In 2008, I received a charity place to run the last Flora London Marathon and raised £3,700 for Multiple Sclerosis Trust. But September 2010 brought enormous excitement when, after four years of applying, I finally got my ‘Gold’ place to run the 2011 Virgin London Marathon. Although, reserving total elation due to being diagnosed only two months prior with an autoimmune disorder, I still, in anticipation, maintained my rigid running routine. But this was short-lived, and only for a further two months. Scans, blood tests, liver and lip biopsies were meant to confirm cause and hence a treatment, however, the results: 'A rare case' apparently! 'It's Sjogren’s says one consultant. 'It's Primary Biliary Sclerosis' says the Liver specialist. And the solution - steroids! Wasting muscles, sagging skin, bloating and shakes!! This added to the usual lethargy and exhaustion, of course. In fact, the complete list of ‘possible’ side effects is what you would expect to see in a triple x-rated horror movie: 'serious mental health problems, depression, including thinking about suicide, feeling high, mood swings, memory loss, confusion, feeling, seeing or hearing things which do not exist, increased appetite, weight gain, increase in hair growth, muscle weakness, muscle wasting, cataracts etc., etc.' And this is supposed to make me better? Suffice to say, I have not experienced most of the mentioned symptoms - thank goodness!
Needless to say, I had to defer from the marathon! Gutted! Totally! Fingers crossed I’ll be running next April!
In the mean time, I also abstained from painting due the concern of chemicals and not really knowing the cause of all my symptoms. Eight months since I last painted, six months on steroids, and a decision to participate once again in the 2011 Open Studios, I’m back again painting. The clash of emotion on first entering the studio (a 100 year old, renovated summer house at the bottom of our garden, used once as a girls changing room when the grounds were tennis courts and orchards!) initially sent me back into the house for yet another cup of herbal tea, but once I returned again and set out my oils, I was ready. Except for one tiny dilemma ‘what shall I paint?’
These dry, uninspired moments hit us all on occasions and it’s at these times when you’re feeling you’re most vulnerable and experience endless bouts of self-doubt. And at these moments you can guarantee that the paintbrush will not benefit any part of the canvas. The brushes take on a life of their own – unruly and pigheaded, like a 2 year old at bedtime - contrary and harmful. The only solution, fight it out and stand your ground!
Now, with less than two months to the Cambridge Open Studios, there still seems to be a staggering amount of work yet to do! But it’s not the paintings that are a cause for concern. I have whipped the paintbrushes into shape and there seems to be a happy rapport between them and the paint and canvases! The garden, however, is totally overgrown, and the house – particularly since my son’s return from university - looks like we’ve been hit by a mini tornado – leaving no corner of the house untouched! However, this year promises to be an exciting show as I am sharing my home with three other artists, all great and so varied. I’m really looking forward to seeing some regular faces and making new acquaintances. So, here’s to focus, inspiration and sunshine.