Tag Archives: memory

A Soul-Feeding Memory

Ever since ceasing to blog about my cancer journey I have not had much to say. I had the book, ‘Lest I Forget – Blogging A Cancer Journey’, published but have not checked to see if anyone else has enquired about it.  I had contacted Maggie’s Centre about posting a link to it but, although they apologised for ignoring me initially, and promised to do something about it, they then proceeded to ignore me again (!) so now I cannae be boverred either.
My umph has gone awol despite the energy levels themselves being better, and I felt very low at Christmas, verging on being Depessed, but I’m bouncing back again slowly .

Anyway ….. a wee story about my soul being fed 45 years ago ….

On a gallivant today, as we were approaching the Clyde tunnel, a memory once again popped into my head and, as I was contemplating it I realised that what happened then probably could not occur nowadays. Or at least I think not.

What came back to me was a trip to take my car to a garage which resulted in my getting lost and experiencing wonderful hospitality from a Glesgae wifey. I don’t know exactly when it was but it must have been late 1972 or  very early 1973 because I was accompanied by a young Scottish woman also living in the house in Grangemouth where we had a furnished room/kitchen above a taxi firm, and we had moved from there by then. My 4year old daughter must have been with me too, but I do not have any recollection of that.  ( I should add, that I have a very poor memory due partially to having grand mal epilepsy from 1957 to 1990 . I was allowed to drive from 1971 as the fits were nocturnal.)

The only photo I can find showing me about 25 year old.

The only photo I can find showing me about 25 year old.

At the time I had a white Reliant Regal called Reggie.  I assume I was driving across Glasgow to this place because it was a Reliant specialist garage. They were few and far between and I know that a couple of years earlier, we drove all the way from Stockport to Tamworth because that was the only place able to replace a faulty gear.

Anyway, in those days maps did exist of course (!) but I used to just set off and hope to see road signs. I have no idea what directions, if any apart from the address, I had been given but – if there were some – they proved useless, and I found myself going through said Clyde Tunnel, then back again, and again.  It’s embedded in my head that I went through the tunnel three times before it dawned on me to try to contact my destination but logically it would need to be four times.

So, deciding enough was enough ……I drove into a council estate.  This panicked my friend, due to the ‘reputation’ these areas had in Glasgow, but I was completed unfazed (because of complete naivety, not bravery), so I parked, looked for telephone lines going to houses then knocked on a door.   Lord knows what I said to the occupant but it must have been along the lines of “I’m lost so may I use your telephone?”

We were invited indoors and while I found the number and made my call, the middle-aged-cum-elderly lady, (I was 25 so she just seemed old to me), brought in a tray with tea and freshly made scones and jam.  We were very grateful as we had been travelling fruitlessly for quite a few hours by then and I know they were delicious.    I remember the man at the other end of the phone was not too pleased with me and told me I was far too late now.  I think he gave me directions but I actually cannot recall if I went there that day, (after tea and scones of course!) or if I took Reggie another day or if my husband had time off work to do it.    All that is blank, as is everything else about the incident, but I suspect the latter to be honest.

What I DO remember as clear as anything is my friend’s complete confustication about what she thought was my arrogance and downright cheek, and her heartfelt, head-shaking comment to the lady has stayed with me ever since …..”They bloody English will get a jeely piece at anyone’s door!”   My friend’s bewildered statement comes back to me whenever I see the Clyde tunnel and, although I never knew the estate lady’s name or remembered anything else about her, I am forever in awe of the wonderful hospitality she had shown to a complete stranger.

The main point that occurred to me today was that it probably wouldn’t happen to young drivers nowadays with SatNav to guide them to their destinations, and mobile phones to make communication so much easier if they do get lost, but in a way it’s a shame .   This incident didn’t teach me anything about tackling journeys – I still used the “there’ll be road signs” method for years afterwards and got infamously lost many more times – it was only after many, many, many years that I started to put brain in gear as well.   However, it did introduce me to the kindness of strangers , and I have been very lucky to have had similar encounters quite a few times to feed my soul.

Maybe a couple of stories there too.

Memories are made of …….. paper

Sorting through some filing as part of my current house move, I came across these notes for an article to be written for the Epilepsy Assocation’s newsletter around 1993, which I had forgotten about.  There was a much edited version sent as well, but I have no recollection or record of whether either was ever printed. I was delighted to read the longer notes again mainly because I lost so many memories as a result of the grand mal seizures, that I need my souvenirs to prompt me.  It is good to see the beginnings of my ‘glass half full’ attitudes – I was a long time getting there.

