originally part of training/fundraising for the Hepatitis C Trust's Nepal trek. Now, sporadic musings...

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Tortoise mode

Still Feb 06

Valentine's Day today. Another week has raced by... far less achieved this week.
My last training day went OK - less knackered by the afternoon than the last one... but a presentation the day after training all day was not good planning. Had the afternoon off for my ultrasound scan (found the Cotswold Way by accident, now that will be an interesting route to pursue when there's time...).

Why is it that a medical qualification often creates an inability to actually hear what's being communicated?

Neither wonder Western medicine fails so many of us.

Bowed out of Ann Summers party, and slept most of the evening.

Managed a walk before my visit to Eastwood Park. A very different vibe from the male prisons... location and staff. Interesting.

Car breaks down after my college class. Rats.

Arrive home on back of tow truck about 12.30am.

The next few days are lessons in the stress of having no choice. Up and down to town on Thursday - a matter of maybe 4, at the most 5, miles - and I'm utterly exhausted. But the other weekend I managed over 7 miles... When I had no car for a while, I couldn't figure out why walking was such a problem. I like to walk... But somehow, when I've got to walk, I tire so very, very, much more quickly... It's somehow to do with disempowerment, oppression, being overwhelmed by the effort required just to get through life...

At least I get my invites done for my fundraisers evening. I also get very frustrated at what I haven't achieved in the time at my disposal (typically).

I do get to see Brokeback Mountain. Another trail into town - but well worth it. I needed the cinematic expanse of glorious scenery... A definite 'woman-penned' love story - however unconventional a woman she is...

The reiki weekend is lovely, but I'm disappointed to fall asleep during every visualisation, every attunement, every treatment... I knew I was getting very tired, trying to maintain daily exercise - but even I only usually manage to fall asleep sitting up in a car, train or aeroplane... Saturday night, I don't see more than the beginning of Sea of Souls...

I end up having to take Monday off work as well - mid-morning, I discover the garage has a member of staff at the dentist and the receptionist off sick... (why didn't he tell me?
Then the alternator he reserved is the wrong one... Then there are no other alternators available in Frome, it has to come from Bristol - will be here by 4pm (! I was expecting to be at work by 11am...) ... then Bristol supplier doesn't have the right alternator after all... By now, I feel as if my boss thinks I'm blagging - it's all terribly improbable...

Just as I'm heading out the door for a walk about ten past five, he rings back - car is ready to collect after all... so no walk.

The 13th indeed - I thought only Friday the 13th(s) were this traumatic...

The Valentine Poetry Cafe was interesting - what will stay with me is the last reader - the nurse whose youngest child was diagnosed 3 weeks ago with a brain tumour... it took some courage to share those intensely personal pieces, under those circumstances... his wife shedding tears for them all as he read... Glad I was judging, glad to honour his contribution with one of the prizes...

Unexpectedly frustrating Monday the 13th during the day or no - by evening, I am reminded that I am indeed blessed.

Crazy, crazy day at work today, catching up.

No exercise for 4 whole days. Bummer. Not good.

Neither is the political climate in Nepal - bit of shooting and general intimidation over elections... Far too early to worry about that (for us - Jeff is off next week for a trek!)

Still, I might have run out of energy resources, but I'm vastly cheered that my immune system seems to be pretty shit-kickingly efficient by comparison with non-heppie folk dropping like flies... I've been headachey for days, had an intermittently sore throat and today dodgy bowels - but other people are having to take time off sick... My car has taken care of giving me 'extra' time off - without feeling overly 'sick' (funny, I did wonder about taking yesterday off, I didn't feel too wonderful - then I looked at the pile of washing up and thought I'd rather go to work than face that... and then circumstances intervened...)

and, at last, I've had the chance to update my heppie trekkie journal. It's hardly award-winning literature (am I the only person to be offended by the (fairly) newly named Man Booker, or is that outdated feminist carping?) but this was never going to be literary masterpiece - it's a charting of the journey in preparing for, and fundraising for, the challenge of my lifetime so far...

This (pre-menstrual) few days has severely tested my faith and commitment to this undoubtedly crazy venture.

It's not an impossibility. In theory.

But the practicality of just the training is going to be one helluva challenge.

If I can drum up enough support to buoy me through darkly doubting days, I can do it. I know I can.

Normal, sane people don't tackle these kinds of ventures. Normal, sane people can't move (or even climb!) mountains.

It's the mad ones who pull off the (seemingly) impossible.

Shoot for the moon - you may still land among the stars!

Enough for one 'catch-up'... til next time!

Life on Warp Speed

(still trying to figure out how to sort out font size etc... hate this monster print)

Now Feb 06

Such a busy couple of weeks! Monday, I draft some copy for William Pryor at Unhooked Thinking to run past Drink & Drug News, email it to Michele and the Hep C Trust for feedback. I have tea with Lyn after work – delighted by her enthusiasm for the whole project, and bowled over by her determination to do what she can to help.

