Elizabeth Chats With…Verran Townsend
Verran Townsend is an author, a potter and a mountain walker, whom I met via Rowcroft Hospice, Torquay. I had just published Chasing Unicorns, an anthology, written by a group of Swanwickers in memory of our friend, Katy Clarke. Verran was working on his wonderful book, Finding Your Way. We meet from time to time to share our experiences of this strange world of authoring and independent publishing. I am delighted he has agreed to chat with me today.
Hello, Verran, and welcome. We’re going to start in the time-honoured fashion. Tell me about your earliest memory — and how old were you at the time?
It must have been seeing my Mum walking up the path to our house with my baby brother in her arms – a life changing moment for a 2½ year old who was, up until then, the only child!
If you had to escape from a fire, what three things would you take with you?
Turns out I’ve been thinking about this as two houses in my mother’s road caught fire last year, this brings the total to five houses in that one street in my recent memory – it happens! The answer came easily, and there’s really only one thing I’d grab – a book I created that holds memories of the life I shared with Karen, my late wife. With time to gather two more things, and for wholly practical reasons, it would be my phone and my PC.
Talking about yourself, how would you finish the sentence “not a lot of people know…”?
I once came 106th in the World Bog Snorkelling Championships.
Where is your favourite place on earth — and why?
The Lake District. The beauty has stopped me in my tracks so many times – a wonderful place to visit no matter what the season, walking the fells with friends or alone is a joy.
How do you relax?
Stepping out into the garden works every time, it’s the first thing I do every morning. A walk in the countryside is even better, especially on the moors or in the mountains, soaking up the views, the fresh air and all the sights, sounds and smells that nature provides.
If you knew you only had 24 hours left, how would you spend them?
I’d speak to everyone I love, gather them round if possible, and let them know that it’s okay, leaving nothing unsaid. When it’s time for me to move on to my next adventure, I’d like to experience those final hours and my last outbreath as richly as possible, with no fear, excited to discover what’s coming next.
What would you have printed on the front of your T-shirt?
Follow your heart.
I learned this from Karen who followed hers throughout her extraordinary life, and encouraged me to come back to mine whenever she noticed I’d lost my way.
Would you describe yourself as left-brain (analytical), right-brain (intuitive) or a mix of both?
I think I started out in life rather left-brained, which proved to be very handy in my first job as a computer analyst. Happily this trajectory changed as I grew older, moved away from the screens and spent more time with people, learning to trust my intuition and waking up my right side. Later, as my wife’s care became my main focus, I needed both in equal measure. Now as an author, a potter and mountain walker, my right side is leading the way and enjoying its day in the sun.
What advice would you have for someone who finds themselves in a long term caring role?
I would encourage anyone in this situation to choose to notice what helps them as they find their way, day by day. I found that writing down whatever I discovered in a notebook really helped me, and over time I created a wonderful collection of reminders. They helped me to remember to care for myself while caring for my wife, and this enabled me to support Karen far better, and to face right in to whatever came our way, together.
After Karen died I published my notebook in the hope that some of the things I discovered would help others, inspiring them to embrace the situation they find themselves in, and to create their own version of my book. It’s a positive ripple that emerged from a deeply challenging yet life enriching experience, and it’s called Finding Your Way – Caring for yourself while caring for someone else. I’ve been very touched and encouraged by the feedback I’ve received so far from carers and organisations that support them, and if you know someone that could benefit from these thoughts, please do let them know about it. Thank you.
And thank you, Verran, for taking the time to chat with me. Readers, you can find out more about Verran’s book here; about his life as a potter, here; or about his upcoming mountain walking course here.