Thanks

The walk4andy has of course been a labour of love but I could never have achieved it on my own.  This is my opportunity to thank all those who have supported me (I just have to hope it doesn’t sound too much like an Oscars acceptance speech!) and it goes without saying that I wouldn’t have got very far at all if it hadn’t been for the man who built the Wall in the first place …

Publius Aelius Hadrianus

Thanks to all those who have joined me on my walk: Julie, Ian, Nathan, Erica, Scott, Tamara (and Charlie the greyhound!), Tony, Sue, James, Benjy, Hilary, David, Jonathan, Benjamin, Wendy and Val

 

Thanks to those who have helped with lifts and being around during the week: Allison, Will and Dan, Yvonne, Chris, Catherine and Anna, Mags, Matthew, Daniel and Lucy, and especially Barry (and Zac!)

Thanks to those who have given us hospitality, especially Michael and the folk at Carlisle Cathedral, and Benjamin and Stephanie, Elizabeth and Matilda.

Thanks to those I’ve met along the way – Michael, Dany, Clare and countless others whose names I never found out.

Thanks to Andy at the ATC who lent me his camel pack so I didn’t have to stop to drink.

Thanks to my Diabetes team at Leicester General who gave me my continuous glucose monitoring kit making it so much easier to avoid the hypos.

Thanks to Geraldine’s chiropodist who provided a kit for my feet which amazingly I haven’t had to use at all!

Thanks to those who have been praying for me, especially everyone back at St Denys who have been walking and praying in solidarity.  I have felt held in a way like never before.

Thanks to those who have been reading my blog and sending comments and words of encouragement.  It has meant a great deal to me.

Thanks to those who have supported by sponsoring me.  That is the most important part of this whole journey and I am gobsmacked to have raised nearly three times my target of £1000.  Thank you thank you.

And thanks to my family for putting up with me, not only through this week but through all the planning and practice walks, for agreeing to holiday in Carlisle and Derbyshire last year so that I could do some walking.  Thank you for your endless patience and your support this week.  To Erica and Hilary for your companionship on so much of the walk, and to Wendy for encouraging me and humbly getting on with the most boring job of bag-carrying, fetching and dropping off.  I know you had lots of tea and cake in pretty places to make up for it, but it did mean you had to get up when we did!

 

And finally, thanks to Andy, without whom I would not be the person I am today and would never have found the inspiration and determination to do something like this.  I laughed out loud when I read a comment from someone who knew Andy very well saying ‘I can’t help thinking Andy would want to know why you’re walking that far when you could drive!’  So true!  But I hope that this will go some distance to helping others with his condition to get more support and maybe help those who are working to find a cure for VHL.  Huge thanks to VHL UK/Ireland for all the work you do for families like ours.

 

 

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Tune the song of our hearts

‘Tune the song of our hearts to the music of creation’ – words from a prayer set for psalm 98 this morning.

Bluebells seen today

 

Following yesterday’s drenching, it was a huge relief to have a dry day of walking today.  The only rain came after we had finished while enjoying a cream tea at the George Hotel in Chollerford.

My walking companions today included the youngest Benjy at only 7 as well as both my daughters and two very musical friends, both of whom I have sung with in the past.

 

Singing has been one of the most important parts of my life and, although we resisted the temptation to launch into song (I had succeeded in embarrassing Erica the previous day when I had tried to lift our spirits with ‘Everywhere we go-o …’!),  it was fun to talk music and reminisce about choirs we’ve been part of.

I could see what made Julie Andrews sing when looking around at the hills today.  The scale of the beauty of the landscape up here is breathtaking and so wonderful to see it without the mist of yesterday.

In fact, we could see so far today that my friend whose parish we were walking through was able to point out the offshore wind farm out in the North Sea.  I was taken aback by the sight of the end goal, the east coast, having left the west coast on Thursday.  I was suddenly aware of how far I’ve come and the prospect of finishing began to filter through into my conscious thoughts, stirring up a real mixture of emotions.

Singing is physically, emotionally and spiritually good for us, and the choirs I have been part of (not least 8ctave where I do most of my singing now) have helped me deal with all sorts of life’s challenges.  One of my biggest gripes is what I consider to be the regrettable decline in singing and music generally.  We seem as a society to place little value on the creative arts which I think are an intrinsic part of what makes us human.

Anyway, I haven’t done a lot of singing this past week but I have been accompanied by a lot of singing.  Birds have dogged me (if that’s not too bizarre a thing to say) from the noisy oystercatchers and other wading birds on the Solway Firth to the chirping sparrows in the hedgerows, the swallows and martins darting around the barns and farm buildings to the skylarks’ seemingly endless song over the meadows.  And then this evening, as we drove back after dinner from my friend’s house in Haydon Bridge, the sun gilding the crags we had walked across yesterday in such foul weather, suddenly by the roadside appeared a pair of curlews.  It was too quick a moment to take a good photo but their silhouette was unmistakeable.  What a treat! (Btw Radio 3 now broadcast birdsong on a Sunday morning if you can’t get out to hear it live!)

