The Elephant’s Head of Ducie Street: A short story

The Head had been having a bit of a life since it left its elephant, apparently. In a gallery, a bar and now up on top of the bay of an empty house in Ducie Street, Liverpool 8.

Or so I was told while on my usual monthly visit to the Granby Street Market, on this grey November Saturday morning in late 2018.

’Thought returning now after a time, maybe a long time, of darkness, echoey, inside something metallic. A cupboard or container?

There was clanking, opening, light and shifting. Then being carried. Up and up by one of them, the Hind-Legs creatures. Up to here then settled down, trunk arranged, outside at last.’

With thought come The Head’s memories. Of the other places, recent and not so. Continue reading “The Elephant’s Head of Ducie Street: A short story”

On Smithdown: Off the buses

Since last writing on Monday I’ve walked in all week now and it’s been great. Forty minutes from home at the Penny Lane end then all the way along Smithdown Road’s ups and downs into the university. I got the bus one particularly early cold and wet morning, I’m not stupid, but other than that I’ve walked in and walked home and I feel great. Six miles or so a day is good for me, good for my thinking and it’s what I do. I walk.

Being a student again, six weeks into it now, is of course a mental challenge. But only a physical one in a negative kind of way, as it involves sitting down a lot. Some in lectures and discussions, but most of it here in the library or in quiet corners where I can read and write. Meaning it would be easy to leave the house in the morning, get on the bus and then sit down all day.

So I walk.

Then during the days I move around. When I’ve finished a piece of work or thought and read long enough about one thing, I’ll go somewhere else and read about the next one. It helps. I’m finding that the first hour or so in any one place is when the best thinking happens. Then I move. Continue reading “On Smithdown: Off the buses”

The Art of Listening

Clocks turned back, the big thing about early mornings now is that they’re lighter. That’s the point of the mass exercise in self-delusion that we do twice a year, isn’t it? (Though I’ve heard rumours some countries are stopping this quaint practice as it ‘interferes with the markets.’ Which will of course never do.)

Anyway, after some very early morning reading I set off to walk into university on this Monday morning because who wouldn’t? It’s only about 3 miles from where I live, the walking always does me good, and it gives me time to think.

Time to think.

Because one of the many things I’ve learned in the five weeks  since I’ve become a student again is that it’s surprisingly easy not to think. There’s so much to do on this Social Methods MA leading into a PhD that it would be easy for me to virtuously fill my time with all kinds of busy things and yet avoid thinking very much at all. Continue reading “The Art of Listening”

By the Light of the Shining Shore

We spent the day before the coming of the dark walking in our sacred place. The last day before turning the clocks back for the winter spent in the place that has sustained both of us through some of the hardest times of our lives.

‘The Shining Shore’ on the Dee Estuary is both the name of the beach at Thurstaston and the name of this walk we do and have done for many years now. First walked when Sarah was recovering from her cancer diagnosis and treatment in the the years after 2007 and sometimes walked when one or both of us barely had the energy to do so. The land always seemed to send us away with more energy than we’d arrived with. And so it became our sacred place.

At times we’ve felt like we knew every leaf and tree of the place, and every rock in our passway. Continue reading “By the Light of the Shining Shore”

Early Morning in the Library

I love these early mornings here in the university library. Getting the bus before the into work and school rush and squash begins. Then into here before it begins filling up for the day. Knowing I’m part of that filling up. Yet still, early on like now, the place feeling like mine. Like I’ve come to inhabit it. An essential moment in your time with any great library. When it becomes your place.

The moment you know roughly how it works. Continue reading “Early Morning in the Library”

The Sociological Imagination

Nearly four weeks into my University of Liverpool Sociology and History studies now, and for the first time sending out a brief blog post from inside the library where I’m spending much of my time.

I’m here in the library mid-afternoon on a Tuesday, having been in and around the university since early this morning, mostly reading generally and otherwise getting ready for the next few day’s lectures. And mostly done now, giving me plenty of time to carry on with reading the last lot of stuff for this Thursday’s ‘Philosophy of Social Science’  titled ‘The Sociological Imagination’ and about the works of C. Wright Mills and Howard Becker.

