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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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Saturday, 22 May 2021

Dual diagnosis. Mental health and addiction.

 

Mental health and addiction

Dual diagnosis is the name given to describe both a mental health condition and addiction occurring together.  I have no other qualifications to talk about this but lived experience, and that counts for a lot these days.  Observational lived experience as I do not suffer from dual diagnosis myself, but someone I know does and it has been a very powerful learning curve .   

When I was growing up, I had thought all addicts were the same.  It was their choice to take drugs. They were feckless and if they became a lost cause, well, it was all their own fault.  Addicts were shadowy people on the outskirts of normal life, and always very different to me. I on the other hand, was a better kind of person because I was not a drug taker and I was not an alcoholic though in the early days, an addict in my opinion was simply a drug user.  Alcoholics were always old people and always lying on the streets, whereas drug users were younger but lived in a different world to me. I did not come across many drugs even at university.  They were probably there, but I did not notice them.  A person who took drugs was, in my mind, dangerous and violent.  And, you could tell who they were because they looked like tramps.  I hoped I did not have to meet one. It was that simple.

When I look back to how black and white my thinking was then, I understand that I had no idea about this terrible other world of drugs that nice girls like me did not have to know about.  I had no experience of life being intolerable, no idea of mental illnesses, no conception of taking something to help make the world go away, or the pain less awful, or life easier to live.  I think too, that when I was younger the choice of drug was much more limited than today.  There was weed, and speed, and magic mushrooms, and LSD.  Oh, and heroin, there was always heroin.  And alcohol but it took me a while to equate it with addiction, there were drug addicts and alcoholics and I don't suppose I ever considered that alcoholics could take drugs and drug addicts could drink alcohol.  

Only in the last few years have I come across the term dual diagnosis. There has been addiction in my world over the last decade or so and what a rude awakening it has been to that shadowy side of life that I had only imagined when young.  What a hard and shattering journey for everyone involved.  Of course now, with hindsight, it makes sense, that mental illness and addiction go together.  It is very serious and very troubling.  In my limited experience with addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis, I get how hard it is to keep going with depression, mental illness, psychoses and disorders that make the sufferer feel apart from the rest of humanity.  When life is really hard inside your head, it is made worse by feelings of isolation.  So many of these illnesses and disorders come with cognitive and behavioural problems.  It is hard for parents and teachers, for co-workers and colleagues, for family members and all of us in the big wide world out there to cope with any kind of challenging differences in others.  Without knowing that there is a reason, or a diagnosis of some disorder or other, it is easy to put it down to willful, anti social and often aggressive lack of self control.  Even with a diagnosis of mental, behavioural or personality disorders, it can be hard to know how to respond.  It is really hard to know what to do.

But if this is you, and life is distressingly confusing and frightening, there are countless situations in which substances offer longed for relief from life.  A vulnerable person does not always present as meek and helpless.  Vulnerability may be expressed in explosive rage, in seeking danger and taking insane risks, in self harm or harming others.  That vulnerability comes from an inability to know who to trust, to be easily manipulated, to be unable to judge danger or consequence, to be impulsive or compulsive and to make life difficult for themselves and everyone around them. If this person found something to make all their difficulties go away and make some of the pain stop, then of course, they would take it. And if it made people like them, and gave them the courage to be sociable in a way that got them lots of attention, why not? Why, if the the struggle is so hard and the stuff they take brings such a buzz and freedom from pain, would they not take it?  The thing is, self medicating works.  It makes the world go away. It becomes disastrous when addiction takes hold, but at least in the beginning, it works.  And there are no shortage of people who make a very good living out of making sure the most vulnerable get a go of drugs.

Maybe all addicts suffer from dual diagnosis and have crazy mental health disorders. Perhaps if they did not start out with one, by the time they are addicted they certainly do.  They have many.  

No one with an addiction holds it together very well.  At some point, life unravels.  We all know the image of someone who once held down a good job, looked well and happy against the image of them later, having lost everything, looking unkempt, bleary eyed and thin.  It is people like this I saw in the methadone clinics when I spent time accompanying someone in addiction.  Everyone came into the centre trying to look as if they were ok, when it was obvious they were not.  They were withdrawing and needed their next script.  Withdrawal is awful, and not a pretty sight.  Some came in scruffy suits as if holding on to an image of normality, which did not work and I could not work out whether it was poignant, embarrassing, distressing or funny.  Some came in quietly, some not. Some came in clothes they must have been wearing for weeks, some came in clean and new outfits.  But none were able to sit still, all exhibited signs of increasing agitation and some became aggressive and uncontrollable if they had to wait even a short time.  It was here I saw how mentally unstable an addict is, whether with a dual diagnosis or not.  It seemed that there was no such thing as just mental health problems or just addiction, only dual or triple or multiple diagnoses with addiction.  It was all a big, horrible, mess.  And later, meeting other people in addiction, I was no more than a prospective means for them to get what they wanted.  Whatever I thought from my perspective as a non user and not in this game at all, to the addicts I met I was a means to get for themselves what they wanted because that is what addiction is.  An addict is a master manipulator and even the nicest of addicts knows how to play you.

A personal post script.

The person I knew in addiction started out with difficulties. This person was deeply intelligent with a very high IQ (we found out later) but always felt different, was always difficult to manage and understand and eventually managed to get a mental health diagnosis of something or another.  I say it like that because this person was a product too of their family, and though there was a mental health problem with this person, in that it was most evident in them, the whole family could have done with guidance and a few diagnoses too.  Naming this person's problem was never going to work in isolation, nothing much changed for them.  The whole family needed help.

