March in March – Completed

It has taken me several weeks to write this post. I became so tired after the walking that all I could really manage to do was sew. Fortunately, I really enjoy sewing and worked on mapping my walks through threads.

I am delighted to announce that I managed to reach my fundraising target of £1000 and thanks to all those kind people who donated. I’ve completed the walks and I’m now working on the various themes that occurred to me during this time. Some of which I will write about in the coming weeks. My fundraising page is currently still open for donations.

As I walked I began to think I live in one great big forest. Formerly I saw myself surrounded by undulating fields and hedges with patches of trees here and there. This local walking has shown me I could probably walk for miles and never leave trees. I’m seeing the “deer way,” perhaps. The Borders seemed to be a woodland separated by patches of grazing, criss-crossed by miles of ditches, streams and rivers.

When I look at the map it’s clear there are more fields than trees but that wasn’t my experience on some of my walking days. This is a wonderful illustration of the changing point of view.

Walking is so good for that. Each day in my walks I saw the same places but from different orientations. That’s also the advantage of always walking from my front door.

The second week of walking my plan was to walk all day. On the MONDAY I walked around Mellerstain land but right at the beginning I fell and bashed my cheek on a stone. Oh dear, I thought, this is a warning to take care. So I did go carefully but exceeded my stamina because there were so many interesting places. I came across an ancient quarry that had been used as a dumping area. It was fascinating and then I wanted to go further up the hill. It was a bit far so I sat for quite a while and enjoyed the amazing view.

On TUESDAY I could hardly move so I had to be content with an inward direction. I stayed at home and worked on sewing my Five Directions map.

WEDNESDAY was a day full of singing larks and I managed to get all the way to the Brotherstones!! It was also the day I started a little song and danced with the stones when I eventually got there.

Starting out again

I started slow, in the direction of the stones but they looked soooo far awaaaay!!! It was a bright sunny day with a bitterly cold wind. It was interesting going across fields instead of through woodland. You can imagine the joy when at last the stones rose up before me almost within reach and what a view!!!

There are the two Brotherstones and the Cow Stone a little lower down. I worked out my dance which followed the way of the wind and quickly wrote it down. I just about managed to stop my book being blown away.

You can see, by the shape of the grass, how the wind swirls around the stones.

THURSDAY was the day I knew I had to just follow paths for a change. I was getting pretty tired and found that making decisions was becoming difficult. Following a path cuts down on decision making. This time the direction was towards Sweethope Hill. I had never been there. It looks interesting from a distance and it was time for a visit.

When I got to Sweethope hamlet I was disturbed by one of the notices. During my walks I came across many notices and became somewhat obsessed with taking photos of them all. That is a subject for another post. This was the notice:

But it wasn’t just the sign, the verges had been cordoned off. A little further on and another sign started shouting at me (that’s what some of them do.)

It was the only day I felt uncomfortable on my walk. I was lucky to meet a very helpful couple who showed me the way up the hill, so that was nicely uplifting. When I got up there I found a strange ruin and some Highland Coos. And it was bitterly cold. I ate my lunch in the shelter of a rock face and had another brilliant view, although a grey one, for a change.

FRIDAY, the last day. Mindful of my low energy I decided to take a leisurely walk back in the Eden Valley near by and Ian decided to come with me. The weather was an interesting combination of sun, rain and hail storms!! We had a lovely time watching tree-creepers crawling up and down a couple of trees by the water. We also came across a very photogenic drain.

All in all it was an interesting experience. I see some of the landscape in a new way when I’m in the car. I know how areas fit together and how far they are from each other. And I know some of the deer-ways and the secret places where barn owls live.

Very soon I’ll be setting off again in one of those five directions.

March in March – week 1

I’ve completed my week of walking mornings. Each walk is marked on the map in a different colour. Everyday I made, or found a symbol of my Five Directions. Next week I’ll be walking all day from Monday to Friday raising money for The Cheyne Gang

Here is the link to my fundraising page

The first walk I considered to be a warm up for the rest of the week. It was a brightly shining day and heading over familiar fields I allowed myself to be lead by tracks into the woods. I found several and also deer prints. In my head I called these tracks “The Deer Wood Ways.” (Mmmm I think I can hear a poem on its way.) Before stopping by the Eden Water for my hot drink, I came across what I first thought were deer and then realised were plastic models! There were lots of them, all different animals. Part of an archery course but kind of Crazy!!!

