Tag Archives: mountain

A Bit Of A MishMash

This blog is a bit of a mishmash with no proper overriding theme, but perhaps the almost-theme is little things meaning a lot.
Oct 23. I’ve been home a week now. The day after I was discharged we lost electricity.  We were offered hotel accommodation but we decided to stay home because we still had light and one socket by which we could brew up, charge phones etc.   So many little things couldn’t be done – by gum, don’t they all start meaning a lot!  We don’t realise how many things depend on electrical power until it’s not there.  A temporary fix was done the next day and a major repair will take place next week when once again we will be without power for a day.

It was a good job we stayed home because at 6.30am on the following day my nephrostomy wound started bleeding and I got the awful dread that Groundhog Day was back again. However, all was well eventually and it has been stable ever since, with just two days when there were tiny spots of blood from the wound. The drain has been working well and I’ve been peeing too, so I can be content that the left kidney is taking its share of the work. It’s funny how things like how much one pees and what colour it is, all start to matter and be worthy of remark. ( Pale amber aka ‘white wine’ is best ye ken.) Little things mean a lot.

Bodily functions dontarf gain in importance. When I was recovering from the first surgery I was in a lot of pain in my back and my abdomen became distended and hard. The former was as a result of damage to my ureter (see other blogs) and the latter because of trapped wind and toxins. Once I had a nephrostomy my kidney pain was eased and to my great joy I started farting which made such a massive difference to the rest.  Lesson from all that: never underestimate the importance of getting rid of flatulence folks – little farts mean a lot too. I reported it with great delight in texts to my partner and to the surgical team on their morning ward round – much to their amusement.

Small actions of support can be so valuable too. For instance, when I was first diagnosed, my partner immediately suggested we go for a drive to the Highlands, something which never fails to lift my spirits. When I am amongst the hills and the trees and the clouds and the water and oh! just absorbing this wonderful land of ours, my soul is fed and cares reduced.  11039845_10204965326752811_3696481917482359627_o

Feeding my soul in the Highlands.

 

 

 

 

How do I feel about the chemotherapy? Buggered if I really know. My first reaction was to be relieved that at least now I know what is ahead, the waiting was definitely the worst part. My second thought was to be very concerned about being sick – about which I was reassured – apparently nausea is not as much of an issue as it used to be, thank goodness.. I was not too worried about the idea of losing my head hair, although eyebrows and lashes could be tricky. I hope it means that my budding moustache and beard will go too and save all that pecky plucking (!).  That’ll be a little thing meaning a lot to me.  Since then have read more about the possible, and probable side effects, and it’s all very daunting, but with support from folk who have been through it themselves and others who will do their damndest to help, it should be do-able.  Allowing myself to get depressed would seem almost like letting them down, but sometimes staying strong is not easy.

One thing I am certain about is that I want to be rid of the external drain before starting the treatment. It’s a real nuisance having a bag of urine strapped to my leg (!), fitting clothes over the extra padding to protect the drain from getting knocked, and not being able to get comfortable in bed or in a chair – so I don’t want to be messing with that when I am feeling no-too-very-weel from the chemo. That may be a little thing to others but means a lot to me.

The main feeling at the moment is one of running on quarter power. It’s as though part of my umph-supply has been turned off. It’s probably a good thing because it seems to be preventing me from getting stir-crazy, but I am so very unused to not really being that bovvered about much.  Ach weel, I suppose my little things are going to have to mean enough for now.

Don’t Stop Believing

The last ‘Feeding The Soul’ blog I wrote was two years ago.   I didn’t do any ‘real walking’ in 2013 but earlier this year my friend Debbie and I starting walking together again and the main reason for my re-starting the blog  is because one walk in particular made me start believing in myself again.  Prior to that, I had started having my doubts about my fitness, especially after the year’s break.

Anyway, in January we went along the Union Canal from Linlithgow to Philpstoun and back. Neither of us had taken sustenance as we fondly believed there was a café just under half way along.  We saw the café after about four miles but were full of vim and vigour so decided just to call on the way back.  Huh!  Like a silly so-and-so I was wearing jeans (which no sensible walker does if rain is threatened), and on that return journey the heavens opened.  This resulted in my being the wettest I had experienced for a very, very, very long time, with utterly sodden legs trailing water behind me.  We were still in good spirits though because we always make the best of whatever the weather throws at us, but we were sooo desperately needing a hot drink – only to discover the aforementioned café was closed for refurbishment!  It certainly taught us never to rely on buying food and drink on a walk ever again!   Left pic: view from the canal before the rain.    Right pic: a sight no drowned walker wants to see.