“ Hello, my name is Susan, I’m 46 years old and I have epilepsy. Like many of you I’m sure, I spent most of my life being dictated to by that fact. As a result of parents and teachers ‘protecting’ me, until a few years ago all physical activity was a no-go area for me, despite most of my fits being nocturnal.
A few years ago I started hill-walking with Bob, my husband, and gradually this increased my physical confidence. Mind you, there was a great deal of ‘one step forward – three steps back’ but I persevered and saw such wonderful places. There are many hurdles in life for everybody to overcome but I’m sure you’ll agree that when something like epilepsy is involved the highest one is the fear of even trying.
We walked many munros (mountains over 3000 feet) and Bob planned to learn how to handle a rope, rock climb ad abseil to enable him to do the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye (the only munro requiring such skills). Me? No Chance! However, I saw some kids abseiling at a small crag in Glen Etive and thought it looked great fun, so when Bob went to the climbing wall at Meadowbank to prepare for the In Pin, I went along. I thought there’d be some stairs to go up to have a shot at abseiling down the wall and I was tempted to have just one shot.  Not so, you want to abseil down? You climb up!  Me climb? Out of the question! Why, what if …….. ? I’m sure the rest of that sentence will be familiar to you.
However, after watching one week, the second lesson I was tempted. Rab Anderson is the instructor at Meadowbank and what infinite patience he has! I took aaaages but I wasn’t caring, everyone was so supportive and although it was scary, the joy when I eventually reached the top was so all-consuming that I was hooked!
Then came real rock-climbing and abseiling totally under my own control. What a brilliant abseiler I am! Others may climb quicker and better but no-one can hold a candle to my abseiling. Well, OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but that’s how I feel inside, it is so good. The Inaccessible Pinnacle? Of course I did it! And the epilepsy? I haven’t had a fit for two years now and, although I wouldn’t be so rash as to ignore the change in my drug regime, I really do believe that facing my demons and learning to climb has had a tremendous effect in my staying fit free.
Here’s where you come in. Bob, Rab Anderson, Ted Agar (a film maker) and I are looking for people like you to take part in a film about climbing despite a disability. How about you? Do you fancy a shot at the wall with Rab? Isn’t it time for you to put your epilepsy in your back pocket instead of wearing it around your neck? If you have the teeniest amount of interest contact the Guthrie Street office and they will let us know. Come on, OK so you have epilepsy, but does it have to have you? Go for it, you’ll never look back. ”
After being free of fits for five years (last fit 24 Oct 1990), in 1996 I started reducing my anti-convulsant drugs very, very gradually. My GP was reluctant at first but eventually was persuaded (aka nagged), and co-operated by prescribing lower dosage tablets to help me. I eventually stopped them totally in May 1998. My husband Bob, died in Oct 1998 so he was aware that I had achieved my goal.  He was my climbing partner so I never rock-climbed or abseiled again, but eventually did start hill-walking again with a friend two a few years ago.

Me on the summit of Scald Law in the Pentlands, Aug 2014

Me on the summit of Scald Law in the Pentlands, Aug 2014







I have no recollection, or record, of any response to my appeal for folk to take part in the film referred to in the piece, but we did take members of the Epilepsy Association on hill-walks and taught some of them to climb and abseil at Blackford Crags. We also organised two abseils from the Bonnington Bond Building in Leith to fundraise for the EA – see 3 pic frame. Bob abseiled half way, locked off then took shots of me starting, mid-way and near the bottom.

The first abseil from the Bonnington Bind building.

The first abseil from the Bonnington Bind building.


Me climbing the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye. I do have a framed photo of the abseil but it's currently in storage.

Me climbing the Inaccessible Pinnacle on Skye. I do have a framed photo of the abseil but it’s currently in storage. It was the most glorious abseil.











a free climb on Curved Ridge on Buchaille Etive Mor. This climb is often roped but I managed without and was awfae chuffed.

A free climb on Curved Ridge on Buchaille Etive Mor. This climb is often roped but I managed without and was awfae chuffed.

I love travelling and although I am perhaps past the physical scaling of heights, the emotional scaling is ongoing whenever I am feeding my soul from the simple wonders of the world. Hopefully I will keep these memories.

My beautiful Buachaille, my very bestest, favouritest mountain. I have been up it a few different routes, roped once on North Buttress, and unroped on the others.

Buachaille Etive Mor , my very bestest, favouritest mountain. I have been up it a few different routes, but now am gloriously happy just visiting and viewing from the glen. This was Sept 2015.