While I like to read tales of foreign adventure by intrepid souls like Lois Pryce and Helge Pedersen in the bath, the truth is I’m not yet bored of exploring the UK. Although the small northern town I occasionally admit to calling home is less than 50 miles away from Liverpool, until Tuesday I’d only been there three times in my life, once on a school trip to the ballet, once to visit my friend who was there at Uni, and once to visit the House of Archivists (I remember an excellent party but can’t remember why I went on my own. ) My cultural orbit was Manchester, Crewe and Hanley Victoria Hall (no sniggering at the back at the appearance of Crewe and Culture in the same sentence ). So rolling off the M62 onto the Queens Drive and aiming for the docks was genuinely exciting. Or maybe I just haven’t got out enough recently!
I like big northern cities. I like their faded grandness, their refusal to smarten up in the face of property development, and I like their mad concrete flyovers that make you go 720 degrees in the direction you didn’t want to go before grudgingly spitting you out on something approximating the right bearings.
It also helped that Tuesday was one of the perfect riding days that September holds in store as consolation for “summer”. Like the porridge, the sun was not too hot, not too cold but just right. There was a bit of breeze but in a refreshing change it wasn’t trying to stuff me into the Armco. And although I had to do a presentation when I got to my destination, it didn’t need slides and was on a topic that I can do with one arm tied behind my back, so there was no need to divert my mind from riding.
Liverpool qualifies as forn parts for several reasons. The city smells of the sea, which is an instant shortcut to holiday brain. The population haven’t yet succumbed to the estuarisation of their accent so the streets still sound unique. And everyone I met was fantastically friendly. Big thanks to the staff at the Liverpool Hilton, for although over-run by Liberal Democrats they still let me use their phone, found me a computer with internet connection (I left my phone at home. While I’ve proved it’s possible for me to live without phone or www for two days, it was a bloody close thing) and were still smiling during the third attempt at explaining to me how the parking vouchers worked.
On Wednesday I had the total luxury of a whole day to spend on nothing more essential than getting from A to B. I love the Round Britain Rally but I decided to spurn further bagging in favour of bimbling through the Peak District in the sunshine, with an accidental side-step into Scriveners second-hand bookshop in Buxton. Without the SatNav, I’ve returned to a slightly more random mode of direction finding. Which has its consolations, chief among them being that needing to stop and look at the map gave me an excuse for a cheese’n’chip cob (one of those words that, like the name for the alley at the back of terraced houses, places your Northern origin to within about 30 miles) at the Mmm Yum Yum Cafe on the A453. Far superior to any Blumenthaled-up Little Chef lunch. And proof that perfection can be found close to home after all..