A reflection on my year that was 2015

As 2015 ends I reflect on the year that has passed:

This year, personally, was all about running. My fundraising challenge was to run the equivalent distance of Land’s End to John O’Groats (LEJOG) over the calendar year. This is 603miles. You can read more about the challenge on an earlier blog post and read about the finish (successfully!) here. It was a wonderful feeling to complete and still the fundraising comes in. The table below shows how those miles split across the months (not ideally) and the total time run, 89 hours and 7 minutes.

Time (mins) Distance (miles)
Jan 89.14 10.23
Feb 0 0
Mar 61.33 6.66
Apr 615.11 68.04
May 308.55 36.04
Jun 513.6 58.84
Jul 563.53 62.6
Aug 614.91 67.94
Sep 706.22 79.4
Oct 407.09 47.7
Nov 188.98 22.81
Dec 1278.59 143.8
Total 5347.05 604.06

I ran the following races in 2015 and a couple of parkruns. I’m the fastest I have ever been in my time running.

Date Race Mileage Time
18-Jan-15 First Chance 10K 6.2 00:52:26
12-Jul-15 Otter River and Rail Run 10K 6.2 00:54:12
29-Jul-15 Exeter 10K 6.2 00:49:52 PB
10-Oct-15 Colchester Parkrun 3.1 00:23:49 PB
18-Oct-15 Great West Run 13.1 01:45:39 PB

With the Exe Valley Cats I did the Honiton 55 audax cycle ride which was great fun and a lovely day out. The halfway break being at the Boston Tea Party in Honiton was an added bonus.

The wonderful Tottenham Hotspur Football Club did ok, finishing fifth in the 2014-15 season although we are currently placed fourth and playing well. I’m horrified to realise that I haven’t made it to White Hart Lane at all in 2015. This is the first year since 2007 I haven’t attended any game and I’m disappointed in myself.

I’ve continued to enjoy having my LoveFilm account and have watched all the films below. In the cinema I saw Everest (breathtakingly captivating) and The Martian (best book and film of my year).

Saving Mr Banks Blandly enjoyable, Emma Thompson is never wrong.
The Butler I can’t really remember too much about this, which probably says everything.
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom Good to see a bit more about this great man.
A Perfect Ending Fantastic lesbian film that felt very mainstream.
Maleficent Disney and Angelina – enough said.
Last Vegas I wish I could say I was drunk.
The Fault In Our Stars Not as good as the book (when is it ever).
One Chance Fine. Ok. Fine.
Before I Go To Sleep Bit circular and probably a touch longer than necessary.
Paddington Not for me.
Margin Call Clever but probably would’ve preferred the book.
Song For Marion Hurrah for community choirs.
Weekend Touch too arty for my liking but a good LGBT film.
The Fifth Estate Interesting insight to Wikileaks.
Gone Girl Didn’t enjoy the book, the film is a hint better.
Blue Is The Warmest Colour I stopped watching when she left her girlfriend and went back to boyfriends (and read the summary on Wiki).
The Game Gosh. Flawed at the end too.
Pride Felt like Made in Dagenham in a different time. Enjoyable.
Still Alice Julianne Moore is staggeringly good and this film exposes all fears about dementia.
Selma A story I didn’t know about the civil rights movement in America.
Insurgent Not as good as the book but it has Kate Winslet in so…
Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death Awful. Potboiler. Awful.

This seems to have been the year I’ve rediscovered the sub genre of computer/gaming science fiction and I’ve very much enjoyed that.

The Martian Andy Weir Brilliant. Enjoyable. Brilliant. Read it.
The Girl on the Train Paula Hawkins Don’t get what all the fuss is about – I discovered in reading this that I need to care about at least one character.  I didn’t in this.
Insurgent Veronica Roth Enjoy this fast paced, fighting the establishment, teen fiction.
The Room of Lost Things Stella Duffy Interesting sociological observation through fiction with fabulous twist.
Assassin’s Creed: Renaissance Oliver Bowden Enjoy all this series, easy to read and all about honour.
Legend of Spud Murphy Eoin Colfer Children’s book about a library.
Emma Jane Austen Never read it before. Waaaaay too slow for my tastes.
Rogue Male Geoffrey Household A classic and I can see why.
Running Like A Girl Alexandra Heminsley Non-fiction and one I’d recommend to new runners who consider themselves ‘unsporty’.
Ready Player One Ernest Cline Fabulous!  Journey, tests and honour.
The Secret Island Enid Blyton One of my top three books of all time and re-read frequently.
The Circle Dave Eggers Will either scare or inspire you as to the digital future
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Haruki Murakami Not a favourite.
Private Down Under James Patterson and Michael White You know what you’ll get, and I am comfortable with that for easy reading
The Woman In Black Susan Hill Not as scary as the play
Goddess of Vengeance Jackie Collins Read after she died as I realised I hadn’t ever read one. More storyline than I was expecting.
The Orchid Thief Susan Orlean Non fiction. What it says on the tin.  All about orchids and in particularly one famous thief in the USA.
Fatherland Robert Harris Good concept, shame that the protagonist wasn’t part of the system.
Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour bookstore Robin Sloan The final of my ‘four books borrowed from the library’. A good fantasy style puzzle.

