I’m going to add this one to my university ‘Fieldnotes’ collection of blog posts. Not because it deals with anything particularly academic, but because it’s about taking time off. Something that’s turning out to be more essential to this new learning phase of my life than I thought it was going to be.
I’d known I was going to be mentally challenged by changing my way of life the way I have. But I hadn’t reckoned with my move into a life of libraries and ideas being such physically hard work. Not hard in a down the pit or off to the steelworks kind of way, obviously, but certainly in terms of the hours I’m putting in. 7:15 sees me out of the house most mornings and I’m rarely back in before 6 in the evening. Not necessarily finished by then either. I had one day off over Christmas, out walking with Sarah, and I’m writing most Sundays.
Not that I’m complaining either. I’m really loving (nearly) all of the work and can pretty much feel my brain cells being exercised most of the time. I’m over the cultural shock and the worried I just wouldn’t measure up of the first few months, and I think I’m managing the workload ok now. But it is a workload. Twelve separate modules this semester, plus a dissertation on top, all coming with preparing, reading, thinking and writing tasks of their own.
And come Friday evening each week I can barely think.
So last night I was in bed by half ten and had what now qualifies as a lie-in until 8 this morning. Knowing that today, being Saturday, was my day off. My day for wandering aimlessly around, doing nothing in particular of any consequence. Essential brain maintenance then.
Beginning with a walk down to Squash on Windsor Street for breakfast. I’m in there not much after 9 and so there’s plenty of room at the tables for me to sit with my coffee, waiting for my mushrooms on toast to arrive, with a poached egg. This whole scenario being more or less a ritual now. Starting my Saturdays off in the peaceful beauty of this lovely place.
And resisting the urge to read the sociology book that I see has stayed in my bag from yesterday. Sorry ‘Visual Methodologies’ – I’m not working today.
Next is a walk along the rest of Windsor Street, then onto Hope Street, past the Cathedral. Further along there ex-LFC legend Dirk Kuyt, bizarrely, crosses the pavement in front of me. Later I’ll learn that there’s a ‘Legends’ game against AC Milan at Anfield that afternoon. At the time I assume I’ve passed close to an alternative reality, and walk on.
Round the corner, first, to buy some bread from the Wild Loaf. And then down Bold Street. Because? Well a day off in Liverpool’s not really a day off at all if you don’t walk down Bold Street, obviously.
It hasn’t been long enough since my breakfast to stop for a drink at Bold Street Coffee. But I go in anyway for a minute. Happy to see it back open again and Bold Street returned to its full Boldstreetness.
Next stop in the street of all streets is Oxfam. I worked upstairs in this building for a decade or more back in my housing days, but now happily think of it more as one of my regular LP-search locations. Nothing today from the stock of Cliff Richard and Perry Como records, but always worth a look and anyway I just like flicking though LPs.
While I’m in there they play my own personal Liverpool anthem, ‘First Picture of You’ by Lotus Eaters. So I sit down by the Juke Box and listen to it for probably the 20,000th time. As beautiful as ever, and I take a photograph to celebrate the moment.
Full of music and no doubt singing as I walk along the street, it’s peer in the window and up some stairs to Dig Vinyl next.
A proper record shop this and doing well, to my great delight.
First of all I look through their ‘Pop/Charts’ selection. I’m deeply in love with pop music at the moment, once again, and thoroughly enjoy myself going through a rack of music I could probably sing every note of, were anyone fool enough to ask me. They don’t, so I move steadily through Classical, Soundtrack and Experimental, Soul, Folk, Country, Local and finally Rock. But nothing sticks to my hand and so I don’t trouble the till. Some days are like that. But it’s still a great shop and I walk away down the stairs, singing a mixed selection of Abba and Man Who Sold the World before I get to my next location.
By the way, this ‘singing’ I keep mentioning is only in my head. At least I think so? But if someone walked past you on the lower end of Bold Street this morning, singing:
“Pack a pack-horse up and rest up here on Black Country Rock”
Then it was probably me.
Anyway it is time for a drink and a sit now, so it’s across Hanover Street and into the Bluecoat next. Still fairly early, still fairly quiet.
Time for a look around and a sit in the garden too. Liverpool’s precious oasis.
But when I leave the oasis town has filled up while I wasn’t watching, so it’s time to leave. Back up Bold Street and across to a waiting 75 bus. Still a bit tired for the usual walk home and anyway? It’s my day off, so I can do what I like.
Getting off at the end of Ullet Road, there’s a table spare at Naked Lunch so I go in. Not for any lunch, though it’s getting on for lunchtime now, but just because I like the place.
A conversation about how things are going with Tony and Paul in there, then I settle down for a read of my book. It’s about economics, but since I’m not studying economics it’s ok for my day off.
As was the whole of my morning. More than ok. “Busy doing nothing” as I probably sang to myself while I walked the rest of the way home. An essential weekly ritual in the rhythm of this learning life. A rest.
More university stories here at Fieldnotes for Utopia