Things you may find in the woods

On Day Two I started by marching cheerily down the road on another glorious day of sunshine. I got tired pretty quickly, but there was something about walking along a lane that pressured me to keep going forward fast. I made myself slow down. Then my gaze was drawn to the left and I saw an opening into a stubble field which seemed to be inviting me in. As soon as I was off the track I felt better. Nearing the line of woodland ahead of me I saw a herd of deer racing through (their Deer Wood Way.) A couple of them stopped to have a good look at me and then raced on.

On top of Lurgie Craigs (Black Hill and Eildons in far distance to right and left)

Day 3 was special because I planned to go to Lurgie Craigs. Several years ago I spent many days there studying the landscape to create a piece of solo theatre. There aren’t any paths, so I went cross-country fearing barbed wire and other hazards. It turned out to be surprisingly easy. I went past the quarry, through fields and up to the craigs. It was like coming home and I didn’t want to leave.

Blinkbonny Quarry which I could hear from all my different directions

Day 4 was my longest walk at about seven miles. Again it was sunny and when I sat in the corner of a ploughed field drinking my coffee, the sun burnt my face.


The last day of the week it was grey. Also fairly cold. I planned to go to Smailholm. As it wasn’t very far I took the long way, down into the valley to Eden Water. I had swimming things with me. A friend had promised to donate if I swam in the water. They were heavy so I hid them under a gorse bush to retrieve on my way back.

Walking from Smailholm to the Eden Water valley I was intrigued to see it from very different perspective.

Smailholm Path

I got to the stream, retrieved my towel, undressed and got into the water ( I was wearing a swimming costume under my clothes.) It was hardly above my knees so I lay down for a few seconds. I’m hoping my friend will think that equates to swimming. Then I went home, passing Hundy Mundy on the way.

Hundy Mundy Folly

Many thanks to all those who have donated so far. I’m now just over half way to my target.

March in March – Intro

Introducing my walk to raise money for The Cheyne Gang – Singing for Breathing

It’s a catchy phrase but I’m not actually envisaging a march. There’s too much of a relentless forward motion implied and militaristic overtones. More of an interested amble. Taking in the scenery and seeing how far I can get, in a gentle kind of way, on the ten days I have in mind. Those days are definitely in March and starting on Monday 15th.

The road near my house on a beautiful evening

I am going to walk to RAISE MONEY for The Cheyne Gang, an organisation that works with singing for breathing LINK. I have been involved with them for a year now and they are a very inspiring bunch of women.

Each day I will walk from my front door. The first week will be five half days, the next week five full days. Each of the five days, a different direction.

The photos give an idea of the landscape I’ll be walking through. Although, probably not the snow. But you never know. A bit of unintentional rhyming there.

The same road at the beginning of February

I don’t know if I can do it because of my energy issues but it will be interesting to try. The Cheyne Gang are intending to include Long Covid sufferers in their work. I’m interested in Long Covid because, in my mind, it bears a relationship to other post viral syndromes like Chronic Fatigue and M.E. I have a mild form of Chronic Fatigue and like so many others I feel under the radar, so manage it in my own way. I’m hoping that research into Long Covid will also throw a light on Chronic Fatigue.

The pink house in the middle is mine. Cheviot Hills behind.

So why March?

Several reasons: I start feeling more well in March , the cows aren’t in the fields and I like the idea of walking through the Spring Equinox and the changing of the light.

The artist on a day of clutter

As I am an artist, the whole walk will become part of my practice. Currently I’m working with Life Writing and have been reflecting on my biography, particularly my time as an actor. I’ve been using specific textiles as a prompt into my memories. I also work with paper, textiles and song, so we’ll see what emerges. There is the possibility I’ll get very tired and nothing will emerge but I intend to work with that too. I’ll try to listen to my body and sit or lie down whenever I need to. It’s lovely lying and looking at the sky or up into trees. Possibly not when it’s raining but maybe it’ll stay dry.

I intend to record some of my walking experience so look out for this blog and photos, sound and videos that will also appear on facebook and instagram and consider donating. More information about that will appear shortly.

So … walking from my door and whatever the weather.

Week 1 – Monday 15th March – half a day for five days – each day a different direction

Week 2 – Monday 22nd March – full day for five days – five different directions.

This stream is the Eden Water and will feature in my walk. I may even swim in it.

Extra Thread – Girrick Gardener 2

It’s been a few weeks and the view has changed. The cows are in the fields, the rape is flowering and the gorse is out around Smailholm Tower in the distance.

