Walking down to the Royal Infirmary

Royal Infirmary01Yes I know the Royal in Liverpool isn’t called that any more. But I’m calling it that because it sounds more like a song. You know, ‘St James Infirmary’ and all that classic jazz and blues and country stuff. And, Sunday though it is, I’m shortly off to walk to Liverpool’s biggest and ugliest hospital.

But I wanted to start all this with music. Because I’m delighted to report that my life is currently full of it. After several months of semi-deafness I’m suddenly hearing out of both sides of my head. And my joy is unconfined.

Hank and other treasures not really appreciated until now.

Hank and other treasures not really appreciated until now.

Last night, for example, I played my new-to-me 1950s Hank Williams LP three times on the run for the sheer joy of being able to hear it. This was made easier by Sarah being away at the moment. Obviously, with human company, playing anything three times on the run would be hard to get away with. But on your own? It’s my life, my LP and besides – in the months of hardness of hearing it’s one of a good few LPs I’ve barely heard at all. Until now.

Then this morning, that weird once a year long Sunday morning when the clocks have gone back and you feel all luxurious about time, I’m partly reading. But mostly putting the book down so it won’t interrupt the music. Because Cerys is on and, again, it feels like months since I’ve heard her properly. Cerys Matthews that is. And we’ve even had a short exchange, very, about how delighted I am to hear her and her Zouk and Turkish and Bowie and Dust Bowl Sunday Roast selection.Cerys1

So what’s the word? Happiness, yes that’s it. About music and about feeling well after several months of sensory deprivation. Even as I write Cerys is playing Richard Burton reading ‘Under Milkwood’ to an instrumental ‘Under Dubwood’ reggae backing. Deep joy.

So why am I about to walk down to the Royal Infirmary for a CT scan as the newly shortened day no doubt darkens?

Well to make sure for one thing. That this is real recovery. That the five months of viral infections have really gone and not left behind any structural damage in my ears. I’m fairly sure they haven’t, but I’m no medic and I’m grateful for them to check. And also because this is the way pre-planned appointments can sometimes happen now in our beloved and besieged NHS.

When the letter came putting the scan back to a Sunday I rang up to make sure. After all it’s a long running complaint, hardly an emergency and I’ve never had an appointment on a Sunday before? I was reassured that these days it’s become normal. Fitting in ordinary appointments with fewer staff and less resources?

Anyway, as Cerys begins her tribute to Jack Bruce who died yesterday, time to get ready to go out and walk to the Royal Infirmary.

Across to the Mystery.

Across to the Mystery.

Playing football in the afternoon light. It's only just after half one.

Playing football in the afternoon light. It’s only just after half one.

Past the new swimming baths, sorry, 'Aquatics Centre'

Past the new swimming baths, sorry, ‘Aquatics Centre’

Old swimming baths still here. 'Lovely tiles' people say.

Old swimming baths still here. ‘Lovely tiles’ people say.

Along Glynn Street, one of our last cobbled streets.

Along Glynn Street, one of our last cobbled streets.

Out onto Wavertree High Street and our threatened library - 'But beautiful'

Out onto Wavertree High Street and our threatened library – ‘But beautiful’

Past the car wash.

Past the car wash.

And under the main Liverpool to London line.

And under the main Liverpool to London line.

In fact the railway’s the reason this is hardly the most attractive approach to central Liverpool. But we’ll come back to that.

There are good settled streets here though.

There are good settled streets here though.

And even the old Cambridge pub is still open.

And even the old Cambridge pub is still open, though it’s a called the Boliari coffee bar now.

But this bit of Wavertree road is all about the railway.

But this bit of Wavertree road is all about the railway.

Industrial and forbidding on both sides.

Industrial and forbidding on both sides.

Though some development going on here now.

Though some development going on here now.

I doubt that they’re building a harbour though, especially as they can’t even spell it. Apartments, student apartments? Just a thought.

And it doesn't look like much.

And it doesn’t look like much.

But this is one of the places where railways began.

But this is one of the places where railways began.

That's Edge Hill Station. In there somewhere.

That’s Edge Hill Station. In there somewhere.

Explored fully elsewhere on this blog.

We're also passing to the second location of William Roscoe's Botanic Garden.

We’re also passing the second location of William Roscoe’s Botanic Garden.

