It had been far too long – nearly 15 months – since I last visited Berlin. It was high time for a revisit. So on 8th October we boarded a flight at Manchester Airport for the hop across Europe to Germany’s capital.
This time I had my boyfriend Ben in tow, for his first visit to mainland Europe (and his first time flying Ryanair – talk about a baptism of fire)
I get nervous when introducing people to Berlin. I rave about the place so much that I worry the place will not live up to the high expectations I have set.
As usual, I needn’t have worried. Ben was just as entranced by the place as I am.
Oh no, it happened again! I went for two months without writing a blog. My excuse is that I was very busy doing actual things. Having a lovely boyfriend is doing wonders for my social life and self-esteem, but is proving to be less good for my blogging career.
Anyway, here are some of those things below.
What is threatening to become an annual visit to the Shakespeare production by Illyria in Sefton Park did not disappoint. A fun romantic comedy about the night you take your Christmas decorations down (NOTE: fact-check this before publishing).
With a cast of five playing multiple roles, I had to pay close attention to follow the plot. However being in the shadow of the Palm House was a bonus, and the weather was kind to us. People who went to see their production of Pride and Prejudice a few weeks later were not so lucky.
I also signed the petition on the UK Parliament website, because it is this useless zombie government, which knows the cost of everything and the value of nothing, that is presiding over this situation. Managing decline on the railways just as it is doing everywhere else.
There are 13 separate consultations going on – Transport Focus has a list of the proposals and how to respond, so check to see if your local train operator is affected. Thankfully Merseyrail, operated by more enlightened management, is not affected.
My response is below. I am under no illusions that this is little more than a box-ticking exercise and the proposals will probably be waved through, but we have to try.
The consultation closes on 28th July (yes, they really gave us three weeks to respond on this massive sweeping change to the railway network!) so get your responses in soon.
I just got back from spending a lovely few days in Kirkby Stephen with Ben. We squeezed a lot of activity into four days, and some of the highlights are below.
Platform Cottage – I was fortunate to find this cottage at Kirkby Stephen station available at just a few week’s notice. I was staying there for the second time, after an earlier adventure in 2021. The station buildings have been divided up into three holiday lets. This time we were in the smaller Platform Cottage, but the experience was much the same – a cosy living room and bedroom, with a fully-fitted kitchen and all the home comforts. Once you get used to a train pulling up at the station every 2 hours and having passengers streaming past your living room window, it was a very pleasant experience.
Unexpected bonus was a library of books provided for our reading pleasure. Ben contented himself with a book of Ned Sherrin anecdotes, while I was pleased to find this book of interviews with some of Britain’s finest 20th century comedy writers, everyone from Spike Milligan and Denis Norden to Victoria Wood and, er… Chris Evans. I was sorely tempted to steal it.
We were exemplary guests – I even went through all the streaming apps on the smart TV that the previous visitors had forgotten to sign out of, and did it for them.
When it was announced that Liverpool would host Eurovision, I was overjoyed, but also a little bit nervous. The city had never held an event of this size before. Would we be able to pull off the feat of hosting one of the biggest and most technically complex live television events in the world? Could the city’s infrastructure cope with a massive influx of visitors from all over the world? I hoped so, but a part of me was a litte bit worried.
My concerns were unfounded. Liverpool didn’t just host Eurovision, it embraced it and turned it into a week-long festival of joy. With a massive festival of public art running alongside the event, concerts and plays to entertain us, as if the massive festival of music itself wasn’t enough.
Eurovision is being held in Liverpool, and it has been an amazing experience. The atmosphere in the city has been electric, with numerous events being held surrounding the contest ensuring that no-one is left out, even those who couldn’t get a ticket to the show itself.
Sadly, it all comes to an end today, but it will be a massive climax with the Grand Final at 8pm, live across Europe and beyond. 26 artists will compete on behalf of their country to secure the Eurovision crown and the honour of hosting next year.
Here are the ones I think you should watch out for.
A Thong For Europe is the latest in the Liverpool Royal Court’s long-running series of plays with a truly groan-worthy pun for a title. It is a new musical by Jonathan Harvey, the genius behind Beautiful Thing, Canary, Our Lady of Blundellsands and a million episodes of Coronation Street.
The show was commissioned and written after the announcement last October that Liverpool would host Eurovision. From initial idea to a fully-formed musical in six months? Could it be done? If anyone can do it, Jonathan Harvey can.
Liverpool has embraced Eurovision beyond my wildest imagination. It has taken over the city in a way I’ve never seen before. More than the various Giants events. Not even a Liverpool FC trophy parade touches this for sheer scale. Naturally, I’ve immersed myself in it as much as possible.
Things got under way in earnest at the beginning of May with EuroFestival, a fortnight-long cultural festival of artworks tying in with the contest, with a particular emphasis on Ukraine, the rightful hosts of this year’s contest.
I’ve been exploring some of the artworks with Ben, and here is a round-up of what we’ve seen so far.
Easter Monday was spent in the company of my lovely boyfriend Ben at Speke Hall, the Tudor House and surrounding gardens on the edge of Liverpool.
It’s been a long time since I visited. Previous visits as a child were associated in my head with boredom, as my mum cooed over the delicate Tudor furniture and I longed to get home to my Commodore 64. In adulthood, the site was never really on my radar as a place to visit, despite being just a few miles from my house. It doesn’t help that it is curiously difficult to get to by public transport – the only option being to take one of the buses to Liverpool Airport, alight a couple of stops early, and walk nearly a mile.
I don’t want to brag, but Ben has a car. We were able to drive to Speke Hall on Easter Monday, arriving just after the 10.30am opening time. The hall is in the care of the National Trust, and admission is £15 if you want to access all areas. If you don’t want to see the house, a tenner will get you into the grounds only.