In the past a lot of what I have published here has been deep down deep down darkness and my truest of feelings directly from my soul. Some if not most of that kind of content can be taken as ‘sad’ or ‘low’, so it is with pleasure that I present to you a largely positive post. It is the 1st of July 2022 today, and for me these days the month of June is a bittersweet one for multiple reasons. The beginning being a sad period of loss and the end being hard for me because of that loss. But this year I was determined to make something more out of June, and with a lot of planning an expense, and the cooperation of good friends, I think I did. Let me tell you about it.
At the very end of May, which was by far my busiest month of events and experiences in my x40.co.uk journey so far this year.. My seventh event of the month was to be a trip down to Bradford-on-Avon to stay with one of my closest friends BT and his family. During the trip we were attending Thruxton for the early season round of the British Touring Car Championship. That trip ran from the 28th of May till the 31st, so I am wanting to include it here as the first in a series of events that took place during my ’40th Birthday Celebrations’. If you want to read more about the Thruxton BTCC meeting and the days spent with BT, please go and read the x40.co.uk article about it here.
Moving into June and continuing with the Touring Car theme, the next main event would be to attend Oulton Park to watch the BTCC for ironically the 2nd year in a row, after firstly attending back in 2021 with BT. But prior to Oulton Park, on the day before, the Saturday.. I met up with Potter who then drove us to Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport to collect an international visitor (or kidnap), who would be staying with me for a few days, and staying in total for nine days in the UK, just to be a part of the celebrations. Stefan arrived after his plane finally decided to stop doing laps around Liverpool and actually land. We dropped off his bags at the house (after getting lost twice on the way home), and went out to grab some food. Grab some food did we! I think we might have grabbed it all because after a failure (from two of us) to properly read the menu, we were brought just about every dish of onion rings and chips in the place. We re-visited Allerton Hall, which is a nice venue to eat at for sure.. We just ordered far too much food.
After all the food and conversation we returned home for an early night for my guest after an early start and a long day of traveling, most of which seemingly spent in the sky above Liverpool. For tomorrow, the Sunday was to be an early(ish) start and a long day out again… At Oulton Park. We were to meet Potter and his Brother & Mother at the track, and also coming down to the track (for their first time at a race track) was Craig & Kev. We later found out it was Stefan’s first time at a circuit too. Also present was Joe (for UG, the one who had all the mic issues, turns out he can actually speak)… When we arrived, which was later than we’d said but not ‘late’ at all, we were guided to our parking space which was thankfully right near the exit of the venue, which would be good for us later on. We walked down towards the arranged meeting place and found out were were the last to arrive. Somebody was already warming up my chair for me… We had a good chunk of time to kill before any on-track action started at 12:30pm, so after a while of sitting, Kev, Joe, Potter, Stefan and I decided to take a walk back up to the Paddock as the circuit virgins had never been before. All were surprised just how close we could get to the cars, drivers and teams, and Kev even stuck his thumb into a tyre… We returned after discovering what we thought was a truck with race cockpits in it was actually a truck with steering wheels connected to really shitty remote control cars… But we did get / steal a kwik fit bag each.. oh and a flag.
We returned to the rest of our group on the inside of Dentons corner opposite lakeside where the big screen was located and chatted till the start of the racing. Kev & Craig had packed a feast of a packed lunch for the entire gang, and we tucked into that as the on-track action began. The food was too tempting to sit and take photos of, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.. But it introduced me to something I liked very much… Corned Beef & Red Onion sandwiches… oh YES please! You can read up more about the Oulton Park trip if you wish to via x40.co.uk. Some of the guys took some good photos and some videos too, so my plan is to cut all that into some kinda memories video at some point, so look out for that if you are connected to us crazy UG lot, otherwise I am sure I’ll put it on the socials when the time comes. After we’d left Oulton Park (and after I’d got lost for the third time), we made our way to “The Riverside” restaurant that I like near Acton Bridge and the canal, where i’d last been with Mum a few years ago. We had a lovely dinner in there before making the drive home and getting home around 10pm. We retired for the night then, both Stefan and I knackered.