It was not inevitable that this person would become a drug user but like many youngsters who are angry and feel too different, misjudged, abused and ignored, it happened.  It happened in the clubs and streets that seemed a better option to them than home. Fast forward many years and the madness and chaos that seemed to follow so quickly in this person's life has created deep physical and mental illnesses that may never be sorted entirely.  That early diagnosis does not seem relevant any more, it almost feels like an excuse of a diagnosis in their early life to make them go away.  Now, this person is older and the consequences of so much medication and booze is not pretty.  In a way, when this person was younger - a teenager perhaps - it was attractive and powerful amongst their peers, but now, older, there is a sadness and a coarseness to all the years of struggle against so much poison.  The mental health conditions are now many and complex, and the physical health is fragile and has been life threatening.

But here is something else I have learned.  An addict is not just their addiction.  They are also the person they have always been inside though of course, it may be very hard to see it.  There are times when this person has profound insights into not only themselves, but the world around them.  There is a strange wisdom in this person now, mixed with a total dependency on all and any medication that makes the world go away.  I keep away, mostly, now.  I do not belong in that world, and they do not belong in mine. Though of course, I always hope. 

 


                                                       *******************************

I have written this to go alongside my exhibition about addiction, details below.

"Addicts And Those Who Love Them" - Behind every addict is someone traumatised by loving them.

An exhibition of portraits and words by me, and photographs by Michael McAlister. 

Showing as part of the Brighton Fringe Festival, the exhibition is supported by Arun Exact, a peer led relapse prevention scheme from Littlehampton, and Adfam, a charity offering support, advice and education for families with addiction.

On from Tuesday 8 June to Sunday 13 June, midday to 8pm daily.  Entrance free. 

The Fishing Quarter Gallery, 201 Kings Road Arches, Brighton BN1 1NB

I wrote this guest blog which puts the exhibition in context for the drugs support charity Adfam

All welcome at the exhibition.  

 

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Saturday, 8 May 2021

Do you do any jolly art?

 

I did not do this.

 My friend Deb asked me this last night, after dinner.  If you had to create an exhibition about something jolly, she asked, what would it be? 

In the warmth of the fading evening sunlight, sitting at my kitchen table next to all the flowers in colourful jugs and containers next to the spotty salt and pepper pots, with all my bright and motley collections of mugs, plates, saucers and bowls stacked up on shelves around the kitchen, I was stumped for an answer.  Deb looked at me, and I raised my eyes to the ceiling in order to think.

"HIV?" I said.  

"That's not very jolly," said Deb and a thoughtful silence filled the room. 

"Your house is jolly," Deb said next, "and you're jolly. Think again.  You can do it.  If you had to do a jolly exhibition, what would you do it on?"

But I could not think of a whole exhibition of jolly art.  I can do one off happy, light hearted paintings, I love a bit of colour and fun, I have done fairies and angels but as Deb tried to get me to a point where I could say Yes!  I can paint funny kittens! it became obvious that I did not have it in me. 

I have tackled death and dying (The A Graceful Death exhibition ) and am currently working on an exhibition on addiction (Addicts And Those Who Love Them) and so I see why Deb was thinking about something lighter.  She herself was talking about birth for a project she'd like to work on, and though it is true that I am jolly, upbeat, optimistic and extrovert, all I could see were still births, unwanted babies, sick babies and post natal depression.  It was then that Deb asked the jolly art question.  "Could you do it?" she asked, and I found myself saying, "No." I did not feel too comfortable admitting it, and of course it made us both laugh, because what have I become that my idea of light and uplifting art is a project on HIV?    

I will unpick this now.  I cannot leave you all thinking I take HIV lightly, or that Deb and I laugh at it.  

From A Graceful Death

I am drawn to difficult things.  Not all difficult things, it seems I have to have had some experience within the subject to want to take it further through art.  Though I have had no experience of HIV, I am moved by accounts from friends who went through it when it was new, and very dark. There is something about the way fear and the not-knowing created untold cruelty and suffering back in the 1980s when AIDS first appeared, that makes me want to know more about the people who died in isolation and in total pain.  Dame Cicely Saunders, founder of the hospice movement, came up with this description of pain for her patients facing the end of life.  Total pain includes a whole experience of pain - physical, emotional, social and spiritual.  It describes the power of pain itself, and for all those people who died alone and rejected, total pain seems to me to sum up their experience. If I were to create a project on HIV and AIDS, perhaps I hope for something to be redeemed by remembering people I have never met, through paint and words, though they are, possibly, in a much better place of light now, if that is what one believes.  Which I do. 
From the Addiction exhibition

Perhaps I explore these subjects because I want to find a space in them for healing.  Art can find a way into our minds, start us thinking, and sometimes there is a divine whispering, a new insight coming up that may include compassion, or understanding, or connection.  All the work I do is intended to unlock some self knowledge, at whatever level it happens.  Because I have no answers, I am very drawn to ask the people I work with on these projects, to explain themselves to me.  I remember saying to the people I painted and interviewed for the A Graceful Death exhibition, "Who are you? What do you want to say?" From those questions all manner of stories, accounts and wonderful things emerged.  I use those questions in all the projects I do now.

