Ringo Starr’s Boyhood Home In Restoration ‘Limbo’

Ringo Starr
Wikimedia Commons

Back in 2010, we reported that the birthplace of Ringo Starr was threatened with demolition. The rowhouse, located at 9 Madryn Street in Liverpool, England, has fallen into disrepair. As you can see from this photo, it hasn’t been lived in for some time and is all boarded up.

It’s not alone. The BBC reports that many of the homes in the neighborhood are abandoned and crumbling. The city government approved a £15 million ($24.4 million) plan to rework the neighborhood, building 150 new homes, knocking down 280 others, and restoring 37, including Ringo Starr’s. There have been calls to preserve the home as a bit of music history. While John and Paul’s childhood homes are now preserved by the National Trust, Ringo’s place doesn’t even have an historic plaque.

Now the city’s plan has been put on hold by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, who has called for a full review. That’s bad news for the few people still living in the area. They don’t know whether they should move, or pay their own money to restore their homes, or do nothing. It all depends what happens with the government funding, and nobody can answer that at the moment.

So will the homes be knocked down or will Ringo’s birthplace become yet another of England’s historic homes? We’ll just have to wait and see.

It may be a long wait.

The Day I Jumped In Regent’s Canal And Tried To Save My Wet iPhone With Uncooked Rice

regent canalThere are plenty of ways for Americans to make a good impression in London. Scurrying into stores dripping wet, asking for large sacks of rice and zip lock bags isn’t one of them. I was enjoying a relaxing walk along Regent’s Canal after a visit to the Camden Lock Market in North London when, daydreaming, I tripped over a mooring post. I fell to the ground and my backpack, containing my Nikon D7000 DSLR camera and my iPhone, tumbled right into the canal.

It only took me an instant to realize that I needed to jump in the water to retrieve the bag and in my urgency, I didn’t think to ditch my wallet or take my shirt, pants or shoes off before taking the plunge. Recovering my bag was easy, but hoisting myself back out of the canal took some doing. And as I pulled myself out of the murky, smelly water, a small crowd had gathered to watch the spectacle, perfect theater for a Sunday afternoon.”You oh-roight, mate?” one man asked as I stood on the narrow walkway, dripping wet and feeling ridiculous.

“Nice day fer a swim, innit?” quipped another. Indeed it was a lovely day for a swim; 61 degrees with London’s characteristically ominous, fast-moving clouds.

A passing boat pulled over and a couple rushed over to me with a bath towel and a clean T-shirt. The man said the shirt was mine to keep and the woman helped me dry my camera and iPhone.

“You’ve got to find a sack of rice and fast,” the man said. “The sooner you get your electronics sealed inside a bag with rice, the better your chances.”

I walked back to the Camden Lock, my pants feeling oppressively wet and heavy, with water sloshing around in my shoes. I consoled myself with a roti at a Pakistani sandwich stall and the owner confirmed that I needed to find some uncooked rice and fast.

A South Asian clerk in the nearest supermarket I could find, eyed me warily as I asked for a big bag of rice and zip lock bags.

“Why are you all wet?” he asked.

I explained and suddenly he became interested in my quest.

“I have a wet iPhone too,” he said. “Let me know if the rice works, will you?”

He didn’t know what zip lock bags were, but we found the British equivalent along with a few small bags of rice. After I paid for the items, I crouched down in the corner of the store and put my camera and phone inside the bags, then began poring the rice over them. An over-officious middle management type in a short-sleeve shirt and clip-on tie came over to me, and in the sort of vaguely hostile way a store security guard might approach a homeless person, he asked, “What uh you doing there, sir?”

But thankfully my new friend rushed over to explain. “It’s OK,” he said. “He just took a swim in Regent’s Canal and is trying to save his gear.”

