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We acknowledge gratefully the help and support for our trek from rim to rim of the Grand Canyon, Twelve Months to Raise a Million, from:
Hallmark Travel, East Grinstead www.hallmarktravel.com
Dale Bulbrook, Web Designs, East Grinstead www.webdesigns.ltd.uk
East Grinstead Chamber of Commerce www.egchamber.co.uk
Sun Precautions, Inc. Washington USA www.sunprecautions.com
New Balance Athletic Shoes www.newbalance.co.uk
The Brasher Boot Company www.brasher.co.uk
in-press colour (printers) Dorking email@example.com
Haskins Garden Centre, Snowhill, East Grinstead www.haskins.co.uk
Domino's Pizza, East Grinstead (Steve and Beccy Hough) www.dominoseastgrinstead.co.uk
King's Leisure Centre, East Grinstead
CJ's Coffee Bar www.CJs-Coffeebar.com
Sam Lambourne, The Jog Shop, Brighton www.jogshop.co.uk
Wealden Workwear, East Grinstead www.wwpe.co.uk
Objets d'Art www.gallery99.co.uk
Viva Eyewear UK Limited
The Print Room firstname.lastname@example.org
TWELVE MONTHS TO RAISE A MILLION
August 28th 2007. I'm 71 today: and I've just started planning this Challenge, which will be a far reaching journey leading to a trek from rim to rim of the Grand Canyon on September 10th and 11th 2008, just after my next birthday.
We've got to get the attention and arouse the imagination of everybody: so I'm aiming to set a new World record for Most Sponsors for One Person for One Event, and as a result, to raise an immense amount of money. A million.
The 'million' refers both to the number of sponsors and pounds sterling. This 'Challenge' has to be big in every way.
Where better could I base this 'Challenge' than the Grand Canyon, one of my favourite places on earth?
It is awe inspiring, and when I stand on the North Rim and look across miles and miles of twisting canyons to the distant South Rim, I have a profound sense of wonder and contentment despite the Challenge ahead. You start at the North Rim at 9,000ft, and descend the North Kaibab Trail to Phantom Ranch at 2,000ft where you cross the Colorado River. The temperature might be as high as 130F. You then climb up the steeper Bright Angel Trail, where the temperature might be even higher, through Indian Gardens to the South Rim at 8,000ft. It's tough, it's arduous, it's challenging and it's wonderful!
WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
1 in 50 people in Britain will suffer from melanoma: and, without a guaranteed cure, a quarter will die. Even worse, the incidence is doubling every ten years.
So our objectives are to fund research, raise awareness and make diagnosis more easily available. A three pronged approach, which Myfanwy's Charity sets out to fund: and this 'Challenge' will be the vehicle to publicise this.
Melanoma is a 'silent killer'. 1 in 50 will suffer from malignant melanoma: unless it is caught early, it is almost untreatable. A quarter will die, many from tumours that have formed from the initial melanoma in the kidneys, liver or brain. Death then can be very quick. Even worse is the news that the incidence is doubling every ten years
It particularly affects people with an outdoor lifestyle: runners, walkers, golfers, rugby and football players, cricketers, gardeners, sun bathers. You'll find them in sports clubs, tanning salons and gyms or on continental holidays.
So we've got to publicise the disease, and the potential outcome, and find a cure. Many people have heard of melanoma. Most think that it is so obscure that it isn't worth bothering about. Well, it is! When I give a talk, about a third of the audience put up their hand when I ask if they know anybody who has suffered from melanoma: and they look round in surprise to see this reaction. If everybody who knows somebody who has had melanoma were to donate a pound, or take round a sponsor form, we'd raise millions: and ths would allow meaningful research, and enable early diagnosis centres to open (the only real cure, catch it early).
HOW CAN WE ACHIEVE THIS?
It takes a great amount of money to fund meaningful research to strive to find a cure for this terrible disease of malignant melanoma, one of the Diseases of the 21st Century, and from which Myfanwy died on October 20th 1999.
Most of all, we need YOU!
We need all our friends over the years to work away in Myfanwy's memory: for instance, the more than 1,000 players (and their parents) who built Felbridge Juniors Rugby Club from being a small village boys club in Sussex to become ranked amongst the top youth rugby clubs in the world entirely by their own efforts, and tour the world as a result (and there's a book to be written about this, just want to hear from you first!), the more than 1,000 runners who took part over 16 years in the 80 mile South Downs Way Run that we organised, the hundreds of friends over 40 years in East Grinstead Operatic Society, the hundreds of guys with whom I played and coached at Derby, St Abans, East Grinstead, Crawley and Wingspan Rugby Clubs, the thousands who read my columns in Rugby World and Garden News, the thousands who knew Myfanwy and myself at the major gardening Shows where we worked for Garden News, and further thousands with whom I worked and spoke at Kew Gardens and Wakehurst Place for more than 20 years. Lots more friends in East Grinstead. And if YOU are reading this, it means YOU: it doesn't take much time to download a sponsor form from the Home Page, grab 30 sponsors, and send it back (with the money made out to the Charity) to the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund, 6 Manor Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 1LR.
Want to know more? E-mail email@example.com Or telephone 01342 322508.
So many thousands knew us both: so many knew Myfanwy and her wonderful smile: so many knew of her death from malignant melanoma, and the threat posed by this terrible disease. Please download a sponsor form, and get your friends to do similarly: or you can make a donation on JustGiving (and we get an extra 28% Gift Aid) on www.JustGiving.com/grandcanyon-rimtorim . Contact people you know, especially those who knew us, and get them on side. We've only got nine months to raise a million: doesn't matter how much, 10p, £10 (or more!), because a million sponsors will really raise the roof for fundraising and awareness of this killer disease.
But to let everybody know what we're doing, and why, we've got to generate publicity in the media: this is also our big chance to focus attention on malignant melanoma, one of the Diseases of the 21st Century. Do you know anybody in the media? Local, regional, national? Tell them about it: put them in touch with us. Not tomorrow: NOW!
Do you want a press handout? Or lots of leaflets? We've got them here, all ready to get to where it matters!
We're also producing a special commemoratve postcard, which will be posted from the bottom of the Grand Canyon
But it can't be done without the help of our many, many supporters: the Sponsor Form has been updated on our Home Page, and I hope that many of you will download one of these and take them round your friends, telling them what it's all about. I hope that some of you will be able to lend practical support also, because it's got to be a real team effort. We've got to get 33,334 people filling up a 30 sponsor sheet to get that Million: and that means PUBLICITY!
So we've got to build an immense support structure, both from individuals and also at major corporate level, which of course will be acknowledged here (with their logo and message) and we need support from the local, regional and national media: newspapers, magazines, radio, television. We've got less than a year to do it!
We need a national newspaper to embrace this project, and the reason for it: melanoma is one of the Diseases of the 21st Century.
We need television cover: chat shows, news programmes.
We need regular radio exposure at local, regional and national levels.
People with an outdoor lifestyle (running, football, rugby, cricket, gardening etc.) are at particular risk from melanoma: so I'm targetting publications and clubs.
Got any contacts, anywhere? Let me know, and pave the way. Nothing succeeds better than personal contacts.
We've already funded and equipped a laboratory within RAFT, at Mount Vernon Hospital, in Northwood, and recently donated £20,000 to fund a specialist skin cancer nurse in the rapidly expanding MASCU (Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit) within Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, which will serve four million people in the south east. Leeds United, our greatest supporter, funded a similar unit at St James Hospital in Leeds in memory of one of their coaches, Bruce Craven, who sadly died from malignant melanoma aged only 32.
Now we want to be the catalyst for more such units, wth early diagnosis and treatment: we want to publicise the dangers of melanoma. The Awareness Message is very simple. If anybody has a mole that is 'different', or 'changing', seek medical attention. Not tomorrow: NOW!
As usual, we're organising Melanoma Awareness Week again this year. This will be from June 14th to 22nd: and we'll be bombarding the media at every level with information in advance. Perhaps you can help? Again, have you got media contacts, no matter how local? We're all in this together: and if you can help, or want to get involved, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org giving the subject as Melanoma Research Support. We will acknowledge help and support on the website.
YOU are the key to success: the longest journey starts with a single step.
We are also about to open a Just Giving page for Twelve Months to Raise a Million
Pulling it all together will be my regular Diary (below): and we're keeping a running total of sponsors and money raised.
WHERE WILL THE MONEY GO?