Of course, I really explore these subjects for myself.  I want to understand something of the humanity of the people involved.  How can we understand another person's humanity?  I don't really know, but we have to have a go.   The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, as an ancient Chinese proverb says.  I am drawn to this work, these subjects, this exploration, this journey.  Everyone on the journey teaches me something.  It all comes down to me, then.  What do I learn?  What can I do?  How can I use this knowledge?  Much of the knowledge is perhaps "total knowledge", as in Dame Cicely Saunders using the phrase "total pain".  It is physical, mental, social and spiritual.  That kind of knowledge rubs off on people that are around it, and gathering the stories of people who have experienced, and are still experiencing, difficult stuff, can be very powerful.  I have found that we all benefit.  In the telling of the story, the listening to the story and the showing of the story.          

And so, now, back to painting jolly things.  Why am I not interested in doing any?  Perhaps because my life is quite jolly, and I need a bit of an internal push to paint.  My life outside the studio is like this. 

  1. No one lives with me.  Done the Mum thing. 
  2. My house is full of all my favourite stuff. My daughter says it is like my creative brain has exploded onto the walls.
  3. Living alone, I can eat what I want, when I want, and experiment with all manner of nice treats.  Like seeing what peanut butter and jam sandwiches are like in the bath at 3am.  
  4. My garden is filling itself with new buds, flowers, lush new growths of young strong green foliage and it makes me feel delighted with life. (I may have love fits about the garden but it is actually my friend Chris who works hard in it, he makes it thrive.  I just coo about it and commune with nature as if I had done it all)
  5. I have my fourth grand child, born last week, to adore.  Still doing the Grandma thing.
  6. I have lots of ideas for lots of projects, so there is never a dull moment.  A wonderful gift in getting older is that I don't actually have to do them.  It is enough to sit on my soft red sofa and simply think about them. I can then chose the easiest.

 I wonder if I am taking all the jolly things for granted, and simply enjoying them.  But perhaps, thinking about it even more, I respond to the tightrope balance between harmony in my private life and a wish to explore the darkness beyond it.  I have only arrived at a modicum of harmony in my own life by knowing and experiencing huge disharmony.  My life has not been easy, but it has been amazing. There is something very real, very true, about people when the chips are down.  That is where the truth is.  That is where the insights are.  That is where the hard work is.  That is where I want to discover more about life itself.  I have been there so often myself, and may still return - life is unpredictable.  But at the moment, there is enough jolly in my home and life that I do not want to explore it through art.  I simply want to have it, and gain courage from it and carry on exploring.

A jolly painting, "Jesus on the Tube" has been a firm favourite for many years. See, I can do it.

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Sunday, 25 April 2021

A Group of Conspiracy Theorists Descend on London.

 

Vanessa and I arrive in London like the crazy crackpots that we are.
I was joined by nearly a million people yesterday for a stroll around London town.  The instructions were to meet in our bubbles near Hyde Park, Green Park and Victoria, so as not to draw attention to ourselves. The start point of the walk (which was over seven miles in the end) would be made known minutes before it began, and we were instructed to link arms to form a tight unit of bodies so that law enforcement couldn't get at us and make us stop.

What actually happened was that everyone tried to gather as instructed, heads down and obediently separated, for about thirty seconds.  Firstly, most of us had arrived by public transport and were ridiculously conspicuous by having a whole face.  Secondly, there were so many of us that we simply fell into each others bubbles and gave up.  Thirdly, the sun was shining, something exciting was afoot, and everyone was loving being close to like minded others and so began to party.  Nicely.  

There was no need to link arms.  We were such a huge number of people we would have got in each other's way, under each other's feet and fallen over each other in a million strong rugby scrum and so without further ado, once the starting flares went up, we all started to walk.  "Hooray," we all shouted, and those with horns blew them, those with drums banged them, some with saucepans and spoons bashed them and off we went like the jolly conspiracy theorists that we are.  And actually, for conspiracy theorists, the people around me during the five hours of marching that I did, were very moderate.  They just did not want to see their freedoms spirited away from them with weasel words by the Government.  They did not trust all the figures, did not like children wearing masks (did not like anyone wearing masks).  They were furious about the old people left to fade away and die in despair and loneliness, for their own good.  They did not want to be forced to have vaccines and no one, absolutely no one wanted vaccine passports.  "Wake up!" we all wanted to say, "much of this Government and media stuff is madness!"


I did go to the anti Iraq war march on 15 February 2003.  I am not a great march goer, but I did feel very strongly about the Iraq war.  There were coordinated anti war protests across the world, the London one was called the million march.  I was very glad to have joined it though it did no good at all.  War was declared and everyone went about their business as planned, we marchers had had our say and it was nice of them to allow it.  Yesterday, as I met up with, walked alongside, chatted to and laughed with the ever changing sea of people around me, I thought that perhaps we won't change our government's minds but we will show each other we are not alone.  We are jolly well not alone.  For all of us who feared we would be the only person in the supermarket without a mask for ever, we saw we are one of an enormous crowd of like minded others.  

There were all manner of ages, sizes, colours and types with us yesterday.  There was not a typical freedom protester.  You could not look at the miles and miles of marchers and say Ha!  Knew they were all freedom protesters!  You can tell!  The banners were a give away, that is true, but the people carrying them ranged from a young woman with beads in her hair and flip flops to an older woman who looked like everyone's favourite granny.  That really was the point of the march.  It was not just a crackpot minority who believed that this virus came from outer space helped on it's way by winged dragons.  It wasn't simply a fringe group who wanted to change the world into a place where everything is free and who dance in the streets to tin whistles.  We were, are, a collection of people for whom the facts do not add up.  For whom, once the cracks in the story appear, cannot disappear.  What we see and experience do not match the things we are told are happening all around us, and now that the cracks in the story cannot be unseen we notice how mad everyone has become and how that is applauded. "Stop it!" we want to say, and yesterday, we did say it.

