After I wrote about my friend the artist Emma Rushton’s house a couple of weeks ago, some other friends suggested I might like to do a series where I look around some other people’s houses. They thought this could be an interesting development from other writings and work I’ve done on, oh, the meaning of life and home as a human right. They also thought it would be a good nose.
Thanks ‘some other friends!’
So to try out the idea, and because it’s only fair, I’ve decided to follow up the post on Emma’s house with one about where I live. And since I’m writing this and it’s what I do a lot of, here’s ‘The Writer’s House’.
I moved in here with my daughter Clare in September 1991. A three bed terraced house in Wavertree, much like thousands of others in Liverpool. At the time I still had another few years left in the housing job I was doing, and so I’d have simply not believed anyone saying:
‘One day you’ll publish this photograph of the day you’ve moved in under a title where you’re calling yourself a writer’
Well, no. But then life’s an interesting adventure isn’t it?
So, after a cup of tea and sorting through the photos, here’s a version of the story since then told through the life of this house.
This had been a student house before I moved in and all felt a bit manky and full of dark strange carpets, which I’d soon get rid of. Before I did I was recommended to ‘brighten up the middle of the house.
‘So some colour leaks into every dull room!’
Which with her Matisse stencils and buying lots of cheap Ikea picture frames I soon did. The ‘Recommender’ also helped out once the carpets had gone by skipping around doing some temporary painting of the now exposed floorboards.
The recommender and artist being, of course, Sarah Horton. Living and working in Manchester at this time, though we’d be moved in here together within a couple of years.
And in establishing this ‘colour it in for now’ attitude right from the start, Sarah set the house’s abiding theme as a place where we’d experiment with the place itself and with how we’d live our lives. That, of course, being one of the main points and purposes of having a secure home such as this has been.
As we moved all our stuff in together the house filled up, before we began to empty it out, collage up how we wanted individual rooms to feel and turned the back yard into an extra occasional room.
We filled the house with music and art, particularly Sarah’s quilts at first. Incredibly complex things to visualise and make, she wondered whether her art might make her a more fulfilling living than her job in Manchester doing PR and communications for a housing association? We also began to wonder whether we might come up with something we could do together?
We called this ‘something’ we were thinking about ‘A Sense of Place’ before we entirely knew what we meant. And we both negotiated going part-time at our jobs while we stripped the house back to its ‘cushions on the floor’ phase to think more clearly about the mixture of maps, lives, places, art, music and creativity we wanted to include in our idea.
Then when we were sure enough that we wanted to give our idea a proper go we both left our jobs, in the same week, and got married because of the line in a Paul Simon song. The one where he says:
‘Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together’
From now the house became even more fully our working space, our studio space as our parallel story as A Sense of Place, told here, got properly going.
As we were doing so much planning and making of art in our early days, as well as running events in the house, all studio and floor space was precious. So our first ‘office’ was borrowed space in a kitchen cupboard, computer and fax sat on top of the work surface.
Slowly though, as we began making films with our social and community enterprise customers as well as helping them to work out their futures, the shape of how we used the house for our work changed.
But the house also became much less of a public place as our work meant us spending much more of our time outside of it. It became our refuge, our quiet place to return to. Even more so in the years of Sarah’s illness and treatment. Then of our working partnership coming to its end, as Sarah moved on to her career as an independent funeral celebrant when she was well again.
The house quietly supporting some of our most difficult days, peacefully being simply and reliably here.
In more recent times the house has become, if anything, more minimalist than ever. Supporting us both in our different ways. Its design, inside and out done again by Sarah but this time working with our friend, the artist Jayne Lawless. Most of the painting also done by Jayne.
Arriving now at the room where I’m sat writing this and where I’ve written pretty much all of the posts on this blog, in the company of another friend, Jane MacNeil’s beautiful photograph of the Picton Reading Room in Liverpool’s Central Library. Also in here is one of Sarah’s large tulip paintings from the house’s early days, her collection of jugs and my Liverpool books.
The house now belongs to us, all mortgage paid off. This being the longest either of us have ever lived anywhere. We love every brick and floorboard of it, as we should. The living here having provided us with the stable and affordable base to both do what we’ve wanted with our lives as well as pull through some difficult times.
Home, it’s a human right.
So would you like to tell the story of your home and what it means to you? Let me know.
Meanwhile here’s the first home featured in what may turn out to be a series, Emma Rushton’s ‘The Artist’s House’