Another Place

P1080293We took off in our campervan at the weekend, encouraged by the forecast of sunny crisp weather, and headed for the Merseyside and Sefton coast. We’ve been to Crosby beach, near Liverpool, countless times before to walk and enjoy sculptor Antony Gormley’s “Another Place” – his 100 statues of his naked body which stand on the beach, and stretch out into the sea.

They’ve been there for some time now and many are rusting as most are covered at high tide. Those standing higher up the beach are often clad in various garments which people have put on them – Liverpudlians have a great sense of humour so one or two Antony’s could be dressed in anything ranging from hippie gear to part of an NHS worker’s uniform. Some might have a traffic cone as a hat.

We parked by the prom, with clear views of the sea and passing ships en route to the port of Liverpool, ate lunch in the ‘van warming up the home made soup we’d brought with us, then walked along the coastal footpath towards Formby. The frost had gone, but there was a chill, brisk wind. Invigorating, enjoyable stuff, with sea views all the way. When we started to return, the sun was beginning to dip towards the horizon. By the time we were back at the ‘van the tide was in and most of Antony’s statues were either covered, or just head and shoulders above the waves.

One nearby was strikingly silhouetted against the rolling, bronzed waves illuminated by the low sun. Something about that image reminded me of what my dad used to say: “Always face the sun and the shadows will fall behind you”.

Then we continued our journey to Southport, where we stayed overnight, cosy and warm in our ‘van in spite of the sub-zero temperature outside.

Whatever happened to Lobby Lud?

On holiday, 1950s. Lobby Lud in the trirly hat? From my personal archives.t?

On holiday, 1950s. Lobby Lud in the trilby hat? From my personal archives.

This question arose as husband is currently giving a touch of fresh paint to the area between our kitchen door, which leads to the utility room and also has a door  giving access to the garage. I call it the lobby. He calls it an alcove. Daughter calls it a porch.

Using the word “lobby” had us both remembering a certain character called Lobby Lud, who was around in the late 1950s/early 1960s when we were taken on seaside holidays with our respective parents – me to Clacton-on-Sea, him to Blackpool and Scarborough.

As I remember, Lobby Lud was a mystery man who roamed around the resort, probably wearing a trilby hat and carrying a certain newspaper. People were encouraged to look out for him, and if they recognised him from his picture in the newspaper, to approach him and say “You are Lobby Lud and I claim my £5”.

The whole thing was a ruse to get people on holiday to buy a daily newspaper. As I recall, it was probably either The Daily Mail, or The News Chronicle who ran this event, and it was done to boost newspaper sales. People often didn’t bother to buy a paper whilst on holiday so this was a way to encourage them to do so, with the potential £5 as the prize. £5 was quite a lot of money in the 1950s.

The whole thing had a quaint, slightly quirky ring to it, but I don’t think my dad ever saw Lobby Lud when we were out and about – or if he did, he tried to get me, but an innocent young child at the time, to go and challege Lobby and ask for the £5. I would never have dared to do this, but I was always on the lookout for a man in a trilby hat, carrying a newspaper when we were walking around in the central promenade area near the pier.

Oh, those were days of innocent holiday family fun alright. In Clacton, as well as Lobby Lud, there was a concert party on the pier twice daily and live entertainment and shows to go to. Today’s holiday makers are more likely to go to a multi-screen cinema with a bar, and read the news on their smart phones or tablets. And more often than not it’s only the older generation who have a folded, well-thumbed tabloid tucked under one arm.

Memorable meals

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Coffee and cake in Vienna is always likely to be on the tourist “things to do list” when visiting the city. So it was with me. We went to Cafe Landtmann, all dark wood, silver cutlery, crisp white tablecloths and waiters in white gloves.

The cafe was frequented in the last century by Freud, and has probably had several other famous visitors across the threshold since it was opened in 1873. It had a genteel  hushed atmosphere, and it was comfortable and rather posh in a traditional way.

I have to be honest and say that the cakes weren’t as good or delicious or exceptional as I’d expected or anticipated. Although they looked mouthwatering they were actually a bit disappointing. I guess the coffee must have been ok but again, not memorable; it was beautifully served.  All in all it is the experience, surroundings, decor and location that I remember more than anything else.

Which leads me to ponder on which of our senses we engage with if we say a meal or dining experience is memorable? For me in Cafe Landtmann it wasn’t the food or drink (taste) but the old-fashioned tasteful decor (sight).

A truly memorable meal which involved all five senses for me  was the first bowl of onion soup I ever had in the Paris flea market over 50 years ago, in a rough and ready, warm and steamy cafe full of Parisiens. There were long tables with benches where people sat alongside each other. It was noisy (hearing) and it was unavoidable not to rub shoulders with other diners (touch).

Of course, not all memorable meals are good ones. My other half shudders at the thought of the weekly family meal of liver – the look, taste, smell and texture have stayed with him since childhood. I don’t like marmalade and was once forced into a battle of wills with my mum over some marmalade sandwiches I was given. I never liked the stuff before this incident and now find the taste and smell of marmalade disgusting.

Apologies to marmalade lovers; I do like the colour.

The Smallest House in Great Britain

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This tiny, quirky, bright red house is wedged into the walls of Conwy in North Wales. It’s been a tourist attraction for as long as I can remember and I went into it many years ago when my children were small. On this occasion, I was there with grandchildren who decided they didn’t want to go in (there was a queue) but went up to inspect it so they could see just how small it is.

I have vague recollections of how poky and gloomy it was inside the two small rooms – one up, one down. It was built in the 16th century. In 1900 it was occupied by a tenant, a 6ft. 3in, tall fisherman, who eventually had to move out ( perhaps he kept banging his head on the ceiling?!). It’s still owned by the same family and is open in the summer season as a tourist attraction.

There is always a lady in traditional Welsh costume on duty to take the entry fee and sell a small selection of souvenirs.

Street musician, Lincoln

This cool older guy was at one with his saxophone and lost in his music in Lincoln’s busy highP1010462 street. On a sunny day, there were  plenty of people about and, as someone who has been occasionally visiting Lincoln over the years, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the city has come on and is more in step with the times.

Lincoln has always been dominated by its huge spectacular cathedral. The ascent up the cobbled and appropriately-named Steep Hill to reach the cathedral on foot is part of the visit. It can be a challenging walk!

It’s a lovely place to visit, especially now it attracts a lot of tourists. When I first went there in the late 60s, it was a bit of a dull and proper city, compared with swinging London, where I grew up.

When the university was set up in the city, it breathed new, young life into the place, making it a livelier destination than it ever was when I first went there.