Continuing to treat the days as if they’re winding down, to see what effect that has on my life, there comes a change of decade.
For a few years now my birthdays have seemed ‘a bit much’. Like, ‘How come I’m suddenly 58?’ Exacerbated, no doubt, by the years spent caring for Sarah during her breast cancer treatment, my 50’s somehow felt like a short decade. Well it’s gone now, as the clock of my 50’s has just clicked over to 60.
So it’s a big birthday. The kind where even the likes of me gets a surprise party, at Leaf, in Bold Street. This was a huge risk for Sarah to take. I like to see my friends in ones and twos and talk quietly for hours. And yet here I am at Leaf in Bold Street on a Friday night trying to get round the room because I want to talk to all 50 or so of the people there. I think I just about managed it, but there’s not one of you I wouldn’t have liked to talk to for much, much longer. Friends from my years at Liverpool Housing Trust of course. But also newer friends from these years of being one of ‘a sense of place’ – friends from Granby, urban designing, social enterprise, going out for lunch, independent Liverpool, being creative, finding work you love and, oh, just being friends.
And the party was more than wonderful. The things people said, both quietly and on the stage were so beautiful and I’m so glad to know everyone who was there. You can, I hope see my happiness in the pictures here, from friends Sarah Jones and Dominic Jones.
You might also notice my rosy complexion on some of the pictures. This isn’t the drink! I’d barely had anything when most of the photos were taken. No, the rosiness is because my bone marrow is producing too many red blood cells. I’ve recently been diagnosed with a relatively rare condition called Polycythaemia, most often caused by a genetic defect and leading the blood to become thick and sluggish through the over production of red blood cells. Therefore increasing the risk of strokes or heart attack. I’m still having various tests, but in the meantime my red blood cells are being kept at safe levels by regularly having pints of blood taken from me. So Polycythaemia is not life threatening as long as it’s treated, and I am of course getting the best treatment currently available on earth, at NHS Broadgreen. Thank you, Nye Bevan and all you NHS people.
My diagnosis with this came in the same week as Sarah was signed off from her annual checks by her breast cancer doctor, Alison Waghorn, at the Royal in Liverpool. And though it seems unfair for us to be thrown straight back into another series of waiting rooms and clinics, we are toughened up now by these past few years, and firmly believe it’s better to be diagnosed and treated than to die unexpectedly.
Uncannily, this surprise diagnosis came after I had started writing this ‘Year to live’ series of posts. Since I started it several friends have asked me quietly if I’m, ‘all right’ and I’ve reassured them that I am. And I still am, really. With treatment and care this does not unduly threaten my life or change the life expectancy I previously had. But the diagnosis has certainly made me value the days and the people in my life even more tenderly than I already did. Life is so fragile, and you simply never know the day when radical change or life’s ending might arrive.
So, anyway, as I enter this new decade I’ll certainly be continuing with these ‘Year to live’ observations on here, but now with added NHS involvement. There will also be other changes.
I don’t know if regular readers will have picked it up from Sarah’s speech at my Leaf party, published on here yesterday, but Sarah has left ‘a sense of place’, insofar as taking an active part in our work is concerned. Her funeral work is now her passion and her vocation, and she is regularly helping so many families that she simply can’t fit ‘a sense of place’ work in any more. Leaving me, in terms of the work I’ll do, in a place of doubt. Not a bad place and I suspect with some walking and thinking and conversations I’ll work out what I particularly want to do from now on. But other than, obviously, her kindness and support in our conversations at home, any work I do from now on will be without Sarah.
And I’ve already worked out some aspects of my future.
Other than a couple of commitments I’ve already made I will not now be taking on any more film work. This is from a mixture of Sarah leaving and me moving on anyway. I may still use film in some situations, where I decide, like maybe to tell a story I particularly want to tell. But my days as a film maker for hire are now over.
As are my days of carrying equipment around to do gigs. The equipment I’ve been using for years to project Powerpoints and Keynotes at gigs will be cleared within the next few days. For the last few months I’ve increasingly been using less and less technology in my work with organisations and their teams of people. Now I’ll be using none. I will walk more lightly on the Earth.
My work, where I choose to do it, will now be much more about listening and thinking. People at the party said they’re the things I’m best at anyway. So I’m looking forward to many more conversations in my work, some of them while out walking, and some in independent Liverpool cafés over cups of tea, and some about people living the lives they want and doing work that makes their parts of the world a better place. I’m 60 now and I have a lot of experiences. So I’ll be taking myself on some walks, and to some cafés, in the next few weeks to have a look at possible futures. And in my experience this always makes things clearer.
One thing I’ll definitely still be doing still, is writing this blog. Walking and running around Liverpool and Wirral and continuing these ‘Year to live’ thoughts. For the love of doing it and because becoming 60 doesn’t change everything.
So finally on this bright blue morning of my birthday, deep thanks to my Sarah for so much. The party, of course, and all the years of living and working together. Also for reminding me about this fragment of poem in her speech at Leaf:
Late Fragment, by Raymond Carver
“And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.”
Yes Sarah, I feel myself beloved on the earth. Thank You. And happy birthday to me.
Find the rest of these posts by searching on ‘A year to live’ in the Search box above right.