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

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A mission and a half...

Yesterday, when everyone at CAAAD showered me with leaving gifts (calligraphy pen with nibs and ink, an etched tetrahedric hanging lantern and scented tealights for it, luxury chocs), talking about my trek training, one of our volunteers mentioned the coastal path from Lyme to Seaton.

When we're putting our Liquid Jam set together, Crysse says doubtfully that it is an arduous and difficult path; easy to wrench an ankle...
Undeterred, I head for Bridport today determined to at least check it out.
The phenomenal efforts my group have put in on their 'creative practice' stuns me. We make provisional choices for the anthology, and a date for compiling the text.
They give me a beautiful handmade card and a set of three huge mounted, framed photos of wonderful vistas from my coastal meanderings. What a frieze to put on my walls... Of course, I can't contain the overspill of tears...

I spoon my lunch as I'm driving, still profoundly touched by the workshop and the writing and art they produced. And overwhelmed by their appreciation, and their way of illustrating that with my picture.
I arrive at the park and ride in Lyme just as the ride bit is leaving. I grab my boots, change my trousers quickly and run in my stocking feet to the minibus. The driver shows me where my walk begins, and then the parting shot - I must be back by 6.30pm, when the car park gates are locked.
It's 2pm.
It's seven miles to Seaton. No way I can get back on foot in that time - there must be a bus?
I can work it by time - in two hours, if I'm less than half way, I'll turn back. If not, I'll chance a bus.
Off I go...

By 5, I'm in Seaton. WHAT a mish... But just amazing. I might not get any pix on tonight - but I'll post some as soon as I can.
The bus is over an hour late. I have to phone for somebody to unlock the gate. Luckily, they're with me in ten minutes.
Then I take a 20 mile detour trying to get to Frome as the Bruton Road is shut...
So I'm utterly knackered - but I wanna do it again soon - both ways, too!
What a gift...
This seems to be a time of unimaginable gifts.
Heartfelt thank yous to all...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

more Skiddaw pix...

I was looking through my photos with Crysse and discovered these from Skiddaw that I never got round to putting on the blog... so here they are.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Autumn approaches...

AT LAST, a decent walk today - only two hours or so, but possibly about six miles. And I've (hopefully) solved the problem with my boots; I put in a piece of sponge between my ankle and the boot wall, and no probs with the ankle today- even though it's still tender from yesterday. Even my knee didn't begin shouting at me til I was in the bath - it was my HIPS that felt the exertion first...
All set (I hope) for another longish stroll tomorrow. I have to start getting them back-to-back - just not overtraining so that I'm past my best by the end of October... Have lasted all today without a fag - but might not manage the whole evening... (felt grim this morning, really hungover, and as I had zilch alcohol last night, it has to be the nicotine making me liverish...)
Ath & I have agreed no smoking in the house again. Well, it worked OK in January - I felt ridiculous sitting on the doorstep of my own house, puffing away, so I hardly smoked at all (except in my car).
Walking in wind today, I'm shocked by leaves beginning to drift - it's nearly Autumn already! Lots of hips and haws ripening in the hedgerows, and blue-black berries I assume are sloes. I picked a few brambles on my travels (let's hope I haven't ingested too much pollution alongside the berries sweetness).
Found another interesting circuit today, along below Marston House, past the church and then back round - practically the opposite direction to my usual circuit from Tytherington.
Will try to upload some pix - but if blogger doesn't want to co-operate, I've got my tax return and a job application to get in...
(third time lucky)

Friday, August 25, 2006

Promised holiday catch-up...

Some of the fabulous vistas we're immersed in during our annual camping trip... and this year, we did so much more walking than in previous years...

I felt the benefit of all the training I've put in so far - in spite of a couple of lazy weeks, and the fact I haven't managed to maintain my status as an occasional smoker (unless I define that as on various occasions throughout the day!) The first few trips to the beach and back usually feel excruciating, it's not till the end of the week that it starts getting less painful. I wouldn't say it was by any means easy, but it was much more manageable.
Keeping up Steve's pace on our long walks was another thing entirely - but I wouldn't expect to be able to compete with someone who cycles about 20 miles on a daily basis, and goes mountain-biking for hundreds of miles in his free time! Even Carole was whacked out after our coast meanderings - and she's much fitter than I am.
A very different prospect this year than my first year, when I struggled to join the group activities.
This place has been so significant for rebuilding my lost stamina...

