2019 was the year I fell back in love with reading. I used to read a lot as a child, but I fell out of the habit of reading fiction while I was at university. While studying and spending all day everyday reading and writing, the last thing I wanted to do at night was pick up another book and read some more. Between 2010 when I started keeping a log of my books and the start of this year I read 63 books. This is a figure I have almost matched book for book in the twelve months of 2019.
Here are a few photos of my first attempt at bookbinding. I wanted to make a sketchbook with paper that would be suitable for watercolour painting, but I couldn’t find a vegan watercolour sketchbook that I liked. It might sound like a funny thing to worry about being vegan, but quite often watercolour paper is coated – ‘sized’ – with gelatine. Gelatine helps reduce absorbency and allow you to rework wet paint on the surface of the paper, but it’s a by-product of animal husbandry and something vegetarians and vegans avoid. I thought it would just be easier to make my own sketchbook so that I could have full control over the paper, the binding, the covers and the size.
In the late summer of 2018 construction work began on two high rise tower blocks north and west of our flat. As seasons passed I watched as planning permission was granted, the old buildings on the two sites were demolished, foundations were filled and the steel skeletons of the two towers climbed ever higher. By the spring equinox I was worried that the tower to the west of us was going to block golden hour.
On the way to town to buy birthday cards on Sunday afternoon, a man stopped us to ask if we were local and if so, where he could go for some lunch. Reliant on a walking frame he explained that he couldn’t go very far and that he wasn’t familiar with Birmingham, but that he happened to end up here as a result of a mix up with the trains. The question, it turns out, wasn’t really about lunch, but rather an excuse to start up a conversation. Step by painful step we continued in the same direction as him for some twenty minutes, covering just twenty metres in that time, but also more than twenty years of his memories. Love, loss, disability, loneliness, despair and the cost of living, but also his love of classics, philosophy and memories of all the places he has called home over the fifty seasons he’s seen come and go.