A few weeks back I was thinking about a good friend of mine; Lizzie Lee.
We met while we were volunteering at No5 Youth Counselling in Reading. She was already counselling when I met her, but to start with I was the duty receptionist for the Wednesday evening rota.
I’ve no doubt we were the rock and roll rota. I’m pretty sure the amount of laughing and swearing that went on in the counsellors rest room during that time was unsurpassed. Mostly because of Lizzie.
Lizzie was, to say the least, a prolific swearer. The competition to say the c word first each night was almost always won by her. She used it as a term of endearment and as the worst possible insult. Sometimes in the same breath. I don’t think I ever got a christmas card from her that didn’t feature that word.
Eventually I would go through counselling training myself and join Lizzie and the rest of the gang as a fully fledged counsellor. Other counsellors came and went, but Lizzie, and her raucous laughter were Wednesday night constants for several years.
In between the fun Lizzie could always be relied on for the support we all needed at times as we did our best to help to the clients that walked through the door. Not just this of course, Lizzie was a massive help to me as I went through personal problems of my own.
She stayed at No5 long after I left. Eventually she joined the management team, putting yet more hours and energy in. She was driven to do the best for people, always went the extra mile. She put herself through endless stress at the thought that she could do better, that she should be/could be a better counsellor.
It’s what made her a great counsellor, but it took it’s toll on Lizzie.
She was a scientist too, it was something we had in common, so we would always chat about the labs we worked in, and could always empathise with each other’s problems. Her lab was actually over the road from mine on the Uni campus. I often used to cycle past her as she stomped her way into work.
I’ve moved away from Reading, but I stayed in contact with Lizzie, always enjoying our occasional meet up for drinks. She was always a good drinking companion even when our lives took different paths.
She died this year, suddenly, unexpectedly. It was cancer, I’m not even sure what form, I don’t want to know, but it was quick and agressive.
She was already gone before I even found out she was ill. I’d kept meaning to get in contact, but you know how it goes – maybe tomorrow. I wonder, did she even have my current phone number? Had she tried to get in contact? I don’t know. It’s useless even asking the question, but I wish I’d been there for her at the end.
I read that story a couple of weeks ago, it stirred everything up for me, and an idea I’d had floating around my head began to take shape. I opened up google maps, plotted a route.
This blog and the tour I’m planning is the result. I think I can do it, the cycling will be hard, but they’re only legs, it’s only pain, it’s only wintery lashing rain! Getting the gigs organised and profitable, now that’s what I’m crapping myself about.
Lizzie was a great person, and a great friend. She went the extra mile for the people she liked, the clients she supported, and the charities she volunteered for.
So, I’m doing this for Lizzie and the counselling charity she loved, so that she can continue to make an impact on the lives of people who need it.
It’s also why I’d like this tour to support counselling charities in each of the gig cities I visit. The opportunity and the power of simply speaking, and simply being heard without judgement, is not supported enough.