Also very important – she’s a smoker, and I didn’t crack. Very, very tempted – until I realise if I have to stay away from all my smoker friends, I’m not really on top of the compulsion. No exercise Monday, though…

Tuesday, I have a chat with our hep nurse, about training a heppie (me!) for high altitudes. Very reassuring, in that he points out I know my body really well (yes) and I probably know as much as him about building up cardio-vascular stamina (er, no – I don’t know where he gets that from… I know about self torture, not self nurture). Just goes to show how people form peculiar ideas about you… I had to get my current SORN (off-road declaration) for my motorbike, so at lunch-time, I march up to Church Road Post Office. Then, even though time is short, I have to do a quick turn of St George’s Park – where Linda and I went last week.

This is the trouble with a walk during lunch-hour. There’s never enough time – especially not when it’s a lovely crisp day… I never want to go back to work for at least another hour or so… excited about my soundtrack idea for training, & met by equal enthusiasm from chap at the workshop...

I call K on Tuesday night – so much to tell her about! I really don’t want to ‘leave her out the loop’ just because she’s so far away. And, as she points out, we could ‘do a fell’ as part of my training – Cat Bell, maybe, one of her dad’s favourite hillwalks.

Must get my boots and get them broken in for that.

Wednesday, I walk to the travel clinic for my jabs – typhoid, diptheria and tetanus. The nurse is lovely; interested and supportive about the hep C – and very accepting of the way I probably caught it. Turns out she’s worked with families affected by drug use. She comments that I’ve ‘done very well,’ which always feels an odd thing for me to hear. She’s studying for an asthma diploma or something, so she’s a great person to ask about asthma at high altitudes.

After ten minutes in the waiting room – to make sure I don’t go into prophylactic shock or whatever the reaction to the jabs is – I stride home via the back lanes. I just feel so lucky that I can do this, can take the time in the morning to breathe the fine rich-scented cold country air before going to work… I’m glad of the snack in my bag; haring out without my soya/milk drink means I’m a bit nauseous and shaky by the time I reach the bypass. Breakfast in the open air – on the first day of February! Can’t be bad.

Driving to work, both arms really hurt, particularly the left, my ‘gear change’ arm – and it gets progressively worse throughout the day. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to have my jabs mid-week… It’s a long old day on Wednesday, too – I start my college course in the evening.

It’s both a blessing and a curse that I don’t consider things very deeply, I tend to just go for it and then deal (or not!) with the consequences.

But sometimes, if you consider things for too long, you never do them – like Michele reminds me, ‘the people who wait for treatment get more and more scared and wait forever.’ Mmmm.

Getting washed on Thursday, I feel a pervasive sense of well-being and vitality – haven’t noticed this for a long time. Usually only when I’ve been in lust/love, or under the influence of something illegal…

Number one Son is isn’t at work – this week is the factory’s first three-day week. Makes me think of the seventies. He gets up to cook pancakes for his breakfast, is keen to make me some. Haven’t the heart to point out I don’t eat breakfast before I go to work (er, unless I’ve powered in some lane-work!); it would be churlish. Indeed, I feel like Frankie in Dreaming with the Driftwood Mirror having microwaved porridge at her dad’s when she doesn’t touch ‘nuked food’ with a bargepole normally… Ah, isn’t it just a delight to be treated?

The Chrysalis writing group meet at CAAAD today. I join them after months of absence – it was rescheduled to a Friday for a while, my day off. I want help with my soundtrack idea for training; I want snippets of random thoughts for the script part. I arrive (late) in the middle of a readback, so the writer backtracks so I hear it from the start. It’s a brilliant Derrida-esque tract, I want copious quotes, I want a copy – it’s Wildean in its epigrammatic density – but I don’t know how to ask without seeming somehow greedy or patronising, or both.

Our exercise: whether a virus is alive or dead. Deep philosophising for a Thursday morning. It feels a bit peculiar, thinking so deeply about the nature of viruses. I think I try not to, as a rule. When there’s one proliferating quietly in my blood and liver, I’m not sure I want to focus on it (or them?) Won’t focussing on it give it strength and potency? Wouldn’t I be better concentrating on what I have, or do, that counteracts virus replication? Or that disempowers it…

I scribble on how society characterises the blood-borne viruses as Hitlers, Mussolinis, Stalins. Not like the innocence of the common cold virus… which, really, is how I’d prefer to think of my hep C, as a kind of benign, slightly inconvenient and not long-term visitor. Viruses are here to teach us something, I do believe that. In this room, there is hep C and co-infection. And I’m aware that we think about our hep C differently, and that I can’t know what it is to have HIV, nor hep C and HIV together. Viral Sutra is destined for Edinburgh this year. That in itself is brilliant success. I hope it’s well received 'up the road'… Creating art from our painful experiences is part of the soul healing process…

After a break, I explain what I would like from the group. Instead of writing, everyone takes a turn at sharing their experience verbally with me.

I imagine this is what AA or NA is like, and feel a bit uncomfortable – there’s no time for me to offer even a precis of my own experience, so it feels potentially exploitative or voyeuristic.

