Sunday 14 May 2017 – “Aida Vita” cruise ship at Liverpool Cruise Liner Terminal

This afternoon I decided to go and photograph and video the Aida Vita cruise ship which was berthed for the day at the Liverpool Cruise Liner Terminal. The vessel has been in Liverpool before, and I’ve photographed her before. To get some different photos and videos I decided to photograph her from Woodside then from the Mersey Ferry, enabling me to get some close up shots – such as the one above. You can view my videos/photos on my YouTube channel, or just the photos on Flickr. The Aida Vita is one of my favourite cruise ships to visit Liverpool with its colourful design.

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Operated by AIDA Cruises, the Aida Vita is identical to her sister ship Aida Aura. She was completed in 2002, is nearly 43,000 gross tonnage,  665.52ft in length and 92.19ft in width. She can travel at 21 knots and can accommodate 1,266 passengers and 426 crew. Originally using London as her port of registry, the Aida Vidais now registered in Genoa, Italy.

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On my way to Woodside I also took some photos of Hamilton Square, the Town Hall, Cenotaph and railway station.  You can view my photos on YouTube or Flickr.  The video is also at the top of this post. Also at Woodside I took some photos and videos of two old trams which are operated by the Merseyside Transport Trust and run from Woodside Ferry Terminal to their museum.  You can view the photos/videos on YouTube or the photos on Flickr.

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Saturday 24 December 2016 – My grandfather would have been 100 today!

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My maternal grandfather, James Hughes, was born on Sunday 24 December 1916. Today he would have been celebrating his centenary. Sadly my grandfather died in December 1988 just a week before his 72nd birthday. The photos above show him on his wedding day, in the back yard of his home at 85 Fountain Street, Birkenhead around 1942, and with his only daughter, my mother, Pat Nulty who is holding my brother Brian. Again this photo was at 85 Fountain Street, where he lived from around 1942 until July 1988. The photos below show him with my mother at 85 Fountain Street in 1977 and with his wife Winnie and me on Fountain Street on the day of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in June 1977. This is the only photo I have of me with either of my grandparents. My nan died in February 1978 aged just 60.

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Below is a video of some old family photos, including those in this post, from 1913-1983.  Also viewable on YouTube. The image you see below is me (right) and my brother, Brian, in 1967. It is the oldest photo I have of the two of us together.  It was taken by a travelling photographer at our grandparents home at 85 Fountain Street, Birkenhead.

Saturday 24 September 2016 – Birkenhead Transport Festival 2016 in Birkenhead Park, Wirral

For the first time I went to this year’s Birkenhead Transport Festival in the town’s main park, Birkenhead Park, which opened in 1847 and is the oldest public park in the UK. Designed by Joseph Paxton it was built on what was then swamps outside of the new town, which itself had only started to grow from a centuries-old hamlet into a modern town. Then based around Hamilton Square and the nearby shipyard of William and John Laird, the town’s developers were farsighted enough to realise the town would spread very quickly. Therefore they chose to build a park to provide a “breathing space” for the growing industrial population. The park was eventually surrounded by urban development, although  some of the land set aside for big houses around the park remained unoccupied well into the 20th century as a result of long economic depressions in the late 19th century. Some of this unused land was eventually incorporated into the park itself. The park is split into two sections – the Upper and Lower Park – covering 90 hectares. As a high-school student in the 1970s I went to Park High School, which had two campuses, one in each part of the park, and would often have to walk between the two schools through the park. We used the park to play cricket and rugby, the latter we played on a large field in the Lower Park which today was occupied by the Chinese State Circus.

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Above: The visiting Chinese State Circus and the Swiss Bridge (1847) – both in the Lower Park

Today, the Transport Festival was being held in the Upper Park, which had been sealed off except for the entrance where you could pay the admission.  To get there I walked through the Lower Park from the main entrance to it on Park Road North – known as the Grand Entrance. While doing so I took some photos and videos, which are on my YouTube Channel. (below)The Park has been restored in the last few years after decades of neglect. The Swiss Bridge and Boathouse were both magnificently restored. Both date from 1847. The Swiss Bridge was damaged by an arson attack around 18 months ago but thankfully has now been restored – again.  You can now walk across the Swiss Bridge again. For several decades the bridge  was deliberately cut off from the rest of the park after constant vandalism. I walked across it last year for the first time since the mid-1980s (and that was when the lake was frozen over).  You can see the photos I took on that day last year on my Flickr Site. Birkenhead Park today is looking magnificent again after so long being forgotten, underused and misused.