The money raised will fund research on a practical level, and help to make diagnosis more readily available. The publicity that we will generate will inevitably raise awareness.
a) Professor Martin Gore of the Royal Marsden, our adviser and Myfanwy's consultant, wrote to me about the work being done by Professor Richard Marais and his team in a joint venture between The Royal Marsden and Cancer Research UK 'We recently discovered that a gene called BRAF is damaged in over half of the cases of malignant melanoma and have gone on to show that this damage not only induces the disease, but it also drives the disease once it has become established. We are therefore attempting to develop new therapeutic agents to target BRAF and determine if these can be used to treat the disease. This work involves basic scientists working at the bench and goes through to clinical studies in patients and we have assembled a broad team of specialists to perform these studies. We are particularly excited about translating our basic research know-how into clinical trials and thereby to develop new treatments for this devastating disease'
Cancer develops when a cell multiplies out of control to form a tumour, and in 2004 Professor Marais' team showed how faulty B-Raf could kick start this process. This gave them the information that they needed to start developing specific and potent drugs that can inactivate the faulty B-Raf protein and therefore stop cancers growing. They screened 23,000 chemical compounds to find those that can block the activity of B-Raf in cancer cells, and fond one molecule that could do this. They 'tweaked' the structure of this molecule to make forty different versions, two of which were effective in cells in the lab: but of course, a lot of work must be done before clinical trials can be undertaken. Professor Marais' team is also looking at proteins that work with with B-Raf, which could be targets for other drugs.
b) Professor David Russell, in a project funded by Cancer Research, of the University of East Anglia in Norwich is working on photodynamic therapy (PDT): the 'Golden Bullet'. This uses a laser (or other light sources) combined with a photosensitising agent (a drug that makes cells more sensitive to specific wavelengths of light) to destroy cancer cells. When light at these wavelengths is directed at cells containing the photosensitising agent, highly reactive oxgen molecules are produced, which destroy the cells. However, many photosensitising agents also get in to normal cells, which can lead to other tissues (such as the eye) becoming photosensitive (more sensitive to normal electric light or sunlight). Therefore, the ideal photosensitising agent would be one that enters only cancer cells, and not normal cells. This would increase the effectiveness of PDT, whilst also reducing the side effects.
His 'Golden Bullet' system delivers photosensitising agents to the cancer cells using gold nanoparticles, only 2 to 4 nanometers in diameter (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter!) He's already shown that these nanoparticles are taken up into cancer cells grown in the laboratory, and that more reactive oxygen molecules are created than if the photosensitising agent is given alone. Currently, they're looking at how these nanoparticles are distributed and checking that they are able to get into tumours in high concentrations. They're also assessing how effective the 'Golden Bullet' system is against melanoma in a laboratory model, compared to using currently available photosensitisers
David Derbyshire in the Daily Mail on Thursday June 21st 2007 wrote about this potential far more dramatically: 'A 'golden bullet treatment for cancer that tracks down tumours before wiping them out with a blast of heat ....The 'seek and destroy' technique uses an injection of microscopic glass spheres, coated in gold, which seek out potentially deadly cancers in the body. Once enough spheres have flocked to the tumour, doctors 'activate' them using a low energy beam of light. Unlike conventional cancer treatments, the 'golden bullet' approach uses no toxic chemicals and no radiation, reducing the risk of unpleasant side effects.'
c) Professor Tim Illidge at the Christie Hospital in Manchester is interested in developing treatments that specifically target cancer cells, whilst leaving healthy cells unharmed. Our bodies have a natural defence system which protects us from 'foreign invaders' such as bacteria and viruses. This is caled the immune system, and is able to recognise bacteria and viruses as being 'alien' to the body and destroy them. The immune system also recognises cancer cells as being different to normal body cells, but this recognition is not strong enough for it to destroy them, and so cancers carry on growing.
Professor Illidge is seeking to harness the power of the immune system to help fight cancer. He is investigating a new type of targeted cancer therapy that combines radiotherapy with the use of antibodes. Antibodies are proteins of the immune system that recognise and attach themselves to specific proteins on cells. He is using a novel antibody that stimulates the immune system to attack cancer cells that have already been damaged as a result of radiotherapy treatment. This will enhance the effect of radiotherapy. He has shown that this can work in lymphoma, and wants to see if it can work for melanoma and other cancers
d) We are interested to support education and awareness: and our funding support of a specialist skin cancer nurse within the NHS at the rapidly developing MASCU (Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit) at Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead that will serve fouir million people in the south-east, and the support/sponsorship of a similar unit within St James Hospital at Leeds thanks to Leeds United, could be models for future investments by Myfanwy's Charity
These four are typical of projects that will be supported by Twelve Months to Raise a Million: the more we raise, the more we can do
Please help, this is one of the Diseases of the 21st Century and perhaps already affects somebody that you know. It has reached epidemic proportions. There's a lot to do, quickly: and we need your help! If you don't want to e-mail, I can be reached at Harry Townsend, 6 Manor Road, East Grinstead, West Sussex, RH19 1LR: or e-mail at email@example.com: or on the telephone at 01342 322508
SPONSORS RUNNING TOTAL
Attribution Sponsors Donation Total sponsors Donations
April 2007 Rob Cooper, Clare Barnett 2 £ 10.00 2 £ 10.00
June 2007 In memory of Ian Beesley 159 £216.25 161 £226.25
June 2007 Teignmouth RC (Sarah Nesbitt) 129 £160.00 290 £386.25
March 1st 2008 371 sponsors total £ 742.69
March 12th 407 sponsors total £ 952.69 + 2 sponsors www.JustGiving.com/grandcanyon-rimtorim £55.00 + Gift Aid
April 15th 699 sponsors total £1,481.44 + 8 sponsors www.JustGiving.com/grandcanyon-rimtorim £235.00 + Gift Aid
May 5th 891 sponsors total £2,112.06 + JustGiving £475.00 plus Gift Aid
However, it's brought home to me that a vast amount of money towards the Million is not raised from individual sponsors, but from lots of donations and from a vast (increasing) number of fund raising events, plus collections during Melanoma Awareness Week etc.: for instance, in one week in February almost £7,000 was raised from four fundraising events.
So, I'm going to update the amount which has been donated from these other fundraisers towards the Million also: which currently stands at about £60,000 that we have in the bank to donate to the research projects that we are supporting with Twelve Months to Raise a Million. Each month, I can be precise: and so this total will be updated monthly, as well as the numbers of individual sponsors. Support is just fantastic!
COMING FUNDRAISING EVENTS
Haskins Garden Centre at Copthorne are incredibly supportive: they're donating the money from their Wishing Well throughout the summer, and during Melanoma Awareness Week June 14th to 22nd (we've cunningly arranged to include two entire weekends!) they're allowing us to collect outside the Garden Centre throughout each weekend. I'll be doing Hangng Basket demonstrations throughout Sunday June 15th as well.
They've also invited me to give a talk 'Kew Through the Looking Glass' on Friday May 16th there, starting at 7pm, £2 per ticket including free tea or coffee: tickets either direct from me, or from Haskins Customer Service desk. I was Assistant Curator at Kew for fourteen years: and it's lots of stories from 'behind the scenes'! Good fun!
We're also collecting outside Sainsbury's on Saturday June 14th.
May 25th I'll be at the Fatboy Sevens at Crawley Rugby Club (I used to coach Crawley for four years, way back in the eighties!), hoping to meet lots of old friends and persuading them to sign my sponsor form!
Keep watching this section!
TWELVE MONTHS DIARY
I woke up at 5.05 on August 28th, gazed at the ceiling, realised that today was my 71st birthday, and that it was time to start Twelve Months to Raise a Million, which has a nice ring about it. I'd been planning it for months. So I began to tell my friends (not straight away, because most of them were probably still in bed asleep, but about eight o'clock because I was pretty eager), because that's my normal way of making sure that there's no going back! I put down the telephone after the third or fourth call, and a cold shiver ran down me: because there really was no way of going back! I sat and thought about it over my breakfast: the 'million', of course, referred both to the number of sponsors and pounds sterling. That's- um- 33,334 people getting a 30 sponsor form filled up on my behalf: or, alternatively, 30 people each getting 33,334 sponsors. I decided that the former was the more likely.
Our objectives were to find a cure for malignant melanoma, raise awareness and make diagnosis more easily available. Melanoma is one of the Diseases of the 21st century, currently affecting 1 in 50 in Britain and with a very high death rate. Even worse, the incidence is doubling every ten years.
We wanted to fund major research projects: and it was necessary not merely to define these, but also to get the belief of those involved at the practical end that we could actually raise the money to do this! I had to believe so that they could believe!
The 'Challenge' for which we were inviting sponsorship was the trek rim to rim of the Grand Canyon: I'd already listed this on 7 7 70 (Seven Challenges in Seven Continents after the age of Seventy), and gained lots of sponsors, so these were the first on my list.
The Grand Canyon is one of my favourite places on earth. It is awesome (in the English, rather than the American, sense): when you stand on the North Rim and look across the fantastic landscape of barren canyons stretching as far as the eye can see to the South Rim, I am full of awe and wonder and a tingle of anticipation. You descend from the North Rim at 9,000ft down the North Kaibab Trail and cross the Colorado River at 2,000ft at Phantom Ranch, where the temperature might be as high as 130F. You can stock up on food and even get a night's sleep in the bunkhouse: and there's a Post Office, where we will get our specially produced post cards franked for our friends back home. Then you climb the Bright Angel Trail, through The Furnace where it might be even hotter and up the forty switchbacks of Jacob's Ladder, through Indian Gardens where you can grab a drink, and up to the South Rim at 8,000ft.
When you stand to draw a breath, the views are- well, indescribably beautiful and almost surreal. You can't take a bad photograph!
I can't cheat and go down on muleback, either, because they don't take you if you're over 55!
I also wanted to set that new record for Most Sponsors for One Person for One Event, which I'd failed to do in New Zealand when I'd pushed George the Wheelbarrow from end to end of the north island (800 miles, 68 days) and where I'd only got 7,700 and got nowhere near the 10,000 gained by Dave Campos when he set a new absolute speed record on a motorbike. But at least the money that I'd raised had been the catalyst for the formation of the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand, now a thriving national Charity.