 

Ha ha ha

Many people yesterday said how difficult it was to think differently to their friends, families and neighbours.  Our voices and opinions, they say, are removed from the public space and we are made to look like the baddies that are causing all the trouble but because we are banned from being heard, we cannot always argue back.  And so the misrepresenting, the tarring and feathering, the wholesale silencing continues not only unchecked but officially sanctioned.  This is hard enough for we, the common plebs, but we see people we trust and want to listen to, officially removed from the airwaves, from social media platforms and from the print media.  Not only are they officially shut down, they are put onto a metaphorical ducking stool and ducked into the water to shouts of raucous abuse.  We, the hoi poloi, fear that if it can be that hard for the scientists, virologists, doctors, epidemiologists and other such professionals to speak up, then we do not stand a chance if we disagree with the official line.  We feel we are being lied to and sold a pup.  It is hard to deal with this alone, knowing that everyone else thinks all the nonsense is fine while we make little forays into the darkness of non compliance, and we don't wear our masks.  Or we don't get a vaccine.  Or we veer into people on purpose who are trying to avoid us on a windy walk on top of a hill in the middle of nowhere. 

So back to the walk yesterday.  My friend Vanessa and I walked happily for five hours.  We left before there was a bit of police action at the end, but looking for any mention of the march at all on any kind of news outlet later, we only heard about the police bit at the end.  We also read that a group of covid deniers were marching down Oxford Street trying to make people remove their masks.  Not sure that actually happened because Oxford Street was completely shut down and very few shops were open.  But it was telling that about a million ordinary citizens marching against bizarre, restrictive and frighteningly damaging and illogical rules in their own country, was passed over.

This went on for miles and miles.

What we did not hear was how wonderful it was to meet so many people who were not afraid of being together.  To laugh at how things like having a hug was not only bad for you, but possibly both illegal and lethal, and how many of us were simply not complying, quietly ignoring all the rules, and not only remaining alive but all around us remaining alive too.  Fancy that, we all said and carried on walking side by side.

My friend Amy and I giving out copies of the spoof tabloid newspaper The Covid Chronicles

 

See the Covid Chronicles spoof tabloid newspaper on my website here.  Paper copies are £3 each.  A work of art, words and drawings by yours truly.  Contact details on the website.

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Sunday, 11 April 2021

Kitting myself up as an extreme athlete. Preparing for the Macmillan Mighty Hike.

 

Not really me, but very much an extreme athlete. Click bait. Sorry. 

I am having a great time kitting myself out as an extreme athlete.  I just bought myself a peacock blue, tiny, all weather, all singing and dancing rucksack; the man wearing it in the advert was on a bike and meant business with his stern face and lantern jaw, with his muscly legs and aerodynamic cycling helmet.  His rucksack was black, and streamlined, and I imagined he could get his lunch and a flask of tea and a change of socks in there without compromising his aerodynamics.  That's just like me, I thought, and I must have that rucksack.  When I went to investigate it online, I saw that there was a bright blue one.  Oh!  I thought, I will look so good in that.

So much about exercise is in the mind.  I remember in 2003, when I was training to run (wobble) the London Marathon in Spring 2004, being told that my only question on waking each morning while training should be, "How far am I running today."  Only when that was sorted could I look after the children, paint my paintings and have my breakfast.  I remember those long months of running, whatever the weather, and feeling like giving up at least five times a day.  But I didn't give up and I learned what a subtle thing the mind is and how, at the drop of a hat, it will turn you round from your training, and make you go to the ice cream shop and then on home to bed.  You have to resist.  Oh boy, it was tough.  But the actual marathon was truly an amazing experience, and I did complete it after about six hours.  I was beaten to the finishing line by a womble, three hippos, a teddy bear and a birthday cake.  And a famous Indian marathon runner in his seventies who zipped past me on the final stretch.  Most people zipped past me on the final stretch.

I have chosen to walk twenty six miles on June 5 this year for Macmillan Cancer.  It is called The Mighty Hike and when I signed up a year ago, I thought I had plenty of time.  I did have plenty of time, then, but now as the date looms ever nearer, I don't have much time any more.  So I am channeling the extreme athlete I once was in 2004 and making myself walk on the Downs every few days.  I am joking, I never was an extreme athlete.  Calling myself this is all part of the mind games I play to get myself out there and moving.  

The South Coast Mighty Hike 2021.
 

On the 5 June about 500 of us will walk along the South Downs from Brighton to Eastbourne. There will be coaches to drive us back to Brighton where I, at least, will try and drive in a straight line back to Bognor Regis.  It is possible I will have worn myself down from 5'9" to 4'10" but at least I will have done it. And for such a good cause too.

Walking like this is a serious business.  I have invested in proper walking boots and I have bought some fancy new insoles that tell me I will feel I am walking on air.  I realise that socks are very important, and so have found some that are great for ladies, for the summer, and for fairly flat feet.  And, oh bliss!  I just ordered for myself that peacock blue tiny rucksack for serious and super focused walkers.  I am that thing, I say to myself, so I need this bag.

Yesterday I walked ten miles.  I planned an extra hilly route on the South Downs, packed my (large) rucksack with tissues, a pooh bag (wet wipes, loo roll, nappy bags, spare pants etc for all those stops behind bushes), sandwiches, a flask of hot soup, water, mobile phone, bluetooth ear phones, mobile battery charger and the hat that Gill, my dear friend, knitted for me.  I planned a very early walk just after the mists of dawn have faded and the early morning bird song was at its newest and loudest.  Striding across the South Downs, I would have proved how strong my mind is now, for my second marathon training event. 

