Tag Archives: clearing

Of Time and the Season

A question from a friend and then writing all this brings me to the realisation that I’m perfectly fine with Christmas. A harmless old tradition that brings people together around sparkly lights and a warm fire. It’s the shopping I can’t and won’t abide.

This morning my friend Barry threw a question out to the social media world that brought the ghosts of many Christmases past crowding into my thoughts:

“Asked to think of something I might want for Christmas to ease the shopping burden on family. I have about 20 unread books on my shelf and access to more music than I could listen to in one lifetime. What else could I ever need?”

Before my memories crowded out his question my instincts sent him this simple answer it had taken me years of my life to arrive at:

“Time.

I’ve thought about this a lot & in the end time is the gift I ask for & the gift I give myself. Time to listen, read & be with those I love.”

This instinctive statement being qualified shortly afterwards by  this realisation that I do, very occasionally, give people actual presents: 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

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.

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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

Sarah’s Hands and Gloves

A letter from Sarah, introduced by Ronnie.

Have you ever known anyone whose fingers were gradually curling up into the palms of their hands, couldn’t be fully straightened out and were getting worse over time? If you have they might have a disease called Dupuytrens Contracture. Actor Bill Nighy does, you may have noticed from his films, and so do a good many people over the age of 50, including, until recently, Sarah Horton. Here’s the story of her hands and what’s been happening to them.

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Everyone likes a happy ending and some good news. So I’m delighted to tell you that I’ve now completed treatment – on the NHS – for my Dupuytrens Contracture, or DUPS (a benign but frustrating hand problem, which is often hereditary, as it is in my case).

This week I had my follow up appointment with my NHS Consultant Dr Syndikus and we both agreed that I have had a good result. Good news. It was not so easily achieved though.

This week I’ve been here in the Linda McCartney building, the cancer treatment building in Liverpool. I spent many hours of my life here between 2007 and 2010, and a few since, but mostly in those early years when I became a breast cancer patient.

In February this year I wrote a post on here called ‘Ten Years’. Ten years since my diagnosis of breast cancer, reflecting on the anniversary, and also because I was trying to get access to treatment for my hand condition, and was meeting some substantial barriers to that.

My GP, true to his word, followed up my request to access treatment, and spoke to Liverpool’s most respected hand surgeon, Mr Brown.

(Note – this was a surgeon I couldn’t get an appointment with as an NHS patient, as the not-a-doctor ‘decision maker’ had decided I wasn’t eligible for treatment until my condition got considerably worse, and required surgery. Whereas in early cases of DUPS radiotherapy is now considered a very effective treatment, especially beneficial for the patient as it avoids having surgery, as recurrence rates of DUPS after surgery are significant – about 40% after four years.)

Anyway my GP got in touch Mr Brown, who then advised my GP him I should be referred to Dr Syndikus at Clatterbridge Hospital on the Wirral. She’s an oncologist, and one of her tools is radiotherapy.

I was at first told that I wasn’t a priority and may have to wait to see her – but Dr Syndikus and her team worked swiftly, and by mid May I’ve seen her and most of the team at the radiotherapy department in Clatterbridge. They have very expertly made moulds of both of my hands, and by the end of June I’ve had my two sets of treatment, two series of five sessions of daily radiotherapy at Clatterbridge. All of this was arranged in a most patient-centred way, and allowed me to continue my work as a self-employed funeral celebrant.

I cannot speak highly enough of the whole process and everyone in the NHS teams who looked after me. An extra bonus by the way, and in contrast to all of my years of breast cancer treatment, is they also have a free car park at Clatterbridge for all patients. Proper and caring like.

After my treatment things happens without me noticing why. Continue reading

The Clearing 3: Is this the life we really want?

Previously on The Clearing, Sarah said…

“You know the Leeds Liverpool Canal? If you had a year to live would you bother finishing it?”

“No” I unhesitatingly replied.

A third episode of getting rid of the stuff of our lives that’s lost its meaning.

So here at Clearing Central in Liverpool we’ve already made a start on the latest round of clearing what we do. We’ve cleared that supposed complete canal walk for no better reason than we couldn’t be bothered finishing it. A good sound reason.

Along with the canal walk we got started with a serious clearcut of possessions in the first of this series of posts. Next we gave the people we know, or don’t really know, some profound consideration along with a bit of unfriending in the second post. Now, to round things off? Well let’s start with some more potentially wasteful and redundant activities that might want clearing from our lives like the canal walk?

How about watching the television? How much of your precious life is that swallowing? Now perhaps you imagine you only watch serious nature documentaries, highly regarded art-house films and those marvellous music genre histories on BBC4. But that’s not true is it? Not even nearly true. Continue reading

The Clearing 2: People and true friendship

Previously on “The Clearing” as they say…

“Possessions, jobs, activities and, whisper it, even friendships don’t necessarily need to stay with you forever. And when I have the ‘year to live’ talk with people, it happens, I always view going through the clearing of redundant things as the relatively easy conversation before we arrive at the trickier “Having cleared some space then, how will you spend your time? Because with only 365 days to go you might want to think carefully about the activities and people you spend each one of them on?”

So let’s talk about people.

Continuing from last time in this light of us all having a limited number of days left in our lives.

As I said then the ‘people and activities’ element of clearing is much trickier than the relatively easier getting rid of things. You might have emotions over things but things don’t feel emotional about you, whereas people do, or might. Which makes clearing some of them tricky.

Best then to start with a fairly easy piece of people clearing, unfriending.

It’s an obvious cliché to say that all of our social media friends aren’t really our friends, but they’re not. Continue reading

The Clearing

Earlier this afternoon I carried a bag of Sarah’s books down the road to our nearest charity shop. She’d sorted them out as being ready to go while doing some clearing yesterday afternoon. They were a mixture of horticulture, kayaking and even one about how to make books. I’d bought her that one as well as a couple of the others, but they’d come to the end of their time with her and are now gone.

When I’ve done with writing this post and need a photograph to illustrate it I’ll sort out a small pile of my own books and, once photographed, they’ll be ready to follow Sarah’s down to the same charity shop.

We’ve always done this, not keeping things we don’t need. These days we’re much better than we used to be at not acquiring things in the first place. But even so, things accumulate on shelves, in corners and even in plain sight, attempting to become part of the household landscape, until they’re noticed, identified as beyond their usefulness, and cleared.

We enjoy it and we like living in a home without much stuff, so there’s room for us. Clearing, be it books, furniture, music, gadgets, clothes or old interests, always fills us with the energy and ideas to do whatever’s next. And it always has. At times when we’ve felt our lives becoming becalmed and stale a good bit of clearing has usually helped us to move on and then look back and wonder ‘what was all that stuff for?’

Which fits perfectly with the ‘year to live’ thoughts I’ve been having these past few weeks. Continue reading