Sunday, October 18, 2009

Adventures in England, Part 09

Friday, October 09, 2009

It was a long, hard day for us, but loads of fun. First, we walked into the middle of Ormskirk where we accomplished several missions. We left our thank-you note to Mrs. Williams with Kath, the estate agent. We had a copy made of our one and only key to one of the doors. Now we each have a full set of keys. We bought a gift for Demetrios’ boss.

Then we caught the bus to Southport, where we paid our solicitor another 15 pounds for which he had sent us a bill. Demetrios said we should buy saucers, too, which we forgot when we bought the rest of the dishes. I said no, because we’re only going to give those things away when we come back. He said they should be given away WITH saucers. He’s right. So we bought the 4 saucers.

We then had a good time looking around in that store (Broadbent & Boothroyd’s) and at the home department of Debenham’s, and noting things we ought to acquire on our next trip, notably things for the bathroom.

I don’t know what it is with bathrooms around here, but none I’ve looked at personally or seen in pictures ever has a medicine cabinet or a shelf or rack or cupboard. The result is, you have to line up your shampoo and shower gel and deodorant and hairspray and such along the floor, or a window sill or ledge if you have one.

After we’d killed a lot of time window-shopping, we crossed the bridge to Ocean Plaza and had supper at the Premier Inn’s restaurant, because right outside of it is where the British Musical Fireworks Championship was to be held, beginning tonight, and lasting 3 nights, with 7 competitors.

I had Sticky Toffee Pudding again, this time served with custard. “Custard,” here, has the color and approximate taste an American would expect it to, but it’s served warm and in a small pitcher. You pour it over your dessert.

Afterward, we joined numerous others out on the patio to await the start of the British Musical Fireworks Competition.

It was TOO DARNED COLD! Southport, because it’s right on the ocean, is always colder than Ormskirk, 7 miles away. The wind was up, too. So we departed. The place was full of vendors selling flashing toys: light sabers and flashlights with whirling, colored lights and the like.

We were just about at the top of the arched bridge when the fireworks display opened up like a cannonade and we stood there, transfixed. These were the most beautiful fireworks we had ever seen, and the fanciest. There were explosions of color with explosions of color within still more explosions of different colors. Demetrios said, “We’ll miss our bus,” but we didn’t care. Standing there in the press of the crowd, it was somewhat warmer, so we stayed 15 minutes, until the end of that particular competitor’s first round.

Then we trudged the rest of the way across the bridge, ducking into Silcock’s Funland to warm up before continuing. The place is basically full of slot machines and other money-eating gadgets. I watched a man try that thing you’ve seen in which you try to pick up a stuffed toy with some hooks. It looks easy, but the catch is, the toy keeps falling out as you move it toward you. You put in another 50 pence and try again, with the same result.

The Victorian carousel was all lit up and going, but we didn’t stop; we were too cold.

On past the statue of Queen Victoria to Lord Street, under the glass arcades as far as Christ Church, then across the street and to our bus stop.

At the bus stop, we met a loquacious man named Billy. He was probably around 60, but possibly younger than he looked. He was badly shaven and wearing a soiled knit cap. He wasn’t waiting for any bus, he mentioned. He said he had stopped drinking 4 years ago because it had been killing him. (I sat beside him and I made a point of seeing if I could smell any alcohol on his breath; I could not.) The thing was, since he had stopped going into the pubs (except for cigarettes), life had become very lonely. The only people he had known had been drinking buddies. His wife had been married twice already since she left him; his children had long ago given up on him. So he was sitting here to pass the time, dreading to go back to Formby, he said, and his empty house. We suspect he’s actually homeless, and he was sitting here for shelter from wind and rain. It’s hard do know how to help people like that. A few pounds won’t really accomplish much.

Back in our own warm, happy home, we brushed our teeth and tumbled straight into bed, exhausted.