This photo was taken by the brilliant Casey Orr as a publicity shot for These Hills Are Ours, but as November rolls into December, it sums up how I'm feeling at the year's end. Exhausted, beaten up and ready for a rest, I've had two colds in three weeks and I keep getting minor injuries. And after two weeks off for Christmas, it doesn't get any quieter, so in a desperate attempt to remove stresses from my life, I decided to quit drinking until my birthday in June. I feel much better for that, but I'm still knackered.
On Sunday I'm meant to be running a half marathon. My training has been a joke but running isn't one of the stressors that I can easily remove from my life. Partly because it's a relaxant and a depressuriser, but mostly because the show Boff and I are making requires us both to be fit. And at least I'm better off than him. He's got a broken toe.
The show itself doesn't need any special fitness. We'll mostly be sitting down. It's what surrounds the show, and what we're doing in preparation for it, that's alarming. The morning after the final show at each venue we're going to lead anyone who wants to join us in a run escaping their town or city to the nearest high or wild place. This will be easy enough in, say, Lancaster, where Clougha Pike is less than six miles from the theatre. But in London it'll be more like a marathon. And then we'll have to get back.
And these will all be parkruns compared to the set-piece story we're planning to tell at the end of the show, for which we've somehow decided I'm going to run a route of approximately eighty-five miles, over the Forest of Bowland, Pendle Hill and a stretch of the Pennine Way. To say any more would be spoilers, but I mean, holy shit. I'm in decent shape at the moment, but relying a bit too heavily on the Christmas break to provide a miracle rest cure.
Boff and I are in Stockton at the moment doing a few days writing and thinking around the project. It's an amazingly easy collaboration. We tell each other what we think about what the other is doing, take each other's notes, and move on. I've rarely been in a room with less ego. If I'd had a top ten single and run a 31-minute 10K I'm pretty sure I'd be all ego. Not Boff. (When first getting to know him I was never overawed by his rock 'n' roll past, but when I round out his 10K time I was struck dumb by the sense of being in the presence of greatness.)
Last night we ran a workshop on another aspect of the project. In four places (Lancaster/Morecambe, Stockton, London and north Devon) we're creating a choral piece about the journey from that place to its nearest peak or refuge. As if we didn't have enough to do with the show, we're also turning these choral pieces into films, and three of these films will have been shot before the show opens. So yesterday evening a group of people came together to think and talk with us about Roseberry Topping, the Matterhorn of Teesside. It was a real pleasure and confirms again the huge enthusiasm for the ideas behind this show we're amazed to find shared by so many others.
Because at root this isn't a show about running. It's a show about our freedom to roam in incredible places, and a tribute to the people who won us that freedom. Running is simply our way of celebrating their victory.
Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will