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 – 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.

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.