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

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

trek training back on track

I open my notebook, and it falls open at Rainbow's number. I feel guilty; I promised to ring her next time I was here. Perhaps I should have rung her before leaving Bridport...

No. I need to savour my solitude, recover from having an unexpected observation (! that was a bit of a shocker), and have a play with words before walking.

Yesterday, after half an hour, I was shaky and nauseous. Not so fit, then... It was only six-thirty in the morning, maybe Crysse was right and the time of day had more to do with my physical struggle than fitness per se...

All the same, I take things pretty gently today, with lots of rests.

It's colder today than my last visit. In the - three? - weeks since I was last here, clumps of purple pompom flowers have colonised the cliffs' edges. I want to call them sedge; it sounds right, but of course I have no idea what they ACTUALLY are.

I have always loved basking in summer silence, broken only by the ocean's background murmur and bird calls. Voices drift over on the wind, and cattle crunch contentedly, systematically cropping the hardy thin stems of grass.

The few trees are sculpted by the elements into Marge Simpson hairdos caught in high winds. A dual-rotored helicopter - are they Chinooks? - putters below me, scanning the water's edge for incident or just practising low flying.

How lucky am I?

Being paid to facilitate a workshop with a wonderful group - I was moved to tears earlier while driving through the vibrant landscape, hit by the realisation (while driving through West Coker) that I wouldn't swap this minute of my life with another living soul.
Not for all the money, prestige, or power in the world...
And the Dire Straits track, Why Worry comes over the airwaves...
I played that album to death when I was pregnant (Brothers in Arms and Billy Holliday were practically the only albums I owned!)

My own journey amazes me sometimes. How did I get from the edges of Edinburgh, nestling by the foothills of the Pentlands - to its Gothic centre, out to its sink estate margins, then deep into its black heart... yet end up in a sleepy Somerset market town for twenty-odd years? (recently Frome was featured by the Guardian!)

Trainspotting at the Theatre Royal on Friday was interesting. Ducking and diving in desperation... I'd say the interpretation only hinted at that. Forgoing depth for too much indulgence in ranting; predominantly cursing. While I know only too well how authentic the language is, too much of it is just tiresome. And some dialogue would have been a welcome rest from the lengthy asides.

From a half-life in Scotland's then-impoverished capital, to these riches, this wealth - a miraculous journey. Largely accidental - or should I say synchronicitous...
Now this dreamer, this lazy girl greedy for dreamtime, this rebel who bit off more than she could chew when she entered the city's underbelly (and nearly didn't emerge at all, at least three accidental ODs that I remember, plus a few deliberate ones), now this misfit can roam the South West in her battered peppermint green polo to deliver workshops that are a delight and a privilege to facilitate.

I have a handsome, incredibly bright and nearly-grown son (when do we hit 'adult'? - not sure I have!), a first-class honours degree - and roots in two countries...

Today, I have a guide called Eve who navigates the least steep slopes - saving those knees this time! - to deliver me to the foot of Golden Cap. I think of Jean breakfasting there on her walking retreat, and remember my promise to John that we tackle it together. At the pub, I munch through a bag of crisps and knock back a virgin Mary; should keep me going...
... til hot doughnuts and a welcome cup of tea back in West Bay. And a fag on my return to the car. After at least seven (strenuous!) miles, I feel like I deserve such simple pleasures.
A little of what you fancy...

Duck-egg blue airbrushed with cloud, intense green slopes in the setting sun.

Time to go.

Coastal town flaneur...

I sit in the weak pre-noon sunlight, sipping Italian coffee from a corrugated paper cup. The plangent sound of classical guitar soar above the market day and traffic bustle. A Strauss Waltz - Blue Danube - this is no wayfarer but a professional musician, supplied with breakfast and coffee by his attentive girlfriend.
A flock of pigeons congregate around the dappled trunk of a plane tree, fussing with dropped fragments. Sun reflects bright mauve iridescence, shimmering mantillas with bright scarlet finger-feet like brazen sandals on demure senoras.

This scene could be Anytown across Europe; I recall leisurely breakfast writing in Southern France, Barcelona and Majorca. However, the portly bearded traders in their plaid shirts and baseball caps are unmistakeably English.

It's a sunny May Wednesday in Bridport. Later, I will head off for my fix of the sea; for a few moments I am a flaneur, soaking up the sounds, sights, smells of now...

Lots of media coverage...

Hardly hitting the broadsheets, BUT I'm chuffed to bits that the Auction of Promises and Dreams was in the Frome Times last week - plus a review of madabout... AND a piece about the poetry comp!
Cracking support from the FT - just hope my fellow Frome folk don't get thoroughly peeved at my phisog in the local pages!


I'm trying to catch my tail here... 31st of May already, and this event was on the 20th!

ANOTHER £300 added to the total!

