Gardens in the City

A meditation on hospitals, allotments and the National Health Service.

While I’m writing this I’m listening to the ‘NHS Symphony’. A new choral work commissioned by BBC Radio 3 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of our health service. It contains a collage of sounds from two Birmingham NHS hospitals, routine sounds and major life event sounds. From the cradle to the grave. From birth to death with the NHS. Humanity’s greatest creation.

All day until coming home and listening to this I’ve been at Sarah’s allotment. Together with Sarah this time though so often on my own these past weeks of her sea kayaking journeys to the Western Isles and Anglesey.

Quiet evenings walking over to Sarah’s garden in the city. To water it, weed it, care for it, notice what is happening there. Continue reading “Gardens in the City”

Deborah Morgan “The Punter”

As regular readers will know I don’t really do reviews. But I saw a play last night, written by a friend, and I want to tell you about it, because I think she’s really good at what she does. So fair enough?

“The Punter” by Deborah Morgan, at The Cornerstone, Shaw Street.

“The Punter” then is Deb’s first full play, following her brilliant novel “Disappearing Home” about growing up in Everton. There’s a full house in the theatre tonight, part of the Hope University Shaw Street campus, or “the old SFX” as the friends with me call it.

Some of us have seen an extract from the play performed before, by Deb and a friend at our “Peaceful Warrior” event last September. So we know we’re in for a bit of a comedy. But subsequent development by Deb and the whole company has considerably darkened things from what we saw last autumn. Continue reading “Deborah Morgan “The Punter””

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”

Wandering About: Down to the River

Aimlessly 3 - 52
A day of reflections.

Having walked a fair bit of North Liverpool then South Liverpool in the last two days it didn’t take a genius or even me to work out today’s ‘Walking About’ route, the middle. Roughly from here in Wavertree, through L7 and L1 to the River. Let’s go.

Out across the Mystery.
Out across the Mystery.

Reflecting as I start out on a third walk in three days that there are some times when I need a lot of time on my own. Not in a melancholy way, but I don’t want to be inside and I have an elemental need to walk, alone.

The inbound London train crosses a 79D bus on Picton Road.
The inbound London train crosses a 79D bus on Picton Road.

Continue reading “Wandering About: Down to the River”

Are we all living in ‘Borgen’ now?

The quandry of who on earth to vote for? And will we end up with a feuding coalition anyway?borgen_588249m1

Yesterday evening a brave Conservative walked along our terraced street in Liverpool delivering election leaflets. As soon as I noticed it I went and looked up and down the street to try and see what such a being looked like, but no, they were gone.

Borgen - 1
‘Hardworking people?’

Back inside the house soon rang with laughter as I read through the joke in every line leaflet. This chancer, James Pearson is his name, will be ‘safeguarding our NHS, creating new  jobs for hardworking people (yes ‘hardworking’ is now a conjoined political word) and protecting us from the coalition of chaos.’ Eh, I thought the Conservatives had spent the last 5 years running that?

Oh well, none of it matters because James has absolutely no chance of winning the seat here. But thanks for delivering your leaflet anyway. It’s your democratic right and it made me smile, not to say laugh, for a few minutes.

Which is more than the rest of this General Election campaign is doing. Continue reading “Are we all living in ‘Borgen’ now?”

Tina’s Story

If you followed my series of ‘Year to live’ posts during this year you may have noticed that amongst the things I said I’d not do any more during this theoretical final year would be make any more films. I judged that I’d been involved in making them for long enough now and so I’d not give over any more of my precious days to making any more?

Well I’ve just finished making a film.

Charlie and Tina.
Charlie and Tina.

Here’s how it happened. The phone rang and someone working with someone I’d worked with in the past (this being the way most work arrives) said they’d like me to make them a film.

‘That’s unfortunate’ I replied ‘as I’m not making them any more.’ ‘Well that’s a shame as we only wanted you’ they came back. ‘You come particularly recommended and we only need it to be about twenty minutes. So do you think you could reconsider?’

‘No, I’m really done’ I said. ‘But what I could do is meet up and help you do a brief to find someone else. Because I can’t believe you really need anything that long. Nobody will watch twenty minutes!’

