It’s always good to break routine so at the weekend, to celebrate my birthday, I did two things out of the ordinary: I jumped on a train and headed north.
To most people that’s probably not so unusual but I rarely use public transport (I spend most of my time in a car or on a bike) and always head south (to Brighton).
So it was the first time in ages that I have used the train. I travelled on Virgin from Kings Langley to Liverpool and discovered that things really have changed. For a start the buffet car was like a cafe, selling food you could actually eat. In the old days, all that was on offer was stale sandwiches and instant coffee slopping about in a polystyrene cup.
Secondly the loos were far improved. Toilets on trains used to be tiny boxes with wet floors strewn with loo paper. It was like some kind of It’s a Knockout challenge to get in and out while the train was in motion without stepping in a puddle on the floor. Thankfully, this one was a real improvement.
The train arrived on time in Liverpool and Lisa (my wife) and I then spent the next few days discovering a city that was buzzing. First stop was Everton FC to see the Blues take on Man City. Unfortunately we lost (2-3), but I did get to meet one of my heroes Neville Southall (what a goalkeeper, what a ‘tache). These days the famous ‘tache has gone, and Neville is a bit bigger than he used to be but I was chuffed to meet him.
We went to the International Slavery Museum to look at an exhibition which explores the slave trade and Liverpool’s role in it.
We also went to the maritime museum to see the Titanic exhibition. The sinking of the Titanic had a massive impact on the city. Many of the ship’s crew were from Liverpool and the ship was owned by the White Star Line, which was founded by Thomas Ismay in Liverpool.
When the Titanic sank, the White Star Line’s head office in Liverpool was besieged by the public. I was intrigued to come across five or six Allens in the passenger list (all travelling first class I’ll have you know).
All this was fascinating and served as a reminder of Liverpool’s historic role as a major port.
The city has had its fair share of bad press in the past but all the regeneration work over the past few years has really paid off. It’s well worth a visit with plenty to see, good bars and restaurants. I’ll definitely be using the train again and heading north again soon.