Tag Archives: Community

Away, away, and Up

Photograph - Hope Fitzgerald

Alex Hartley’s Vigil – Folkestone Triennial 2014

Dear ____________

I hope this finds you well.

I’m sorry I haven’t written before this – the funny flat patch after my long walk across Swale and Medway lingered a bit, and combined with work to suck the sap out of any words I might share here.

I had begun to doubt my commitment to walking. I had lost the motivation, and could feel my good habit slipping away. The disappointment in the days in which I couldn’t bring myself to get out early (or at all) was profound. I was grumpy and mean to myself and mean to everyone else – as long as I was sure they would still love me after I was mean.

In a moment that had Mr F looking around frantically for a recording device, I told him my theory about my spell of missing days walking. I was like an athlete, I told him. (Hence the recording device – sports analogies are not my thing…) Anyway, I told him, waving away his surprise, I wasn’t suddenly lazy or rubbish at walking or photography. I was just off-form on the odd day. Walking for the whole of a life is bound to have the odd dry spell, I told him. It’s a long haul thing, I explained, excited about my own revelation. He sighed inwardly, no doubt. He had the good grace, as ever, to not remind me that he’d said something very like this on many an occasion. I was probably pretty grumpy when he said it, too. Our long marriage has been peppered very infrequently with “I told you so!”, at least from Mr F, for which I am grateful.

So here I am, writing at long last!

Here I am, about to go on a 30 mile walk to Folkestone from Faversham, to sit high up on a ledge as a volunteer in Alex Hartley‘s work for the Folkestone Triennial called Vigil.

And there I’ll be for the next three days, out walking, looking, taking pictures, and hopefully talking to people. The theme of the 2014 Folkestone Triennial is Lookout. The planned walk crosses many high places and lookouts along the North Downs Way. This is my pilgrimage to art and to Vigil, where I will keep Lookout over the harbour and town of Folkestone for three days and nights. Log notes and Journal entries will be on the Vigil site.

Photographs from the walk can be followed on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Further observations will be written up on Walk Folkestone.

Away, away, away and up, up, up!

See you there! Come and wave to me :)

Write when you can!

Hope

Home & Coming Out

Faversham home

Coming Home to Faversham

Faversham, 24 July 2014

Dear _____________

I hope this finds you well.

I have been back in Faversham for two weeks now. It has taken me a while to adjust to being here after nearly 3 weeks of walking for the Ideas Test Funded project Walk Swale Medway. There is still a lot to catch up with that project, as well as keeping up with other work – promised work, pending work, unfinished work, upcoming work. Work. Work. Work. You know when you say a word too often…

It has been a strange and rocky adjustment to being home after Walk Swale Medway. I was moody and depressed, tearful, and flat. I couldn’t explain how profound my experience over the time away had been. Worst of all, walking everyday began to feel like a chore. I even looked it up, and if Post Vacation Blues is on Wikipedia, then it’s a thing. Just to clarify, I wasn’t on a holiday with Walk Swale Medway – I was working – genuine, bona fide, art in action, but could I find Post-long-term-art-project-blues? Of course not. The closest thing to a search like this brings up the Federal Art Project, part of the Great Depression’s American New Deal Works Progress Administration, so at least it made for interesting reading. It also chimes well with the objectives of Ideas Test funding in Swale and Medway, which has a remit of increasing arts engagement and is employing artists to do so.

In 1936, the Federal Art Project employed over 5,300 artists at its peak for employment. “The Arts Service Division created illustrations and posters for the WPA writers, musicians, and theaters. The Exhibition Division had public exhibitions of artwork from the WPA, and artists from the Art Teaching Division were employed in settlement houses and community centers to give classes to an estimated 50,000 children and adults. They set up over 100 art centers around the country that served an estimated eight million individuals.”

I suspect my own statistics (more work on the list!) will be more modest, and I found the parallel interesting. But I serendipitously digress – such is the search engine world in which we live.

Back to the Back at home blues. This image and post from Instagram and Facebook a few days after returning sums it up a bit. Screen shot 2014-07-24 at 18.21.12

“Life has gone on without me, events unfolded for other people, and yet everything seems unchanged.”

I also realised that before I started walking, I had become used to making, and was returning home to SO MANY DECISIONS.
All the time, heaps of seemingly overwhelming decisions.

I had the joy of almost no decision making while walking. The most difficult thing to decide was which T-shirt wasn’t dirty. Or whether I would like a cup of tea from one of my lovely hosts. No decisions. Not many possessions. No make up. No fat clothes. No mirrors. Coming away from this and back into my life was overwhelming. Difficult. Embarrassing. How could I complain about such a great adventure filled with so much generosity, kindness, and encouragement? I had had the opportunity to give and receive such a profound experience. I only went for a walk. And now I felt displaced and odd in my own place.

