A year to live: Why I write

Continuing my reflections on living as if I only have a year to go. And joining in on a ‘Blog Tour’ too.

A friend has contacted me this week and asked me to take part in a sort of blogging chain letter. Naturally my normal response to this kind of thing would be a firm ‘No.’ But the request was gently done. And pondering the questions asked in the chain letter, I thought my answers might  contribute to my own chain of thoughts in my ‘Year to live’ series of posts. So I’ve decided to start writing and see where my thoughts take me. Let’s go, four questions:

Q1 Why do I write what I do?

Well I didn’t start out by writing on this blog at all. My early blogging all happened to help out my partner Sarah. She was running a blog called ‘Being Sarah’ about a book she’d written and her continuing experiences as someone who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. A couple of times she’d encouraged me to contribute some of my own experiences whilst caring for her through her treatments and recoveries. And over time I became a fairly regular guest contributor, writing particularly about the walking we’d do to shake out all the hours we were spending in surgeries and waiting rooms. The walking we’d do just because we liked it.

With Sarah, on the beach at New Brighton, April 2014.
With Sarah, on the beach at New Brighton, April 2014.

In writing and generally helping with the editing of ‘Being Sarah’ I found myself in regular contact with Sarah’s friends in what they called ‘the Blogosphere.’ Women from all over the world who’d had breast cancer diagnoses. And it was several of them who began suggesting I start a blog of my own. Because I seemed to be enjoying writing and to have ‘found my voice.’ For a long time I resisted the idea. Having no common and binding subject to write about, as they all had, I thought I wouldn’t have much to say.

Well, two years in and 350 posts later I’m nowhere near running out of things I want to write about. Continue reading “A year to live: Why I write”

The Birthday Surprise

60, my surprise party collage, by Sarah Horton.
60, my surprise party collage, by Sarah Horton.

It’s my birthday tomorrow, Monday 20th January, happy birthday to me. And on Friday Sarah suggested we go for our tea at Leaf in Bold Street ‘to mark the official start of your birthday.’ She said we’d go upstairs to eat ‘as it’s a bit quieter up there.’ We got the bus into town and I was mildly irritated by her continual texting, both while we were on the bus and as we walked across from Leece Street to Leaf.

But I was glad to walk into warm, friendly and always popular Leaf, though a little surprised to see that the curtains were all drawn on the way up the stairs. ‘How on earth will they get people to come up here when it looks like it’s shut?’ I was thinking as Sarah drew back the curtains to the upstairs room. At which point a camera flashed and loads of, forewarned by Sarah’s texts, voices shouted out ‘Surprise!’

Naturally I looked around wildly for Cilla Black, but found that the camera was being held by Sarah Jones and the voices all belonged to people I recognised and was delighted to see. Continue reading “The Birthday Surprise”

A year to live: The Clearing

A few weeks ago I began living as if I have only a year left to live. Not thinking with any certainty that I do, but wanting to value my days and my life and see what differences it makes if I act as if I will soon be no more.DSC07285

As soon as I made the decision some things changed.

I immediately ditched the ‘Finding the work you love’ course that ‘A year to live’ had been part of, and removed it from this website. Realising that with a year left I’d want to talk with people about their lives, not simply their careers.

I re-started the Friday Walks, the ritual and the rhythm of walking and therefore never working on Fridays. And immediately started to feel calmer, less driven, quieter. Me and my friend Sarah Jones writing about this calming in ‘A quietening down of the rage to succeed.’

What I hadn’t expected was that our house would begin to empty out. Continue reading “A year to live: The Clearing”

A year to live

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while and now something BBC journalist Helen Fawkes has written has prompted me to get on with it.

