Tuesday 7 October 2014

The leaving of Liverpool

So we were up betimes to take John at his word and arrange to leave Salthouse dock. We were all packed down by 8.30, with everything soluble or rustable down inside the cabin…

except that some larger boat was leaving Albert Dock for the briny before us, so we didn't get under way until nearly 10.

Shortly after which it began to rain with a degree of seriousness. John and Robert, gentlemen that they are, cheerfully worked all the locks for us – the stop lock leaving Canning Dock, the one by the tunnels at Mann Island, and then the very deep four leading up from Stanley Dock to the main line of the canal.

Then they headed off to meet us several miles away at an intermediate swing bridge, and on again to Bridge 9, the swing bridge that is the start of their jurisdiction. Meanwhile the rain was coming down in torrents. I put my coffee mug to catch it, and I think there was about an inch by the time we finished. We put up umbrellas, but still got chilled to the bone – fortunately the wind was fairly light, with only occasional bursts of stronger gusting. So now we are tied up, not quite as far on as we wanted, but thawing and drying out in equal measure.

Liverpool was good, but I'm glad we didn't have to wait till Thursday. Yesterday we did our final museum visit – a couple of hours in the Tate. It was interesting, of course, but rather frustrating. In the first place, we both had a dose of "museum leg", which generates tiredness in the eyes and a longing for a sit-down and the next cup of coffee. In the second place, although I quite enjoyed some of the works on display in the "A Needle Walks into a Haystack" exhibition, I was really annoyed by the introductory board.

This was an exhibition about asking people to see the ordinary bits of life in fresh ways – yet here it is described in language so unnecessarily opaque in places as to prevent ordinary people from even making a start. "Through this curatorial approach the conventions associated with a canonical narrative are replaced with a more personalised story coloured by your own memories and associations." I happen to understand this, and so may you, but it is not going to win awards from the Plain English Campaign. Why make it more difficult than need be for people to see what the artists were attempting?

On the in-between floor of the Tate was a different exhibition with five areas, focussing on five key works. In each area, other works that relate in some way to its key piece were gathered in a "constellation". This was a nice way of arranging art, and we'd have appreciated it more if we hadn't been so weary by this point. The blurb on the boards here was better, commenting briefly on some of the philosophical ideas behind the art. I'd have been more enthusiastic if I'd shared more of the philosophical convictions. Jackson Pollock's piece was certainly stunning, but my approach to shamanism is probably different to his (and to the blurb writer's).

So there we are – we've left Liverpool. One of the happiest memories was of Jean, a lady slightly older than ourselves who we met at church on Sunday morning. She was from Edinburgh (where we lived for a while) and she invited us to lunch (though we couldn't take her up on it). She was warm and friendly and chatty in a slightly reserved way, and she made us feel very welcome.

"It's not the leaving of Liverpool that grieves me,
But, my darlin', when I think of thee."


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