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Liverpool: In Search of The Beatles Story 

The first time I visited Liverpool was in November 2002. The weather was typical of the English North-West in autumn: above the nil, wind and RAIN.
It should be noted that the trip was an act of appeasement of this Russian girl who was ready to love Manchester United FC provided that no one would stop her from adoring The Beatles. You see, Mancunians are peculiar people. In their view, all best things had happened – or are happening – in Manchester. Therefore, Liverpool, or London for that matter, is a nuisance that throws its shadow on the splendour of the red-brick city. (A note: Liverpudlians secretly giggle at, yet uphold, this ‘competition’). God knows what I had to listen about Liverpool! All people there stretch “i” sound, it’s raining there, Scousers keep outplaying MUFC in the Premier League and at various championships; and on top of that, there is an incomprehensible urban planning and roads that are impossible to navigate. However, as I was eager to even take the train, and my hosts couldn’t risk letting me go on my own, we eventually went by car. 
…and for some reason it was the day of our trip that the firemen trade union had chosen for their strike! To avoid strikebreaking and any incidents, the lifts were switched off throughout the country, communications with the firemen were aborted, hence anyone using electrical goods, shaving and cooking in microwaves was doing so at his or her own risk. We nevertheless went on our trip, but you surely do understand that Liverpool was the cause of it all?!

None of my company knew the city and had barely ever visited it, so we spent a long time searching for Albert Dock where The Beatles Story Museum was located. At first, we ended up at a car park which was at the opposite end of our destination, so we had to brave the rain and wind. In search for a parking space we had to go as high up as level 6 or 7. And whilst going downstairs wasn’t much trouble for any of us, walking back up the stairs presented a challenge even to the healthier ones, who didn’t suffer from asthma and had no problems with legs. The parking was located somewhere near the university, and, as I recall, it was the first time that I saw some tropical plants, like palms, fluttering pathetically in the wind. Later I would see many an unfortunate tree, like those ones, that somehow got settled in the English North-West and in Wales and were courageously soaking wet in the intermittent, cold local rain, the icy winds tearing apart their leaves. 

The road to The Beatles Story was long, though not winding. We had no idea where the museum was, so we took the direction in which everyone wagged and waved. We had to stop regularly because the adults had difficulty walking. We got hungry and popped into a cafe; I tried scrambled eggs with salmon for the first time. This part of the journey took about an hour and a half. Mancunians kept looking for ways to pick at Liverpool, but, apart from the weather (which hardly differed from Manchester), there was nothing to discuss.

After lunch we went on to search for The Beatles Story under the rain. The longer you live in England, the more you realise that the rain is accepted as an inseparable part of life, its absence denying life altogether. Or at least without the rain life becomes palpably incomplete. That time in Liverpool, looking for the museum, I also figured that it was under this perpetual rain the young Beatles had been gathering at each other’s houses, composing and rehearsing songs, and then going to the historical Cavern club to play a gig. They soaked to the bone and got cold but still went wherever the music was taking them. 

Finally, we almost reached our destination: we got to the other end of Albert Dock. Yet we were in Liverpool that evidently decided that those arrogant Mancunians had to get beans for their sharp tongues. On our right a wall was rising, in front of us the boats were floating, and on the left a small bridge was leading to the other bank of the dock. Unconsciously, instead of all this we expected to see some remarkable building with a running inscription, like the British Museum or the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, for shouldn’t Liverpool have been proud of its famous citizens? But alas, there was nothing of the kind. Looking around in despair, I saw two street-signs, one near the bridge, another next to us. Both had “The Beatles Story Museum” arrows pointing at each other. Where they intersected, stood a red Royal Mail post box pinned right in the middle of the little cobbled space where we stood. 
The epic journey was becoming unbearable. This magical mystery tour seemed to be endless but then we noticed a man with his young son. To our question he confidently waved towards the brick wall, and we turned around it and immediately stumbled on a green garbage bin and a sort of cabins painted in the style of the Beatles’ cartoons. And a little farther there was the museum building, with a running inscription, but the entrance led downstairs, rather than upstairs, and The Beatles Story was beginning with the very first steps…

From The City of Optimists by Julia Shuvalova 

Magical Mystery Tour: Liverpool Has Now Got Its Own Big Wheel

At the end of November I went to Liverpool, more or less on the spur of the moment, as I often do. My adventurer’s spirit was well rewarded with a visit to Liverpool One Wheel. The report below was first written for NowPublic.com. The photos can all be found on Flickr, and at the end of the post is a short video I made during my ride.

