by Michael Finlay
I went to England three months after my marriage fell apart. I went to England because I never knew my father, a Liverpool boy who left in '63 and died in '81. I went to England because I was behind the times and needed to catch up with the millennium. Why did I go? I don't know, you tell me. I went to England to dance like Shiva, to create my world in the womb of the world.
I stepped foot into a castle in Chepstow that was built long before Hastings. Where men, women and children lived, bled and died, a place so old that the blood on the battlements spoke to your blood, filled you with its essence, its own sorrows and joys, mingled in your genes and absorbed until there was nothing but the great green horizon of Wales.
I stood on the spot, in Plymouth, where Francis Drake, Elizabethan pimp extraordinaire, made the Spanish Armada wait for him. He finished his game of boules (English horse shoes). had a pint at the corner pub, enjoyed a smoke and then, as the statue says "he gathered his winds and tore them asunder'. Plymouth, where the Mayflower was moored before setting off to change the face of the world.
I got lost in Chester, a town that the Romans built, and met a beautiful girl who was going to show me the way to Liverpool. I lost her on the roundabout. She went straight and I kept going round and round until moving on to a pub at the bottom of a dead-end road. The smokers, exiled from the inside, gave me directions. They said, "you're a long way from home, lad", when they heard my accent.
In Liverpool, my uncle took me to where he and my dad grew up, Russell St. it doesn't exist anymore. Even though it was the ghetto, it was the only street in Liverpool that wasn't obliterated in the Blitz. The City bulldozed it when they decided to rebirth itself after decades of stagnation and took the title of Culture Capital of the World.
I paid homage to the Beatles and stood at the exact spot in the Cavern where Brian Epstein found the Fab Four. I sat next to Eleanor Rigby. I hummed "Here Comes the Sun" while walking down Beatle Street, past a statue of a young and leather clad john Lennon, the patron saint of rock'n'roll.
I saw a monument to Liverpool's civilian dead. My uncle told me how his brothers dug a hole in the basement of their house and how he, my dad, and my grandmother hid there while the world exploded around them. How my grandfather, a veteran of the WWI trenches stayed in bed, shouting to the bombers, "you didn't get me then, you won't get me now!!"
In Tunbridge Wells, I met my cousin's neighbor when he and his wife came over for dinner. It was Tom Baker, the fourth Dr. Who.
Every geek gene in me squealed with delight as I sat next to him, a stone-cold pro, as he got hammered on home-made beer and constantly farted.
In London, I walked up and down the Thames, happy to be alone in the Capital of an empire. I bowed my head before The Globe, walked underneath London Bridge, stopped and listened to the buskers (street musicians). I wanted to see her Majesty, but only had time to go to Trafalgar Square and see Nelson's Column. It is dedicated to Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson, Napoleon's greatest foe, who even though he won the Battle of Trafalgar, he never made it home alive.
I drank a pot of tea on Gabriel's Wharf and asked myself why I could never make Kelly happy. I realized that I only really had myself and that to love yourself is the first, greatest and hardest mission any of us will undertake. I got up from my table and walked away from London and took the Underground to my cousin's house . I met his son, who's named after me.
The next day I came back to Nashville, to my daughter, my roommates, my cat, to my long neglected pages. I didn't find my father. Why should we look for the dead when we had them for as long as we needed them?
The night I returned I rocked my little girl to sleep, whispering to her the story of my life.
Why did I go to England? I don't know, you tell me.