A Breath of Fresh Air

How I'm getting back out into the countryside whilst living with MS

Archive for the category “Not at all active”


Recently, I’ve been escaping to the hills in my mind. I’ve been reading ‘Walking Home’ by Simon Armitage. The book tells of his journey along the Pennine Way, back to his home town of Marsden, which sits in the Pennines a couple of days’ walk south of me.

He’s a poet – I found one of his poems engraved on a stone as part of a sequence, on a previous tandem ride. And so he decided, not only to walk the route home (and a little more), but to provide a poetry reading each evening to ‘sing for his supper’ and bed for the night.

'Walking Home' by Simon Armitage

‘Walking Home’ by Simon Armitage

So he found himself reading to varying numbers of people in out-of-the-way pubs, with an ever-changing band of companions joining him for an odd day of the walk. As for me, I found him easygoing company along the whole journey.

He made me smile as he told of days where he became completely lost in empty landscapes unable to get his bearings, of eating soggy sandwiches on damp grass, and of long days walking, finding his stride and keeping going.

He recreated the beauty of the hills and the wonder of suddenly happening on a stunning piece of scenery, usually with absolutely no one about for miles and miles.

The more I read, the more I found that, when I shut my eyes, those hills and moors and rivers and valleys were before me again. It’s been a very refreshing journey.

Back to Basics

I’ve felt as though I’ve been indoors more than I wanted to be recently. I’ve had a dragging fatigue which hasn’t helped. However, I’d had enough and decided to take myself in hand!

spring sunshine

spring sunshine

The sun was shining; I grabbed a book, pulled on a coat and plonked myself on the front step. I remembered how easy it was to get some fresh air – and no exercise required either!

I started to think about the garden, and to consider what pottering I could do without too much exertion. So I’ve pruned my roses. I’ve swept a few leaves. And I’ve acquired a garden sheep.

garden sheep

garden sheep

I’ve also had coffee with a friend, entirely outside! It must be spring! I came home feeling very ‘outdoorsed’ – and, again, no exercise involved and a very pleasant hour spent!

The flowers are beginning to emerge now, too, which always lifts my mood, and the garden is aflutter with busy birds. I will definitely be sitting outside with a book and mug of tea whenever I get the chance!

emerging primroses

emerging primroses


I decided to take part in the Big Garden Birdwatch, organised by the RSPB (https://www.rspb.org.uk/). This involved watching the birds in our garden for an hour over the weekend and recording which ones I saw during that time. I thought I could manage that!

We have a perfect spot in our back bedroom to sit and watch. Also, Pete had bought me a special birdwatching hat for my birthday, which he assured me would enable me to see more birds!

essential birdwatching equipment

essential birdwatching equipment

So I got myself prepared with the essential equipment of binoculars, birdwatching hat and mug of tea, and sat and waited. And waited.

I saw a neighbour’s cat prowling along a wall. I watched leaves quivering in the hedge (it’s surprising how like birds they look!). I watched next door’s hens pecking contentedly.

This was going to be a long hour.

Suddenly, there was a flurry high above and two magpies sat in our tree for a couple of minutes. Quickly noted!

I drank some tea and nibbled some snacks.

waiting ...

waiting …

A robin hopped across the garden from the hedge to the compost bin and back again. Noted!

Then the robin went mad!  It hopped back and forth, hid in the bush for a bit, then flew off into a neighbour’s garden. Then it was back. At one point there were even two at once in the garden. It felt like there were many more. Now I had a new problem – this robin was too fidgety for me to take a photo!

Then a blue tit, or maybe more, flitted by – it might have just been one busy one. As I watched, it actually pecked at the fat ball of food we’d put out.



Along the hedge, almost too fast to see and looking very like fluttering leaves (but they weren’t!), a couple of thrushes chased each other, weaving in and out of the branches. I put aside the binoculars – I couldn’t dart about fast enough with them and kept losing the birds. It was simpler just to watch the dancing display in front of me.

At the end of the hour, when I had given up hope of seeing her, a little wren made an appearance. I’d only seen her for the first time a couple of days previously so it was wonderful that she made the survey, just in the nick of time!

I was very pleased with my efforts, or rather that of our feathered visitors, and to be able to take part in this 36-year-old survey.

Snow Day

It snowed and snowed and snowed all day yesterday. It was so peaceful. There was no one else in the house, I’d phoned work to say I’d be working from home, and I was cosy and safe, with no reason to go outside.

snow covering

snow covering

Every time I looked up from my desk I could enjoy the fat, white flakes falling silently, blanketing everything. Knowing that I didn’t have to go anywhere made all the difference. I could simply enjoy the view.

rabbit finding snowfree spot

rabbit finding snowfree spot

If I do have to go out in the snow I become ridiculously stressed, worrying about falling over or the car skidding out of control. My muscles tense and I worry until I’m safely back inside.

Yesterday, I could just watch as the snow piled softly higher. It was very calming.

hidden steps

hidden steps

Later, I did venture outside – just a few steps into the garden to say hello to the rabbit and to feel the cold on my cheeks. Then it was back indoors for some warming soup!

snowy owl

snowy owl

Promise of Spring

I’ve felt like Sleeping Beauty recently – well, at least the Sleeping part! I have slept and rested, and rested and slept. Time has passed. Brambles have not surrounded my home; instead, during the time that I’ve taken to my bed, the rain has ceased its pounding of the windows and the sun has begun to smile on my world.

I’ve taken my first tentative steps back outside. This has mainly consisted of sitting on the doorstep, but I have also gingerly stepped over the threshold of work. I am beginning to feel part of the world again.