So on to Monday 13th June.. We both slept in for most of the morning, then got up for some breakfast. We basically chilled out for most of the Monday and after Irene kindly cooked us some food (because we couldn’t make our minds up about a takeaway), I decided to take Stefan on a little mini tour of Liverpool and some of it’s sights. We drove out to Crosby Beach first of all and took a walk around the Marina lake to the beach at the front and on to the beach to introduce Stefan to Gormley’s “Another Place” (Iron Men). Fearless Stefan left me talking to the first Iron Man statue while he went off to discover two or three more of them, much further out towards the North Sea and the Quicksand! After getting all the sand out of our shoes we returned to the car and I decided to stop near the Three Graces and let Stefan grab some photos of the iconic Liver Building and well, we both grabbed some photos of the Beatles statues… Once a tourist…
In the morning of the next day, Tuesday 14th June we went out early(ish) and took ourselves to The Beatles Experience at the Albert Dock. I’d never been before and Stefan wanted to go and take a look as his Dad was a Beatles fan. It was actually a really good experience. It is a museum of course with different exhibits, things to read and look at along the way, including a very accurate matthew street and original Cavern recreation, including Cilla’s Cafe. We exited through the gift shop, as you have to do in these places and were astonished by the prices of the tat emblazoned with the Beatles logo in order to sell it, and while we didn’t buy anything, you can really see were they make their money. After this we took a 20 mile drive north to Southport, were I ended up taking Stefan to an arcade called Funland (his first time in an arcade)! It was the kind where you pay real money into the machines and the pay out tickets that you later exchange for prizes. – The first machine Stefan goes on… is literally a game of Frogger. First money in. First go.. Jackpot 350 tickets! Unbelievable… as the tickets started to flow out of the machine… and then perhaps a little embarrassing as the tickets continued to flow out of the machine… five minutes later, the tickets, still coming out of the machine… In the end Stefan and I had earnt / won around 750 tickets which allowed Stefan to get for himself as a prize.. a little Among Us Yellow beanie keyring and some ‘animal eggs’.
After that we headed back to Liverpool and collected Stefans bags from the house. I dropped him off at his hotel room where he would spend the rest of his time in the UK. The room wasn’t a bad one, lots of space and plenty of beds..! We left there quickly and went to drop off the hire car back at the place and then walked home. Tired, we had some nice food cooked when we got in and chilled out for the rest of the night. I put Stefan on a bus back to his hotel later in the evening (and he had a ‘Welcome to Liverpool’ experience on the bus he later told me.. Eak! The next day, the Wednesday was for me to be a rest day as both Irene and I had appointments that day. Stefan was going to take himself out and about in Liverpool doing some sightseeing, but he was also tired from the previous three days!
On the Thursday 16th June, in the run up to the weekend, one of my closest friends and out of the UG guys, the friend I have known for 20+ years, DrDink (Dinky) was arriving via train. So in the afternoon Stefan and I set out to meet him at the station. It had been a number of years since we had seen each other (it always is with us), but I recognised him immediately and we collected him and headed home to dump his bags. Shortly afterwards we headed out again and into the City Centre where I had booked a table at Red Dog, a lovely American BBQ Joint we had been to years before. The first thing on our table was…? Nachos… you guessed right! Followed by some burgers and some drinks, yummy.