I met someone recently who was concerned that his neighbours took an interest in him, and wanted to share their stories in return. He was uncomfortable with this and found it peculiar. I said, (on reflection, perhaps too sharply), that people probably weren’t really that interested in his business and have their own business to worry about. I thought about this today when I was walking home, and it reminded me of another neighbour who doesn’t greet me in the street – I suspect I was seen as nosy and too chatty after a meeting or two. Can’t please everybody. Like everyone, I want to have my privacy and autonomy over my life without feeling judged, but I also want to be content with my place in my family, my friendships, my community, my work, and the world. I guess it comes down to whether it’s about listening and human connection or empty chatter and passing the time. I’ll take both, because, for me, that’s what makes the world a place that’s good and kind. Perhaps what I think is empty chatter makes someone else’s day in sharing it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll learn something, maybe I’ll feel virtuous for being patient, maybe I’ll feel I belong somewhere for someone, if only for a moment. Whatever.

I always had these words on the wall when I was growing up (thanks Mom and the 1970’s) from Desiderata by Max Ehrmann

“Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.”

So, I’m coming out as what I am…chatty, interested, and yes I want to know people’s business, but don’t worry, I’ve got my own to keep me occupied, too. This is how I want to fit into my world, and these are my Desiderata, my desired things.

Write when you can,

Hope :)

Charlie Connoly Just Giving

A word for Charlie

26 May 2014, Faversham

Dear ______________

I hope this finds you well. Busy days in Faversham! Walking continues everyday with an unseasonably early summer feel, one film entering final cut stage as new filming starts, wonderful weddings, and the launch of  Walk Swale Medway is imminent.

Today’s letter, though, comes under the category of ‘Other stuff’.

I’d like to tell you about one of my youngest daughter’s old Primary school friends, Charlie Connolly. Charlie was always a little bit kooky.  A  very funny,  very smart,  very high energy little boy, usually laughing, mostly at a run.  Charlie is 15 now and is raising money for Cancer Research UK by cutting off all of his hair this Wednesday. He’s going to have to stick within school regulations by going for a Grade 2 cut, but it’s an impressive move!  Just look at all that hair!! Inspiring stuff.

Charlie Connoly Just Giving

Charlie – Before!

Charlie and his family have their own reasons for fundraising. His Grandmother died 3 years ago from to breast cancer and three of his great Aunts have also had breast cancer.  Charlie’s campaign started when his mum, Emma, and his sister, Abi signed up for Race for Life, in which only women and girls take part. What began as a flippant comment about being involved in the fundraising has led to a buzz cut in two days time.  Talk about a great job on following through!

I started thinking, while out walking, (oh, there it is, the walking again!) about what to donate to support his campaign. How much is enough? How much is not enough? How do we quantify what we will give in support of anything when there are so many worthy causes and good people doing what they can?

Here’s what I came up with.

I decided I would give £1 for every person I knew personally that has had cancer, and maybe to beef it up a bit, (because it wouldn’t be enough, otherwise, right?) 50p for the people around them that were affected by their illness, like children and spouses, friends and family.

When I got to 15 people that I personally know who have had cancer, not including family members of very dear friends that I hadn’t yet met, but knew about, and then added in their friends and family in to the equation, I had to redo the maths, because quite frankly, I can’t afford what the final figure came to.

I do know, though, that if any one of the 15 people I was able to list had asked me for £1 to help treat them, I would have done it. Without a second thought.

That’s my equation, then. £1 for everyone I know personally. And I bet I forgot some, so the figure was rounded up.

Cancer is devastating, but it is treatable and research helps. Thank you for doing your bit, Charlie, and for making me think about how important it is to support Cancer Research UK. Out of the 15 people I could list, 11 are alive and well, and the majority are completely cancer free, which makes a lot of people very happy.

You can support Charlie here. www.justgiving.com

Write when you can!

Hope

Meeting the Neighbours

Faversham, 27 April 2014

Dear _____________

I hope this finds you well.  Walking continues alongside  the stuff of life – family, friends, thinking about projects and work. It’s been 10 months since I started walking and it remains a quietly surprising adventure that I feel sure will continue throughout my life.

This month I have been trying to capture more of the people I’ve met and talked to along the way. I’m practising for July’s Walk Swale Medway project, banking up courage to speak to strangers as I go, say what I am doing, and why I am doing it. As I go, this is constantly evolving as new conversations contribute to what may be.  I love the stories I get to hear. The generosity of people spending time to talk with me is lovely and reinforces what I want to believe – that there are more kind and good people in the world than not. Everyone hasn’t agreed to be photographed, but the conversations have been brilliant.

I hope that talking to people along the way and the photographs are a small way of sharing the joy it brings me to walk through and appreciate my surroundings, my community and the people in it. The process of sharing it only increases that pleasure in a self perpetuating circle. Thank you for taking even a small interest whether by reading, sharing, commenting, and liking stuff on social media or in conversation.  Every kind word of encouragement is greatly appreciated.

Here are some of my neighbours. Talk to yours – even just a smile is enough  sometimes! They might surprise you with a great story. You might make someone’s day with a kind word.  Let me know how it goes…

Write when you can.

Hope  :)

Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.07.07

~Click on the images below to see the original Instagram post~

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