I was still on the sofa in my pyjamas at 9.30am.  The longer you wait to go out training, the harder it becomes.  I remember this so well.  Oh not today! your mind says, perhaps tomorrow.  Planning is one thing, doing is another.  But I have in my memory the line up in the early morning of the London Marathon all those years ago, and the gruelling training that I had had to do suddenly became a life saver.  I was used to running long distances, in that I had done so for this event, and now I was glad.  Alongside me were all manner of people, all shapes and sizes, all ages.  I was told to notice anyone with brand new trainers, as they would not last long on the run.  There were plenty.  You have to wear your trainers in, to get past blisters and get used to how they feel, in order for them to serve you on a long run.  The pros turned up with old, well worn running trainers and a fierce look in their eye.  Twenty six miles of anything is serious. You need all the help you can get.  And so, I changed out of my pyjamas yesterday morning, told the sofa I would see it again soon, and to wait for me, and drove to Bury Hill here in West Sussex, to begin my walk. 

Something wonderful happens once I am on the Downs.  I feel my spirits raise, I feel my head clear, and my energy expand.  It is, whatever the weather, beautiful.  Even in the pouring rain, even in heavy fog, I am in a place beyond myself where nature just is. I love the colours in the chalk paths, all the shades of white with touches of brown and yellow, I love the way the brown barren fields and mud filled paths are suddenly filling with new green shoots.  What the shoots are, I don't know, but they are popping up everywhere, small and delicate, out of what seems such hard, lifeless brown old earth.  It is true, nature is a mystery, and relentless, and a wonder.  The silence is wonderful, and I realise it is really only silence from people.  The birds are not just singing, they are shouting.  The wind blows around me and the new greenery, and the old trees, rustle and make their own sounds.  And then there is the sound of my own feet tramping along the path.  The sound of my (state of the art) anorak swishing as I move my feet, and when there is no wind, and the birds are having a quick glass of water after yelling so loudly, I can hear my own breathing as I walk.

This uphill bit is so beautiful you can forgive it for being uphill.

 Yesterday I chose a route with loads of hills.  The Mighty Hike, I am told, involves hills.  I had better get used to them.  Oh the Downs has hills, it has hills like a forest has trees.  But this particular walk has two intense climbs up on the way out (nicely down hill on the way back) and one mile long descent (blimmin uphill on the way back).  There is a nice little tree stump in some woods just at the beginning of the long climb up on the way back where I planned my lunch, and all will be well.  When I get there I will be so pleased with myself for coming that far, and I will need my egg sandwiches to give me the impetus to walk this mile uphill so I can be ruler of the world when I get to the top.

I think on these walks.  Or rather, all the voices, conversations, thoughts, plans, worries, speculations, observations and stuff that is in my head, go AWOL while I try to get a word in edgeways.  Problems do get solved on these walks.  Things do become clearer.  I feel my focus shift, and new perspectives and ideas come through.  I am surprised at how little any of it matters when I am so far from anyone else, and from home, and from any emergency services should I be attacked by bears.  (No bears on the South Downs.)  

At the end of the walk yesterday I found that I had only done ten miles. I thought I had done much more than that.  Oh dear.  No wonder I was not that tired, next time I must do more, what went wrong?  And then I thought, I must be making progress - at what point in my life have I ever been disappointed that I had walked merely ten miles?  A paltry ten miles! So in a way, great progress was made in my mind yesterday.  Apart from loving it once I got going, I am making progress.  Yesterday's route felt like more than ten miles because so much of it involved walking up hills that felt like mountains. To put this into context, there are always cyclists on the Downs, who actually ride up these hills.  I may think I rule the world when I get to the top of one, but these cyclists actually do rule the world.  They would easily outdo any bears for speed and strength.  

Today, the day after, I am resting.  My new blue rucksack arrives this afternoon, and I am washing my new, special, ladies with flat feet, summer weather walking socks from yesterday, and noticing that my recovery time from this walk is much improved.  Today, my mind works, my body is not too tired, and I cannot wait (in theory) to get back out for my next walk.

To sponsor me for this walk, please go here, to my Just Giving page 

Margaret, on her ninetieth birthday
Macmillan Cancer support are just wonderful.  I was a Macmillan Buddy for two years, befriending
people struggling with their cancer.  I saw at first hand how much Macmillan do for their clients, and how dedicated and helpful they are for all those who turned to them for help, advice and solid support.  I am walking this Mighty Hike in memory of my first buddy, Margaret Winstone, who became such a close friend despite over thirty years age difference between us.  Margaret, a vicar's wife from Yorkshire, was a mathematics and music teacher.  Sometimes, in her late eighties, she would sing me folk songs from her youth, with such loveliness that brought tears to my eyes. I supported Margaret right up to the day she died.  Margaret didn't believe in giving up.  "Don't fuss!" she would say with a lovely laugh, and so I won't fuss, I will do this walk for her.  

All sponsorship money goes directly to Macmillan, who do such a good job. Thank you all. 

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Saturday, 27 March 2021

Observing addiction.

Addicts And Those Who Love Them.  Behind every addict is someone traumatised by loving them. 

 

It's their own damn fault.
 

Addicts have only themselves to blame.  It is their own fault, they knew what they were getting into.  Addicts need a good long jail sentence, keep them off the streets and teach them a lesson.  If we are tough enough with them, they will learn. 

