Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Discovering Liverpool

Before I met Ant, I hadn't seen much of the North of England - just a few childhood trips to Hull to visit family friends and that was about it. Based on this limited experience, I'd always imagined it to be a depressingly grey and industrial place and not at all holidaying material. In the last decade we've been up to Lytham to see Ant's family at least twice a year - exploring other bits of the North at the same time - and my eyes have been opened to its many delights.

One place that we'd never visited until now though was Liverpool - strange considering it's only an hour's drive from the in-laws. Having been brought up on the Beatles, Liverpool has always intrigued me, so this trip just gone we decided to finally check out the home of the Fab Four and take a day trip down.

I'm not sure what I'd expected from Liverpool, but I was pleasantly surprised. When we arrived it was lunchtime, and I had already looked up a place to eat - the Egg cafe - which had also been recommended to me by one of my Twitter contacts, @misscay. A rustic studenty loft serving homely vegetarian grub, it reminded me of the cafe at the top of Affleck's Palace, one of my favourite Manchester haunts. After a hearty lunch of spicy stew and salad, we came out of there and straight into a funky indoor market, where we lost the next hour or so ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the wondrous selection of vintage clothes.

I was particularly charmed by the glamour of Liverpool - everyone was very dressed up for a Saturday afternoon (especially compared to scruffy Brighton), with lots of maxi dresses and girls in curlers (again, not something you'd ever see in Brighton - unless it was part of a fancy dress costume), presumably preparing for their big night out. Even if I had long hair, I could never be fagged to go to such efforts, but am in awe of anyone who would.

We found the alley where the original Cavern Club once was - now only a boarded up doorway with some pictures and historical bumph. On the other side of the street, a load of Japanese tourists were misguidedly taking pictures of the venue's namesake pub. I Didn't like to shatter their illusion. A quick visit to the the Beatles store on the corner resulted in Ant purchasing himself a rather fetching Beatnik hat - the sort of hat you'd only ever buy on holiday, but marvellous nonetheless.

After that we wandered down to the Dockside to have a look at the murky Mersey and take a bimble round. A visit to the Tate concluded with us bopping on an underlit dancefloor in the middle of a sculpture gallery, listening to 70s funk on silent disco style headphones. As you do. A couple of kids joined in, but I think the other grown ups presumed we were part of the exhibition. It was nice to see Degas' Little Dancer again, especially with the atmospheric addition of a glitter ball's spangly lighting.

I am not a fan of shopping malls, but Liverpool's L1 - an open-topped shopping centre that flows nicely into the surrounding areas - is an exception. It goes without saying that most of the shops were pretty generic and the same as you'd find on any high street, but there were a few gems. I actually ended up buying a load of stuff from Hennes, just because the Brighton branch is comparitively small and always rammed. I was almost goaded into buying a silly holiday hat too, but resisted.

And so my first visit to Liverpool came to an end - though I hope it will be the first of many explorations of this stylish and sassy city.

Picture of 'Sculpture Remixed' taken from: www.artinliverpool.com/blog

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Bring Back Trevor and Simon

Whenever confronted about my 'unconventional' sense of humour, I tend to blame the Dada comedy on which I was raised - Monty Python, The Bonzos, The Goons and co. These guys certainly gave me an appreciation of the surreal, but the drollery and sarcasm can be traced back to a much more contemporary source - those legends of Saturday morning kids' TV, Trevor and Simon.

During my formative teenage years, Trevor and Simon punctuated the weekends with their sardonic sketches and eccentric, often manic or contemptuous characters. Say to anyone of my generation "swing your pants" or "let's roll on the floor" and it's guaranteed to raise a smile of nostalgic recognition. We loved Trevor and Simon because they were the least patronising children's "entertainers" of the time, and best of all, because they ripped the piss out of many an annoying celebrity on Going Live and Live and Kicking. I was such a fan that I even went to see them live - at Brighton Dome in 1991.

Looking at the more offbeat character-based comedy shows of today - Mighty Boosh, Little Britain, Mitchell and Webb - all written by and starring 30-somethings who grew up in the 80s and 90s - it seems obvious that they owe a debt (whether conscious or not) to Trevor and Simon's silly Saturday antics. But whatever happened to our deadpan childhood heroes? By the late nineties we were all off at university and sleeping in on Saturday mornings and they seemed to have disappeared into obscurity; the much-loved Stupid Video started gathering dust on the shelf. Occasionally I would hear of other projects they had going like the Circus of Evil at Edinburgh Festival, but they never seemed to find another niche outside of their original territory.

Then just the other week, Ant came home with amusingly windswept hair and a sporting new goatee, when suddenly Trevor and Simon's World of the Strange popped into my head. Of course I went straight onto YouTube to substantiate the comparison, and found myself heading off on a right old trip down memory lane. This in turn led to a string of other online discoveries, including the revelation that Trevor and Simon were on Twitter (why had I never thought to look before?). But best of all, I found their blog, on which is published a Trevor and Simon podcast.

Having listened to the latest podcast in the series, I am pleased to report that the duo have lost none of their bantering chemistry and are still as waggishly witty as ever. It was a delight to find myself immersed in a world of strange tangents and acerbic rants, delivered by the comfortingly familiar voices of my childhood heroes. The other five installments I am saving for an upcoming roadtrip Up North. All power to the duo for taking the task of a Trevor and Simon renaissance upon themselves - welcome back boys, we've missed you!

Links
Trevor and Simon's blog (you can also download the other podcasts here)