I’m sat here on the big curving staircase in George Henry Lee writing this. On the second floor, near Glassware and looking down towards Cards and Wrapping Paper on the ground floor.
Well those last bits are only in my mind, but I’m really sat on the staircase in George Henry Lee writing. One of the seventy venues that are home to the Independents Biennial 2018 from now until the end of October. I’m very happy to be here.
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’.
‘There are times I think I would gladly die for a glimpse of sky’
Or at least that how the song goes in my memory. I also think it was written by Judy Collins. And though neither of these memories turns out to be true it’s Judy Collins who’s singing the song in my head, having added the word ‘glimpse’ to Stephen Sondheim’s original lyrics, while I work on Sarah’s allotment in Liverpool this afternoon.
The sky is the great gift we get for spending a lot of our time outdoors. You get on with whatever it is you’re doing, and on this afternoon that has meant a lot of digging and looking at the soil, then when you look up there’s the sky, different every time. Continue reading “A Glimpse of Sky”
Early in 2018 I was asked to circulate an advert from the University of Liverpool, for a PhD they’d set up involving a study of time, places and particularly Port Sunlight. Having cheerfully done this I was asked if I might consider applying for it myself? “No” was my immediate and instinctive answer. I’d often though I might do ‘something academic, later in my life’ but surely it wasn’t later yet?
Turned out it was. And after much thought, conversations, a nervous application and an even more nervous interview I was offered the place.
But first of all, just after I’d said “No” Sarah and I did what we always do when we need to think about somewhere, we went and nosed around the place for a day.
‘On a dark and winter’s day walking round Port Sunlight
Half factory, half village, all about us in the gentle rain
A day of talking quietly, unfolding curiosity
Together like our early days, out finding a sense of place.’
‘Together on my birthday, out finding a sense of place.’
The day before Christmas Eve I wrote and photographed a poem called “Letting Go: A Quiet Breath” and the quiet days have continued here from then through to this new year of 2018.
These beloved souls are my three grandchildren: Finn, 3; Theo, 8, and Eleanor, 11. In the park with their parents, Simon, with Finn on his shoulders and my daughter Clare, who took the beautiful photograph.
A little later I’m on the other side of The Mystery, gazing up at the Moon.
The evening passes in quiet thoughts of what was good in 2017, what didn’t really work out and what might change as the year gets called 2018. We call these new year changes resolutions, but of course some of them are nothing of the sort. While we can all change stuff like what we eat, how much we run and, maybe, the work we do, much else that we’d like to happen is in the realm of wishes and dreams, like always.
Still, we can all change some of what’s immediately around us, so this morning finds us back at Sarah’s allotment, where we’ve spent several of these quiet days.
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 loved using this space I have to write more deeply these past few months. To change the balance between words and pictures on here and have more to say. I’ve particularly had more to say during this time for the reasons many of us will have more to say during times in our lives when we are ill or things generally are not going so well. From late July onwards things did not go well for me and I found myself, to my own relief and slight surprise, trying to write my way through my own doubts, illness, depression and unhappiness. It’s turned out I had a lot to say.
Now, come this weekend in early December, things are much better. Through the love and help of friends, the passing of time and perhaps the writing, my life is in a better place. So I’ve decided to write from this better place. For myself as much as for you who might read this. So I will remember, the next time depression darkens my door, that happiness, sometime soon, can always be a tangible possibility. Continue reading “A Weekend in Early December”
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”
I know I keep talking about the meaning of life on this blog. The preciousness of all of our times here on earth, including my own as I enter my autumnal days.
Today has been more of this, particularly reflective for me as I’ve spent much of it on Sarah’s autumnal allotment, itself changing and gently decaying now, long past the summer’s end as the year’s light declines.
The light this afternoon being that particularly sharp, low in the sky light, that comes on sunny days just before we turn the clocks back.