The journey to this paradise in itself provides a phantasmagoria of landscapes - outside Frome, we drive through woodland; tall straight trunks with their soft green canopy, then the evergreens on the edge of Longleat Forest.
Into rolling plains, undulating wheat fields decorated with random copses and tractor tramtracks scoring the corn yellow, roads frilled with hedgerows. The tailored lines of shorn hay, tall pillars of traditional bales - I feel a sharp nostalgia - alongside the great wheels of the disc bales. The gentle undulations intensify into more extreme hills and vales, and my overloaded Polo makes its unweildy progress along the curving highway, and the spirals through thatched villages.
Trying to capture the essence of the landscape we passed through elicited an unusual
nervousness from my navigator!

Trialling Rod's thermals for Nepal meant I was warm as toast in my sleeping bag - now THAT'S a tip I'll use in future camping trips!

Best things from our time:
Carole - finding the thatched cottage by the stream in Wool that I want to retire in... not now, I'd be bored in a backwater, I like my London life, but in the future...
Isla - going to the seaside
Gintare - the park (she's only 4, bless).
Steve - not being in London - EVERYTHING'S good, because you're not in London, you can relax and enjoy the fresh air.
Mingeile - yesterday (the fossil forest trip).
Dan - all the people we've met, and yesterday was the ballocks (our trip to Lulworth Castle).
Graham - coming away with people I used to live with and be close to, being part of the camping gang again.
Ath - mine and Dan's jog along the beach the other day - made me feel like I was in Baywatch; all I needed was the brightly-coloured shorts and boogie board. The hike to Mupe Bay and the cliff climbs that me and the boys did (eat your heart out Tom Cruise!).

And me? The communal camping experience, in such heavenly surroundings, with such great company (and the freedom to do my own thing if and when I want to).
The dreams I had - cathartic and illuminating. So wonderful to have clear recall at last!
The photo of the jailed activist in the newspaper - I so wanted to use him as a fictional chracter, his face so interesting... I know I'm unlikely to, by the time I have that much writing space, my inspirational ardour will have cooled. But I enjoyed the quick speculative scribble I did manage - a reminder that as a writer I need headspace for my imagination to flex itself. If life (work, people, responsibilities) crowd my head, my imagination is too cramped to do much (except amplify my anxieties!) The best I can hope for is the occasional flowering of poetry... Kind of like a badly root-bound plant which sadly senesces - yet shoots out a vibrant bloom in its dying throes...

The meteor shower - man, that was so cool! I've never seen anything quite that spectacular in the night sky.

The rest of the 56 densely written journal pages will have to join the rest of my resource library. My notebook was small enough to squeeze into my bumbag; more Nepal preparation - my writing materials will need to be as economical on space and weighht as possible, I won't have a Sherpa just for my trade tools! (I almost wish I could finance an extra bod to do just that - camera, binoculars, novel, notebooks, water... I have no problems with that being a difficult power dynamic, if I was able and needed the money, I would happily be a bearer.)
A small writing space means a return to tiny handwriting - more circularity; as a child my writing was microscopic...

But it is so satisfying to create a more substantial post to capture some essence of the week...

Thursday, August 24, 2006

the roller coaster cruises on...

hit reality with an extremely painful thump after our idyllic holiday... (& I HAVE to get back to more from my holiday writings - but I need to walk, and uploading photos can be more time-consuming than you epect!)

didn't even unpack until Monday morning.
Ath off sick this week, house a total tip... and potentially no income from end Aug...

the jubiliation of my final cascade training - high as a kite again...

...only to slump harder than ever as the anxiety began kicking in about my interview, & how much rides on getting this job...

...might have got a speeding ticket again this morning - so pre-occupied...

