Sunday, July 27, 2014

scouse of the driving fun

Since my lovely wife managed to snag some tickets for the final day of the Open Championship as an unexpected but very welcome birthday present earlier this year, we found ourselves off to Liverpool last weekend, which as it happens is a city I'd never been to before. That being the case we decided to make a weekend of it and spend Saturday doing some touristy stuff before heading off to Royal Liverpool on the Sunday morning.

So, as you can imagine, this involved stuff like having a look at the Cavern Club, the Liver Building, taking a ferry 'cross the Mersey and all that sort of stuff. That will no doubt be tediously familiar to you, so here's a couple of slightly more tangential facts about the local area:
  • While the Mersey between Liverpool and Birkenhead is criss-crossed with a couple of road tunnels and a railway tunnel, you have to go a surprising distance inland before you encounter a bridge, or more accurately a pair of bridges, spanning the narrow bit of river between Runcorn and Widnes, as well as the Manchester Ship Canal which runs alongside the river at this point. So far so meh, you might say, but until 1961 there was another bridge on this site, known as the Widnes-Runcorn Transporter Bridge. Now you'll be aware that in Newport we have one of only two working transporter bridges in the UK, and the one that makes a claim to be the largest operational one in the world, although the one in Middlesbrough makes similar claims - it all depends which measurements you're talking about. Anyway, the Widnes-Runcorn one was older and bigger than either of the remaining ones, but was crushed by the ruthless utilitarian jackboot of progress, mostly because as fascinating as transporter bridges are, it is an extraordinarily slow and inefficient way of getting traffic across a river, which would be why they never really caught on. The stubs of the approach roads and some of the buildings remain, everything else has gone.
  • Needless to say there are a gazillion establishments named after Beatles songs or other Beatles-related stuff. On just the walk through central Liverpool on Saturday I spotted establishments called Imagine, Rubber Soul, Glass Onion and Eleanor Rigby. No doubt the whole city is riddled with them.
  • We did a quick on-foot tour of the city's two cathedrals - as striking as Paddy's Wigwam is it's Giles Gilbert Scott's monumental Anglican cathedral that really catches the eye. As with the bridges it really depends which measurement(s) you choose to use, but by some measurements this is the largest Anglican church in Europe. It's certainly pretty impressive (and huge) close up, anyway.
  • The stripy knitted tree-warmers we found on Park Lane on our way to the Anglican cathedral were apparently put there as part of the Liverpool International Street Art Festival. This activity is known as "yarn bombing". As things with the word "bombing" in them go, this is one of the nicer ones.
  • While walking from one cathedral to the other we came over all thirsty so we stopped for a pint in the amusingly-named Ye Cracke on Rice Street, which didn't look like much from the outside but turned out to be a little murky spit-and-sawdust gem complete with the inevitable "John Lennon once drank here" claims but also (more importantly) a very delicious and refreshing pint of Hopsack from the Phoenix Brewery in nearby Manchester. 
On to the golf. Luckily we had a beautiful sunny day to walk the course, so we made the most of it by arriving fairly early (about 9am) via the excellent Wirral Line rail link which deposits you at Hoylake station no more than 10 minutes walk from the course entrance. Having availed ourselves of a coffee and bacon bap combo from the tented village we set out onto the course. Fortified by that, as well as the lunch we'd taken with us and a couple of pints of Stella from the on-course bars we managed to get round a good number of the holes and park ourselves in a couple of good spots where we could a) get a good view and b) try to get on television. Our best chance of that was probably on the fourth green, where members of the last two groups (Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler) chipped back onto the green from right under our noses, on the ninth where we found a good spot to recline with a pint and a sandwich and on the twelfth where none other than Tiger Woods hoicked his second shot wildly into the crowd only about ten yards from where we were standing. I keep meaning to watch back some of the coverage on the BBC iPlayer and see if I can spot us, but I haven't yet and I suspect I never will.

Unlike at the PGA Championship at Wentworth there isn't really any standing room around the 18th green, so you have to make a decision early on whether you're going to try and see as much golf as possible out on the course and then take your chances later, or try and bag a seat in the stands 3 or 4 hours before the leading groups come through and just stay there for the rest of the day. We didn't fancy this second option very much, so we watched the last couple of holes from the bar area in the tented village, on our way there nearly getting run over by a golf cart carrying none other than Samuel L Monkeyfighting Jackson to some VIP viewing area or other.

Speaking of the PGA Championship, I believe I'm right in saying that, slightly surprisingly, Rory McIlroy is the first man to win it and the Open in the same year, just as Martin Kaymer was the first to win the Players Championship and the US Open in the same year a month or so ago.

Anyway, photos (the golf ones being mostly grainy mobile phone camera shots as technically photography is prohibited on championship days) can be found here.

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