Hebridean Writing Odyssey For Alzheimer's Research

£4,514 of £5,500 goal

Raised by 91 people in 7 months
Thank you all for taking the time to visit my page. I am raising money to help fund an expedition to the Hebridean islands of Scotland. Between now and throughout the expedition I will also be fundraising for Alzheimer's Research UK. 

As a lot of you already know, my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer's this time last year, and since then I've been thinking of a way to honour the adventurous spirit he has instilled in me since I was a child, and to experience in my own way what so captured his imagination many years ago. Namely, the islands off the west coast of Scotland.

In the early 1960s, dad founded the Schools Hebridean Society, a group of young teachers who led secondary school children on expeditions in the Hebridean islands. Over the course of almost thirty years, well over a hundred expeditions took place, influencing the lives of countless young men and women.

I have decided to challenge myself to a solo expedition of the islands, camping and trekking over the course of nine months (granted that I can raise the full amount of funds), writing a book dealing with memory, and how the physical landscape informs and provokes our internal worlds. In the spirit of everything the Schools Hebridean Society was about, I wish to embark on my own such expedition.

It will be an incredible opportunity for me to reflect on my surroundings, both external and internal, and find a way to write about memory, my relationship with my father, and my relationship to a changing landscape that I hope to follow in an organic, spontaneous fashion. Whilst at the same time raising money for an organisation I feel very strongly about. 

In brief, the funding will cover the following: equipment for nine months of camping and hiking in Scottish weather, transport (ferries and train tickets), emergency money, daily costs (given that I will have no income for the year), of which food will be the main daily cost, maps and navigational tools. I can provide a detailed list of what I will need upon request. 

Please feel free to share with anyone you feel might want to be a part of this. 

With all my gratitude, 
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Alzheimer’s Research UK.

We’re doing really well with the fundraising for Alzheimer’s Research UK, and I’d like to turn the attention wholly to that for now. I’m going to stretch what you’ve all been so kind enough to supply me with - funds towards the expedition - as far as I can. But I don’t want to lose sight of the opportunity I have, by doing something like this, especially now I have less time, to raise money for a really good cause.

I appreciate that the contract I wrote up for myself, and had been subscribed to by many of you, was the challenge of spending a year walking and camping the Hebrides, and by reducing that to nine months after the fact I have in a way reneged on that contract. I hope that my reasons for doing so have been met with the justifications I’ve given in the last couple of updates.

Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a couple of years ago. Like a lot of people, we all thought that he was just “getting old” - that struggling with memory and engaging in conversation was merely ageing. Though the two are not entirely mutually exclusive, Alzheimer’s is very much a disease - it wipes the brain of a lifetimes accumulation of memory and experience, until they are reduced to near nothing. Furthermore, it by no means strikes just the old - it can come much earlier too.

Alzheimer’s Research UK are a charity who focus very much on the research side of things. Their primary aim is not only to further the better treatment and understanding of the illness, but to also work tirelessly towards a cure. And that is why I chose them as a charity to show my support for.

It should go without saying that every little bit helps. Thank you.

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To You, My Employers

I think it’s time I answered a question, now asked of me on enough occasions, from strangers I have met on my travels, to warrant an explanation. Though the question is always phrased differently, this is a generalised version of it:

“It must be nice to be on such a long holiday, but why don’t you get a part-time job whilst you’re out here?”

There have been instances where this question has been asked of me before I’ve actually told them what I’m doing, and so once I’ve done so there’s been more often than not an understanding. So my answer is directed more at the person who, having been given the details, still repeat the same question.

It is true that this is a unique and highly-privileged position to be in, a truly “once in a lifetime” experience. But what is also true is that I’m not actually on holiday. Whilst I believe more and more people are coming around to the fact that being a writer - or, more broadly, an artist - is a way of life that justifies itself, others seem unwilling to try and get their heads around it.

But this is work. I am writing a book about not only my own process of travelling the islands, but I’m also researching my dads legacy out here as the result of his failing memory due to having Alzheimer’s. Being far from him, being far from all my family and my friends, is a trial in itself (not to mention the Hebridean winds). But it’s a work I enjoy, which I believe is also something some people can be wary of. It’s also a work that demands a lot emotionally, something that if I were on an actual holiday, I’d be keen to avoid.

