We are really fortunate to have so many people trying their best to make an event happen this year in so many different shapes and sizes. This is Judy’s diary. she is walking around Meersbrook Park every day, waving the Palestinian flag and talking with people as he goes. Thank you Judy so much!
Wed 10 June
I called for my flag in the middle of a thunderstorm and by the time I got half way up the hill on the first lap, the rain had abated a bit so I it and at the top a woman with a dog asked what it was about. So I explained. She was familiar with SPBR but didn’t realise it was coming up and agreed to register and donate. While this conversation was going on a young man was listening in, who turned out to be from……GAZA!!!!! We were both so astounded by each other that we nearly went for a hug, stopping just in time! So he walked another lap with me while we got to know each other – he’s an architect, now living in London but brought up in Bulgaria. The next lap I met Gill (Carfield School dinner lady) and Mike) and they went away promising to register, and then finally I met Lawrence, a young man on his way to Crookes, on his lone Round Sheffield walk. So whether or not anything comes of it, wasn’t bad for a first outing with my flag.
Friday 12 June
Late start today as I had to deal with a smashed back windscreen, so only managed 4 k before it got too dark for comfort.
Chatted to a jolly band of young people inc Kev and Josh (who took a pic of me with my flag), meeting up with their cans of beer, Liz and Olly the dog, who had noticed the posters around and was pleased to discuss, 9-week old Nye, who was not impressed with being walked round the park by Dad, Richard, who ran last year and his friend David.
Saturday 13 June
Warm day and many more folk in the park and so a bumper crop of encounters, starting off on the wrong side of a large dog who ‘hates flags, cyclists and motorbikes’.
I furled my flag on my second lap up the hill but he wasn’t having it and I was glad of his chain and their strong arms! I explained I’d be coming round another 3 times so they might like to find another spot and luckily they did. I met Mary from Ireland, Chrystine who informed me she was going to offer a troubadour-style song outside people’s houses for her SPBR event, Toni, Jamie and Katie, on their bench, two Kurdish guys who kept a cheerful, encouraging tally of my laps, Joe, Steve and Gus and Tamara, who decided they’d go on a run up Kinder Scout, Mike and Steve and Dave and John, and Tom who tortured himself by going half way round the world before he got to Palestine, Some knew about Palestine, but weren’t aware of the SPBR, some were unaware of either, but were touched by the aims, and all said they would go online to donate. I hope so.
I went home to be Chrystine’s first customer and was serenaded on my deck with my flag as a backdrop and granted a wish.
Sunday 14 June
The conversations started 4 doors down, where Aditti (just 8) and younger sister Anira were putting the finishing touches to their pavement hopscotch and Mum Megan mentioned seeing someone running round the park with a flag earlier.
Near the park entrance, a conversation started when I heard little Isabel ask “Why has that lady got a flag?” then on the hill I met Gill and Mike again, on a bench, who pointed out a little boy in the distance with a flag like mine, so we greeted each other from afar with our flags. Then I met my second Palestinian, Samir and friend Jamie.
Samir’s grandfather still lives near Ramallah, and we talked among other things, about the key and deeds that were kept by his family when they fled their homes and how replicas of those keys were used as relay batons for the SPBR teams. By the sculpture of Mick the head gardener (now sporting a mask), I met Isla (aged nearly 8, and a friend of Aditti’s), Peter 5 and a half and Mum Rebecca, who took a pic of the nearby poster and promised to explain it all to the children when they got home. Then it was Sidney, her mum Jodie and Lottie the dog and one last speeded-up lap accompanied by distant thunder, arriving home just before the deluge!
My methods of engagement seem to fall into three categories. Look them in the eye as I approach, and they may ask. Overhearing a child enquire about my flag behind me, or start by chatting to the dog. There are also the distant group reactions of raised fists in solidarity, which are encouraging. It’s good to be able to give people something concrete they can do that will make a difference. 30 k so far and 42 to go.
Monday 15th June
Another warm evening, with folk scattered across the hill in groups and pairs in the last of the sun.First up Sophie and Giles, about to embark on the Not the Cat Lane Canter. Quick photo and then didn’t see them again till they joyfully hailed me at the end of their orienteering run. Then it was Catherine whose family headed for the woods while we shared info about the SPBR and the B Road again. Nye was happy and awake, clearly preferring the sun to the drizzle of our last miserable encounter. Richard ran last year but is in full new dad mode, so we agreed he might just donate this year. On the hill I chatted to three Chinese students from three corners of China, Jing, Lin and Victoria. We took pics of each other while I filled them in on things Palestinian and why I would be bothering to care and carry a flag that is not my own. They got very excited when SPBR came up when they googled on their phones!
