An interview and two reviews…

The last two weeks have been both eventful and uneventful – in equal measure, for me. First, I have had an interview in respect of a PhD place at the University of Essex to continue my writing work there, and have been accepted and offered a place on the course. I have accepted the offer. In October 2017, I will embark upon a great adventure – three years of writing and research – and I am super excited about it.

The day after my interview, I bent down to pick up a sock from the floor (I have four sons – I’ve done this on virtually a daily basis for the last thirty years) and the most awful sound came from my back, accompanied by searing pain. I thought I might be stuck on the ground until someone walked past me but being the bloody-minded person that I am, and in no uncertain terms wanting to be found in such a state by one of my sons, I dragged myself up off the floor using the kitchen counter tops and managed not to throw up in the process. I have never felt pain like it. I had flashbacks of my husband hurting his back thirty years ago whilst unloading a lorry full of parcels in the yard at my parents-in-law’s house. They used a pallet on a forklift truck to lift a chair up to him and his father and brother lifted him on to it before delivering the pallet to the back door, manhandling him, still on the chair, into the kitchen and calling the doctor. The GPs advice was for him to be taken to bed and laid with a board under his mattress – for as long as it took. Six or more months of osteopathy later, he was still in pain.

Now I’m not being funny but this was less than 48 hours before Christmas. I just didn’t have time to be taking to my bed, so I stood up, screamed in pain, got some help to put my walking boots on and off out I went – my hiking poles hiding the fact that I could not have put one foot in front of the other without the support they gave. I walked, half a mile, then walked back again and collapsed in a heap in an armchair. I took copious amounts of pain relief; of almost every sort I could find in the cupboard. The wheat pack was thrown into the microwave, time after time till it started to smell rather over-cooked, then I reached for the TENS machine and kept on pressing those buttons till I could feel nothing but the buzzing throughout my body and then I slipped into a fitful sleep. A couple of hours later, hubby jabbed me in the ribs with his elbow and asked if I would like to go to bed. I growled ‘yes please,’ and limped my way up the stairs.

As it turns out, the best thing I could have done was to keep on the move and though I am still sore now, a week later, I am on the mend and back to walking three miles a day, albeit in two shifts. This has pretty much destroyed my carefully constructed training schedule, not to mention giving my faith in my ability to walk Sarn Helen a good shake. But I’m still determined I will do it, in April, as planned – you watch and see!

Santa delivered small gifts for each of us this year. Hubby and I now have fitness tracker bracelets to ensure we both get up and move about more. They have received varying welcomes. Mine is a EFOSHM (https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01E8A1BYQ/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o06_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1) currently priced at £29.99, though less than half that when Santa purchased it. It works well with my iPhone 6 and the app does a fine job of showing how well (or not) I am doing. It records the number of steps taken each day, the number of calories burned, a goal for the number of steps I need to walk each day, and analyses my sleep patterns when worn at night. I can also track my activity via GPS through the app if I wish to. I can program several different activities and set sedentary alarms to buzz on my wrist if I sit still for too long. It has proved simple to use and at the price, something I am very happy with. The biggest negative is that when worn at night, when you move your wrist, the display lights up and being a mum who is used to being on the alert all night for many years, it disturbs my sleep, so I take it off at night to prevent that happening.

Hubby’s bracelet is also a heart rate monitor by TINCINT …(https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B01IHKOE1U/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 ) currently priced at £27.99, though rather less than that when Santa purchased it a few weeks ago. This one has not been such a success I’m afraid. Hubby tried for several hours with much swearing and cursing, to pair it with his Android phone – it refused to pair with the phone and crashed the app each time he tried. Now Santa is a canny chap and had tried it out when it arrived from Amazon, though on his iPhone, so he knew the darned thing worked. The next thing we tried was to load up the iPhone app on hubby’s iPad and try to pair the bracelet again – bingo! This is working well though the app is clunky and does not do as much as mine. Reviews on the Android app prove we are not alone in this as they are mostly dismal. Again, we had an issue with night time illumination. Hubby took his bracelet off in the night and put it on his nightstand, only to find that once it was not on his wrist, the heart rate sensors have green lights that flash on and off like a belisha beacon, searching for a heartbeat – it got tossed on the floor under the bed for the night.

Overall, I think we will both make good use of these gizmos and hopefully they will guide us toward more healthy activity levels. Please note, these reviews are my own opinions and have not been solicited by anyone. They may not match with your experiences but are an accurate reflection of mine.

Drum Roll, please…

Results are in…

Image from http://www.mortylefkoe.com/

I did it! the grade for Master’s Degree – Distinction!!

It was bloody hard work, intense, but I enjoyed every bit of it.

Thanks go to my family for putting up with my mood swings and periods of hermit-like hiding out in my shed. To the academic staff of the Literature, Film and Theatre Studies department at the University of Essex, my grateful respect and thanks. To those who supported my GoFundMe campaign last year, thank you for putting your money on me – I hope I have not disappointed.

Now, onward – today I submit my application for PhD research/writing.

