Inspired by running and bones

7 May

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Later today after the Dawn Chorus…

In a bonus to the stories enjoyed in a brisk walk around Lydiard Park grounds (lucky old Swindon with this on its doorstep) with international storyteller Rachel Rose Reid, ponies and their cute foals were close up to the fence by the path.

Rachel Rose followed two stories of love with a ‘Just So’ inspired tale of an elephant that ate its own eyes. She made us do the suction sounds as the eyes popped out. I’ve still not recovered.

Next came some strenuous exercise with the Freedom parkrun. Not by me, obviously. At least two of the participants were also authors in the following event: Naomi Benaron and Kate Allatt, both with special stories.

As mentioned in the previous blog post, at the age of 39 Kate had a stroke, a blood clot on her brain stem which left her in a coma for three days and after that unable to move more than her eyelids. Unfortunately the medical staff didn’t know Kate was still fully functioning mentally until her visiting family noticed Kate’s silent tears. Kate was only able to communicate via blinking (one for ‘no’, two for ‘yes’) and it was slow progress.

But what kept Kate going? Anger, selfishness, the support of others – and social media. Anger over the little things like being left for hours fully conscious with nothing to do, an off TV, and drugs that gave her paranoid hallucinations. Selfishness because she had to focus her energy totally on herself to get better. And social media because for her, saying ‘I sat up today’ was not a mindless tweet – and the immediate encouraging responses spurred her on.

Today was the furthest she has run since the stroke. A keen runner before she was struck down, she kept her trainers by her hospital bed to give her a reason to keep going.

“I was one of those evil people who worked for oil companies,” Naomi Benaron shared with us. “But I got over that.” Naomi wanted to tell the story of Rwanda, to give the people a voice. To show that: “as long as you do your best, that’s what counts, even when the situation is hopeless.”

She was inspired to write about a Rwandan runner after visiting the country with a friend. Standing by a lake she kicked something on the ground. It was a human bone. After looking around, Naomi realised there were many more – she was standing on a site of genocide.

It took over five years and more four visits to write the book: “I was really moved by the people, moved by the country,” she said.

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