After I wrote about my friend the artist Emma Rushton’s house a couple of weeks ago, some other friends suggested I might like to do a series where I look around some other people’s houses. They thought this could be an interesting development from other writings and work I’ve done on, oh, the meaning of life and home as a human right. They also thought it would be a good nose.
Thanks ‘some other friends!’
So to try out the idea, and because it’s only fair, I’ve decided to follow up the post on Emma’s house with one about where I live. And since I’m writing this and it’s what I do a lot of, here’s ‘The Writer’s House’.
Some of the most popular posts I’ve written on here lately are the three linked ones called “The Clearing.”I’ve cleared books, activities and, since I wrote the posts, even a car over the past couple of months. And feel much better for it, thanks.
Well, there are two of us live here and Sarah’s been doing some deep and enthusiastic clearing herself. So here’s her take on the whys, wherefores and hows of living with less and how you get there.
Fair warning, fire is involved.
If you’re a regular blog reader then you’ll know that we’ve been busy here – busy ‘clearing’. Clearing is the term we use for ‘getting rid of stuff that we don’t use anymore’.
And that ‘stuff’ can be literally ‘things’ like books and possessions (as in The Clearing). It can also be people and activities, yes that’s a bit trickier (as in The Clearing 2). And it can be about time too, a sort of extension of people and activities (as in The Clearing 3). But the end result of all of this clearing is less ‘stuff’, less clutter, and more space and time for you.
For me that’s involved clearing knitting projects, giving me more time to concentrate on the ones that matter – fingerless gloves. It’s also meant that I’ve had time to (finally) re-cover some chairs in a fabric bought much earlier this year.
And I’ve cleared out my recipe folder – amazing the amount of recipes I’ve printed or kept from a magazine and will never make, or have tried and didn’t like. So this clearing has given me the space to concentrate on a couple of recipes that I have improved – like cheesecake and (finally) apple tart.
And just because we are ‘good’ at clearing it doesn’t mean that we don’t own ‘stuff’. I do have stuff – although when it comes to clothes I will almost certainly never match the effortless minimalism displayed by Ronnie in his wardrobe – but anyway this is not a competition. But the point of clearing for me is that the ‘stuff’ that I have is stuff that I want in my life. Continue reading “Clearing with Sarah: Less not more”
Sarah, in case you didn’t know, has been working as an Independent Funeral Celebrant for four years now. Here she takes us through one of her days. A fascinating and gently observant account of helping three families through what will happen to us all one day.
“Here’s my day.
8.30am. Breakfast in my car in Anfield Cemetery. Seems strange? Well not for me as I often spend parts of my day in places that are close to crematoria, because I work in the funeral industry, as a funeral celebrant. I create and deliver individual funeral services for families and friends. It is a huge privilege. Today I have three services in three different crematoria.
This is my trusty A to Z which is falling apart but is my navigation tool of choice. My regular crematoria are marked L (Landican on the Wirral), S (Springwood, south Liverpool), A (Anfield, north Liverpool), T (Thornton), S (Southport) and H (St Helens).
Driving along Queens Drive this morning I notice that the blossom on the weeping trees is beginning and remember how much I want to tell my friend Rachel every year when I see spring start to arrive. She died in February 2012, I miss her. These strange small trees are really unremarkable for the rest of the year, but for a brief period are in blossom, and are lovely. Do look out for them if you are in Liverpool.
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?
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”
I haven’t written about this lately, but I’m still living as if this is my final year. To see what that does and to record what that feels like. I started it early last October and since then my work has simplified and our house has emptied out.
So I thought, to continue this, I’d record an ‘ordinary’ week in this year. No big personal events, no major decisions taken, but how is it all going for me? Are these the things I’d do if I had a year to live?
And I’m very conscious of this. I’m recently back in tentative touch with my long estranged family. Including my now 86 year old dad, whose own father was taken prisoner after being gassed, in the final push in late 1918, after which he was hardly able to work again, and was never cared for by the Army or compensated, like so many of his surviving comrades.
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.
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.
Whilst I was striding about Liverpool buying LPs and ranting about street markets over the weekend, Sarah was on a ‘Walking Women’ holiday with a dozen or so other women in Northumberland. As you’ll see the weather was wonderful, the whole place is beyond gorgeous. And it just makes you sick doesn’t it?
No but it looks like she had a great time and, now she’s back home, she shares it here with the rest of us, so we can dream about going there too.
Thursday 20th March, two trains from Liverpool (change at York), the X18 bus from Berwick (it’s an Arriva so strangely familiar), and I arrive in the village of Bamburgh just before 3pm. I head straight for the castle, which sits so invitingly at the end of the road.
I’m here for four nights, in Bamburgh, on a Walking Women holiday – it’s their ‘Gentle Northumbrian Coast’ holiday. I need a break, I want to do something outdoors and I don’t want to have to think about my arrangements. So this sounds perfect. Organised walking doesn’t begin until tomorrow… so I’m off to explore on my own for a bit.
The wonderful thing that is ‘A Sense of Place’ continues in the writing of this blog and in the work I do. But the story of Sarah and I having the idea, leaving our jobs, getting going and changing our lives comes to its conclusion in this episode of our story.
By early 2007 we are busier than we have ever been. We are also closer to the end of our joint adventure as ‘a sense of place’ than we realise.
With FRC we have one final idea together, which is ‘The Beatles Homelands.’ A plan to take over and renew the long derelict 1984 Garden Festival Site and turn it into a Beatles-based social enterprise. Liverpool people, you won’t be surprised to hear, are often cynical about The Beatles. We’ll say things like ‘What did they ever do for us?’ And comment on the way they shot off to London as soon as they got successful.
Public service at its best. One bus that takes you to Wavertree, Old Swan, Tuebrook, West Derby, Norris Green, Croxteth, Fazakerley, Aintree, Walton, Bootle, Seaforth, Litherland, Waterloo and Crosby? That’ll be the 62 then, let’s go!