I changed my mind about this a few years ago when waiting in a methadone clinic for the person I was accompanying to receive their script. I sat in a shabby waiting area watching people come in for one of their twice daily dose, some sitting in the seats available, some standing, some talking loudly to each other.  All trying to be normal. As time went by, those who had not yet been seen became agitated, began to shake, get angry, and walk about with increasing anxiety.  One or two began to shout and then apologise, and shout again.  It was very unsettling to be sitting there, people not seen quickly enough were unraveling.  It felt dangerous despite the very prominent and bored security staff standing around.

Some time before, watching them drift into the clinic, it seemed many were trying to act normal as if it gets you seen quickly and out of there.  They were so obviously not normal.  Methadone is a legal heroin substitute given to addicts to keep them from buying illegal drugs.  The amount given is scrupulously administered by doctors and chemists by appointment only after having been assessed, documented and accepted onto the programme.  If you miss your appointment, you are back to square one.  Start again.  What I have seen of addicts is that keeping appointments, being in any way regular, playing the game and ticking boxes, is as easy for them as going to the moon.  They are chaotic, utterly driven by their addictions, unbalanced, and completely unreliable.  But when they need their next dose of whatever it is they need, acting normal is very hard, and they are not very nice.  This is how some turn up for their next methadone appointments.  And many use methadone and heroin and whatever else is going, so the withdrawals they are experiencing when they come for their next script may be from much more than the methadone they are wanting now. 

As with many of these clinics, on the day I was accompanying someone, there was much waiting around, appointments delayed without notice, and frustrations with communications.  I watched one man lose his cool and shout that he needed his stuff now.  He swore and shook and looked as if he would punch anyone who came too close.  He needs his methadone, I thought, then he will be OK.  Others began to argue with the receptionist, with each other, and claimed medical emergencies, needing attention now.  Those that got their script took it with staff watching in a side room set up with protective plastic paneling to protect the person measuring out the bright green methadone into little medicine pots, to be taken there and then.  There were, it seemed at least twice the amount of people turning up for their doses than were appointments.  It was probably true, people suffering withdrawals knew that methadone was being given out here, and addicts will do and try anything to get some stuff. 

I thought, no one cares.  This is not good.  No one cares.

What I think now. 

What can anyone do?

 

Just another overdose.

The staff at that clinic were doing their best and had to deal with deeply unbalanced, violent, mentally unstable and physically dependent people all day every day.  The tidal wave of addiction is left to a few professionals who struggle without resources and often give up.  Programmes set up to help addicts wither away through lack of funding and interest and disappear.  No one wants to deal with it, it is an insane problem, and drugs and alcohol are too easy to get hold of.  The culture around using and drinking is too seductive and the sad truth is that so many take drugs to self medicate due to intolerable mental health conditions, and appalling lives.  Drugs and alcohol work.  They make the pain go away, they make you invincible and feel great, until they don't any more.  Even then, when they don't make the pain go away like they used to, they still do enough and the physical and mental dependence is so staggeringly powerful that it is next to impossible to stop.  And if an addict does manage to stop, what in their lives will fill the void that drink and drugs has left?  Life and reality is just too hard.  Getting clean and sober is only a small part of the journey.  Once done, the rest of an addicts life and existence is overshadowed by the craving to go back to the certainty of what they knew worked.  Even if an addict wants and needs to recover from active addiction, it may take many tries, many failures and much despair.  It also takes a huge amount of support, patience and understanding from other people who understand what it is like.  Mostly, you and I could not support alone if someone we knew wanted to get clean and sober.  We need the help of other addicts in recovery and professionals who can help with the pain of the journey, especially in the early stages of recovery, and afterwards too. 

An addict told me once that a big part of his using experience was planning to get his fix.  Making the call, going to get it, holding it, anticipating the preparation and finally the consumption.  His life was narrowed down to using, tracking down the next fix, anticipating it and using again.  And so on.  There is a video of Russell Brand watching a video of himself shooting up many years before he managed to go into recovery and become clean.  He was shown the video as a reminder of how far he has come, but his reaction was of envy for that feeling, that experience, and how the video of himself shooting up made him long to do it again.  He wanted to be that old version of himself at that moment, despite knowing all that he had to go through to become clean.  Needless to say, Russell Brand understood this reaction, it did not harm him at all.

 What I think now is that addiction is as much a scourge as ever.  An addict is manipulative, cunning, and vicious, taking no responsibility at all for anything.  They are liars, thieves, cheats and without conscience. 

And, they are lost, still themselves, regretful, ashamed, vulnerable, overwhelmed and traumatised.  Whatever made them become addicts in the first place is very possibly pain, abuse, poor mental health, isolation and more pain.  The addict that I accompanied on that afternoon to the clinic to get his methadone is all of the crazy things, the bad things, but is also clever, compassionate, funny and longs to be free of all this.  But at the moment, he does not long for it enough.  He can be wonderful with other suffering addicts, and can listen with great kindness to people who are in deep distress with mental health problems.  I once observed him listening to and comforting a frightened young man who was hearing terrible voices, keeping him from running off to do himself harm.  

Addicts And Those Who Love Them

Ian. Has a degree, runs relapse prevention programmes to help others after thirty years of addiction.