Continue reading “Tina’s Story”

10k Sunday: A walking version of a run

Noticing the unkempt state of the former Garden Festival site towards the end of this November 2014) walk, you may well be glad to hear the whole site, including the unbuilt housing bit has now been bought from the non-developers by Liverpool City Council (June 2015) with plans to make better use of the place than at any time in the last 30 years. At last.

This is a favourite route of mine as a run. But it’s also a good walk. And since runs are tricky to photograph decently me and my camera set off to walk this particular 10k today. A sunny Sunday and the last day of November.

Along Crawford Avenue.
Along Crawford Avenue.
And up the hill over the railway at Penny Lane.
And up the hill over the railway at Penny Lane.
Down the other side.
Down the other side.
Past one of the two houses round here where the great feminist and politician Eleanor Rathbone used to live.
Past one of the two houses round here where the great feminist and politician Eleanor Rathbone used to live.

It’s now become part of a ‘Spire’ private clinic where, strangely, I was recently given NHS treatment when my left ear went deaf. A bizarre and unsettling experience getting state care in a place full of cosmetic surgery adverts. Continue reading “10k Sunday: A walking version of a run”

A year to live? 10 things I’ve learned

The culmination of a whole year of ‘Year to live’ posts and also part of a podcast with Liam Black and Lucy Adams.

A year ago now, October 2013, I began living my life with the constant and conscious thought that this year could be my last. Questioning everything, asking ‘Would I do this work, go to this event, spend time with this person if I thought I had a year to live?’ Reasoning that one day this will be true for all of us, but that of course we mostly never know. So why not live with this consciousness for a year and see what it does?dsc05973

I decided to write about it too, and you can go back and look at the posts and discussions that followed if you want. For me though, at the end of this theoretical final year it’s time now to reflect on the main things I’ve done and learned from doing it. I don’t say what follows will turn out to be all I’ve learned, but these are the first ten things that come to mind.

1. You truly never know the day.

I began this ‘Year to live’ in good health and as a theoretical exercise. Out running several times a week and fully confident in my own body. Then within weeks I was thrown into hospital land, a place from which I am yet to emerge. Continue reading “A year to live? 10 things I’ve learned”

In the neighbourhood: Books and bread

Off in a different direction to a different library than my usual ones, for a book I particularly want.


I’ve just finished reading ‘May we be forgiven’ by American novelist A.M. Homes. After an uncertain start where I mainly stuck with the book on the advice of Jeanette Winterson who’d said:

“This is the great American novel for our time”

I then got completely involved in the story and am subsequently looking in the back of this novel for what else she’s written. That’s where I find out about ‘The Mistress’s Daughter’.

“On the day that she was born in 1961, A.M. Homes was given up for adoption. Her birth parents were a twenty-two-year-old woman and an older, married man. Thirty-one years later, out of the blue, they tracked her down. ‘The Mistress’s Daughter’ is a riveting account of what happened next.”

Yes, this one’s not a novel, it’s a memoir. I check in the catalogue of Liverpool City Libraries and find I can pick up a copy of the book in three libraries. Continue reading “In the neighbourhood: Books and bread”

A year to live: Becoming 60

Continuing to treat the days as if they’re winding down, to see what effect that has on my life, there comes a change of decade.

For a few years now my birthdays have seemed ‘a bit much’. Like, ‘How come I’m suddenly 58?’ Exacerbated, no doubt, by the years spent caring for Sarah during her breast cancer treatment, my 50’s somehow felt like a short decade. Well it’s gone now, as the clock of my 50’s has just clicked over to 60.Becoming 6001

So it’s a big birthday. The kind where even the likes of me gets a surprise party, at Leaf, in Bold Street. This was a huge risk for Sarah to take. I like to see my friends in ones and twos and talk quietly for hours. And yet here I am at Leaf in Bold Street on a Friday night trying to get round the room because I want to talk to all 50 or so of the people there. I think I just about managed it, but there’s not one of you I wouldn’t have liked to talk to for much, much longer. Friends from my years at Liverpool Housing Trust of course. But also newer friends from these years of being one of ‘a sense of place’ – friends from Granby, urban designing, social enterprise, going out for lunch, independent Liverpool, being creative, finding work you love and, oh, just being friends.Becoming 6002

Continue reading “A year to live: Becoming 60”