Author Archives: Ronnie Hughes

About Ronnie Hughes

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place: http://asenseofplace.com.

The Beautiful Parks: A story begins

There is magic all around us. Stories waiting to be told. In every park & street the future is waiting. Listen, while I tell you a story.

“In what would come to be looked back on as the early years of the 21st Century the people of Liverpool woke up to the beauty all around them. Gathering first in small groups in Autumn 2017, telling each other stories of what they might do in the parks and other places that had been around them for all of their lives and many lives before. But in the huddle and muggle of everyday busyness had been all but forgotten. They began the re-membering and the re-doing of their place.

From early 2018 they started. Small things at first & many. The growing of things, the gatherings and re-gatherings. A litany of possibilities and the story-tellings of dreams. Dreams that got planted, stories that grew. Knowingly and quietly they began the re-growing of their Liverpool.

Listen, I’m telling you a story…” Continue reading

The Meaning of Life: Change and Decay

I know I keep talking about the meaning of life on this blog. The preciousness of all of our times here on earth, including my own as I enter my autumnal days.

Today has been more of this, particularly reflective for me as I’ve spent much of it on Sarah’s autumnal allotment, itself changing and gently decaying now, long past the summer’s end as the year’s light declines.

In through the Secret Gate.

The light this afternoon being that particularly sharp, low in the sky light, that comes on sunny days just before we turn the clocks back.

Dogwood in the autumn light.

Bonfires of the summer’s growth all around us.

All the colours sharp like they’ve been turned up to maximum on some celestial control. Continue reading

The Clearing 3: Is this the life we really want?

Previously on The Clearing, Sarah said…

“You know the Leeds Liverpool Canal? If you had a year to live would you bother finishing it?”

“No” I unhesitatingly replied.

A third episode of getting rid of the stuff of our lives that’s lost its meaning.

So here at Clearing Central in Liverpool we’ve already made a start on the latest round of clearing what we do. We’ve cleared that supposed complete canal walk for no better reason than we couldn’t be bothered finishing it. A good sound reason.

Along with the canal walk we got started with a serious clearcut of possessions in the first of this series of posts. Next we gave the people we know, or don’t really know, some profound consideration along with a bit of unfriending in the second post. Now, to round things off? Well let’s start with some more potentially wasteful and redundant activities that might want clearing from our lives like the canal walk?

How about watching the television? How much of your precious life is that swallowing? Now perhaps you imagine you only watch serious nature documentaries, highly regarded art-house films and those marvellous music genre histories on BBC4. But that’s not true is it? Not even nearly true. Continue reading

Not waving but drowning

“I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.”
So World Mental Health Day 2017 turns up and I nearly miss it altogether. Except I sit down at Twitter mid-evening and find something my friend Liam has written specially for the day about his own mental health, which is deeply felt and enlightening and well done Liam. And he thanks someone else who encouraged him to write. And I think why didn’t I write something too, maybe it would have helped someone else the way what Liam wrote is helping me?
Then I think, well it’s all of our mental health days every day, so why don’t I start writing something that I can finish in the morning? About my own lifetime of ups and deep downs. Some downs feeling as ‘not waving but drowning’ as Stevie Smith’s poem up there at the top.
So I’ll do that.
I’ll write that in the morning. Thank you for the courage to get started Liam.
Right then, here is the morning.
And if I’ve been, perhaps, ‘too far out all my life’ maybe I’ll need to write about all of my life, maybe. But I want to start with recently, because that’s the bit I remember the best.

Continue reading

In Aigburth: Liverpool’s Magdalene Laundry?

“I hated being sent to collect me mum’s washing from the Kelton laundry. With a kid’s imagination it looked like Dracula’ s castle or maybe Colditz to my young eyes. You would knock on a huge door which was duly opened by a fearsome looking nun in full habit. Peering in as she went to fetch the wash, revealed a scene I thought was what hell must look like. A horrible smell of cleaning and lots of steam. Lines of women in pinafores and covered heads slaving away. A vacant expression of hopelessness on every face. I sensed evil even at my tender age.

The evil that was the Magdalene story”.
Phil Jones, October 2017

This comment turned up in my email early one Saturday in October 2017 about a blog post I’d written nearly four years earlier in December 2013. That post had been about a general walk around Aigburth in South Liverpool that had ended with me finding somewhere I’d almost forgotten from earlier in my life.

“Let me tell you a story, a true story, from half my lifetime ago.

It’s the mid 1980s and I’m delivering my beloved baby daughter to her nursery. It’s called Kelton and is just down the hill from a convent, called Kelton House. This morning I’ve noticed someone watching me as I drive past Kelton House. Someone who doesn’t look much like a nun. I ask one of the women who work in the nursery, an Irish woman as it happens ‘What is that place up there? I thought it was a convent.’ ‘Well it is’ she says ‘But it’s also a mother and baby home. It’s where the girls come to have their babies, off the Irish boats as often as not.’

So hurtful for them. Us bringing our much wanted and much celebrated babies to the nursery each morning, while they watch us from their hidden away lives.

I wasn’t sorry, then, when the nursery had to move to another place a few months later because the nuns, who owned the land, had decided to sell it off for housing.”

Continue reading

The Clearing 2: People and true friendship

Previously on “The Clearing” as they say…

“Possessions, jobs, activities and, whisper it, even friendships don’t necessarily need to stay with you forever. And when I have the ‘year to live’ talk with people, it happens, I always view going through the clearing of redundant things as the relatively easy conversation before we arrive at the trickier “Having cleared some space then, how will you spend your time? Because with only 365 days to go you might want to think carefully about the activities and people you spend each one of them on?”

So let’s talk about people.

Continuing from last time in this light of us all having a limited number of days left in our lives.

As I said then the ‘people and activities’ element of clearing is much trickier than the relatively easier getting rid of things. You might have emotions over things but things don’t feel emotional about you, whereas people do, or might. Which makes clearing some of them tricky.

Best then to start with a fairly easy piece of people clearing, unfriending.

It’s an obvious cliché to say that all of our social media friends aren’t really our friends, but they’re not. Continue reading

The Clearing

Earlier this afternoon I carried a bag of Sarah’s books down the road to our nearest charity shop. She’d sorted them out as being ready to go while doing some clearing yesterday afternoon. They were a mixture of horticulture, kayaking and even one about how to make books. I’d bought her that one as well as a couple of the others, but they’d come to the end of their time with her and are now gone.

When I’ve done with writing this post and need a photograph to illustrate it I’ll sort out a small pile of my own books and, once photographed, they’ll be ready to follow Sarah’s down to the same charity shop.

We’ve always done this, not keeping things we don’t need. These days we’re much better than we used to be at not acquiring things in the first place. But even so, things accumulate on shelves, in corners and even in plain sight, attempting to become part of the household landscape, until they’re noticed, identified as beyond their usefulness, and cleared.

We enjoy it and we like living in a home without much stuff, so there’s room for us. Clearing, be it books, furniture, music, gadgets, clothes or old interests, always fills us with the energy and ideas to do whatever’s next. And it always has. At times when we’ve felt our lives becoming becalmed and stale a good bit of clearing has usually helped us to move on and then look back and wonder ‘what was all that stuff for?’

Which fits perfectly with the ‘year to live’ thoughts I’ve been having these past few weeks. Continue reading