I am someone who loves an addict.  I do not like the addict nor the addiction, but I love the addict.  It has been a long hard journey which has not ended and we, I, have no idea how far along the road we are.  I have had to find a way to accept that it may end badly, and though the addict is not too bothered about it, I am.  However, one thing I know about being alongside addiction is that it is not my journey.  Two things that spring to mind from the Alcoholics Anonymous model which I think are vital for survival are, that I am powerless over anyone else's addiction, and that I must detach with love. The detaching with love part comes with the following advice - that we should not cause a crisis but we should also not get in the way of one if it is naturally occurring. How difficult is that.  We have to remember that we cannot rescue, and if we do, we enable.  Hard stuff. We also have to remember that if our addict wants to recover, that we support and do what we can, remembering our boundaries and never giving up hope.  After all, despite all the trauma, crime, destruction and abuse with and from our addicts, who they once were is still in there somewhere.  I carry an image in my head that an addict is only small in size compared to their addiction which towers over them, more than four times their size, and is very much in control.  It often does not end well, though there are enough for whom there is recovery of sorts, and a new chance for us to keep hoping.

I am currently creating Addicts And Those Who Love Them, an exhibition of portraits and words. (Ian pictured above is part of it). Behind every addict is someone traumatised by loving them.  Parents, siblings, friends, lovers, spouses and children, all caught up in the cycle of destruction and despair and learning how to survive. I wanted to find people affected by a loved one's addiction and ask them, how do you feel?  What do you want to say about this?  I have painted portraits of people in active addiction, people in recovery and people behind the addict who despite all the madness, the destruction and the lies, still love them.  This does not necessarily mean they allow them in their homes, does not mean they can help them, it may mean instead that they have nothing to do with them in order to survive.  I have met other people in my situation, heard stories of sadness, of loss of hope and loss of life;  stories of redemption, of recovery and stories of ups and downs and the constant not knowing how things will end from both addict and the people that love them.  I have written their words on the portraits. I wanted to do something about the things I have seen and experienced with addiction, and what I do is create art.  I want to show the faces of people living through addiction, and write what that they say about it.

The Addicts And Those Who Love Them exhibition will open on Monday 7 June as part of the Brighton Fringe.  It will be held at the Fishing Quarter Gallery along the seafront, and run until the Sunday 13 June.  Entrance is free.  You are all so welcome.  If you have a story to tell of addiction - yours or someone you love, feel free to contact me.  If it is appropriate for me to use it in the exhibition, with your permission, I will do so.

Angel Addict.  
Addicts have only themselves to blame.  It is their own fault, they knew what they were getting into.  Addicts need a good long jail sentence, keep them off the streets and teach them a lesson.  If we are tough enough with them, they will learn.  Not quite.  Most of us have never seen the suffering of withdrawal  The physical and mental torment of an addict who needs a fix and cannot get one.  We judge from the comfort of our lives where we have no conception of how it feels.  If an addict asks me in the street for money, I give it.  I do not care that it will be spent on a fix.  I have seen the madness of helpless withdrawal and it is not, in my opinion, for me to pass by saying no.   

I once knew a young nurse of great compassion, who put a small bottle of alcohol in the hands of a tramp who was fitting through withdrawal, because she knew he would probably die.  She had seen how people like him fare in A&E, and so made this decision.  I would paint her, if I could find her. 

I will be creating a crowd funding page to help with the costs of this exhibition.  I do not charge for this work, costs are covered through donations. I will launch a Go Fund Me page in early April, watch out for it. 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sunday, 14 March 2021

A day in my glorious life.

Where the day ends and begins. 

I would love to chose a fascinating, action packed day, but in the interests of truth, I rarely have them.  My days, and I imagine your days, are an equal mixture of doing things and thinking of doing things.  And, I can lose whole sections of the day in just thinking alone. In the olden days, when I belonged in the world, I would whizz about in my car seeing people, doing things, juggling my phone and my calendar and having tea parties here in my home.  I'd say, "Oh  I can book you in for ten minutes next month.  Will that do?" to friends and family, and I would feel both important and a little frazzled

I could make a day up - no one would ever know.  But I won't.  Let's begin.  Here is my day today.

Morning. 

I wake often in the night, see that it is still dark outside, and wish it were not.  I love the dawn, and the birds starting their early morning songs, and the feeling of newness that it all brings. I can't wait for the light to come back, I am excited that eventually it will be daytime. During the night, in between sleeps, I anticipate getting up at daybreak, at the official end the night time, to make myself tea. Where shall I drink my tea?  I ask myself, and fall back asleep. When dawn does come, I am so excited that I pass out completely and stay that way until I wake with a start, much later, and can't imagine what made me think it necessary in the night to get up and make tea in the morning.  My bed is so delicious, I don't feel nearly so excited about the day ahead and I wonder if, just for today, I could get away with spending it in bed.  Who would know, I think to myself, who would know?  But then, I tell everyone everything, so everyone would know. Damn.

This morning though, I have a plan.  In the night, the plan was so exciting - I was to get up very early, make a flask of tea and some delicious sandwiches and go on a ten mile walk.  As I drifted off, I saw myself on the Downs walking in the early morning mist, strong and determined, with a litre and a half of stong tea and some doorstep sandwiches made from a loaf of fresh brown bread.  There I go, I saw in my mind's eye, striding like a land girl of old, robust and glowing and covering the miles like a pro.  But when I come to again, long after dawn, in my fabulous bed with the memory foam mattress, I change my mind.  I know, I say to myself, I will have tea here, in bed, and go on the walk later.  I will take sandwiches for my lunch, not breakfast, and that is a much better idea. 

