Early reflections 2, a bumpy landing….
London, November 14th.
Of course, everyone tells you to expect a certain sense of deflation on return from these extended projects or expeditions. But of course very few people have actually been on these extended projects, so in fact have very little understanding of the sense of emptiness when the routine and, most importantly, the purpose has been removed from your life. Abruptly and with little ceremony. So I found myself back in London, utterly delighted to see Julie, but with a house full of builders, cold, windswept weather and a remarkably poignant degree of what I can only describe as “flat”.
I spent ten days after my return essentially secluded at home, with an almost zero interest in engaging with anyone other than close friends. I avoided emails (or at least, responding to emails), answering telephone calls and texts, and generally hunkering down. I realised that there are several black tie dinners coming up, which felt very peculiar, as these events are in winter, whereas for me it still feels like late summer (unless I look out of the window, or make the basic error of watching the BBC weather forecast). I was, essentially, hibernating.
After a couple of days, when the weather relented and it was a calm, bright, autumnal day, I found myself over at The Skiff Club. Sad but true. I took out a very old single skiff and some equally venerable oars and set off. Being mid-week, there were no other crafts on the water and a blessed lack of commercial traffic (a day later, on the water again, I saw a Thames tug with a single barge. I laughed so hard I had to stop rowing). The paddle up to Hampton Court was beautiful, peaceful and astonishingly short by comparison to the daily long haul of the Mississippi. I found the trip hugely comforting (other than my backside, which definitely grumbled) and ludicrously easy. Before the project, a round trip to Hampton Court – about 10 miles – seemed a long outing. Now it seems like a warm up.
So I had four or five sessions on the water before the weather changed back to blustery and wet, and then went to the gym a couple of times instead.
I ate my fill of broccoli, cabbage, spinach and anything else green. I ate endless amounts of clementines, apples and kiwi fruit. I drank green tea. My body was extremely grateful and if it could have written a charming thank you note, I am sure it would. But my ability to “process” the scale of the Mississippi project and what we have achieved, still eludes me. When describing the journey to friends, I find it feels like a dream and I find it hard to believe we actually did it. There is no question that it will take time too properly understand it.
On a very happy note, donations continue to come in from all quarters – participants continue to raise funds, organisations begin to match funding and gift aid starts to add to the total. I am now convinced we will make it to the million dollar target we set and I look forward to making an announcement to that effect. When I do, it will be a source of huge satisfaction to the team, but it should also be a source of great satisfaction to every donor, big or small, that has helped get us to this mammoth total. Glasses will be raised for sure in the UK, and also in the US, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and all other countries where the donor diaspora live. Wonderful.
Over the next few weeks, as life slowly readjusts to normality, I will try to write some more reflections. Some kind of book is a real possibility, which will give me the ability to recount some matters which were not suitable for the blog, as well as the ability to explore some matters in far greater depth. The Mississippi, the people and the experiences have left deep impressions on me and I feel it important to at least try to record these.
What do you think?