Now that 2014 is over, here’s an attempt to sum up my own past year in 12 photographs.
Over the year there were 160 new blog posts and most of them contained new photographs as I wandered around, mostly, Liverpool with my camera clutched permanently in my right hand. Here’s what I saw.
This was the year of ‘Great Bus Journeys of the World’ all made possible, or at least cheaper, by me being awarded the freedom of my City and beyond, by way of a bus pass. So as soon as I got it, late in January, I began a new kind of exploring. Here I’ve made my first ever trip through the Mersey Tunnel on a bus. Getting on at Cook Street, where the 472 starts, to make sure I can get the front seat upstairs and get the best views through the tunnel and across the Wirral. As thrilled as any child.
I spent the early part of the year being tested and diagnosed with a relatively rare blood disorder, polycythaemia, most likely caused by a genetic defect. This included regular visits to the Royal Hospital where dedicated staff perform their daily miracles in an architectural monstrosity – with great views. Here, both cathedrals and the University’s Victoria Building. The polycythaemia, by the way, is now well monitored and being controlled by having a pint of blood taken out of me every now and then.
Into March and the slow arrival of Spring. A misty walk with Sarah on the hills, pathways and beach around Thurstaston. A quiet meditative day with little sound but our footsteps and Sarah quietly naming the names of each plant as we passed.
Finally Spring and the light return as we spend a day meandering around the Wirral. Catching the late afternoon light just right as it makes the sea wall at Harrison Drive, near New Brighton, look like a Rothko painting.
One of Sarah’s greatest delights during 2014, and a constant release from her funeral celebrant work, was the progress she made on her cataloguing of all the world’s monkey puzzle trees. She has now gathered over 800 of them, mostly in Britain so far and all to be seen on her Monkey Map. When the suspected monkeys are anywhere near Liverpool I’m often cajoled into being her driver and have learned highly efficient emergency pulling over skills upon hearing the phrase ‘There’s one!’ In this case, and bizarre even by monkey standards, front and back monkeys towering over a bungalow near St Helens, and photographed by courageous monkey hunter Sarah.
In May my friend Rob Greenland came over from Leeds on a visit, with his son Frank. Rob works on Empty Homes in Leeds so he wanted to see some of the issues we have over here. We’d been to Granby 4 Streets and crossed Princes Avenue to see the desolation of the Welsh Streets. Even now still held in limbo awaiting the outcome of a public enquiry absolutely no one in Liverpool called for or wanted.
On an early summer Saturday Sarah and I caught the 27 bus in Lodge Lane and set off on a circular tour of the inner city. One of our best days of the year. Stopping for lunch at Homebaked in Anfield and later getting off at Great Homer Street to see the swaggering street market in its late days, then to cross Scotland Road to here, Eldon Grove. A few weeks later we get the news that it will now be saved and restored for social housing.
I love functional industrial architecture and at the end of June we spent a great day up close to it on both sides of the Mersey, underneath the Runcorn Bridges. This was not a year of going on holiday for me. Apart from a short stay on Anglesey it was more about days out, like this one, often fairly close to home.
One day in the summertime two flyovers in the centre of Liverpool were closed for an experiment. Would it work if, instead of demolishing them, we were to go for the cheaper option of turning them into a mixture of social space, parks, bike and walkways. Thousands came to try it out and the answer was a resounding ‘Yes’ and a major compliment to the ‘Friends of the Flyover’ who’d had one of the very best ideas of the year.
Throughout the year I’ve been involved with libraries both in Liverpool and on the Wirral, contributing my opinions and publicity to how we can all minimise the pernicious effects of the class war that is austerity politics. Spending time in the libraries themselves, particularly the ones like Wavertree here known to be under threat, has been a very emotional experience and I’ll be continuing to do what I can to see these precious places through to the future. For all of our children’s children.
Early in 2014 I decided my days as a film maker for hire were over. This was part of my ‘Year to live’ reflections about what really matters to me and what’s worth spending my time on now. Then a combination of health, housing, homelessness and some extraordinary people persuaded me to make one last film. I made it with Charlie Upton, pictured above, and it tells ‘Tina’s Story’. It’s one of the very best things I’ve ever done and the central day, a few of us quietly talking about life and death at the Wirral Ark in Birkenhead, was one of my best days of the year.
And the year came towards its end with a street party in Granby. With the 4 Streets on site at last, ten of the homes in the hands of the Community Land Trust and, crossing all of our fingers and toes, all of our hopes from the years of work about to be realised? We’ll soon see. But it’s great to be written up in the Guardian and it’s great to have everyone’s support. So in 2015 we’re looking forward to the building of a whole new community, at long long last, in Granby 4 Streets. Well done you guerrilla gardeners, well done you market organisers. Of the people, by the people, for the people.
Here’s to 2015. Thank you all for reading and being in touch this past year.