North Berwick Law

Now I’ve completed my Seven Hills project, I have decided to keep up the walking momentum and to attempt a hill every weekend that the weather is fine. I wouldn’t say that today was fine – while the rest of the UK seems to be enjoying a second summer, we are gloomily swathed in what in these parts is known as haar – but it is still reasonable walking weather. Our friend Mule is visiting, and we set off with him for North Berwick Law. You may remember that I mentioned the Law in a previous post. Before the stroke, it was a hill I would just shimmy up in a pair of sandals. Not anymore. . .

You see me here at the moment just before things are about to get tricky, gait wise. There isn’t much strength or stability in that left leg, and putting all my weight on my knee and quad while I swing the right one through is really bloody difficult. Last week I noticed that I got up Arthur’s Seat in a curious one-sided manner, using my right leg every time I had to make a big, upward step, and only using the left to make tiny adjustments with my balance. This is no good – things have to work reciprocally – so this time I tried my hardest to make the left leg do its share on the ascent. The poles help out enormously, as you can see, but the leg is so damned weak and unstable that it is incredibly hard work. After what seemed like an aeon of Sharapova-like huffing and puffing, I made it to the top.

Bruce sported his inside-out-ear look on the windy summit. . .

. . . and the camera batteries ran out before we could get a photo of Mule. Bah.

Things were pretty rotten going down – probably because of all the extra effort my left leg had undergone, it began to judder uncontrollably, and I made it back to the bottom of the Law in a sort of drunken stagger. Still, I’m sure these things will pay off in the end – I genuinely do feel stronger with every hill I climb.

You may be interested to hear how things are with my recovery in general. The fatigue is still an absolute killer – I’ve been keeping track, I and reckon that I lose on average one-and-a-half to two days a week to it. I also find things like walking in town, medical appointments, or just being around friends a terrible drain on my resources because of the immense concentration that coping with different kinds of auditory input, or simply maintaining a normal conversation, apparently requires. This really is one of the most annoying aspects of my current predicament – I do not know if the fatigue and these other residual effects of my brain injury are permanent or will go away in time. I did, however, discuss this with my neurologist last week and he told me, with a candour that I appreciated, that while I might continue to see physical improvements, because of the nature of my brain injury, I was probably never going to feel well again. I suppose I just have to get used to this, get on with things, and try to make some decisions about how my limited resources of energy and concentration can, at the moment, be best put to use.

In other news
Thanks so much for your kind comments on Deco, which it gave me a good ol’ boost to read, and has spurred me on to the number-crunching part of designing / pattern writing. The dress with boats on it is indeed an Orla Kiely from last season’s collection. I don’t mind admitting that at certain times of year I am prone to frantic stalking of her site in anticipation of the words ‘final reductions’ and the hope of scoring a dress in my size. This year I got lucky. (the boat dress is no.4 in the Vogue lineup). I have to say that it is nice to put on a fun frock once in a while – when I turned my wardrobe around a couple of weeks ago, I found myself in possession of a host of Winter clothes that are either entirely unwearable, or completely unsuitable for my present activities. Who knew that I possessed so many suits and pencil skirts in which it is now impossible to move about? A lot of space also seems to be taken up by shoes in which I doubt I shall ever walk again. Some sort of radical wardrobe rethink seems in order . . .

55 thoughts on “North Berwick Law

  1. May I say that that picture of you and Tom is so sweet and comforting? It is. Despite what the neurologist says, I am still going to wish you many well-feeling days ahead. I will do so while I finally knit my own o w l s sweater – hopefully in time for the NY sheep and wool festival!

  2. Some things warm my heart unto my very soul. Here’s a partial list:

    Your recovery, hard-won and fragile though it may feel, has made me believe, again, in the dignity and beauty of the human spirit. I am in awe of your discipline, kindness and courage – You are a complete inspiration, and I am grateful, beyond measure, to know you, if only through this powerful blog.

    Your dog Bruce. I just love the sheer happiness and joy in that boy – especially when he’s on a romp with you both. He was sent to you and you and your sweet partner were given to him. It’s lovely when one sees a two way blessing so beautifully portrayed.

    Your wonderful creations. They have such attention to detail and it is their timeless and, sometimes whimsical, beauty that elevate knitting to true art. (I also think the designing and the creation of the patterns is good for your brain, and a tremendous help to ours.)

