Country superstars and pirates

Arrived at the Liverpool B&B to discover a vanload of rather surly young men throwing their bags into the back of a Transit Luton van. They drove off leaving us wondering who they were but as soon as we got inside the house it became apparent. This was the childhood home of massive Irish Country music star Nathan Carter (no me neither). His new CD was playing on the ghetto blaster his old CDs were piled up ready for us to purchase in the hallway. We disappeared into town as quick as possible to our gig which had inexplicably just changed venues from Pistachios Restaurant to The Head of Steam Bar in Lime Street. When we finally got into town we soon discovered The Head was actually in Lime Street station in fact it was to intents and purposes the station bar. As you can imagine at 8pm in the evening on Grand National day in the station bar not a lot of people were that interested in klezmer music and we died a thousand deaths on stage and all the time we were wondering what the hell we were doing there.

We scurried out of the station and decided to look for somewhere nice to eat to cheer ourselves up but soon found ourselves in the middle of Liverpool clubland which was full  of young ladies who seemed to have forgotten to put any clothes on (it was -3 degrees) and lots of venues that were competing to see who had the loudest sound system and the widest bouncers. Somewhere in the middle of this we found a delightful Italian fish restaurant and the resulting plates of prawns ,squid and clam linguine were spot on the money.

Left in a hurry in the morning to get the ferry across to Birkenhead only to discover we’d missed it and were forced to take the 10am Pirate Cruise in order to cross the water. Avast me hearties, yo ho ho and a plastic cup of tea.

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Racing Post

Having left our minimalist accomodation with no breakfast – not even a cup of tea as there was no kettle, no mugs, no tea we set forth for Liverpool. A friendly cyclist helped us out of town after a quick bacon sarnie + tea at the cafe. We were asked at the counter whether we wanted balm cake or baton??? (Lancashire bread traditions – in yorkshire you get bread cakes). We first set sail for Southport mostly on B roads and very flat – very Dutch we thought

Ate an excellent lunch of pea and ham soup followed by a rocky road for dessert (these are everywhere nowadays). We picked up yet another fantastic national cycle route which took us almost straight to our B&B in Liverpool. Pete and I were very much looking forward to coming across some of that famous scouse humour we’d heard about.

While poking our heads up out of our disused railway track to see where we were we discovered that the whole area was swarming with police, very dressed up women and men in suits. AINTREE!  ‘Hold me bike will you?’ I asked Pete, ‘Won’t be a minute’. I nipped over the fence and headed for Legs Larry Lawson (turf accountant). ‘I’ll put everything I have (£3.25) on no.5 Lucky Sprout’ –  I was pleased with the odds he quoted – 250-1. Would you believe it! Came romping home beating the odds on favourite by a short little toe.  Buoyed by my success I I put the lot on the next race this time playing it a bit safer –  66-1 shot, Flat Battery. Incredible – another result! By this time I’d won roughly the equivalent of Greece’s GNP. Legs, feeling rather demoralised told me he couldn’t  take any more hits and told me to get on my bike. Which I did. The next bit of cycle path took us along a canal and unfortunately whilst changing batteries I lost my balance and my bag with all the dosh fell into the drink. Ah well, easy come easy go.

I guarantee this is a true story and not just a ruse to boost our blog’s decreasing hit rate.

The Black Horses’s shagpile

Left Vivs place and headed off down cycle route 6 towards Preston. Another really delightful days cycling crossing backwards and forwards over the M6 and eventually finding a route through the parks of Preston out to Bamber Bridge and The Black Horse. At the pub (you could have knocked us down with a feather) the very friendly bar staff were actually expecting us, very pleased to see us and showed us to our quarters – the whole of the empty upstairs rooms of the pub complete with fitted shagpile a sick cook in his bed, and not much else.

Meanwhile downstairs John Poulton the very affable RE! teacher who runs it was doing a splendid job of putting on a really friendly, high quality open mic session. All the performers, even the 16 year old who sang Rawhide, were really good humoured and entertaining and a couple including a local trio were stunning. As visitors we got to play 2nd and then close the show and as with the well run open mic in Ayr we had a ball.

