Oyé: A Village Returns

Once a year in a park not too far away, a village called Oyé appears. For two days it goes about its village business, and then it disappears on the second night of the two days, like it was never there. Until the mid-summer of the following year, when once again Oyé returns, as it has today.

I knew this would be the day of its return because I’ve been visiting the village now for twenty six years. Following it round the city and even across the water in its early days, before it settled in its home now, at the Lodge Lane end of Sefton Park.

Nevertheless a friend reminded me about it when I happened to see her the day before, because she’s a drummer and knew about a band from her home country I should get there in time to see.

So I walked into the park the next morning to find Oyé. Hearing it before I could see it.

Then here it was, across the field and between the vans, the Village of Oyé. Here like always, never quite the same but always both familiar and different.

So I walked around, like I always do. Continue reading “Oyé: A Village Returns”

The Wichita Lineman: And I need you more than want you

A friend and I have been swapping lists just lately of our favourite pieces of classical music. For our own education and maybe even a blog post on here sometime. The doing of these somehow made me think of ‘Wichita Lineman’. Not because it’s classical music, of course, though maybe it is now?

I’ve been listening to this glorious song since it first emerged from my Binatone transistor radio fifty years ago. I’ll almost certainly have heard it on the new BBC Radio One that had just been invented then to replace my preferred Radio Caroline pirate station. And once I’d heard it the song not only stuck with me, it stuck in me.

The loneliness, the yearning, the situation, the working man out there on his own, the SOS in the strings and every single time these last fifty years when he sings:

‘And I need you more than want you
And I want you for all time’

I stop. Continue reading “The Wichita Lineman: And I need you more than want you”

For the Love of Record Shops: Defend Vinyl

As Record Store Day 2018 approaches this weekend, an appreciation.

I’m keen on high streets, as you may have noticed, reasoning they’re not only essential  for the well-being of our neighbourhoods but also in defining who we are and where we’re from. As in:

‘I’m Ronnie Hughes, I live just off Smithdown Road in Liverpool, and these days its such a great high street it’s even got a record shop’.

It’s called Defend Vinyl and I featured it on here eighteen months ago, not long after it opened.

Well here it is again, not only going stronger than ever but also about to host Record Store Day this coming Saturday, April 21st.

Record Store Day, in case you’ve never heard of it, is about encouraging people to visit their local record shops. Simple as that. After a precipitous drop in numbers record shops are returning to our high streets for the simple reason that enough of us want them to. So Record Store Day is a day to celebrate record shops everywhere by visiting one.

Let’s do that then? Continue reading “For the Love of Record Shops: Defend Vinyl”

The Mystery Literary Festival: Soon

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 called “The Mystery Literary Festival.”

In Liverpool there is a park called The Mystery. No map will tell you where it is but everyone knows it’s called The Mystery. And in 2018 they know it’s where the first Mystery Literary Festival happened.

Listen, I’m telling you a story, a mystery story.

The idea came from The Beautiful Parks Project in the autumn of 2017 when a woman with the grown up daughter said ‘Why is there no Mystery Literary Festival?’ And so there was. Once two passing strangers, one of whom was also me, stuck up their hands and said ‘If no one else wants to run it then we’ll do our best, having never done such a thing before. It will be a laugh and a story in itself.’ 

Listen, I’m telling you a story, a mystery story.

So it was announced, and here I am announcing it, that The Mystery Literary Festival would be for everyone who likes a story. And that would be more or less everyone, right? Continue reading “The Mystery Literary Festival: Soon”

A Glimpse of Sky

‘There are times I think I would gladly die for a glimpse of sky’

Or at least that how the song goes in my memory. I also think it was written by Judy Collins. And though neither of these memories turns out to be true it’s Judy Collins who’s singing the song in my head, having added the word ‘glimpse’ to Stephen Sondheim’s original lyrics, while I work on Sarah’s allotment in Liverpool this afternoon.

The sky is the great gift we get for spending a lot of our time outdoors. You get on with whatever it is you’re doing, and on this afternoon that has meant a lot of digging and looking at the soil, then when you look up there’s the sky, different every time. Continue reading “A Glimpse of Sky”

Ode to Bobbie Gentry

“It was the third of June another sleepy, dusty Delta day…”

The song seeped into me in the years of my growing up and it has never left. I know now that it came out here in the late summer of 1967. But without looking it up I couldn’t have told you if it came out then or in 1968 or 69. It was simply around, telling its partial story about something going on “off the Tallahatchie Bridge.”

The song is in my bones now, all these years later, and I recognise it as one of several story songs from around then that intrigued me by not quite telling me their stories, by letting me in on the edge of them and leaving it at that. Continue reading “Ode to Bobbie Gentry”

For the Love of Secondhand Books: A Continuation

A second meander around some nearby bookshelves, which are almost ready for Christmas.

I’m almost ready for Christmas here. To my partner Sarah’s amusement, once I’d finished my work on Friday, I went down to the Oxfam shop nearest to where we live and did what she calls my Christmas shopping. Mostly second hand books, and quite a few. Enough to see me through the quiet days when, like the majority of us, I’ll pause from my work and enjoy myself. Which in my case means I’ll be reading.

Not all the time of course. There’ll be some talking, quite a lot of walking around, some writing maybe, and of course quite a lot of music. But to quote Devon Sproule, one of my favourite songwriters:

“I’ve got the bookshelves loaded”

So all is calm, all is bright and, as I said, I’m almost ready for Christmas.

Not that I’m not reading already of course. It’s been the weekend and so the first of Friday’s purchases has already been read. Much like ‘Stoner’ by John Williams, the last secondhand book I wrote about on here, this one is an apparently quiet story about a seemingly unremarkable life that’s not so unremarkable at all. Continue reading “For the Love of Secondhand Books: A Continuation”

Love and Happiness: A moment

It’s late on a Saturday afternoon, it’s yesterday, already dark and already shading into evening, now we are in late November, when I witness this moment of the purest love and happiness.

I am walking along Smithdown Road in Liverpool, not long before I’ll be turning left up my own street, when I see them all. Five figures in an undulating line across the pavement, walking towards me. Apart from the Mum figure nearest the road they look like they’re walking in age formation, the youngest holding her hand, then in steadily increasing ages towards the eldest, no more than ten years old I’d say, walking next to the wall, nearest to the shops.

From a distance they all seem to be talking at once. But as we pass, the Mum contracting the line of them slightly to let me through on the outside, the notes of their conversation separate into this moment of the purest love and happiness: Continue reading “Love and Happiness: A moment”

The Story of the The Beautiful Parks

 

As 2018 gets properly going ideas for Liverpool’s parks are starting to emerge. I’ll be able to tell you more soon, more about this story and what happened next. Listen…

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 “The Story of the The Beautiful Parks”

In Aigburth: Liverpool’s Magdalene Laundry?

 

“I lived in that grim old House of Providence for five years and my mother worked in the laundry. I was able to obtain information from Nugent care only to find some of the details were incorrect.

Children had to leave at the age of 5. I wasn’t adopted so we had to leave with no help…”

“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.

Extracts from recent comments here about a blog post I’d written back in 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 “In Aigburth: Liverpool’s Magdalene Laundry?”