Jill and John Miller hosted a cracking fundraiser supper - it was a lovely gathering, and we all had a great evening; there was stacks of delicious food, plenty wine (for a donation) and entertaining conversation with a variety of lively guests. The evening began very auspiciously when it turned out that the woman who'd contacted me because she saw the Kerouac piece in her local paper knew Jill from years back, when Jill led a women's group that Claire was part of... a lovely piece of synchronicity for us.
Claire lost her husband to hep C a couple of years ago, and she's so thrilled that awareness-raising is happening at last, and campaigning for services and treatment is becoming more evident.
It was indeed a nurturing evening of lovely energy, and I was profoundly touched by the effort both Jill and John had made to make it all possible - I have to say, skills that are beyond my organisational capacities and catering expertise. Which makes them all the more precious.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

madabout words...

Another triumph for Crysse as spoken word co-ordinator - performing in the Merlin Theatre foyer on Friday 12th May, part of her madabout words event.

Not a trek event, but Crysse took the opportunity after my Twenty- first Century Trenches poem to give the Auction of Promises and Dreams a plug - listings on the www.wychhaz.co.uk site, brilliant Mike, thank you! Although my collecting tins hadn't arrived, we collected nearly £10 from just that passing mention during the show (aren't people round 'ere supportive!).

and here's the poem:

Twenty-first Century Trenches

I’m still too young to remember how

after the war

everyone was glad – but still cautious

not yet free from rationing

or fear

there was nuclear war to beware now


it was all much more immediate

you could dodge

targeted devastation

bomb-dropped from above

run from

strafing tank turrets

if not

storm troopers pouring through ghettoes

pursuing hiding, hidden Jews

slip-sliding trench warfare

howitzers and diseased mud

culling humanity

a massive mincer chewing through nations

nuclear warheads upped the ante exponentially

I’m still too young

will always be too young

to remember that

we have our own war

our own 21st century trenches

where drugs and blood-borne viruses

alcohol and anxieties

cut swathes through society

sick with cancerous debts

our young men stripped of vitality and dignity

our women rendered bereft of self-respect

by dependencies

shame hides with cowardice

in dark and lonely places

Not a 19th nervous breakdown... Shirley Holmes and the Body in B Ward

I may have missed the Bristol run, but I made it to Cardiff for Stepping Out's nineteenth production. A thoroughly entertaining evening - and overheard while leaving the auditorium: 'So glad I came,' 'Wonderful!' 'Really makes you think, doesn't it?'
Another huge success, I reckon!
Read more about it on their website www.steppingouttheatre.co.uk/
And for one night, I was Steve and Cheryl's 'madwoman in the attic'...

Monday, May 22, 2006

Back to blogging soon...

I tried to do a quick blog entry on the Friday morning following posting Lena's memoriam piece, before I realised that I couldn’t fill the space above that with my usual inanities…

I needed to craft this one more carefully, out of respect.

‘…pearls of time/strung on life’s narrative/iridescently unique.’

My last post (before Lena) took us up to my meeting with Jean on Chesil Beach. That was a pearl of time; we walked together, talking of our lives, to the glade into the Othona community. We drank tea and then sat in the chapel together.

It was a gift to be warmed by her strength and inner peace, share the sacred space with her.

She emailed me today, with news of her weeklong walking retreat, ‘treading on sacred ground’.

I can still see in my mind's eye that fabulous vista down from the retreat out to sea – and feel the white peace of the chapel.

My walk back to the car that day was really special - I went along the cliffs as the sun was setting, lifted by the joy of our unexpected meeting. It seemed as if I was ascending into the sun...

It was about 8 when I got back to West Bay, I was starving – so I treated myself to supper in the pub…
I left West Bay under a crescent moon hung in indigo-black skies…

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Memories of Lena by Ngaire Ruth


She was warm, smiley, up close and direct, firm to the touch, but she was equally scary, a slightly threatening creature of intent. She put the heel of her stiletto into the head of a junkie taking liberties in the bathroom of my Camden council flat. She meant well. She told me then how she had been a junkie herself, a Cheltenham runaway, adopted, alone. It was a bottle-of-vodka-edge-of-your-seat type of herstory. I knew all this anyway. She was damaged, so that it showed.

She had rejected the stuff completely, for over a decade, by moving location and becoming absorbed in parenthood; giving her boy the life she had never had, as best she could. I believed her. She had turned her life around, without God, without a miracle of patience, 'other half'; without replacing her addiction with something else.

Then the anger came. It came from her feet all the way to her heart and she burst before it got to her head, before the thinking part.

Then the tiredness crept in. It seeped in to her bones and then into her very being. The doctor said to her that there were plenty of 'options'. She tried a few. She tried to talk about it to me, to other friends. It was difficult to respond without the experience or authority. It was difficult to grasp the seriousness when Lena was putting her beautiful all in to getting your complete attention: arms waving to greet you, eyes daring and teeth sharp, smile fixed and that chuckle in her voice.

Around five years ago she moved to Mexico to live the life she had left to the full. It must have been great to feel the hot sun on those aching bones and to be allowed to sleep in the day, like everybody else. I heard she died last year - in her sleep. We said goodbye long before that. Autumn 1999.

In the summer of 2006 I am just saying: 'Hello there girl. You are remembered.You made a difference. Thank you.'