It’s taken ages. Digging such a small amount each time. In my head I’ve created a beautiful allotment but I’ve recently had shingles and, as is usual for me, I’m suffering from post viral fatigue. Along with the tiredness comes a low mood so I drag myself to dig and then I’m tired almost before I’ve begun. There’s an urgency because I need to get all of the potatoes in.

Girrick Allotment – 15th May 2020

Here you can see the potato beds finished at last. I was fortunate to have a little help.

The plants in the garden getting ready for the allotment. Those broad beans are nearly ready. I’ve dug a small plot for them and this time I got down on my knees and sifted the earth through my fingers.

It could be a piece of garden art. In reality it’s to stop those Girrick cats who love a nice bit of earth for their toilet!

As I knelt by that bed with the soil in my hands and the lovely smell of earth about me, I remembered a poem incorporated into a play I’m writing.

The play is written around a chorus who become a multiplicity of characters.

Oh no!!

The next day this is what had happened to the potatoes. It’s such a horrible feeling when you are all full of hope and then the plants that have only just begun, look as though they may end. All that work! What was happening? I thought about it a bit and wondered if they’d been caught by the frost. It’s been so cold this Spring as well as extremely dry. Frost in May!!! The white in the picture is fleece. I covered them for a few nights. Fingers crossed they recover.

Extra Thread – Girrick Gardener 1

We are now in the midst of the covid-19 pandemic but before it started spreading out from China I found myself wondering about food security. It was February, I was on a train headed south and using the opportunity to write a short story for a competition.

The remit was to imagine Scotland in 2030. I had three false starts before finding what I wanted to write. It is a serious story but written in a comic way. You can read it here:

Continue reading “Extra Thread – Girrick Gardener 1”

Song Wave – Rehearsals

It’ s now only one and a half weeks until 17th May – Song Wave day! I have been rehearsing with my two singing groups. Just Singing is very small, there are about six of us singing “Stay” so we are doing the tune with two of us on the top part attempting to sound ethereal. We are going to meet at 10.40 at the Natural Crafs shop in Melrose. My friend, the owner, Catherine Bauer, says we are very welcome to go through the song while, Sandra (who manages the shop) is having her coffee. So that will be our warm up then it’s across the road to Marmions for 11 o’clock which, I hope will be packed, to sing and be filmed by my friend Sue Scowcroft. After that, if we feel up to it, we may go and sing outside the Co-op.

Smailholm Village Hall on a grey and damp evening. Often it is all shiny and covered in sunshine but not the day I took my camera!

My other group is The Smailholm Singing Group and I’m absolutely delighted that so many of them are going to sing “Stay”. It was twenty-one at the last count.

Ian and Fin helping with the chairs (thank you both). Fin has got distracted by the books and I think I surprised Ian!


It’s been interesting to see how easy (or otherwise) the groups have found learning the song. It appears that the chorus is very catchy and people pick it up quickly. There has been a bit of a struggle with the top part and also difficulties with the rhythm of the tune.

Here we are going through some of the bottom part.

They are enjoying themselves already and we haven’t even started singing.


Last week during our rehearsal in Smailholm, I got the”tune” people walking out the beat and it really improved thier understanding of the rhythm.

Here is a recording of Smailholm Singing Group trying out the the last bit of the song. Probably only for the second time. The top part haven’t quite got all the right notes at this point.

There are more people than this, the others are standing, inconveniently, in the shadows. (Or possibly on purpose?)


After that we all sang together and it sounded gorgeous with so many of us. I was very pleased. I’m also happy that people like it because you can never know when you are creating something how it will be received. So what a relief!

Two more rehearsals and then we will be singing in Keslo Square on Friday 17th May at 1.30. After that we will move around. Others places suggested by the group are the War Memorial, outside the Fishmongers and outside Lidl.

Do come and see us in Melrose or Kelso and even join in if you wish.

Song Wave – Connected

I mentioned in an earlier post The Scottish Mental Health and Arts Festival’s theme for this year is “Connected” and I would like to relate a couple of stories.

Jake Scott is one of the contributors towards “Stay”. He sings his own blues songs as Stoney Broke. I went to see him at The Barrels in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Tom Sykes, who recorded “Stay” with me came along too. We enjoyed his music. He has a lovely voice.

The basement room at The Barrels is like being in the belly of Berwick. The picture is me with Stoney Broke. Yes, it was a bit dark down there.

