Continuing the story of us. We’ve just left our jobs.

It’s November 1996 and we feel like we’ve just done the bravest thing we will ever do. And we also feel like we’re kind of ‘in recovery’ from having been employed by others for so long. Some mornings this feels exhilarating, but others our new status of ‘self-employed’ feels dangerously close to ‘unemployed’.

Late 1996. In Bath looking at possible places to run events. I lived in that purple jumper those days.

Sarah reacts to this by being practical. She does some of the marketing work her previous employer, Family Housing in Manchester are continuing to pay her to do. And she also sets up ‘a sense of place’ properly as a partnership (at first, then we become a limited company later on). Finding us an accountant, so everything’s straight and proper from the off. One day she also rings up the local office of Business Link, a national organisation who offer help to start up companies, to see what they might be able to do for us. Whoever answers listens to Sarah’s explanation of what we’re up to, immediately says, ‘That’ll never work!’ – and refuses to even consider giving us any money for the fax machine we’re thinking might be essential. We never approach anybody for funding for our business again.

I react to the ‘in recovery’ feelings by taking some time off work altogether. I’ve worked for over twenty years at this point, so have more to get over.

Our friend Alinda, November 1996.

First I go and spend a week in Amsterdam with Alinda, a new friend Sarah had met at a retreat she went to in France at the end of the summer. Alinda has since then been over to stay with us and suggests that a few days exploring a new place with a bit of native guidance might be better for me than hanging around Liverpool getting used to not having a job. And it is.

I then travel up to Scotland with our friend Janet to stay with her and her family for a few days. Janet’s just started a new job in Edinburgh after working through ‘Finding the work you love’ with me. And while I’m there we go to where she’s working, in Craigmillar, and start thinking what a sense of place might be able to help out with there. More on this next episode.

January 1997, Sarah on top of Malham Cove in Yorkshire. Doesn’t everyone go climbing in red velvet coats?

Back in Liverpool as 1997 begins we widen the events we run for individuals interested in having more creative lives. In fact we call it our ‘Personal Programme’ and start running it in Manchester as well as Liverpool.

‘Home’ part of our Personal Programme.

There’s our basic ‘One Day’ event about ‘Turning your life into a creative adventure’. We also try out ‘Finding the work you love’ for groups (but find it runs better for individuals). We continue with ‘Home’, sometimes literally an ‘in your house’ clearing and designing day, or other times as a group workshop. We start running a whole course called ‘Creativity’, six weekly sessions with paints, cameras, textiles, Sarah’s sewing machine, musical instruments, my portastudio multi-track recorder. Anything we can think of to help people unleash their inner creativity. And I run a week-end programme a couple of times called ‘Midlife’ with our friend Judi Ledward, one of the original group who’d helped us test out our ideas for a sense of place. We’re both over 40, so this one’s about using your growing wisdom to have a richly creative midlife, rather than the crisis you might be expecting.

We enjoy running these sessions, and learn a lot from doing so. But looking back now I mainly remember the hard work involved in selling them to individual people. There was no internet, no Facebook, no Twitter (and we didn’t have a computer anyway). And so our selling is from Sarah’s hand-drawn leaflets in shops and cafés, and lots of phone calls. But we are in business.

And then we get married.

January 1997. Making the wedding  invitations.

It just feels right. Though we’ve been living together for four years, leaving our jobs means we are now literally depending on the skills of each other. And it reminds us of a line from ‘America’ by Paul Simon, one of our favourite songs:

‘Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together.’

So we set a date, or rather, dates. And we choose a place, or rather, places. Because in these days you can still only get married in England in churches and registry offices. Churches are out, for atheists like us. So we decide to have a small, formal wedding at a registry office. We pick Manchester, because that’s where the two people we want to be our witnesses work.

With Anne McNamara, of The Big Issue in the North, and Jack Pickett of Family Housing. At the Lead Station in Chorlton after our ‘formal’ wedding.

Then we hire a place where we’ve worked, up in Yorkshire, for a bigger event. Here we run the ceremony ourselves with friends and some family.

During the event we perform a new song, written specially for the day, called ‘This Passion’. Me on singing and scratchy guitar, Sarah on cello, and Jane, a college friend of Sarah’s, on proper guitar:

‘Who would have thought such small beginnings
would grow into this passion’

March 1st, 1997. We get married, at High Trenhouse, Malham Moor in front of one of Sarah’s quilts. Oh Happy Day.

Next episode, collaging the future in Scotland and Liverpool.

Read all episodes

Published by Ronnie

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place:

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  1. I have known you both for some time but I didn’t know a lot of this. Either we never talked about it or the alzheimer’s is worse than I thought! Lovely to hear the story behind the phenomenon!

    1. Thanks for ‘phenomenon’!

      I think we’d forgotten a lot of this ourselves over time. When you’re self-employed the tendency is always to be focussing on jobs you’re finishing off and what’s coming next. And those things are probably much of what we’ve talked about with you over the years. But as I’m finding out by researching and writing these ‘story’ posts – we’ve done all sorts. And also, we’re special because we’re us, but we’re no more special than everyone else. Other than Sarah being a great archiver! I think if everyone had the sort of archive I’ve got to draw on, then everybody potentially has an interesting story in them?

  2. Ah, Ronnie, this makes me cry, this kind of enduring love. I treasure that Paul Simon song, too. It says it all. Your photos are fantastic, as usual. And because I’m also a Janet and am of Scottish heritage, I’d love to visit Edinburgh. It’s one of those 10 places to visit before I die. Liverpool is up there, too. Who wouldn’t love to visit the original home of the Beatles?

    1. Yes Jan, writing the post over the last couple of days made us both feel very rich in terms of all the years we’ve had. I’m so glad we had the nerve to set up a sense of place and spend so much time together, rather than continue driving off to jobs in other cities.

      And Edinburgh is a lovely place, as well as mysterious and steeped in history.You might enjoy Ian Rankin’s novels – – to give you a broad picture of Edinburgh from someone who loves it, before you come!

  3. “Some mornings this feels exhilarating, but others our new status of ‘self-employed’ feels dangerously close to ‘unemployed’.”

    I can definitely relate to that… Of course, being a musician, most people think I am actually unemployed anyway!

    I’m loving these posts Ronnie, it’s a fascinating story – keep ’em coming!

    1. Hi Barry, Yes that ‘unemployed’ feeling isn’t just a memory either. It’s turned out to be a permanent feature of our lives.

      Glad you’re enjoying these though. I’m loving writing them, and reminding ourselves of all the great times we’ve had with our unworkable idea!

      1. Sorry Ronnie, forgot to add…don’t you just love flying in the face of those who say ‘that will never work’? In fact, I always think those who doubt and deny like that, secretly think that it’s really a great idea & they wish they had thought of it in the first place. That sort of entrenched opposition always hardens my resolve and makes me more determined to pursue the idea! Clearly, the scoffing opposition worked really well in your favour! Bring on the doubters and haters!

      2. Well said Lindsay!

        And – in the following years we were twice approached by Business Link to get involved in ‘exciting new initiatives’ as we were the kind of enterprise they wanted to use as an ‘exemplar’ (hate that word). And each time we delightedly told them the ‘It’ll never work’ story as we showed them the door.

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