    To top it off, I would take your Dr’s. comments with a grain of salt. I am sure he’s very competent and very good spirited – or you wouldn’t be with him. However, he I think he may not quite understand the nature of a person such as yourself. You are better and you will continue to feel better and better until one day when this dreadful detour is behind you in more ways, you will be able to say, with clarity, I feel good. In the meantime, we who have benefitted from your blog and posting, feel better for knowing you.

  3. Hoorah! for you up that climb! You are a real inspiration, both in creativity and emotion/will. Thank you for sharing all of it. :) I like the idea of a wardrobe rethink!

  4. Should Bruce need a girlfriend, may I recommend Flossie – you can find her here
    Well done on completing another walk … when I came home from hospital all those years ago, my aim each day was to walk one lamppost further than the day before (hanging on to the pram – with my baby son in it -as my Mum pushed it!) Last Tuesday I walked ten miles round Keswick – something I could only have dreamt of back then!!

  5. I empathise with you regarding the exhaustion following a visit from friends – if you are not feeling great it’s lovely to have a visitor but ‘little and often’ is the key. The effort to benefit sometimes doesn’t work in your favour and it’s hard to expain that to well-meaning visitors.

  6. I’m crying. Which in part is due to the fatigue of a fab weekend, but also because of empathy. I was only tiny when my head injury happened and I am not altogether sure whether people were aware of the longterm aftereffects, so I was never conscious of the benefits making my left leg try to do its part and so I’m all too aware of the patheticness compared to the right leg and the judders… oh boy… and yet the sense of achievement of defiance at a body that isn’t 100%.

    Unlike the other comments, I think the doctor may have done you a favour long term and also probably voices what you’d thought anyway. You’ll go far, but never back to how things were.

    Massive hugs Kate, and “prost” (cheers) – are you allowing yourself the odd tipple these days?

  7. I too love that photo of you and Tom. When I saw it I thought that I’m happy you have him.

    I’m sorry to miss Mule, though. I can’t help but wonder if he is a man-friend or canine-friend.

  8. Oh wow! You are one huge inspiration, lady! I’m humbled by your achievements. Fantastic! Does your consultant read your blog? He may have underestimated your resolve, methinks! One hundred per cent ‘wellness’, or 80%, it’s what you do with that level that matters. Anyway, it is all relative, as you doubtless already know!

    Take care, rest well, and have a good week!

  9. Well done, what an amazing sense of achievement that must be. I didn’t find it very easy but then I’m not a serious walker.

    I always want to write something more helpful and meaningful but I never know what to say, but I am thinking of you!

  10. Congratulations! Thanks to you for using some of your precious resources to inform us and to delight us with your walks and your works (knitting, that is!). It seems to me that you have spirit in abundance.

  11. And no-one has mentioned your terrific outfit. Gorgeous tailoring. A very elegant lady hill walker.
    Well done on the walk. Take pride in your achievement!

  12. Great spirit, great honesty, great climbing and great outfit – just the usual for you then! Seriously, though, the doctor’s words are a shocker, and I am sorry you have to deal with all this. I am sure some retail/ wardrobe therapy is as good a treatment as any.

  13. Thank you for the updates on your stroke recovery. My uncle had a stroke the year before you. I’ve been his sort of guardian for the past few months and your comments help me to understand what he has not been able to explain to me – like when I raise my voice or speak quickly he cannot understand me. It was also helpful to be able to explain to him that fatigue is normal.

  14. You put me to me to shame, Kate. You do an amazing job getting up those hills. I can only hope that you gain more strength, stamina & concentration than has been predicted.

  15. I love your walking wardrobe. Embrace the utilitarian luxury of tweed and good boots. We are all celebrating your triumphs with you, and remember, doctors aren’t always right.

  16. My money’s on you for a recovery that puts you in an even more amazing place than you ever dreamed possible. I have a loved one on the autistic spectrum and I’ve learned that while some skills may be a struggle, generally other things become even more acute. I love Deco and wait with anticipation of its release. Warm thoughts winging your way across the ocean!

  17. Lovely photo’s as usual. We knew Scotland was attractive, but you make it all the more special (Tourist board would be pleased with yu contribution LOL)
    I agree with what Phylis said, you will continue to go forward for the better, everyone is unique, and you are very special.
    Love those Orla Kiely designs, like the yellow dress with the bow, but I love your boat dress the best.
    When I was a child, about 9yrs, I had to wear my cousins hand me downs, mind you they were top quality pan velvet etc, but all else was home sewn, and lovely, but it was great to get a bought dress all my own.
    My grandmother, Dad’s side bought me a dress with a belt, much like your boat dress, but it had washing lines strung all across it with billowing garments blowing on a white background. I felt so grown up in such a dress with its thick belt.
    Oh Kate, you will continue to improve, I just know this. All the very best.

