Thank you, David Bowie

David Bowie was…

I can’t believe I’m having to write ‘was’.  Like so many people, it feels like he was part of my life.

David Bowie was, is, my one and only real idol.  Like so many before and after me, I came across him when I was a teenager.  Up to then I’d been listening to the usual young teenager’s chirpy, easy to digest tunes.  It was the early eighties, so the first Bowie songs I heard were Let’s Dance, China Girl and Modern Love.  But I must’ve liked what I heard so much that over the next few years I bought all his albums – on cassette tape, of course.  (Except Pin Ups, which for some reason I couldn’t bear to buy – I didn’t want to have bought everything.  I still haven’t downloaded Pin Ups even today).  I read books about him, magazine articles, watched his films and soaked up all I could find.  And in listening to all his work, which even in the 80s spanned several previous decades, of course I heard such an amazingly wide variety of music.

When I sat my A levels, it was at a time when we all had to do a ‘General Studies’ A level.  I don’t know if that’s still in existence. It covered a bit of everything – culture, science, humanities, etc.  I think it was meant to ensure we had a rounded general knowledge.  (Our teacher told us that we needed to do General Studies in order to help us when we got to university – so that we would be able to make conversation with students who’d been to public school!  What a thing to say!)  Anyway, in the exam I had to do 3 essay questions.  I vaguely remember one was arts based, one science, and one history.  Anyway, the essay title was irrelevant to me.  It was the height of my passion and fascination in Bowie.  So I wrote 3 essays about him, and not a word about science or anything I should have written about.

I got an O grade.  Which is basically a fail.  I have always been quite proud of that.

I’ve been lucky enough to see him twice in concert.  The first time was when I was 17, and I was studying in Italy for a few months.  I saw him in a football stadium outside Florence.  I was miles away from the stage, but it was a thrilling experience.

The second time was in the ‘90s, in Glasgow. It was a much smaller affair, maybe about 12,000 people or less.  I was very near the stage.  It was amazing; he was absolutely mesmeric.  Incredible.

What I love about David Bowie is his bravery.  He had the courage to try new things, to change direction, to be prepared to fail.  He could so easily have toured the world for years, spinning out the same songs again and again.  But he wasn’t interested in that. He wanted to explore, to live his life on his on terms.  I really admire that.  How fantastic to have lived a life so rich and full.  To have made the most of the precious gift of life.

And I love how he seemed to grow and mature in the last decade or so.  He seemed to me to be such a family man, and to be so humble and dignified.  So many people I’ve heard on the radio today, people who met him or worked with him, have talked about what a kind man he was.  They say how generous and how courteous he was.  Never mind the music and everything, for me, when we die, if people remember us as kind, I think that’s really as good as it gets.

From my teenage years, to now, David Bowie made me think.  He’ll continue to make me think.  This time it is about life, and death, and kindness, and love.  Thank you David.

4,000 mile man

Yesterday I walked a mile down the lane where I live. I peered across the fields. A figure loomed into view, striding purposefully along a hedgerow. So this was Pete.

I jogged further down the lane to catch up with Pete as he popped out of the bridleway and onto the road. “Pete?!”

“Flora! Hello!”

And so we walked together south along the clifftop for a few miles, chatting away.

You see, it was a rather special thing to meet Pete. Because he is on a walk. A really really long walk. Long, even by my standards. He set off from Southampton in February. He’s walking clockwise round the entire coastline of mainland Britain. He’s walked up the entire west coast, round all of Scotland, and is now heading south towards Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex, and on back to Southampton in December. So far Pete has racked up over 4,000 miles (!!!) and ‘only’ has another 1,000 odd to go. Pretty amazing.

A close friend of mine, Jill, had heard of Pete’s walk, by chance, a week or so ago, and had emailed me with a link to his blog, in case I was interested to read about it. When I took a look, I saw that Pete was about to pass pretty much right past my doorstep within the next week. So I got in touch…. and thus met up.

It was fantastic to swap stories of our walks. I am full of admiration for Pete for having the courage to embark on such a mammoth undertaking.

You can read all about his adventures here.

And here he’s written about his few days in Holderness, including meeting with me and my husband Ian

He is raising money for MS and also the spinal injuries association. Whenever anyone sponsored me on my walk, no matter how small the donation, it always gave me a lift – a smile, a spring in my step. Pete has had that same experience. So if you are reading this, please know that if you sponsor Pete, whether it be £1 or £5 or 5 times that, it’ll motivate him in his ginormous effort. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never met him. He will still feel cheered on.

Here’s to chance encounters.

The runners

Walking through Cornwall. Destination John O'Groats, then Shetland!

Walking through Cornwall. Destination John O’Groats, then Shetland!

On this day one year ago I was in Cornwall. I’d just passed the 100 mile mark, and had over a thousand miles still to crunch under my boots. I felt uncertain about my capacity to walk such a long way. But I was already learning that the best way to cope with the self doubt that accompanies any sizeable and exciting challenge is to focus all my attention on what’s around me. Paying attention to the day ahead, the next footstep, the views, the next meal….these are all the simple but incredibly effective ways to harness that most powerful muscle of all, the mind.

Today, I’m six days away from running my first marathon; 26.2 miles along the Brighton seafront. My good friend Alison and I have spent the entire winter focussing on the next footstep, trying not too think about the fact that in April we will run further than we ever have done in our lives before. I said a while back that I think that the training IS the marathon. Well, we’ve succeeded in doing the training. Since the start of December I’m amazed to report that neither of us has missed a single training session. We’ve completed the whole thing, which jointly means that over the last four months we have:

  • Cycled 600 miles
  • Run 780 miles*
  • Plus all the stretching and lifting at the gym, and mindless turbo sessions
Perfect perfect early morning run in the Cairngorms, just a week ago

Perfect perfect early morning run in the Cairngorms, just a week ago

Whatever happens on Sunday, I’m ever so proud of our determination, and the fact that we have enjoyed our training so much. We’ve run through rain, howling wind, through knee high floodwater, snow. We’ve run in Kent, East Yorkshire, London, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire. We’ve run along the sandy paths of New Forest, along the trails of the North Yorkshire Moors, over the fells of the Peak District, and through a hill pass in the Scottish Highlands. We have learnt to love running. We have learned how to eat. We are both fitter and stronger than we’ve ever been at any time in our lives before. We have become runners.

The small crowd that was there early on, cheering us on through your sponsorship has become a much bigger crowd. We are both so grateful. And if you’ve not done so, it’s not too late to sponsor us.  I’m fundraising for the MS Society, and Alison is fundraising for Mind.

*A small coincidence:
I looked back at my diary and realised that this is the mileage I had done on the day I crossed the Scottish border last May. Lands End to the border – the length of England – was 780 miles exactly.