In fact we’ll soon be coming to a surprising place that’s survived from those Georgian days. Not just yet though.

Pat 1980s housing built behind false hills.

Past 1980s housing built behind false hills.

I’m never sure what this is about, there are some along Parliament Street by the Women’s Hospital too. Is it to stop us gathering on spare flat common land? Letting our goats and cattle run free? Or is is about possible highway expansion? We are after all in the area where the M62 might have entered Liverpool.

And it's all about the roads here. Even the surprisingly surviving pub is a billboard.

And it’s all about the roads here. Even the surprisingly surviving pub is a billboard.

Or maybe not so surprising?

Or maybe not so surprising?

As the cursed Housing Market Renewal Initiative of Labour’s shame has actually produced a few new houses round here.

Nice enough, as we say in Liverpool.

Nice enough, as we say in Liverpool.

Maybe lived in by some people who lived nearby, now paying out on new mortgages for years to replace something that they once owned?

Like just next to these?

The traditional closed shops.

The traditional closed shops.

And empty fields.

And empty fields.

That HMRI always leaves behind.

That HMRI always leaves behind. Along with people’s memories and paid off mortgages.

But look, Are those Georgian houses on the far side of the land the inhabitants have been driven from?

Yes, just past what was once Freeman's Department Store - yes this was a settled and reasonably prosperous place.

Yes, just past what was once Freeman’s Department Store – what was a settled and reasonably prosperous place.

Is this. Welcome to All Saints.

Is this. Welcome to All Saints.

And the little area of Georgian Streets that cluster around it.

And the little area of Georgian Streets that cluster around it.

Royal Infirmary31 Royal Infirmary32 Royal Infirmary33

Looking down Mount Vernon to the city.

Looking down Mount Vernon to the city.

I suddenly feel like and realise that I’m standing on a borderline.

Standing in the past, looking at the future?

Standing in the past, looking at the future?

One side of a giant new road is where the housing ends.

One side of a giant new road is where the housing ends.

The other looks like a castle wall.

The other looks like a castle wall.

Welcome to the Hall Lane Strategic Gateway.

Welcome to the Hall Lane Strategic Gateway.

Better known as the place where the M62 finally arrives at the city gates. Swooping down along a finally widened Edge Lane to meet a finally constructed inner ring road. Dreamed up between the 1940s and 60s. Here I am, standing on the edge of the future of Liverpool. And it’s still about cars.

They're building a new one round one of the old ones. Working the diggers on a Sunday.

They’re building a new Royal Infirmary round one of the old ones. Working the diggers on a Sunday.

I’m working my way steadily across a huge junction where I wait a long time each time to get priority. Looks like you’re not really supposed to walk around in this future. This future where we pay fees to build our universities. And fees to be treated in our hospitals.

And on the left side of the junction is what looks like a new town going up.

On the left side of the junction is what looks like a new town going up.

The town of the University of Liverpool.

The town of the University of Liverpool.

I'm inching my way round the ring road and the building works.

I’m inching my way round the ring road and the building works.

To get to my CT Scan appointment in the old hospital.

To get to my CT Scan appointment in the old hospital in the background there.

Past the 'Private Finance Initiative' that is the new one.

Past the ‘Private Finance Initiative’ that is the new one.

Meaning we'll all be paying shareholder's dividends for years to replace something that is our's.

Meaning we’ll all be paying shareholder’s dividends for years to replace something that is our’s.

The new hospital's well underway. Car park first of course.

The new hospital’s well underway. Car park first of course.

Though to be fair (for once) this is where the staff are now parking while the rest of the place is a building site.

Though to be fair (for once) this is where the staff are now parking while the rest of the place is a building site.

Nearly there now.

Nearly there now.

Round the corner from Kensington and down the hill.

Round the corner from Kensington and down the hill.

Past a plucky bit of surviving radical art.

Past a plucky bit of surviving radical art.

To this.

To this.

Yes, here we finally are. At the 1970s replacement for the previous Royal Infirmary.

A vision of stunning brutalism.

A vision of stunning brutalism.

A monument to what got called 'design' back then.

A monument to what got called ‘design’ back then.

I’m old enough to have been treated at its predecessor and to have watched it slowly rising into the skies in the early 70’s in disbelieving horror. No one should ever have had to work in this, be treated in this, or die in this.