I returned to my apartment in Earl’s Court, still wet and smelling like something unpleasant dredged from the bottom of the canal. I rather liked my new T-shirt, but felt sick thinking that I may have just pissed away $2,000 worth of electronic equipment into an old canal. I heard different stories about how long I needed to keep my gear turned off and inside the bags of rice. Some said you needed just 24 hours, but others said 3-4 days. I was in town to cover Wimbledon but played it safe, resisting the temptation to snap photos of the All England Club for four full days. On my last morning in town, I nervously took my items out of the rice, like a teenager opening a slim-looking admissions letter envelope from their dream college.

The camera worked, but the iPhone was displaying gibberish. I took it to a cellphone shop on Earl’s Court Road and a Pakistani man named Akbar, who sat on a stool surrounded by phones and phone gadgetry, read my iPhone its last rites.

“This phone is dead,” he said, grim faced and stoic. “Very dead. I’m afraid there’s nothing that can be done.”

I felt a bit like a dog owner facing up to a grim diagnosis from a veterinarian. As I boarded a train for the brilliantly named tube stop “Cockfosters” I took stock of my trip. I was leaving town without a working phone but I had an unforgettable story to tell. And a new T-shirt.

Fascinating Map Of London By Stephen Walter


Stephen Walter has a way of creating complex and obsessive art — specifically, maps. His maps of various areas in England are often enlightening, but he has himself beat with one of his latest creations: a fascinating map of London and its underground. The map was commissioned by the London Transport Museum and while doing his research for the project, Walter uncovered legions of undiscovered facts about London and began incorporating the eerie history beneath the surface of London into the map itself. The map isn’t all historical facts, though. Interjecting his own imagination with fabled stories and general lore alongside the facts, Walter created a map like no other — it transports you into a magical, parallel universe of London, where hearsay is marked and remembered.

[Thanks, Intelligent Life]

London Waterways Development for London 2012

Commonwealth War Graves Being Restored Ahead Of World War I Centennial

Commonwealth War Graves
Sean McLachlan

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is busy fixing up the cemeteries it manages ahead of next year’s World War I centennial, the BBC reports.

It’s a daunting task – maintaining 1.7 million graves in 153 countries, including far-flung areas such as Baghdad. The grave photographed here is in the Baghdad North Gate War Cemetery and is for Private E. Wadsworth of the Cheshire Regiment, who died during the Mesopotamian Campaign against the Ottoman Turks. I had the honor of visiting this cemetery during my recent trip to Iraq.

The organization has its roots in World War I and has continued to this day, honoring the fallen from both World Wars. The headstones are of a standard size and design, with the emblem of the soldier’s regiment on top.

Some of the less-visited cemeteries, such as the one in Baghdad, are not as well kept as popular ones on the Western Front. They are receiving equal attention this year, however, and many old headstones are being replaced. While cemeteries may seem like odd places to visit while on vacation, they are becoming increasingly popular as people interested in genealogy and history seek them out. The Commission expects record numbers of visitors to its many cemeteries along the Western Front next year.

Heathrow Or Frankfurt: Two Of The World’s Worst Airports?

frankfurt airportAir travel can be a tribulation anywhere but traveling through the world’s mega-airports is never high on my list of fun things to do. Last week, I spent some time at Heathrow (in London) and at Frankfurt International airport – two of the world’s dozen busiest, and some would say best-avoided, airports. These temples of transit require travelers to demonstrate the patience of Job, the endurance of an ultra-marathon runner and a good sense of humor to roll with the inevitable hassles. But which airport is best avoided if you are transiting through Europe and have options – Heathrow or Frankfurt Airport?

I lived in the Balkans for a spell several years ago when I was in the Foreign Service, and the government would frequently route us through Frankfurt, which was rated the 11th busiest airport in the world last year, with just over 57 million passengers transiting it in 2012. Our usual rule of thumb was that if the layover time was less than two hours, we knew the chances of making the onward flight was about 50-50 if it was in the 60- to 90-minute range. Less than an hour? No chance, particularly if you checked bags and hoped to see them again.I do not enjoy flying. My preferred modes of transport are, in this order: train, boat, bike, car, plane and bus. And so, when my plane touches down on a runway after a long flight, I can’t wait to get off the plane. In Frankfurt, though, one can taxi for so long that it seems as though the pilot might be planning to drop you off in Salzburg. Planes taxi for what seems like forever and then you often have to schlep your things onto a bus and then shuttle into the terminal.