But I also feel very privileged to be sharing their stories. The writer and healer/healed in me responds to bearing witness...

It occurs to me my dad was killed by a virus – one rife in Scottish machismo culture: hardmanitis. Frequently resulting in injury, fractures, black eyes, internal bleeding, sometimes unconsciousness, even coma and death.

In the afternoon, I rewrite William Pryor’s piece as he suggested, and prepare for my training on Monday. Run short of time, so grab what I need to take home with me. (Not, as it turns out, that there’s any time at home to do what I’d hoped – oh well, we’re not supposed to work at home anyway… I also forget my ‘housekeeping’ – juice, fruit, snacks – which means I’ll have to get up at 6am on Monday to grab those before going to work…)

On Friday, I have a reflexology/reiki treatment with Pippa. Wonderful. I’m surprised that my liver point is better than usual – I’d have expected it to be a little aggravated by all the changes in regular habits. Lungs are better, but the heart is showing up more strongly. What’s that one about, I wonder? Also ears – hearing things I don’t like? More and more, I feel that I should do Pippa’s reiki 1 course… I need all the self-healing I can get!

Lunch with Crysse… we don’t actually need the coffee to be buzzed up, but it is a lovely treat… over lunch, we catch up and exchange plans for the fundraising evening and my poetry/prose competition idea. We also manage a walk before we do some writing…

I promised I’d deliver the booking form for the reiki weekend to Pippa, so I decide to walk. I get into the rhythm of it, end up swinging down into town and up Welshmill hill… I really enjoy not just the walk, but reconnecting to memories of treading these streets over the years… ‘inhabiting’ the town I live in, in a way I don’t often these days. I’m really much more reclusive. For exercise, I head in the opposite direction to the populated areas, and that’s not just because I like the countryside, need a fix of nature, shedding urban poison into the soil…

Walking in the dark is interesting, it’s like being in disguise – hidden by the cloak of night… I’ve always liked it – as long as I feel unthreatened, of course. The scream of a police siren, once so rare by comparison with city streets, reminds me how life changes, but doesn’t shake tonight’s tranquility. There’s a lot of self-examination going on in the safety of dark.

As a child, I headed for the hills, too. It was an easier alternative than tackling people… My social skills became enabled once I discovered alcohol… Seeing bouncers on the door of the Three Swans is a graphic illustration that, like anything else, too much ‘social oiling’ brings its own difficulties, but finding out how far I had to limit alcohol dessicated what was left of my social skills after diagnosis had dried them up… Certain situations I have found more enabling than others – give me a particular role to play, and, generally, I can do it if I’m otherwise on an emotional keel. Just don’t ask me to be just me in a group of more than four people at once! Losing my then boss’s support was a real blow – that felt like my ‘virus-ridden self’ was being cast adrift to fend for itself in a hostile world…

Reconnecting to the world of employment, to the unnatural cycles of ‘civilisation’ after many months of tuning into inner cycles and those of the seasons, brought back the compulsion to get hammered at the weekend after a week of drudgery. The working classes, the spiritual, the pagan and the natural philosophers – all become drawn to partying at the weekend; trying to fulfill the spirit’s need to connect to celebrating life and the earth’s cycles…

When I get back home, I find I’ve been out for about an hour and a half…

On Saturday morning, I get broadband sorted at last – the chap installed it Monday, but I’ve had no time to call them to find out what the problem is. I set up a page on justgiving for people to contribute to the trek, and firkle about trying to set up a blog. It’s about 3.30pm by the time I eat (naughty! – but arguably good practice for Tuesday’s ultrasound scan). Oatcakes, hummus, olives and an apple aren’t a bad throw-together lunch, but I need to sleep… I hole up on the sofa with my book for an hour or so. Lucky my watch is fast – really fast – so that I’m not late for Peter’s book launch in Bath. Even though I can’t decide what to wear.

It’s the first time I’ve read in public without my 'baseline' tranquillisers – fags!

I’m first to arrive at Peter’s for the 'after-launch' party, so rather than hang about in the cold till everyone turns up, I go for a walk… along to the lights, up the hill and round the back of the RUH. It feels powerfully symbolic – a psychic circling of the hospital, prior to Tuesday, beginning and ending at Peter’s, on the night of the launch of Thigmotaxis, an experimental journal which has my poem about Number One Son in… Lots of synchronicities.

Laughter is therapeutic. I enjoy the ‘launch post-mortem’, cupping my mug of fruit tea as wine and beer bottles are passed round. I consider staying; Peter offers a very comfortable-looking sofa, but I’ll have another beer if I’m not driving home.

I’m also very tempted to have a fag when I get in the car – I tell myself it would be ludicrous, having lasted so well.

These urges recur regularly.