I love the fact that in C.S.Lewis’ ‘Magician’s Nephew’ Aslan sings Narnia into being, echoing that idea of the music of creation.  Music can evoke all kinds of emotions and can take us on a journey through them to leave us in a different place from where we started, but it also invites us to participate whether with our ears or our own voices.

As I begin to reflect on what has been happening in me as I have been walking, I wonder whether it is something of a tuning of my heart back to the song I was created to sing.

Little steps, little sips

Windshield Crags as the mist came down

 

Well, it had to happen, and to be honest the ground needed it.  At least one of my nine days walking was always  going to be wet and today – day five – was definitely wet.  Water, water everywhere … We saw it in streams and pools and quarry lakes and loughs and it fell from the sky as drizzle and mist and as good, honest, properly wet rain!

 

My wonderful walking companions for today were all soaked to the skin by the time we finished.  And after six hours on the go we were all exhausted too.  The 8 miles we expected to walk turned out in reality to be more like 14 miles once we added in the incessant climbs and descents – up and down and up, and just as we thought we were nearly there, we would come over the peak and see ahead of us another plunge down into a valley with a steep climb the other side along the crags, following the now ever-present Wall.

 

With the wet stone steps and steep hillsides, it’s a miracle no one slipped and hurt themselves.  (Speaking of miracles, thank you to those who prayed after my last post – I’m delighted to report that my blood sugars behaved themselves much better today which was a big surprise given the more strenuous exercise!)

As well as all the water round about me, I wanted to make a particular mention of my camel pack, kindly lent to me by an officer at the ATC squadron in Hamilton.  Someone asked what that hose was round my neck in a picture I’d posted and this is the answer.  It has been so useful to have a reservoir of water on my back with easy instant access through the pipe that sits right by my mouth.  It was especially useful to be able to take little sips regularly when it was hot, but it was also a great help today in the rain when I really didn’t want to have to keep stopping to get a drink out my bag.

The extra company, difficult terrain and poor weather have successfully distracted me from thinking too much about the significance of reaching this half way point in my walk.  But I am pleasantly surprised by how much energy I have, physical and emotional.  It’s like the wells that had run dry are being refilled.

One friend today commented that he could see clearly how this part of the walk was in fact part of a much bigger journey.  It was easy to look back and see how far we’d come and to look ahead and see the Wall snaking over the hills in the distance (at least before the mist came down!)  Looking back and looking ahead gave him a better sense of how this part fitted into the whole.

Highshield Crags

 

The walk4andy is part of a bigger journey I am on to work through and try to make sense of the pain of so much loss, and every little step, every little sip, is moving me nearer to where I need to be.

Two more lines from the Celtic prayer I’m learning this week:

You are my Lord, and with me still

You are my love, keep me from ill

 

Sworn Brothers

I am a big fan of the Game of Thrones.  For those who are not GoT fans, the stories by George R.R. Martin include ‘The Wall’, a huge edifice protecting southerners from the dangerous monsters north of the Wall. (I’d just like to point out that I am on the south side of the Wall in this picture!)

The Wall is manned by the Night’s Watch, a band of sworn brothers from here there and everywhere, of every race and class.

The reason I tell you this is because the Wall in GoT was inspired by Hadrian’s Wall.  I have been reading a bit about the people who guarded it, the auxiliary units made up of a mixture of people from across the empire and more locally.  The old gods and the new are worshipped together.  Few would choose to go to this Godforsaken outpost of the empire, the back of beyond, about as far as you could get from civilization in Rome.

Of course, many now choose to visit this beautiful part of the country.  Today I was delighted to be joined on my Wall by family members from Leicester and London, some of whom are facing their own battles right now and so it was really special that they gave up time to come and walk.   I was also joined by a friend from north of the border, a brother in faith, who I haven’t seen for ages and so it was very special to catch up, put the world to rights and to pray together.

But the big surprise was at Birdoswald where I saw again the party from Argentina I had met on day one at the Cathedral.  Not only was it a joy to reconnect but also humbling to have Danny pray for me out on the Wall.

The sworn brothers of the Night’s Watch abandon their old lives to ‘take the black’.  They form a new family based on the vows they have made and their common purpose to protect the Wall and guard against evil.  They’ve got one another’s back.  Our police and armed forces do a not dissimilar job, much of which goes unseen, and for which we should be grateful.

I had a wonderful company of ‘sworn brothers’ on the Wall today, people who have got my back just as Andy did when I was growing up, people who will love and protect me, who will pray for me and walk with me, and for whom I am grateful.

At the end of the day outside Greenhead Church, Nathan and I said evening prayer together in the warm late afternoon sun.  I was reminded of the words of the evening service of compline which includes the prayer:

As the night watch looks for the morning

So do we look for you, O Christ.