No live music attended this year.

Saw Wicked a few more times in the West End (hurrah!). Also Curious Incident of the Dog In The Night-Time (excellent), Jersey Boys (wahoo!) and Woman in Black (spoilt by faux-screaming) at Theatre Royal Plymouth. Not such successful viewings at Exeter’s Northcott Theatre. Left at the interval for Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage and Flare Path. But loved Mist In The Mirror (some incredible staging) and Christmas Carol (family fun and great to see them producing their own stuff again).

But frankly I don’t want to dwell on that as, sitting here, I feel only happiness looking back at 2015. My darling little old man (cat) Winston died at the end of the year and my health continues to be a bit up and down.


  • My year started with a wonderful invitation to the Jane Tomlinson Appeal’s celebration event, marking £7million raised. I was proud to be able to speak publicly at the event and show my thanks to the Appeal, all they do and the wonderful team there. I am pleased that so far my fundraising from 2015 is sitting at around £2,600 and will close on 8 January. If you’d like to add anything please do so at

  • I reconnected with my alma mater Nottingham Trent University, beginning the year giving a talk there as part of their LGBT History Month celebrations and ending it with being honoured with their Alumna of the Year Award. A hugely proud moment and I hope to do much more with the university in the coming year.

  • I got involved with the Proud Lilywhites (LGBT supporters group for Tottenham Hotspur having been elected onto their Committee) and set up a fledgling Exeter branch of the newly formed Women’s Equality Party. I look forward to being part of the delivery of change through both in 2016.

  • I gave up sweet things (chocolate, sweets, fizzy drinks) for a month to break my severe addiction. It worked and I now eat more in moderation, more mindfully and lost a stone in the process which has stayed off.

  • I met Stella Duffy again, this time in Bath and in a workshop about Fun Palaces. This is something that simply has to happen in Exeter soon. Once again she was so motivational and inspiring. An incredible woman.

  • And last, but by no means least, my beautiful (and she really is) niece was born. Autumn Emily Lovelock and I got to meet very soon after her birth and enjoyed lots of good cuddles. I look forward to seeing her grow, in all senses of the word.

I’m not setting goals for the year ahead. The last two years have shown me it is the things you don’t plan for or expect that are the most breathtaking. Here’s to more of those moments in 2016.

Thank you

I've talked about my 2015 fundraising challenge a number of times on this blog over the year. This post marks the final day of the year and with it the completion of my challenge. This won't be my most engaging blog post you'll ever read but that's not what it is trying to be, this is all about giving thanks.

This year I pledged to run the equivalent distance of Land's End to John O'Groats (as the crow flies), 603 miles raising funds for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal. Today I completed the challenge with a five mile run (which should have been four but was extended due to flooding). You can see photos of the finishing run here.

As I crossed the real 'finish line'

Crossing the metaphorical finish line (thanks to Rob Simmonds for the photo)

As I've said so often before my challenges are not about me and the physical effort, they are about all you good people that continually put your hands in your pockets and sponsor me. I know that in the present climate that can be harder and I know a lot of people ask. I am more thankful to you than you can know. I am staggered to have hit the £2,600 mark this year. The page will stay open until 8 January so if you'd like to push that total up a little more - keeping Jane's legacy alive and helping various children's and cancer charities - well, don't hold back and donate online. With your generosity I have been able to raise £22,500 for the Appeal so far since 2008.