Helen has been diagnosed with incurable ovarian cancer, and told she will die some time within the next five years, possibly within the next few months.  And one of her responses to this has been to create a list of things she wants to do before then. Not a (kick the) bucket list, as many people call them. But a list for living, containing 50 things like having a go in a racing car, getting a dog, going to Paris on Eurostar for lunch and presenting a programme on BBC Radio 4. She’s done some of her list and is very close to this last as she’ll be on the BBC World Service this coming Monday talking about her list.DSC05973

Unlike Helen, I’ve had no terminal diagnosis and am feeling very well, thanks all the same. Nevertheless I’ve decided to live this next year as if it’s my last. I’ll explain why. Continue reading “A year to live”

Enjoy every sandwich

car-next-to-you1 Ten years ago, before a ‘big’ birthday, I wrote Sarah a book called ‘The car next to you.’ Oh yes I did. And a few years later she described the book on the ‘Being Sarah’ blog she used to write:

“Ronnie wrote the book in 2003, during the six months before my 40th birthday, for a present for me. As it happens it was a year in which nothing in particular happened. So Ronnie writes about sitting in the parks in Liverpool, the allotment, my energy levels dipping as my period arrives, painting and quilting, my little blue 2CV car, about stillness, observing tulips, making films, lunch in cafés, our first holiday in a camper van, our lives for six months of 2003. The book is illustrated with small photographs, some of Liverpool, some of the pots and pans in the kitchen, our coats hanging up together under the stairs. It’s just perfectly ordinary. Ordinarily perfect.

The title, ‘The car next to you’ is a joke we invented together. It’s a made up American style self-improvement book we’d been talking about writing:

‘Your fate could be riding in the car next to you.’

We know it’s a joke, but even so Ronnie writes that maybe he should put some ‘homely car tips’ in the book: Continue reading “Enjoy every sandwich”

Life’s too short

So it’s a new year and as everybody gets moving again there’s the usual talk of how determined people are to make this one different. Resolutions about personal change, ‘this is finally the year when…’, future goals being resolutely set. A world full of determination to make the best out of difficult times.

‘Determination’ – it’s a grim word isn’t it? Sums up the hard work involved in changing. And the reason why most of the changing people are talking and thinking about probably won’t happen. Because it seems like hard work, and life’s too short to add a load more hard work in on top of the hard, busy work you’re probably already doing, isn’t it?

Well no, not if the changes you want to make are really and truly what you want to do. But how would you know?

Walking around thinking. Always good for you.
Walking around thinking. Always good for you.

For years I would take this ‘changing little bits and pieces round the edge of my life’ approach. Continue reading “Life’s too short”

A perfect day

One of the most read posts on the blog this year has been ‘Busy doing nothing.’ Written on  a balmy early summer’s day, this celebrated one of the great joys of self-employment. The freedom to do nothing, if all else is well, and if you feel like it.

Today was another such day. Not balmy and warm of course, but that kind of bright, frosty, blue, brittle sort of day it would be a shame to waste by staying indoors.

The sky today.
The sky today.

Continue reading “A perfect day”

Another Way: From Sevenstreets to our street

Recently we were featured in our own favourite Liverpool blog, SevenStreets. And here’s what they had to say about us. Today’s post by guest blogger David Lloyd of SevenStreets.
‘Got that Monday morning feeling? Is there another way to make it through the week without the nine to five grind? For one enterprising couple, the answer’s yes. And they take Fridays off.
Work doesn’t have to feel so much like, well, work, does it? SevenStreets has come across a Liverpool enterprise determined to beat a different path.

They will only do work they love, are choosy about who they’ll work with, don’t want to grow any bigger, are gloriously opinionated, and what’s more ‘won’t work Monday mornings and are always out walking on Fridays!’ Meet ‘a sense of place’. Continue reading “Another Way: From Sevenstreets to our street”

Doing the work you love, on the buses

Apart from going on scenic walks and being opinionated about all things Liverpool, a lot of the work we actually get paid for is around people doing work that they love. And a lot of that is concerned with social enterprises. It’s easier to love the work if your enterprise is doing some good in the world, as well as bringing in the profits it needs to keep it going.

We’ve been working with social enterprises for over fifteen years now. Helping them to generate new ideas that will make them even better social enterprises and even better places to work with and work in.

And this year and last year we’ve been doing this work on buses. Continue reading “Doing the work you love, on the buses”