In terms of getting a part-time job, I reply as follows: “But I’m in full-time work.” This whole project requires every hour of each day, and 100% of my attention, and so if I were to take a part-time job I’d be shirking my responsibilities to the work itself, but also to my employers. But who are your employers, they ask. To which I can direct them to my GoFundMe page and say, “Look, here they are.”
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Dear all,

I wanted to just spend a little time updating you on my recent travels, and my plans for the upcoming months.

Most recently I have returned from four nights on the uninhabited island of Mingulay. I was the sole human on the island. My company was a beach filled with hundreds of seals - their murmurings rolled me into sleep each night and returned me to the day each morning.

For the last month I have spent the bulk of my time on the islands of South Uist and Eriskay. Now I’m again on Barra taking stock, thinking about my next moves, and spending two nights at Dunard hostel. After almost a month solid of wild camping, I decided a proper rest was in order.

In the grand scheme of things, the material going into the book will be wholly the explorations I am making of the islands, from the time I arrived (31st March) until the end of October, when my family arrive on Mull for a week. After that I will head to the gamekeepers bothy beside a sea loch in southwest Lewis where I hope to type up the first draft of “OH.” I expect to stay there for a month or so, before poking my head out to check the weather, either moving on with my tent or heading to Stornoway and friends for the winter/new year period. So, that takes me to the start of January. So what of the final three months?

Firstly, there is the research element to the creative project itself; by then, ultimately, complete. But there is also the matter of funds. At that point I will feel ready to draw the expedition to an early, but no less complete end. I realise this goes against the planned 365 days, but given the explorations will be over, the book just needing further whittling away at (a task I can do almost anywhere) I now feel unjustified to ask for further funds beyond early January. However, I also acknowledge that some/many/all of you have potentially supported me with the intention of seeing me complete the whole 365 days, come hell or high water. So you have my sincerest apologies if you feel at all hard done by. I want you to know that this decision has come after much consideration, but given the shape the expedition has taken, the start of next year now feels like the natural end. If I’d been able to fund the entire thing myself, I’d be making the same adjustment to the plan. And for personal reasons: I deeply miss my family and friends back home, and wish to return to them and to also pick up my working life, whatever and wherever that may be.

As a result I’ve reduced the proposed financial goal, as you might have seen. In order to reach the now reduced target there is still some way to go. I thank you all for your support already, and hope that given yours and others continued support, I can return in the new year with the first manuscript of “OH” well on its way to completion; a completion I now feel requires four walls, a roof, and family and friends close to hand.

Many, many thanks,
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Hello all

Thought I’d check in with the whole lot of you and let you know how things are going out here in the Western Isles.

In almost three months of being out here I’ve established a shape to the book that I am working on, and each day brings new and fascinating surprises. I have been going to sites from expeditions my dad led in the sixties, and meeting people who still remember the Schools Hebridean Society in those very early years. In short, the journey is growing into something rich in significance, to an extent I couldn’t have imagined before setting off for these magical isles.

The spring, summer and autumn have and will continue to be filled by explorations on foot. The narrative of my dads journeys out here are told alongside the current narrative, often meeting and relating, other times going their separate ways. I hope the book will be able to pull all these strands together, and having already filled two thick journals, by wintertime I’ll have more than enough to start typing something up.

The winds will rise to such an extent that at times during the winter especially, it would be verging on the insane to expect camping out every night. Fortunately, there are options. For the month of November I’ll be staying in the gamekeepers bothy at Hamanavay estate in south-west Lewis, a wild and isolated spot beside a loch, a place where there is electricity, four walls and a roof to keep me warm and from being blown away. There I’ll have my computer and all the diaries and journals to hand. The vast bulk of the expedition will be ready to craft into a manuscript. Come early next year, the final part of the book will be written, detailing a two month expedition, the details of which I am keeping closely guarded for now... And that will take me to the end of my proposed year in the Hebrides.

But I still need to reach the financial goal, which due to your already very generous donations, has not far to go. Any amount will help greatly, and I will be sure to mention your generosity within the pages of the book.

These islands often leave me speechless by their beauty. I hope you will one day be able to read about it all. In the meantime, thank you for everything.

Much love
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Raised by 91 people in 7 months
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