We’d missed our reservation at Neighbourhood through chatting and eating ourselves silly but it was fine, as for some reason I was thinking it was Friday already. Walking around town thinking to myself… where are all the people?! We ended up in a pub on Hanover Street called ‘A Head of Steam’… which ironically had been a pub I had last been in with my Mum when we met everyone prior to her meal for her 60th Birthday. But I’d personally never been past the window seats. At the back is an island style bar with plenty of space to stand up around the bar, which we did while we enjoyed a few pints, then moved to a table when one became free. The staff in there were lovely, and didn’t rush to chuck us out when last orders were called and they were closing up. We enjoyed our drinks and chatting about the forthcoming weekend of activities and fun… It started here. We got the bus home and Stefan stayed on to head back to his hotel, as to get some rest before the long day of Friday plans began.
Friday 17th June 2022. Day One of my 40th Festival… It was to start with some breakfast and a chill out in the garden in the sunshine with Stefan & Dinky, then around 2pm we would head into town with Irene in a taxi and meet Linda & John at a bar named Abditory. It is a hidden away bar in town off Queens Avenue, down the stairs. I still never got to see its insides as we had a table outside, but it was very nice. Relaxed pre-drinks drinks in the sun. Stefan actually had a drink.. we have photographic evidence to prove it too! Then it was time to go and hit up the Slug n Lettuce, which is the venue I had chosen for all friends and family to gather at from 16:30 onwards… On the way there, we found a Potter wondering around (well on his way to where we had just left, but he caught up) and we get to Slug n Lettuce. They prepare the table for us and we set about getting some drinks orders flowing. I’ll leave out the bad bits for now, but the staff could do with a little re-training, well no, the manager to be honest… anyway, people start to arrive when they can, getting in from work or traveling up.
It was a good turnout. I had Stefan, Potter, Dinky, Nikos, Sean, Jane & Caroline and later Crispy all travel to come and spend the evening with me as well as.. some of my family, not all could make it, but I was glad that those who did make it came out to celebrate with me. It was a good night in the Slug n Lettuce and our drinks started to arrive. Both Nikos and Jane brought presents for me along, which they really didn’t need to do. Them being there was more than enough for me. The drinks I’d ordered arrived on the table when most had turned up and we got down to business. There was Prosecco and Espresso Martinis’ galore. At one point I had around five drinks in front of me. I don’t recall taking many photos at Slug n Lettuce, but I am sure some people did, I shall have to ask. The drinks tower came with sparklers and firecrackers, that was fun.
Next at 9pm it was time to relocate to our next venue of the night… Jenny’s Bar. A 70’s retro disco hideaway which was available for me to book for the rest of the night. We were guided as a group towards Jenny’s Bar by Caroline who praised me on my choice of venue (did something right then). When we arrived they had set our our booths with shots of Cherry Sours awaiting us on the table so we all did those together and then they asked who’s Birthday the celebration was for, I said me (obviously) and moments later they came back to me with an extra shot of.. something on the house and told me that all my drinks would be free that night – how’s that for customer satisfaction! Brilliant. There are.. plenty more photos from Jenny’s Bar it seems.. all of them show us in various states of drunkenness throughout the evening.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself at Jenny’s Bar, and aside from a small run in with a beefcake of a bouncer who didn’t know how to do his job right, I think the rest of the group had a good time too… Late on / Earlier on, Caroline snapped this photo.. it’s about the best there is…
We were among the last to leave Jenny’s Bar as people had been filtering away throughout the night. Pat, John & Jordan left, then Elliot & Hannah. Next Irene & Heather left to get into a taxi at the same time. Jane & Caroline left and Stefan & Crispy left to return to their hotel for some sleep for Saturday’s activities.. Linda & John left and finally Sean, Dinky and I left, giving the bouncer a look on the way out. When arriving home we found Irene & Heather sitting on the couch in housecoats eating toast. Didn’t expect that. We chilled out for a little while, with a nice cold beer or two before retiring to bed, it was to be an early start in the morning.
Saturday 18th June 2022.. The Friends Only Day of activities & drinking… We started by being late for breakfast at Bills in town for a breakfast. Turns out it was a very expensive breakfast, but they all deserved it just for coming up to celebrate with me. The food was nice but it wasn’t as hot as it would have been had we been sitting inside where we should have been, but that is beside the point… Breakfast started the day.
