Celebrating My 21st Birthday!

One week ago, I turned 21! Yes, that does mean my birthday was on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which is why I decided to primarily celebrate my birthday the day before.

My parents drove 200 miles to Liverpool from home on the Friday night, and arrived at my uni house early on Saturday morning – with a bunch of stuff I’d left at home in September in tow. This was quite an amusing collection of things – reheatable hand warmers, a new jumper, my waterproof coat, and some other bits and bobs. When I moved into this house 2.5 months ago, I had belongings spread around the country – it took some time to figure out where everything was!

We didn’t linger in the house long; we walked down to Liverpool’s Key Lime Café, where they serve a variety of breakfasts, including American style pancakes alongside more savoury things like Eggs Royale. After a leisurely breakfast there, we headed to Central station and hopped on a train to Chester.

We’d decided to spend the day there rather than in Liverpool, as my parents had never been and I enjoy going. I think it’s almost the perfect city, in my mum’s eyes – plenty of history, interesting architecture, good size, but without the same mania that can surround places like London.

My entire family has a thing about history, I think – we’re all interested in it, and so I knew my parents would enjoy seeing the cathedral. We spent quite a long time in there, actually; I think we spent an entire half an hour trying to find one particular feature by a window… it turned out to be on a different window than the ones we were looking at. But by this point, my dad had a hankering for a coffee, and I was a little hungry, so we went to the cathedral’s café for lunch.

It was at this point, while we were waiting for our food, that my mum decided to reveal what she’d been lugging around all day in her backpack – when I’d enquired what was in it, her answer had been “space”. For some reason, I actually believed her! But, alas, she unpacked a collection of coloured envelopes and presents.

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Photos courtesy of my dad, who a) has a far better camera than I do, and b) was the only one to actually bring said camera with him… I forgot mine. I was also paying absolutely no attention the fact he was taking photos.

Now, in all truth, I hadn’t been expecting this – I knew their stay in Liverpool wasn’t going to be cheap, and I’d already had an intended-21st-birthday-present earlier in the year (awkward timing meant it arrived a little closer to my 20th birthday instead!). Nevertheless, I received a pair of earrings (which I’ve worn every day since), some perfume, chocolate and notebooks from my parents, and some other jewellery and cash from other relatives, which I’m very grateful for.

After lunch, we left the cathedral and had a bit of a lazy wander around the city walls and exploring the city, including a visit into a tea shop (my parents are definitely tea people, I can’t say the same myself) and an old pub with a good few centuries of history behind it.

Soon enough, the sun was starting to set and we went over to Miller and Carter for dinner – and odd thought, considering I’m pescetarian and they’re primarily a steakhouse, but they had a fair menu of non-meat dishes so I had salmon. I’m pretty sure my dad had steak, but I have no clue what mum ordered! Terrible memory, I know. I think I was a bit caught up in conversation to notice.


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The next morning, my parents turned up bright and early at my house again (it was now my actual birthday) and we went straight back to Key Lime Café for breakfast. This café is conveniently positioned opposite Lime Street Station, and thus in close proximity to St George’s Hall, where Liverpool’s Armistice Parade was due to take place. As we ate our breakfast we saw various groups of people in various uniforms getting ready for the parade.

We were careful to leave the café with a good amount of time before the parade was due to start, and managed to find a fairly good place to stand, a little way to the left of the monument pictured above. It was a lovely thing to watch; the crowds filled the area and during the ceremony, poppies were released from the roof of St George’s Hall, and petals were released from the top of the radio tower – the wind was blowing in the right direction so they all fell over the plateau and crowds.

I didn’t capture any of the parade and ceremony on camera; aside from the fact I forgot to bring my camera again, it seemed a bit inappropriate. But I had my poppy on, and my mum grabbed a programme they were handing out beforehand, and she managed to catch a few petals (that woman is amazing), so I do have some souvenirs.

After the ceremony had finished, we waited for the barriers to be moved so we could get closer to the monument (which I have walked past dozens of times and know quite well, but we wanted to see the wreaths). Then it was down to the docks to find some lunch, because the world would have turned upside down if an outing with my family didn’t largely revolve around food!

