Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Ride The Weekend Waves

Some weekends do not stick to the script. This can, at times, be a blessing. Most people, including myself, have an inherent resistance to having their hands forced, but the unforeseen could be considered a test of adaptability.

Last Saturday, my family and I drove the requisite five kilometres from our home to what is a picturesque, and generally sunny, coast. (I could never again live very far inland.) It is always enjoyable to watch the kids run riot in the open air after five days spent cooped up in school (Figure 37.1). As they clambered across grass and sand-covered rocks, there was nowhere I – or indeed any of us – would rather have been. Nothing mattered, until we learned that a family member had been rushed to hospital, in North Wales. From then on, nothing else mattered.

Figure 37.1: Riding the weekend waves for real

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery

After making all the necessary logistical arrangements, my partner and I found ourselves driving down the A483 late at night, in search of Wrexham’s Maelor Hospital. In spite of the inevitable anxiety, we knew that our loved one would be in capable hands; keyhole surgery is one of Maelor’s specialities, and the condition was not life-threatening.

The following day – Sunday – we discovered that the necessary procedure had been carried out, promptly and with no apparent ill-effects immediately thereafter. Knowing that visiting hours did not begin until mid-afternoon, we drove to one of our favourite haunts: the city of Chester (Figure 37.2). We parked on the windswept City Road, midway between the railway station and the wonderfully authentic Old Harkers Arms, and wandered along the canal towpath, stopping for breakfast at an understated trattoria called the Peppermill.

Figure 37.2: Last Sunday in Chester. Apart from Big Ben in Westminster (London), Chester’s Eastgate Clock is reputedly the most photographed in England.

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery

Now, visiting Chester without seeing the Groves would be like travelling to San Francisco and neglecting to see the multiple hairpin bends of Lombard Street. We walked further along the canalside, chilled but happy, before climbing the steps to the Roman and medieval City Walls behind the cathedral.

Down on the Groves (Figure 37.3), we seemed to gravitate, without a word spoken, to a tiny place from our past: the Blue Moon Café (Figure 37.4), about which I enthused in Pictures Of This And That (January 2011).

Figure 37.3: Information about the Groves can be found at:

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery

Figure 37.4: The Blue Moon, retro café extraordinaire, on the right bank of the Dee

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery

I am sure everyone has occasionally daydreamt about time-travel. I have often looked at old black-and-white photographs and wondered what the world was like before I was born (1966). Spending an hour or two in the Blue Moon is the next best thing to a ride in a time machine (Figure 37.5).

Figure 37.5: Not quite 1966, and lost beneath umpteen layers of winter clothing

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery

Surrounded by original posters, photographs and record sleeves, the place almost convinces me that I was born ten years too late. Knowing that all had gone smoothly at the hospital, we relaxed over lunch, with the music of the Drifters, Procol Harum and Gary Puckett and the Union Gap filling our heads. I am not qualified to claim that life was better back then, but I suspect that it was more relaxing, being far less complex and cut-throat than it is today. Pop music was certainly different, reflecting a gentler era: less aggressive and centred not on sex but on love (Figure 37.6).

Figure 37.6: ‘But don’t forget who’s taking you home
and in whose arms you’re gonna be.
So, darling, save the last dance for me.’
Doc Pomus & Mort Shuman (1960)

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery

We finally arrived home late on Sunday night – tired, relieved and pleasantly surprised by the consequences of having had our plans disrupted. Get well soon, abuelita!

Copyright © 2012 Paul Spradbery

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