Day 149, 150. Thursday 14th & Saturday 16th September. Askam in Furness to Ulverston.
What a lovely wake up call outside the RNLI station, a beautiful little Westie was scratching at my tent to get in with me, deaf as a post, going blind and she'd clearly lost her sense of smell because if her nose was working properly, she wouldn't have been trying to get into my tent with me !!! 😷
I was in no rush as I knew I only had a 10-12 mile walk to get around to Barrow in Furness so I sat on the bench for a while with my new freind soaking up the early morning sun. I noticed last night while pitching up in the dark that some of the boats resting out on the mud-flats had lights on so I guessed people must be living on them, me and my new Westie mate had a little chat looking out to see if anyone on the boats were stirring while her mum was up the path chatting to another dog walker. If I was concerned about her coming into my smelly tent earlier I needn't have worried, sat between my feet while I was scratching her neck she farted and I swear I nearly died !!! 😩 My Ralph was well known for slipping them out and would sometimes shock himself, looking behind him wondering what the hell that was and he could make your eyes water I can tell you... when her owner came over to retrieve her I did consider explaining that the bio hazard hanging around us was not of my making but I left it.... how could such a noxious vapour be diffused from such an innocent looking little doggy... granny would have blamed me, there's no way that stench could be from her little lady Westie... 😷
The morning walk around the headland to Barrow in Furness was an easy, peaceful walk with only a few dog walkers out on the extensive mud-flats.
Today however was a very different walk for me, for my head and for the quest I have been on to try to learn and understand my brain, at last I felt like I was getting somewhere. As you know, this walk has primarily been about me having the opportunity to try to sort my head out, to try and make sense of the missery my brain has been putting me through over the past few years and it has been a slow, methodical process, trying to get an understanding of my emotions. I haven't been trying to work it out alone, I've been listening to some incredible books while walking and I have been signposted to these books by a Podcast called 'White Fox Talking', a group of guys in Leeds who, having suffered with their own mental health issues have created this audible platform to invite guests to talk about their problems but more importantly, how they have overcome their mental health problems and have managed to return to their former selves. The first and most important thing this has taught me, we are all completely different so understandably, whatever we find helps to relieve our suffering, is personal to ourselves, what works for me may not work for you. We have to find what works for us and this isn't a quick or easy process, the beauty of the White Fox Talking podcast, you can listen to lots of people explaining what has and hasn't worked for them so you are not left trying to discover these possible solutions for yourself. Simply listen, relate or be drawn to a particular thing or a process you feel might work and give it a go, sounds simple doesn't it ?? That bit is but then the work really begins. At this point, I feel I need to add a health warning.... I'M NOT A SHRINK, I'VE NEVER RECEIVED ANY MEDICAL TRAINING !!! Whatever I share with you going forward is only what I'm doing to try to help myself and I'm not suggesting you do the same. If you are suffering in any way with your emotional/mental health or if you know someone who is suffering, all I can hope is that some of what I learn may be of use to you and may help you or someone you are trying to help.
So, the first book, which I have now listened to for the third time is called 'The Body Keeps The Score' by Bessel Van Der Kolk. Incredibly informative, quite deep, hence why I've had to listen to it three times, while walking and while lying in my tent at night but it has been the book that has given me an understanding about how my brain works and how and why it might have gone 'offline' and create the missery it did.
I've spent hours and hours while walking, breaking down the 53 years of my life considering what, if anything might have been a contributing factor to my brain ending up in such a desperate state, such a complete mess that in my darkest times, my continuous thought process was that the only option open to me was to end the never ending loop of downward spiralling missery by killing myself. The complete and overwhelming 'shite' that my brain was churning out was literally dragging me to an early grave, but why ?
You won't be surprised to learn, it wasn't one thing, or two things but actually a continuous process of events over many years which of course is the story of my life, of our lives, good times, bad times, knocks, falls, triumphs and everything in between.
I will elaborate further as I move forward with this ongoing process but the last thing I'll
say for now, the process of churning up old memories and trying to piece together the events of my life up to this point have been exhausting and actually, very depressing. There'll be many reasons our brains store away some of this crap, it's clearly very difficult to deal with it so our brains just put it in a box, seal the lid and put it in a shelf.