  18. Oh how stylish you look going up the Law! I’ve meant to do it myself – my excuse is laziness – you shame me.
    I love Bruce’s one-ear look, too. And the picture of you and Tom is heartbreaking.

    Regarding your doctor’s comment, I suppose it depends what you (and he) mean by “well”. If it’s taken to mean “will you run up hills, and take your limbs for granted” then no, you might not ever feel “well”, but you already know that, judging from the Arthur’s Seat post, and straightforwardness may help.
    On the other hand, it should be remembered that doctors tend to look on the bleak side, and their previous patients, for one reason or another, may not have had your vim or vigour. The future will be different from what we thought (it usually is), but I hope yours will be bright, and whatever the painful wardrobe changes are, I am sure the future will be stylish!

  19. You’re great, and your outfit is lovely (meant to say so in your last walking post). The determination in the picture of you getting your left leg to work is palpable. And that is a lovely pic of you and Tom. Best wishes.

  20. Three things :
    1. You are doing amazing having climbed all Seven of your Hills, and huge congratulations!
    2. ‘Feeling Well’ is relative I think, and as your life (and brain) find new grey matter to move into and enliven with Kate’s Astounding Creativity, your relationship to Feeling Well will also find different footing on entirely new terrain, and relationship to Things Going On.
    3. Your designs, both knit and sewn, are equally as intriguing, pretty, and clever as OrlaKeily’s, and I did check her site out. I like your dresses better.

  21. Beautiful photos, so inspiring! Think of the wardrobe refit as an opportunity to go for colours and textures you love – have fun with it if you can!

  22. I live in the Western US, at the base of the Rocky Mountains, and that “hill” looks like a CLIMB! You’re doing FANTASTIC getting up that. Is it weird to have a stranger be proud of you? Because I am. :)

  23. I love this post and the honesty with which you share your journey with us.

    Sorry to have missed snaps of the Mule, but I’m very glad he was there to take that nice photo of you and Tom looking so good together.

    I can fully see how your Neurologist’s candour was appreciated; it’s good to know what the score is and what you have to work with, as then you can – as you say – make some decisions about what you need and start working out how best to use the resources you have, and how best to compensate or adjust in the difficult situations.

    Must be hard to come to terms with the longterm prognosis of brain-injury recovery though, and the fatigue sounds particularly EVIL and dispiriting.

    However your determination on the hills is inspiring, you are rocking a look of unrivalled style in that brilliant tweed outfit, and Bruce has truly become a master of the inside-out-ear excited doggie look.

    I look forward to your wardrobe revisions; one of my favourite ideas in The Missability Radio Show was the development of a truly dignifying, enabling wardrobe.

    I wore heels to my brother’s Wedding this weekend and managed to recreate for myself the distinctive physical hell of having arthritis in my feet; it was not good and a solid reminder that I am happier in things which make me feel comfortable in the body I actually have as opposed to clothes which make me think about the body I wish I had. I can’t wear pencil skirts ever since the whole experience of actually having had mobility problems, and over time I’ve come to enjoy the way my experience of disability has changed how I think about clothes and shoes. I think it is immensely comforting and empowering to find a way with clothes which is supportive of the body.

    I just re-read Roger Pol Droit’s ‘How are things?’ wherein he writes (about a scarf) that ‘We live our clothes as though they were alive. Your jacket extends its arm. Your shirt moves briskly or sits down. Never do you have the impression that clothes merely follow… They share your mobility to the point of blending with your actions…’ an idea I share and like.

    Seemed relevant so I thought I’d pass it on as fodder for future wardrobe interventions x

  24. well. “medical materialism”, as william james calls it, is excellent as a diagnostic tool, but almost completely irrelevant to feelings of well-being or even satiety. the most important thing you’ve done medically is to keep on walking down the hill whether or not your left leg is juddering. this is a thousand times better than feeling “well” — conquering the fears.

    inside-out ears, well-earned, all! and the sign and emblem that one is rockin’.


  25. It’s so good to read about your walks in the hills again. I have a huge amount of awe and respect for your dogged determination! (Also, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone look so stylish on a hill!).

  26. The Hills Project completed! That is fantastic. It may not feel it to you, but from here it seems you have made quite a lot of progress.

