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

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.


Haz said...

I'm really not sure about this whole blogging thing. It's not as easy to negotiate as I'd hoped. I leave this bit of the heppie trekkie journal up for a while and see what happens - how do I know if people read it or not?

John_Bristol said...

Haz: Great to read and great that you are sharing your diary. I am only impressed by the effort you are making and the honesty with which you confront the difficulties. It makes it all seem more possible for people like me who would not normally contemplate such a venture. John

Haz said...

Hi John
Not sure if you're likely to revisit a blog to see if you get a response to your comment, but if you do, I just want to say thank you.
I'm in need of encouragement to persevere with the technological part! - and your comment reminded me that that's the point of a blog; to reach far more people than my own network of friends and acquaintances. Stay well!

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...