“20 Days In 2020” Postcards From The Edge

Last night over a bottle of wine, my Sister in law and I were discussing my “20 Days” challenge.  The topic for discussion was how I can stay off grid for 20 days whilst regularly letting husband Simon know I’m okay.
Making a scheduled phone call from a public phone will be impractical and a burden.  Even more unacceptable will be hunting for signal and turning my phone on.  I’d be bombarded with the familiar text, email and voicemail notification noise, negatively impacting on the whole project.  Instead we agreed that a postcard a day is the answer. The daily routine of writing and posting the card will be useful and contribute to the journal. This method of communication is in keeping with the quiet reflection and expression this project is all about.
So that’s the plan- just better remember 20 stamps! ☺️
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Knitting Together

This is a little tale of two parallel knitting journeys:

Freda 69 is an experienced knitter, using the practice to help her cope with the loss of her husband and distract her from her grief.
I’m 48 and a knitting novice using it to help cope with a restless mind and changes in dexterity as hands and movement deteriorate due to my recent Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

The knitting journey started with a chance conversation at the social dining club “Friday Club” with Freda about my husband’s love of Nordic style jumpers. Freda offered to knit the desired jumper and the discussion was quickly followed with trips to town together to find an appropriate pattern and wool. The wool sourcing missions also included cakes and coffee and a good chat about how we both were feeling.

Our second sourcing mission into “Knit” in Nottingham was successful, and after discussions with the wonderful Ellie. Freda signed up to a knitting challenge beyond what she’d expected – a really complex pattern. I then saw a lovely knitted hat in the shop window and Freda talked me into my own knitting challenge to learn to knit a relatively simple bobble hat.

Whilst Freda was creating, washing and checking her test piece in Beeston, Notts, I was away on a quiet break in Norfolk getting bitten by the knitting bug. After a couple of false starts I completed my first hat, and then after a mission to find a wool shop, I knitted a further two for Christmas presents.

Freda was mastering the complicated pattern and giving me regular updates about her progress. I was aware of the complexity of the pattern, and Freda was aware of the money I’d spent on the quality wool. There was trust and belief in each other and a real level of respect.

I never expected Freda to have completed the jumper in time for Christmas, but at a “Friday Club’ meeting in early December, Freda and good friend Peggy announced with glee that it was nearing completion. We talked arm and body lengths and made some calculated decisions about when to stop. They both came round for lunch the following week and Freda presented the finished jumper. It was truly amazing and the three of us stood and admired the creation.

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On Christmas day 2019 I gave my husband Simon the jumper and explained the story behind it. Of course I couldn’t do full justice to the adventure we’d been on to create this work of art, but it fits perfectly and he loves it.

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Once again I’ve been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness and generosity, gaining a friend and a jumper through this journey.
We’ve hopefully both benefitted from the healing properties of knitting and helped each other with our particular struggles with bereavement and acceptance. I’ve also been reminded that friendships, and creative challenges come in all shapes and jumper sizes. xx

 

Notes From Norfolk in November

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Tree lined lane, Wolterton nr Wickmere. 17/11/19

We’ve been relaxing in a remote cottage in rural Norfolk since Wednesday. I’ve taken advantage of the beautiful location and break from the usual routine to spend some time drawing and painting.

Simon was persuaded on three occasions to model for me, two of the poses incorporated him reading – he was deep into a good book so it seemed only fair. The first portrait has a likeness and warmth that I’m pleased with. The two sketches of him reading (and the fire place sketch) whilst a bit loose and ragged were fun to do, and gave me some much needed sketching practice. I was pleased that for the first time in nearly two years I was managing to shade and cross-hatch, something I thought I’d lost for good since developing Parkinson’s symptoms.

Simon Portrait

I’ve sketched and painted five pictures in five days, as well as learning how to knit. I’ve managed to follow my first knitting pattern and create two woolly hats. Here’s me walking Pedro and looking quite happy wearing my first attempt:

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As well as the creative activity, we’ve been doing our usual running. We ran the Sheringham Parkrun on Saturday morning and have been running round the narrow lanes around Wickmere, avoiding the large puddles and the occasional car.

Norfolk has had a positive effect on me. Giving me the time and space to exercise my brain through learning how to knit and doing a lot of sketching and drawing. We’ve also been eating well, and managing to get some decent running in to release those absolutely vital endorphins. It’s the perfect combination for me to manage my physical and mental health. I’m sure I’ll miss Simon’s company when I do my next challenge “20 Days in 2020”, but Norfolk has helped prove to me what an opportunity it will be to be able to paint and sketch for twenty consecutive days without disturbance. I can’t wait! xx

Hopes and Fears

So this week there’s some positive news about a possible new treatment for Parkinson’s disease: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49713407. It sounds promising and my immediate reaction was excitement, relief and above all a huge wave of hope. Simon and I talk about how amazing it would be if the drugs worked. We read excitedly about the trials and try to find out when they might be complete and better treatment available.

Then I suddenly feel really bad for having these emotions. I shut down the conversation and get upset – isn’t this just further evidence to suggest I’m in denial about my diagnosis and not coming to terms with living with PD? Isn’t this just me grabbing at false hope and unrealistic dreams?

Confused and emotional I went into the studio and tried to express this situation of being between unrelenting hope, and then the constant fears for the future. Trying to look positively forward, whilst carrying a dark and debilitating weight of worries.

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“Hopes and Fears” Acrylic on Canvas.

Living With Mr P: Our First Anniversary

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I’m still me! A simple statement. One I wasn’t so sure I’d be able to say on 6th September 2018 when I got the formal diagnosis.
Mr P has brought me new anxiety and physical challenges, but I’m still the me I was before 6th September, same fears, same vanity, same ambition, same desires.

My drawing and painting has changed over the last 12 months. I can’t produce the fine detail of the past, but this has given me a bolder approach to my painting. To compensate for the lack of small detailed hand and wrist movement, I now stand at my easil and paint using the full movement of my body. As a result my artwork is richer in colour and emotion and feels more authentic.
Mr P has made me more creative and daring, and my output positively effects my ability to cope with Mr P.
Art is my therapy!

Mr P has opened me up to new experiences and challenges. In the last 12 months I’ve done:

  • The London 2 Paris bike ride (and the training to do it).
  • Joined a running club.
  • Got involved in Breakdancing and the urban arts scene.
  • Started doing yoga.
  • Had a tattoo!

Thanks to Mr P I have made some amazing new friends. I hope, friends for life.
I now have less time for negative people, and I recognise and love fiercely the positive friends and family I have.
I’ve learnt that the simplest gestures and thoughtful words can sometimes change your world.

Mr P may not define me, but I accept he is now part of who I am.
I am going to make something positive out of this situation. To talk about Parkinson’s and raise awareness of it through positive actions.
I’m determined to try to ensure life doesn’t close in on me, there are too many new experiences, challenges and paintings to be created.

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