Category Archives: a sense of place

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 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

The Stranger in Skelmersdale

One of my most treasured possessions and one of the very few things I’ve kept hold of in a life with few kept books and very little else in the way of belongings, is ‘The Stranger in Liverpool.’ My 1820 edition of a guide to Liverpool which takes the shape of escorting an unfamiliar visitor on a walk ‘around the parish bounds’ of the relatively small place we were then.

Yesterday I was ‘The Stranger in Skelmersdale.’ One day, 200 years after my precious book, of being taken on a walk round a nearby town that I hardly know at all.

I remember the moment I was introduced to Skelmersdale.

It’s a summer evening in 1965 and we’ve come out for a drive after our tea in the brand new family car, a dark blue Ford Cortina, ELV 397C. We’ve travelled out from North Liverpool into the Lancashire countryside. All winding lanes and old churches, where the most modern thing in the landscape is us in our car, until we arrive at what I remember as the crest of a hill where we are looking down into the huge bowl of a building site landscape:

“What’s that Dad?”
“It’s a new town they’re building down there. It’s going to be called Skelmersdale.”

After that my memories are few. Of riding through the brand new place most days on a Ribble bus, on my way to Wigan Tech, as the 1970s begin. A few years later some friends lose their home in Melling as the M58 is finally, and more than a bit late, built through there to Skelmersdale. Then in more recent years some contacts and one visit through my work with the School for Social Entrepreneurs. So, not much and definitely not enough to claim to know the place.

Which is how come I turn up here, late November in 2017, as The Stranger in Skelmersdale. Continue reading

A True Story: Having the time of your life?

On top of a hill in Yorkshire. Some time in the late 1990s.

Recently on here I’ve been writing about being self-employed and the kinds of work I do. About how much I like variety in the work I take on and the stress it caused me recently when I found myself doing too much of one thing.

So when I read this article by Owen Jones in The Guardian, suggesting that a four day working week could be good for our economy, our society and our health, I remembered.

I remembered that ever since I began leaving my day job in the mid-1990s and becoming self-employed one of my objectives in doing so has been to work less. Not that I don’t enjoy the work I do. I do, and one of the big things I’ve always gone on about is finding and doing the work you love. And I have, mostly. But a core part of living the life I’ve had over this last 22 years has been to have more time than I used to have for me.

To do what? Well, we’ll get on to that. Continue reading

A tale of two ducts: Pontcysyllte Aqueduct and Cefn Bychan Viaduct

A ‘Letter from Sarah’ here with a slight difference. She’s put all the structure together, taken and selected all the photographs and will be the main writer. But I went on the day out in North Wales too, so we’re going to sit and write together. My occasional contributions in italics.

*

So… with one thing and another it’s been a while since me and Ronnie have had a day out together. Me being up in Knoydart, off in my kayak, and of course, Ronnie not being well from early August, have all meant that we’ve simply not had the time or wellness until now to pack our day bags and go off exploring.

I’ve suggested that we come to Pontcysyllte Aqueduct today, out of sheer curiosity. (For those of you not fluent in Welsh, a helpful sign tells us, ‘Pontcysyllte’ is prounounced Pont-ker-sulth-tay.)

We arrive at Trevor Basin, not far from Llangollen.

It’s the day the clocks have gone back so we’re a bit disoriented. And after an early start from home we eat much of our packed lunch as soon as we arrive. Though our watches are telling us it’s only 11am our bodies know full well it’s lunchtime.

We arrive here without a plan (for once), but knowing it’s a World Heritage Site expect good signage and obvious things laid out. Continue reading

Walking to Work: A Year to Live

I don’t know about you but Autumn’s always been a time of change and moving on for me. New schools and colleges started, leaving the day job, moving houses and, once upon a time, a new baby (Hello Clare). Then there’s writing this, this ‘what I do’ sort of thing for this website. Nothing as life changing and earth moving as any of those others. Or maybe it is? All new starts containing within them a sense of possible perfection, the pristine emptiness and possibilities of a new page, waiting to see what might get written on it?

The page, this time, is not going to be entirely blank. I’m not leaving behind all of the things I do. But in sitting down to write I’ve decided I won’t simply edit what’s already there. Because it’s Autumn and so time for a new start. Here goes.

After which promising start, written on a Friday in a nearby café (Hello Naked Lunch) over a cup of tea, I meandered around for a day or so. Coming up with not very much. It can be how writing goes sometimes. Though I’d decided on the ‘new start and almost blank page’ approach I needed to find some words to help my reader understand my general, and expressed right here, wish to work on a variety of things. I played around with a few words and phrases, thinking these might sum up the sections or paragraphs I could then go on and write about: stories, adventures, curiosity, being opinionated, helping out. But at three o’clock, going on two (it’s the day we turn the clocks back) on Saturday afternoon I was still stuck. Repeatedly erasing the paragraphs you can’t see where these new ones now sit.

Then I remembered I’ve already got a theme in my real life, never mind these literary devices like ‘the nearly blank page.’ A theme that’s sat behind or even in front of everything I’ve written since some time in August this year. Continue reading

The Story of the The Beautiful Parks

Apply here by Saturday 4th November – That’s today!

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 yet 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 and 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.

Here 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 a 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