Now, as long as there's a name and a postcode on the sponsor form, the amount doesn't matter: 5p, 50p, £1- or more! The important thing was that this 'Challenge' was, hopefully, sufficiently outlandish to attract the media, which was absolutely essential. We had to raise the menace of melanoma to top level attention!
We'd already got 290 sponsors: that's- um- 0.029% of my total already!
I contacted Martin Gore at the Royal Marsden: he had been Myfanwy's consultant, and he has been our constant adviser. We really wanted to fund a major practical research project there, at our major Cancer Hospital. A few days later he wrote back, telling me of a joint project with Cancer Research investigating a gene called BRAF, which they discovered had been damaged in over half the cases of melanoma. This damage not only induces melanoma, but also drives the disease once it has become established. So they are attempting to develop new therapeutic agents to target BRAF and determine if these can be used to treat the disease. This work involves basic scientists working at the bench and goes through to clinical studies in patients: and they have assembled a broad team of specialists to perform these studies. As he wrote, they are particularly excited about translating their basic know-how into clinical trials and thereby to develop new treatments for this devastating disease.
So that's one of the research projects that Twelve Months to Raised a Million will back.
I'd been carrying around an article by David Derbyshire in the Daily Mail of June 21st and had it laminated: it was about 'The 'golden bullet' that kills cancer'. 'Golden Bullet'. or 'Trojan Horse': the idea had been discussed for some time, and it was important to find out where such work was taking place in Britain, and whether financial support would be welcomed. He wrote 'A 'golden bullet' treatment for cancer that tracks down tumours before wiping them out with a blast of heat is to be tested on patients within weeks. The 'seek and destroy' technique uses an injection of microscopic glass spheres, coated with gold, which seek out potentially deadly cancers in the body. Once enough spheres have flocked to the tumour, doctors 'activate' them using a low energy beam of light. In tests, tumours have been totally destroyed.'
So I wrote to him, saying 'Tell me more' and 'Who's doing it?' and 'Where is it being done?'(in slightly more polite terms, of course): because this could be the second project that we would back.
We've already donated £20,000 to Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead (the 'home' of legendary wartime plastic surgeon Sir Archibald McIndoe and the famous 'Guinea Pigs', the often horrendously burnt airmen on whom he had operated) to fund the appointment of a specialist skin cancer nurse in their rapidly enlarging MASCU (Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit). She would also have an educational role: and we would be eager to fund similar units, or to boost this MASCU in my home town hospital here in East Grinstead. So there's a third project.
We'd already donated £23,000 to set up a laboratory at RAFT within Mount Vernon Hospital at Northwood, and donated a £15,000 Solar Simulator for work on sun damage to skin: we'd like to continue to support such work on protection and prevention. A fourth project! We could aim for £250,000 for each!
Before I looked for media support, I had to get the consent of those involved: so I dashed off eager letters and e-mails and sat back to await equally eager replies by return of post!
Doesn't work like that, Harry! My letters must have sounded like the product of a deranged mind. A million sponsors? A million pounds? Amanda Heaton, Fundraising and Community Development Manager at the Royal Marsden, laughed nervously when we spoke on the telephone: she confirmed the interest of Martin Gore. I promised not to bother her unecessarily: she seemed relieved.
I'd been in touch with a great guy named Steve Simms for the past month. My book 'The Slowest Pilgrim' (the story of my 500 mile, 38 day fund raising walk along the Pilgrim Trail to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain) had been on sale at Waterstones in East Grinstead for months: and I'd wandered in to the shop to check whether it was on the Remaindered (Half Price) Table, in which case I'd have bought up the lot to avoid the social stigma of friends finding it there.
Fortunately, it wasn't: in fact, it was on the Books Recommended shelf behind the door. Locally, it was the next best thing to winning the Pulitzer Prize! It was right next to Coming Home by Steve Simms: the hilarious tales of a 'lost' backpacker who is finally 'coming home'. He's a local man: I browsed throught his book, bought it (after all, we local authors have to maintain solidarity!): and it's a really great 'read'! So I e-mailed him (found the address inside the cover!): and we'd arranged to meet up. He'd also read my book, liked what we're doing, and had a 'Charitable Proposition' to put to me! Intriguing! Well, apart from still playing in goal for Turner's Hill FC at the age of fifty something, he's also a well known musician locally: and next day Marian and myself joined him and friends for a great meal at his house (cooked by him, he's multi-talented!), followed by a 'jamming' session. I forebore to take part with my tribute to the Temperance Seven.
He suggested that he and his friends could organise a Live Gig at CJ's Cafe Bar in the High Street (the 'musical centre of life in East Grinstead'): and from the music played that night at Steve's, we knew that this would be a real winner! An audience of a hundred (easily get this number in to CJ's!), for a 'donation' of up to £10 a head, plus the other spin-offs, could be a mammoth fundraiser as well as generating immense publicity: and in February it would be bang in the middle of publicity for Twelve Months to Raise a Million!
Wow, Steve, that's fantastic! It's all updated on November 23rd: rush ahead to read all about it!
I wanted to put a small 'team' together for the Grand Canyon trek: it had to be small, and tight knit, because you can't organise mass participation events in the Grand Canyon. First on the list, Sarah Nesbitt. We'd both done the 100kms of the Sahara race in March: her running, me walking. Her feet had been horrific by the finish: blistered, torn, bleeding and lacerated right down to the bone, but she'd still carried on! She had rightly been awarded a special trophy for her sheer courage and determination. She was the founder and organiser of the Teignmouth and Dawlish Women's Network Runnng Group: ladies who had taken up running from a background of no activity, and she'd done a fantastic job. The group, thanks to Sarah, had held a sponsored 5km run for 16 ladies and 2 dogs in the summer, and raised £160.00 for Myfanwy's Charity.
So I e-mailed to her saying 'How about coming to the Grand Canyon in September for the rim to rim trek?' We'd discussed it briefly in the Sahara during one of the long desert evenings, so it probably didn't come as a complete surprise: but it must still have been a nasty shock, just when she was hoping that I'd forgotten this conversation. I mentioned that we'd all go on to Las Vegas for a couple of days after that: the world centre for kitsch and bad taste, but which everybody must visit at least once in their life! I also reassured her that Marian would be with us, as baggage master, taking the bags round from rim to rim on the bus whilst we walked!
I sat toying with my home made muesli and fat free organic yoghourt, listening to Terry Wogan. An item on the news described a guy in America, Russell 'Rock Bottom' Byass (aged 43) who'd just set up a new Guinness World Record for Most Skims (Skips) for a Stone Across Water. He'd managed an impressive 51 at French Creek on the Allegheny River 70 miles north of Pittsburgh. Wow! he'd smashed the previous World Record of 40 by Kurt 'Mountain Man' Steiner out of sight! The report continued that his achievement was all the more remarkable because he only started skimming eight years ago while walking his dog! Standing at 6ft 2ins and weighing 18 stone, he apparently cuts an imposing figure and has already turned professional! I record this without comment. Guinness World Records, after painstaking checking the concentric circles made by each stone after each skip on the video films, had taken a couple of months to verify his World Record: but now, he was set for the Olympics (well, they're adding new sports every time!), and we might have the chance to see him and Mountain Man on the Serpentine in 2012! The secret, he thought, was in the lazy under arm flick that he'd perfected over the years. Must try it myself, I thought: my own record, at the age of about nine by the seaside at Torquay, had only been four or five. I think that my father had beaten this, to set the Townsend Family Record.
But it made me realise that I'd better try to get my own planned record for Most Sponsors for One Person for One Event accepted by the Guinness Book of Records. I got on to their website: it terrified me to realise the stringency with which record attempts are assessed, no matter how bizarre (like the chap in Australia who'd swallowed a nineteen inch sword and suspended a forty pound bag of potatoes from the hilt for five seconds)
I read that, each year, they receive around 65,000 record-related enquiries from people who want to set or break records. Due to the number of queries they receive, it stated, it usually takes between four and six weeks to reply. although sometimes it may take longer given the sheer volume of claims and queries they receive. However, they added consolingly, if you need an answer quicker than this, they are able to offer their Premium Fast Track and Fast Review Services. Turns out that this costs £300, whereas the normal request is free: and if you pay for an on-site adjudicator, you can be presented with your framed Guinness World Record certificate on the spot. What if you fail to set a record? I guess the adjudicator slips silently away and puts a family photo in the frame instead on the way home. I could book an adjudicator, if I wished, provided that I paid his fares, meals and accomodation and a fee: don't know if he'd like to rough it down in the Grand Canyon, though! I'll think about it: perhaps he'd just want to sit down with a cup of coffee in my kitchen and count up my sponsors. You know,'354,155, 354,156, 354,157.. oops, spilt the coffee on the certificate. Now where was I? 1,2,3,4,5.....'
Anyway, I registered as a potential World Record Breaker and submitted details of the hoped-for record. It required a date.
I'd been a bit laid back about the date up until then: 'Oh, in September 2008' I'd murmured vaguely when people asked. Thinking about it, that probably conveys the wrong impression, as if people were mobbing me in Sainsburys asking when the great day was to be. The number of such enquiries had probably been in single figures: actually, one. I entered September 10th and 11th on the computer: and once again, I was irrevocably committed. I went away and updated this website: that meant booking accomodation at Canyon Village on the north rim on September 8th and 9th. Better get on with it.
Now I'll settle back for four or six weeks (might be longer!) and hope for a positive response from Guinness: the vast majority of applications, I read, were turned down! That didn't sound too good, either!
