A year to live: Becoming 60

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.Becoming 6001

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.Becoming 6002

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.Becoming 6004 Becoming 6005 Becoming 6006 Becoming 6007 Becoming 6008

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.Becoming 6009 Becoming 6010 Becoming 6011 Becoming 6012

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.Becoming 6013 Becoming 6014 Becoming 6015 Becoming 6016

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?
I did.

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.

DSCN3274Becoming 6003Thanks to friends Sarah and Dom for capturing the moments so beautifully.

Find the rest of these posts by searching on ‘A year to live’ in the Search box above right.

8 thoughts on “A year to live: Becoming 60

  1. Lindsay53

    Hi Ronnie and welcome to the ranks of the sexagenarians! I was there before you last summer. I know you will enjoy this period of your life as I am thoroughly enjoying my post-60 period. Life is busier and more fulfilling now than ever before. At 60 years old, it is time to do those things you’ve always wanted to do. Get things in motion. It’s the moment to stop being bothered by the naysayers (of which there are MANY around here and who do have the occasion to bother me) and follow your heart with energy. A period to see how far you can take those great ideas that you stowed away for the future.

    This is the future. It won’t come again so you are right to live every day as though it may be your last. I am sure that you will relish the ‘crossroads’ you are at in your ‘work life’ and see it as another opportunity that will take you who knows where. You always do. You always have done. You always will.

    I await with baited breath the signs to the direction you might be taking. Wherever it is you are going, whatever it is you decide to do, I know it will inspire me (and many others!) to follow or to learn from or to be educated by. To the next decade and more…! Lindsay

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      Thank you Lindsay, I’m enjoying the unknowing, being at a point of change and not knowing what might happen. I do know though that for me this is a time of letting go, of calming, of trusting my instincts. There has very definitely been a calming down of the rage to succeed, as I’ve said on here before. So I’m at a point of peace and stillness. Wondering what might occur to me, but certainly not driven about finding it x

      Reply
  2. Jan Hasak

    Happy, happy birthday, Ron! Wish I could have been to that party to celebrate with you. It looks like it was a blast!! I turned sixty shortly before being diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer. One just never knows what will befall us. I absolutely agree that it is better to be diagnosed than to die unexpectedly. And, yes, all this prior clinical stuff really does toughen us up for anything that comes along.

    I hope you will be blogging for a long time to come. You’ve given us readers a sense of place in many ways. Reading your blog is like putting a comfy throw around yourself and enjoying the warmth of the words, the nostalgia and the locale. Becoming sixty truly doesn’t change everything. It does make us reflect, and that’s a good thing. May you have much peace and happiness in the decades to come.

    Reply
    1. Ronnie Hughes Post author

      The party was indeed a blast Jan and one I’d have resisted had I known about it. But Sarah’s judgment was perfect and it was a few hours I’ll never forget.

      And thanks for your kind words about the blog. I’m sure I’ll continue, writing and photographing seem to be my default settings now.

      Reply
  3. iris

    Lovely to be able to read about your Birthday and view pics. Was hoping to make it and share some rough guitar to celebrate! Glad to hear you had a memorable time. All the very best fellow Bimbler!! Poignant words on blog as ever, iris xx

    Reply

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