But I like to people watch at airports and on this score, Frankfurt is awfully good. There are mysterious looking women in niqabs and burkas; flashy-tracksuit wearing Russian mafiosos and their showy girlfriends, weighed down in gaudy jewelry and shopping bags; Africans in colorful robes carrying enormous plastic bags and suitcases sealed tight in cellophane wrapping; beer guzzling Germans and their worldly dogs; and plenty of backpackers about to wash back up on their parent’s doorsteps after spending their last rupees on a bag of mushrooms and Tibetan prayer flags in Katmandu.

I had a full two-hour layover in Frankfurt last week, en route from Chicago to London, but I just barely made my connection. (This was the only way I could redeem miles to get to London during Wimbledon.) In fairness, the flight touched down 15 minutes late and we taxied for an eternity, so I wasn’t in the terminal for two hours, but I felt like I walked about 5 miles and stood in I don’t know how many lines before I got to my gate just after boarding had begun for my connecting flight. I was soaked in sweat from hauling all my gear and suffering from that putrid, exhausted feeling you have after a sleepless night on a transatlantic flight.

Frankfurt has good rail links and some reasonably appealing shopping and dining options but it’s the kind of place where you want to allow a huge amount of time. And think twice about hauling a lot of carry-on baggage there.


I’ve traveled in and out of Heathrow, the world’s third busiest airport in 2012 with some 70 million passengers, many times over the years and I have just two nice things to say about it: you can access it via London’s tube and there are plenty of bookstores and newsstands. I wasn’t sure what terminal my flight was in and there are three tube stops – one for terminal 1, 2 and 3; and one each for terminals 4; and 5. I played the odds and got out at the 1/2/3 stop at 1:15 p.m. for a 3:30 p.m. flight.

I booked the flight with United and it had a UA flight number, so I followed the signs to terminal 1. It was about a 15-minute walk, made unpleasant for me only because I was hauling too much stuff, but alas, it turned out that I was on an Air Canada codeshare, and the Canucks are based in terminal 3. After another 15-minute walk, I was thrilled to walk right up to the counter and secure my boarding pass with no wait.

But my luck ran out going through security. I’ve been in longer lines before – much longer ones, in fact – but perhaps never a slower one. I can’t tell you precisely how long I was in line, because I wasn’t wearing a watch and was carrying a broken iPhone, but I think it took a good hour. My backpack was singled out for a search but there were three other bags to be inspected by one laconic young South Asian woman who moved as fast as one might walk down a gang-plank toward some waiting crocodiles.

Once I was deemed not to be a militant jihadist or suicidal crackpot, there was another long walk in store and then another line to, get this, approach the gate area. After showing our passports and boarding passes, we rounded the corner and joined another line to do the exact same thing again. And then I was stuck in the gate waiting area with no access to shops or restaurants. A fellow passenger told me it was 3:10, very nearly two hours after I’d stepped off the tube, and the business class passengers had already boarded our flight to Montreal. It was a 60-degree day but my shirt was soaked with perspiration. Travel can be an ordeal at times, and little did I know at that point that I still had a two-hour delay in Montreal in store, plus a nearly hour-long line to get a cab in Chicago.

The verdict? CNN rated Heathrow the third most hated airport in the world, behind just Paris-Charles de Gaulle and LAX on their list of 10 most hated airports, but left Frankfurt off the top 10. I’m with them; I’ll take Frankfurt over Heathrow but it’s close. Let’s say I would avoid Heathrow like the plague, whereas I’d only avoid Frankfurt like a curable venereal disease.