Tag Archives: letters

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 :)

Walking to Whitstable

Saxon Shore Way, Faversham Creek

Walking to Whitstable

Faversham, 18 June 2014

Dear ____________

I hope this finds you well.

Almost a week ago (how does this happen!?) I walked to Whitstable. I had arranged to take part in the Whitstable Satellite exhibition organised by Rod Lupton in his Summer house along with other artists who have been regularly involved with what has become known as Assembly, which was first organised by Rod in 2011 in Faversham’s Assembly Room in Preston St. The name has stuck, moving since to the Horsebridge in Whitstable, Beach Creative in Herne Bay, and finally the current Summer House. Another instalment is planned for July in Whitstable at the Horsebridge.

When Rod sent out an email about the Summer House idea, I was in the midst of imagining and planning for my upcoming Ideas Test funded Walk Swale Medway project, in which I will be walking across Swale and Medway for around 3 weeks, led largely by suggestions from social media connections and the people I meet. Walking to Whitstable and seeing how a longer walk might go in the lead up to the project seemed like a good idea. I suggested it, and planned to walk on the last weekend of the Biennale.

Although I walk everyday in Faversham, I felt a bit daunted by the thought of walking a longer than usual distance.  I wander, sometimes for shorter times, sometimes longer, noticing stuff, following the next interesting path I find, and stopping to chat to people. I have walked to date within a range I am physically comfortable with, so I worried that a longer walk might be difficult.

Physically, on arrival to Whitstable, I was ok. My expectations were that the walking would be difficult, but it wasn’t bad. I was tired by the end, and my knees ached a bit, but I walked steadily and my timing was my own. I sat on the sea wall for a bit, looking out at the incredibly low, low tide of the North Kent coast, and then I walked again. All very simple and straightforward.

What I didn’t expect was the mild jolt of arriving, the adjustment to talking with people after several hours of time and headspace that were completely my own.   I am naturally conversational, so finding it difficult to form a sentence was a surprise! It felt like a very odd displacement, and reminded me of an earlier time in my life when I returned to Cambridge, outside Boston, and thought how strange and unfamiliar very familiar things could be.

Rod was hospitality personified and patiently guided me to the Summerhouse after making sure I was fed and watered. It was a wonderful walk and I would encourage anyone considering it to go. And if you have already been – I get it now.  Amazing.

Vipers bugloss near the Sportsman, Seasalter

Vipers bugloss

Sunset at Whitstable

Whitstable Sunset

Sun and shadow

Sun between the beach huts

Whitstable Biennale satellite

Summerhouse morning

I woke in the Summerhouse next morning very early due to the daylight and went in search of the sunrise. I was feeling very smug about Faversham Creek and its sunrises, but Whitstable came up with the a beauty. There were a couple of surprises on the beach, too, in the form of late night/early morning swimmers, au natural, shall we say!

Sunrise Whitstable

Sunrise Whitstable

Early morning dip

Early morning dip

I’ll be keeping in touch more regularly through Walk Swale Medway over the next few weeks, so  pop over there if you’d like to keep in touch, and please do take part! I’ll be back in Faversham mid July, so 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~

13.01.31   13.01.46   13.02.03    13.02.37   13.02.21   13.02.59    13.03.16   13.03.30   Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.03.45    Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.04.22   Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.04.43   13.00.51    Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.05.41   Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.05.53   Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.06.06    Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.06.25   Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.06.41   Screen shot 2014-04-25 at 13.06.54

Fancy a cuppa?

Faversham, 28 March 2014

Dear_______________

I hope this finds you well.

It’s been a while since I’ve written – February plays tricks with time, being so short, and made the end of March gallop along, so that it feels like not very long ago at all.

Screen shot 2014-03-28 at 18.34.36

And suddenly – it’s Spring! Aside from the occasional failure to judge which footwear would be most appropriate for a walk, it’s been a busy and pleasant month.

One of the highlights of being out walking a couple of weeks ago was running into Mike and Magz Roberts on the Saxon Shore Way along Faversham Creek. Magz is a mixed media and textile artist – she was collecting colour, texture and impressions in her sketchbook. Mike is a cartoonist (and photographer) and was out with his camera.  While we are in touch on Instagram and Twitter, we hadn’t spent any length of time talking in person.  I, of course, had to photograph them, in my bid to to be brave about asking people to be my photographic subjects – more on the reason for that in a minute! ;) They invited me to call in for a cuppa on my return journey.