On Sunday, I have another look at my blog, see if I can tidy it up a bit. I get very frustrated at my lack of techno-ability… I discover John in Bristol has posted a comment about finding the journal encouraging – if I can do it… Am gratified – after all, that’s the point, isn’t it? To communicate – not so people say ‘look at her!’, but so they say ‘she can, so maybe I can.’ Wish I could respond to him. The best I can do is to post another comment, hope he comes back at some point…

So much to do! Heppie Trekkie update (and edit), shopping, phone call about images for publicity, draft the poetry/prose comp copy, invites to do for fundraising evening… get out for a walk! Hoovering, washing up, couple of laundry loads, mailout my change of email… Training preparation! aaargh… and I’m knackered. P. H. U. Cued. I have a headache – the one that’s been lingering all week. This is crazed – I’ve really bitten off more than I can chew…

Going round Sainsburys, I find I’m a ball of rage and frustration. Violent urges bubble in my throat – it feels like I’ve just begun trying to stop smoking today! Why am I so angry? Carole is very calming and empathetic – I’m very grateful she’s there to soothe my near-snarling self.

On return, find something has been spilled on the chair. My immediate assumption is that it must be son’s fault (of course). Now I am incandescent with rage. Before we launch into WW3, I stomp off out.

It’s a beautiful time to walk, into sunset on a sunny February day. The rage soon dissipiates in the joy of imminent spring, but also powers me much further than I would otherwise have managed. I’m delighted – and no nasty dizziness or nausea, either.

I also have much more energy and inclination to crack on with things on my return.

Putting out the rubbish, I meet our new neighbour. As I’m exchanging pleasantries with him, No 1 Son is tending to my abandoned supper…

He’s not so bad after all, is he – and it looks like the spill was my fault anyway…

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Picnic - or Routemarch?

End Jan 06

I’d love a fag. I’m finding it very tough after walks, too – obviously, after all that fresh air, I used to need to top up the pollution in my lungs… Last weekend was my first this year without a ‘relapse’. If I can hang out today, that’ll be two weekends…

I’ve drunk much more alcohol this week, though. Maybe explains why my immune system was kicking off yesterday after my coast hike…

But I’m jumping ahead. Michele suggested sending this journal to her, as a sample of my writing. Having seen her fabulous website with her incredible photography, I panicked at the thought of sending her my unedited journal drivel, and went over it to do some preliminary editing…

If anyone is interested in this (and it does feel a bit arrogant to assume that they might be) as ‘a heppie’s prep for the trek’ then that’s exactly what it should be – only stuff relevant to hep C, prep or the trek…

So I’ve tried to weed out the totally irrelevant crap about my daily existence. As I write this, I’ll have to keep looping back to take out irrelevancies… You don’t always know what is an irrelevance until you have the blessing of hindsight.

My aim is fifteen to thirty or more minutes walk every day if possible, with longer stretches at the weekend. So how’s that gone this week?

No walk on Monday – no time! – but then I probably needed a rest day after Sunday’s exertions. (Plenty adrenalin at the prospect of a potential date! That must count for something on the fitness front – though not sure what…) On Tuesday, I walked to my appointment with the manager of the structured day care service, which was lovely – I felt quite euphoric, which surprised me; city walking isn’t really my thing (unless it’s Edinburgh), and certainly not in winter (particularly not in Edinburgh – too viciously cold!). Another cold, misty January afternoon; the bright red disc of the sun, veined by tree silhouettes, slid down through the clouds between the high-rise flats. Another kind of spectacular; not my natural choice, but still beautiful.

Blisters on my toes this time – too-thick socks in my nubuck shoes; I hadn’t expected to be walking anywhere. Had to tape up my toes to walk round to Penny’s later without inflicting further damage.

No walk on Wednesday – no time. Took a long lunch-break Thursday, went to Linda’s for a snack and then we took Cassie, her dog, to the park. Walked home from the pub in the evening, too (and though alcohol four days in a row is not good, three half pints on a first date with no smoking is pretty damn miraculous).

On Friday, walked to meet last night’s date for breakfast. And walked back again. Went back to bed in the afternoon, though – I’m getting too old for late nights followed by early-ish mornings…

I’d pencilled in this weekend for a belated New Year pilgrimage to the coast, which would have been derailed if I'd had a Saturday night visit instead of Thursday night – I’m hardly going to choose to knacker myself during the day before a hot date (though it did take a bit of consultation with girlfriends to establish whether I could legitimately think of it as a date! – am very out-of-practice; but maybe it is like riding a bike… so to speak).

I’m rather pre-occupied on Saturday – not a good sign. It’s bright and clear, and I could do with a bit of sea air to ground me before I slide into obsession about this poor guy. It’s been such a long time since I had a love affair… and I have such a terrible weakness for handsome men…

I throw together a picnic and fill my flask. The drive down on the edge of the Deverills is glorious, Stevie Wonder serenading me on the sound system. Soul-singing stuff – in more sense than one; his music is part of the sound track of my life. The place names on this journey are part of the poetry of my life; Longbridge Deverill, East Knoyle, Shaftesbury, Compton Abbas, Fontmell Magna … I can see a road or a track going up to the summit of the hill in front of me. So I pull over to explore.