I'd been harbouring ideas about pushing George (the Wheelbarrow) round the London Marathon: he'd been rejected by The Great South Run, but I really felt that exposure through the streets of London would do Twelve Months to Raise a Million a lot of good, and would hopefully boost the number of sponsors. The London Marathon is great fun, as well: I've run it twice, and enjoyed every minute! So I dashed off a letter to the organisers, asking if George and I could take part in 2008 (and why!) and, of course, promising to keep to the back of the field and not to impede other runners. I must admit that it did seem a little unlikely that I would be pushing for a place as the leaders raced up the Mall: but I thought it best to reassure the organisers on this point
I'd spent the summer developing my garden, turing an overgrown wilderness into a super rock garden and colourful shrub border, and then ejecting the battered benching from my conservatory. I then used commercial racking to build my own 'super benches' on wheels, and house and propagate my wonderful plant collection: and it had left me no time to train. In fact, I'd done no exercise (apart from this manual variety) since returning from the Sahara in March: and it showed! Cunningly angled mirrors in the en-suite in Santiago (not got there yet, read about it on October 11th!) gave me an all-round views of the body unbeautiful (with the emphasis on round): and unforgiving scales when I got home showed 15 stone 8 lbs! I was at last a 100kg monster: two stone overweight. Something had to be done, if I was to disprove the idea that I was a fat man trapped in a thin man's body.
I'd been away for five days with Marian in Santiago de Compostela, visiting a friend who lived near there and who was celebrating (with her husband, of course!) their 10th Wedding Anniversary: and it had also given me the chance to soak up the atmosphere of that wonderful city which I'd sadly failed to do when I'd finished my 38 day, 500 mile walk on the Pilgrim Trail four years earlier. I wrote a book about it, The Slowest Pilgrim, about this, the most unsuccessful fundraising walk ever: but it had been a fantastic experience!
I'd reached Santiago about midday that day in August 2003, visited the wonderful Cathedral, obtained my certificate (Compostela), soaked up the atmosphere with fellow pilgrims in the Praza de Praterias, taken the obligatory photographs, booked into the forbidding Seminario high on the hill for that night, enjoyed my last Pilgrim Meal of the walk at Casa Manolo's, listened to the music of the Tuna in the cloisters of the Praza de Obradoiro: but in the middle of all this, I'd made the big mistake of wandering in to the travel agents and asking the best way to get back to England!
'There's a cheap flight going back to Heathrow tomorrow morning' said the lady behind the desk, brightly: 'and what's more, it's half price to Pilgrims!' Wow! I could have kissed her on the spot: but I realised that this might not necessarily further my cause. Nevertheless, at 8.00am next morning, I was strolling up the hill towards the bus station to get a bus to the airport.
Unfortunately, it turned out that the cheap flight, even with Pilgrim concessions, cost (in retrospect, hindsight is a wonderful thing!) roughly twice what I'd paid a week ago on October 4th: and I'd missed out on so much with this hurried return! But I wasn't too disapointed, because I didn't realise this until about a month ago! Anyway, last week we'd enjoyed a coach trip to Finisterre, the end of the world in mediaeval times, wandered round this fantastic city, listened to the Tuna again, and had a nostalgic 8E Pilgrim Meal (Menu peregrino) in Casa Manolo. Wonderful Galician potato soup, just like four years ago. The main course was undeniably a real fish, as well: it gazed up at me accusingly,and you could see that it had recently done lots of strenuous swimming, it was a mass of muscle and bone. Still, the cornetto in it's paper wrapping was nourishing: and all around were the happy Pilgrims, who'd shared in this wonderful experience of walking the Camino.
But sadly, I felt an outsider, as I had done when I stood watching the joyous Plgrims embracing happily in the Praza de Obradoiro. I wanted to shout 'Hey, I was a Pilgrim four years ago! I've got my Compostela at home to prove it!'. But I knew that they wouldn't understand: so I kept my mouth shut. I bought the obligatory fridge magnets and souvenirs: unfortunately, my fridge magnet from Finisterre fell on to the floor and broke in to three pieces last night! Wonder if it was trying to tell me something? Never mind, a bottle of superglue later, and you could hardly see the join!
Marian and myself also strolled up to the Seminario, where I'd spent my last night in Santiago after the walk, for a nostalgic visit. Good job she's an enthusiastic walker. The Seminario stood high on the hill, as grim and forbidding as ever. We couldn't find the way in: we circled it several times, collecting a small team of Pilgrims, a hot and dusty middle aged lady bearing the traces of weeks of hard walking, and a tired young couple from (probably) Germany. I informed them that I'd walked the Camino three years earlier,and stayed in this very place. They didn't appear over impressed. Wait a minute: there was a sort of telephone beside the iron gate giving access to the spacious grounds. 'How could we get in?' I asked a multi lingual lady on the other end.
'It's closed' she replied. I could hear the eager shouts of children at play in the grounds, running up and down the stone steps. 'When does it open?' I persevered. Turned out it doesn't, except (possibly, as I found out later) during school holidays. 'Where's the nearest refuge?' I asked on behalf of my eager team. 'Monte del Gozo'. 'That's about four miles back!' I said: but the clck at the other end announced that the interview was terminated. I turned to inform my team: but they'd already lost interest, and were wandering back down hill to look for a cheap hotel. Like many world leaders, my position had become untenable as soon as we had a minor setback.
Ah well! I went in to the Tourist Information Office in Santiago to tell them the Seminario was closed. They seemed sympathetic in a rather distant sort of way.
I sat at my computer this morning, having got home to England, catching up on my hundreds of unsolicited e-mails: principally, young ladies from Russia eager to visit me, casinos canvassing my support, computer firms with cheap computers, gentlemen eager to lend me money without any surety (just wanted my own banking details!), 'universities' equally eager to give me a degree without any work on my part (at a price!), shops with surplus Rolex replica watches and pharmacists with sure fire remedies without prescription for bedtime medical problems.
Sarah Nesbitt had replied on October 9th. My e-mail had arrived on her birthday (must try to remember!), and she'd taken a few days to consider it as requested. It must have come as something of a bolt out of the blue: and the answer was yes, she'd love to come. More details, please! The Las Vegas bit appealed particularly! She was doing the Snowdonia Marathon in about three weeks time, she said, so she had to dash off to train! She reckoned, like me, that the Grand Canyon trek also demanded lots of work in the gym. Yes, I thought: this was my own 'wake-up call'.
Wait a minute! Here was a form for me to complete from Guinness! Better get on with it straight away.
The telephone rang. It was Ian Wilson from Cancer Research, to discuss the practical melanoma research projects in which they were involved. These included the BRAF faulty protein on which Professor Richard Marais was working, and also the Golden Bullet about which David Derbyshire had written in the Daily Mail. This work is being done in Norwich by Professor David Russell, and basically centres round gold coated nano- particles which bind with cancer cells and which will hopefully be destroyed by heat. He's sending me details: from this initial conversation, it sounds like the projects with which we'd love to get involved.
I had a message from Jenny Parnwell, whose daughter Jay (Julie-Ann) had died aged only 34 on December 19th 2001 from malignant melanoma. Jay had been the best friend of the wonderful Carolyn Pettett in Burgess Hill, who is one of life's genuinely nice people, and who had held a fantastic 12 hour Cream Tea during Melanoma Awareness Week this past June to raise money (more than £300.00!)
Jenny's son, and a friend, recently completed the Fowey triathlon as another fundraiser. They invited me to take part, as well: but after the inital euphoria, I realised that swimming across the river using breaststroke with my head high above water (don't like to get my hair wet!) didn't really equip me for such a Challenge.
So I graciously declined the invitation: and happily, the organisers managed to put this disappointment behind them and persevere with the race. The boys did well and raised almost £2,000.00.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, Jenny lives in Fowey: and she was eager to get involved with publicising Myfanwy's Charity, and our objectives, in Cornwall and particularly at the Eden Project. This is one of my Must Visit places, especially as a committed horticulturist (fourteen years as Assistant Curator of Kew Gardens!): and I'd never been to the Eden Project. I give lots of talks about plants (and also about my walk with George the Wheelbarrow from end to end of the north island of New Zealand, but that's immaterial in this context!): and each time, people would ask me if I'd visited the Eden Project.
I would reply that I wanted it to mature first: but I don't think that they believed me. I didn't even believe it myself, after all! Now, not only could we get such a magnificent place involved, but I could at last fulfil a long held visit-wish. Might even buy a fridge magnet, as well.
Jenny would set the wheels in motion: we would meet with Carolyn at a pub in Burgess Hill in ten days time (the Friars Oak, at noon, if you want to drop by and buy me a drink) and discuss details and how to go about it. I telephoned Alan and Brenda Warwick in Liskeard, two of my oldest friends from Felbridge Junors rugby days in East Grinstead, and who had moved to Cornwall some years before: my call took them by surprise, and they agreed to let us visit for three nights. I offered to take them out to dinner that first night, Big Mac and chips perhaps (I'd recently read SuperSize Me!), but they un-reluctantly turned it down.
Must start getting fit: I'll probably start tomorrow
I wandered in to the Dorset Arms in East Grinstead for a coffee and a chat with anybody from the Chamber of Commerce who'd come in for the informal Wednesday lunch time get together. Dale Bulbrook, who designed and manages our website out of the kindess of his heart, was there: so was Nick Castiglione, of Wealden Marketing. Actually, he is Wealden Marketing!. Any ideas for media and business contacts? I enquired during a lull in conversation. Ideas pour from Nick like a fountain: I've never met anybody with so many ideas and contacts!