When I turned up on their doorstep, the cuppa evolved into breakfast and  I was treated to a bowl of porridge (jumbo oats soaked overnight, then simmered with milk added in the morning), a slice of Wildbread sourdough with homemade marmalade, and really, really good coffee.

They told me about finding Faversham on a journey round the coast not long ago, and how they have made it their home for just about a year now.  They were delightfully open and generous and I look forward to seeing them again.  They’ll be taking part in East Kent Artists’ Open Houses in October, and I’ll be there, for sure.

Screen shot 2014-03-28 at 18.40.24

I’ve met and talked to lots of people along the way in the last 9 months of walking – some of whom I knew already and some who I still don’t know at all.  Some I  have had to really pluck up the courage to request a photograph, and some perhaps felt they didn’t have a choice! :) (These would be my obliging friends – Thank you!)

IMG_20140316_104238Amanda, Jemma and Lobster, Rocky, Man after the flood, two friends, Julio, a walker to Sheppey, Neil, Peter, Allen, Harry, A Banana man, Lee, Mike, Magz, Glen, and Justin

And, of course, for those of you who follow Instagram, here’s Roy, Toby, and Lulu, who are my neighbours and so frequently met that the last photo was preempted with “I haven’t changed much since the last one!”

IMG_20140316_104049

Roy, Toby, and Lulu

So, as I’m feeling brave, I have a request. I’d really like to meet more of my ‘neighbours’ – does anyone fancy sharing a walk or making me a cuppa? (Breakfast is not necessary!) I haven’t over-planned it and I’m open to suggestions, but I’d think a 5 mile maximum would be in order! ;) I’d like to have a chat, share any interesting stories about the places that are important to you and why, take photographs (that’s a given!) and write your story here. I would be happy to share photos from our visit, too.

I’m hoping this meeting up with my nearer neighbours will be a taster for a project planned for the summer.  Walk Swale Medway is an Ideas Test funded Small Experiment. I’m going to walk across Swale and Medway for two or three weeks,  photographing the journey, talking to people, walking with people, relying on the kindness of my neighbours further afield for accommodation.  I will be asking for suggestions on Twitter, Instagram and the Walk Swale Medway blog about where to go, what to see, and who to talk with. It will be a grand adventure, right on our doorstep!

Thanks to Jemma Elliott for the beautiful logo for Walk Swale Medway. And thanks to Neil Brown from Beamtwenty3 web design for what is going to be a gorgeous record of everything Walk Swale Medway. They have both been patience personified, and their suggestions and help have been brilliant.

If you’d like to get involved with walking in and around Faversham with me, please post a comment below. If you’d prefer not to have your initial contact made public, please let me know and I won’t publish it – cause I can do that! ;) (Boy, I sure do love WordPress!)

Write when you can!

Hope

 

 

Keeping Going and the difference a day makes

IMG_20140224_082225

Two days, same place

Faversham, 24 February 2014

Dear ____________

I hope this finds you well.

This morning’s walk was full of vim and vigour. Up with the sun, with a light step. Ideas buzzing, looking forward to the day. Vitality.

Yesterday, however, was fuelled by the words ‘Keep Going’ in metronomic time with my steps.

Keepgoingkeepgoingkeepgoingkeepgoingkeepgoingkeepgoingkeepgoingkeepgoing

I even just sat for a bit  when the metronome got monotonous.

IMG_20140223_091046

Sitting, listening, reframing for a spell

Grim. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and I have often wondered about sharing this kind of experience – mostly in the interest of honesty. It’s part of the experience of my walking and my life. There is, for me, something suspect about the perpetual unending positivity of the things we (I) share on social media – I know for a fact that I don’t have endless days of joy and gratefulness, nor do my friends or many of the other people I talk to, and I’m a very chatty person! ;)

Yesterday, out in the real world of conversation, a friend asked me, simply – ‘How are you?’ So I told her. ‘I’ve had a really awful morning.’  We talked. What a joy this is! Rarely, when I answer this question in such a blunt fashion, the response is a blank look and I know to start chatting about the weather. But more often than not, I find empathy. I find that people are grateful for the chance to say how familiar what I feel is or might have been to them at one time. I find comfort, and sometimes, giving comfort in return is the remedy for my own discomfort.

