Walking to Work: A Year to Live

I don’t know about you but Autumn’s always been a time of change and moving on for me. New schools and colleges started, leaving the day job, moving houses and, once upon a time, a new baby (Hello Clare). Then there’s writing this, this ‘what I do’ sort of thing for this website. Nothing as life changing and earth moving as any of those others. Or maybe it is? All new starts containing within them a sense of possible perfection, the pristine emptiness and possibilities of a new page, waiting to see what might get written on it?

The page, this time, is not going to be entirely blank. I’m not leaving behind all of the things I do. But in sitting down to write I’ve decided I won’t simply edit what’s already there. Because it’s Autumn and so time for a new start. Here goes.

After which promising start, written on a Friday in a nearby café (Hello Naked Lunch) over a cup of tea, I meandered around for a day or so. Coming up with not very much. It can be how writing goes sometimes. Though I’d decided on the ‘new start and almost blank page’ approach I needed to find some words to help my reader understand my general, and expressed right here, wish to work on a variety of things. I played around with a few words and phrases, thinking these might sum up the sections or paragraphs I could then go on and write about: stories, adventures, curiosity, being opinionated, helping out. But at three o’clock, going on two (it’s the day we turn the clocks back) on Saturday afternoon I was still stuck. Repeatedly erasing the paragraphs you can’t see where these new ones now sit.

Then I remembered I’ve already got a theme in my real life, never mind these literary devices like ‘the nearly blank page.’ A theme that’s sat behind or even in front of everything I’ve written since some time in August this year. That I’ve got a year to live and that nothing gets through my ‘shall I do it or even write about it’ decision unless it passes my year to live test? And I remembered that my year to live test contains this:

“During this year you won’t be seriously ill, beyond the normal cold or two, and so can’t go on the sick. Therefore you’ll need to work to support yourself and to pay for the other things you decide you want to do during this final year. What will these things you work at be then?”

Good, my theme has arrived.

Well first of all I’d want to look after Coming Home Liverpool. The new enterprise I’ve been working on with Jayne Lawless for much of this past year. Since I was ill during the summer Jayne and I have already decided Coming Home needs strengthening with some more people, in some way, so it’s not so dependent on either of us. So we’ll get on with that and prepare for the day when it no longer needs me. Good.

But given a year to live I wouldn’t want even Coming Home, or anything else, to be all of my work. I’m looking for a few different things, remember. So what else would I look for?

Well there’s this Beautiful Parks Project I’m already a part of. I’ve loved the work and the subject so far. How can we be making better use of our parks and green spaces? I’ve loved talking to people about their own ideas around this, being part of the team of us who are running the thing and, particularly, spending last weekend putting together my story of an imagined future, where the parks have all sorts of growth, planting, enterprises and life going on in them. During the week hundreds of people have read this and got in touch and I’ve been gradually adding their ideas to the story. So I’ll be fascinated to see where this all goes and would want to help in any way I can with the debates, decisions and organising we’d need to do to make our Liverpool an even more wonderful place for us all to live.

Because I do think I’d want my last year’s work to be mostly in and around Liverpool (by which I mean the wider place of course, and both sides of the river). I’ve stopped having a car now, one of the many things I’ve cleared from my life in the last couple of months, and so I see myself walking or getting the bus to most of the rest of what I want to do. I get that this is more environmentally responsible of me, and I’m happy about that. But I want to do it anyway, to see and feel as much of my place as I can. Walking is the not so secret reason why this blog is so full of years of life in and around Liverpool.

It’s also why it’s full of so many of the people and places it’s full of. I get wind somehow that something interesting is happening. Then the next time my feet take me round wherever that is I call in and talk to the people. Before you know it there’s a blog written and we’re talking about other ways I may be able to help out. My friend Adam Taylor (Hello Adam) recently called this thing I do “Ronnie-ing” and I’d be happy, would in fact need, to do a good amount of this with a year to go.

I won’t, of course, call in and Ronnie about just anything or anyone. And given a year to live I’ll be particularly choosy. I’m naturally drawn to ideas about making the world, or your bit of it, a fairer and friendlier place. I’m also a socialist to the core of my being and I despise and watch out for all forms of exploitation, selfishness and greed, however smooth-voiced and ‘hey be reasonable’ they might be when they turn up. Equally I’m very opinionated, so even if you are a good sort I can’t guarantee your idea or issue will get on my list of ‘things I’d like to work on.’ Especially with this ‘year to live’ question hovering round. But do talk to me, or how will we both know? Opinionated as I am I do love a good conversation, over a cup of tea in a café somewhere.

And once we agree to do some work together what might that be? Well, let’s see.

I don’t particularly want to go back to that list of subject words that didn’t get me very far back at the beginning of this post. But I probably will want to talk to you about stories, the one you’re in and ones we could make up. What you’re up to will need to make me curious. And I won’t be interested in being a safe pair of hands, because I’ll want what we do together to be an adventure. For you as an individual, for your life, for your community, your company, your place, the city. Any or all of those. And for me too. Because you’ll be part of the last year I’ve got, so it matters.

So get in touch, email me, tweet me or come over and talk to me if you see me passing. And don’t be too worried about money. I’d like you to pay me because I’m working class and that’s how it works. But I also understand how it is for so many of us at the moment and I’ll work for less than usual or nothing at all if I judge it needs doing and I’ve got enough to live on coming in from other work. But I’ll be the judge. And I will never, by the way, work for whatever ‘the exposure’ is.

This is my life and I’m living it like there’s only a year of it to go. So let’s make the best of it and do what we can. For you, me, the people and the place. For our Liverpool.

More stuff about things I’ve done and stories I’ve been involved in is gathered under ‘Fascinations’ on the blog. But don’t let them put you off, I’m interested in doing new things too.

 

 

 

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