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In February  we tested the newly opened John Muir Way from Bo’ness to South Queensferry, starting with the weather a bit driech but cheering up nicely .  It is a lovely walk along the coast with varied terrain and the finish at the bridges made a perfect ending as we sojourned in The Hawes Inn waiting for Debbie’s husband, Martyn, to collect us. Left pic: Debbie at Bo’ness at the start of the walk.  Right pic: Debbie at South Queensferry at the end of the walk.

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April saw us tackling Kilsyth to Falkirk, a longer section of the John Muir Way.  Debbie’s husband drove us to the start and my partner, Walter and our friend, Sid, met us at the Falkirk Wheel to drive us home.  Again we had a very enjoyable walk, meeting friendly folk along the way, with a lovely ending at the Falkirk Wheel.  Mind you,  the start was a bit fraught when Martyn couldn’t find Kilsyth, and his SatNag took him off the motorway to spend 3/4 hour traversing back roads to rejoin the motorway 10 miles on – but, hey ho, it all adds to the great tapestry of life – or so I’m told.  Pic above: The start of the walk at Kilsyth marina.  Pic below: The finish of our walk at the Falkirk Wheel.

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We had a few adventures/silly incidents on all our walks, which we giggled our way through.  Laughter is a great energy booster.

Now, walking along the canal was ‘safe’ for me insofar as long as I was on the flat I was fine, never having any problems with my legs, even after 15 miles.  However, I was very cautious about coping with much of an ascent because I had problems breathing deeply enough to power my body uphill – or at least that’s what it felt like to me.  However, although the low-level walks fed the soul to a certain extent, there was something missing when we were not actually in the hills, so we both knew that we had to go up again.

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Anyway, in May we went up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I was really struggling with my breathing – half a dozen steps…stop – half a dozen steps….stop – until we met up with Walter and Sid , who had approached from another direction.  Before meeting the boys on the plateau, Debbie and I had already been to the summit and back (albeit with me panting away and scarlet-faced), but I was so thrilled that Walter had managed to climb the hill, that there was nae problem at all going back to the summit with him and, lo and behold, all signs of difficulty breathing had vanished.  Pic: The four of us at the summit of Arthur’s Seat.

I began to accept then that my so-called breathing problems were ‘in my head’ and the crunch came when in August, Debbie and I decided to go up Scald Law, the highest hill in the Pentlands.    I parked at Flotterstone and we began by walking alongside the reservoirs – a gentle way to get the body working.  2014augPENT-1  We had a couple of false starts which added to the overall distance and amount of ascent but also greatly increased the fun. First we missed the turnoff for Scald Law and went around another mile or so before meeting another walker who told us where we had gone wrong.  We retraced our steps and set off at long last for yer ackshual ‘ills.  Left pic: Glencorse reservoir. Right pic: the correct place to turn up to Scald Law.2014augPENT-5 When we got to a bealach we went left, but half way that hill up Debbie noticed that the one on the other side of said bealach was higher – hence that had to be Scald Law.   2014augPENT-hangONSo, off we went down again – climbed up to that higher summit then back down and up the first one again, (that being Carnethy).  I can go at a fair walking speed on the flat but an experienced hillwalking friend had advised me to take it a lot steadier on any ascents – slowly, slowly catchee monkey – and it worked,  I was able to pace myself much better, albeit at half Debbie’s pace.  It was a lovely day and we eventually did all three – Scald Law, Carnethy and Turnhouse – loving every minute.  Right pic: “whoops, we should be on that one”.  First below left: Me on the summit of Scald Law.  Second below left: Me on Carnethy. Right below: Debbie with ‘walker hair’ .  Next two right pics: view across the hills and view across the town from Turnhouse.

