Sunday, 6 June 2021

It's all over by the time you read this. In a good way.

The Walk

A photo of walking equipment in my nice quiet sunny kitchen today.

By the time you read this I will have completed my Mighty Hike walk for Macmillan.  I am heartened by thinking that this walk will soon be in the past, meaning I will have done it and won't have to think about it ever again.  Yesterday, as you went about your day without a care in the world, I walked 26 miles from Brighton to Eastbourne with 499 other people and let me tell you, it was tough.  I don't actually know that yet, but I expect it will be. Near the end of the walk, at about the twenty mile mark, there are the Seven Sisters which from what I gather from our walking Facebook pages, are seven huge hills that will kill all of us.  Apparently they are very difficult even without having already done twenty miles.  "They are tough, there is no denying it, and many may never walk again," say the experienced walkers on the social media pages, who have done Mighty Hikes with the Seven Sisters before, "but just enjoy the day and look at the view."  Oh that will help. I will just admire the view as my legs fall off.

There is always a chance that I didn't make it, and that I am still there on the route, lost and confused and a long way from home.  If you don't read this blog, then that is why.  It never got posted because I am still walking twenty four hours later and may have gone mad.  No one can find me and Macmillan will have to send out a search party.  They will have to lure me off the Seven Sisters with flasks of tea and eggy sandwiches.

The training for this Mighty Hike has been a lesson in perseverance and strange rewards.  In the beginning I would walk for an hour or two, and think that there was plenty of time.  As time went by I planned longer routes and eventually, with a new tiny turquoise ruck sack, a flask of salty soup, water and my excellent (new) walking boots, I would take a whole day and do up to nineteen miles. On some walks the weather changed suddenly and became very unpleasant.  Twice, I was utterly caught out, unprepared and under dressed in just a pink dress, a jumper and no coat or hat.  I squelched back to the car in a crazy downpour with gusts of freezing winds thinking, this is what it must be like on a mountain when the storms come and no one is prepared.  Those eight miles back to the car were absolutely awful and when I got to the car, I couldn't open it.  When I did get into the car, I found that the peanut butter sandwiches that I had wrapped in water proof bags were holding water like a sponge.  The treat that had spurred me on through the storm had been snatched from me by the elements and I was left to drive home cold, hungry, miserable and drowned.  The strange reward from this walk was that it would probably never be that bad on the day of the real walk, and that I had survived.  This was SAS level training, I said to myself, you're tougher than you think.  

Training for the Navy Seals.

As I write this, I see that on Saturday the weather will be hot and sunny.  I have all the things I need; a new sun hat, factor 50 plus suncream and lots of books downloaded on Audible to listen to.  I am revisiting all the Inspector Rebus books by Ian Rankin.  It will be interesting to walk through brilliant hot June sunshine on the beautiful South Downs by the sea while being a part of a dour Edinburgh police team searching in a freezing winter for unspeakable baddies and led by an alcoholic misfit genius. I will be in Edinburgh for much of the Mighty Hike.  I also have a plan, which may or may not have worked as you read this.  At the foot of the first Seven Sister cliff which looks terrifyingly like climbing to the moon in the photos I have seen, I will have a flask of sweet tea. I did this at the bottom of another hill when training and it was so delightful that I think of it still.  I sat on an old mossy log underneath beautiful trees and luscious green leaves at the bottom of a very steep mile long woodland ascent from Washington village back up to the Downs one sunny afternoon. I was trying out my new idea, a flask of hot sweet tea on a long walk.  I always take hot salty soup with me, as it seems to hit the spot.  This time I trialed sweet tea and boy, was it good.  On the actual walk day I will take both, a flask of salty soup for half way and sweet tea for the last climb over the Seven Sisters.  It may be the last time anyone will see me. 

You can still sponsor me through Just Giving and all the sponsorship money goes direct to Macmillan.

Post script - I did make it and here is a photo of me going directly to the Macmillan fry up at the end.  My sister in law Jacky was there to greet me and bought me a bag of crisps and chocolates.  She put an apple in the bag too but I didn't want that, fed up of healthy stuff, I wanted the crisps.


Not wanting to be fobbed off with healthy stuff.