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things…”

This week I realised that I need to get serious about training for a 160+ mile walk, NOW! I’ve been plodding along, walking most days but without any clear structure and that must change. Committing to training is something I am really poor at doing, so I am going to post my walking schedule here for all to see and judge me on, and hopefully to encourage me with.  There are twenty weeks between this weekend and my intended departure date. Twenty weeks to be comfortable with walking around eight miles per day. I am adamant that I will not walk more than ten miles on any day.

As the purpose of the walk is to research as I go, I will need to allow time to stop and talk, take photos, shoot video and of course, to smell the flowers.

Week # Target Miles Daily Ave. Miles Achieved Ave. time per mile
Up to 3 Dec 3 24 mins
4-10 Dec 3  3.1  24.37 mins
11-17 Dec 3.5  3.55  24.25 mins
18-24 Dec 3.5  1.2  32.67 mins
25-31 Dec 4  3.34  24.56 mins
1-7 Jan 4
8-14 Jan 4.5
15-21 Jan 5
22-28 Jan 5
29 Jan – 4 Feb 5.5
5-11 Feb 6
12-18 Feb 6
19-25 Feb 6.5
26 Feb – 4 March 6.5
5-11 March 7
12-18 March 7
19-25 March 7.5
26-31 March 7.5
1-7 April 8
8-13 April 8

From 1st January, I will start to walk with a backpack too. I’ll steadily increase the weight I carry until it’s a realistic approximation of what I shall be carrying on the walk, and in the final weeks, once I have accumulated all the equipment I need, I’ll carry that.

I’d appreciate comments on what I really NEED to carry with me, how to eat on the walk – I’m not into café’s, restaurants or MacDonalds – neither my pocket nor my digestive system will take it. I am considering either a small solid fuel stove or a small gas burner but that will mean also carrying gas – not sure that’s a good idea? Answers to these questions on another blog post soon.

As it stands, today, Friday 2nd December, I am still awaiting the results of my Master’s degree, though they should have been published yesterday. I am almost ready to submit my PhD thesis proposal which is the final step of the application to the university – final (hopefully) drafts have been sent to prospective supervisors today for their comments. Things are moving at quite a pace now, even when it feels as though I’m not getting anywhere with others. The results will come and when they do, I’ll share them, good, bad or ugly, here.

Part of my research is about the circus and feelings of Home or Homelessness in the artistes and crew. I am now a member of a research network which focusses on Circus and that should be a great help in the coming months and years. It’s rather scary to know that I am committing myself to a minimum of another three years of study, but I feel it’s the right time now – it’s my time.

Moving On, Walking On

The past three weeks have been manic at times. Ever closer to the end of November when MA results will be announced, stress levels are climbing, day on day. Walking has helped and continues to do so. It is the one time when I can clear my head and creativity has a chance to peek through, though walking with the dog has been problematic in windy weather – he gets a wild streak in the wind and pulls me all over the place.

I’ve been working with my iPhone camera whilst out on foot rather than carrying my beloved but much heavier and bulkier Canon 500D. This has met with varying degrees of success and some abject failures but is, I feel, worth going on with.

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The landmark event of the last two weeks is that I have begun the process of application for PhD research. I experienced an almost biblical realisation regarding my proposed research project which has concreted my ideas and enabled the first draft of the resultant thesis proposal flow from my pen with relative ease. There is still much work to be done on it but I do have a skeleton on which to hang the flesh of the proposal – which is good. I will publish the outline of the proposal here in time, but would rather not tempt the fates into blocking it any time before I have applied for and hopefully achieved, funding for the project. Suffice for now to say that walking will be one of my primary sources of research. I will be walking in the fens of Lincolnshire, along the spine of Wales on the Sarn Elen trail, and around Colchester and North Essex over the next two years. I also hope to spend some time with a travelling community. The first walk will be along Sarn Elen in the Spring of 2017 if all goes according to my plan.

The next two weeks will be spent refining the proposal and getting it submitted along with the other paperwork required – really would like to have it submitted before the end of the month so that I have some chance of a decision before the end of the term in mid-December. I’ll report back here on progress.

Till then, keep on walking on!

On Walking, Writing and Inspiration

I’m a walker, writer, and thinker among other things and not always in that order. I write as I walk, though sometimes I just think I’m writing and have to try to remember my thoughts till I get my hands on a pen again. I write in the good, old-fashioned way – with pen and paper. I also resort to using a pencil in the rain.

This website will chronicle the preparation, research and writing process of a project I am beginning in late October of 2016 and which will continue well into 2017. I intend to walk from the north to the south Wales coasts and will be writing about the things I see as I walk, as well as the way it makes me feel. I’ll be writing about the history of the places I visit and about the people I meet on the way. In that way I hope to emulate the great George Henry Borrow whose book Wild Wales has been by my side for the past three years as I have written my way through a BA and a Master’s degree in Creative Writing. It has inspired and provoked further research and writing during that time and I expect it will continue to do so for some time to come.

The spirit of the places in which I walk is very important to me, as is treading as lightly on the land as I can. The journey will be a pilgrimage as I seek enlightenment, both spiritual and intellectual.