The morning after my little four bar pub crawl in Cork, I caught a bus and a plane off to England. It was at this point in the trip when my budget was beginning to get tight. Thankfully, I was headed off to stay with family and hostels were off the table for a good amount of time.
I landed in Liverpool and was wandering around the terminal when I heard a thick accent call “Tyla!” It was my uncle Ian there to pick me up. It was the first time I had seen him since I was just a very very very young kid. Right away Ian and I hit it off. He was a lovely fellow and full of all kinds of family history: which was funny because he married into the family. He wanted to know the craziness he was getting involved with I suppose. After a quick drive around Liverpool we went to Billi’s place who is my Nana’s younger brother. That’s where I would be staying. A lot of the family came over in the evening, some I had never met before, other’s I had only “met” when I was young beyond remembrance. The evening involved Billi and I having a drink and me learning a bit of family history. After I finished my drink I was about to say I was going to go to bed when Billi swigged back the rest of his and said, “Get me another one too,” implying I was to get another one as well. This repeated a few times until I poured myself a coke and rum, hold the rum, and drank it all in one go. I was now able to excuse myself politely to go to sleep. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to chat with Billi (in fact I was enjoying learning about my family), but I was exhausted after traveling.
The next day, Ian took me around the city and showed me a lot of family and Liver history after a proper english breakfast of bangers n mash at his house. We went to the house my Dad grew up in on Daisy Street. I found out my grandpa was the last apprentice shirt cutter at Watson and Prickard. I saw the old dock where the Empress of Canada set sail bringing my Dad to Canada when he was young. Ian showed me the Cavern club where the Beatles played when they were first starting as well as the Strawberry fields school and John Lennon’s house. He showed me the Liver birds around the city and shrapnel covered walls from when Hitler was trying to bomb Winston Churchill’s bunker in the Liverpool blitz. We visited the football stadium and I learned about the tragedy that happened there when fans were trampled and crushed to death. I also learnt that our family are Everton fans. Ian really knew a lot and after a while I was understanding his scouser accent as well. Families who have been in Liverpool for long periods refer to themselves as scousers. Scouse is a stew that, like many stews, was a mix of many things throw in a pot. This reflected the city-port nature of Liverpool and those living there saw themselves as a mix of all the cultures that came in and out of the port-city.
The evening of the next day I met up with Conner, who is my cousin and about the same age as me. As soon as we met we hit it off. We both talked about a lot of the travel we want to do, the family, and he was also a beer connoisseur so we had plenty to talk about on that topic. His girlfriend joined us and we went for dinner and then started a bit of a pub crawl. The unfortunate thing was I had already been in a pub since noon with Billi so I wasn’t well equipped for a night of drinking. So of course, after a small amount of time my memory of the evening began to blur. I do remember a few things though, such as telling Conner and his girlfriend multiple times, that they need to come to Canada. Sometimes, immediately after I had already said it. I also am able to recall the specific moment the night took a bad turn: Conner and I were discussing beers, whats good, whats bad. And then we began to discuss hard liquor to which I told him very few were any good in my eyes. So then he asked, “well what’s your least favourite shot?” “Tequila,” I said. “Right,” he then turns to the waitress, “Two shots of tequila!” The worst part is after this, he ordered four shots (two each).
The next day I felt terrible (obviously). I was staying at my aunt Patsy’s place (Conner’s mum) and spent most of the day sleeping and being miserable. Somehow Conner made it to work. I had a bundle of postcards in my coat when Conner and I were out and they had fallen out somewhere. With Conner at work it was up to me to find the pubs we had visited. It felt a little bit like the Hangover movie. Eventually I did manage to find them. Kindly enough, the bar was going to post them for me had I not turned up. When you’re traveling, everyone wants to have a drink with you because who knows when you’ll see each other again. After a while, it starts to get out of hand when it’s every few nights. However, it was amazing to finally meet my family and see where I come from; plus, I’m a short guy, but whenever I’m around family I feel like a giant. That evening I managed to get in my farewells and the next morning I was accompanied to the train station by my aunt Carla, aunt Patsy, cousin Georgia and great aunt May. Aunt May said it felt like she was shipping me off to war when in fact I was just taking a short train ride to London to see some of my mom’s side of the family. I thought to tell May how old that made her sound but held my tongue. Instead I’ll just write about it here and hope she never sees it… Sorry May! My time in Liverpool was a real recharge. It felt like home. Whatever home is.