'How about the Business for Breakfast meeting next Tuesday at the Copthorne Hotel, Effingham Park?' he suggested. 'Give Nick Starbuck a ring, and get an invitation. Lots of fantastic business contacts.'
I rang Nick: great idea, he said! £10 a head, and bring lots of business cards. Start? Oh, registration takes place at 6.45: get there a bit early, if you can. I clutched the telephone table, and gulped. '6.45? That'll be fine: and thanks!'
That meant getting there (only four miles from home) by 6.30: so I'd better get up and shave by 5.30! Were there two 5.30s in the day after all? It seemed unlkely, I confess: but Nick seemed fairly firm on that point, so I decided to go along with it.
Better get some proper cards, I thought, ready for Tuesday: couldn't really dish out leaflets. I strolled into a local printers and sketched out what I wanted Four colours (including our logo and slogan, The Darker Side of the Sun. Couldn't be absolutely precise on the cost: but they thought, about £100 plus for 250 cards.
I gulped and rang my friend Richard Denn, who is a skilled engineer and innovator and an imaginative designer on the computer, and who'd translated my original idea for a logo into our really trim image of The Darker Side of the Sun. No problem: just sketch it out, and drop it in. Unfortunately, the third and fourth place play-off for the Rugby World Cup was about to start, so I had to delay until about 11pm. I took it round to Richard's half an hour later: seemed a little late to disturb him, so I pushed it furtively through the letter box and tiptoed quietly away.
Telephone call at 9.45. Richard had not only done them: he'd already pushed them through my letter box without my hearing! They were just fantastic: better than I'd ever dared to imagine, and not only that, a couple of dozen were laminated as well. He is a real star: I hurried round with a bag of windfall Bramley apples!
If I hadn't been so busy, I'd have started training: I settled for a trip to Sainsburys and a walk around town.
It was the eighth anniversary of Myfanwy's death: a very sad day, and I took flowers to her grave.
I also had a letter from the organisers of the London Marathon. Unfortunately, they wrote, wheeled objects are not allowed on the London Marathon course due to health and safety. They continued on a somewhat censorious note: 'This is stated on the race entry form which says that all entrants must compete on foot as there are no wheeled objects allowed on the course'. Must have missed it in the excitement: but I take their point.
Their reply was dated October 10th: they either had an enormous out-tray, which could only be put in the post when entirely full, or the Postal Strike was really gripping Central London, because I didn't receive their letter until today, the closing date for 2008 entries. Therefore, it seemed improbable that I could satisfy their closing wish for me to enjoy the best of luck with my entry to next year's London Marathon: but it was nice of them to say so.
Up at 0500 ready to shower and shave for Business at Breakfast. Everywhere was dark: I crept out of the house, closing the door with a soft click!, for fear of waking the sleeping neighbourhood. The car was frozen up: it shimmered in the moonlight. Couldn't remember where I'd put the de-icer, either. So I revved up the engine enthusiastically: I could hear duvets being pulled up over ears all around me. So much for being worried about being early for the meeting: I'd become (as usual) the last to arrive. Fortunately, they hadn't started breakast without me: a couple of cups of coffee later, and some cautious networking (I'd never networked before!), and I was shovelling down a full English preparatory to giving my 60 second presentation on Myfanwy's Charity. The information was received in silence. Turned out that most of the people that I'd wanted to meet weren't there this week: school holiday holidays. But, after breakfast, I was able to circulate and talk to the other breakfasters, distribute a few cards and leaflets (didn't sell any books, though!), and plan to go back in a fortnight with real hope of making beneficial contacts.
I was a bit handicapped, though, because one 'networker' attached himself to me like a limpet, intent on telling me how Myfanwy's Charity could benefit from his services. I'm not quite sure what these services were, but I think that they had to do with telephones. Apparently, if I paid £25 and then persuaded ten of my contacts to avail themselves of the services of his company within thirty days, I'd get my £25 back! Also, a small percentage of their expenditure. Well, you can't go too far wrong with that, can you? I hope he's lost my card, which he wrested from me.
I was back home by 0930, in time for a light breakfast. After all, it was almost two hours since my first breakfast: and having got up at 0500, it was more along the lines of a mid-morning snack.
I couldn't think of any reason why I shouldn't start to get fit right now: I laced on my Sahara shoes, put on sensible corduroys, and sidled out of the house pretending that I was just going for a stroll, nothing to do with 'getting in the miles'. Down the road, and on to the old railway track to Crawley Down. Who should I meet within a mile but Phil Bowers, a top referee from my rugby days and still looking embarrassingly fit. 'Off training?' he enquired. 'Oh no, just out for a bit of a stroll' I replied unconvincingly: and then settled down to bore him for fifteen minutes with rugby reminiscences. The eyes of his dog glazed over: it sat down with a sigh, thoroughly bored, after a comprehensive investigation of the hedgerows and another passing dog. Phil offered to take a sponsor form round the Referee's Society. My first such offer! Only another 33,333 sponsor form 'managers' wanted (always presuming that Phil got the maximum thirty!) I'd already mentioned it to a few other people, but they'd just said 'Put me down' and then escaped.
I'd got to be a lot more convincing than that. Once the details of the research projects were confirmed (and I was by now in deep consultation with Ian Wilson, of Cancer Research UK), I'd start taking up commercial contacts before everybody was overtaken by the two month Christmas period.
This was to be my last sponsored event: and I'd got to aim for the maximum. A million sponsors, a million pounds, maximum media cover.
Even walking was hard. Only 4.5 miles: and by the last mile, I was really flagging. It was getting dark as I walked up the sloping road towards home: and I hoped that nobody had seen me. I set it all down in my training diary: a couple of weeks steady walking, then back to the gym. But I'll tell you all about it,anyway.
Dave Gower-Rudman arrived to overnight. He's a great runner, who'd done the 80 Miles South Downs Way Run six times (including a third place one year) This was the (non-stop) race over the South Downs from Petersfield to Eastbourne that Myfanwy and myself had organised for sixteen years: and it had become a cult event, drawing up to 500 runners every year from around the world to suffer for a day, a night, and (in some cases) most of a further day. What's the record? Well, since you ask, it's 9 hours 37 minutes by Steve Moore, but he was, after all, third in the World 100kms Race round about that time!
Dave and his family now live in New Zealand: but every couple of years, he comes back to visit more family and friends and to take in a few races. He'd landed the previous weekend,suffering from flu: so, instead of running a half marathon that weekend, he'd settled for six miles or so. Tomorrow he was running the Beachy Head Marathon (really tough, I've done it myself three times) over the South Downs: then it was straight off to Dorset for a tough half marathon the following day. Might do a half marathon the following weekend, he thought, before jetting off home to New Zealand
Up at 5.00am so that Dave could have his porridge and honey and get down to Eastbourne for a 9.00am start. He'd brought his own porridge, in case it was not on my regular menu (it wasn't, as it happened, so it proved what a forward thinker he is) and made a bucketful. I offered him a dish: he pursed his lips, and shook his head, but brightened up when he saw a large casserole dish which he proceeded to fill to the brim. I had a small bowl full myself, as well. Delicious, must try it again. 06.20, and I guided him out of town and set him off along the road to Eastbourne.
My sister's birthday! I sang Happy Birthday To You, slightly off-key, down the telephone. She waited patiently for me to finish: she's been through this sort of thing before.
Marian and myself had to go to the Friar's Oak pub in Burgess Hill as you might remember, to meet Jenny Parnwell, who was masterminding the approach to the Eden Project, for the first time. Carolyn Pettett had organised a get together for Jenny's grandchildren (the two daughters of Julie-Ann, her daughter and Carolyn's best frend, who had sadly died of melanoma six years previously). It was a very emotional party, yet also joyful as Jenny and her grandchildren met their friends for the first time for so many years. 34 people, families and children, thronged the restaurant. We didn't stay too long: it was a very private party, sad yet joyful at the same time: but it had been important to meet Jenny to introduce ourselves and to discuss (even briefly) our approach to the Eden Project.
I telephoned the Eden Project. Turned out that my trump card, Sue Minter, an old Kew friend who had become Head of Horticulture there, was no longer a trump card. She'd left a few months earlier. I explained briefly to the lady on the telephone what I wanted: I was passed on to an answer phone where I stumbled through my unconvincing message. I'm never at my best on answer phones. I tried again later: still no luck, got a different answer phone.
Jolly good job, as it turned out. Jenny rang. She was already home and she'd already been busy with her own friends and contacts. She is a very capable lady, a fantastic organiser: and the best thing that had happened all day was my being unable to contact anybody myself!
She would plan everything: and we'd keep in touch by telephone during the run-up to our visit next week.
So I went out for a long walk.
Another Breakfast meeting: this time at Reigate! That's the third time in a week that I've got up at 5.00am. I hope it's not habit forming. I strolled in to the Golf Club: and within seconds, the Human Limpet (he gets everywhere!) had once more attached himself! Next person with whom I spoke turned out to be a printer, really nice guy named Paul Paine from In-Press: what's more, he lives in East Grinstead. I sat down for breakfast: even better than Effingham, it had two slices of really greasy fried bread, something about which I fantasise regularly! The chap on the other side was Simon Vane Percy, of Communication Consultants (PR to you and me!) Vane Percy and Roberts: and again, he lived really close in Lingfield. So, as a contact building exercise, it could have been just what I wanted.
