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.
I’ve been thinking about Liverpool, which probably won’t surprise anyone who knows me. Also thinking of Leeds and Leonard Cohen, which might. The thinking brought on by an early morning Saturday tweet which mentioned how much a friend and I openly love our places, my friend Phil being from Leeds.
This was sent as part of a discussion several Leeds friends turned out to be having about whether and how it’s ok to be critical of where you live and are mostly working. I instinctively replied:
“I always write honestly about Liverpool & as everyone knows, I love it. So any criticism is careful & gentle, as with one you love.”
Yesterday I published my arguments about the dangers of over regulating social enterprise in ‘Sectors are where movements go to die.’ Saying at the time that I’d be happy to publish the counter arguments of my debating partner in this inaugural Ethos Paper debate at Baltic Social a few days ago. Good enough, Matt Donnelly of Health Equalities Group has sent me what he said and here it is. Over to you Matt.
Recently Ethos Paper invited me to take part in their first public debate here in Liverpool on the question of whether we’re in danger of over-regulating social enterprise?
The brief from my friend Fiona Shaw of Ethos Paper being:
“Why bother with “Social Enterprise”? Why not just be social and enterprising?
We want the debate to be generally about the regulation of ’social enterprises’ and purism, and if you can be a social enterprise without specifically being set up as a CIC, and – if you are – whether it hampers the way you operate, in fact?!
I thought you might be interested in presenting the case against too much regulation?”
She knows me well!
So I had a walk around and a think, wrote some notes and people gathered one evening at the Baltic Social on Parliament Street for the debate. Matt Donnelly of Health Equalities Group spoke in favour of regulation and me against the motion.
Today I was in town keeping an eye on the place. Nothing unusual in that you might think. For some self-appointed reason that’s the kind of thing I do. But today I was there looking for fascists and making sure, in so far as I could, that they did no harm.
All week a particualrly nasty bunch of the species, who I won’t dignify by naming, had been threatening all sorts if they weren’t allowed to do their march. Their ‘right’ they’d been calling it. ‘Free speech’ they’d been calling it. This bunch of racist, Islamophobic, holocaust denying, white supremacist totalitarians who’d apparently written to the City Council threatening “an action-packed weekend of ethnically-enriched chaos and mayhem” if they were denied their rights.
I remember a good few years ago when I used to read such stuff ‘management and leadership’ books were fond of quoting Sun Tzu’s classic Chinese text ‘The Art of War’ when giving modern leaders things to think about. Wisdom like:
“All warfare is based on deception.”
So, the explanation might go:
“Don’t be so foolish as to let your competitors in on all your thought processes if you seriously want to outsmart them.”
Naturally I’ve thought of all this again during the current omnishambles that is the Labour Leadership Show and have returned to Sun Tzu to look for an opinion. Reckoning that the class war the Conservative enemy is now pursuing against the people of the country is certainly the kind of war we wouldn’t want to lose. And other than the above, I’ve found nothing. Undeterred I’ve decided to make up my own Sun Tzu quote, informed by his above real words, but to fit our current situation:
“After a heavy defeat the wise army recovers its strength in its barracks.”
Lately and increasingly I have resumed writing in long hand when something really matters to me, when something needs working out. The slowness of it, the active thinking, from my heart directly down my left arm to the tip of my pen.
I’m writing in long hand now, sat on the wall of Sefton Park, the Sunday afternoon before the 2015 General election. Sefton Park where I have come for most of my adult life to walk, reflect and think about all the really big decisions. When to invite, when to leave? When to say yes, when to say no. Today I’m here to keep writing until I can decide who to vote for this Thursday.
As you can tell by the title above, several parties and candidates have already been eliminated by the thinking and experiences of my life up to now. I am a socialist and always have been since, I think, my first ever visit to a public library some time late in the 1950s:
“We’d moved to our new house on a new estate, just North of Liverpool. And in one of our early explorations of the new place, called Maghull, I remember my Dad taking me to the Library there and explaining how it worked. That I could pick the books I wanted and take them home. Then after we, or rather he, had read them to me, we’d bring them back. ‘It’s part of how we’ve decided to run the country. Books are important and this is a good way of making sure everyone can read the books they want,’ he said, gently educating his little son in the gently British version of socialism.”
Confession time: I don’t often buy The Big Issue. I used to. Early days I would even write for it, the occasional column plus regular art and food reviews. I was a Director of a housing association at the time and when the Big Issue in the North had to set up in Liverpool and Manchester I was ashamed. Because if all our work from the previous 20 years had truly paid off they’d never have had to, was my main feeling.
Anyway, time passed by and I eventually dropped from ‘contributor and regular reader’ status to ‘very occasional.’
Which brings us to today when I noticed that this week’s edition is an Election Special. So I bought it from our polite and, in my case, very patient vendor. And I thought I’d show it to you. Not in any look at me kind of way, but because I think it’s good and want to encourage you to go and buy one too, if you haven’t already. Continue reading “It’s a Big Issue: Election Special”
Who knows where these sayings come from? Anyway, Sarah and I are getting on with our now twenty years long and rising conversation about life and the living of it, when I come out with more or less the title of this piece.
“The trouble is, they seem to know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
Some thoughts on why ‘being radicalised’ is not necessarily a bad thing. Though what happens before or afterwards may very well be.
I had a very conservative religious upbringing and attended single faith primary and secondary schools. In my secondary school I was given special instructions, along with a small group of other boys, in how to help the holy teachers who ran the school in the ceremonies they would run for the faithful on holy days and, as it happens, every Friday.
On Sundays I would attend the same spiritual ceremony with the rest of my family and would also regularly take part in another where I would ask one of the holy men to forgive me for my youthful sins, such as they were.
Over time this small group of boys would be taken to visit other schools of the same faith to see if we too wanted to become particular kinds of holy men as we grew up. Two of us, me and my friend Paul, were also selected to represent our school as altar servers during the opening ceremonies for Liverpool’s new Cathedral in 1967.
Yes, I was brought up as a Catholic, like at least half the other people in Liverpool when I was growing up.