This Christmas Liverpool has added a new item to the long list of city’s attractions: Liverpool One Wheel. Rising 60 metres above the ground (with vantage height of 80 metres and weight of 365 tonnes), the observation wheel is a perfect present to the residents of Liverpool and Merseyside.

Rivalling, among many, the London Eye and the big observation wheels in Blackpool (Lancashire) and Manchester (Greater Manchester), Liverpool One Wheel is supported by the city’s radio station, Radio 96.7 that provided the audio guide. The ride lasts 15 minutes, and during three rotations you are treated to spectacular panoramic views of the city and the River Mersey.

In particular, some of the landmarks noted in the audio tour include the Albert Dock with the Royal Liver Building, the Catholic and Protestant Cathedrals of the City of Liverpool, and the Radio Tower. Arguably, the most impressive sights are to be seen at dusk, when sunset begins. Yet the night watch from a gondola may be just as amazing: on Friday and Saturday the wheel rolls until 11pm.

While offering a plenty of entertainment to adults and children, Liverpool One Wheel is already an eye candy for photographers. As December progresses, there will doubtless be more and more photos of this long-overdue landmark that is only a short walk away from the Mersey banks and the city centre.

If you are planning a trip to the UK this Christmas, and have a soft spot for riverside and The Beatles, spending some time in Liverpool may be almost a natural choice. Indeed, what can be better than to travel across the universe for a magical mystery tour in the former European Capital of Culture?

Things to Do Before You Die? Waterstones Can Help!

During my journey to Liverpool in early December I went in Waterstones where I was instantly greeted by this display. Christmas time undoubtedly brings with it thoughts about both life and the end thereof, so the prominence of stuff “to do before you die” should not be surprising. Yet the titles of the books do not cease to strike me. Nor their potential content.

Things to do before you pop your clogs: ideas from Waterstones

Earlier this year I compiled a list of books of things and places to “cover” “before you die”, having goldmined Amazon: 1000 Things to Do Before You Pop Your Clogs. But following my Waterstones’ walk-in I decided to check whatever their online outlet had in store. I wasn’t disappointed, to say the least. As if we didn’t think this could be so, there was a book literally on every subject of one’s life, including the most intimate moments. And so, I collected the most jaw-dropping titles, although not omitting some conventional ones, like “Classical Recordings“. A lot still remained behind, so jump to Waterstones’ list to plough through.

For the purposes of the post, let’s imagine you’re planning to travel somewhere. You may refer to my original post, or you may opt in for a more structured compendium: 1001 Places to See Before You Die: Page a Day.

Thinking of what you may be doing in all the places? Legion is the name to your choices. To help you cope, here are 1001 Paintings you must see and 1001 Classical Recordings you must hear before you die. Add to this a touch of luxury by choosing from 1001 Wines and 1001 Foods.

A nature lover? Here is 1001 Gardens you must see before returning to the Garden of Eden. You can go birding, although the authors of the book only scratched some 50 places for that. However, if you are seriously after “1000 things” and birds, why not scoring a birdie at any of 1001 golf courses? Prefer fishing rods to golf clubs? I am sure some of 1001 places to see will have fishing facilities where, with any luck, you will catch one of sought-after 50 fish.

Shopaholics can spice things up with 101 Things to Buy and 52 Things to Do in a Car. The latter may particularly be useful for those who have exhausted the repertoire of Crash the movie and got enough of Roxette’s antiques. Beer lovers aren’t forgotten either: there are a book about 300 Beers and then a special book on 100 Belgian Beers. Absolutely to die for, I say.

Your curiosity will be tempered by Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die. And if you ever exhaust any one thousand of things, try 2001 Things to Do Before You Die. Never forget: the proverbial perpetuum mobile is you, so keep going.

The younger generation may refer to 10 Things to Do before they turn sweet sixteen, and 1001 Videogames to play. (You can refer to the latter book, too, if you are their parent).

Understandably, carrying the world on your shoulders while also trying to do all those things may be difficult. If you can’t be arsed, then you can surely sod that; I am sure there will be no harm in doing so. However, you may just make an escape to one of the unforgettable islands.

Whatever takes your fancy – paintings, shopping, videogames, one hundred or two thousand of those – there will always be a moment when you crave the most natural and intimate experiences. And sometimes you will have obstacles in your way. To help overcome them and to sparkle your imagination, there are 1001 places to pee and 101 places to have sex. Before you die, of course.


How I Didn’t Recognise Parma Ham

Do you remember this passage in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, chapter IX ‘Queen Alice’?

