by the evening
Orsi spotted something on the AA map a few miles outside Dumfries, on the A87, the ‘12 Apostles stone circle’ near the village of Holywood. So we pulled right off and nosed our way through the sleepy place. We’d driven up a dead end dirt road looking left and right over the hedge rows, a lady, we presumed local was having a quiet thoughtful cigarette next to her car, we rolled slowly up and level with her and asked if she knew where the stones were. She suddenly looked very puzzled, rubbed her chin, shook her head, was all apologies, said she’d never heard of them. But as I swung Pearl back around I looked up and there on a rise across a field they were, I pointed them out as we came back past her, she looked genuinely surprised.
These things, these standing stones, are part of our landscape, part of our psyche, we know them so well, all of us, except perhaps the lady with the cigarette up the dead end lane, but the rest of us, I’m speaking of the British that is, England Scotland Ireland and Wales, the French too I’m sure. We’ve always seen them in our subconscious peripheral vision and I still marvel that they’re still there after all these thousands of years, roads weave around them, the plough avoids and respects them, pathways lead to and from them, its really remarkable considering whilst your stood in amongst them, all the changes invasions, wars, upheavals religious and political that have happened in this country that there are stones still there and still standing, I deeply, sincerely love that.
So there they stood in a fenced field, not the dramatic impact of Avebury perhaps, but an ancient circle all the same, seemingly removed from the surrounding environment until you slow down and acquaint yourself. A few hundred yards away to the south out of view behind a few hedgerows was the River Nith running south towards the ocean, which must have been of major importance and almost certainly connected with its choice of site. I attempted to temporarily blot out the farms and fences in my minds eye. I always do, I’m not sure why, maybe instinct? It just seems to still me, for a moment anyway. A person can sense a place in time, pages turned, different times laid upon one other, a sense of progression. It was unexpected but that’s what we set out to do, where ever the fancy took us we took the time, it was a great stop and we were rewarded
Then onwards north, through dark olive green fields and farmlands lined by bare skeletal trees, one or two dark limbs still clinging onto shreds of copper or heavy fluttering faded gold, onwards towards the now visible mountains as we past Kilmarnock.
Irvine our destination would turn out to have been royal burgh, one of the earliest 12th century military capitals of Scotland, where Robert Burns used to hang out and more recently the birthplace of Nicola Sturgeon first minister of Scotland, leader of the SNP.
We’d gone there to see a chap called Robert Gilcrest we’d met in the Chalet in Morzine last year, he was a Volkswagon expert so we’d talked van, he’d had a head massage and we’d kept in touch since, so as we were flying nearby it seemed logical to call in, I thought we might need a little advice Pearls right rear door that was still rusting and knowing away at me, I trusted Robert. I had wondered why I was pulled to go all that way, I had told myself it’s the people on the journey that make the journey and he would turn out to be a great friend. Right then though we sorted a headlight, spare bulbs and fluids. Life and instinct, it’s down the line things that are done gather meaning and take on a greater significance.
I did have a feeling in retrospect, but that suggests that things were always going to happen and with what was to come in a just over a week editing this later I am still a little shaken as if that is true I am still looking for meaning and perhaps there is non. But one thing for sure Robert is a great guy
He took us for a tour of the town and later that evening we went over to his home to give him a some healing on his tennis elbow whilst Orsi and his partner Sylvia talked like old friends, it would take time to heal and he would have to make that time. It was a good evening and its always a revelation as to how people take to healing, what individual minds present, the subconscious is where the power is, the inner light, inner intelligence, call it what you like, the place of knowing, nobody yet in all the years of doing this has not come up with something.
We’d parked down on the harbour front road that night, it’d been cold so we’d gone to sit in the Harbour Lights pub and though the two girls on the bar were charming it was just the 4 of us, they closed up at 10pm. I’d not wanted to go home and just along the harbour was the “Irvine Water Sports Club” which had a buzzer entry and ‘non members welcome’ sign written in marker pen. So I buzzed the door clicked and in we went. There was a little more life in there, they had a TV, a few elderly couples who I suspected couldn’t sleep and didn’t want to go home either said hello, were warm, curious and welcoming and so we’d stayed there till late. The guidebook Orsi had been reading had mentioned Iron Brew as a cultural Scottish thing, I’d laughed and quipped It’s basically a not quite orange, fizzy pure sugar drink; kids and people with hangovers love it, I used to do, she’d wanted to try it too
The bar maid had said “Och, I don’t care for it much” after a sip or two Orsi didn’t either
The Irvine harbour road was a cold exposed place that night, the wind blowing straight off the Firth of Clyde, but it was quiet and not a soul bothered us. I was also the good book, the electric blanket was a hit, combined with a hot water bottle, wooley hats socks and leggings, we were snug and warm.
Irvine despite its historical credentials was gray and damp and though we may shiver the mornings ritual is; I empty the bucket, Orsi sorts the coffee, we share the still warm water from the hot water bottle and have a wash, Orsi usually first, both of us sing, either stood in front of or sat in the sink. We don’t set off anywhere until the ablutions are done, it really does make us laugh, so far anyway
We’d been looking forward to Glasgow but called into the Roberts garage before we left to say goodbye. Orsi had Google mapped an NCP car park on King street as everyone had been telling us it was going be bad when we got into the city, but we just rolled straight in paid the £6.50 for the day, breathed out and that was that, sandwiches in the cab and a hurrah, packed rucksacks and set out on foot. It was easy.
