It began quietly. We’d be on one of the Friday Walks we’d do together every week then. Maybe over at Ness on the Wirral, or round the old merchants and slavers homes here on Lost Liverpool. I’d become gradually aware that I was walking alone and, retracing my steps, would often find her, looking at a monkey.
Not an actual screeching, swinging, banana-eating monkey, you understand. No, Sarah was beginning her slowly growing fascination with one of the Earth’s oldest surviving tree species, the Araucaria from Chile, or as we know them, the Monkey Puzzle.
And I thought I’d mention the monkeys because her fascination with them has now turned into an exquisitely detailed and photographed blog, as she attempts nothing less than the cataloguing of all known ‘monkeys.’ Beginning in Liverpool, naturally, the centre of our particular earth. But already expanding well beyond here into distant avenues and churchyards.
You may have already noticed me mentioning Sarah’s monkeys on Twitter. In case you haven’t or don’t go there I thought I’d best mention it here.
Sarah’s search is a natural coming together of several of her fascinations. The natural world, plants in general, gardening, collecting things, cataloguing, maps and funerals. Funerals? Yes, for a reason she hasn’t yet identified lots of Monkey Puzzle trees can be found in church yards and around crematoria. Places Sarah often goes to now in her work as a Funeral Celebrant. She also spots them travelling around Liverpool and Wirral to meet bereaved families and plan funeral services with them.
So it was that Friday just gone, a glorious spring public holiday here in Britain I found myself installed as Sarah’s driver for the day, travelling east and north of Liverpool on the sunniest day of the year so far, looking for the Monkeys. Through Prescot, St Helens, to Ormskirk, Burscough and Tarleton – then back through Lydiate and Maghull to Thornton. Finding, stopping, photographing and cataloguing the Monkeys she’d seen, out of the corner of her eye, while driving to see her families.
I’ll say no more about the day as Sarah’s already written two beautiful blog posts about it here and here. In fact, though it’s a new blog she’s already done more than 20 posts and I’ll often come in to find her taking a break from her work and enthusiastically annotating one of her growing collection of monkey maps.
But going around beyond Liverpool with her on Friday, I did feel like one of those ‘Chinese’ Wilson sort of Victorian plant-hunters. The Empire types triumphantly bringing home pieces of abroad to see if they might grow in the so-called Mother Country. Except our ’empire’ was predominantly the suburban gardens of outer Liverpool and beyond.
It’s a curious country, the suburbs. They do things differently there. Do go and have a look at Sarah’s blog though. As I said, it’s exquisitely done. Maps, cataloguing and ancient trees – a collector’s delight – ‘Monkey Puzzle Meanderings.’
If you can help with looking for the monkeys, Sarah would love to hear from you through the contact page on her blog.