Things are getting real now with starting my MA/PhD at the University of Liverpool.
This week, having paused at least for now on much else that I’m doing, I’ve been spending more time around the university. Not that there are many other students around, I’ve just been getting myself acclimatised to the place again. Forty years after I last spent very much time here.
I’ve been reading mostly. Things my two academic supervisors in Sociology and History have recommended. And it was while sat in this coffee shop reading ‘A Global Sense of Place’ by Doreen Massey I noticed an email float across my screen from the university. Not one of the general ‘Welcome to Liverpool’ messages I’ve been getting lately, but a very specific one from the administrator of the department I’ll be joining the week after next. Containing details and times like “1pm on Tuesday 18.” And a list of modules to pick from. This MA I’m needing to do being partly a taught thing, compared with the the PhD that will follow.
I love new print. It’s not so all pervasive as it once was, but I was delighted this morning when my new business cards arrived. Neatly packaged in two elegantly square boxes. A hundred photographic messages to, well, who exactly?
These days business cards aren’t all they used to be, certainly not as necessary. I ran out of my last lot a couple of months ago and I’ve done fine with my phone, messaging and DM-ing contact details when I’ve needed to. Fine and practical, but hardly beautiful.
Which is why I designed and ordered another supply of cards. Cared about messages I can leave with people if we meet and decide we want to be in touch. Only polite? Well I think so as I kind of like polite.
Here they are then. Four short stories, four photographs of home.
I’m thinking a lot about time at the moment. How we made it up, how it works, how we see it in what people once did and in what we’re doing next.
Much more talk of time and places coming as my university work, reading and thinking at Sociology Liverpool gets going from now on.
Meanwhile I think of time as I’m walking around. The joy and the beauty of here and now. My feet on the ground of Liverpool as I walk. Like the early morning, earlier this week, as I walked from town to the North Docks, recognising the beauty of the place – hardly for the first time – and how happy I am to be here. In my time and in my place. Here in these few photographs of a sunny July morning, walking from the Town Hall and out through the business district to the Dock Road.
After I wrote about my friend the artist Emma Rushton’s house a couple of weeks ago, some other friends suggested I might like to do a series where I look around some other people’s houses. They thought this could be an interesting development from other writings and work I’ve done on, oh, the meaning of life and home as a human right. They also thought it would be a good nose.
Thanks ‘some other friends!’
So to try out the idea, and because it’s only fair, I’ve decided to follow up the post on Emma’s house with one about where I live. And since I’m writing this and it’s what I do a lot of, here’s ‘The Writer’s House’.
Grateful for all of the contacts and attention from Aditya Chakrabortty’s piece in The Guardian recently about what we’ve all been doing in Granby these past few years, here’s what I’m doing and interested in doing now.
I’m sat writing this in a café near to where I live. It’s ‘the third cafe’ on Greenbank Road, near its corner with Smithdown Road. Newly opened by Carole Fleck, who used to run Greendays off Lark Lane, and already somewhere that makes me happy.
I’m sat here sorting out my website so it says what I want about what I’ve done recently and what I’m interested in doing next.
The day before Christmas Eve I wrote and photographed a poem called “Letting Go: A Quiet Breath” and the quiet days have continued here from then through to this new year of 2018.
These beloved souls are my three grandchildren: Finn, 3; Theo, 8, and Eleanor, 11. In the park with their parents, Simon, with Finn on his shoulders and my daughter Clare, who took the beautiful photograph.
A little later I’m on the other side of The Mystery, gazing up at the Moon.
The evening passes in quiet thoughts of what was good in 2017, what didn’t really work out and what might change as the year gets called 2018. We call these new year changes resolutions, but of course some of them are nothing of the sort. While we can all change stuff like what we eat, how much we run and, maybe, the work we do, much else that we’d like to happen is in the realm of wishes and dreams, like always.
Still, we can all change some of what’s immediately around us, so this morning finds us back at Sarah’s allotment, where we’ve spent several of these quiet days.
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.
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.
Before we left Cornwall last weekend there was one last person and place we wanted to visit, Barbara Hepworth in her studio.
And to give you a sense of her and her place, this will matter later, here is how it describes itself:
“The Cornwall studio where Barbara Hepworth (1903-1975) found space to work, and explored bronze for the first time.
Barbara Hepworth married Ben Nicholson in 1938, and when the war came they evacuated with their young family to Cornwall. The Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden is based in the studio Hepworth established in 1949, in search of more space to work on her sculptures. After the war, and her divorce from Nicholson in 1951, Hepworth became an active figure in the developing St Ives modernist art community, and she was awarded the Freedom of St Ives in 1968 to acknowledge her contribution to the town. Trewyn Studio remained her studio until her death in 1975. Here she explored the potential of bronze for the first time, as well as continuing her work with stone and wood carving. ‘Finding Trewyn Studio was a sort of magic,’ Hepworth wrote, ‘Here was a studio, a yard and a garden where I could work in open air and space.’
The studio was established as the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden the year after Hepworth’s death in 1975, and has been managed by Tate since 1980. Today, visitors to the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden can see some of Hepworth’s most monumental sculptures in the environment for which they were created.”
It doesn’t look like that early on this March afternoon as I arrive in Blackpool.
But it’s still so very Blackpool though. Even on a damp Tuesday afternoon. Full of the memories of coming here all my life. Early days on the X61 Ribble Bus, before the 1965 blue Cortina arrived to bring us all here in style. Later still all of us from the Corpy Housing Department coming to ‘see the lights’ on a fleet of Corpy buses. Messing about in the Fun House then getting ourselves tucked into a very large pub and taking no notice of the illuminations at all. Golden days! Continue reading “In Blackpool: On The Left Coast”