Harry’s Last Stand

“Though I am not an historian, I am history.”

As you may know I don’t generally review books on here. In fact I question the value of all reviews, our tastes in all manner of things being so different. But I do want to briefly recommend something extraordinary that I’ve just finished reading, so here goes.Harry Leslie Smith

‘Harry’s Last Stand’ is a 91 year old man’s testament about growing up in the great depression of the 1920s and 30s, fighting Nazism in the Second World War, and finally creating a green and pleasant land in Britain with the NHS and the social welfare safety net in the 1940s and beyond.

And how that all began to be unravelled from the 1980s onwards. Continue reading

Food in the 1970s: What went wrong?

Time has moved on and the two greedy young scamps from the 60s, Ronnie Hughes and Barry Ward are now teenagers about to experience the gastronomic sophistications of the 70s. Or are they?

Food in the 1960s, as long-time readers of the blog might remember, was nowhere near as bad as our memories might have us believe. Trawling through said memories with my North Liverpool contemporary Barry Ward, we found a world where food was shopped for fresh and locally most days of the week, and then cooked from scratch by our mothers, the stay at home housewives of that age.

But come the early 1970s things have gone badly wrong.

An early 1970s larder.

An early 1970s larder.

Everything’s in tins or boxes and there’s some powder up there on the top shelf called Milquick. Yes, convenience foods have arrived in a big way.

The money's just changing over to decimal and Cadbury's Smash is changing the taste of mashed potato.

The money’s just changing over to decimal and Cadbury’s Smash is changing the taste of mashed potato.

I’m seventeen years old as the money changes and have got a Saturday job at Lennon’s Supermarket in Central Square Maghull. So I’m good at doing the conversions into what I will call ‘the new money’ for many years to come. Continue reading

Buying LPs again: Top Ten finds

Buying LPs again01A year already since my return to the joy of flicking through racks of LPs in record shops and charity shops to find the gems. From a standing start of no LPs at all last August I’ve now progressed to something like 200 of them. LPs I wanted to get again by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie and Kate Bush are arriving steadily. And a good number of brilliant new LPs – Bird, Ben Watt, The Pearlfishers and Elbow are here too.

But one of the great joys of this adventure has been the accidental finding of things I didn’t know I was looking for at all. Mostly in charity shops and many for very little money at all. Not all these charity shop finds work out and many are back where I found them within the week. But here I want to feature a ‘Top Ten’ of these fortuitous finds.

1. ‘Free’ by FreeBuying LPs again02This was their second LP, a classic pink-label Island album from 1969. After a slightly frantic start with their first ‘Tons of Sobs’ they hit their stride with this one by slowing things down. Continue reading

Clogs in Calderdale

Update, 22nd August

Sarah’s clogs have now arrived!

Sarah's new clogs. Read on for the full story.

Sarah’s new clogs. Read on for the full story.

Calderdale01You may not know it, and why should you, but Sarah is devoted to clogs. Throughout the 20-odd years I’ve known her she has been a proud clog-wearer. But her current pair, despite several re-heelings, are looking the worse for wear. So, to Sarah’s delight, it’s new clogs time.

Now Sarah, as you may also know, is very particular. So not for her the shopping roulette of clogs-buying on the internet. Oh no, we’re going to the source of clogs, the holy grail, a clogs factory in West Yorkshire.

Off the motorway at Junction 24.

Off the motorway at Junction 24.

And into Calderdale.

And into Calderdale.

Continue reading

Closing the libraries

Update, 15th August, Eleven Liverpool City Libraries set to close

The Proposal outlined below was approved at the City Council Cabinet meeting this morning. There will now be a period of further consultation to see what might be possible by working with community groups and other potential partners for the eleven of Liverpool’s libraries now threatened with closure.

Unless these efforts can be successful, as things stand there will be no public libraries in the North of Liverpool between Central Library and Norris Green. As you’ll see below this gives me particular concern. The loss of any libraries is deeply injurious to the City, but to have such a vast area with no local service gives me great concern for the futures of all children, claimants and the less mobile in Kensington, Breckfield, Everton, Vauxhall, Walton, Kirkdale, Anfield, Fazakerley and West Derby. Surely as a City we can sort something out here?

I’ve heard from a City Councillor that there is to be a special meeting about the issue on 10th September but don’t yet have an agenda for this. Will update as soon as I have but suspect it may be the meeting of the Cultural Select Committee called for by the Green Party and the Lib Dems, as reported by the Liverpool Echo.

Full Liverpool Echo report including a statement by Mayor Joe Anderson here.

Well the news is in and the news isn’t good. On 15th August a proposal will go to the meeting of Liverpool City Council in the Town Hall to close eleven of our nineteen libraries.

Liverpool Central Library

Liverpool Central Library

Before I list those threatened and those to stay, a bit of context from when I attended one of the public consultation events back in May. I wrote then:

“Liverpool gets 76% of its funding from Central Government. And they’re going to cut this by half by 2016/17.

Therefore the City Council has been forced to decide to cut its mandatory services, including libraries, by 25%. And its discretionary services, like sports and culture, by 50%. In the case of libraries this will mean an annual budget of £10m being reduced by £2.5m.

The Council has been running a survey (which I’ve written about before) to gather facts and opinions about what might be done. And have run five open meetings around the libraries, of which this is the last. They tell us they’ve had 3,500 surveys completed and have also been gathering thoughts and ideas from these meetings.

Later in the year the council will decide what to do.

And I found the meeting almost unbearably sad. We talked all the way around the kind of things that could happen. About not automatically closing the less well used libraries in less well off areas. I even brought up the possibility of a bit of philanthropic help to see us through until we can elect a better government. But it was pointed out that though philanthropic money can still sometimes be found to build things, it never pays the costs of running them.

I talked particularly about the children as I did on my post about the survey, as did others. And the fact that no one in the room wanted to see a ‘Big Society’ approach where volunteers take over the jobs of paid staff. We didn’t come up with any easy answers, nor did I feel this was all empty talk about decisions already taken. I felt I was in a discussion with people who are as passionate about libraries as I am.”

Continue reading

The comfort of melancholy

Listening to Paul BuchananDSC06368

“There’s comfort in melancholy
When there’s no need to explain
It’s just as natural as the weather
In this moody sky today”

Beautiful lyrics from a beautiful song. And nothing to do with Paul Buchanan, the subject of today’s piece. These words are from ‘Héjira’ by Joni Mitchell and occurred to me just now as the best way of introducing what it is I particularly like about the music of Paul Buchanan. I love his melancholy.

Which is different to sadness or misery or heartbreak and definitely a long way from tragedy. It’s ‘as natural as the weather’ and has always seemed to me to be an essential element of my life. Some days are melancholy, minor-key kinds of days. Days for keeping warm, drinking tea and looking after yourself. Days in the shade, shadow days, away from the busy-ness and brightness of changing the world or even of radiant happiness. Quietly reflective. Days for listening to Paul Buchanan.

Which I’ve been doing for half my life now. Continue reading

Granby 4 Streets Market in August

Now updated with August Market photos.

It’s the Granby 4 Streets Market on Saturday 2nd August, in Cairns Street Liverpool 8.

Renovation works have now started in Granby but they won’t get in the way of tomorrow’s market. So see you there? It all starts at 10:30 in the morning.

The guerrilla garden planting in Cairns Street is at the height of its summer loveliness at the moment and if we get some sun tomorrow the market will look like this.market-2market-4 market-3 market-1 Continue reading