In the afternoon we filed into a line getting aboard the Magical Mystery tour bus. Our fellow travelers represented a wide assortment of ages and nationalities and the bus was completely full and very hot. As we boarded the bus, Beatles music started playing. The tour guide was a cute blond guy, naturally a huge football (rugby) fan. He kept reminding us how many times Liverpool had taken home the trophy cup . . I think it was 5 times. He knew his stuff tho, he played John Lennon's best friend in a recent movie and worked with Paul as a stage manager . . . at least once. A lot is crammed into the tour and it is spread out across Liverpool which necessitates "drive bys" for some of the sights.
We see George Harrison's birthplace at 12 Arnold Grove, we see the church where Paul met John 50 years ago, we see the house where Ringo was born, and Paul's childhood home, which is part of the National Trust. We see the Linda McCartney cancer clinic and the bus stop where Paul and George used to wait for the school bus and talk about guitars.
Heading down a very narrow street, the song "Strawberry Fields" starts playing and we get ready to file out of the bus to take pictures at the gate. The brass sign was stolen years ago, but it was fascinating to see the places that inspired songs that we have sung for years. "Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about . . . Strawberry Fields forever." A legacy for a former Salvation Army children's home. Our guide tells us that the "hung about" referred to John's Aunt Mimi worrying that he would accidently hang himself while climbing over the gates and climbing the tree branches when he snuck into the deserted grounds to play.
Not far from there, we start hearing the beginning notes from "Penny Lane." As we drive the neighborhood, the tour guide points out the elements of the song: here's where the barber shaves another customer, here's the fire station, and ohmygosh, here is the "shelter in the middle of the roundabout where the pretty miss is selling poppies from a tray."
"They're just ordinary places" a teenaged girl on the bus tells her dad. He was obviously a huge fan, and told her that it didn't matter. He always wanted to see them. And it was a lot of fun to put the pieces together. As popular as the Beatles became, the tour illustrated how they reached back and used their memories of growing up in and around Liverpool to shape popular culture in the '60s.
The tour ended at Matthews street, home of the Cavern's new location. The old Cavern, the site of the early Beatle gigs before Ringo joined them, was demolished for a street project. We asked the tour guide to suggest a place we could go for a fish and chips dinner, and he recommended "The Grapes" which was a pub frequented by all of the bands playing the Cavern because it had a bathroom . . . and the Cavern didn't. The street has basically become a tourist stop for Beatles stores, but the fish and chips were great.
Tomorrow is my last full day in the UK. Haley and Mary will travel on toward the north for another week, but they are going to take a detour back to London to drop me off before continuing their journey.