It’s bitterly cold. There is even a sprinkling of snow on the hillside. There’s a National Trust notice on the stile near the top, warning of grazing cattle and a BULL. I don’t want ot get to the summit that badly. The view is just fine from where I am, actually. The diversion is quite timely, reminding me it’s already one o’clock, and I must eat. Time for a mini picnic in the car.

Onward. To the strains of Fleetwood Mac and kd lang, the car noses through Sutton Waldron, Iwerne Minster, Child Okeford, Stourpaine (where the editor of Tears in the Fence lives), Blandford Forum (where the East Street Poets meet), Charlton Marshall, Spetisbury (speed cameras), then the back road through fields and Wareham Forest to Sandford, Wareham, Worgret, East Stoke… the turning for East Lulworth; ‘Open’ – well, it never occurred to me it might be closed, it never does. And so far, I’ve never come when it is closed – lots of MOD land around here, Lulworth army camp, and of course the ‘ghost village’ of Tynham; evacuated during the war and never re-populated.

I’ve decided to try the walk from Lulworth Cove to Durdle Door. Push myself (hmm…). The Heritage Centre car park isn’t busy exactly, but neither is it deserted. There are regular straggles of walkers up the hill. I stick a parking ticket in the car window and put my boots on. My mac is in the car, as an afterthought I pull it on over my fleece – it’ll help keep that wind out.

Flask, food, extra jumpers and my journal (just in case) are a fair weight. From experience, I know this hill can make me shaky and sick, so I try to be really disciplined at setting a slow and steady pace. I’m so impatient… I also know how tiring I find snail’s pace – I’ve done this hill many times with Isla at two years old, then three, four, and last year, five years old… I do like stopping to take in the view; after only a few moments the gradient is so steep it’s well worth stopping to look back over the bay. Spectacular.

Soon, I’m over the crest of the hill, and there’s the arch of the Man o’War and the stretch of beach with the caves where I intend to have my picnic. The wind on top of the hill is really strong, I have to battle to stay walking in a straight line. I feel a bit like a tortoise or something as the wind keeps grabbing my hefty backpack. Off the top, it’s more sheltered – just as well, I couldn’t manage that effort for long.

This place never fails to lift my spirits. And it’s just perfect for trek prep; rough hilly terrain rising several hundred feet above sea level. After a week’s camping here, I feel as though I’ve been at a health farm – even though we smoke, booze and eat gluttonously. It’s all the fresh air and sunlight, the haul to the beach and back every day, the swimming in icy sea water, the daily cliff walk with Carole – and not having to cook. That sense of being cared for, nurtured… of just lazing about, reading, chatting, laughing… You can’t beat it. And then I began coming as part of my New Year ritual homage to the ocean (and a vast improvement on Spittal beach it is, too). Any chance I get, I’ll come here to spend the afternoon – longer, if it’s hot, because then I can lounge about and write. It’s a magical place.

Down on the beach, it’s more laboured on the stones. There’s no-one in my favourite cave – the one that’s big enough for four of five people to sit comfortably, out the wind. (Number one Son and three of his friends and I sat in here on the first of January two years running – both times I got a bit chilled, though). I clamber up, and get stuck into my provisions. Bringing extra clothes was a brainwave – I sit on my mac with a jumper over it to stop my arse getting cold, and pull the other spare jumper on. In combination with the hot ginger and honey, I’m as cosy as toast. I decide the flask was inspired, if slightly heavy to lug about.

All this is only about the equivalent of an hour’s walk, so I decide to venture as far along the beach as I can. It’s hard work – and I hit a wind tunnel effect about half-way along. I’d give up and turn back, but I’m dying for a pee after all that fluid, and I’d prefer to be out of sight of the other walkers. I’m soon sheltered by the cliff again.

It seems fitting to run through my dance meditation in the natural ‘altar space’ close by the end of the beach. Good for boosting my temperature, which plummeted a bit in the wind tunnel. On the way back, I’m into the wind, so I don’t notice the cold, I’m struggling too hard. A couple of pebbles strike my face; I’m really shocked – as well as in pain. The wind really is so strong as to blow large pieces of grit off the cliff… Wow.

I climb into the cave again for a rest and some more provisions. Last week, it might have been the lack of sustenance that made me feel ill; I don’t intend to make that mistake this week.

I’d write, but I’m afraid of chilling if I get ‘on a roll’. I can always write sitting in the car, in the warm… so I decide to head back, maybe see if I can find somewhere to grab a coffee to keep me alert on the way back.

It’s slow work; my bag feels no lighter – though surely it must be? I’ve hardly any food left. The flask is a bit monstrous, I suppose. Clambering up the hill back to Lulworth, this time I keep stopping to turn and look back at the rosying clouds of the sunset. I’ve had exchanges with several walkers that have made the experience feel less solitary. Not that I mind solitary for something like this, but unexpected exchanges with people are always a delight.

The descent to the car is full of aches and pains around my joints. That’s all they are, I tell myself, aches and pains – tomorrow, they’ll have gone. Be careful not to over-favour and do yourself a real injury.

