Perhaps it’s not surprising that I am starting a blog. I have always enjoyed writing. When I was little, I wrote long, rambling stories for pleasure. They were mostly terrible Enid Blyton rip-offs, full of every imaginable cliché: cottages with roses round the door, children having adventures in abandoned quarries and everything being solved and sorted out by bedtime.
Years later, living in Africa gave me lots to write about. There was so much to see and experience. Writing the monthly newsletter was a great way of processing it, while also sharing it with others. I loved the challenge of condensing all sorts of stories, sights and sounds into a couple of pages. This was one of the many things I missed when we returned to England in 2007. At that time, a few of my friends were writing blogs and they suggested that I write one too, but those friends were mainly living overseas and had what I considered to be “interesting” lives with something to say. My life in England seemed very dull and grey in comparison, so any thoughts I had about writing were squashed by other thoughts, such as: “No-one would want to read about your life”, “Your life is too mundane and ordinary to write about”, “Blogging is self-indulgent and narcissistic”, “You’re too old to write a blog” etc. And so I didn’t.
A couple of years later, I began to write a book about our last months in Africa and the culture shock of returning to England. This was very therapeutic at the time and it has given me a lot of pleasure to know that it has helped others. But I finished writing that in 2011 and then, once again, found myself without a writing project.
In the past two weeks I’ve felt the tug to write again. One of the things I want to write about is walking. I’m training to walk from London to Brighton (100k) on May 24th. There’s so much to see while walking along the towpaths and through the woods. I find myself wanting to write about the sights, the people I meet and the funny things that happen along the way. I’ve also been very recently diagnosed with coeliac disease and this is provoking yet more writing-urges: after overcoming an eating disorder and enjoying many years of complete freedom around food, I’ve now been reluctantly and ironically plunged back into a world of food labels and dietary rules. Writing could help me and maybe it could help others too.
With these writing-urges lurking in the background, I read something yesterday that indirectly turned my thoughts back to blogging. I was thinking ahead to a book club meeting this Friday. We are going to be discussing “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”. This is a wonderful book with a lot to say about long-distance walking, introspection, love and loss. I am looking forward to talking with others about it. In fact, I have been asked to lead the discussion so yesterday I spent a bit of time on the internet, looking for possible questions. This one caught my eye:
“One of the themes in Unlikely Pilgrimage is how a seemingly ordinary life can take on extraordinary aspects. Do you consider your own life ordinary or extraordinary? In what way might we see our own lives or, say the lives of our neighbours, as remarkable?”
I read it, and semi-consciously registered that this was an important, meaningful question for me. Then life took over and I forgot the question and I did a hundred and one mundane things in the house and then it was bedtime. But as I lay in bed, there was space and time to think again, and the question returned:
“In what way might we see our own lives or, say the lives of our neighbours, as remarkable?”
I thought about the hundreds of amazing stories I hear from my patients and about how their lives fascinate me, even though to some, their lives could seem mundane. I thought about the lives of my friends: whether near or far, they are all extraordinary, interesting and remarkable when viewed with the right eyes. I thought in particular about the friends I have in other parts of the world, to whom an ordinary day in England would sound quite exotic and different.
Then I thought: “I want to write a blog”.
So I got up this morning, sat at the computer and began.