Ronnie reports on one of our core creative tools, lunch!
“Being, as we are, self-employed, and seeing as our ‘office’ is a studio in our house, lunch is very important to us. That may seem like stating the obvious. And a pretty weak idea to base a blog post on. But bear with me, I do have a point to make.
You see, lunch to us isn’t merely ‘a meal eaten in the middle of the day.’ No, it’s a creative tool. On our ‘a sense of place’ website we claim to be creative, you see, so it’s important that we actually are. But sitting in one room, for the whole of a day, isn’t good for your creativity muscles. So we need changes of scenery now and then. Short walks and, these days, runs can do it. And so can lunch. And the great advantage of lunch is that a sense of place’s two key resources, me and Sarah, can sit and talk to each other. Sometimes about what you might loosely call work: how something’s going; possible jobs; new ideas; even money, if we absolutely have to. But more often, we’ll talk about life, the universe, the wonders of nature and whether we’ll be having cake. A proper conversation.
And it’s this time taken enjoying our food and each other’s company that makes lunch a creative tool. All of our best ideas have been created together, mostly when we weren’t even trying. Because, to be a bit Buddhist for a moment, lunch returns us to ‘beginner’s mind’. Clears away the thoughts of the morning, creating a peaceful meditative space, where a pleasant time will be had, and after which, new thoughts might just surface.
We don’t go out to lunch every day. And sometimes when we do, we make our own lunch to take with us. But on the days we go to a café, the place matters. For the quality of its food, obviously. But also for the whole experience that the place provides. And fortunately we have quite a repertoire of places here in Liverpool. In the interests of public service I’ll provide some links later on. But first I want to concentrate on three very special places, two current lunch venues, and one now sadly gone.
First, a current one and our absolute favourite café on Planet Earth. Greendays. On the corner of Lark Lane and Little Parkfield Road, near Sefton Park.
Carole opened Greendays the best part of ten years ago, being joined by her new partner, Ronnie, about six years ago. It’s vegetarian (plus a bit of tuna and smoked salmon) and Carole makes all the food, from scratch, on the premises. She takes a particular delight in how it’s presented. Regularly varying how even familiar meals look when they arrive at the table. Here are a couple of examples from last week.
But I can’t finish on Greendays without a special word on their customer service. It is absolutely brilliant. But not in that fawning, sickly way that puts you off your food in lesser places. They are funny, friendly, seem to remember what all of their customers had last time they were in, suggest what they’d most like today, love a good argument, and are able to sell cakes to the fullest of full persons. And I went to school with Ronnie (yes, we were all called Ronnie at our school), so it’s sort of like going home.
There are two floors at Greendays, so several times we’ve booked space on the generally quieter upper floor for our planning and ideas sessions with our creative business adviser Dave Parrish. Where lunch lasts all afternoon, and we all call it work!
Next up is Bold Street Coffee. In the city centre. In The Best Street in Liverpool. It’s an independent local business. And of course it doesn’t just sell coffee, which neither of us drink. In fact its food selection is relatively slight, compared to Greendays, but always delicious, seasonal, made on the premises and mostly locally sourced. Here’s a sample menu. And its cakes are worth a visit on their own, made in Liverpool by Laura’s Little Bakery.
Music is played on a turntable, which makes me ache with retro-longing every time I see it, with LPs I used to own stacked next to it. And sometimes Stan, Liverpool’s favourite elderly harp player is there in the middle of the week, making the sounds of heaven.
And the atmosphere is, well cool, in the best sense of the word. Gentle, hum of conversations, open to ideas. And being in Bold Street it’s right in the centre of whatever creative resources you might happen to need. Paints, pens, paper , books, cameras, films, fruit, vegetables. If it’s not in Bold Street it’s not worth having. (Oh, except for computers, Nowhere’s absolutely perfect.)
Finally, I can’t write about creative lunch-time venues without mentioning ‘The Ev’. The Everyman Bistro was in the basement of the Everyman Theatre. Until it closed last summer for the theatre to be rebuilt. It will open again in a couple of years and I wish it well. But it won’t be run by the wonderful team of people, led by Paddy and Tim Byrne, who used to work there. I’d been going there for forty years, and these last few it was one of our core sanctuaries as we tried to deal with Sarah’s breast cancer at the same time as me continuing to run our business. No point me telling you about the food, because you can’t get it any more. But it was all fresh, cooked from scratch, magnificent and cheap. And we grew our business and our ideas out of there. Probably second only to Sefton Park in its sacredness.
When it was closing we made this film, for ourselves, so we’d always remember ‘The Ev’. (Look out for a cameo appearance by Stan, Liverpool’s favourite elderly harp player.)
And other places? Well, not an exhaustive list, but: The Brink (Everyman Head Chef Tom Gill is here now), Mello Mello (where Sarah’s book launch took place in the upstairs room), Leaf, and, going a bit posh (meaning just a bit more expensive) The Neighbourhood, Lunya (where we went for my birthday a few days ago), and Salt House Tapas.
I enjoyed writing this. Maybe we should do lunch more often?”