Episode 2 – UK Part 1
After our Icelandic adventures we headed south to Edinburgh to begin a road trip that would take us from Scotland to London over two episodes.
Knowing that we were starting in Scotland I wanted to have a couple of uniquely Scottish experiences. Surely nothing says Scotland more than bagpipes! So I began by researching bagpipe manufacturers. There were plenty of large companies manufacturing this extraordinary instrument but I could not believe my luck when I stumbled upon David ‘Blue’ MacMurchie of MacMurchie Bagpipes Makers. All the planets had aligned. Here was an Australian bagpipe maker, the same age as me and born in the same Australian city as me, who had gone on to become a pipe master playing at Edinburgh castle and was now making handcrafted bagpipes in West Calder. I simply had to meet him.
As expected Blue was a delight with a wicked sense of humour and an undeniable passion for his chosen craft. And my experience was perfectly rounded out watching, and photographing, young Scottish piper Calum Watson playing one of Blue’s handmade pipes at sunset overlooking Edinburgh. A magic day!
Apart from Bagpipes the next Scottish specific experience that sprung to mind was golf. St Andrews golf course in Scotland is considered the birthplace of the game of golf. However, I wasn’t looking to play golf so much as live it. And to do that we headed to the famous Carnoustie Golf Links home to the British Open on many occasions. It was one British Open I had firmly in mind though. In 1999 French golfer Jean van de Velde squandered a three shot lead on the last hole of the British Open to eventually lose the coveted trophy in a play off hole. I wanted to re-live that famous golfing meltdown and who better to take me through it than Derek Reid who was there on the day in 1999 and still works at the course.
What fun. Derek was the perfect host with his frank and amusing commentary. His recall of that fateful day was spot on and our recreation of Mr van de Velde’s golfing nightmare was as accurate as you could possibly imagine – with some license.
It was time to bid Scotland farewell as we headed to Liverpool for two more uniquely Northern England experiences. En route we treated ourselves to a stopover in the spectacular and photogenic Lakes District.
Of course I was flat out with the camera trying to capture the beauty of this renowned holiday destination but I was also looking for a unique experience. I hadn’t looked at whisky manufacture in Scotland because I had my eyes on the Lakes Distillery. The whisky manufacturer claimed to make a British whisky incorporating Scottish, Irish and English blends into their recipes for the golden liquor simply called The One. Distillery Manager, John Drake, was our guide and I was amazed to learn that the first stage oif whisky making is essentially making beer. From there the maturation and meticulous brewing procedures create the nectar that we got to taste and relish.
The interesting challenge was finding a photograph that summed up the experience of visiting the distillery. As so often happens the shot I chose a shot that related to the symbolism around the distilleries philosophy – the Quatrefoil.
Onward we travelled to the marvellous city of Liverpool home to one of my favourite bands of all time – The Beatles. I wanted to have the best Beatles experience possible so we headed to The Beatles Story, a fabulous museum packed with memorabilia that traces the band’s history. Then out into the streets of Liverpool looking at band member’s houses, Strawberry Fields and Penny Lane. These adventures give a clear understanding of just how the band was enmeshed in the Liverpool community. To finish our Beatles day what better than to watch the Beatles Tribute band sing the hits. AND I got some stage time too. BONUS!
I make no secret of the fact that I am a mad Liverpool FC fan so I wanted to find an experience that revolved around this club and it’s proud history. Unfortunately access to players and the pitch is virtually impossible for obvious reasons so I decided to take a different angle. We set out to explore the relationship fans have with their club by taking a young aspiring player to visit the LFC Women’s team at training. Young Markus Keen had the time of his life meeting his heroes and training with them. AND he taught me a thing or two, like how bad I am at football!
To finish our fan experience I invited Tamsin and her mum Tracey to join me at Anfield for game day. Tamsin had never been to the ground to see a game and it was thrilling to see the excitement in her eyes. The really poignant moment though was watching Tracey and Tamsin lay my Liverpool scarf on the Hillsborough memorial as they reflected on the 96 souls that lost their lives in a stadium collapse and subsequent panic in 1989.