Then it was a short walk over to the Pier Head to hot on the Mersey Ferry Cross the Mersey… which was the Cheezy part of the day, well it was supposed to be, but I think actually the guys enjoyed it.. I even had to stop the conversation when they played Gerry Marsden’s iconic “Ferry Cross The Mersey” when the cruise was ending. We stopped at the terminal afterwards for a coffee or two… It was chilly on the boat (ask crispy & Stefan). While at the coffee shop, we decided that this should be the place where we would present Potter with his.. gifts. Don’t worry, I filmed it.. it will make it into ‘the video’… Mwahahaha. While we waited for our coffee John K had been allowed out by his wife after she got to come out on the Friday night, so he joined us for coffee before kindly leading the gang of fit people (those who could walk) back into the city centre to our first bar / activity of the day… Meanwhile Kev, Craig and I got an uber which was an experience in itself! We arrived only moments before the rest of the gang, who I was later told were treated to a short detour to see the penis on the Victoria statue.. (only in Liverpool, literally)…
I took the guys to a place called Roxy Ballroom (Hanover Street), were we we to play a round of something called ‘Crazy Pool’… Golf.. on a table, with a pool cue.. I know it sounds stupid, but actually it was really good fun. The idea is that you have a drink or two while you are playing these ‘activities’ and you generally get worse and worse, while thinking you are getting better and better… There is a video that some kind person took during the crazy pool.. showing me failing at a hole.. several times over. But the funny thing is that Kev who was helping me.. also missed and then after I was finished, the next player up to the tee.. Crispy.. also had a disaster. Everyone else however.. managed it first try. Yes.. that video will make it to ‘the’ video too… We could have gone around again and with hindsight perhaps we should of, but I was sweating past myself from the heat in there anyway and we had to get to our next venue to continue our run of ‘activities’…
Next up was PINS Social Club, which I had chosen for its Karaoke Room as well as hire of a ping pong table and a pool table for the evening. When we got there, the lift was out of order.. Being one of the reason for me choosing this venue, this didn’t start things off well.. Then there was a problem with the Karaoke.. which was the other big reason for choosing that venue. So they had to refund it and instead we played Ping Pong and Pool for the 90 minutes we were in the venue for. I think everyone enjoyed it, or at least they said they did.. I did too, I was surprised that I could even play a little ping pong which is what I did, but I had some fun. Just not as much as I would have had doing the Karaoke and seeing Potter playing with his… toys… Neither I nor anyone else I don’t think took any photos inside the PINS venue, as nice as it was. Shame.
Kev & Craig had to head off about an hour into the activities at PINS and it was sad to see them go, but it had been a long day all around and they still had to get an uber back to the house to collect their car then drive home. So I am very grateful that they were able to come at all. After PINS, feeling knackered John suggested we go and find somewhere to get some food. He suggested seafood which was sharply turned down… then he suggested Japanese, which was again met with comdenmation… Then he suggested Chinese, to which most of us agreed. Looking around there was one just down the road. As we approached it honestly looked closed, and I was thinking oh god, what’s this gonna be like… But when we got inside, I was quite surprised, it was a traditional Chinese restaurant. Large round tables and lots of choice on the menus and traditional down to the fishtank. Unbeknown to me at the time, but the name of the Chinese restaurant was The Mayflower. A well-known restaurant of Liverpool and a particular favorite of my Mother in her time. After-the-fact, knowing this made it more special somehow.
