The High Street: How’s it doing, really?

A closely observed walk along a local hight street here in Liverpool, with statistics, to see and feel how it’s doing.

Our high streets are in trouble. Some blame austerity politics, others supermarkets and more still the passage of time, saying we shop differently now. What’s in less doubt than these various causes is the importance of a good high street to how happy we are with the places where we live.

Elsewhere on this blog I’m starting to look at the insides of people’s houses, looking at how we live and the necessity, a human right I call it, of us all having a secure and properly affordable place we can call home.

But we don’t only live inside of our homes do we? The quality of our lives has a lot to do with what else is around us, including the high streets of shops that run through and bind our neighbourhoods and, often as not, give them their names. So in Liverpool we have areas of Walton generally called County Road and Walton Vale, for example. In Anfield a place called ’round Priory Road’ and in Aigburth one called, well, ‘Aigburth Road’. High streets whose general health is an important part of how their neighbourhoods are doing. Continue reading “The High Street: How’s it doing, really?”

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 “Moving beyond ‘No’”

Ten years

Ten years ago today Sarah and I got up worried and early to begin one of the longest days of our lives. We travelled to the Royal Hospital here in Liverpool, to the Rapid Diagnosis Clinic, to find out what we found out.

And ten years later part of me finds it hard to travel back to what Sarah has written here. But most of me is immensely relieved, and grateful, that she is alive to write it. And that the years have in no way dimmed her fire and passion for our National Health Service, or her determination to keep it safe from officious predators, as you’ll see when you read on.


22nd February 2007

This is me on the 22nd of February 2007. It is the day after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, age 43.

So today, the 21st of February 2017, marks ten years from that diagnosis. There is no whoop of delight, no fist pumps here. No, this is not a celebration. It is a mere observation of a fact, a fact that I am still here to observe. And of all the questions I asked that day ten years ago during the hours in the hospital, the main question, the one I remember the most, was when I said, ‘Will I die?’

But thanks to modern medicine and surgery, some great doctors and surgeons, a hefty dose of luck and some of my own tenacity, I did not die of breast cancer. At least, I haven’t so far. Continue reading “Ten years”

From the Planet Zogg: The Libraries of a Different World

Our world is full of stories, of our lives, our places and the things that have happened. Stories are essential to us in fact. They’re where we keep our memories and the valuable things we’ve learned as humans in all the generations we’ve been alive on this planet. So we’re used to the phrase ‘Let me tell you a story’ introducing a tale of something that’s already happened. Not this one though.

This one was made up in a particular situation, all situations being particular, where a group of people working on the futures of our public libraries were stuck. So, stuck as we were in the beauties and nostalgia of the libraries of the Planet Earth, the libraries we knew, we sat down instead and imagined this story of the libraries we didn’t know, far far away from here on the Planet Zogg.

So let me tell you a story… 



“The Libraries of a Different World”

The TransLibs

It was like this, we knew things were going to change for us in a big way and a few of us got together to discuss it all before we left. Before we left for the new planet.

You’ve probably heard this basic background a thousand times before, but just in case this story ever gets picked up, say in a library somewhere because, well, this part of the story is going to be mainly about libraries, here it is. Maybe for someone who’s never heard of Earth, never mind Zogg, here’s the background once again. Continue reading “From the Planet Zogg: The Libraries of a Different World”

The Small Matter of Democracy

DSC04262It’s been a confusing week in politics. The Referendum and its European aftermath that I’ve already written about on here. Followed by the spectacle of our two main political parties choosing consecutive days to appear to tear themselves apart. No one I know was very surprised to see the Tories behaving so badly, but when the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party decided to turn on their own recently elected leader I was, to put it mildly, disappointed.

But we’ll come back to that after a bus ride to town.

Upstairs on the 80A.
Upstairs on the 80A.
A day of sunshine and showers.
A day of sunshine and showers.

Continue reading “The Small Matter of Democracy”

On Lime Street: The Futurist

DSC03446I do the houses, it’s what I’m best at. And through that I do my best to help with the economy and the quality of life in the place where I live. I have very little time for some of the campaigns to ‘save’ this or that which others get very exercised and excited about. I’ve written before that if I had a year to live, even though they’re ‘quite nice’ I’d put none of my dwindling energies into saving Sefton Park Meadows, as they’re now known. I feel much the same about The Futurist.

But yesterday I was walking along Lime Street and took these photographs. Looking at the closed-road-beleagured place as an analogy for a city struggling with austerity politics. Continue reading “On Lime Street: The Futurist”

St George’s Hall, Liverpool – what’s it for?

Well, what exactly is St George’s Hall for? Hardly an urgent issue but something I ask myself now and then.

As I walk along Lime Street.
As I walk towards it along Lime Street.
Liverpool's most respected building by Pevsner and the like.
Liverpool’s most respected building by Pevsner and the like.
Here standing between the brutal vulgarity of the St John's market car park and the elegant grace of Lime Street Station.
Here standing between the brutal vulgarity of the St John’s market car park wrap-around screen and the elegant grace of Lime Street Station.
Well it just is, isn't it? Just there.
Well it just is, isn’t it? Just there.

I can’t imagine Liverpool without it. Continue reading “St George’s Hall, Liverpool – what’s it for?”

Real Junk Food Liverpool

Since publishing late in August of 2015 this post has been viewed by more people than anything else I’ve ever published. Strong evidence of how welcome this new café is in Liverpool. However, as our Real Junk Food Café is only open at the weekends for now, most of these blog views have happened when readers couldn’t show their support by actually going to the café. So as the weekend arrives let’s put that right? See you there.

It shouldn’t have needed to happen, but I’m really glad it has. There’s a Real Junk Food Café in Liverpool. In Everton, in fact.Real Junk Food - 1At 117 Shaw Street, on the corner of Everton Brow.

If you’ve been reading this blog since we visited the founding Real Junk Food Project in Leeds you might remember that in one of the richest economies on earth we’re throwing away 35% of our food, in a country where austerity politics is causing many people to go needlessly hungry. And so a movement has started that is intercepting this food at the moment it is pointlessly thrown away – and retrieving it on behalf of us all.

Welcome to the Real Junk Food Project, Liverpool. Continue reading “Real Junk Food Liverpool”

Waste Not, Want Not?


I’m not sure if being away from home helps me think more clearly but certainly being in Leeds for a few days this past week has been full of education for me. Education of the in your face kind that I wrote about at the Real Junk Food Project of course. But also gentler learning through visiting other places doing good things as part of my work, plus other learning and thinking whilst there from long conversations about life and the living of it in a time of austerity with friends new and not so new.

Back in Liverpool now all this education has led to one of my Sunday afternoon musing rambles to see if I can work out what it all amounts to, for me anyway. Here goes.

Learning from austerity the last time around

The first thing I should clarify immediately is, of course, that I don’t for a moment believe that this really is austerity that’s being visited upon us in these years. It’s a cold blooded political attack and I could fill the rest of this post with the names of the guilty. But enough said. The guilty are calling it ‘austerity’ and I’m going to think through how we might move from widespread paralysis to recovery by thinking about the last time there was real austerity. Continue reading “Waste Not, Want Not?”