I came home and had the obligatory toast and ginger jam, to stave off any potential pangs of hunger: then I obliterated my 200 or so spam e-mails, and was soon off to the Chamber of Commerce lunch time get together at the Dorset Arms. I was welcomed with open arms.
Actually, nobody really wanted to talk to me, but it just so happened that my arrival made a total of 17 and, apparently, set a new record for Most People To Attend An Informal Wednesday Lunchtime Meeting of East Grinstead Chamber of Commerce At The Dorset Arms! So I do have my uses after all! I managed to squeeze in between two ladies: one of them turned out to be a colleague of the Human Limpet, smaller but equally committed. Her eyes lit up with proselytising zeal! She promptly began an in-depth presentation about the potential benefits of a £25 investment. Fortunately, in mid presentation, she suddenly realised that it would be a good idea to dash off to feed her parking meter: and allied to steely determination on my part, I once again escaped unscathed. And I still don't know what the Human Limpets are selling!
But whilst the Human Limpet was away doing intensive meter feeding, I met a great chap there, Malcolm Rose, who is a business consultant and, would you believe it, Chairman of a Charity for fibromyalgia. If I wanted to run promotional ideas past anybody, to get an unbiassed opinion, he said that he'd be very happy to act as a sounding board for an hour or so.
Perhaps things are coming together: and when I got home, there was an e-mail from Ian Wilson from Cancer Research setting out more precise wording of the research projects that we are thinking of supporting to consider adding to the website. So, another step forward!
We received a donation of £160.00 from Peter Kohn, who used to go to school with Myfanwy at Ashbourne Gramar School near Derby, and his wife Trish from visitors to their beautiful garden at Kerrachar, near Kylesku in the Scottish Highlands, under the Scotland's Gardens Scheme. They're great supporters, and over the past four years have donated almost £800.00.
Marian and myself set off for the Eden Project. We were to stay with Alan and Brenda Warwick, long time friends from Felbridge Juniors days, who'd 'emigrated' to Cornwall a few years ago: and this was our chance to catch up. Alan told me that he did the journey in five hours. I was somewhat dubious about this: his big car against my Peugeot 106, which clicked up it's 120,000 miles during the return journey. I celebated by pouring oil gently into the engine: it purred in satisfaction.
Turned out Alan might have been right: and if we hadn't stopped at a Little Chef for personal relief and a meal, we'd have done the 247.5 miles with twenty minutes to spare within the five hour target! 53 miles an hour average: not bad for an S reg Peugeot! Perhaps I should let the manufacturers know: they might take her back and have her stuffed and mounted, and exchange her for a top of the range model with a double bed and spa. Or not.
Alan and Brenda live in a fantastic house, perched high on the hill at Liskeard and overlooking mile after mile of Bodmin Moor,little fars and fields stretching like a patchwork quilt in to the distance. Not so long ago, it hadn't been a fantastic house: but Alan and Brenda had worked their socks off and now it was wonderful!
We spent the day at the Eden Project: what a wonderful concept by Tim Smit. First, he'd made a fortune in the popular music business: then he'd restored the gardens at Heligan not far from St Austell. The Lost Gardens of Heligan soon became a Mecca for gardeners everywhere: gardens of perfection, as they used to be!
Around this time, between 1996 and 1998, a group of people (visionaries, if you like!) gathered in pubs, hotels, private houses, offices and even motorway service stations to talk about an idea- to create a place like nothing anyone had ever seen before: a place that explored human dependence on plants and the natural world: a place that might just make a difference. They called it Eden: and now, less than ten years later, all the profits, from the entrance ticket to the sandwiches you eat and the items that you buy, go to the Eden Trust to further it's educational and environmental aims. You can become a Friend of Eden, if you like: lots of people are, and you'll be in good company!
Where did they build it? Well, where better than down at the tip of Cornwall: and they built this wonderful global garden in a a disused china clay pit: a pit that had no soil, no level ground, and was fifteen metres below the water table!
I won't go on: if you want to find out more, visit www.edenproject.com and then jump in to your car and go and find out all about it for yourself. You'll get this fantastic first view of what look like a set of half a dozen huge white plastic golf balls: the biomes, and you won't be able to wait to get down there as quickly as you can! It's all fantastic!
It's one of the Gardening Wonders of the World: and Tim Smit had masterminded this in less than ten years! I was pleased to find that one of the original two Horticultural Directors had been my former boss when I was Foreman at the Herts Institute of Ag. and Hort. at St Albans some forty years ago, Peter Thoday. No wonder he and Tim had hit it off so well: they were both cast in the same live wire visionary mould!
The Big Lottery Fund has just put up an award of £50 million to be granted to a single inspirational project as part of 'The People's £50 million contest': and one of the six shortlisted projects is The Edge, the next evolution of Eden!
Votes nationally take place in early December: and do you know what, I reckon The Edge will win, telling the story of people, animals, civilisations and plants living literally on The Edge!
The Eden Project is just fantastic!
We celebrated our visit with a baked potato: our third within three days.
We went back to Alan and Brenda's for dinner (it used to be supper, when I was a boy: high tea was only on Sundays, and dinner was what they now call lunch. It's all very confusing). We hoped it wouldn't be baked potato: it would have been difficult to whip up the necessary enthusiasm. Fortunately it was delicious lasagne: and I managed to stifle any worries about my expanding waistline.
We were discussing Twelve Months to Raise a Million: suddenly Alan said 'We'll come and do the driving, and act as the support team'. Just like that. Marian was delighted: she'd been worried about loading all the bags on to the bus for the 215 mile drive rim to rim whilst we walked down and up. She'd been even more worried about getting them off the bus and trying to manhandle them to the hotel!
We sat and discussed details: ideally, fly to Phoenix, pick up the minibus, hotel that night and then drive to Canyon Village on the North Rim for two nights on September 8th and 9th before the trek over the next two days. Then we'd have an extra day at Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim, getting the special commemorative postcards franked (didn't I tell you about these? I'll get round to it later) before we went off to Las Vegas for three nights. Then Alan and Brenda would set off for a few days sightseeing with the minibus: whilst we would make our way back to England. Another piece of the jigsaw was falling in to place!
We slept well that night: a large sherry (wine glass full!) and a couple of glasses of good red wine might have helped!
We set off early for the Eden Project to meet Jenny Parnwell for our meeting with Andrew Ormerod and Ian Martin at the Eden Project. Didn't want to be late: and we knew exactly where we were going, didn't we? Foundation Building, opposite the Visitor Centre. Jenny was waiting: turned out that 'opposite the Visitor Centre' meant 'if you're standing outside the Visitor Centre, you can just about see it on the opposite rim of the clay pit'! Never mind: they sent a minibus round to collect us!
It was great to meet Andrew and Ian: and they brought Sally Hobson in, the nurse at the Eden Project. Briefly, we wanted their interest in what we were doing and hoped that they would help us to promote awareness of melanoma and the danger of over exposure to the sun. This would be fantastic: and so important to get this information out to the literally millions of people who visited the Eden Project.
It all seemed very positive: and we left with Ian to look at the working model of The Edge, a wonderful visionary project. We had a long chat with Jenny, who is so committed to what we are doing: then she went to carry on her voluntary work with The Friends (it's thanks to an army of Friends that the Eden Project can remain financially viable), doing- well, what Friends do!
We went out with Alan, Brenda and Brenda's dad George to the pub at St Neot for a celebratory pub grub meal: and would you believe it, the village choir turned up in their choir sweaters! Turned out it wasn't just for our benefit, though: all the choirs in Cornwall were having a sing along that night in their local pubs collecting for Children in Need. The leader told us, with a strong Belfast accent (Belfast by birth, Cornish by choice), that 20,000 choir members throughout Cornwall wanted to raise £20,000, and take it up the following week to present to Terry Wogan on Children in Need night.
Back home: an almost traffic free route enabled us to beat the record by fifteen minutes, and even with a forty minute stop for creature comforts at Fleet Services we managed door to door in four minutes over five hours. I wish I'd bought a small bag of chips at Fleet Services, rather than a large one: we'd have knocked five minutes off that time, easily! Never mind, 55mph in driving time: and what's more, we'd kept to the speed limits all the way!
We dropped in to Sainsbury's on the way home, partly to stock up and partly to set their mind at rest. I go in almost every day: and I was a bit worried that, not having seen me for five days, they might have sent somebody round home to see if I was alright. I said brightly to my regular lady on the till 'Been away for a few days!'. 'Oh, have you', she said disinterestedly. So much for customer loyalty, I thought.
I browsed through my mountain of e-mails. Nothing much there- wait, there was one from Guinness!
Amanda Sprague, from the Records Management Team, was the bearer of bad news. She told me that they were unable to accept my recent record proposal 'Most Sponsors for One Person for One Event'. She seemed very apologetic about it: but, speaking on behalf of their team, she informed me that they'd considered my proposal carefully but regretted that it was not something for which they were currently interested in listing a record. She added, consolingly, that they receive 60,000 enquiries a year from which only a small proportion are approved by their experienced researchers to establish new categories. I thought that I detected a hint of sadness in her reply; perhaps she really regretted being forced to answer in this way?