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Well, “loving every minute” until we came “the other way down” (being straight down a steep tussocky hillside, wading through a Burn and crawling under a fence – none of which is to be recommended). This meant that I used every ounce of energy my little legs possessed, which resulted in their refusing to work properly for a few days afterwards, but hey! the breathing was ok.  I was not sure exactly where we were when we finally reached the minor road leading to the reservoirs so I stood, arms akimbo, in front of an approaching car. ( I tell you – for a few seconds Debbie and I both thought he wasn’t going to brake. ) The desperado action was to make the driver stop just so I could ask directions, but the kind chap offered us a lift to the car park which we gratefully accepted.   I had to bite my tongue when he started going on about women not being any good with maps, but then his car the last place for me to deliver a lecture on feminism considering that a) we had just come down a hill the most ridiculous way  and b) I had stopped him to ask directions.  Let’s face it, I didn’t have had a leg to stand on metaphorically, morally or even literally at that moment!   After a well earned rest at Flotterstone Inn  I managed to drive Debbie home to Linlithgow, but on my own way back to Livingston, my legs finally gave up the ghost and cramped badly, meaning driving became a little scary – luckily I was on quiet back roads.  I was totally spent but happy.  2014augPENT-susSLEEPRight pic: Me the following day , my system going into ‘auto-recovery mode’  at every opportunity – this one at Knockhill car-racing course.
That walk in the Pentlands was my cathartic moment referred to at the beginning of this blog.  The distance we had walked, and the overall ascent covered on the three (and a half) hills in the Pentlands, was a “Munro’s worth” , so that made me start believing in myself again – hence the title.  Therefore, a couple of days later when Debbie asked me about taking part in doing a Munro for the Skye Whisky Challenge to raise funds for Mountain Rescue, I immediately agreed.

We chose to climb Schiehallion on 22nd September.  I completely underestimated how difficult that mountain would be.  Although I knew there was a boulder field leading to the summit, I did not realise it covered so much of the mountain.  There are umpteen false summits too.Schiehallion-002-2    There is a good stony path up the ridgeback  but it vanishes at the boulder field.  I had forgotten to take my stick out of the car and was really missing it as I walked up.  I happened to comment about this as a few people went past me going down, then to my absolute astonishment a lovely thing happened. The lady of a couple who were both using sticks said she too would be lost without hers,  then moments later she called me back and insisted I take one of theirs!  Naturally I declined because there was no way I would get back down in time to return it to them, but the man came up to me and made me take it, saying that they had more in the car and that I really would need it later.  How kind was that!   I didn’t ask their names so I will never be able to thank them.   As I said, the path is fine for a good length of the way and afterwards it is not that difficult to work out a route, but I found the later terrain to be ultra challenging.  It’s not too bad for those with long legs and good balance because they can use the big boulders like stepping stones, albeit with occasionally loose ones, but for folk like me with short legs and a dodgy sense of balance it was a laborious job of picking a way around and over the boulders.    I was so grateful for that stick!  I honestly don’t think I would have managed without it, especially on the ‘everlasting’ boulder field.

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Anyway, three hours after we had started (!) and a few hundred yards from the final summit, I knew that I had to stop in order to have enough strength in my legs not only to get down the mountain but to drive the two and a half hour journey home as well.  Debbie continued by herself to bag her first Munro and photograph the Skye Whisky Challenge flag and a Yes flag at the summit cairn.   I never took any photos on the way up or down this mountain – I was too busy concentrating  hard on where to put my feet.  However, I did get a few snaps with my mobile phone while I was waiting for Debbie   – unfortunately they are not that clear but believe me the pic on the left of the summit really does have Debbie waving from the top!  The other has Debbie waving her flags on her way back to where I was waiting.

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We  were both more than chuffed with our achievements – Debbie for bagging her first Munro and me for getting back out there again.  pic above: we celebrated with a selfie.  Despite six hours of really hard terrain and my legs beginning to shake on the descent, I was absolutely fine afterwards – no stiffness or aching.  My breathing was a bit tight at first but perfectly ok most of the time, though admittedly I was probably moving at a quarter of the pace needed for effective hill-walking.  We are planning more Munros now I have started believing in myself again – possibly Ben Ledi or Ben Venue at the end of October .  All that remains is for me to get back the voice I lost in 2010 – but that’s another story.

If At First…….

If At First……

On 18th April, despite a poor weather forecast, Debbie and I decided to go from Dreghorn to Hillend – or to Balerno or to Glencorse – we didn’t really mind.  However,  after a long slog up the horrible steep path from Dreghorn (which is more like a trial than a trail – ugh!), the weather “came in” as they say, and in every direction we were met with thick cloud at ground level.

We had lunch at what I think of as ‘the junction’ where the various routes meet and decided we would have to abandon the walk. Another walker felt the same – it was simply not worth the risk when we couldn’t properly see where we were going.

