The Refuge Tree

It’s that time of year again! When I don trainers and a variety of clashing neon sportswear bargains and ask you to support my London Marathon fundraising efforts for Refuge, a brilliant charity which helps women living with domestic violence. Except this time, instead of just asking you to sponsor me, I have bigger and more exciting plans afoot! Mainly, this:

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A glorious collaboration between lots of amazing women artists and illustrators and all round good eggs which has had me positively skipping with delight the last few weeks, as my vague idea has taken root into something bigger than I could have imagined possible.

I’ve collaged the silhouetted branches of a tree (currently 90cm wide x 115.5cm tall, and growing), cut it up into over 90 postcards and sent these out to the aforementioned wonderful, all-female crew who are going to draw anything they like on their own section. The tree will be reassembled for International Women’s Day on the 8th March and the individual postcards auctioned off on Ebay, with all proceeds going to Refuge. The auction will run here from Thursday 7th - Sunday 10th March - follow me on Twitter and Instagram for updates.

*UPDATE* I’m very excited to announce that the wonderful London Review Bookshop is going to display the tree in their shop window! I’ll be installing it on the 1st March and it will stay up for about 2 weeks. Head over to 14 Bury Place (near the British Museum) to see the finished Refuge Tree in all it’s glory!

This charity is so important to me. One in four women in the UK will experience an abusive relationship in their lifetime. I didn’t realise how real this statistic was until I started talking more openly about my own experience, which makes me all the more determined to continue raising awareness. You can read a bit more on my fundraising page here. Helping those who have experienced violence and abuse is at the core of everything Refuge does, and their work includes aiding women experiencing domestic violence, sexual violence, ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage, FGM, human trafficking and modern slavery.

I really want to raise as much money as possible and hopefully this tree will give my marathon fundraising a fantastic start!

So I’m very excited to reveal the names of the artists taking part:

I’ve been so overwhelmed by the positive response. Thank you so much everyone for your support! You can follow the tree’s progress by searching #RefugeTree on Instagram and Twitter. I cannot wait to see it take shape!

My Inner Gazelle and the Bournemouth Marathon

I'm starting off my thirties in a spectacularly non-Kate Slater fashion by running a marathon.

(I will pause while anyone who was in my PE class at school scrapes themselves off the floor.)

For everyone else, I cannot impress upon you enough how unlikely this is. When I was 10, I won the sack race and when I was 15 my PE teacher asked me to demonstrate backstroke to the rest of the class. Those are my only sporting achievements so far. (I might also be able to save you from drowning if I'm wearing my pyjamas but, let's face it, that's not a real life situation.)

When my brain isn't awash with the serotonin that swooshes round as I run, the main thing that keeps me marathon-motivated (apart from eyeing up fluorescent orange running gear online) is that I plan on raising some money for Teenage Cancer Trust while I'm at it, in memory of my lovely friend Ben.

I'm by no means the first of Ben's friends and family to run a ridiculously long way to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust, but I promise you I'm the most unlikely runner of us all, so any donation, however tiny, will definitely spur me on! You can find my Just Giving page here. We all miss Ben so much; this is just another small way to remember someone really wonderful and hopefully make things a little bit better for the next young person diagnosed with cancer.

(As you can see, the other thing I've learned to do on the cusp of this new decade is make a gif!)

(As you can see, the other thing I've learned to do on the cusp of this new decade is make a gif!)

I started running (aka, jogging, very slowly, on strictly flat surfaces) just over a year ago, after reading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Yep, not only has Murakami written 13 novels, been translated into 50 languages and won masses of awards, he's also run at least 25 marathons AND one ultramarathon (and seems to squeeze in quite a few triathalons too).

I borrowed the memoir from my friend Sarah and, thoroughly inspired, we decided to find out what all the fuss was about and go for a jog (under the strict agreement that we wouldn't try to chat at the same time).

We had a glass of wine before we set off, a slice of cake when we got back and managed at least half a mile! I wouldn't say I caught the running bug exactly, but it was a nice way to spend time together and I even bought myself an actual pair of leggings from TK Maxx. I hadn't worn leggings since about 1993. (FYI: I've since discovered that running leggings are called tights, which is just one example of the befuddling, yet rather alluring, world of sportswear; a world where the most reliable way to identify if something is for women is that it's got pink bits on, and where you find yourself trapped in a changing cubicle, ensnared in a sports bra you don't understand, wondering how likely it is you'll need to dislocate a least one shoulder to get out of it.)

By autumn we'd reached the dizzying heights of 2 whole miles, with conversation and the odd hill thrown in for good measure (and a shared slice of millionaire's shortbread at the end). It was quite brilliant. I had a vague idea it might be nice to be able to manage 6 miles, but that was probably enough and something I might accomplish in the distant future, around the same time I finally knit enough squares to make a whole blanket or learn to make gravy.

Then Sarah suggested we sign up for the Bournemouth marathon... and I said yes.

I was slightly alarmed, but it was almost Christmas, other parts of my life were going awry and I thought running a marathon seemed like the sort of thing the Kate Slater I would like to be would do without a second thought.

And it is quite handy, really, because when the question "what on earth am I doing with my life?" pops into my brain in an inconvenient sort of way, I have a ready answer: "I know! I'm running a marathon" which appeases my inner Spanish Inquisitor a little bit.

I am a gazelle. A gazelle in running tights. But really I fear I am more like one of the cows when they're let out in spring. Full of joy, rather ungainly, and you know it won't last.

Either way, I'd be eternally grateful if you could sponsor me, here.