After that fortnight dashing around Europe on the train, you would think we would have stopped or at least slowed down, but this is “georgeandmaryadventure” you’re reading so you can expect we didn’t. Indeed, after only 2 days in Dundee, the newly-repaired Audi was given a strong 200 miles workout as we drove North for our annual visit to my brother Joe and wife Morag up in Lochcarron, slightly to the west of the Back of Beyond!

This year we drove along then up i.e. West to Crianlarich then North to Fort William and then zig-zag up the fjords to Lochcarron. The main reason for going that way is so we can drive through our favourite place in all of Scotland, Glencoe! Unlike the last time when we were accompanied by sunshine and 27 degrees (a first for us and many others) this trip was more like the usual conditions – cold, very wet, zero visibility and all over miserable! The Buachaille Etive Mor loomed above us to the left as we entered the glen (at least I think it did) as we could barely make it out from the road and the terrifying Aonach Eagach ridge to the right was not quite so scary when shrouded in thick mist. But the dreadful weather is what gives Glencoe its reputation for being as atmospheric as any spot in the world – or even beyond. It also surprises me how, when we reach Fort William, my brain tries to persuade me that we’re nearly there when I know there’s still a good 80 miles north to go. So when we reached Joe’s, the Audi had 210 more miles on its clock.

We caught up with news of all of Joe’s family over a delicious Mo dinner and a glass or two and the next day out came the guitars for our usual session of duff chords and screeching harmonies but this time Mary decided to record it all on her iPhone and we now for the first time have ourselves on video doing the Beatles, the Kinks etc.

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The Burton Brothers

That evening Joe drove us all the way to Eden Court in Inverness to have dinner and see a brass band bash out what was akin to Bonzo Dog Doo Da Band stuff which we were all invited to dance to. It was a fun thing to do even though Joe labelled it “bonkers”! Driving back to Lochcarron in the dark was a real thrill as Joe cut the speed as we wound our way through miles of single track road, cautiously taking bends in anticipation of deer on the road. Joe has already had more than one encounter with Bambi’s Mum and Dad and his car did not fare well in the encounters. As we took the short incline up to the house, the headlamps picked out Bambi itself trying to get to the food in the Polytunnel but with a single bound it was over the fence and away.

The following day, after a super brunch (Mary had 2 boiled eggs!) we bid farewell to Joe and Mo and headed back to Inverness then down the A9 to Perth and East to Dundee, just in time for tea at Mary’s Mum’s. Suitably fed, I was delighted when George brought grandson Ben over for an hour so I could play with him and wear myself out before recommencing the gypsy life. Ben was wearing his Dundee strip so I was extra pleased!

We only briefly saw Greg and Karen before bed that evening but they did show me photos of the cottage they’re moving to next month. It’s on the estate where Greg works and looks really cosy but most importantly it’s a lovely safe place for them to live and Greg will save a fortune in fuel costs with not having a 50-mile round trip every day. We wish them well and hopefully we’ll be able to help them move in mid-October as we’ll be back in Dundee then to look after Ben for a week.

Still up for knowing more? OK then! The following morning Auntie Marie drove us to the railway station and we travelled to Falkirk where we were met by Scott and taken to Keira’s house to dump our bags before going off to see Scott’s team play somewhere near Grangemouth. I will spare you and him the grief of listening to a report on the match and just say that the lunch Mary and I had in a hotel opposite the ground was excellent.

Back at Keira’s, we had a lovely tea and afterwards played some games on the Wii. Mary & I both slept like logs even though I was on the settee and she was on a mattress on the floor at my feet (which is where she should be anyway!) Fortunately Scott was able to run us to the station at 11 where we got the train to Glasgow, switched stations and travelled first class down to Oxenholme in the Lake District. Our great friends Mike & Het Farrington were waiting for us on the platform right outside our door to exit the train.

Now this is where it gets exciting! We were down at Mike & Het’s as we’d promised to do a visit to Liverpool together to tour all the Beatles stuff and see the city a bit. So, after a night of catching up on our respective summers (and a glass or two), the following morning Mike drove us to our hotel in the Liverpool Docklands area, but not before taking us to the coast just north of the city to see some curious figures set into the sands of the beach and consumed twice a day by the incoming tide. This piece of Art was to represent a philosophical study of our awe in front of nature (or something!) but we enjoyed a picnic there as we watched the tide race in and cover them up. They are called Another Place and can be found on Crosby Beach, Sefton. Worth a visit!

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Me & Mike and some naked guy!

Once we’d checked in to our Campanile hotel, we headed into the lovely Docklands area and enjoyed a brisk walk followed by going into “The Beatles Story” a museum documenting the history of the Fab Four. We spent an age in there reacquainting ourselves with Liverpool’s most famous sons. The museum was excellent, offering titbits of things we didn’t know or hadn’t realised and covering John, Paul, George and Ringo’s careers after the Beatles broke up as well. The final exhibit was John’s “Imagine” white piano with the song playing in the background. Was I the only one to well up?