Sir John Tenniel,
A Leg of Mutton
At last the Red Queen began. “You’ve missed the soup and fish”, she said. “Put on the joint!” And the waiters set a leg of mutton in front of Alice, who looked at it rather anxiously, as she had never had to carve a joint before. 
“You look a little shy: let me introduce you to that leg of mutton”, said the Red Queen. “Alice – Mutton: Mutton – Alice”. The leg of mutton got up in the dish and made a little bow to Alice: and Alice returned the bow, not knowing whether to be frightened or amused. 
“May I give you a slice?” she said, taking up the knife and fork, and looking from one Queen to the other. 
“Certainly not”, the Red Queen said, very decidedly: “it isn’t etiquette to cut any one you’ve been introduced to. Remove the joint!”

Believe it or not, I recently re-enacted the scene almost entirely…

In early December I went to Liverpool and on my way back to the station after 9pm I had to walk past San Carlo restaurant in Castle Street, described as “the best Italian restaurant outside London” by A. A. Gill of The Sunday Times. I had to stop by their window that offered a generous look at their stupendous bar. I’d never been to San Carlo, and I was really impressed with a variety of bottles of all sizes…

…including the one that was beige and looked like a wine vessel made of animal skin. Due to its guitar shape, it stood on its side, supported by a wooden base, with a piece of cord around its neck.

I was amused, for never before did I see such bottle. Intrepid as I am on such occasions, I walked into the restaurant where I was instantly welcomed by un Italiano vero: a gentleman with a small beard, his black hair streaming down to his shoulders.

He wanted to invite me in, but I explained that I was impressed by the bottle I saw in the window. “Oh yes, we have many bottles“, he nodded with a smile. “Which one was it?

Oh, it was beige, and it stood on its side…“, I began.

I wanted to show it, and as I turned I noticed exactly the similar bottle standing by the door on the counter. Next to it there were eggs on a heap of flour and a basket with fresh paninis.

That’s the bottle!” I exclaimed.

This is not the bottle“, the gentleman replied. “It is Parma ham“.


The images for this post are taken from Rolf Hicker‘s website and from Cartoon Stock. Rolf is a professional photographer; and over at Cartoon Stock you can find a gallery of illustrations to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by the renowned illustrator, Sir John Tenniel. And if you feel like diving into Carroll’s imaginary world, go to Project Gutenberg for Through the Looking Glass’s text, or to LibriVox for Through the Looking Glass as an audiobook.

Liverpool 2009 – Sunset

Liverpool 2009 – 8, originally uploaded by loscuadernosdejulia.

I took this photo on my recent visit to Liverpool, and it captures just about everything I’ve ever loved about sunsets – and what I presently miss. In all time in England I rarely had a chance to watch sunsets, which was quite a dramatic break in habit I used to have, when in Moscow.

Here, as well, I was struck by the solid texture of the clouds in the background and the towering cupola, and the contrast thereof with the building site in the foreground. With us expecting something around the year 2012, could this be an image of the future emerging against the cloudy, dramatic, and dreamy backdrop of the past?

(original post – 28 November 2009)

Update (14 December 2009): the photo was published in Liverpool Echo on 4 December 2009. Many thanks to the editorial team for making the choice.

A Liverpool Sunset, as featured in
Liverpool Echo

Some Flickr Pointers

I noticed that Flickr link in my Lijit widget wasn’t working. I corrected it but I thought I’d use the opportunity to give you a peek at my “private” Flickr life.

I started using the site in 2007, partly because of Robin Hamman‘s paeans. I’ve loved photography already but as with blogging it took overcoming a certain inner hurdle to start putting the photos up for all to see.

I love Flickr; in May, during Futuresonic Festival, I even delivered a talk on Online Photography; and before then in January I wrote a lengthy article on how (not) to use Flickr. Working as a Social Media Manager, I notice, of course, that nobody uses Flickr as they “should”, myself including. But it’s good to strive to use it better.

Flickr is an ocean, deep, beautiful, and sometimes dangerous. They upped security and safety levels, and you can always ask to take you “to kittens” but chances are, you will keep looking. I don’t think it will be totally bad if a young person stumbles upon the imagery of sexual kind. My concern is whether or not there will be a sensible adult with them to explain things.

As for me, I was amazed when last year I got followed by the multitudes of leather fans. I love leather clothes, so this season I don’t even have to try to be fashionable. But to have your own self-portrait in leather pants and hand-made sweater accumulating views and comments was something different.

My experience of Flickr has been great, all the more so because for the second time a photo I took was included in Schmap City Guide. In 2007, one photo was featured in Schmap Liverpool Guide. In 2009, another photo (which you will not find in my personal photostream) got included in Schmap Manchester Guide. It was made at one of the events where I went as my company’s employee, and it is credited to the company.