The vast majority of the miles have been run solo. This has been great from a practical point of view meaning I can just run when I need to run. But in the last few weeks I've was hit like a fist in the chest with loneliness and self doubt. So my thank yous continue with those people that have given up their time to run with me.
Thanks to Hilary, Louise and Polly for letting me join them for miles which resulted in an early 11mile run as part of my training for the Great West Run.
Thank you to Joe Blackman who got me round the Exeter 10K this summer and getting a personal fastest time into the bargain.
Thank you to Skedge who ran 4 miles with me on my penultimate day, encouraging me to complete the 10miles that day after a tiring day the one before.
Thank you to Chuffy Simmonds for his incredible efforts as mobile supporter in the last week when he hooked up a speaker on the front of his bike and cycled 40miles so I could run 18 with him alongside blaring out a personally selected playlist whilst retweeting the run and generating social media interest in the day. Two complete strangers sponsored me on that back of those efforts.
Thanks to Baggy and the O who made appearances on this 18mile run providing distraction, amusement and motivation (and access to kitten cuddles at the halfway point).
Thank you to Jacqui who, as a new friend, threw caution to the wind and did a stint with me.
Thank you to Ciara who pushed herself further in her running than she ever had before to join me on my final miles today.

Challenges of this nature are not just about the physical act though, it is about keeping it together and there's people to thank for that too.
Thanks to Phil from Body Active Devon whos regular sticking of his elbow in bits of my legs, making me flinch and then get great relief, has helped my legs stay in the best shape they possibly can.
Thanks to Jenny Start my counsellor for her regular sessions that have kept my head together and focussed when the rest of life may have been otherwise distracting (and let's face it even being paid to listen to me talk for an hour is quite an ask!)
Thanks to Jo and Karen from work for putting up with my moaning when I haven't been running, muttering when I have been and am struggling to walk around, and covering for me to take time off to run as the time starting running out.
Thanks to Serena for talking me through the periods of self doubt and illness when I thought there was no chance I would be completing the run.
Thanks to all at the Jane Tomlinson Appeal, particularly Siobhan and Mike, who continue to support, cheerlead and value the effort...making every sweated mile worth it. It is an honour to be associated with such a fabulous charity, I will never be able to do enough.

Harness the people.

This is a vignette of a blog (which by the way is the word Vine is a derivative of - as in the very short online video clip, a fact I learned this week).

I don't have heaps of money spare each month. I donate a proportion of my salary each month to charity and donate items I no longer want to charities. I volunteer my time and over the years have done a variety of roles. I want to help.

This Christmas, specifically on Christmas Day, I will be alone. So I've looked for opportunities to give my fit body and pair of hands to work to help those that need more than most to be cared for at this time of year. In the last two months I've contacted the local homeless charity, they didn't want me but told me how I could donate money. I contacted some local charities supporting older and isolated people, they told me their volunteers were already booked and pointed me to ways to donate money. I've contacted the local volunteering centre, they informed me that "everyone" has their volunteers in place already. I stumbled across a group that'll be running a soup kitchen in the city, but comments they have made in the past about the LGBT community means I won't support them.

It is hard to volunteer, even when motivated to do so. I know there will be loads of bureaucracy and training which mean that charities find it hard to harness ad hoc volunteers. But, if I may be so bold, they could do so much more this Christmas if they could.

Not being at work feels more destructive than the cancer that's stopping me.

(Or, alternatively, my counsellor is going to have a field day with me later!)

Last week I went into hospital. My modus operandi is largely that I try to avoid hospital as much as possible but when I let them have me, they can do whatever they need. Blood tests had been deteriorating over a number of weeks and I was feeling "odd", then it was suspected I had a pleural effusion. So off to my consultants and it turned out I needed a chest drain. That was relatively small and an in/out job. They also decided to put a PICC line in as the number of blood tests and meds going in were getting to the level that my arms resemble pin cushions. I had my normal set of scans too. Of most note was a pocket of fluid around my main brain tumour. This isn't unusual and wasn't a surprise. I've had this for a long time, it builds up, I get it drained and we repeat. That was until well over a year and a half ago when the doctors decided the risk of the procedure outweighed the benefit (increasing my medication to counteract). Last week however my consultant saw the scan and decided the need was critical and so I was drained again.

The real impact of this activity last week though hasn't been the breathlessness, the discomfort, the increased fitting, or the pain. It has been that all those things stop me being at work.

I know that I am lucky. I love my job. My job is far more to me than a way to spend 37hrs (+) a week and pay my rent. I work for an organisation I believe in,with principles I align to. I'm not all "rose tinted glasses" about my work. There are times when things are flipping annoying about it, when it is frustrating, when it is like banging my head against a brick wall...but through it all it matters. And selfishly it gives me a purpose.