I need a coffee. I head along the coast; stopping at an old-fashioned level crossing with antiquated signals to let a passenger train through. It really does feel like another age here... Towards the sparkling lights of Weymouth, I’m thinking I should find a coffee bar there. But it’s winter, I have no change left for parking, and no energy left for finding a cafĂ© once I have parked. As I’m not sure which road to take in the dark, I end up partially retracing my steps before taking a wrong turning. I’m knackered, my face is stinging from warming up after being so cold – I last felt this after coming out of that November blizzard with Sheena – I feel overheated, and my glands feel swollen. It suddenly occurs to me this is my first solo trip to Durdle Door. And this is the reason I don’t do this sort of thing by myself – because I get nervous I can’t get myself home again!

I manage to get home safe. I’m glad I cooked on Friday, I just have to heat up the rice and chickpea thingy. Rabbit Proof Fence is on TV tonight – I wanted to see that at the cinema when it came out.

I’m too tired to concentrate. So I watch Sea of Souls instead – for the music of the Scots accents – and go to bed.

Blog Madness

This blog business is really infuriating.
I've got the next instalments of the Heppie Trekkie Journal to post - the last bit to edit and post - the next bit to write!!! - and I'm wasting so much time just trying to get to grips with negotiating this site, editing, posting etc... it would be so nice to have an attractive layout for people to log on to, but I can't figure out how to get the type to a reasonable size (instead of jumbo print - I tried making it 'tiny' and the post then appeared to vanish altogether, so I made it 'small' which appeared to make no difference to its giant proportions at all), or how to add links (I could perhaps edit the hypertext if I could find out how to access it!), let alone how to actually design the layout...

At this rate, I'll be back to asking people who are interested just to email me for the next instalment...

I was so hoping a free blog site would be an unexpected blessing...

Maybe some helpful techie will respond to my mailout...

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Trek Mania

Nov 05

The newsletter from the Hep C Trust comes through. I forward it onto work to print out and read in hard copy.
Jeff Frew is leading a trek in Nepal to raise funds and awareness.
There are two slideshow evenings. One in December (not practical – too near the silly season) and one in January. I pencil in the January evening, and make a provisional booking with Jane at the Trust.

Jan 06

Well, the silly season was just that. Extremely glad it’s over; only one evening (very) OTT for a heppie liver (alcohol-wise) but too many consecutive low-level alcohol consumption evenings. Still, knew I’d be vulnerable to xmas weakness after the stress of son’s suicide attempt end Nov.

It still feels like I’m a sad git to spend Hogmanay in solitary splendour, although in actual fact it’s come to feel rather magical – a date with myself to review the past year and plan for the coming year.

If I’m going to Greece in May and September, looks like I’m not going to do treatment this year. And if I go to Nepal… Maybe next year, then.

I stop smoking on the first of January. (Well, I begin trying to. I have a couple of ‘relapses’ – both associated with trips to Ikea… Not a pleasant shopping experience. Not even remotely pleasureable. Why do people flock there like lemmings?).

During the first two weeks of not smoking (apart from the aforementioned blips), I notice a tremendous increase in my energy levels. Even feel quite optimistic about the Nepal expedition – until my first proper walk of the year; after an hour’s tramp through the lanes, I’m completely buggered. This trek idea could be one of my madder notions…

In the third week of not smoking, the evident increase in energy vanishes. I’m training all day on the 16th; by the afternoon, I can barely speak coherently, let alone deliver a dynamic training session. Feel very deflated – and very tempted to have a fag. Especially as there’s baccy in my car from the other relapses. That critical voice in my head is nagging ‘you shouldn’t be driving to London midweek – you can’t afford it, and you’ll be fucked on Thursday at work.’ I compromise, and get the train – even though it’s more expensive.

The walking to and from the station – with my backpack – is good ‘Nepal practice’…

It’s interesting, sitting beside a barrister (or lawyer) on the train, returning all her calls of the day. Discussing a soon-to-be-DTTO client, she’s puzzled that this client appears to be withholding information from her brief, and comments ‘Makes you wonder if she’s told her psychiatrist everything… makes you wonder, doesn’t it – doesn’t she grasp that we’re on her side?’ I want to chip in with ‘Don’t you understand anything about surviving?’

I also experience a wave of anger that this is a potential breach of client confidentiality, this chatting – she is careful not to mention her clients’ names, but she’s given her name several times, it must be possible with the right access to court records to find out who her clients are… if I, or my fellow travellers within earshot, had a mind to. OK, I can’t be bothered – but I can’t speak for them… Truth is stranger than fiction – who knows who’s coincidentally travelling on this train with us…

I think I’ve been in drugs services too long already. Or maybe I just lean naturally towards paranoid thinking.

I arrive early at the Trust’s offices. (I’m pleased – it occurs to me it doesn’t bode well if I can’t negotiate Bristol to London on time). Jane is wonderfully welcoming, even though my being early is probably rather an inconvenience as she’s trying to get some work finished. Jeff is equally affable and chatty in spite of trying to set up his slideshow equipment before people arrive.