Nevertheless, it's a place where the brilliant NHS staff have performed miracles every day. for all of us and to their eternal credit.

Nevertheless, it’s a place where the brilliant NHS staff have performed miracles every day. For all of us and to their eternal credit.

I walk into the Royal.

I walk into the Royal.

And yes I'm still taking pictures. It's brutally ugly but, you know, it's our's.

And yes I’m still taking pictures. Because you know what? It’s our’s.

And there’s not one of us hasn’t walked along this corridor in fear, joy, worry, trepidation, despair, elation or grief. So it’s a sacred place.

Still and all I am here for my own appointment, so I put the camera away for a bit. And find, despite my usual rambling through 200 years of history and politics, that I’ve arrived half an hour early. Never mind, I’m just getting my book out when I’m called in.

And it looks like this,

I don't remember the comforting image of a blue sky, but the rest is pretty well right.

I don’t remember the comforting image of a blue sky, but the rest is pretty well right.

I don’t even have to take my walking boots off.

“Unless your ears are in your feet!”

As I’m cheerfully told.

I lie down, it glides me in, an unseen hand moves me back and forth a few times as soft lights whizz around my head, my sinuses, my ears. And fifteen minutes before it’s even my appointment time, I’m done.

“Results’ll be with your doctor in the week.”

Wow. Then, though I’ve not actually been treated at all, I feel I need that post-clinic sit down and a cup of tea that must be some animal self-caring instinct we have when finished at a clinic.

But the WRVS café is closed and the Costa's full. So I leave the hospital.

But the WRVS café is closed and the Costa’s full. So I leave the hospital.

Passing this sign on the way to my sit down and a drink.

Passing this sign on the way to my sit down and a drink.

Oh, really? Will Carillion and their shareholder’s make our tomorrow a better place? Better than what I’ve just experienced? Better than that cradle to grave, basic human right, done with grace and humour and efficiency, and in such scientific splendour that I’ve just experienced? Yes, we need a new building. Yes we do. But not one with tills at the end of the wards. Not one where I’d have just had to take out my debit card to pay again for something I’ve already been paying for all my life.

I need that sit down. And just down the road?

Where better?

Where better?

TJ's café. A place of light, splendour and friendly service.

TJ’s café. A place of light, splendour and friendly service.

Restored I make for home as the light goes. Twenty to five and it looks like this?

Restored I make for home as the light goes. Twenty to five and it looks like this?

But home. And a day that began with music will end with music. Play us the song Louis, the song I sang all the way down to the Royal Infirmary this afternoon.

8 thoughts on “Walking down to the Royal Infirmary

  1. studiotower

    Mitch from Indiana here. It was great being able to share your Sunday with you Ronnie. That hospital is a twin of Chicago’s Rush and Cook County Hospitals. It seems the paintings on the walls came from the same place and the money probably funnels to the same place as well. I refer to the Brutalist era of architecture as either 1. “The Brady Bunch Era,” or 2.”The Burt Convey Era of Bad Taste.” By the way my 16 year old son is deaf. He once asked me how I can stand hearing all the time. He had a cochlear implant and stopped using it stating, “It’s an invasion of my privacy!”

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Hi Mitch, Certainly when my left ear was going deaf I can understand what your son means. The rattling and whistling and echoing and tinnitus were so bad that the eventual silence came as a relief.

      Reply
  2. John V

    Think this piece must get the ‘Hear hear’ from your readers!
    ps Just out of interest, have you any idea when St Mary Edge Hill changed its ID to ‘All Saints’ ? Must be something to do with the closing of others in the area in the past 10 years or so?

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Nothing immediately obvious on google about the name change, John. In fact, so few are the references to the new ‘all Saints’ name that this post is itself on google’s front page.

      Ant readers better on ecclesiastical history than us two?

      Reply
  3. stan cotter

    Hi Ron a friend of mine, now gone, was a cleaner in the old hospital. She did the nurse’s rooms.

    But when the new Royal was ready to open she was sent in there to clean it up. She got absolutely and completely lost in the bldg. Until a security man found her crying in a corridor and showed her how to get out.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Not surprised. Me and Sarah got lost in the basement there a few years ago. Looking for ‘Nuclear Medicine’ (yes really) we kept stumbling through rooms full of old furniture and equipment. Fortunately I had a compass with me so we were able to navigate our way to freedom!

      Reply

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