So when I'm not at work three things happen:

1) I feel like a burden to the rest of the team. This includes the rest of the management team, the customer service team, my second line manager and wider too. There's nothing about my role that someone else can't do but the operational element of it means that most my tasks have to be done on a daily basis, so if I'm not there someone else has to be doing it. This includes the rota'd early starts and late finishes. It includes problem solving as unexpected issues arise throughout the day. It means not being able to do all of their core role. They would say (I think) that this line of thought is "silly" that they are happy to help. But an objective view of the situation, partly in the current time (for reasons I won't go into but are complex), would concur that there is a strain caused by my being off work.

2) I lose my sense of purpose. When faced with long, unbroken hours of rest and recovery on my sofa (regardless of how many excellent books and films and TV programmes I can access) I don't have a purpose. I guess I should reframe my time and see the recovery as purpose. But I can't. Resting, particularly alone, seems like such a damn waste of time. Of course I recognise the argument that the more I rest the quicker I will be back at work. But this is cancer, that equation doesn't necessarily balance. This now may be my new "normal" and actually what I need to do is adjust to performing with this new physical aspect. Or rest may not actually quicken the recovery at all, that may just be going to take X number of days regardless of what I do.

3) I lose my sense of self. Because my job is one that requires more skills (largely generic ones at that) rather than knowledge, anyone can pick it up. And, as mentioned earlier, they have to. That can be hard to see when you're looking in, feeling too unwell to be participating. To see a colleague take on my workload, run with it, and deliver on it...that's hard. It's hard not to imagine that has an impact on how colleagues see me, not to mention how it may influence future decisions. This bit doesn't mean to sound ungrateful. If I knew stuff wasn't being done that needed to be done I would simply be unable to rest, and my colleagues that pick up my work do an excellent job of it and I am hugely grateful for that. But each time my self worth is knocked, just a little bit. I want to be considered dependable and the reality is, at times like this, I can't be.

This is all quite destructive for me, far more so than the actual cancer (on a day to day level at least). Being off work is not a time I enjoy, so yesterday it was particularly hard to go in with the intention of trying to do a few hours and knowing almost immediately it wasn't possible or appropriate. Again I am lucky that management tend to listen to me and trust me to make the right decision in relation to being at work. In turn I am always honest and open about how I am. I had, with a previous employer, the worst case scenario in this respect and it is something I never want to repeat.

So I came back to the flat yesterday and I rested. I had my medication levels tweaked by those in the know and a discussion about returning to work. A phased return plan was proposed, and accepted by management. Today I am back at the grindstone. And I couldn't be happier.

Learning and learning.

This is not the blog I had intended to write this week (the other one will come soon) but it felt timely to do so. There are many things I know to be true about myself and one is that I always need a goal. So when I had a week off work recently and no plans (purely to use up my leave) I knew that I had to set a goal. In fact I set three. Two I didn’t complete in the week. I didn’t run everyday and I didn’t complete a blog, but here it is now.

The one goal I did complete was decorating. The main outcome of this completed goal was a decorated room. But what I hadn’t anticipated was quite how much I would learn.

I’ve never decorated before, never been interested in it even. I recall my parents decorating rooms in our family home, and being involved in picking wallpaper and colours for my own room but when it came to the graft I had no interest in being involved, I didn’t even watch them. There was a day in the last two years when I helped someone remove wallpaper in their house and frankly I only lasted an hour, and had only done that so I could write amusing social media posts about spending the day stripping (ho, ho, the old ones are the best!).

So when I decided to spend the week decorating I knew that I had a lot to learn. So I prepared. I spent a few weeks before watching YouTube videos on B&Q’s channel about how to do different bits, making lists of equipment I needed to buy, tips I needed to remember and planning schedules to be efficient in my use of time. The room I was decorating had some quirks. The walls are old, some of the existing paint was flaking, there were some tiles that had fallen down and woodwork that needed freshening. But I read and I watched and I planned. I was ready….in theory. "By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail" as someone once said (or multiple different people if Google is anything to go by).

As I followed my schedules, hour after hour, I learnt about the practical application of these skills. I learnt that being time efficient meant not waiting until all the walls had been completed until doing the woodwork, but then you had to find a way to protect each bit when painting different colours. I learnt that one should really suss out what type of screwdrivers were needed to remove a light fitting completely, before getting up there removing all except one screw and finding you can't get that out. I learnt lots more like this too, and that feels have learnt new skills is satisfying.