Writing about having grim days is risky, however. I am not depressed, but I do have days in which vitality is distinctly lacking and that thankfully lift in a relatively short time. They are days in which getting out of bed is a chore and the light seems to have drained from everything. Days when I am sure that this me (lethargic, lazy, unlovable, angry) is the real me and that ‘nice’ Hope is a made up character in a story with my name on the cover.  As Andrew Solomon says in his brilliant TED talk You think that the veil has been taken away, and I am certain that this negative self-perception is reality while my vitality is a well maintained fiction. Maybe it’s hormones, or my age, or my disposition (one friend maintains it’s an ‘arty’ thing, hmm? Discuss!) – I don’t know.  I couldn’t decide if it was relevant to write about, or important enough, or whether it would be, frankly, a bit of a turn off.  I know that walking has helped me personally to manage these days, but I was wary of setting out on a ‘Walking will help with everything’ crusade. And mostly, I have good days, so why bother?

Reading the transcript of Andrew Solomon’s brilliant and positive TED talk on depression this morning moved me to write though, because  the description of depression is familiar to me, either because the feelings are familiar or I know someone who has felt them, or who are affected by a loved one, suffering. Having that short conversation yesterday, too, reminded me that comfort can be in the most unexpected places, and that keeping going is the best way to find a comfortable place. I think that’s worth sharing. That, and he mentioned drumming as a remedy for depression, and I can wholeheartedly endorse that! ;)

It occurred to me yesterday, when my feet, my heart, and my mind felt heavy, that sometimes it’s not me that is keeping the habit of walking going, but the habit of walking that is keeping me going.

Write when you can!

Hope

 

 

Pictures of Faversham

Faversham, 16 February 2014

Dear ____________

I hope this finds you well.  200% average rainfall and the wettest January since 1910 has made walking around Faversham invigorating over the past month or so. It’s been bracing, muddy, cold, peppered with sideways rain, gusts of wind, and cloudbursts of hail. Something I hadn’t expected about walking in the winter is that I don’t much mind going out in any weather these days, as long as I’m in the right clothes – or not, actually, as in these pre-Christmas pictures. :)  I’m sure Mr F. was pleased with himself when he saw these on the 22nd of December.

IMG_20131222_090917wet pathIMG_20131222_091042 wet legs

His genius Christmas gift of waterproof trousers (and warm socks) have been a consistent source of delight since!

Waterproof trousers for Christmas - Thanks Mr F!

Sometimes, I wonder why I bother trying to take pictures in such saturated conditions.  As I’m ducking under the relative dry of a dripping hedge, wiping the face of my phone with a spare sock drawn from a soggy pocket, and trying to input text with damp fingers, I think – why take pictures at all? Is this really necessary? I’m walking every day, which was my objective when I started out almost 8 months ago.  Why obsess with the picture taking?

Well, here’s how the walking thing grew into a walking and picture taking thing.

I decided to keep track of each day by making note of the time and length of my walk on my smartphone’s calendar. On one of the mornings of that first week, something caught my eye, and taking a picture seemed to be a good way to make note, too. After all, I am a visual person.   I use photography in my artwork as a tool, like I might use a brush or a pencil.  I use it in my work as a photographer to record the details of special moments and days.  Until I started walking and taking pictures of Faversham on my phone using Instagram everyday, all of my photography was for something else.

A few months before I started walking, I revisited and used slide photographs from travelling across America 25 years ago for a project called Medium Memory. Working on this reminded me of an engagement I had once had with photography that was more about looking and seeing – about being in a place, really noticing my surroundings, and trying to catch a memory with an image. Instagram allowed me to rediscover the immediacy of photography as a way of seeing. I love it, and I think of my walking photography as a kind of visual sketching exercise with Instagram as my sketchbook – keeping my eye in, making me really look at where I live like I am a visitor, seeing it for the first time. After living in Faversham for nearly 14 years, that’s pretty magical!

The magic is set to expand into Swale and Medway this summer, thanks to funding for a Small Experiment from Ideas Test. Looking forward to seeing even more of where we live!

Here’s to some drier days – write when you can!

Hope :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

On walking

First morning walk in Faversham

Faversham, 14 January 2014

Dear __________

I hope this finds you well.

