Sefton Park, LIMF and Deaf School

Aigburth and Sefton Park, Liverpool. The park of my childhood, we lived in Ampthill Road, just a short walk away. I flew my first kite, caught my first stickleback and spent many happy hours climbing the trees in this park. My Uncle had a house in Livingstone Drive and the vans for our family business, S & R Smyth Removals, were stored in Lark Lane. The area has played a large part in my life.

Last Monday another chapter was added to my Sefton Park story. I enjoyed an hour in the sun, watching Deaf School perform at the Liverpool International Music Festival.


I first saw Deaf School in 1974 at O’Connors, but who I went to that gig with is a mystery. All lost in the misseds (sic) of time. I can’t recall who first introduced us to the band, it was definitely a work colleague though. I worked in Hendersons, with my kid sister and I have this niggling feeling that whoever it was was connected to the band. Anyway, we followed them for several years, our kid reckons we saw them eight or nine times, I am inclined to think more like ten or twelve. Let’s not argue.


O’Connors was a favourite venue for us, must have seen the band three or four times there. O’Halligans and Matthew Street for the Jung Festival and Erics. Metro and the Uni all at least once. In the early days, before the band had a big following, we would sometimes have a drink and chat with the band after the gig. On one occasion a group of us were invited back to a post gig party, no idea whos place or where, think it was up by the Peter Kavanagh. Great night.


The band split and I and many others mourned their passing. Played the albums and reminisced.


I had seen adverts for reunion gigs, but sadly could never get to them, too far away or no money.


That is until last Monday.


Since the gig was announced I had planned on going, the news the week before though made it look very unlikey. My wonderful partner was diagnosed with bowel cancer. We had a turbulent week, but she was very insistent that I go.


So there I was, standing in a field, feeling excited, happy, sad, somewhat jaded (me and an old friend had drunk all the gin in Peter Kavanagh’s the night before). The band came on and played with all of the enthusiasm and energy that I rememberd. The warmth and humour was still there, in abundance. My tears flowed and I sang along (very badly), memories came flooding back. People, places, past times. Sadness that Sally wasn’t with me. Hapiness that I was twenty again and in my hometown.


That Monday will go down as one of the most memorable gigs of my life, for many reasons. Great to see the band and be recognised (cheers Steve), lovely to chat to Ian, nice to rub shoulders with Enrico and Bette (Steve and Anne, you still have that magic)


Wonder where and when I will see them play again?


For an hour in the August sun, this middle aged man was twenty again and very, very happy.




I remember

I remember. . .  my first steps, towards my Aunty Hilda,in our house in Oakwood Road. . . school milk being frozen in the bottle. . . ice on the inside of the bedroom window. . . dripping butties for school snack. . . being an ink monitor. . . bunking off school and having a cup of tea with the binmen. . .fishing for tadpoles. . . making a bike from bits scrounged from the rubbish tip. . . my first day at big school. . . getting the cane on my first day at big school. . .and the second time, later the same day. . . not liking big school. . . being bullied. . . really not liking big school. . .leaving school and burning all my books. . .my first job. . . my first kiss. . . my first pint of Guinness. . . my first nightclub. . . the taste of scotch whisky. . . the stomach pump. . . going away to sea. . .Amsterdam. . . Gibraltar. . .Plymouth. . . Home. . .decorating with my lovely Uncle Wally. . . The Greenhills. . . being unemployed. . . Toxteth riots. . . miners on strike. . .picket lines. . . police charging at us. . . Thatcher. . . my BSA. . . the open road. . . Star Castle. . . leaving Scilly, in a hurry. . . Mold. . . potholing. . . my girl being born. . .my tears. . . her smile. . . the lack of sleep . . .gardening. . . upholstery. . . my bigger BSA. . . the CBR. . .Sky Balloons. . . the sadness. . . depression. . . Cleethorpes. . . Signhills. . .the car crash. . .one year backpacking round the world . . .skydiving. . . meeting Sally. . . La Herradura. . . Whitby. . . Idris. . . holding a newly born Lucy. . . tears. . . Seville. . . losing Madge. . .saying goodbye to Dad. . . gaining an Audrey. . . holding a one hour old Matthew. . .tears. . .Begur. . .John Needham. . . Luarca. . .

I remember.

Now, even the bad bits make me smile, wistfully maybe, but at least I am smiling.

I remember how lucky I am.

The Spanish cat lady

There are a few cats near to where we are staying in Luarca, mainly scrawny looking bags of bones. They are fed each day by our neighbour, an elderly lady with a warm smile. She puts out cat biscuits and milk for them, with the occasional leftovers.
One particularly scrawny cat has had two kittens recently. Both white, with piercing blue eyes, just like their mother. We passed as one was feeding from her. The kitten carried on, intent on its task. The mother fixed us with a cold stare, the second kitten lay nearby, waiting its turn.
Yesterday morning, returning from the village, we saw the corpse of one kitten, sprawled on the path. Flies darted round its lifeless eyes and mouth. In this heat, with their attention, it would not be long before life returned to the body.
Later in the day I saw the old lady, feed box in hand, go looking for the cats. In my best schoolboy Spanish I told her that one kitten lay dead. Well I think that’s what I told her, anyway, she got my drift.
She fed mother and remaining kitten.
Slowly she walked to were the dead youngster lay. Stopping, she genuflected. Knelt down by the still creature and brought her hands together in prayer. She said a few soft words, gently stroked its head and stood up. Gently reaching down she picked up its stiff body and walked slowly up the path.
After a few paces she looked down at the kitten and shrugged. Then without breaking stride she tossed the dead animal over a wall into the garden of a derelict house.
She smiled as she passed me, said thank you and carried on feeding the remaining cats.
Life goes on in Asturias.

The Journey

Previously. Flew from Doncaster to Alicante. Plane full of blinged up, heavily tattooed, alcohol fuelled people, each trying to out shout the other. All bound for an all inclusive holiday on the Costas. They went one way, we went the other, to La Herradura.
Small town in a bay, low built Parador hotel on one headland. Our villa and its random complex, on the other. No large hotels in between. Few small family run places, none bigger than a dozen rooms. Plenty of tapas bars and one English ‘pub’ that advertised Full English breakfast and Sky sport.
No idea what it was like inside, the outside put me off.

This time. Stanstead. Peaceful airport, very quiet passengers, predominantly Spanish. Destination Oviedo, Asturias.
Our eventual destination, Luarca, arrived at after a slow train ride.

The journey introduced us to the Asturian people and their reputation as the friendliest people in Spain. In all of my travels through this, one of my favourite countries in the world, I have never encountered such warmth.