In London my cousin Rhue met me at the train station and set me up at her place while she stayed at her boyfriend James’ place. After some quick groceries and introductions we sat out back, no shoes on, and had some tea. It was great, and a real nice change of pace. It was nice to relax and not go out, especially go out and drink: I needed a break. Perhaps a long break. Rhue took me around London and showed me some of the typical tourist sites as well as some of her favourite spots. There was a countryside-looking neighbourhood on a river which was gorgeous but for the life of me I can’t remember the name. Her friend Tarik joined us who I came to like very much. He was a hilarious guy. While the three of us sat at a cafe a dog sitting there began to bark at the gardener. Who was black. The dog didn’t seem to have a problem with anyone else who had come by so Tarik made the obvious remark, “That’s a racist dog.” It was a little bit disturbing but I had heard of stories of people training their dogs to react like this. Actually, its very disturbing.
Rhue and I went to the Museum of Natural History which I thoroughly enjoyed. They had an exhibit dedicated to a (probably) Neandertal footprint recently discovered on the British Isle. I’m an anthropology student, so the chance to see the exhibit was great. Rhea’s friend Maddy also had an art exhibit on which was really neat. It had a lot of interesting work there. There were some prints I wanted to buy but wasn’t sure about what to do about getting them home. Rhue and I also went to her boyfriend James’ graduation from Brunel University. There was a day downtown when I was getting a haircut that an ENDLESS stream of nude cyclists rode by. And I mean endless, it went on and on. While in the downtown core we also visited the downtown skatepark Southbank and bought a Tshirt to support the park from closing. All of this happened over the span of several days because the tube actually took a long time to get anywhere. However, a big part of that was how far out of the centre Rhue’s place was.
We decided to stay in the neighbourhood one evening rather than go into London. James lived with Tarik and their place wasn’t far from Rhue’s. Tarik was also a computer scientist and had an oculus rift, which he was working on to make new interactive technology for. This was my first experience with the oculus and let me tell you: Virtual reality is scary! First I was on a roller coaster with a digital body below me. Suddenly I couldn’t remember what I was wearing and looked at this digital body as if it was mine. The roller coaster also induced all those terrible feelings in your stomach a normal roller coaster does. Next, things got weird. Tarik uploaded a game he had never played. I was wandering around in a wooded area at night when I found a cabin. Inside I could see a light and what looked like a little girl. As soon as I walked in the cabin the light went out and she disappeared. I wandered around in panic and ran away from the cabin but then had her appear right in front of me. Regular horror games are enough in your face already, but this was literally in my face! James commented after that he would have taken the oculus off and thrown it at the computer.
Another night we also stayed in the neighbourhood and went to a nearby bar to see the Antarctic Monkeys, which were a Arctic Monkeys cover band… obviously. There was a random guy, who then introduced himself as Mitchell, who said my accent worked in England like his does in America. I don’t think that’s true but I rolled with it. He wanted me to hangout with him to help him pick up girls. Tarik decided to steal his idea. Suddenly I was helping him pick up girls with my Canadian accent and then HE decided to be Canadian as well. However, I have no idea what kind of accent he was talking in. It certainly wasn’t Canadian. We had some elaborate story where we were cousins. When asked why we sounded different I had to explain that he was a Newfie. With Tarik’s luck, he tried picking up a girl who would be traveling to Canada soon and wanted to stay pen pals and maybe get together in Canada. It was all starting to unravel but he stuck it out. They even exchanged emails.
I had a lot of fun in London. The best nights were when we stayed around and I got to spend time with Rhue and her friends. Before I knew it I was off again and headed to Spain. There I would be meeting Rhue’s mum Janet. I didn’t know it at the time, but Spain was going to be some of the most challenging bit of travel I would do.