What was more interesting, and indeed satisfying though, is the other stuff I learnt. I discovered that I need to concentrate on decorating when I'm doing it so much that my head can't wander, my mind has to focus on the job in hand. As a result decorating has an almost meditative effect for me...I thought not once of the piles of work building up in the office, of things that were troubling me, of the fact I wasn't running, of what I'd be doing later or needed to do the next day, it was an almost blissful state of single thought. I don't have patience as a rule, but sometimes this was all I could have when waiting for things to dry / set. This was particularly perfect being a week off. I also learnt about the fulfilling power of decorating. I started with the room in one state, worked hard through the week and ended with it looking completely different and it will stay this way for some time. In almost every other area of my life this isn't true. As fast as I am completing one task / answering one email / dealing with one problem, another is arriving to take its place. I'm never "done". And also I learnt that I can do things with my hands. I am probably the most uncreative person you would ever meet and this made me apprehensive about this task. But what I discovered is if you get someone with a "good eye" to pick the colours, then the rest is an execution of processes - like computing coding, or Lego building. Not quite but almost colour by numbers. I can do that. Actually I was always quite rubbish at paint by numbers, but I make a mean Lego pirate ship.

You never stop learning. Every day I will make the comment that "every day is a learning day" particularly when you're lucky enough to work in a place like I do packed full of people interested in information. But I didn't think I'd learn so much about what so many people seem to do as a chore, or even more confusingly as recreation. But I did. And along the way I learnt a bit about me too. I've already booked my next week off in the New Year to do another room. Until then...well, I think I just heard the ping notification of another email.

Nottingham Trent University's Alumna of the Year 2015

Saturday was more than a little surreal. Twelve years after I graduated from Nottingham Trent University with a degree in Criminology, I was back in gowns and back on the stage. But this time it was for a very different reason.

When NTU found out about my MBE they invited me back to the University to speak and as part of this I was then asked to be involved in supporting the School of Social Sciences developing their students, to which I agreed. A couple of months ago I then received a letter advising me that the Vice Chancellor wished me to accept the award of Alumna of the Year, as a result of these activities and the work that led to my honour of the MBE. To say this was a shock is an understatement. The alumni of NTU number over 100,000 and include notable figures and people that achieved incredible things. To be picked out of all of them, for this award in 2015, is quite the thing.

Having accepted I then started to receive more information about the event of receiving the award, and this would take place as part of the November graduation ceremony. The organisation, and communication prior to the event, were breathtakingly impressive (and I consider myself good at that kind of thing).

Having arrived on Friday night, Serena and I were met in the hotel reception to be escorted to the University. There was time for meeting and greeting, being introduced to the great and good of the University and soaking up the celebratory atmosphere of the undergraduates. I say "soaking up", more accurately at this point I was almost physically shaking with nerves. The senior academics and executives of NTU all went out of their way to make both Serena and I feel special and welcomed, hugely intelligent people conversing with us as equals was quite an experience. After a while I was called to be gowned and then for official photos (these and others of the day are available online). Then Serena was whisked off to her VIP seat and I was lined up as part of the procession. We left the University and entered the Royal Concert Hall where the ceremony was to take place. I knew what to expect, I'd received a detailed written brief before the event, the MC had talked me through with visual aids on my arrival and a number of key other individuals had given their perspectives over coffee. This all amounted to theory. As we entered the hall to the processional music with a mace bearer and I saw the stage, my legs went weak. Luckily the Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research Yvonne Barnett was next to me encouraging and reassuring, and I made my way onto the stage where I was positioned on the front row. The ceremony began and after the Vice Chancellor had awarded his teaching award the first batch of students started to cross the stage, and it occurred to me my positioning meant I would be in almost every photo of their congratulatory handshake. Needless to say I clapped like it was going out of fashion.

As student after student received their degrees I reflected on how my life had played out in the intervening twelve years since I had been in their position. I wondered about what I'd have done differently if I'd had the chance. And you know? Professionally I wouldn't have changed a thing. I might have tweaked a little here and there but decisions I'd made, places I'd been, people I'd worked with, had all led me to this point. And it seemed to me a pretty good point to be.

