After the walk / Philosophising

Life, death and donkeys

LoisTwo years ago today I got the overwhelming honour of seeing a baby born. I was the very first person to see the damp, dark hair of the truly superb little soul who has since become Lois, at 1.40am, in the gentle, dark, womblike surrounds of Lewisham Birth Centre. I stroked Sarah’s back rather pathetically in the face of the grand and ridiculously painful job that she was really very alone in, and Ian and I kept each other on the right side of alarm.

In the morning, May the first, I left them for a while and wandered out onto Lewisham High Street. It’s a grey, brusque, poor high street even when it’s not grimacing under a thin, mean drizzle, but I thought I had never seen anything so beautiful.

Life! Beautiful life! I bought a newspaper to give Lois, and ate some beans on toast in a greasy spoon, and just floated on the absolute bloody miracle of this brief and astonishing gift.

“The veil was thin, that day,” said mum.

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The tipi at Chicken ShackTwo weeks ago I went to the funeral of Kath, another truly superb soul. She and her community had looked after Chico, Rhys and I for a few nights at the end of the first, raw, scary week of the walk, back in June. They gave us the tipi in the meadow, coffee and kindness, and space to do some learning and recovering. As we moved on Kath said to me, “It won’t always be this hard. The day will come when it’s easy, instinctive, and you’ll enjoy it.”

In July Kath was diagnosed with lung cancer, and a month ago she headed off, back through the veil, leaving children in their twenties, a little granddaughter, a husband of decades, and a hole in her local tribe. I knew her for two days.

She had wanted to feel her feet on the cool grass again, but was too ill to manage it. It’s raining here today and I have to go out to see the donkeys; if I catch a few raindrops, I hope to remember to feel so, so fucking lucky. So thankful.


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And it’s a year yesterday that I bought funny old Chico, and brought him back to the field he’s getting a little bit wet in right now. A few people have exclaimed that time flies, but for me it’s been the slowest year since I was a child. Clearly spending a year so far out of my comfort zone, sleeping in different places for six months, coming to see the world not just through Chico’s eyes, but for a few moments through Kath’s eyes, and every other of the hundreds of people who shared their view with us… It lengthened time, and if it lengthened time, it lengthened life.

I don’t much like telling people what to do, but if there’s something you’re feeling scared of today, on this particularly lovely date when the land is going crazy with promise, maybe just think about embracing it. Be wild. Life is definitely short, but whether it’s too short… That bit is in your power.



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  1. Lovely commment and insights. Thank you for sharing them.

  2. woow – you can really stir the heart strings Hannah.

  3. Waking up this morning I knew it was a thin-veil day! I cried right through writing it…

  4. Oh my god, you’ve just made me cry! Sat in the doctors waiting room with tears streaming down my face and concerned looks from those around me! What a beautiful, poignant post. I’ve just come through treatment for breast cancer so really get where you’re coming from. Even I need a reminder that each day should count. I will now go outside and stand in the rain, and feel very fucking lucky to be here xxx

    • Oh no Kate, now you’ve made me cry again! I didn’t mean to usher May in with tears… Thank you for your sweet reply and I hope that the doctor doesn’t give you anything too strong to stem the tears! Rain should do the trick!

    • Glad you also got that there was just no substitute adjective for how lucky I am! I tried ‘very’ and ‘supremely’ and it just didn’t cut it!

  5. Hi Hannah,
    You made me shed a little tear too. But I am spending this Mayday evening with two very good friends with whom I go back a long way. We usually end up shedding tears of raucous laughter so that’ll do nicely !

  6. A beautiful post. Poignant writing and sentiment. Thanks for reminding me to appreciate today.

  7. A lovely post Hannah. A reminder that I have so much to be grateful for.

  8. Made me cry too. I’m always a softy though. Lovely post. I used to live in Lewisham – loved it and your description.

  9. Oh Han, lovely Han… Tears in my eyes too as I read this. Birth – well, it’s what I do, and know, but it’s always, without exception, a miracle.
    All those years ago I was as near as I could have been to your birth, and I love your mum more than I can say.

  10. Hannah, what an amazing post. On this May day Tony and I crossed the border into Scotland on our big cycling adventure. It’s been cold and blowy, but amazing too. We are holed up in the bar of the holiday park where we are camped, taking advantage of the free wifi! The “entertainment” is pretty awful but I still feel fucking lucky to be here.

  11. To be part of the this lovely extended Donkey family is a wonderful blessing. I found myself dreaming of a short walk in Wales this morning and had to check in. I’ve missed a lot, but time changes shape and I’ve now I have a moment to see the world through your eyes. And then your readers. Oh my.

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