Something wrong on the prom

Chas met us at Lancaster Castle and took us down to Viv’s great little house by the river to park the bikes and say hello to our hostess for the night. Then it was off to Morecombe to walk along the prom. Here is Chas’s house which is in a street that is reminiscent of Dresden in 1940. in fact the whole of Morecombe is very much a game of 2 halves. There is a lot of streets that resemble Chas’s only with added takeaway pizzas and betting shops and then there is the prom itself which looks like its expecting a visit from the whole bleeding Royal family.

It is liberally peppered with really good bits of ornithological sculpture and of course our Eric and then slap bang in the middle there is The Midland which although being now run by a bread and butter hotel chain still looks like a billion dollars complete with its Eric Gills, peppermint green and white space age loos and 21st century deco bar area.

Fit looking pensioners career up and down the prom on their electric bikes (yippee) while 20yards away on the other side of the road whole families smoking number 6’s stagger back from Aldi with bags stuffed with Mcains oven readies.

Chas unexpectedly cooked us a curry in a kitchen that makes Nicolas look like a Smallbone advert and we then all hurried off to a lacklustre open mic at the Stonewall Tavern run by ‘Italian Jerry’ a Fabio Capello lookalike where Chas and Viv got into an onstage argument about the chords to Temptation (ahh bless, just like the old days)

Pink Breakfast

Possible new contender for best breakfast of the trip. Eggs Benedict at Truly Scrumptious a bright pink cafe in Kendal.

Then a really civilized ride through the lanes and down the canal to meet Chas in Lancaster.

Dicky Doodles rock jam

For the first time the wind was in our face all day on the rather exhausting ride to Kendal with 2 battery top ups along the way. Arrived at Ruskins wine bar to discover (once again) no one is expecting us but the barmans happy for us to play and the joint looks kinda smart.

Ring the owner Sean to check if we have somewhere to stay and he tells us to come down to his yard behind Homecare. The yard was pretty extraordinary but not as strange as the look on Johns face when shown our accomodation on the floor of a blacksmith’s workshop!

John quickly skedaddled to The County Hotel while Sean began chainsawing up treetrunks to light the stove with. We went back to Ruskins wine bar and discovered it had no customers so we ended up downstairs at Dicky Doodles solubrious live music club to join in the Tueday night ‘Rock Jam’. However before that we needed to eat and an artist/ poet we met had told us that if he was dying his last request would be a plate of fish and chips from the nearby Fry-Days chip shop. As it turns out he was spot on the money and once we’d found a table on top of a nearby electricity junction box we tucked in. The electric jam night was organised by a friendly old rocker with a bandana who was happy for us to play to a mixed audience of old blues boys and young would be Hendrix’s. Went down pretty good and retired to our respective boudouirs very happy.

Viol Bodies

After our fantastic breakfast at Jem and Jules’ (don’t get me started on the topic of B&B breakfasts) we set off for the border. J&J gave us the address of some friends of their’s who make viols and said to stop off for lunch as it was on our way. Weather was again awful and we had recieved 2 soakings before arriving at Richard and Vivienne Jones’ house. They live at Powfoot, on the Solway Firth. Their house is in an Edwardian (?) red brick terrace which stands alone in the village surrounded by 70s grey bungalows. Quite bizarre. Richard showed us his workshop and Vivienne served up a very tasty soup (red pepper, tomato and ginger with rye bread). The viol world is quite small – I mentioned the name of a local (to Presteigne) player and Richard said ‘oh –  he was here just last week’. Richard’s instruments are obviously very sought after and I’m sure all you viol players are familiar with his work.

Later on after a gruelling 12 mile slightly acsending straight on a horrilble A road into headwind and rain we finally arrived at Brampton –  very short on battery power. We asked a few people where our venue was and were met with blank expressions. After another 4 miles of sweat and toil we arrived at the Duke of Cumberland in Castle Carrock, our venue.This was a great place renovated really nicely by owners Martin and Mel. Their daughter AJ does 5 star pub grub – my Cumberland sausage & mash and Petes steak and ale pie were faultless as were puds. Highly recommended if your north of the Lake District. We played to a small but enthusiastic audience before retiring to our farmhouse B&B which was 100 yards from the pub right in the middle of the village.