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.

Votes for Women? Liverpool 2017

Not a long ago tale of suffragette struggle but a dystopian story from the Liverpool City Region today, expressed as a heart warming seasonal song, via The Handmaid’s Tale.

WomensLGroup Image credit

Much more of the song later, first let’s talk.

Now I’ve got no particular problem with men. I’ve been one, at first a boy version of one, all my life. Furthermore I’m perfectly happy being who I am. Having said that, I’d never try to run anything or take any important decisions in my life without asking the women that I know. This would feel not merely wrong but also deeply unwise and self-defeating. Ignore half the people I know with all their knowledge, opinions and feelings? As if.

@WomensLGroup Image credit

Which brings me to the problem I want to write about. Devolution to regional city authorities and the exclusion of women from nearly all of their leadership groups. There’s a good article here at the New Statesman you might want to read for the full national picture on this. In summary, all of the head elected jobs as ‘Mayors’ in the devolved authorities are held by men. Then the article shows figures of 94% men having a vote in their running, with just 6% women.

In the Liverpool City Region, yes I’m mainly writing about Liverpool as ever, the percentage figure for men has been rounded up to an easy to comprehend 100%. Yes, no women. A City Region of around 1.5 million people, and therefore around 750,000 women, being run by a small group of men. Continue reading

Of Time and the Season

A question from a friend and then writing all this brings me to the realisation that I’m perfectly fine with Christmas. A harmless old tradition that brings people together around sparkly lights and a warm fire. It’s the shopping I can’t and won’t abide.

This morning my friend Barry threw a question out to the social media world that brought the ghosts of many Christmases past crowding into my thoughts:

“Asked to think of something I might want for Christmas to ease the shopping burden on family. I have about 20 unread books on my shelf and access to more music than I could listen to in one lifetime. What else could I ever need?”

Before my memories crowded out his question my instincts sent him this simple answer it had taken me years of my life to arrive at:

“Time.

I’ve thought about this a lot & in the end time is the gift I ask for & the gift I give myself. Time to listen, read & be with those I love.”

This instinctive statement being qualified shortly afterwards by  this realisation that I do, very occasionally, give people actual presents: Continue reading

Nine Thousand Evenings

In the evening of the day, all work done, we sit down and we talk.

Maybe it’s because we’re in the dark time of the year, when the evening seems to last for half the day, that’s made me so conscious of evenings? Or maybe it’s because I’ve been reading a book? A bit of both probably.

Anyway, have you ever thought about how many evenings you’ve spent talking with the significant person or people in your life? Or about how much all the conversations you’ve had over all of those evenings with these people have contributed to who you are and the life you’re living? Well I have, and ‘a lot’ is the answer to both of these questions.

Evenings are the focus of my thinking and the title of what I’m writing here because they’re the time my significant person and I mostly spend together, our different jobs of work done for the day. We’ve been together, Sarah and I, for 25 years or so now and, minus time spent away working and on a few separate holidays, sea kayaking for example, that all multiplies up to about nine thousand evenings we’ve spent together.

Nine thousand evening of conversation. Continue reading

A Weekend in Early December

I’ve loved using this space I have to write more deeply these past few months. To change the balance between words and pictures on here and have more to say. I’ve particularly had more to say during this time for the reasons many of us will have more to say during times in our lives when we are ill or things generally are not going so well. From late July onwards things did not go well for me and I found myself, to my own relief and slight surprise, trying to write my way through my own doubts, illness, depression and unhappiness. It’s turned out I had a lot to say.

Now, come this weekend in early December, things are much better. Through the love and help of friends, the passing of time and perhaps the writing, my life is in a better place. So I’ve decided to write from this better place. For myself as much as for you who might read this. So I will remember, the next time depression darkens my door, that happiness, sometime soon, can always be a tangible possibility. Continue reading

The Story of Coming Home: So far

For some time now I’ve been thinking of writing something on here about Coming Home. For many reasons, some of which I’ll explain, the time’s never seemed quite right. But stories need telling, otherwise how do they become stories? So here goes, the Story of Coming Home:

Chapter 1

Photograph by Jane MacNeil

Whatever kind of maker you are, a maker of things, tools, songs, stories, poems or paintings, the most difficult thing to do is to get going. So many of us are full of the big even beautiful ideas, aren’t we? But how many of them ever amount to something you can show or use or put in a story, let alone live in?

I’ve been thinking about this, this getting going, as some friends and I from The Beautiful Ideas Co have been talking about what Coming Home does next. And as I’ve also been reading a novel by Colm Toíbín called ‘The South.’ I love Colm Toíbín’s writing. He’s a near contemporary and I often find valuable thoughts about life and the living of it from reading his books.

In ‘The South’ I’ve found a particularly relevant gem. It’s in his afterword, where he writes about how hard he’d had to search for the answer to how to get this, his first novel, going.

Being a story he’d wanted to move around Ireland and Catalonia, abstractedly painting their emotional and historical landscapes he talked to an Irish artist, Barrie Cooke, about how he did beginnings:

“You make a mark” he said, as he gestured the making of an almost random mark with an imaginary paint-brush.

Well at Coming Home we’ve definitely made a mark. Continue reading

The Old Map: Birkenhead and Wallasey

On Saturday mornings, when I’m content with the week’s work done, I like to walk around the neighbourhood more or less pointlessly. Sometimes the walk involves a sit and a read in a café then some food shopping, sometimes LPs. Today it was books. Restocking my shelf of coming soon novels from both the local library and the local Oxfam. While I was in Oxfam I also found this old map of Birkenhead and sat down for a good look at it and the stories it contains.

Like the story of the major line railway station which was running six trains a day from Birkenhead to London until the late 1960s? Read on.

Continue reading

What kind of society do you want to grow up in?

Explaining social housing and the economy to young people. Many comments on this now in. See the evolving discussion with young people here.

For a long time I’ve thought and no doubt even said that if you really know your stuff, whatever that ‘stuff’ might be, you should be able to explain it clearly to anyone. Just this year, for example, I’ve been driven to so much distraction by some verbose inhabitants of the ‘social investment sector’ (their description of themselves) that I’ve had to publicly berate them for telling a room of people who actually do things that we need to ‘learn their language’ if we want them to consider investing in us.

Photo by Jane MacNeil

I’m saying this because this very week some of my own ‘stuff’ has been put to the test when The Economist asked me if I’d have a go at answering some questions. They run something called The Burnet News Club that’s specifically about involving both primary and secondary school children in discussions about the economy.

 

 

So they sent me five questions young people had submitted, generally around the subject of social housing, and today they’ve published my answers. Continue reading