We had a coffee behind the royal exchange laughed at the statue of Wellington with traffic cones on his and the horses head. Legend has it that every time the council took them down somebody puts them back again by next morning. I’d been told this the last time I was there 4 years ago and they were still there, hilarious, the Glaswegians liked it.
We’d wandered up toward St Mungos, Glasgow Cathedral. As we came up the street the Necropolis behind the cathedral came into view, it was a jaw-dropping, so unexpected. The damp copper green roof of the cathedral, the drip drip feeling of the place, moss, grass, dark wet grey stone, and silhouetted up on the hillside behind were needles, spires columns and crucifixes fixed us, we stopped in our tracks and wanted to go up immediately, but reigned ourselves in, both of us had wanted to sit and open promised ourselves we would and there is something in those old places I really enjoy
Once inside St Mungos we sort of trickled down to the lower level, tucked ourselves away in a corner, sat down on cold stone closed our eyes and focused, breathing slowly and though I didn’t get anything in particular, I felt the warmth flood in, it felt good to be able to sit and open up so effortlessly, to feel the energy flow through my body, the colours and the light, wonderful, I’m sure Orsi the same.
We have also been doing a lot of absent healing over this last year, and had quite remarkable results. I accepted the idea that you can send energy or healing, call it what you will, across time or space or both, but simply you can send. On first hearing it perhaps sounds a little otherworldly right? So imagine you are upset with somebody, say you have been done wrong, I say this because it’s easy for us to imagine this, you have the person in your minds eye and you are giving them what for, and whilst you’re doing this, “you are not where you are, you are not present” you are somewhere else, and when you think about it, you know that you have been experiencing what you have been dishing out with your imagination; you have been ‘experiencing it physically’ right?
You have been sending energy and have felt it, correct? You’ve been giving your energy away
Now imagine somebody has asked you for help, you have them in your minds eye, you know where they are at a certain time or you have an idea and you have an agreement that you’ll be “sending your best” but you’ll be doing it with intention. A date and time is set, expectancy is set up between two minds.
I’d always wanted too or perhaps needed to hear feel or see the results, to feel the energy in my hands. Perhaps I doubted, but people asked, so we’ve been doing it and developing and seems people have received something and felt the benefits. I’ve also begun to ‘see’ more whilst we’ve been doing it too. I’m sharing this because its part of our journey, it seems so obvious to us and is a great deal of our conversations whilst we are on the move and we fully intend to do a lot more, so if you’re reading this and you need something, ask us and lets make a date and see what happens, no matter where you are, what’s to lose?
Energy is just energy I say that humbly and lightly, but it’s we who have intention, its we who affect energy and it seems, done with the right intention, the right direction, using the will, benefits are felt. It’s hard work to focus like that, its about life and being alive and the feedback and results are more than worth it, imagine if we really are more that we realize, that’s all, its that simple, its worth the effort.
We stepped out of the Cathedral and walked up to the mount, we had such a good hour up there in amongst the 50.000 graves. Up until 1832 burials had been the responsibility of the parish churches but, interestingly at that time fewer and fewer people were attending church and so a solution was needed, something had to be done with all those black sheep.
It culminated in the cemeteries act that year allowing burials for profit. It seems nothing to us now but was a revolutionary idea at the time. The Glasgow Necropolis opened the following year 1883 but they’d obviously had an eye on things as a huge column with the statue of John Knox leader of the Scottish reformation is right on top pole position so t speak and had been erected in 1825 a few years earlier, he still seems to be looking down holding sway over the congregation and the trickle of us warmer beings moving through and past, peering up and around the angles and perspectives of the well placed stones columns pillars and vases of the place.
The vanity aspiration and expression of the Glasgow Victorian middle classes is displayed for all to see across that hillside, merchants, engineers, artists, inventors, poets, factory owners, architects, ship builders, the famous and I’m sure one or two infamous, also many thousands of ordinary Glaswegians of that “second city of empire” and in the right light and at the right angle they still swagger up there on that rise.
The necropolis took its inspiration from Paris’s Lachaise cemetery and as we entered across the bridge of sighs and ascended the hill the full scale of the
place unfolded, so beautifully and tastefully done, obviously done to uplift impress and inspire. Apparently there were many plans received from various architects and planners to build the place but in the end it was agreed that a landscape gardener George Milne would be most suitable for the job and more in keeping with Victorian sensibilities and beautiful job he did, everywhere you looked the view was challenged drawn and pushed back, dwarfed and uplifted shrunken and released.
After an hour of wows we lightly stepped back down into the city. We wanted to ride the small narrow metro but though fast rapid and regular we were too late to see the 9th century Govan stones over at the Govan church, but there is only so much time in a day, we didn’t stick around our teeth were chattering by then.
Earlier we’d both noted a quiet place up by the university called “Rotten Row” a street right by the campus that seemed relatively peaceful, parking restrictions lifted after 6pm till 8am next morning. So we figured if we tucked Pearl away there we’d be unnoticed and right in the heart of the city. So we rolled Pearl out of the NCP a few blocks away, up the hill and around to Rotten Row, paid for an hour and set off back down the hill into the hub again.
We’d planned to meet with Jim from External Menace but he’d not made it but had recommended the 13th Note bar, which was cool, fairly low key and relaxed, reminded us both of Budapest. The place filled up with a youthful beautiful crowd, upstairs the hum of conversation warmed and grew, downstairs live self-conscious indie bands gave it plenty. We had our heads together and planning our next moves up into the highlands, routes, times, places, we were in the groove now.