I’m glad of the opportunity before the others arrive to ask Jeff about the level of fitness this challenge will require. Just in case everybody else is an experienced trekker. I think he says a good three to four hour’s hillwalk without getting knackered; whatever he said, it’s more than I can do. Even on a good day. My heart sinks.

I haven’t been able to do that sort of terrain and distance since I was a kid, exploring the Pentlands with my dog. When I got to early adolescence, I opted to let two wheels or four legs take the strain… and then I moved to motorised transportation. I only began ‘proper walking’ again in about 1994… When Paul used to take care of me when I overdid things… His taunts of ‘lightweight!’ used to irritate the fuck out of me.

I’m far less gung-ho on my own.

I managed an hour or so with Sheena over Hillend slopes in the snow in November, though. So maybe it’s possible I can work up to it.

Jeff’s optimistic. And optimism is always infectious.

Boots, I’ll need new boots (! what – I can’t use the ones I’ve got? And a new sleeping bag – a platypus water bag – a new daypack – special SOCKS? bloody hell… )

AND the boots need breaking in – from now! Jeezus, this trekking business is more complicated than I thought – I was most worried about having to lug my own camping stuff about (which we don’t, thank the lord).

The others join us, and the slideshow begins.

We are transported.

It’s not just Jeff’s charming and charismatic presentation. Nor the amazing women in the room (aside from Jeff, and Jane’s husband, the prospective trekkies are exclusively women – interesting, as statistically there seem to be more men than women who have hep C…). No, there’s something else, something quite other than an enthusiastic and political group here to discuss how to pull off a once-in-a-lifetime experience to benefit the Trust… And maybe that’s it, something of the essence of dreams mingling with the rarified air of Nepal leaching from Jeff's slides of gargantuan mountain ridges and clear blue skies... spiced with Jeff's enthusiasm and passion for the place, the people...

It’s all calling ‘yes, yes, yes... we can do this!!!’

We turn to the fundraising. Bit of a downer, this – we all want to do the trip, but three and a half grand? What kind of money is that to be raising before September? (Approximately £500 a month between now and then… Bloody hell – that’s more than my rent…).

Jeff is realistic about this bit. It is tough, very tough. But possible.

And that’s it, isn’t it – that’s all we need. A window of possibility…

Three of us waft off to London Bridge station on the potential of dreams being realised.

It’s not long (about an hour!) before I collide with reality again; the reality that many people – even people who support my many madcap ideas – are ambivalent about essentially sponsoring a "holiday" for me. Many sponsors of charitable causes don't give unless the charity gets the whole donation.

Have to get over this reluctance somehow.

I’ll find a way. I’ve got to find a way.

Travelling back to Bristol in the grimy English morning, it feels as if I dreamt the evening. Except, I’m scribbling ideas for fundraising contacts in my notebook, trying to get a plan of action together…

Fitness and fundraising, fitness and fundraising. It has to be a two-pronged action plan…

Still Jan 06

After initial deflation at negative responses, am rather delighted at having a lot of positive feedback – and far more importantly – offers of support.

Two walking buddies, Crysse and Jill, to help me ‘train’ (very important).

Crysse, Jill, Peter M, Pippa and Carole W are all willing to help. I now have a date fixed for a ‘presentation evening’ to drum up more fundraising support – I must get hold of Jeff as soon as possible for some images to whack into a powerpoint for then. Perhaps I can download stuff from their website as well… And lots of ideas for potential fundraising events, for example, ‘Hazel’s Haggis Night’, a March alternative to Burns night (the 25th of January being this Wednesday, I’ve no time to organise it for the real Burns night).

Crysse, Peter P and I had planned a walk this weekend anyway. Part of the Bath Skyline. Peter is not long out of hospital, and still not carrying ‘anything heavier than a kettle’ so I’m impressed he’s up for it. Not sure I would be. Maybe I’m just a class A wimp – well, nice to think I’m a class A something. As opposed to taking class A’s…

I soon discover Peter is a champion country walking companion – he knows so much about flora and fauna, and is very au fait with local history and landmarks, too. Not like Crysse or I – we just do the walking, and a lot of exclaiming at beautiful views. But for us a walk is mainly an excuse to talk and exercise. I remember as a kid longing to have a dad just like Peter, who could tell me what everything was called. Demanding and perfectionist even then – my Dad didn’t do too bad, for a townie. I just wanted the sort of father I read about in books, soaked in the country lore of fiction…

An hour later, we haven’t turned back towards the car yet. I’m starting to feel it, so I’m a bit anxious Peter might have overdone it, but he insists he’s fine. I guess it hasn’t been a non-stop route march, we’ve explored things – like the bat cave which Peter says used to be the home of a hermit, but now has a metal grid bolted into the rock to keep people out but allow the bats free access.