Suggested chapters by and about both of these have been suggested by this week’s lecturer, who’s also suggested we might, now or sometime soon, like to read the whole of ‘The Sociological Imagination’ by C. Wright Mills as ‘It’s a wonderful text.’


Thus encouraged I started reading it yesterday and it is – wonderful, readable, clear and opinionated. What’s more, involved in it as I am, this is the first day in my nearly four weeks that I haven’t brought a novel in with me as well, for my occasional relief-reading. This being good enough on its own to read like a ‘proper’ book!

I think I might be starting to feel at home here? Continue reading “The Sociological Imagination”

“Brief Lives” & two perfect paragraphs

I’m not sure if you’re supposed to do this really. Include whole paragraphs as quotations on a blog post about a particular book. But they’re such a perfect bookends to everything in between them that I’m going to go ahead and do just that anyway.

Since Kate Rodenhurst and I wrote our joint piece, about a different Anita Brookner novel in this ‘books’ corner of the blog I’ve been having trouble settling into novels by anyone else. Hence picking up her ‘Brief Lives’ before setting out on my Sunday walk this week. Yet another book having been abandoned in disinterest the day before.

I don’t entirely blame the authors of this failed sequence. In recent weeks I’ve been doing a lot of reading, but of academic books, so perhaps that’s put me off my fictional stride? Maybe so but either way I was happy and confident to set off early in the afternoon with an Anita Brookner in my bag, on a grey and quiet Sunday that  would have suited so many of her characters and their situations.

I walked in the opposite direction to my more usual city routes. Knowing there would be giant puppets and their attendant crowds towards the city centre and a Liverpool FC and Manchester City game further north I walked up Mossley Hill and down the other side, along mostly empty streets.

Reaching Sefton Park at the Aigburth end I bought some coffee from the café by the lake, sat down to read and by page 16 I’d found this perfect paragraph about a Sunday afternoon in the main character’s childhood. Continue reading ““Brief Lives” & two perfect paragraphs”

In a Quiet Corner: Getting Going

No apologies for not having written anything on this blog for nearly two weeks now, I’ve been busy. After months of looking forward I’ve started university . And it’s making me so happy I thought I’d write a bit about it, in a quiet way.

Much of my life is fairly quiet at the moment in fact. In quiet corners of this great big library in between Myrtle Street and Abercromby Square. In Abercromby Square itself, having a peaceful lunch from the very good (non-corporate) lunch shop on Oxford Street near the Sports Centre. And in lectures listening carefully to, well, more about them in a bit.

I’ve been thinking mostly. Continue reading “In a Quiet Corner: Getting Going”

Life is short: Happy Birthday to me

My partner Sarah’s just had a birthday, one due to be spent doing something she loves, being out in her beloved sea kayak off the coast of Wales. Well as you’ll read, that didn’t happen. Instead she spent two happily quiet days walking on a beach, gardening and reflecting on life and death.

‘The fact that I work with death informs me with an urgency and impatience which does not compel me to rush, it compels me to slow down – even more. To be happier with less. Not more.’


A birthday reflection. By understanding the meaning of death, we shall come to appreciate fully the meaning of this life – which is unrepeatable and so to be treasured above all else. 

If I were to simply share this photo then the viewer might (correctly) assume that I had been to a beach for my birthday. And yes, that it true, but – for me – it doesn’t fully tell the story behind the photo and also the reflections that birthdays bring.  Continue reading “Life is short: Happy Birthday to me”

The Mystery Literary Festival 2018: How it was

Days one and two photographs now included.

First days start quietly when you’ve not done it before
Will this work, will that work, will anybody come?
But then and if you’re lucky and you never can be sure
It just works, it just does and soon the first day’s done.

Well done all, here’s how it looked through one pair of eyes.


Ready for everyone to arrive… Continue reading “The Mystery Literary Festival 2018: How it was”