Wednesday 7 October 2015

Tasks 47 & 29: Use my senior rail pass to visit Antony Gormley's Another Place sculpture on Crosby Beach, Liverpool

In my view one of the simple pleasures of life is to take a trip by train - and since using a senior railcard is a rite of passage for any self-respecting retiree of 60 and over, it seemed an ideal task to include on my sixtyat60 list. Andrew and I agreed that in order to complete the task with maximum effect (ie the biggest saving), we needed to buy a day return and travel as far as possible during that day. We settled on Liverpool as a destination because I've never ever been there before and it seemed a do-able distance to travel in a day. 

Ah yes, Liverpool......renowned City of Culture and birthplace of the Beatles. And on its outskirts is a district called Crosby, which boasts not only a very fine 2-mile beach, but also Antony Gormley's 'Another Place' sculptures, known locally as the iron men of Crosby. I've been wanting to pay my respects to the iron men ever since their installation ten years ago. So another great task for Sixtyat60 - and a perfect fit with Task 29 to boot. 

We purchased our senior rail tickets (overall saving of £72 - yay!), reserved our seats and set off bright and early last Friday morning. Our journey was to take us from Haywards Heath to Blundellsands & Crosby via Euston, Liverpool Lime Street and Liverpool Central (sorry, did I just detect a stifled yawn there?) On the Euston to Liverpool Lime Street leg, Andrew had the window seat. He stared out of the window and looked thoroughly at peace with the world. I sat by the gangway, wrote up my Dennis Severs' House blog, ruminated over my feeble performance on Splash FM radio the previous day, talked tiny tattoos with daughter-in-law Liz and ate a croissant very messily.  A Beatles song popped into my head - '...she's got a ticket to ride but she don't care....' 

We arrived in Blundellsands & Crosby (such a lovely name for a station) at 1.30pm and strolled down the road to Crosby beach. The weather was totally sublime - not a breath of air, not a cloud in the sky and the sun's warmth on our backs.  We'd been a little fretful that the tide would be high and the iron men submerged from view, but not a bit of it! This is our first sighting of the installation.

Altogether there are 100 sculptures. They were made from casts of Antony Gormley's body and are positioned far and wide across the beach, all looking out towards the horizon. Some have been placed deeper into the sand and others are slightly elevated on small platforms. They've all weathered in different ways, according to their positions on the beach and the ebb and flow of the tide. 


Antony Gormley describes the sculptures as 'a middle-aged man trying to remain standing and trying to breathe'.  They looked to me as though they were practicing mindfulness meditation. I was mesmerised by their air of quiet contemplation. 

My reveries were eventually disturbed by Andrew, who coaxed me over to a van to buy ice-creams (they were 99s after all). 

Then for a short time we became a little irreverent towards the sculptures. Hoping that no Liverpool or Everton fans were watching us, Andrew draped a Crystal Palace scarf and hat around one long-suffering individual.

I formally completed Task 29 by standing next to a sculpture (having first removed all traces of the Palace shenanigans). 'I wanna hold your hand' I said to him.  'Let it be' replied the sculpture with an air of quiet resignation.   

Then we meandered along Crosby beach, watching local people enjoying the afternoon sunshine and their dogs diving into the shallows to retrieve sticks and balls. A group of small children arrived with their teacher to do some drawing. Two huge oil tankers crossed the horizon slowly. Smoke billowed from a factory chimney in the distance. And all the time the iron men stood in silent reflection looking out to sea. 

All too soon we had to leave this beautiful setting and returned to Liverpool city centre to catch our train back to London. But the tranquility of Crosby beach stayed with us, and I found myself staring out of the window in a state of serene harmony.  Well OK, the prosecco probably helped too.

We arrived home at 10pm and another Beatles song popped into my head - 'daaaay tripper yeah......Tasks 47 and 29 proved to be a stand-out combination.  Do go and see the Another Place installation if you can - I promise you'll be glad you did.  

I'm doing the sixtyat60challenge to raise funds for Alzheimer's Research UK. For further information or to make a donation please visit my JustGiving page at  

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