So at the beginning of the year, while everyone was winding down from Christmas and getting ready to go back to school or work, I was in a faraway place called the Czech Republic. It’s in the heart of Europe and its capital city is Prague. When I first saw the country I thought it was the best place I’d ever see in my life. But I was wrong. The best thing I’ve ever seen is the inside of Paul McCartney’s childhood home.
Yes, I know it seems like a fairy tale; me, an eighteen year old girl living a blasé life with nothing to offer to the world, inside the house where some of the most famous songs in the world were composed, and where the awesome, will-go-down-in-
history people composed them.
But I was there. Inside Paul’s old home. Oh, and did I mention, I was also in John Lennon’s childhood home? Yeah, I count myself pretty lucky for that.
Before we arrived in Liverpool, my sister and I booked our tour of the Beatles’ childhood homes through the National Trust website (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beatles-childhood-homes/?p=1356310078297). It costs £22 for an adult and £7 for a child. You can purchase two handy little booklets on each of the homes for £3 each, which I did, so altogether it cost me £28, about $51 AUD, which is a great price for what you get to see. The tours run from late February to November, and depart 3-4 times a day from Wednesday-Sunday. I’d try to book as early as possible, because this is (obviously) a very popular tour, and it was almost booked out for us, and we were there in the off-peak season.
We cruised along Penny Lane, passed the infamous Strawberry Fields, and finally arrived at Mendips. One of John’s childhood homes.
The caretaker of the house, Colin, was super nice and began the tour just inside the little black gate. We were given time to take photos outside, but were unable to photograph the inside of the house, due to possible copyright infringement. Nevertheless, we all snapped away at what we could. Colin patiently answered our questions and even took photos of us just outside the front porch.
Then he told us that we wouldn’t be walking in the house through the front door. John’s Aunt Mimi, who owned the house, would only let important people, such as doctors, through the front door. John and his friends, including two young boys named Paul McCartney and George Harrison, had to enter through the back door. It was nice to have the whole experience of ‘living as a Beatle’, for lack of a better way to put it.
Colin took our bags and belongings and locked them up to ensure we wouldn’t take any photos, and because the house wasn’t big enough to fit fifteen or so people and all their bags. Then he told us seemingly mundane little stories, that were actually some of the most interesting things I’d ever heard. We were free to explore the house, but he told us that we shouldn’t all run to John’s room first, because it was quite small. Only one other person went upstairs, however, so my sister and I took the chance to be there without a crowd of people. We discovered John’s room before anyone else, and just basked in the presence of it. We looked out the same window that a young John looked out of, we touched the same doorway he had touched, and just existed in the same space he did. It was incredible.
Not long after we entered the room, people began discovering where we were and obviously wanted to experience the same thing we just did, so we left to explore the other areas of the house. We walked into Aunt Mimi’s bedroom. It didn’t give me the same feeling as John’s room did, but I thought the room was beautiful, with a long window and a gorgeous view of Liverpool suburbia. I stood there, thinking about how a woman who raised arguably the most famous musician in the world used to sleep in that room. Again, it was just so extraordinary.
We were told that the tiles in the bathroom from John’s time were the same tiles that were there that day. Pretty special, isn’t it? We walked back downstairs and, again, just explored. We walked past the dining area—the tiniest little nook that was used every night to eat; first by the students who boarded there, and then by John and his family. We walked into the lounge room, a photo of John displayed proudly on the television set, just how Aunt Mimi would have had it.
Colin told us to walk into the tiny front veranda, close the door and practise our singing, just as John and Paul had done so many years before. After we finished looking around, Colin handed us our bags and sent us on our way. We hopped back into the minivan, silently said our goodbyes to Mendips and travelled the short distance to 20 Forthlin Road. Paul McCartney’s home.
Ahh, Paul McCartney. No matter who you are; boy or girl, man or woman, young or old… You have to admit that Paul McCartney is a pretty cool dude. And to be in the house where his songs grew from mere thought to masterpieces was one of the best things I’ve ever experienced in my life.
The caretaker of Paul’s home, Sylvia, had an enviable Liverpool accent which added to the feel of things. Again, we couldn’t take photos inside the house but we snapped away outside. We were allowed in through the front door, Sylvia took our bags, and we headed to the lounge room. Now, keep in mind, Paul’s family wasn’t very wealthy at the time they lived here, and there were fifteen of us plus the tour guide, all crammed into a tiny little lounge room. Do you think we were uncomfortable? Hell no! We were in Paul McCartney’s lounge room. The walls were splashed with Mike McCartney photographs, each strategically placed at the spot the photo was taken. There was even a piece of wallpaper from Paul’s time there, framed, sitting behind the piano that took up most of the space. Sylvia told us stories of which songs were written where, and what Paul’s father thought of the “yeah, yeah, yeah”’s in ‘She Loves You” (he believed they should’ve sung it as “yes, yes, yes”).
We basked in the glory that was Paul’s old lounge room, and moved to a small corner room with a drum set and cabinets. Then it was on to the kitchen, where the family would cook their food and clean their clothes. We were taken into the backyard, where we saw a patch of rosemary growing, originally planted by Paul’s father. There was a drain pipe next to the back door that Paul and Mike would have to climb up to get into the house when they arrived home late.
Then we were taken up these narrow, old, rickety stairs that led us to the second level; the bathroom, Paul’s bedroom, and Mike’s bedroom. Paul’s bedroom was similar to John’s; tiny, with a window facing the front. Mike’s room was large, despite his being younger than Paul; he needed the space to develop his photos.
Sylvia led the group back downstairs and answered the many questions thrown at her. My sister and I took this opportunity to discover the upstairs a bit more. We weren’t supposed to wander on our own, but we just wanted to enjoy the special feeling for a bit longer without all the other people. Then Sylvia began giving our bags back, and we left the house. Our bus was running late, so we just hung outside the house for about twenty minutes; me, taking too many photos; my sister, telling me off for taking too many photos; the group, asking Sylvia too many questions; Sylvia, answering too many questions. There were a few people just outside the gate—tourists, taking photos of the house. They were probably jealous that we were just inside the magical place that is 20 Forthlin Road, Liverpool.
All in all, it was the absolute best day of our four-month holiday in Europe. After all, how many people can say they’ve spent a day in Paul McCartney’s and John Lennon’s childhood homes?
Side note: I found a really cool article on Colin, the caretaker and tour guide of John Lennon’s childhood home. You can see photos of the inside of the house here.