I noticed that the line of he first half of students was coming to an end and that meant I was up next. I swigged (elegantly) some water and glanced at Serena for reassurance. Luckily what I also got was a gesture that my hood was slipping off my shoulder. This rectified I was ready and found myself being announced. Standing on the X on the stage, slightly ahead of the lectern, my citation was read out. Gosh that's an awkward thing. Standing at the front of the stage, alone, looking out at 3,000 people, none of whom know you (and probably aren't that interested anyway) whilst a senior academic reads a 3-4minute piece about all the wonderful things you've done. Eek. Once the citation was complete I was then formally handed my award, a rather sizeable and very impressive sculpture, "took my applause" (as per the briefing) and then stood at the lectern to "make my response" (a University term for saying thanks and appropriate other words). It was a chance to express my surprise and privilege at having been selected but also to try and say something motivational, that resonated with those students in front of me. I'd made five bullet points of things I didn't want to forget to say but the rest came straight from honestly, I have little idea what I said. There will be a video online in the next few days and I look forward to being able to review my performance.

Moments later my bottom hit my seat again and I relaxed, enjoyed the second half of the ceremony as more students received their degrees including doctorates in the School of Science which had research titles that sounded like they were in another language. The procession led out and we were back in the holding room where people said some very lovely things about my speech, including the 2014 winner of the Award, and then we were treated to a two course lunch at the Vice Chancellor's table, joined also by the Dean of my school, Social a Sciences, who is simply a lovely woman. The formalities concluded and the bulk of the processional party had to head off to do it all again, I collected my replica award and printed/framed professional photo and memory stick (gosh, what a use of technology) and set off into the cold Midlands air for an afternoon of relaxing, marvelling at the wonders of the day and the invigorated sense I had about me. Planning, and wondering, for the future.

When your goal becomes that bit harder to achieve.

My fundraising challenge this year (1 January - 31 December 2015) is to run the equivalent distance of Lands End to John O'Groats. This is 603miles. I am thrilled that with 35days to go I have hit my target. That doesn't mean I wouldn't love your donation if you've been planning to give but haven't got around to it yet :o) You can do so at

I've found in recent years that being "fit" and "competition ready" on a single race day is a real challenge. Things happen (usually my cancer but also including cycling into a telephone exchange box and breaking one's hand) that scupper the training plans, the day arrives and I just don't perform. So this year's challenge allowed me to have a big goal, but to do the miles as I was able. More miles when I was well and less when I wasn't.

It started off a little shaky when I was not well enough to run for pretty much all of February and March. Then just recently, since a half marathon race in October where I had great fun and did a fabulous (for me) time, I've barely run since. I thought this was largely me being a bit lazy, and it being darker, and being a bit tired.

Turns out that tired is mostly explained by my cancer being active again. It couldn't just have waited a few more weeks to get the challenge completed, it had to knock on my door again now and remind me how in control it can be. I went for a run yesterday morning. I had an incident. I don't want to say "collapse" as that is overly dramatic, but I ground to a halt and slid to the floor. Whereupon I was helped to my feet and walked home by a very kindly Tony. (Thanks Tony whoever you were). Long story short I have a suspected pleural effusion. If this is confirmed when I visit "my" consultant/hospital next week it will be drained.

I'm not allowed to run until after they've checked me out. Or to do my nightly abs exercises. This is frustrating in both the immediacy as running is an outlet for me and bigger picture that my challenge just got a whole heap harder to complete. And "alternative goals/methods" are not an option for me.

I have just under 150miles to go and no idea when I can start running again. I hope if it is a pleural effusion that it will be small (for obvious reasons). If I can run again this year then I will complete the mileage...even if it takes a marathon on Christmas Day.

Who are my memories for?

My family home is being sold.  Suddenly my one bedroom flat is full of boxes as the thirty plus years worth of memory boxes, previously stored unassumingly in the loft of my family home, are once again my responsibility. 

I haven’t even looked in most of these boxes since I filled each one and now I am going through them, awash with the emotion that each item evokes, the memories that come flooding back to me.  I have items from my pre-teens, my teens, late teens, university years and even more recent than that.  I’m not a hoarder by any means, I’ve got my thirty-three years into about ten boxes but there is some stuff I look at now and think “why did I keep that?”

And that got me thinking.  Why was I keeping any of it?  It is now all taking up valuable space that I simply don’t have in my place and suddenly what felt like important keepsakes, now feel like clutter.  There is no item that I have lifted out of the box and thought “what was this again?” or that has caused me to think “oh yes, I’d forgotten all about that”.  All these items are just physical adjuncts to the memories in my head, memories I can access at will.