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Above: The Grand Entrance on Park Road North, the Boathouse (1847) and the now-accessible Swiss Bridge. Photos 22 June 2015

The Transport Festival was fantastic with lots of vintage cars, buses motorbikes,, steam engines, fire engines and British and US military vehicles. They’re was even a Spitfire, with a man and a woman dressed as Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine walking around a World War 2 display of which the Spitfire was a part.  There was also a fairground, including a Ferris wheel, a carousel, side stalls and the terrifying-looking Sky Ride. There were displays of horses and dogs and many stalls selling food & drink, souvenirs, jewellery and various other things.

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Above: motorbikes, buses and steam engines – plus “Winston and Clementine Churchill”

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Above: military vehicles, World War 2 period displays and vintage cars galore

You can see just the photos I took today on my Flickr Page or watch them on my YouTube Channel. (below) The videos I took today are also on my YouTube Channel. (also at top of this post)

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Above: a “GI” and a “Tommy” pose for my camera, carefully hiding their polystyrene (styrofoam) cups they had just bought

their coffee in behind their backs; The Sky Swing ride; a small steam engine; the carousel and Ferris wheel

Friday 1 July 2016 – Trying out my new Nikon camera

I spent today dodging the rain on Merseyside to take some photos with my new camera. Some are below.  You can see more of my photos on Flikr

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Dark clouds and the MV Boudicca (Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines) at the Liverpool Cruise Liner Terminal.

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The MV Boudicca and the Memorial to the Heroes of the Engine Room

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Three Graces at Liverpool Pier Head – Royal Liver Building, Cunard Building & the Port of Liverpool (Dock) Building. The Cunard Building celebrates its 100th anniversary on Sunday.

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Hamilton Square, Birkenhead: Hamilton Square Station, Birkenhead Town Hall, Birkenhead Cenotaph.

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The Liver Birds on the Liver Building photographed from a mile away across the river at Woodside. A pigeon is unperturbed by the camera.

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The Liverpool waterfront seen from Woodside. A composite shot of 9 individual photos.

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Detail on Liverpool Cenotaph, St George’s Plateau. Today is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme

Saturday 7 November 2015 – Weeping Window Poppies at St. George’s Hall, Liverpool

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I went into Liverpool city centre today to see and take some photos of the poppy tribute to the soldiers who died in the First World War. It went on public display at St. George’s Hall today. The display, made up of several thousand ceramic poppies is called Weeping Window and is made up of poppies that were used in the Tower of London exhibition last year. The poppies are draped over the steps of the Hall and creep up between two of the columns. The poppies, which are surrounded by sandbags, are illuminated at night.

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The poppies in Liverpool today will be travelling the UK over the next three years before being given a permanent home at the Imperial War Museum. The remaining poppies from the Tower of London displays have already been sold off for charity. Sadly, many of these are now being sold at grossly exaggerated prices online.

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The original displays in London last year, called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, were comprised of 888,246 ceramic poppies – each representing an individual British or Commonwealth soldier who died in the 1914-1918 War.  The displays were designed and created by ceramic artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper. Both men have since been awarded for their services to the commemorations of the War.

Paul Cummins expressed concern that the original Tower of London displays may have not happened because of the massive pressure to complete it. At one point he, Tom Piper and the volunteers were having to create and deliver 60,000 poppies a day.  Tom Piper added that “It was a big, big risk. We only had 20 volunteers on site at the start. Obviously, the Royal visits helped. But actually we were really fascinated by the individual stories.”

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After a bidding process from several cities to host the smaller displays, Liverpool impressed the organisers with its plans for the display, beating out dozens of other bids.  The tour of the poppies is aimed at allowing people around the UK to see the poppies and highlight that culture is not confined to London. A condition on getting the display was that it must be free to view.

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Tom Piper added that: “It’s very exciting to think of the work we’ve done being in a very different location. It’s somehow in keeping with the essence of the piece.”

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Above: Artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper with volunteer Lyn Newsham, Mayor Joe Anderson and a 14-18 NOW director Jenny Waldman. (Photo: Liverpool Echo/Gavin Trafford)

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Tomorrow’s Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph will use the Weeping Window as a backdrop, which is near the poppy display on St. George’s Plateau (above).  St George’s Hall and the Plateau outside has been a focal point for demonstrations, protests, memorials and celebrations of all kinds for most of its 160 year history.  The Hall was also once a court and many notorious killers were sentenced to death there.  The Hall became the focus point for the enlistment of men at the start of the First World War. More than 1,500 had joined up in two days and tens of thousands would go on to enlist at the Hall. Many formed the Pals regiments – groups of men from the same companies or the same community enlisting and serving together.  Some 13,000 men from Merseyside were killed during the War.

