My family of nine resides in Canada. I was born in Liverpool, England and emigrated a week short of my eleventh birthday. When my twenty-one year old daughter (affectionately known as the Princess of Montreal — which is where she lives now) was six months old, my wife and I decided to go to the UK for a three week holiday.
It was going to be a welcome break from the job I hated and a chance for me to show off my beloved home land. The plane flight from Toronto to Bristol in the south of England was tiring because I hadn’t slept the eighteen hours prior and my baby girl was awake and bright-eyed the entire trip, sitting on either my lap or my wife’s .
That’s right, at six months of age my little girl amazed everyone with her ability to sit, back bolt- straight and unwavering for hours on end. But she was a delight and I loved every minute of the flight.
Before Bristol our plane had to land in New Castle in the north of England to let off and take on some passengers. It was a sunny, clear morning as our plane nosed into its descent. First the myriad lakes of England’s northern lake district came into view and then a green patchwork of farms grew increasingly larger (my tiny redhead giggled then and I turned from the view thereby missing the cityscape of New Castle but that was fine with me.)
Soon the plane soared skyward again but (England not being a very big country) the jet no sooner reached it’s zenith and then began it’s descent again. In the forty-five minutes it took for the plane to travel from New Castle in the north to Bristol in the south an astounding diversity of terrain was revealed to us: lakes, farms, villages, moors, forests and major cities. It was one long uninterrupted WOW! moment.
Our time in England in many ways was a smorgasbord of sights and experiences. We stayed in Colerne, Wiltshire for a few days with an Aunt, and visited a town that has been called ‘The Prettiest Little Town In England,Castle Combe, where the original Dr Dolittle film was made and some episodes of the 60s TV series, The Saint and The Avengers. After a few days we rode a train from Bristol to Liverpool in the north of England where we stayed with an uncle.
We had many wonderful kodak moments during our stay in Liverpool and many meals from a local chippy (they were known for their fish and chips wrapped in newsprint but they have a much more eclectic menu now.) While there we visited many historical sites in Liverpool. My uncle Peter took us to the town of Chester and we walked upon a Roman wall that surrounded the city and was roughly two thousand years old. We went to South Port, a busy tourist beach town on the West coast of England.
But I’d have to say the most memorable place we visited (but not for entirely positive reasons) was Conwy Castle in Conwy, Wales. Wales is actually only an hour’s drive from Liverpool.
The castle was built as a fortification to quell Welsh uprisings during England’s occupation in the twelth century. It is medieval and beautiful! Did I mention I love castles? It is an awesome and almost surreal experience to stand up in one of its eight towers and look out upon the wall of the castle extending in every direction to wrap around the entire town of Conwy.
All the while my alert, curious six month old pointed and waived at tourists pushing prams (strollers) carrying infants. At one point she squirmed and let me know she wanted to be taken closer to another little red head that was similar in age that belonged to a mother my wife was chatting with. I accommodated her and bent down, leaning in closer to the child so mine could coo at her face to face.
That’s when someone bumped into me and hard. I knew I was going down but my breath caught because I was terrified my baby and the baby in the pram would be injured by my fall. I turned to flash a helpless glance at my wife who suddenly scooped our little one out of my hands just as the other baby’s mother jerked the stroller out of my path.
I ,on the other hand, went sprawling. Unable to stop my forward momentum my head violently struck an eight hundred year old wall. The next thing I knew, light was being shone into my eyes by a doctor. It was determined I had a concussion and would have to visit the nearby hospital.
They kept me overnight for observation and thankfully the prognosis the next day was that I had no long term damage and I was released. I was so relieved that I had remembered to purchase travel medical insurance and that my stay was short; we were scheduled to fly out of Bristol airport in a few days.
In the next few days we saw more sites in Liverpool including a trip up to the top of the Liver (pronounced with a long ‘i’) building, Liverpool’s premier landmark with its two giant statues of Liver birds.
My uncle Ronnie worked as the heating engineer in the Liver building so we were privy to a view (not experienced by even most Liverpool natives also known as scousers or liverpudlians) of the River Mersey dotted with the ubiquitous ferry boats carrying a steady stream of passengers between Liverpool, Birkenhead and Seacombe.
We soon left the home of the Beatles, and my birth-place, and returned to Wiltshire for a couple of days before flying out of Bristol, again in the daylight, so we could view the same incredible vistas of England’s varied landscape once more.
It was an unforgettable three weeks. I want to do it again now that my little red headed princess is twenty one. Maybe my whole family can go. That would be memorable.