Sadly, the early afternoon meant it was time for my parents to leave. We got a taxi back to my house (instead of the 30+ minute uphill walk), and then my parents were off on their journey home.

So yeah, that’s what I did for my 21st! I’m never that big on birthday celebrations, and celebrating at uni can be a bit weird when your friends and family are miles away, but it was really nice to spend this time with my parents.

My First Time at a Northwestern Beach!

I’ve been spending over half of my time at Liverpool since autumn 2016 while I complete my studies at university here, and one thing I had never managed to do in that time was visit a beach up here. Well, no more! Last Monday, I and two housemates hopped on a train to Formby Beach.

We actually hopped on two of the same train, in the end – we didn’t realise that you have to go one stop further than Formby, to Freshfield, to get to the beach at first… the nice man at the station told us we were one stop short!

The beach was about a kilometre’s walk from the station, which was pretty much in one straight line down the road, and then we walked in through the National Trust entrance. We hadn’t really looked up what was at the beach before going, having heard by word of mouth that it was good, so it was a nice surprise to find out how much forestry there was around it.

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The photo above was from the side of the car park. It was a beautifully sunny day, which was a bit of a surprise – it was far warmer than the forecast had predicted! On the opposite side of the car park to these trees, however, there was an ice cream van situated by a sign pointing towards the beach. After a quick stop for my friends to grab an ice cream each while I took photos, we dutifully ambled past the sign and into the trees.

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It turned out we took quite the nature walk before arriving at the beach! There weren’t really any signs once you got into the forest, although after about ten minutes, we did find a fallen tree by the side of the path, on which was painted ‘BEACH’ with an arrow pointing to the left. With my friends busying themselves with their ice creams, they basically followed my lead as I assumed that as long as I followed the fence, we’d probably arrive at the beach at some point…

… and then I got Google maps out when they lost faith in my leadership. But we were going the right way! We just needed a little assistance at the end.

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We emerged from the trees into a series of sand dunes, which I won’t lie, got me a bit excited. As a former geography student whose field trips were largely situated on beaches with sand dunes, it had been a while! I got very picture-happy and sort of rushed off ahead, both in search of the actual sea and just because I felt like it. My friends did decide to call me Dora (the Explorer) for the rest of the day, though…

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In the distance, we could see the wind turbines from the Burbo Bank offshore wind farm. I know some people don’t like them, but I really do – both because of the clean energy they produce, and because I think they look quite serene. They could definitely have designed uglier turbines, that’s for sure.

We’re fairly certain the land mass we could see in the distance to the left, some distance behind the wind turbines, was Wales, and according to the GPS on my phone, we were actually directly across from Dublin. (Couldn’t see it, of course, but it was nice to know.)

We put our towels down on the flat sand at first to eat lunch, because we were all really hungry by then, but we were on the north west coast of England, so there was a fair amount of wind chill! So, once we’d eaten with the sea view in front of us, we retreated back into the dunes so we were protected from the wind a little more.

At this point, none of our phones had any signal, which was a bit of an odd sensation considering we weren’t that far from civilisation. But seeing as we’re all arts and humanities students, we’d all packed a book each to take with us, so we spent a good few hours switching between reading and chatting (and, in my case, wandering up and down the dunes).

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Around half four in the afternoon, we decided we probably ought to start heading back from the beach in order to find food. We weren’t exactly sure on which direction we had come from, so we proved just how youth-in-the-21st-century we were and had to rely on the GPS telling us which direction we were facing while I led us to the car park – at which point, we discovered a far easier route to/from the beach than the one we’d taken! But what’s life without a bit of adventure?

All in all, it wasn’t quite what I’d expected from my first time visiting a northwestern beach in England. I had harboured suspicion that there’d be more touristy shops like the ones you’ll find at many south coast beaches, where you can get buckets and spades etc., but I suppose that’s unlikely at a National Trust reserve! And I’d also expected rather worse weather and rougher tides, though I’m sure on a day with worse luck that’s probably what you would find… What actually happened was that I got very sunburned feet.

So that’s that! I leave you with this: it turns out northwestern beaches in England can actually be far more pleasant than you might expect, and never put your sun lotion on while wearing socks unless you’re 100% certain you won’t be taking the socks off.