But, believe it or not, we were still having a great time and my breathing seemed to have improved a teeny bit despite the challenging conditions.

The following week we were far more pressed for time as Debbie had to be back in Livingston for another appointment early afternoon, so I suggested we go to Threipmuir from Balerno for a lower level walk. Huh! The lesson of this one was to prove to be ‘never believe what other walkers and/or cyclists tell you if you don’t already know the route and/or you can’t see it marked on the map!!’ After we had been walking for about an hour we were ‘reliably’ informed by a mountain biker then an elderly hiker that if we went on a bit further there was an unmarked path which would lead us back to where I had parked the car – but this path never appeared! It was a bit chilly but generally fine and once again we were thoroughly enjoying ourselves having our adventure.  We had a lovely time soaking in the beauty of the surroundings and slowly the weather cheered but – but sadly not in time for us to change our plans.

Sadly time really was pressing and we eventually found ourselves two hours away from the car with the shortest way back turning out to be the way we had come! Anyway, to cut what can be a very long story a bit shorter, at Loganlea we came across a fishermen’s hut, complete with fishermen, one of whom was just about to go home in his car. Never being backwards in coming forwards I explained our predicament and by a fortuitous coincidence his home route was on the A70 which leads to Balerno where my car was parked.  This kind gentleman took pity on we damsels in distress and gave us a lift all the way back to my car. Thanks to this good Samaritan I managed to get Debbie back to Livingston just in time and we pledged then not to do any more ‘by the skin of our teeth’ trips (if we can help it ).

Our next day out was three weeks later after we both had holidays abroad. We started again from Dreghorn, (a short walk from my flat) and afterwards declared with a passion that we are never using that route for a way-in again. It is a good path as far as the surface is concerned but it has been dug out far below the hillside and is unremittingly steep, so much so it is not enjoyable at all.  Rant over!   To ameliorate the drudgery of the path  the weather was fabulous – we were soon soaked again but this time with perspiration not precipitation. Once off that dreadful path we continued to Hillend across the lovely hills of Allermuir and Caerketton with our spirits buoyed by the heavenly views over Edinburgh and the rest of the Pentlands on such a beautifully clear, sunny day. We were two very happy bunnies. I felt it was not fair on Debbie for her to keep having to stop with me so I persuaded her to go ahead at the pace comfortable for her. I then found by just going at a much slower pace I was able to keep going for far longer without losing breath. Result!

In fact it proved to be a most cathartic day for me.……………emotions came to the fore and Debbie encouraged me to let it out……..the healing of my soul had started.

 

Why “Feeding The Soul”?

Why “Food For The Soul” ?

This wonderful country of Scotland provides what I term “food for my soul”. Visiting places like Glen Coe, Glen Etive, The Cuillins on Skye, Torridon and Sutherland – mountains, cloud formations, waves, patterns made by ripples, all provide wonderment galore. So much beauty surrounds us in a myriad of weather conditions, and the simple wonders of the world provide intense pleasure …………… . .

but for me walking in the hills is a ‘soul fix’ in a different league. (Picture of Buachaille Etive Mhor – by Walter Hampson, used by permission)

To explain a wee bit… My late husband (Bob) and I used to walk the Scottish mountains at every spare moment, plus tackling some simple rock climbing, abseiling and cycling. No doubt about it, it was an excruciatingly traumatic trial for me, with much distress mixed with success, but gradually I learned how to cope – how to trust myself – and my soul was lifted.

I am totally convinced that these activities were my saviours because, as a result of the intense physical and emotional challenges faced over a period of approximately ten years, I conquered the debilitating grand mal epilepsy that had plagued me since being seven years old.   I had my last seizure in October 1990 and after five years fit-free I decided to wean myself off all the drugs that I had taken since I was ten (albeit with changes over the years). This I did with my GP’s agreement during the following three years, so that by September 1998 I was medication free.  Bob died in October 1998.

Anyway, since Bob’s death in 1998 I had not hillwalked, apart from taking his ashes to the summit of Sgurr Nan Gillean on Skye and a couple of times up the Pentlands near to where I live. In fact, I thought that part of my life was finished and I had forgotten how much I needed this natural therapy.  A chance remark by my friend Debbie, that she needed to get away from it all for a wee while, prompted me to suggest she came through to Edinburgh for a wee wander in the Pentlands.  From little acorns and all that …..  .