But, having administered the soft soap, she slipped quickly into top gear and informed me, in no uncertain terms, that 'As your record application has not been accepted, Guinness World Records is in no way associated with the activity relating to your record proposal and we in no way endorse this activity'.
She concluded, somewhat grimly, that 'If you choose to proceed with this activity then this will be of your own volition and entirely at your own risk'. Well, you can't say fairer than that, can you? No beating about the bush by Amanda. At the bottom of the page it stated that this message had been sent from an unmonitored email address. Replies will be discarded. It was right. Mine was.
Another mountain of e-mails, including one from Sarah. She'd just completed the Snowdonia Marathon, a really difficult challenge, in the wind and the rain and come home with a medal and two black toe nails. Better than the Sahara, I told her: you could see the bone there! I suggested that she bought some black nail varnish and did the other eight toes: then nobody would know, even in sandals. She was probably glad to find me so supportive.
I rang my ten year old granddaughter Hanna in the States and sang 'Happy Birthday to You'. I decided not to follow with a chorus of 'For she's a jolly good fellow' because she seemed to be getting a bit fidgety. Probably the excitement, I thought.
'Do you know who this is?' 'Yes, grandpa'. 'How?' I asked. She sighed tolerantly: 'Because my other grandpa already rang'.
She's having a sleepover party on Friday: unfortunately, only one of the invitees could attend, with another having to go home at 10pm. The other three had scratched: I suggested that she got another three off the bench, which she'd already thought about. She's pretty smart.
Then I went off to the Chamber of Commerce meeting. I sat talking with Charmaine, from Hallmark Travel: she offered to help us get good rates for the air travel, which would be fantastic.
The jigsaw is taking place; but we need Guinness on board.
Lee Quinn and John James O'Neill, as co-editors, have just brought out the first edition of a wonderful local glossy magazine, Meridian Sport: John was there, distributing a few freebies. We talked about rugby: and he suggested that I might like to contribute an article (or two?) about Felbridge Juniors rugby club, which I used to run, and which had become a legend in rugby circles. Not just locally, but world wide: in fact, from this small village on the Sussex and Surrey border, we'd become the first ever English club team of any age to tour New Zealand and in 1979, for good measure, we included Australia and Fiji on a five week World Tour. What's more, we'd had to raise all the money ourselves: as Myfanwy once said, to play for Felbridge you had to be not quite human!
Why had Felbridge finished, he enquired? Well, I left Kew Gardens, I said, to work for me: unwittingly, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (my employers) had subsidised junior rugby for sixteen years. It had also enabled me to work with plants, my passion: why plants are what they are fascinates me, and has occupied a large proportion of my waking hours since I was a child. Still does: that's why I'm buildng a 'supergarden' full of fantastic plants.
Anyway, to cut a long story short (yes, please, Harry!), these articles would be read by so many former Felbridge players and other sportsmen and a wonderful opportunity to publicise Twelve Months to Raise a Million locally: so, thank you, John.
I even got him to autograph a copy of Issue 1. Well, you never know, it might become a collectors item. Should I lay in a small stock? No. better not: might be a little OTT. He seemed a little embarrassed, and glanced round surreptitiously to see if anybody had noticed. Nobody had: he seemed relieved.
I bumped into Derek Blacknall: a legend, who had completed the Marathon des Sables ten years or so ago. It put my achievements into the shade: all I'd done was the 'softies version', the 100km of the Sahara. The Marathon des Sables was twice as long, and you had to carry all your food and a stove for cooking, all your clothing, and a sleeping bag. My race, they cooked a nice meal and carried your bags for you.
Anyway, he's just retired, he told me: and if he can help in any way, he will. Wow! I can think of lots of ways: like, what is he doing on September 10th and 11th next year.
Marian is going to help me to get fit: she's cutting back the size of my meals, because she'd found that putting her arms round me had become increasingly difficult.
I received a great e-mail from Kirsty Yeoman, who is doing wonderful work for Myfanwy's Charity in Bristol. Sadly, her mother died from malignant melanoma: and she'd organised a summer of fundraising at work at Sun Alliance. Now she's contacted numerous local newspapers and radio stations about the Charity, trying to drum up awareness and publicising Twelve Months to Raise a Million. She's also aiming to give talks in local schools, planning ahead for next summer, and had contacted SCARF, a skin cancer Charity based near Bristol.
Her e-mail reminded me to contact the Eden Project again, thanking Andrew, Ian and nurse Sally for a really rewarding meeting last week. Like everybody else there, they are so committed to the work there: it was inspiring to meet them.
I hope that they will promote our message of awareness, and perhaps display a poster about the dangers of too much sun under our watchword The Darker Side of the Sun: because The Eden project does such fantastic work, and it is such an invaluable teaching centre for millions of people, with special emphasis on schoolchildren:and they do it in such an easy to understand way. Support there would be an enormous brick in the wall that we are building!
Ian Wilson, from Cancer Research UK, had been 'tidying up' the wording that we are putting on the website regarding the research projects that Twelve Months to Raise a Million will support. It's essential to get this on board before Christmas: because, with the support teams in place, we'll really 'go for it' in January, pestering the media at every level and continuing to do so until we get back from the Grand Canyon. I sent this on to Martin Gore at the Royal Marsden Hospital, our major adviser and Myfanwy's consultant, because above all we want to support this wonderful Cancer Hospital. Some of the research is being shared between there and Cancer Research UK: and this would make us very happy. We might even set up a research scholarship there: but that's just me thinking out loud, it's got to be sorted by careful negotiation. Watch this space!
I posted my (second) application form to Guinness to see whether they would accept my application for Most Sponsors for One Person for One Event to be accepted as a Guinness World Record. Perhaps I hadn't been sufficiently assertive first time? If the guy in Australia who'd suspended a forty pound bag of potatoes for five seconds from the hilt of a 19 inch sword that he'd swallowed could get his record accepted, I reckoned that I might have some luck with this second attempt.
Less than nine months before the Grand Canyon rim to rim: and I thought that it was about time that I got into more of a 'discomfort zone' by getting fit. Today, I booked an appointment with chiropracter and fellow Rotarian, Alan Smith, to make sure that the muscles were still capable of delivering: it was only thanks to him that I'd been able to take part in the 100km of the Sahara race in March, my last serious athletic venture: since then, I've vegetated. So, tomorrow, 12 noon, I'll put myself (literally) in his hands. I'll tell you more tomorrow!
Equipped with that knowledge, the following day (Thursday) I'll be back at the gym: again, for an assessment before I start to get fit.
Yesterday, Marian cut off my food supply (well, not all, of course, but a significant amount): her, 1,000 calories a day, amd me, 2,000!
I've got two stone to lose: 28 pounds in old currency, 13 kg in new!
There'll be a truce for Christmas, and for the New Year: nobody likes party poopers, holding up their hand to repel a third helping of Sainsbury's spicy mince pies with a smug self satisfied smile. Certainly not me: I'm very partial to them! And Christmas pudding: and turkey and stuffing: and... all sorts of tasty things.
Anyway, back to healthy eating. Lunch at Rotary today was certainly not going to make major inroads into my 2000 calories a day allowance: perhaps Marian had been threatening them behind my back. I munched a dry Ryvita (31 calories) during the afternoon. Dinner, like yesterday, was a nourishing tin of baked beans (liberally doused in tomato ketchup) on two slices of toast. Trouble is, it was two slices from a small loaf: and I could have done with two slices from a very big one. I noted that a slice of bread was worth about 100 calories: so I cut them thick, to get good value. As they were from a small loaf, I topped up with a lathering of Sunflower Spread (with Omega 3 and 6, which seemed too good an offer to resist).
Why do they put everything in 'grammes'? 35 calories for 10 grammes: why not talk in language that I understand, like 15 grammes for a knife full? I tried to get the maximum out of a 420 gramme tin of beans (332 calories, if you're interested) by licking the lid: I came close to infringing one of life's golden rules, 'Never lick a steak knife'!
But enough of all this: I promise to try not to mention it again! It might be hard, but I'll try.
I had a shower and washed my hair before I went to see Alan for my chiropractical. Turns out that my vertebrae are compacted, which means thigh power is low: and the major muscle group in the stomach could do with strengthening. So that's why my six pack isn't what I used to want it to be!
He recommended hanging from a tree every morning, as soon as I got up, to decompress the vertebrae (by the arms, of course!): or from the door. Well, I haven't got a tree of this sort: and if I wander through the woods in the early morning looking for something suitable from which to hang, it might attract the attention of the Samaritans and would certainly be noticed by the local dog walkers. I tried the kitchen door frame, but it creaked ominously and a few grains of plaster dribbled down onto my head. I settled for grasping the door frame in the corner and letting my body sag, feeling the waist and the legs drop, and putting pressure on the arms and back. I could certainly feel it pulling. Vague memories stirred of a system of exercising by pretending to push on a wall: was it called 'isotonics'? No, that's a sort of sports drink. Wait a minute, got it: it's 'isometrics'!
Anyway, I felt much better when I'd finished: now I must remember to do this with lots of door frames as I pass through. It's alright when I'm home alone, but not so good when I'm out.
I'll ask Alan about isometrics next Tuesday at Rotary.
The day of my fitness assessment. I presented myself at the gym at 1.30 for the scrutiny of Alex, who is (wait for it!) not only the British and European but also the World Junior Power Lifting Champion.