Another reason for looking forward with optimism came as a result of a recent phone call, which awoke me from my slumbers and cheered me hugely. It came from the founder of a charity, EMpowered people (http://www.empoweredpeople.co.uk/), which aims to inspire adults with disabilities to take up cycling. A browse of the website is recommended, especially the videos! The charity promotes the use of suitable bikes, including power assisted and otherwise adapted bikes, as appropriate for each particular rider. So, something very much after my own heart.

 It just so happens that the charity’s founder, Simon, lives only a few miles from me and he also happens to have MS. We have previously met up, when he explained what the charity was about and told me of various events that the charity arranged throughout the year. One such upcoming event is a two-day cycle ride around the Isle of Anglesey. I had demurred from this, thinking that my being able to cycle a mere five to twelve miles made it beyond my capabilities.2-Bee-or-not-2-bee-23

It turns out that this is not the case. The ride is organised in such a way that I can dip in and out of the cycling, depending on how my body is feeling. The event is fully supported and there will be riders with a variety of disabilities involved. The phone call was to clarify any potential problems, and for me to be reassured and then confirm that Pete and I would go for it! So, we now have a trip to Wales in May to look forward to – and an added reason for me to be careful to pace myself to ensure that I’m fit enough to be able to go!

So the tandem continues to take us into the unknown! In the meantime, the crocuses have awoken too. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In Retreat

My body has been speaking out; basically the message has been “Stop!”

I tried the gentle approach: reigning in my already pared back life – cancelling my, oh so hectic, social engagements; resting for ever longer periods; focussing on fewer things at work.

It’s not been enough, So I’ve listened, and I’ve been signed off work. It’s a great relief. I can lie in bed for as many hours as I want … which is quite a lot.

Happily for me, storms have been raging outside. It saves me the effort of personal raging – not that I’ve got the energy.

I’m trying to let it flow over me. Relax. It will pass. That’s what I’m telling myself …

Meanwhile, the spring bulbs are not retreating.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

News Round-Up

Some cheering things to report: a member of my local MS Society, having read about my tandem adventures, is looking at cycling again for himself, post MS! He’s looking into the possibility of using a three-wheeler bike to help with balance.

In other bike-related news, we heard that electric bikes are no longer limited to one-person bikes and that it’s now feasible to get an electric tandem. We did not want to have to trade in our lovely bike so, after much surfing of the internet, Pete has tracked down a motor that will fix on to our bike.*

A few hours spent making the necessary adjustments later, it is now attached and we are raring to go on our very own electric wheels! We should be able to power up the Yorkshire hills no problem now on 250 watts of (road and bridleway legal) raw power! Especially as The Knee is improving steadily and should be up to doing a spot of pedalling now.

the new electric wheel

the new electric wheel

Elsewhere, I had a chat to my MS nurse, generally bemoaning the fact that there aren’t any suitable drugs for me for my MS circumstances. However, she told me about a recent course she attended where one speaker was emphasising the importance of keeping active so far as you can, along with healthy eating, so that you can cope with any relapses and underlying myelin damage.

It was a good reminder that doing what I can is important. Well, I knew really but it’s always good to hear it again out loud, and being able to do anything that might help against this condition is welcome – even better if it’s fun as well! Better check the kitchen cupboards though as I’ve been getting a bit slack on the healthy eating front recently!

And finally, I’ve booked to go on an archery course in the autumn …

* Details of how we added the electric wheel are on the About the Tandem page

Digging the Time Away

I am currently without my tandem engine (Pete) as his knee requires much rest. This means that I’ve had to content myself with other activities. These have included:

  • Catching up on television, especially programmes featuring scenery (not at all desperate!)
  • Planning trips for when we are able to venture out again
  • Driving to places with a view, whilst keeping an eye out for possible tandem routes
  • Not being sure whether to be glad that the weather has been so awful that we might not have got out anyway
  • Making enquiries about local archery clubs
  • Wondering if I dare enquire about horse riding
  • Reading, if possible, sitting on the doorstep
  • Gardening

These last two activities are my stand by’s for getting a little fresh air, even if I can’t otherwise venture far. I’m often pleasantly surprised how much better I feel just for sitting on the doorstep, my nose barely outside, with a good book and a warming cup of tea.

I also enjoy pottering about, doing a little gardening. I’m not very good and have made plenty of mistakes over the years but really like the feel of my fingers in the soil. I’m equally happy planting or weeding, just so long as I can get my fingers dirty!

I mainly just tend the little patch at the front of the house, which is plenty for me. I am constantly amazed at how a little digging with trowel and hand can have a hugely disproportionate effect on my ability to walk. The plus side is that I have to take it all very gently, with lots of rests to admire my efforts, then a particularly long rest to enjoy my achievements (the tiny “lawn” cut or the edges weeded), preferably whilst supping a mug of tea.


Another advantage of getting outside to tend the garden is that I often bump into a neighbour, or nod hello to walkers as they pass by along the nearby footpath.

So I have been delighted by the recent couple of days of fine weather. I have cut the grass so that the bluebells (well, we’ve acquired whitebells and pinkbells for some reason!) and grape hyacinths that have nestled in amongst the grass are now visible. I’ve also planted out the geraniums that survived overwintering indoors (only two deaths – not bad for me!) I have chatted to neighbours and have agreed with everyone who walked past how lovely the weather has been. And I’ve enjoyed that very tired feeling after having finished as I know it’s from doing something fun and outdoors!

I’m also waiting to hear back about archery …


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