24 June 2013. 6:30am. Memory is a slippery thing, and on reflection I’m not even sure this really WAS the first walk. It was a pretty one in any case – warm and sunny, and at this point my sweatshirt would already have been tied round my waist with my shoulders getting their full dose of Vitamin D. Ah, Summer! A great time to start walking. Here’s how it started for me…

I went to visit my new recently converted from twitter acquaintance to real life colleague and artist  Rod McIntosh for a cuppa, a chat and to see his studio space. We somehow got to talking about habits, and the need to have an awareness of helpful and not so helpful ones. Rod shared a book he had on his ‘to read’ pile called The Power of Habit.  It was relevant to our conversation, I made a mental note of it and that was that. I’d love to say that Mr Duhigg changed my life, but I’d be fibbing, because I didn’t read the book.

The title stayed in my head, though, and that evening, perched on the sofa with yet another cuppa, I read the blurb. And a teeny bit of the prologue that is available on Amazon. That’s it. I’m as impatient as the next person for sweeping change through minimal effort! I can be a bit lazy that way. I had probably run out of tea by then, too.

Anyway, one story in the prologue did make an impression.  It was about a woman who made one decision (to cross a desert) which led to a series of a whole bunch of other decisions (quitting smoking, running marathons – you know, the usual) – I’m paraphrasing, but you can read what I read here, if you like.

‘One thing, huh?’ I thought. I can do at least ONE thing. ‘Right?’ (A marathon is not on the cards. DO NOT watch this space.)

Over the years, I have had fits and starts of exercise, fitness, and ‘eating right’. It always makes me feel great. Improved mood, better sleep, more energy, the lot.  Years ago I ran in the Faversham 10K with a friend – far enough, thanks very much. It was brilliant to finish but it took 18 months for my knee to function normally again. Running was out, then.

Once my knee was back to normal, I was able to celebrate by dancing  all night in heels. Who can resist a bass line and drumbeat? Not me, apparently.  Cue another year of rubbish knee action. Now, dancing is a thing I will never give up, (DO watch this space!) but didn’t strike me as a realistic everyday pursuit.

I’m not sure how but I decided to go for a walk in the morning. In spite of the dodgy knee, I can walk. Slowly. I told myself that if I went everyday for 2 weeks, I’d buy myself some new trainers as a reward to replace my sagging and toe revealing six-years-old Asics.

‘I am going to walk everyday for two weeks!’ I told my friends. I told my family. I told myself. I told anyone who would listen. (This is my usual pattern!)

On the final day of two weeks, I took these pictures.

Ticklebelly AlleyFish & Chips IMG_20130707_064756 IMG_20130707_063552

29 weeks and a day later, I’m quicker, slimmer, happier, dancing and still hooked on walking. Lots has changed since 24 June 2013 but I’ll save that for another time. Write when you can!

Hope :)

Please excuse the mess

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Faversham,  24 December 2013

Dear ________

I hope this finds you well.  I hope you’ll indulge this first Letter from Faversham. For now, it’s a bit like moving into a new house, I’m afraid. The moving van has just pulled away, the diesel fumes are lingering in the chill air outside, I’ve shut the door and I’m faced with a room full of boxes, rolled up rugs, unhung curtains and baskets brimming spikily with the things that didn’t make it into respectable containers. The surfaces are all woodchip and stucco, the carpet is all kinds of wrong.

But I’m in. I’ve started this epistolary journey. It’s bare at the moment, and  I’m not sure where everything is going to go, or what this new home will look like, but I’m looking forward to finding out. I was going to wait to get going until I had a swish new logo from Miss Jemma Elf or until I’d organised some fabulously gorgeous WP functionality from Beam Twenty3, until I remembered the first visit Mr F and I had from friends when we moved to Faversham nearly 14 years ago.

It was in that first few hours of inhabiting our new house, and there were boxes everywhere.  I dug out a stash of teabags that I had set aside in the cab of the moving van. We all sat, amidst the chaos and disorganisation, drinking tea, and I imagined our new home as I would like it to be. A good moment, really. So, in the spirit of savouring the beginning of something new, please excuse the mess. I will get it sorted, eventually.

Why write a Letter from Faversham? It started with walking.  I’ve been walking nearly every day for the past six months. Six months today, in fact.  How on earth did that happen? More on that in another letter, I think. Safe to say though, there is nowhere better for spending time with thoughts, meandering in and out of them, than walking.  I miss writing letters, and find that voice in my head as I walk, so I thought I’d try and share it.  Like I said, I don’t know what this new home will look like, but you’re welcome to join me for a cuppa.

Until then, I’m off for a rainy walk. Write when you can!

Hope :)