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….all photos included above, except the Liverpool Echo one, are mine and were taken today.

Link: 14-18 NOW poppy commissions

Link: Yorkshire poppy display

Link: Tower of London poppies

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In other news related to the First World War, this week saw the 97th anniversary of the death of the war poet Wilfred Owen. Although born in Oswestry in Shropshire in 1893, he moved with his family at the age of four to Birkenhead. His family’s move was forced upon them through financial difficulties. His father took a job at the town’s railway comapny.

They briefly moved to Shrewsbury but were back in Birkenhead quickly. This time  his father became a stationmaster at Woodside Station – the town’s principal station. Wilfred went to the Birkenhead Institute before going to the Shrewsbury Technical School when the family went back to Shrewsbury in 1907.  He discovered his love of poetry in 1903 or 1904 while on holiday in Cheshire. He was influened by the Bible and by the Romantic Poets, notably John Keats.

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Owen also attended classes at what is now the University of Reading and in 1912 worked as an English and French tutor in Bordeaux, France.  When War broke out in August 1914, Owen was in no rush to enlist and even considered enlisting in the French Army. Finally he returned to England and enlisted in October 1915. After training he was commissioned as a second lieutenant. He initially showed contempt for his men’s loutish behaviour, calling them “expressionless lumps” in a letter to his mother.

A series of traumatic events changed his perspective on life, and on his poetic imagination. He suffered concussion, was blown into the air by a trench mortar and spent several days stranded on an embankment with the dead body of a fellow officer. He was diagnosed with shell shock (neurasthenia) and it was while recovering in Edinburgh that he met his fellow poet Siegfried Sassoon. This was to have a transformative effect on his life.

He socialised with intellectual types and did some more teaching while in Scotland. He was then considered fit for regimental duties and spent a contented winter in 1917/1918 on light duties in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, before being transferred to Ripon in March 1918.  He turned 25 while in Ripon, spending his birthday at Ripon Cathedral. It would be his last birthday.

He finally returned to active service in France in July 1918. It seems that he had the option of staying permanently on home-duty but decided to return to France. Siegfried Sassoon had been shot in the head in France and was now back in England on sick-leave for the remainder of the War. Owen felt that he had to return to France to ensure that Sassoon’s voice continued being heard – revealing through his work the horrific realities of the War.

At the start of October 1918 he led units of the Second Manchesters to storm enemy strong points near the village of Joncourt. He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions. Owen aspired to win the Military Cross in order to justify himself as a war poet. The medal was awarded posthumosuly in 1919 with the citation reading:

“2nd Lt., Wilfred Owen, 5th Bn. Manch. R., T.F., attd. 2nd Bn. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in the attack on the Fonsomme line on October 1st/2nd, 1918. On the company commander becoming a casualty, he assumed command and showed fine leadership and resisted a heavy counter-attack. He personally manipulated a captured enemy machine gun from an isolated position and inflicted considerable losses on the enemy. Throughout he behaved most gallantry.”

Owen was killed in action on 4 November 1918 during the crossing of the Sambre-Oise Canal. It was a week, almost to the hour, before the signing of the Armistice. He had been promoted to Lieutenant on the day of his death. His mother, to whom he was devoted, received the telegram informing her of his death on Armistice Day – as the church bells were ringing out in celebration. He is buried at Ors Communal Cemetery.

There are memorials to Wilfred Owen in Gailly, Ors, Shrewsbury and in Birkenhead Central Library. His name is also on a slate plate in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner which commemorates 16 great war poets. The inscription on the slate is from Owen’s Preface to his poems: “My subject is War, and the pity of War. The Poetry is in the pity.”

There are also two small museums to Owen. One is co-dedicated to Sassoon and is at the Craiglockhart War Hospital, now a Napier University building in Edinburgh.  The second museum is in Birkenhead, on Argyle Street close to Hamilton Square and not far from the site of the former Woodside Station where his father worked.  Owen’s former home Maison forestière in Ors (where Owen spent his last night) has been transformed into an art installation and permanent memorial to Owen.

Link: Wilfred Owen Association

Link: War Poetry

Monday 12 October 2015 – Thirty-four years since leaving High School

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This is me on the 12 October 1981 back at home in Oxton, Birkenhead after my last-ever day at school! I went to Park High School, as it was called then – it is now known as The Birkenhead School. I was sixteen. I had stayed on into the sixth form, which started in September of that year, but within a month had had enough of the place and left.