The sun is going down as we head to Peter’s mum’s house for a cup of tea before we drive home. From Marie’s spacious front room overlooking the canal, we can watch the sun’s rosy reflections on the abbey deepen before vanishing in the night-time uplighting. Marie reads to us in her melodious French from the beautifully produced and illustrated memoir of her Mauritian childhood, while we sip tea and crunch oat cookies. I feel privileged to have the kind of life where I meet people like Marie – who won a prize for her novel manuscript, and was presented with a commemorative bowl by Pinter’s wife, Antonia Frazier.

I’m determined to fit in another long walk this weekend. Apart from anything else, I want some kind of check on what my capabilities really are right now. I want to know now (before I invest in boots!) if I’m chasing the moon. So I’m up bright and early (for me on a Sunday) and straight into bustling about. It’s a lovely frosty morning, quite misty.

Son pointedly closes the lounge door when he goes to the loo around nine-ish; my noisy breathing (!) during my yogic stretches has woken him up. Why do I feel apologetic? Does he feel apologetic when he blunders home, pissed, at 2am on weekend nights? (Not at the time, anyway…) Actually, maybe there was more than a modicum of irony in my asking if my breathing disturbed him… Bloody teenagers. Only human when they belong to somebody else.

It’s still misty after the week’s obligatory supermarket dash. If anything, it’s even mistier than around noon, when the sun could sneak through places in the cloud cover. Now, it’s faded to a gold sovereign behind the vapour veil. My boots feel a bit odd after my soft sandals, but they’re getting worn in well. In fact, they’re so comfy it seems a great pity they won’t suffice for the trek…

I’m about to do my usual lanes stomp, but then I think about the bigger loop onto the Longleat estate. My feet take themselves towards Sainsbury’s, so I’m heading to Longleat. I have to consciously slow myself at one point, realising that I’m pushing it because of the time factor – I’m reckoning I’ve got not much more than an hour. (the Longleat walk took about two last time). Better to be heading home in dusk than totally knackered.

I do love to walk. I’m longing to experience the silence of the Himalayas. (Jayzus – I’m thinking of heading to the bloody Himalayas! Kinda knocks Machu Pichu and even Kilimanjaro into a cocked hat… But I want to go there too – before I die…)

Even when there are no cars on these West Country lanes, the traffic noise from the bypass carries clearly in the misty air. There’s also ferocious buzzing from the pylons straddling the fields, so it’s not exactly a rural idyll interrupted simply by birdsong. It’s still a vast improvement on concrete jungle. The fragrance of silage reaches me as I get closer to East Woodlands, its treacly perfume a welcome change from the choking exhausts of the occasional four x fours whizzing past.

Where the road forks, I usually swing left, back towards Frome. Today, I decide to go just that bit further – it’s not yet dark, although the sun must have tipped over the horizon by now. At the next junction, I know the right hand lane goes up towards Corsley; I cycled that way once. That’s too far to walk in what daylight is left. And besides, going up a steep gradient, I seem to be aching, all at once, in a variety of places.

So I go left. Even the bits of the landscape I know are defamiliarized; it’s a very peculiar feeling, exploring new territory in the dusky mist.

Soon, I’m back on the main road. I plan to head home on lit roads, but by now my endorphins have kicked in, so I take a last stomp over fields and through lanes for the final bit. It’s uphill. The first bit is OK – in fact the additional effort gives a welcome warming as the temperature drops. But then I start feeling sick and shaky, and the sweating isn’t from exertion any more, it’s sick sweating.

Oh bugger. Overdone it – just like number one Son said I would…

This is why I so seldom push myself. I hate this. Hate this feeling, hate this sense of weakness, hate when I have to just collapse on the sofa or into bed. Luckily there’s plenty ‘easy’ food at home to lob in my gob without any preparation.

Got to keep going – if I stop, I’ll chill badly, it’ll be much, much worse. Ride through it, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Hot bath immediately you get home.

That energy slump during my third non-smoking week was very probably pre-menstrual. For a period a month late – and third day into it is possibly not such good timing to test your physical stamina, Haz? Methinks the self-harm has merely gone underground…

I notice my legs are a bit anaesthetised from weariness, and I’m stumbling. It’s weird, it’s a bit like being drunk or on drugs. That makes me giggle to myself in the twilight – typical, thrash myself until I start losing motor control… I know I have to be extra careful – I’ll be extremely vulnerable to injury right now, being too exhausted to control my muscles properly. If I twist an ankle or wrench a knee now, I’ll put my training programme back weeks if not months.

The bath certainly helps. I have to wrap up in several layers once I’m out the water, but although I ache, the sickness and sweating subside and I feel just the ‘normal’ aftermath of a long hike. I read the Sunday paper while I eat, and then surprise myself by pottering rather than collapsing in a knackered heap.

Must be the endorphins.

I want to watch the Wesley Snipes movie, Blade II. Perfect timing. It’s on now.

About Me

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I began blogging during training for a trek in the Himalayas... several lifetimes ago. Currently working on my novel - in the tiny spaces left by a 50 hour plus working week...