The Exhibition

A six foot banner in case anyone can't remember what they are looking for.

If I don't come back from the South Downs on Saturday then this next bit is an apology.  Sorry, the exhibition is off.  I am writing this before both the walk on Saturday and the Addicts And Those Who Love Them exhibition opening on the Tuesday.  

Assuming all is well, the exhibition will be opening to the public at midday on Tuesday 8 June and I am spending this week before everything happens writing lists.  The paintings are all finished, the writing is nearly done, wrapping up all the paintings is not a problem so can wait a bit.  But there is all the other stuff to remember like a giant kettle for tea for the week at the gallery.  A coffee maker, a cold bag for milk and lunches.  Hanging equipment - hammer, nails, picture hooks, measuring tape, sellotape, blutac, string. I must remember the easles and the A-boards, and of course the new six foot banner I had made to go over the door outside.  That reminds me, we need a ladder.  Then there is the planning for the private view, which includes all the (low key) catering, and always the constant remembering to tell people about the exhibition in the first place.

 Addicts And Those Who Love Them is a serious exhibition. The idea behind it has always been to tell the stories of people dealing with addiction, and that is not just the addict, but the people behind them. 

I first began creating a body of work in 2018 on the subject of addiction.  It was in response to my son’s struggle with opiates, and it was called The Brighter The Light (the darker the shadow).  I showed it here in Bognor, and it resonated with others who were experiencing the same thing.  From that exhibition came the idea for this next one, Addicts And Those Who Love Them.  It seemed that we who witness and journey alongside addiction in our close circles feel vulnerable and alone.  When we eventually do talk to someone who understands, and when we tell it like it really is, which is very horrible because we expect not to believed, the relief is enormous.  At this first exhibition, I remember a mother coming in and walking around the paintings in shock.  When she managed to come and ask about the stories behind them, and I told her exactly what had happened and was still happening, she broke down in tears.  She and her daughter were living in a silent nightmare of the daughter’s addiction.  The mother, feeling (as we do) that it was her fault (and addicts are expert at blaming others) finally understood that she was not alone, the addiction in her life was not her fault and that there were places she could find help and support without judgement.

Though this lady does not feature in Addicts And Those Who Love Them, the whole idea behind it was inspired by her.

I have a great team with me for this exhibition.  My two cousins Maddy and Kirsten are coming to stay with me for the week to make sure there are always two of us in the gallery, and that someone (Kirsten) will be doing food. There is so much organising, and I have a wonderful VA (virtual assistant) called Lora, who does so much of it, with her lovely cheerful smile.  I am grateful to have the support of Arun Exact, a peer led relapse prevention group in Littlehampton near here, and of Adfam, a wonderful charity supporting and educating families and friends of addicts as they deal with the addiction journey.  Perhaps I could call it the addiction lifestyle.  I have also, with huge gratitude, had wonderful support from all the people who have donated to my crowd funding pages to help pay for the costs of this project.  All the work I do is free, and the exhibition is free.  That is why the crowd funding has been so important and special. 

I have two Go Fund Me pages for this exhibition. The first was set up a year ago in 2020 when Addicts was meant to show at the Brighton Fringe.  Of course, everything was suddenly cancelled last year and when I was offered a slot this year I couldn't find my old page and so began a new one.  Then I found my old page.  Both had donations on them and I simply had to pretend I always wanted two pages and that was how I rolled.  If you would like to donate you have a choice.  The first page is here and the second is hereYou could donate to both, in order to maintain balance.  I will not stop you. 

In the studio holding a portrait and words of Ian from Arun Exact.

And so

I write this blog before my busy week begins.  If you are reading this, I did make it on Saturday and I am taking the Sunday to rest before hanging and preparing the exhibition on the Monday.  I have toyed with opening the Addicts And Those Who Love Them from a wheelchair but I have bought myself some orthopedic flip flops instead.  I will be supported by them and look nice too. 

Just as a little extra, my darling brother John is getting married in London on the Friday before the walk and exhibition. So I will be partying on the Friday at the wedding.  My train home arrives at Bognor at 11.30pm, and I am up for 5am the next day ready to make my mark on those Seven Sisters and earn the right to wear the orthopedic flip flops for the next week in Brighton.  

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