For many years now, I have wanted to explore the areas where John Lennon and Paul McCartney grew up in Liverpool. They both lived a stones through away from each other in the Liverpool suburbs of Woolton and Allerton. Well, maybe a bit more than a stones throw if I am being brutally honest but it’s all part of the romance right? John lived with his Aunt Mimi at 251 Menlove Avenue between 1945 and 1963 whilst Paul resided at 20 Forthlin Road.
I jumped the 76 bus and hoped off only a few hundred yards from Mendips. It was quite surreal standing outside a house that once housed a young Beatle. John’s Aunt Mimi didn’t like him playing his guitar in the house so he was often sent to the front sun room to learn his chords. Everyday, bus loads of fans and tourists arrive to do exactly what I was doing. They come and go so fast though that I really doubt weather they have time to fully soak up the atmosphere. For a brief while, I sat down outside on the grass and played “Julia” from The White Album and thought deeply of how John had only just begun his relationship with his mother when she was hit by a car and killed on July 15 1958.
I wept a little thinking about my own mother and the ongoing battles with her own health and how I will cope when she is no longer around.
Wiping the tears away, I decided to walk to Paul’s house and along the way, imagining walking the same route that John and Paul would have together to write songs and play guitar in each other’s company. The day was a typical summers day for Liverpool with beautiful warm sunshine and a gentle breeze in the air.
Twenty minutes of so later, I found myself standing outside 20 Forthlin Road. The stroll there took me past some beautiful parks and lovely houses. This of course, was the residence where a great deal of the early Beatles material was written. There’s nothing too exciting from the outside to witness. In fact, compared to Mendips, it’s quite placid. I politely interrupted a couple of ladies across the way as to get a photo outside to which, the taller of the two happily obliged. She mentioned that Paul still swings by for a visit with friends every few years and will happily stop for a chat. He owns no less than 15 luxury pieces of real estate in both America and the U.K. these days. The boy done good!
Once I’d had my time to take it all in, I walked back to Mendips for another look before heading around the corner to visit Strawberry Fields.
As I arrived at the now replica gates (they were replaced in 2011) I noticed the BBC were there interviewing Jim Bennett (designer and producer of the replica gates) regarding the upcoming project to regenerate the area which will include a new Beatles museum on site. After his interview was completed, Jim gave me a good half an hour of his time to discuss the project, his life and our mutual love for Liverpool football club.
Feeling a little overwhelmed by my morning so far, I boarded the bus back towards the city, jumping out at Penny Lane. I’d been here around 8 years ago and to be honest, aside from the street sign, Penny Lane has not a great deal to offer. There is of course, the bus shelter at the roundabout mind. Legend has it that the song was actually about Lark Lane in Sefton Park but Penny Lane sounded better. Having once lived around the corner from Lark Lane, I can understand why.
There is also now a subtle hotel that runs by the name of Penny Lane Hotel. I popped in for a spot of lunch and a cup of tea and was pleasantly surprised to see how well it had been set up. Very stylish and classy. All the dining tables have Beatles album covers on them and there is even a Beatles jukebox available to play. I am most definitely going to book a night here when I return later this year. I think you should do the same!
Once I guzzled down the last crumbs of lunch (well, it was actually an all day breakfast), I made a bee line for the bus back into the city before boarding the train back to Huddersfield for the night. The entire day was a beautiful experience and most definitely one I am glad to have embraced. If you ever think of doing this mini tour yourself, stay away from the tourist trap buses and cabs. Get yourself into the 76 bus, use your smart phone maps cranking and take your time to soak up the rich history of The Beatles. It only took me 17 years of regular visits to England to do this but I finally got there as you should too.