    A little different take on your doctor’s comment – perhaps it will take a while for your brain and your body to agree on the progress you’ve made. Maybe they will never entirely agree (your brain might have a different opinion/memory of ‘well’, even ), but it would seem that getting them to agree would hinge upon them getting reacquainted, so to say, and to that end you seem to be on the right path.

    all the best – hx

  27. Been meaning to comment for AGES on your walking wardrobe. I remember some time ago you mentioning you were aiming at an all-wool ensemble. (Have you seen the sheep on Savile Row?) Would you, at some point, be kind enough to talk us through your outdoor wear? Perhaps with some links as to where the rest of us might find such things? I’m getting a bit fed up with GoreTex, though my Rohan Hilltop coat will have to be pried out of my cold, dead hands :-)

  28. Congratulations on completing your Seven Hills challenge. Lovely photographs too.

    I am going to make a mini Manu for my little girl next week, and I’ve been using a version of your dolls on all sorts of garments recently. Also, thanks to not having a roof on our house at the moment, I have been living in my o w l s jumper – you may be pleased to hear that it has enough stretch in it to accommodate a rapidly growing baby bump.

  29. You’re amazing!! And you make me want to visit Scotland more than ever. Thank you for sharing bits of your life with us.

  30. Love that picture of you and Tom. As you are most often the picture taker it’s rare to see the pair of you in a photo together, and such a nice one too.

    I was curious about the boat dress too, thanks for the source info.

  31. Your posts are so genuinely uplifting and not because the content is always uplifting but for the fact that they bring the truth and they show off your courage and tenacity and that’s why I return again and again to read your posts. Not to mention that your designs are completely awesome!

    And I LOVE-LOVE-LOVE that green jacket you were wearing on the hike… I can tell you this: American’s do NOT look that chic when hiking.

  32. Although so far he has not always been my favorite pope, Benedict XV recently said a wonderful thing: “Without hope we would not be the same person.” (or something to that effect.) It is possible to face reality and still continue to hope. Modern medicine works miracles. You are the best. Simply the best. And so is Tom. That’s all.

  33. Kate,
    I am so amazed by you. I wouldn’t be attempting the hikes you’ve accomplished. That picture of you attacking the hill with both poles and determination gives me the willies. Looks as if you could just roll backwards. (I probably would have!) Way to go!

    Love your puppy boy, Bruce. With his ears flipped back he looks like he could be my Lucy’s brother.

  34. If you want help with the wardrobe rethink, my daughter is great at that. She helps people hone their wardrobes and their look frequently. Of course, you’d have to do it electronically as we live in the States.

    Hurrah for all the progress you are making!

  35. I am compelled to add my piece! I ardently admire you. I am so glad to know you thru your blog. I appreciate all the pic’s and the prose. The love and warmth jumps off the written words. I am following your recovery and sending good thoughts your way. Your determination, style, and grace speak volumes about who you are.

  36. I was so busy admiring the cardie I missed the Orla Kiely dress!! On my way through John Lewis in St James last week I spotted a little collection of Orla Kiely bags that they are now stocking. My OH is thinking of tagging me to keep track of my movements incase I go there to really investigate! Could be just the ticket as part of your new wardrobe? ;)
    Congrats on North Berwick Law x

  37. Kate, I was compelled to leave you a comment, and I see that many others were as well! I must say how much I admire your honesty and your doggedness. I first read your blog because I loved your talk of all things knitting and sewing. Now I read because I find that you continue to move farther along every time I check in. You have helped to keep me inspired in many ways. (p.s. I LOVE your new sweater design! I just started knitting more patterns with slipped stitches because I love the texture. I’m excited for the pattern release!) Here’s to a good rest of fall!

  38. I love those pictures!! That fatigue is a killer though, isn’t it? I haven’t tried keeping track, but I reckon we’re about the same although I haven’t tried any hill walking yet: just walking into town is hugely draining and, well, we don’t have any hills round these parts lol. I have been referred to the “fatigue management team” at the rehab place. They are apparently (8 months after the SAH) going to try and give me tips and coping strategies. Hum. We shall see. I have developed my own strategies, but the “pacing” thing is proving very difficult to work out. And I’m just coming to terms with the fact that “this” might be as good as it gets. I’m not depressed or anything, just raring to get on with things!

    Keep smiling!

  39. Da.. the neurologist, full speed ahead; the OT speaking here, I have seen amazing things in rehab that make me equate miracles and human tenacity, that no doctor ever anticipated. You’ve got it, keep on going.



  40. Well, I am down here at the bottom of the comment pile, but I have to say that the photo of you and your sweetheart hugging brought tears to my eyes. For your striving, for your persistence, and for the love that was expressed in that photo.
    Thank you for sharing your journey.

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)