So, by way of giving a few pointers to what you’re going to find if you visit my Flickr:

All sets, and particularly Knitting and Lake District

Carmarthen Cameos (South Wales)


Bolton (a Lancashire town in Greater Manchester county)


North Wales

Castles (only Welsh so far)

Museums, Art Galleries, Exhibitions (Beck’s Canvas, Liverpool Walker Art Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum)

Concert and Music Events (Tina Turner, Barbra Streisand, Toshio Iwai)

Russian Places (some of my childhood places)

York (I loved the city, will go again some time)

Yorkshire: Leeds and Scarborough

Lancashire: Oldham, Blackburn and Blackpool

Merseyside: Liverpool and Southport

Cheshire: Chester, Altrincham, Warrington, and Stockport

Midlands: Birmingham

Public Lectures (Slavoj Zizek rules!)

Festivals: Futuresonic, Manchester International Festival, Text Festival

The photo above is Cleopatra’s Needle from London 2004 set.

Victorian Art in the Walker Art Gallery

Although I didn’t get the chance last year to attend any events during Liverpool’s residency as a European capital of culture of 2008, I travelled to Liverpool just a week before Christmas for a meeting. And there I finally got to visit Walker Art Gallery, just in time to catch a retrospective exhibition dedicated to John Moores Prize winners of the past years, as well as the John Moores 25 Contemporary Painting Prize.

Before then, in September-October 2008 I was researching into Art and Poverty when I had to deeply delve once again into the 19th c. European painting, and particularly, the works of Pre-Raphaelites. Earlier in December 2008 I visited the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery that had the stunning Holy Grail Tapestries on display, as well as an exhibition of work of Ford Madox Brown. And between November 2008 and January 2009 I went to the exhibition of work of William Holman Hunt at Manchester Art Gallery. Not exactly because I loved it too much, but because twice I went with friends.

(I didn’t have to fill any photography permission forms at the Walker, but this was a requirement in Birmingham. On my Flickr, you can view the Walker set and the BMAG set).

I am posting this photo from one of the Victorian halls at the Walker also with the view to introduce a great blog about Pre-Raphaelites that I found recently: Pre Raphaelite Art. The blog is updated very, very often (something I’d love to do here and elsewhere) and is a wonderful treat to all who love Pre-Raphaelite painting. If you haven’t found it yet, I hope you do now. As for me, I’m grateful to the blog’s author for using a LinkWithin widget; I didn’t know about it.

And to round it off, a cast of William Holman Hunt’s hand from the Walker:

Liverpool - Walker Art Gallery, The Cast of Hand of William Holman Hunt

Christmas Decorations at the Walker Art Gallery

Last week was quite eventful for me. I organised an impromptu visit to Liverpool, then to Hyde Park in, er, Hyde, and on Saturday I paid a sad visit to Woolworths at Salford Precinct. Check out all the BBC news on the subject of closure of one of the oldest and most familiar brands around, or go directly to this dedicated page about the closure sale, complete with a video report and audio slide show about the wonder of Woolies.

I was not impartial to Woolworths myself, and in my over five years in England I have visited it quite often. I wasn’t a regular customer, but I will certainly miss their sweets stall.

Nevertheless, Christmas is just around the corner, and the festive fever is growing. From outside my window I can see into another flat, and there they have over a dozen of Xmas cards displayed on the sill. I’m receiving and sending most of my cards by email this year, although I will have had a few paper ones by Dec 25, too.

Also, today is the first day of Hanukkah 2008. I know this isn’t New Year yet, but one of my reservations for 2009 is to be slightly more observant of the main religious holidays. Not in the sense that I might begin to practise them, but rather that I do not forget to greet my readers when it is appropriate. I have written about Christian (or rather Orthodox) Easter; the 2008 Xmas label is dedicated to Christmas, and now I am going to wish the Happy Hanukkah to those of my readers who may be observing the rites. Those of you who want to know more about this Jewish religious holiday are very welcome to go to what is indeed the ultimate website about Hanukkah.


Schmap Liverpool for the iPhone

There has been much talk about iPhone. I particularly liked Robin Hamman’s documenting the growing queues outside the phone shop on 11th of July (left). I followed a few discussions on Facebook and elsewhere that centred on various aspects of iPhone, but then I received a Flickr mail from the Schmap team. Last year my photo of Liverpool’s Western Approaches was included in the e-version of Schmap Liverpool Guide, and now the photo is also available in Schmap for iPhone (right).

Schmap for iPhone has access to our full range of City Guides, plus a Local Search service powered by Yahoo!, and a unique Rotating Map feature that auto generates a map when you turn your iPhone sideways…

Interested? Go to Schmap for the iPhone to read more or to browse the city guides.

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