It was good to meet Stoney Broke and it will be great if he works on a blues version of “Stay”. That is the first CONNECTION. The other is of a more coincidental nature (if you believe in coincidence, which, actually, I don’t).

Both Tom and I were paid for our work on “Stay” and Tom was keen to plough the money back into music. He came across a guitar that was exactly the amount he had earned. It was privately owned so he went to pick it up from the musician who’d put it up for sale. They got chatting and Tom mentioned Song Wave. It turned out that friends of the musician had known Scott Hutchison very well and were, understandably, very upset about his suicide last year. I hope and expect there to be more Song Wave CONNECTIONS. I also hope that lots of people will sing “Stay” on 17th May and think about how poor mental health impacts on people’s lives. But also reflect on the joy that comes from singing and CONNECTING through song.

Song Wave 3 – How to write a song?

There must be so many ways and maybe not all of them as exhausting as I found mine. I was two weeks in and fully focused in the late afternoon when suddenly I felt the energy drain right out of me.

I knew then that I had to stop for that day and take things carefully. I do have problems with energy conservation but this had taken me by surprise.

Too many computers, I reckon

Fortunately, tune and harmonies were finished and I had just started recording the learning tracks. My friend Tom Sykes was doing this with me. I had planned for us to do it together but he suggested we try it remotely. This was fine except that it meant I needed to learn a new system and my brain wasn’t letting anything more in.

Some people call this tiredness Chronic Fatigue, others M.E. and yet others think it’s all made up. I don’t like the term M.E. because it sounds too much like an identification of oneself. Really, I don’t know what this tiredness is, I just experience it.

In order to carry on and be able to finish my task by the beginning of March, I had to have some time off and then go slowly. My tiredness was persistent and I could only do small amounts of work at a time. The other difficulty was that I couldn’t sing very well and I kept making mistakes in the recordings.

The process was, I’d record a track and send it to Tom. He would then learn it, record it and send his part back to me.

Working with audio files

We managed to complete them last weekend and I spent most of Monday doing some of mine again as my voice was a little better and then mixing them together. It’s the sort of thing that you could go on doing for ever. Eventually I had to tell myself that, although it wasn’t quite right, it was good enough.

Once I’d decided that, oh what sweet relief!!

This is the link to the learning tracks on this website.

Song Wave 2 – How to write a song?

What a week it’s been and oh the ups and downs of song writing. It’s not just song writing, of course. Any creation has waves going in and out and often long periods of feeling all washed up or washed away. So there I was on day two, surrounded by words and feeling hopeful. I read through everything and got myself a piece of A3 paper and a nice chunky pen. I walked along the line of hanging papers, picking up phrases and splurging it onto the A3.

Some hanging papers
Part of the A3 splurge

I wrote it again in a way that started to make sense. And again, several times. My phone made it’s little ting-a-ling. It was a message from Rachel Hunter saying she had just emailed me her contribution. As I read and wrote down her words a tune popped into my head. (I don’t know how this happens. I just know that it will if I give myself time). I then surprised myself by suddenly singing “Open your eyes, open your heart wide”. Catchy, I thought, let’s follow it through and see where it goes.

My trusty Zoom R8

By the end of day two I had part of a tune for a verse and the beginning of a chorus. I recorded everything that came into my head with my trusty Zoom R8. I didn’t want to lose any of the work. I had been singing without reference to any instruments until late afternoon when I decided to check which key I’d been singing in. It turned out to be Db!! If you don’t know anything about music that’s all the black notes on the piano, a little awkward when written out. If I see a piece of music with that many flats I tend to want to run away. So I put it down to C.

Trying out the chorus

And then came day three. I got up feeling pretty ill so not a good start. Unlike the day before where I was able to focus for hours, I found myself drifting away constantly. I went through all the previous days recordings. What a mixture! I’d started with the fairly avant garde and gradually moved on to what sounded like 70’s pop. (Well, I like 70’s pop). I treated myself by getting out the keyboard. It didn’t help much. Dragging myself miserably through that day I ended up with several lines that were pure Disney and had me in hysterics! It was nice to be able to laugh at myself like that. I hasten to say that Disney has now disappeared.

My work station

The trick is to know that there are going to be days when you think that what you’ve created is really not any good. It always happens and when you accept this you can stand back and say “here we go”. Of course it may well be rubbish but if you stick with it and keep on working at honing and transforming something will come of it. This work of creation is exciting joyful and painful and wonderful to do.