Category Archives: Reflections

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

Moving beyond ‘No’

Yes, I’ve been reading. But we’ll come back to that.

When I got talking to people in Granby in Liverpool, about seven years ago now, they asked me to help them get over a very specific problem:

“We all know what we don’t want. We don’t want our houses to be knocked down. So we’ve got very good, over many years, at opposing any and all plans to do this. The trouble is though, we can’t agree between us on exactly what it is we do want. So could you help?”

I said “Yes, maybe” and we began to work on something together, loads of us, that has largely worked. Not perfectly and it’s not finished. But we moved beyond that skilfully confident “no” to a curious and more friendly “yes,” and in so doing changed a piece of the Earth very much for the better.

What I hadn’t realised until this week was that in learning that lesson in Granby, that yes is stronger than no, we were beginning to learn something that may yet help to create a better future for the whole of the Earth, if we could be fairly quick about it. Continue reading

Clearing with Sarah: Less not more

Some of the most popular posts I’ve written on here lately are the three linked ones called “The Clearing.” I’ve cleared books, activities and, since I wrote the posts, even a car over the past couple of months. And feel much better for it, thanks.

Well, there are two of us live here and Sarah’s been doing some deep and enthusiastic clearing herself. So here’s her take on the whys, wherefores and hows of living with less and how you get there.

Fair warning, fire is involved.

*

If you’re a regular blog reader then you’ll know that we’ve been busy here – busy ‘clearing’. Clearing is the term we use for ‘getting rid of stuff that we don’t use anymore’.

And that ‘stuff’ can be literally ‘things’ like books and possessions (as in The Clearing). It can also be people and activities, yes that’s a bit trickier (as in The Clearing 2). And it can be about time too, a sort of extension of people and activities (as in The Clearing 3). But the end result of all of this clearing is less ‘stuff’, less clutter, and more space and time for you.

For me that’s involved clearing knitting projects, giving me more time to concentrate on the ones that matter – fingerless gloves. It’s also meant that I’ve had time to (finally) re-cover some chairs in a fabric bought much earlier this year.

And I’ve cleared out my recipe folder – amazing the amount of recipes I’ve printed or kept from a magazine and will never make, or have tried and didn’t like. So this clearing has given me the space to concentrate on a couple of recipes that I have improved – like cheesecake and (finally) apple tart.

And just because we are ‘good’ at clearing it doesn’t mean that we don’t own ‘stuff’. I do have stuff – although when it comes to clothes I will almost certainly never match the effortless minimalism displayed by Ronnie in his wardrobe – but anyway this is not a competition. But the point of clearing for me is that the ‘stuff’ that I have is stuff that I want in my life. Continue reading

Like you would do for one you love: For Liverpool and Leeds

I’ve been thinking about Liverpool, which probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me. Also thinking of Leeds and Leonard Cohen, which might. The thinking brought on by an early morning Saturday tweet which mentioned how much a friend and I openly love our places, my friend Phil being from Leeds.

This was sent as part of a discussion several Leeds friends turned out to be having about whether and how it’s ok to be critical of where you live and are mostly working. I instinctively replied:

“I always write honestly about Liverpool & as everyone knows, I love it. So any criticism is careful & gentle, as with one you love.”

As soon as I’d sent that it reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s song “Take This Longing” 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

For the Love of Secondhand Books: A Digression

It’s a perfect example of what it is, a secondhand book. It’s got other well used books on its cover, it’s on a ‘vintage’ imprint and I bought it from a secondhand  bookshop.

It is also, by the way, a perfect book. Tom Hanks says it as well as I ever could in his review quote inside the cover:

“It’s simply a novel about a guy who goes to college and becomes a teacher. But it’s one of the most fascinating things that you’ve ever come across.”

Read that aloud, please, in your best dry, wry and enquiring Tom Hanks voice and I think you might both get the idea and want the book. Which you can have any day soon if I give you its catalogue number: 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