On the 5 June, I am doing a 26 mile Mighty Hike for Macmillan, the cancer support charity, and so it is essential that I get myself ready to do this long walk.  Over the last year I have moved less and less and now I am like a cartoon fat cat that can't get off the sofa, it just has to fall off.  So, a wonderful charity, a wonderful walk, and a real challenge.  This is why I am planning a 10 mile walk today.  I have done 8 miles a few times, so today I am upping the ante.  This is all very well, I say to myself still in my ridiculously comforting bed, but the ante is very much ahead of me, and yet to be upped.  It's all about discipline, I tell myself, and turn over for another five minutes.

It takes some time, lying in my increasingly addictive bed, before I get myself out of it to go downstairs, make a pot of tea and carry it back upstairs.  All the while, I think, any minute now, I will get ready and do my walk.

 Suddenly, at about 10am, I have a burst of determination.  Dammit, I say, I am ready.  I put on my walking clothes, make a giant sandwich, fill a water bottle and get into the car.  This, I say, is the real me.  If only I had done this earlier.  

The world is older and wiser than we can ever be.
 

Soon, the car parked, my bag on my back, I am on my way to walk 10 miles.  As I walk, I feel optimism creeping into my heart, I feel a smile starting and I think, Oh!  How beautiful is this, how happy I am and how this walking is really the answer to all of life.  I walk at a steady pace through fields, woods, mud and chalk paths until I reach my lunch spot, just over 5 miles from the start.  Sitting on an old moss covered wooden stile, listening to the birds singing loudly in the trees, and gazing at the deep blueness of the sky, I feel that all really is well.  Whatever we worry about will pass away into nothing and somehow, the world will keep turning.  And right now, eating brown bread and butter sandwiches under the brightest of blue skies with both the sun on my face and the wind in my hair, the world I can see around me for miles in all directions, is very beautiful and far wiser and older than I can imagine.  The world holds me, right now, in this peace and natural beauty, I do not hold it.  I am very lucky to be here.

Afternoon  

In the car, much later, having completed the walk and gratefully sitting down, I check my phone and see that I have walked 11 miles.  Move over Paula Radcliffe, I say in my head, I'm coming up fast behind you.  Feeling very noble, I drive home through beautiful Sussex countryside that, having walked 11 miles through it just now, I feel I know very well.  For a short while, I identify with those people who live on the moors and wild open places, reading the stars and understanding what the weather will be by looking at moss, and cattle, and who think nothing of walking through the bracken following their inner compass born of a lifetime living close to nature.  When I get home, this feeling lessens a bit as I return to my very comfortable house to run a hot bath, make a huge pot of tea and some scrambled eggs.  Scrambled eggs are my ultimate comfort food.  I have three eggs. 

I have three eggs. I am an athlete.  No kidding.
 

Two hours pass in a haze of warm water, aching legs, scrambled eggs, and talking books.  Soon, I have to get out because at some point, everyone has to leave their bath.  Even the queen has to leave her bath, even Dolly Parton has to leave her bath.  So, slowly, I leave my bath.  It is now late afternoon and I still have things to do.  I have this blog to write, and I have a group video chat with my cousins.  But first, putting on my leopard print pyjamas and my late husband Alan's dressing gown, I go and sit in my bed with all the pillows I can find, and look at YouTube.  I know this could take over my life, but I have to do it.  The urge to fall down a YouTube black hole is always very strong.  Oh do it, I tell myself.  You're an athlete now.  You walked 11 miles.

More time passes.  At some point, I put on my unicorn slippers and find myself in the kitchen making veggie sausages, peas, mashed potatoes and gravy.  This is a good thing I tell myself.  Athletes need to eat.  

I will have to do my blog, I know it has to be done, but not just yet. 

Evening

Back on my bed, after my sausages and gravy, I have a moment of determination. I take up my laptop and begin to write. This is a good thing, it makes me feel like I know what I am doing. And then, the phone rings and it is my two cousins so I have to stop writing.  This is also a relief.  My two cousins are fab, and we have a long chat which I leave early because I have to write my blog.  I feel important.  My cousins probably think I have my finger on the pulse, and so I leave the conversation, say goodbye, tell them I am very busy, and leave them talking. And then, as is always the case, once I start to write, I remember how much I like it.  I love creating, I love making and painting and writing and talking, but mostly after I have finished doing it.  Before, when I am starting, I hate it and want to watch YouTube and distract myself, place myself a million miles from the here and now.  It is this way for lots of us, I believe.  I love having finished whatever it is I am doing.  But back in the here and now, I pick up the laptop, having impressed my cousins (I hope) and begin to write this blog.  I am not in the least bit hungry so there is no excuse to go and get a snack, I am not tired enough to close my eyes, I have had a bath so I am fragrant and wrapped up in fluffy pyjamas and dressing gowns - time to concentrate on writing.

And so I do.  I write, find I am enjoying it, as I knew I would, immensely.  After a while I stop to take a call from my son which leads to needing a bedtime snack, and that leads to finishing my YouTube documentary which ends up with putting away the laptop for the night.  Well, the blog is mostly done, I am delightfully weary, and my day has been good.  I am glad to have walked, I am glad to have written as much as I needed, and it was lovely to chat to family and to eat a lot because I had earned it due to that extra mile on the Downs. 

Night time

I will see you all in the morning.  I turn my phone off, turn the light off, and begin my night time thing of longing for dawn, planning early morning tea and knowing that once the light appears, even though I have slept happily on and off during the night and longed for the dawn, I will be out for the count as soon as it happens until the shouting of the birds outside my open window brings me back to the day.  Goodnight all. 

And this morning, with help from my unicorn slippers, I finish the blog. Amen.

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