In this part of the world, there is one event that tells you Spring has finally arrived. This is when the trains heading towards Chester of a morning become filled by hordes of very well dressed people after a good day out. But they are not sightseers.
For them, the motivation is not to look over Eastgate and its clock, to see the cathedral, walk the walls, or look over the Old Dee Bridge, but to visit the racecourse. There, they consume vast quantities of food, mostly of a suitably dubious quality, and wash it down with heroic amounts of drink, while enjoying a usually unsuccessful punt on the horses. It brings lots of money into the city, and generates an amount of overtime that members of the police and other emergency services find financially rewarding.
Each to their own. Days at the races are one of those experiences I’ve never tried, and moreover, have never felt inclined to try. But I do know to avoid Chester on race days, especially in the evening. For this is the time when racegoers have to negotiate the streets en route back to the station.
On reaching the station, those who are travelling back to Merseyside then face the obstacle of the footbridge. For the averagely able bodied person, this presents little problem – when they are sober. A racegoer who has worked him or herself into a state of advanced alcoholic derangement finds the footbridge a challenge of a different order.
For not only is there the difficulty of the climb up the steps, but the realisation that this is followed by working their way down the steps at the far side. And then comes the short but crucial stagger across to the Merseyrail service, which cannot and does not wait for stragglers: the trains need to make their slot through Birkenhead to be in position for the circuit of the “Loop” under central Liverpool.
This year, it appears that days at the races are as popular as ever, so the overtime opportunities will continue. Including for those clearing up afterwards.