In Aigburth: Liverpool’s Magdalene Laundry?


“I lived in that grim old House of Providence for five years and my mother worked in the laundry. I was able to obtain information from Nugent care only to find some of the details were incorrect.

Children had to leave at the age of 5. I wasn’t adopted so we had to leave with no help…”

“I hated being sent to collect me mum’s washing from the Kelton laundry. With a kid’s imagination it looked like Dracula’ s castle or maybe Colditz to my young eyes. You would knock on a huge door which was duly opened by a fearsome looking nun in full habit. Peering in as she went to fetch the wash, revealed a scene I thought was what hell must look like. A horrible smell of cleaning and lots of steam. Lines of women in pinafores and covered heads slaving away. A vacant expression of hopelessness on every face. I sensed evil even at my tender age.

Extracts from recent comments here about a blog post I’d written back in in December 2013. That post had been about a general walk around Aigburth in South Liverpool that had ended with me finding somewhere I’d almost forgotten from earlier in my life.

“Let me tell you a story, a true story, from half my lifetime ago.

It’s the mid 1980s and I’m delivering my beloved baby daughter to her nursery. It’s called Kelton and is just down the hill from a convent, called Kelton House. This morning I’ve noticed someone watching me as I drive past Kelton House. Someone who doesn’t look much like a nun. I ask one of the women who work in the nursery, an Irish woman as it happens ‘What is that place up there? I thought it was a convent.’ ‘Well it is’ she says ‘But it’s also a mother and baby home. It’s where the girls come to have their babies, off the Irish boats as often as not.’

So hurtful for them. Us bringing our much wanted and much celebrated babies to the nursery each morning, while they watch us from their hidden away lives.

I wasn’t sorry, then, when the nursery had to move to another place a few months later because the nuns, who owned the land, had decided to sell it off for housing.”

Continue reading “In Aigburth: Liverpool’s Magdalene Laundry?”

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 comfort of melancholy

Listening to Paul BuchananDSC06368

“There’s comfort in melancholy
When there’s no need to explain
It’s just as natural as the weather
In this moody sky today”

Beautiful lyrics from a beautiful song. And nothing to do with Paul Buchanan, the subject of today’s piece. These words are from ‘Héjira’ by Joni Mitchell and occurred to me just now as the best way of introducing what it is I particularly like about the music of Paul Buchanan. I love his melancholy.

Which is different to sadness or misery or heartbreak and definitely a long way from tragedy. It’s ‘as natural as the weather’ and has always seemed to me to be an essential element of my life. Some days are melancholy, minor-key kinds of days. Days for keeping warm, drinking tea and looking after yourself. Days in the shade, shadow days, away from the busy-ness and brightness of changing the world or even of radiant happiness. Quietly reflective. Days for listening to Paul Buchanan.

Which I’ve been doing for half my life now. Continue reading “The comfort of melancholy”

Buying LPs again

It’s started. After a 23 year gap I’m buying LPs again.

Not that I’ve got a turntable mind. That won’t come ’til next week. But it’s ordered.

A record shop, with LPs. Probe Records, Liverpool.
A record shop, with LPs. Probe Records, Liverpool.

For months, possibly years, I’ve been magnetically pulled towards any turntables I’d happen to see when we’ve been in town shopping. Or rather when Sarah’s been shopping and I’ve been loping along beside her. Because I don’t really ‘shop’ and have very little need for ‘things.’ My birthday present this year was, well, nothing. And I was very happy with it because there was nothing I wanted. If it was relying on me the economy would be in an even worse state than it is.

And in charity shops, ostensibly there to recycle our books, I’d find myself flicking through the second-hand LPs. Until fondly reminded that I no longer possessed a turntable to play them on and hadn’t had one for many years.

Well there’s a turntable been ordered now and I’ve been to the Smithdown Road Oxfam and flicked through the second hand LPs with renewed vigour. Because I’ve found that I want LPs back in my life. Continue reading “Buying LPs again”