Anyway, I don't know which was nicer - GETTING the job (yippee!!!!!!) or having so many people obviously delighted at the prospect of continuing to work with me...

...maybe some more training lining up for Bath...

so today has been wonderfully uplifting- and the sun has shone during most of it...

setting up the annual camp...

the camp site... ...and the view of our furthest walk to the west...

you can see who became the self-appointed foreman (not that I did a huge amount as per... )

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

For Durdledoor fans

what do you see?

If you know Durdledoor, you might see what you think you see... or your eyes might make an assumption...

this is Ath's favourite pic from our trip.

Another kind of training...

Today was the final day of my second course of 3-day cascade training for the CAAAD Project.
The cascade training (training people to deliver training in pre- and post-test discussion for people at risk of hep C) has been the most daunting part of my responsibilities as HCV Pathways development worker. I don't feel like a 'trainer' - I'm a writer, and an experienced writing workshop facilitator. I haven't had any training myself in delivering pre- & post-test discussion - I just know what isn't good practice, from experiential learning...

Thank God for the mantra, 'transferrable skills, transferrable skills...'
Eighteen days of delivering training later (spread out over the last twelve months), I'm maybe starting to believe that perhaps those facilitation skills are transferrable after all. Particularly when you're blessed with experienced and creative trainees.

However, the step 'up' to 'training for trainers' remained terrifying, even after what I called my 'dummy run' - five out of six participants were already experienced in both training and practice of pre-& post test discussion. I muddled through that one, gaining (some) confidence that my concept was sound enough, I just needed to pull it all together better.

Today, I've had the pleasure of doing very little except co-ordinate the group's feedback on individual presentations - and enjoy learning from the group. People's experience ranged from zero to plentiful transferrable skills, yet I was thrilled by their creativity, innovation and courage - the variety of perspectives was inspirational.

I had a brief look at the Trust's newsletter during today's workshop, just before the 'discrimination' topic (which raised the issue of self-stigmatisation) and read it more fully when I got home.

The quote printed there on just that subject of 'internalised discrimination' really resonates for me. Yes, there IS stigma, discrimination and ignorance around hep C :

Diagnosis (after John Hegley)

At the clinic

Ice-water shock, then
my GP’s response
“You do realise people die of this?”

I’m dumbfounded
that people begin from the premise
that everyone’s dumb and work up.

I don’t. I begin
from the premise everyone’s cleverer
knows more than me and work down.

Often below my benchmark
of me.

So it must be
with my GP
seven-year training to be a GP
I know more about this
than he.

If I were
a GP
I’d owe it to my patients to research their disease
at least a bit.

Not my GP
his next pearl of wisdom when I felt unwell
“Nothing wrong with you”

crap bedside manner – though I wasn’t in bed –
if not
downright negligence
or maybe

I’ve got no faith in my GP now
- obviously.

Personally, I feel my own journey with this virus might have been a bit less bumpy if I hadn't had such an extreme reaction from a GP who had been - until my diagnosis - helpful and empathetic. I was looking to him for my lead on hep C and how to deal with it, I didn't expect a total sea-change in our interactions - just when I was highly anxious, more than mildly symptomatic, and emotionally devastated by an internal demon...

But after that, I interpreted any brusqueness or peculiarity as attributable to hep C discrimination - when in retrospect, I was interpreting personality traits as discrimination, interpreting imbalances of power with authority figures as discrimination. Any personal power I might have had was decimated by my loss of physical vitality and the fact my precarious self-esteem had been fragmented by both external events (I had to give up my car, then lost my job) and the emotional warzone I existed in.

People with other diseases have painful experiences at the hands of authority figures, particularly those making important decisions about our health (and I've come across a few real horror stories).

But in tackling real discrimination, we have to slay our own demons first. Overturning internal prejudice is a slow and on-going process.

For me, being able to lay claim to the name 'writer' was wonderful. Writers can be alcoholic, manic-depressive, drug-dependent, obsessive-compulsive (even all of them) and still be brilliant writers (however ineffectual and/or damaging in their personal relationships).
- perhaps I ought to mention there may well be 'normal' writers out there, but I don't think I've met many. In order to write it's a prerequisite that you have obsessive-compulsive tendencies at the very least!

