Nine Thousand Evenings

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.

Nine thousand evening of conversation. Continue reading “Nine Thousand Evenings”

The Story of Coming Home

Stories of what didn’t work can be as instructive in the long run as things that did. So I’m leaving this here, so others might find it one day…

For some time now I’ve been thinking of writing something on here about Coming Home. For many reasons, some of which I’ll explain, the time’s never seemed quite right. But stories need telling, otherwise how do they become stories? So here goes, the Story of Coming Home:

Chapter 1

Photograph by Jane MacNeil

Whatever kind of maker you are, a maker of things, tools, songs, stories, poems or paintings, the most difficult thing to do is to get going. So many of us are full of the big even beautiful ideas, aren’t we? But how many of them ever amount to something you can show or use or put in a story, let alone live in?

I’ve been thinking about this, this getting going, as some friends and I from The Beautiful Ideas Co have been talking about what Coming Home does next. And as I’ve also been reading a novel by Colm Toíbín called ‘The South.’ I love Colm Toíbín’s writing. He’s a near contemporary and I often find valuable thoughts about life and the living of it from reading his books.

In ‘The South’ I’ve found a particularly relevant gem. It’s in his afterword, where he writes about how hard he’d had to search for the answer to how to get this, his first novel, going.

Being a story he’d wanted to move around Ireland and Catalonia, abstractedly painting their emotional and historical landscapes he talked to an Irish artist, Barrie Cooke, about how he did beginnings:

“You make a mark” he said, as he gestured the making of an almost random mark with an imaginary paint-brush.

Well at Coming Home we made a mark. Continue reading “The Story of Coming Home”

Hard work and miracles: The Severn Project

The Severn Project, Bristol.
The Severn Project, Bristol.

If society as we know it ever starts to break down, and some would say it already has, then the work of urban farms like the Severn Project and inventive humans like Steve Glover will become even more essential to our wellbeing and survival than they already are. This week in Bristol I was privileged to be part of a group of us who went to talk with Steve and see him and his team at work. ‘Inspirational’ isn’t a strong enough word for what we found.

Steve Glover.
Steve Glover.

The Severn Project is a community interest company, a social enterprise. As in a real enterprise but one with a social purpose instead of shareholders:

“We produce high quality salad leaves and herbs at our urban farms in Bristol. But we do more than just grow food. We strongly believe that all business should have a positive social impact. This is why we support people who face significant barriers to the workplace to help run the project.”

The ‘significant barriers’ mostly involve the fact that the people who work here are working as hard as is humanly possible to overcome their dependence on, well, substances. Continue reading “Hard work and miracles: The Severn Project”

Behold: The Pen Factory

I’ve been to the same place for my lunch these last two days. This hardly ever happens, unless I’m eating at home. You know, in our own place. That looks exactly the way we want it to and is full of the food we’ve selected or made. So it has to be somewhere else good to get me there on consecutive days.

Behold: The Pen Factory is open for business.

I didn’t think it would be open though. Certainly not by Christmas. Early in November I’d just come out of the Everyman one evening and met Paddy Byrne locking up his would-be new venture after a day’s, clearly, hard physical work in there. It looked like this.

Just six weeks ago.
Just six weeks ago.

“It might not look it but actually we’re nearly done in there’ Paddy told me.’I think we’ll be ready enough to open in about three weeks!”

“Ever the optimist” I thought. And indeed it was a bit more than those three predicted weeks. But it’s open now and I’d be surprised if you didn’t want to go there. Here’s why. Continue reading “Behold: The Pen Factory”

The story of A Sense of Place 3: And then we get married

Continuing the story of us. We’ve just left our jobs.

It’s November 1996 and we feel like we’ve just done the bravest thing we will ever do. And we also feel like we’re kind of ‘in recovery’ from having been employed by others for so long. Some mornings this feels exhilarating, but others our new status of ‘self-employed’ feels dangerously close to ‘unemployed’.

Late 1996. In Bath looking at possible places to run events. I lived in that purple jumper those days.

Continue reading “The story of A Sense of Place 3: And then we get married”