We will return to it later for for now I'll leave it and get on with the walk, I will return to my personal process of recovery another day.
I got to Barrow in Furness in the early afternoon and while sitting on a wall with my boots off I received a call from Gary, The Chairman of The West Lancs group of Freemasons inviting me to a meeting that very evening in Barrow. I needed to find a room so I could shower and sort my kit so I searched my Booking. Com App and found a cheap bed. I should I have realised before I confirmed the booking, it was only £35 for the night and the guest house was called 'Pheonix Nights' !! 😬 It was every bit as bad as you'd expect, a bed sit in a 'managed accommodation' complex, signs everywhere informing the 'guests' that selling or taking drugs on the premises would not be tolerated and that cctv was constantly in operation... I had to call the owner to ask if there was an iron I could use, I swear his reaction would have been less dramatic if I'd have asked to trade his daughter for camel !!! They didn't do irons as they would be a fire risk, elf 'n safety wouldn't allow that !!! 😬 I hung my shirt, trousers and waistcoat in the 1960's styled bathroom while I had a shower hoping the steam from the shower might so something to help the creases fall out of my clothes, it didn't. I walked into town feeling like the tramp I looked and had a pint of Dutch courage before Gary picked me up and drove us to the Lodge.
It was a lovely meeting at Barrow Lodge No. 3928, a heart warming example of how the brothers of a lodge come together to help each through the ceremony. The Master of the lodge had undergone surgery on his brain a few months earlier and despite having memory issues he was determined to do the best job he could. More than that, the members of the lodge showed incredible patience and support willing him on and helping him get through the ceremony, it was truly lovely to watch and it made a well performed ceremony of raising that much better for the warmth and human spirit I could feel in both the meeting and at the Festive board. A huge thank you to everyone present for the amazing experience and also for the proceeds of the raffle you kindly donated to my MCF fund.
Gary kindly delivered me back to my 'squat', in fairness it was a very peaceful night and being the first night I'd had in s bed for a while, I did sleep well.
The following day I didn't walk far, I had a look around Barrow and walked over the bridge to Walney Island walking through the vast complex that makes up the BAE submarine construction plant, it is enormous and is a mixture of some stunning old buildings intertwined with huge modern structures.
I stopped in the Devonshire pub for a pint, the winner of the best pub in Barrow in 2019, it was here I learnt that BAE currently employ over 10,000 people in Barrow building submarines !! I also learnt that Sir Barnes Neville Wallis, thought by some as the greatest Engineer in England between the 1920's-1940's worked for Vickers, the predecessors of BAE in Barrow. We all know he was famous for designing the bouncing bomb used by the Dambusters in WW2 but he also designed many other things including the R100 airship and also the revolutionary Geodetic airframe.
A few years ago I thought it odd that they should rename a secondary school where I lived school after a bloke that invented a series of bombs that killed tens of thousands of people. The school my three children attended, The Gartree School in Coningsby in Lincolnshire, following a bad spell of poor Ofsted reports they decided not to flatten the place with a bouncing bomb but rather renamed it The Barnes Wallis Commmnity School. Unbeknown to me and probably lots of other people, Sir Barnes Wallis was clearly a very accomplished engineer and designer.
Before it got dark, I found myself a nice quiet spot where I could pitch my tent for the night but because there were still lots of families out walking along the beach I decided to find somewhere to get some tea. There was a pub but it didn't do food and the chippy was quite a walk so instead I walked into a bowls club bar where I heard music coming from the open door. It wasn't a party I walked into but rather a wake, this lovely bunch of people we're celebrating the life of 'nanny Mary' who they had buried that afternoon. They invited me to join them for a pint and very kindly served me a large portion of Lancashire hotpot which was reheated in the microwave behind the bar. I felt a little uncomfortable intruding on such a personal event but they insisted I have a few drinks with them so I listened with interest the many stories about Nanny Mary, she was very clearly loved by this family and they were doing a great job sharing stories and celebrating her life. The beer and shots were flowing well but by 9pm, I decided I'd intruded for long enough so thanked my hosts and left to pitch up in the play park down by the beach, I was tired as usual, my left foot was giving me gyp and this lot were getting very drunk, it was time for bed...