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The original poster for the song

All of this gave us an appetite so we searched for a place to eat and found a Weatherspoon’s type pub where we tucked into some good grub and sank a few. After the meal we made a short walk down to the famous Cavern Club where it all started. We had a brilliant time in there listening to the performers play and sing the Beatles with a bit of Oasis thrown in for good measure. We sang, we danced, we played air- guitar and just had the best of evenings, so good that we promised to go back the next evening.

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Being skinflints, we all four had breakfast next morning in Het’s room, a delicious bowl of Weetabix and milk and a cup of tea! I secretly wanted to try the full English on offer downstairs (and I think Mike would have been up for it too!) but I behaved myself for once. Our target for the day was a trip on the Magical Mystery Tour bus but the tickets we got were for 2 p.m. so we headed for the Liverpool Maritime Museum nearby and spent a couple of hours reading up on slave ships and the History of shipbuilding at Cammel- Laird. Lunch followed in the museum then a short walk around the dock and we were ready to get on the bus.

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Roll up for the Mystery Tour!!

Our hosts for the tour were driver Ray and narrator Jay who announced right at the start that he was the brother of Holly Johnston from “Frankie goes to Hollywood” fame. Great start! Heather was dead impressed! The tour then proceeded to take us around famous places in Liverpool connected with the Beatles including the childhood homes of the four boys, their schools and the places they mentioned in their songs, notably Penny Lane and Strawberry Field.

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The gate to Strawberry Field

Jay did a grand job of telling us all sorts of tales about the Beatles and the city they grew up in and the whole tour was absolutely brilliant. The last stop was near to The Cavern.

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John & George

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Mary with Cilla

As it wasn’t time to go clubbing yet, we took a walk through the city centre shops then went back to the same pub we’d eaten in the previous evening. Dinner and drinks behind us, we made for the Cavern once again and plunged inside after some photos of statues of John Lennon and Cilla Black. We felt quite at home being there for the second night in a row and we were delighted when the guy who had done the last two hours on Monday night, Jay Murray, appeared back on stage and launched into his routine. He is an old hand at this and had been playing Beatles roles at the Cavern and beyond for a number of years. At some point I went off to the bar, and that’s when Het had a word with the singer.

On my return, to my astonishment, Jay invited me up onto the stage to sing a song with him!! Yes, I ended up on stage in the world-famous Cavern Club, singing a duet of the Beatles’ “Nowhere Man”! Can you believe that? I was beside myself with excitement but fortunately held it together and did not too badly according to the reaction I got from the crowd who were chanting my name as I stepped down. I had my photo taken with some couples and a woman insisted I dance with her! Mary was dead jealous! I can’t remember anything else after that as quite frankly I was up in the clouds somewhere, but, believe me, it was something I won’t forget in a hurry!

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My big moment!

For our final morning in Liverpool, we chose to go see the city’s famous landmarks including the Liver Building and the Cunard Building which stand side by side down at the front. We also visited the Ferry Station to cross the Mersey: Gerry Marsden wasn’t on the boat but I was assured his music was! All too soon it was time for Mike to drive us to John Lennon Airport for our afternoon flight to Barcelona. Mike pointed out when we got there that he couldn’t stop anywhere except designated parking areas as all the roads had video cameras aimed at them and even pulling up for a moment would cost an automatic £100 fine!

Strange being in John Lennon airport. The girls were all tarted up for going abroad with the smallest cut-offs possible and remarkably huge curlers in their hair.

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Lots of heavy Scouse accents apparent with loads of “no worries!” and  “Go ‘ead” from loud young men. We got through embarkation quicker than ever before and once on board we realised the flight was only about a quarter full, despite a seat costing only £22.99! Ironically, in line with Ryanair’s most recent “dirty trick”, Mary and I were placed 16 rows apart, but I moved before we left the ground and we spent the flight seated side by side. Our landing was once again a real “bump” which frightened  many who weren’t aware we were down, although I am always braced for it. Our dear friends, Tom & Margareth from the Netherlands, picked us up outside and 20 minutes later we were back in the caravan, our 2nd home!

For the next fortnight we intend to keep a low profile, eat healthily and both lose weight although Mary has a stone of a start on me! I had a wee game of tennis today and there’s a golf outing tomorrow but as I said we’ll try to get our feet up and recharge the batteries.

Yesterday we were glued to the local TV channels, watching the Catalan Referendum Day unfold. We felt we were watching something important and maybe historic but don’t feel it’s our business to comment, except to deplore the brutal actions of a section of the Policia Nacional. There was no need for such violent behaviour.

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Vilanova Rambla

I leave you with some more Beatles-related images. Enjoy!

 

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The Fab Four

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The “shelter in the middle of a roundabout”

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Happy times in the Cavern!

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