More concerning that finding you've kept your old Brownie uniform? Discovering you can still (just) fit into it!

Am I keeping these prompts because one day I may not be able to remember without them? Possibly.  Am I keeping them as they may have a monetary value in the future? Evidence shows that rarely is the case.  Am I keeping them because I have an emotional attachment to them that means (particularly if they are of a quality that their only alternative residency is a landfill site) I can’t bear to not have the option of being able to access them? Yes, a bit.  Am I keeping them in order to prove what I have done, where I have been? Yes, definitely.

That last point was an interesting one as I considered it.  It formed most clearly to me when I was recycling programmes from old school plays.  In one, for example, it lists me as playing Belinda Cratchit.  Bob Cratchit in the same production (who by the by I had a duet with - lolz) was a young man who has since achieved some impressive things acting wise including appearing a Nicole Kidman film.  I hesitate to admit it, but I think some of my holding on to these scrappy bits of paper was to have some record of people who I had been connected with in some way…just in case they got famous.  Yuck.  I hate how that sounds, and it isn’t like I’d ever even do anything if it were the case (I haven’t ever contacted Bob Cratchit).  This lack of action told me I was safe to bin the programmes, and just hold the memories of past acquaintances in my mind.

I saved these kind of items from waaaaaay back in my childhood, not recently, I hasten to add.  I don’t think that way anymore, it screams to me of a time when I felt I had limited self worth.  Although this leads to a related point.  What if I ever became known myself and people wanted proof of what I’d done.  My wikipedia page would have to say “citation needed” against the statement that I had once played Belinda Cratchit (oh you should have seen my pulled up knee high white socks!) in a school play, just because I’d recycled the programme proving it.  Again, this harks back to a time in my childhood when I thought, like most people I guess, that I wanted to be famous.  I don’t want that now.  I want to matter, I want to have made a difference to people’s lives, but not fame per se (and frankly a air of mystery on one’s wikipedia page is not bad thing)…(not to say that I think fame is measured by one’s wikipedia page.  Ok, I’m going off on a tangent here, stopping now).

The other thought that struck me about why I was keeping all this stuff was to show others.  I won’t be having children.  I can’t imagine any nieces or nephews wanting to be bored with it.  My parents and sister lived through it.  So there’s no one to show.

Another issue I have is how much of a different person I am now.  Everyone changes, I get that, but I look back at some of these things and hate the times they remind me of.  They remind me of a person, of a me, that I don’t wish to remember and see no value in remembering. 

I conclude therefore that I will, over the coming months, take my time in looking through each box.  I will experience each emotion and memory as it is reactivated and then I will dispose (in the most appropriate manner) of the item.  As I am in this process I find myself also looking at my current material goods that surround me, questioning why I have them, why I keep them.  I suspect some (many?) of them will go too.

I will end this process with no memory boxes.  Not no memories, but no boxes.

100 days to go

This year, as you may have read, my fundraising challenge this year is to run the equivalent distance of Land's End to John O'Groats as the crow flies - 603miles in the 365 days of 2015. I've had some ups and downs, a couple of months when I was too poorly to run and some weeks where I have clocked significant mileage.

There are 100 days left of 2015, 100 days to run the remaining 237miles.

The 366miles I've already run this year take me to approximately 40miles South East of Glasgow. Blimey Scotland is a big place.

The reason I do these challenges is partly for the personal commitment and drive (and just a hint of self punishment). But mainly, hugely, and unwaveringly, it is about raising as much money as possible for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal. I've talked a lot about the inspiration that Jane Tomlinson was, and still is, to me. I've talked a lot about how wonderful the #AppealTeam and all that work for the Appeal are. I've talked a lot about the stories of people my sponsors' money has helped, and will help. And I'm proud that over the years I've raised £20,000 for them and in her legacy name.

Sometimes I feel like my words sound so empty. Like maybe I've said them so often that they sound, at best, like a script I'm reading. Or, at worst, like a cringeworthy X-Factor style "story". Gosh, writing that has tapped into a whole other set of emotions, perhaps for another blog to work through. Regardless, it all means so much to me, however it sounds out loud.

If you'd like to support this year's fundraising effort, and I know you get asked by a lot of people for a lot of donations, but if you fancy skipping a coffee, or a pint, or a piece of cake this week and sponsoring me instead - that'd be hugely appreciated by me, but also by all those your money will help. You can donate online at