Adding the 'performance element' - reading material in public - was excruciating at first, and remains nerve-wracking, but it's brilliant for building inner confidence. Tutoring is another, albeit gentler, way of increasing self-esteem.

The last eighteen months working for, and developing, Bristol's Hepatitis C Service has been demanding but wonderfully rewarding. Being proactive is crucial in dismantling internalised discrimination ('internal oppression' it was described as today - sounds like feminist terminology to me; hence an apt illustration of blind spots in self-awareness).

About twenty-five years ago, I was used to the term 'junkie' being synonymous with 'out of control', 'unreliable', 'dishonest', 'thieving', 'can't be trusted', 'unfit person', 'unfit parent', unpredictable', 'desperate' - to name but a few.
Even when we had habits, we still used the term in a derogatory way.

I can lay claim to the word in its more anodyne versions; 'sugar junkie', 'adrenalin junkie', 'text junkie'.

After working in a drugs project, it's easier to find other potential synonyms for 'junkie' - resourceful, survivalist, creative, enterprising, courageous, adventurous, rebellious, alternative, sensitive...

All those years ago, I couldn't maintain a heroin habit by myself even if I wanted to - it's too hard! To be a successful junkie, there's all that running about, ducking and diving, stealing, forgery, turning tricks... and it's dangerous - not just the health risks involved in self-administering injections and attendant incipient disasters, or the risks of losing your freedom from contravening laws, but, worst of all, the violence that underpins anarchy.

Getting a proper job and switching to societally sanctioned dependencies is much easier; nicotine (though that one's changing), sugar, caffeine, co-dependent partnerships and relationships, work, writing...

At the start of my post, I came across an interview with Doug Scott in The Eildon Tree. The courage of mountaineers fascinates me - I grew up in the house opposite Dougal Haston's mum. What struck me about that interview (alongside his being a fascinating individual) was that many of the words he used - taken out of context - I would have associated with drug-taking, not climbing mountains. It seemed to me that these groups of people, seemingly poles apart, actually had points of commonality. How we view their behaviour is likely to be very different - and yet, albeit from vastly different motivations or towards very different goals (depending on how you interpret them), testing the limits of a body's and/or mind's endurance is a trait shared by extremists and adventurers of almost any sort.

In two months time, I intend to undertake a trek run by Doug Scott's company. There's a certain satisfying circularity to that.

And if I hadn't had a brief encounter with a miniscule virus a very long time ago... so many people I wouldn't have met, so many challenges I couldn't have attempted. So many gifts I wouldn't have been given...

And if I can trek in Nepal, I can do treatment...

It's dark now. No trek training tonight. This trying to reconcile time for writing and time for training is driving me nuts! So there's obviously important learning embedded in the process...

Monday, August 21, 2006

Training week...

A week's camping at Durdledoor always feels like a week at a health farm... it's a mish just to brush your teeth, or take a shower, or go to the loo, or go for a game of pool... let alone a trip down to the beach (which feels practically vertical, even if it's not quite!).
Carole & I usually take a short walk most days; this time we went for three major coast walks. Perhaps not enormous mileage, but over excellent terrain for training.
My estimate of 25 miles for last week is extremely conservative (for once). If I'd had a pedometer on, it would have been a lot more, I'm sure.
I did, of course, keep a journal while I was there.
Which I hope to extract in here at some point...
I've had three unsuccessful attempts to post some of the pix, will try again as soon as I can.

This post is just 'keeping the faith' - and updating my mileage count...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Thanks for a handbound book...

One of the blog posts that has got lost along the time-crazy way is that the gorgeous handbound book - Fran's generous donation to the auction of promises - was bid for online and won by Helen, who in turn gave it to me as a gift.
Inside, Louis MacNeice's 'Entirely'.

Wonderful choice by Fran, encoded in a beautiful and individual script in mahogany ink.

For a treasured gift from my talented artist and writer friend...

One of those pearls for life's narrative.

And inspirational to turn the pages again and again...

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...