My final encounter was in Spanish with Violeta and Moises from El Salvador, who came to the UK a year ago. Moises had recently seen a documentary on Palestine and we spent some time talking about the SPBR and the situation in both Palestine and El Salvador Trump and walls figure in the lives of Salvadoreans too, and they worry about relatives left behind and identified with the anxieties and insecurities of Palestinians..
By the time we said goodbye, it was time to attend to my rumbling tum, and as I wended my way up MPR I met Anne, part of Body of Sound who will sing for SPBR and was reminded to go online and register. Home for a late tea whilst watching the swifts from my deck in the sunset.
Tuesday 15th June
Looks like I’m going to be thunderstorms off today having just been soaked during black lives matter protest on hill. Don’t mind the rain just not the thunder and lightening in the woods. So am going to send a load of pics from the previous couple of days that will overwhelm you but choose what you like. Will have to step up literally to get my 72k in by midday Sunday
Wednesday 17 June
After getting a good soaking whilst Taking a Knee at the Black Lives Matter protest in the Park, I waited till the rain stopped before venturing forth after tea.
Moral – don’t climb that hill straight after a meal! Digesting on the way up and burping all the way down!Met Julia on a bench, then Sarah with dog Phoebe walked round with me till we met Caroline, our SPBR merchandise organiser, hoving into view across the grass from her house.
There was a brief transaction over a buff (£3.50), a quick pic in the sunset then a long chat with a group of Sri Lankan and Indian post-grad students – Gavindi, Prasad, Amanda and Arshaan. We talked of many things, from Brexit to the sadness of not being able to travel to a grandmother’s funeral due to covid. They filmed my spiel for friends and family, with promises to encourage donations and together we walked down the hill in the gathering gloom. And so to bed.
By the way, don’t forget the Merchandise, people! The buffs are especially wonderful, in traditional Kefiyeh black and white, with a special design of folk running up that hill; they’re multipurpose and warm and make great presents.
Thursday 18 June
This is the last day of my diary, although I will continue walking round the Park with my flag till Sunday, so look out for me. I was out of the house by 6.30am to try and beat the forecast of an entire day’s double raindrop downpour. Passed a couple of startled runners on the hill,
“This is unexpected!” and I called out the essential info to their retreating backs.
The changed wind direction meant my flag was continuously wrapping itself round my face instead of flowing decorously behind me.
Met Julia, and Kay (with dogs) in the woods and then Bhanu caught up with me to enquire what I was about before whizzing on her way. Passed Gertie and her owner again as they went anticlockwise to my clockwise. Gertie’s thing is sniffing the backs of people’s trousers as they walk, in the way of a bloodhound, until they turn round to say hello, when she shies away, waiting for them to carry on so she can get back to her trouserbottom sleuthing. Hilarious!
By then the push of mist and drizzle and the pull of my breakfast sent me home, quite surprised to have had any encounters at all on such a gloomy early morning.
Went out again when the evening weather turned fine and spent nearly 2 hours doing three laps, due to all the lovely encounters!
At the gate I bumped into Cath, another member of the SPBR organising team, with Amni and Oscar, who told me about their SPBR activity plans, then Kate, who will be doing an interesting Community Philosophy Zoom workshop 3 – 5pm on Saturday 20th (Hurry Hurry!!).
Next up was Peter, who guessed the flag, and 3 month Lorelei and then Jordan Nile and his pals Owen, Gabriela, Emily and Antonio from Naples. Jordan not only said he was Palestinian and told me, horror of horrors, I was carrying my flag upside down (how long for, I wonder), but was fascinatingly covered in Palestine related tattoos, including the flag! Apparently he is Jordan Nile because of the symbolic river boundaries.
On the hill there was Josie and Henry with his broken shoulder, Charlotte and Mike, Sarah and Phoebe again and Nadia and Nazia with useful suggestions about fund-raising. Met up with Caroline and her Palestine umbrella and together we chatted to Helen, who was so interested that she promised to donate a pound for my every Kilometre!
And there will be 72 kilometres by the time I get to join the Zoom Rally at midday on Sunday after nearly two weeks of flag waving and publicising Small Park Big Run 2020.
72 k because I was born in 1948, the year of the Nakba (Catastrophe) which befell Palestinians in their own land. It’s been a fascinating journey, meeting all kinds of people of all ages, who made their own connections with what SPBR is about, and we all came away from these conversations with food for thought (except perhaps Nye and Lorelei, who at 9 and 12 weeks, will be growing up in a different world, but with switched on parents who will explain things when they’re ready. There was only one negative encounter, with a flag-phobic dog, and, sometimes it was hard to keep up the kilometres because of all the encounters, but that was the whole point.