We placed our orders for chinese food (except crispy who managed to find a steak in a chinese restaurant), and tucked in. It was lovely, and to be honest the perfect way to end a really good day out with my friends. While sitting at the table, I had some moments of realisation. I was happy. I was content with what we had done during the day and most of all, I was happy. I had the ‘Friends sitting around a table enjoying each others company TV moment”. It was the perfect way to end things. Afterwards we walked towards the ‘bar with the jail cells’.. which I’d never heard of but we didn’t make it. We decided at that point, as Potter needed to leave to go get his train and John had to head for his last bus home, to call it a day. I was content and happy to head off home for a cup of tea. Stefan and Crispy joined us and we got the bus back to the house were we sat and chilled for a while before sending Crispy and Stefan back off to their hotel. It was goodbye to Crispy at that point as he would be heading off home early the following morning. – Huge thank you to him for making the effort to come down, I hope he enjoyed his time up North.
Sunday 19th June.. when does it end?! Not today! Today we chilled in the morning and into the afternoon before heading back out into town once more. This time I wanted to take Dinky & Stefan to Arcanes in the Baltic Triangle for some classic arcade gaming action. Dinky and I have been before but it was good so we ended up heading back again. We probably should have headed out sooner to spend more time there, but after Friday and Saturday.. energy levels were somewhat drained! So in order to replenish, first of all we went to the Baltic Market food hall first to get some grub. I had a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich… Steak Sandwich.. absolutely lovely.
When we’d finished with the grub and finished playing around in the arcade we left via an uber back home. We were heading back to watch the Canadian Grand Prix on the TV and ordering a takeaway. We invited Irene to join us too and so we put our order in while Stefan tried to get the tv working etc. We missed the start by three laps, but missed nothing.. The dinner arrived, Stefan got to try his fish & chips in the UK from a chinese takeaway haha. But it was good, all enjoyed and we spend the night after the GP watching some animated film which was just interesting enough to keep me awake to watch… and when we get to the end Dinky says it’s about the 12th time he’s seen it… then we were looking for a classic and we found one… Airplane. Perfect way to end the night. Stefan got an uber back to his hotel and Dinky and I had a cuppa before turning in for the night.
Monday 20th June.. Really?! Yes really… But this would be the last. Got up reasonably early today as Stefan was heading to ours with his luggage as today was the day he was flying home and today was the day that Dinky would be getting his train home. But first.. the breakfast that we never managed to get yesterday… We had walked down to go to Rhubarb and when we got there some guy outside said the kitchen is closed.. I thought he was taking the piss… he wasn’t. There was no staff to staff the kitchen, so we never got to have the Rhubarb breakfast. Instead we found a place down the road called Milos where we got some breakfast instead. They had no black pudding.. and didn’t have what Stefan wanted at all, then the hashbrowns were hard as rocks.. We got some more but it was more of the same. We called it quits and made the slow walk home. (But I did it, walked there and back).
We chilled out for a little bit before not long afterwards it was time to call Stefan his uber to the airport, and Dinky an uber to the station for his train. It was sad to say goodbye to Stefan who’d been in the uk for 9 days at that point, and sad saying goodbye to Dinky too. After both had left I was going to head into town for a drink, but I didn’t feel like it, all my friends had gone, so I waiting for a taxi and got back home. Laid down on the sofa and slept till dinner time.
All in all, it was a brilliant way to celebrate my Birthday, with my friends and family around me. It was a big birthday, so who knows, if I make it to 50 perhaps it’s something we can do again… A huge thank you to all who could attend and made significant effort to come on up and celebrate with me and the family. They all enjoyed meeting you all and they could all see how your presence there with me was making me happier than I’d been seen in a long time. Nothing without you guys.
EDIT: The celebrations continued the following Friday night with a trip out to see a Bowie tribute act at the Camp n Furnace with family. Then my actual Birthday on the 26th was a really nice chilled out day in with presents. The Wednesday after that with a trip out to see a gig of a tribute band performing the entire “The Bends” album by Radiohead… That was the official end of the 40th Festival, and if you want to you can find write ups / reviews / blogs about each of those events via x40.co.uk.
Thanks for reading this huge post, hope the photos made it easier to get through. I am sure usual service will be resumed here shortly :).