As I thought about and started to write this it was early December 2012. The time of the year when people are starting to think and ask about ‘What have been the best things?’ In fact, someone had just asked.

And amongst much else, this has been one of the best things of the year. Turning our website into this blog generally. But most particularly writing these six, so far, episodes of the Story of us.

The doing of it has been a joy. Lovely to look back through Sarah’s carefully filed archives for the first time and tell the story of our 17 years of self-employment as ‘a sense of place’. I was just over 40 when the story began and had seriously worried that I might have been too old to make such a radical change. Indeed, one of my leaving cards from my job had shown a small dog stepping out nervously onto a high wire, and was captioned ‘He was an old dog, and this was a very new trick.’

Us two now. Up on Hampsfell, South Cumbria.
Us two now. Up on Hampsfell, South Cumbria.

But of course now, finding the pictures of then, I don’t look much more than a boy. We both look so young. Evidence perhaps that it’s never too late to start doing what you love, and will be best at, for your living. The day will always come when you’ll look back and realise how young you were.

And the six episodes so far have only just brought us into the 21st century and our social enterprise work. Still to come is more of that, and how it led me one sunny spring evening in San Francisco to be filming from a boat sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Editing a film on the plane from San Francisco to Portland, 2002.
Editing a film on the plane from San Francisco to Portland.

Filming? Yes, there’s also how and why we both learned to make films so early in the digital age, and where that took us. Like above, editing a film, on a laptop, on a plane, in America. We hadn’t expected to be doing that!

Telling stories of when ships sailed past the end of the road. Soth Road in Waterloo.
Telling stories of getting to now. Of when ships sailed past the end of the road. South Road in Waterloo, part of the Crosby Housing story.

We’ll return to housing work, after several years away. Working with communities to change where they live into how they’d like it to be, one street at a time. There’ll be films here too. Telling the history of social housing. And the stories of how small groups of people are always managing to change their world for the better.

Stories of communities changing their world. Ravenscliffe in Bradford.
Stories of people changing their world. Ravenscliffe in Bradford. How it was when we first met the community.

Then there’s Places, Homes and Buildings by Design. How working with our friend Lindsay Nixon and teams of urban designers and architects, we finally, and over several years, made up and did some of our best work at Trafford Hall, the National Tenants Resource Centre. And did this work with community groups from all over Britain and Northern Ireland, hundreds of people.

Places by Design gets going, 2001.
Places by Design gets going, 2001.

So many people, so many places. There’s so much to come. And shadows too, of course, like in any story.

All that’s to come, in a while, in the New Year sometime. But for now it’s time to pause the telling of our story, and reflect.

Pause. And reflect.
Pause. And reflect.

To reflect on how the writing of this story is helping us to think about our future. Like it always has done when we’ve worked on their stories with other individuals and organisations over the years.

It’s reminded us, this story telling, of our own creativity, of all the things we’ve loved doing over these 17 years. We’ve seen some things change, like the big collages of the early days turn into film, into digital art,  telling stories differently. And some things stay with us all the way through. Like the importance of this finding out and doing the work that you love. And the importance of us being outside, in nature, as much as we can.

Us two in 1999. Four years into a sense of place.
Us two in 1999. Four years into a sense of place.

So, publishing the story over the months of doing this blog, has helped us to see and illustrate how we’ve developed what we do since 1995.  And to talk about how it all looks now, over on our website pages. Over there you’ll see that what’s come through to us most strongly from this writing and reflecting is how much:

a sense of place has been a 17 year experiment in seeing if we could create our living from the things we like doing and are passionate about anyway. And so far so good. It might not have made us fantastically wealthy, but it has made us rich in the ways that really matter to us.”

It’s been a joy. Let’s see where this doing the work we love takes us next.

Then time passes, until, in early 2014 the episodes begin again!

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. What a blessing it is to do work you love. Something else we have in common, Ronnie, is not only that I also get paid to do something I love, by helping people as a physical therapist, but that I finished my graduate degree and started working in my new career at age 40. And when I was 50, I embraced digital photography, entered some juried art shows, and started winning art awards. Who knows what we may get up to at 60!!

    And I just adore that photo of the two of you! Here’s to lots more good work and creativity for us all. xoxo, Kathi

  2. Striking photos. What’s more there is always colour in them and vibrancy. That’s two of the many things you both contribute to the life you live and the work you do. I know. I have been privileged to be part of that time in the development of a Sense of Place when we were ‘writing the book’ and making it up (very well, as it happens) as we went along and creating something incredible. Not only did the great courses (nay, life changing experiences) that you developed and on which we worked together, change things for the better for the people who came on them but they changed all of us who worked on them too. A rich, complex, experience I will never forget and on which I still draw to this day. As I always say, can’t wait for the next turn of events in your adventure!XX

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