I feel that Lena gave up and I feel it was her friends fault this happened. We had relied on her enthusiasm and encouragement for ourselves but when she needed it from us, we didn't know how to give it; how to help. Make sure you tell your friends how they can help you and give yourself the passion and committment you have always given others. That is why I have relayed Lena's story.
by Ngaire Ruth

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Present time

I have about ten minutes over my morning dandelion latte (with half soya milk) to pay tribute to yesterday...
I had, of course, intended to do a dummy run to find out how long it would take to get to Bridport. Last Thursday evening, when Crysse and I went to see Aisle 16 in Exeter (check out their website www.aisle16.co.uk - they were excellent, but I think our use of visuals will be far more interesting), we were calculating timings for Taunton and Exeter to see if working in either of those towns was going to be at all feasible. It's about an hour to Yeovil - which I should know by now, my life has looped to Yeovil on several occasions, but it's obviously not a place I've embraced unreservedly in my heart... Ath spent nearly twenty-four hours in the police cells in Yeovil, and there are other 'previous life' associations - mainly as a hard-drinking wild child before motherhood...
I've delivered WEA courses in Montacute and East Coker (don't you just love that link to T.S. Eliot?), so I'm not opposed to the area... I do love when I get the chance to 'reclaim' a place in a positive way.
There wasn't time to do a dummy run to Bridport in the end. Or at least - I spent the time doing other things, like typing up the draft of the writing for Stepping Out which is part of the blog sponsorship. I didn't make the last night of the Bristol run of the play - which I'm really disappointed about, but if I'd struggled there on Saturday night, I'd have been enduring rather than enjoying. No matter how brilliant it was. Of course, I still felt I'd let Steve down - I haven't quite got the hang of guilt-free self-care...
What a preamble - all to say I allowed two hours for my drive to Bridport. Panicking on the day in case that wasn't enough... it took me about three hours to get back from our break in Lyme Regis, but I did take a very circuitous route - plus I was resisting my return to a smothering, claustrophic relationship, having enjoyed my freedom as much as my women's studies summer school away from Ath and his dad... always a death-knell, when you feel your heart leap as soon as you kick up the traces...
Digressing AGAIN.
I arrive yesterday in Bridport with nearly an hour to spare, plenty time to grab a coffee and a toasted teacake. It's a pretty little town - not as close to the coast as I'd assumed.
The Fisherman's Arms is a lovely centre - a converted pub! I have an immediate affinity with Lesley, the co-ordinator - and it's not just the music in her Northumbrian voice, or her warm manner; although of course those things help. It's to do with her passion for words - her passion for her service users being able to access the therapeutic and enabling power of language. When I later discover she's worked with writer John Killick on his writer-in-residence project with people with dementia, I'm not at all surprised.
The workshop is great. The group is lovely - friendly, sparky, witty and very keen. I'm feel very privileged to be sitting with a bunch of people, being paid to encourage them to write and then to share fragments of themselves and their lives. This particular group collectively overcome difficulties which make hep C seem fortunate by comparison.
I'm invited to stay for lunch with Lesley. As I type this, I think how much she reminds me of Karen; though why that should be... The friendliness, perhaps, that open-hearted approach to people. And the immediate affinity.
Anyway, Lesley is keen for me to do more with the centre after these two workshops are complete. She's worried about the travelling, which I'm not... The time, and the money side are more important. Wednesdays are not good at the moment because of college. And if I get a new job, time could be tricky... And if I don't get a job, I might not be able to afford to deliver WEA workshops...
But outcome is not my responsibility...
After lunch, I drive to West Bay, park up and get changed.

from my notebook:
trilling birds on my right, soft cushiony sea grass hummocks below me, powerful sea breaths before me, gentle rolling hills behind me, with what looks like a botannical garden - exotica and firs - planted round a house on the slope.
All under a hazy May sky.
I find a pottery fragment - worn smooth, all jagged, broken edges healed
My Montacute workshop led to today and next week's workshops at the Fisherman's Arms
(at the time, I didn't think Montacute was wildly successful)

Bridport is just along from West Bay, in turn just along from Abbotsbury, where I went on my only solo bike trip - an artist's date, staying in a B&B with Louise de Salvo's Writing as a Way of Healing, borrowed from Helen (and on the way home, melted my pannier and stained the book, which became my copy when I replaced Helen's).
I walked along Chesil Beach both at sunset and not long after dawn the following day, it was wonderful. I still have the notebook, the one Carole gave me when we went to Lyme; it has little sketches as well as my usual wordy ramblings of that and other journeys.
Chesil Beach I remember as being much harder work. I must be getting fitter after all. Shifting pebbles are quite strenous - as we know from Durdledoor (not that much further along the Jurassic Coast...)

After my scribbles, I check out some of the jobs in the Guardian. Chilling slightly, I'm trying to figure how far Abbotsbury is, and if I have the energy to walk there and then back to West Bay for the car. Sensibly, I begin to walk back. I'm emptying my boots of beach to continue walking in comfort, and a white-haired woman with a warm voice strikes up conversation.

Here, I have to stop. I have a bath run, I have a reiki/reflexology in half an hour, the washing machine is about to finish - and I wanted to walk to Pippa's...

Time runs away with me again. To be continued...

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...