The results were- well, disappointing. It turned out that I was above average at sitting reading the newspaper and watching television(heart rate), and fantastic at taking a deep breath and breathing out (Peak Flow Rate, which means blowing as hard as you can through a cardboard tube with no apparent resistance). In fact, I was so good that he made me do it twice!
Body fat, at 26%, was above normal. 98.5 kg was to blame for this!
But worse was to come. Stamina was 'poor', based on my ability to ride a stationary bicycle very hard for six minutes against considerable resistance. I guess that this was because of my compressed vertebrae and poor six pack: and the fact that for eight months, since completing the 100km of the Sahara race in Tunisia, I had done precisely nothing. Now, I was a 'blob'!
Worse still, my blood pressure was high: 150 over 95 which, according to a reliable website, indicated a necessity for 'lifestyle changes'!
What should I do? I asked Alex.
'Lose weight and exercise more', was his succinct reply.
I mentally booked another test for the end of January. I didn't want anything in the 'red zone' then, even allowing for Christmas and the New Year.
I tried a little gentle rowing on the rowing machine. Two years ago, I'd 'rowed' a marathon on a rowing machine (3 hours 23 minutes) and been ranked third in the world in my age group (well, to be truthful, there were't actually many other contenders). Now, 500m was enough: I tried it twice, for confirmation. Yes, I'd been right first time.
So, bring on that lifestyle change! First, as advised for anybody with heightened blood pressure who plans to exercise more than a gentle stroll to the shops to buy a morning paper, I booked an appointment with the practice nurse at my doctors. Kathy runs marathons, so she understands. Bring on next Thursday!
I'd got to get the infrastructure right before anything else: it was a salutary lesson, but nothing that couldn't be remedied.
As you've read in my Diary on September 18th, Steve Simms had been beavering away, organising the Gig that we'd discussed that evening at his house: today he sent me the 'proof' of the advertising poster, and tickets! It is fantastic! Steve Simpson is to be the 'star;: he's a highly talented and versatile multi-instrumentalist, who's played with Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance Band, and with Roger Chapman and many more, and he has a great following.
Mary Leay (who used to live next door to us, and who Myfanwy encouraged as a young girl) is a highly acclaimed singer, formerly with 'Who will miss Mary?' She has a wonderful voice: as the Ministry of Sound commented, 'shimmering ethereal vocals'.
Local six string/slide guitarist Danny Bridle will also be performing: all in all, a great line-up.
It will be a fantastic evening: get the New Year over, and we will start publicising this great gig
I went along to see Nurse Kath at the doctor's, to check out my blood pressure and cholesterol as suggested (half heartedly) by the gym last Thursday. I'd been using the gym every day since then, gradually coming to terms with activity again, and concentrating on the rowing machine and the step machine. As usual, I can't do things by halves: everything has to be a 'Challenge' or it's not worth doing. So I'm aiming for the Empire State Building Challenge before Christmas on the step machine: 104 floors. Try it yourself: I'd love to do the real thing there, perhaps one day I might! I'll file it away for future reference when I'm short of something to do.
Anyway, blood presssure was fortunately still high: I'd have felt a real mug if it had been normal! Kath is a marathon runner (did the Beachy Head marathon last month, of course) and was interested in the Grand Canyon: it's one of the treks that she'd like to do, and she also wants to visit Las Vegas, so she could be the third of the four members of the team. Her husband would come along in support, as well: there'd be more people ferrying the bags round by road than walking from rim to rim.
'Are you fasting?' she enquired. I glanced down at my generously curvy outlines. 'Well, I'm eating sensibly', I replied cautiously. 'No, no' she sighed, 'You can't eat for twelve hours before doing a cholesterol test'. So that part of the test can't be done before next Tuesday: 08.30! I'd put on weight, too, she said. Well, I could have told her that, couldn't I? I was going to ask her how, in that case, the mobile cholesterol test caravan worked that tested you for £10 in Sainsbury's Car Park from time to time: but I forgot until I was half way round the Farmer's Market. I don't imagine that all their clients had starved for the past twelve hours in eager anticipation of their impending visit: or perhaps they had, being super motivated.
I bought a loaf of Roman Army Bread from the Slindon Bakery stall instead. It was only about three times as expensive as Sainsbury's Wholemeal Loaf, as well. Apparently Roman Army Bread is made from organic spelt flour (what's 'spelt?'), olive oil and honey: the sort of items that Roman soldiers could come across 'on the road', said the baker. I ate a couple of slices for lunch when I got home: it was, sadly, a bit tasteless but I'm sure it was extremely nourishing. Spelt isn't high in calories, is it? I was a bit worried. I cut the rest up into thick slices and froze it.
I bought some printer paper on the way home: I stood beside a stack of Guinness Book of Records books, aiming at the Christmas market, waiting to pay. I could be in there next year, I thought! They were advertising a few significant recent records on their poster.
Apparently Leslie Tipton, of the USA, had set a new record of 57 seconds for Putting Six Eggs In To Eggcups Using Her Feet. Wow!
Jarrot Reid, also of the USA, had set a new record for Most Back Flips On A Push Scooter. He'd managed a scooter back flip, landing with both feet on the scooter, when travelling from a ramp at a height of 5.48m (18 ft)
That's only ONE back flip, isn't it? What do you do to beat the record? TWO back flips, landing on your head? Or ONE, from 5.49m?
0830, and I presented myself at the surgery ready for the removal of blood for cholesterol testing. Having starved myself since the previous evening, as per instructions, I had imagined the flow of blood might be weakened: but no! It gushed out in a very satisfactory way. Appafrently, they weren't going to rush the sample straight to the laboratory for instant analysis: it would take a week, and if I liked to telephone then, I could have a 'telephone consultation' with the doctor.
I braced myself for the 'telephone consultation'. A doctor with a chinese name and a strong Geordie accent came on the line. My cholesterl was 5.3. That's good, isn't it? No, not really: should be below 5. However, the 'ratio' (between what?) was 4.8: and it should be below 3.5. Furthermore, he said, my LDR was 3.5: and it should be below 3. Is it serious? Well, I was orange on his little graph: which gave me a 15% chance of a heart attack. I could live with that, I thought.
Anyway, he suggested a diet of reduced saturated fat, green veg., whole grain and oily fish: pretty much what I eat now, I said. He appeared to be getting tired of this conversation: he'd probably got lots of overeaters to deal with before lunch. Make a diary of what you eat, then talk to the practice nurse, and she'll give you a diet. I'll do this after Christmas and the New Year, I said. He cut the consultation short. I went and had a multi-seed bread (is that the same as wholemeal?) tomato and lettuce sandwich: in deference to the recent consultation. Would Roman Army Bread be better, I wondered? I doubt whether you saw many very fat Roman soldiers, nor would high cholesterol appear to have been a problem at the time for their travelling medical support team. I certainly don't remember it as having featured prominently in my Latin translations at school: and I had, after all, got Latin at GCE 'O'Level thanks to an inspired guess in the Latin to English translation section that 'elephas' might mean 'elephant'. Apparently, I was one of the few in my class to have got this right: but then, we weren't a really bright lot and it had been a choice of either Latin or Chemistry.
I omitted the cheese. Marian is going to buy me a book about cholesterol, to go with my road map of Great Britain and three tea towels, for Christmas.
Haskins Garden Centre once again are allowing us to collect there: and we collected £151.97 as well as selling two books. Not bad! A young lady also came along and volunteered her services fundraising: better not mention her name, because smetimes even the best of intentions fall by the wayside, but it looks very promising.
The bad news of the weekend was hearing that the Eden Project had failed in their bid for the £50 million sponsorship for The Big Lottery Fund Award for their wonderful educational project (The Edge). The grant went instead to setting up a nationwide network of off-road cycle tracks and walking routes: but, do you know, I think that they are right! I haven't heard back from them yet, despite one or two gentle nudges, about supporting our campaign to raise awareness: but I guess they've other things on their mind!
I haven't heard back from Guinness, either.
December 16th and 17th
Two more days collecting at Haskins: thanks to The Dream Team of Marian, and Gordon Hyde, we raised the total to £380.87 as well as selling seven books in total. It was great to meet lots of old friends: I hadn't seen one of my old Felbridge players for more than 30 years, and one of his daughters has almost finished University! Very sobering.
Almost finished writing and sending my Christmas cards: they're piling up here, and lots of people have been really generous sending donations to Myfanwy's Charity, which is really wonderful.
Lots of collecting for the Rotary Club Christmas Charities around this time; the mobile Christmas tree is towed along complicated routes through the town, with Christmas Carols blasting out, and Father Christmas distributing sweets to any children whose parents bring them to the door, eyes wide in wonder (the children's, not Father Christmas'!) What are these Charities, we're often asked: well, we're trying to make Christmas better for old people who've got nobody and children who've got nothing. It sets your feet back firmly on the ground.
I'm understandably paranoid about moles on the body that 'do things': and I'd been sent to Queen Victoria Hospital to have one of mine removed from the lower abdomen, as a precaution after following my own advice (Do it now! Not next week: now!). Thankfully, especially around East Grinstead, they take such things seriously: and I hope that this attitude will prevail increasingly not just nationwide, but worldwide. December 21st is the scheduled date.
Paul Banwell, the plastic surgeon at Queen Victoria Hospital who is the skin cancer consultant and instrumental in expanding the MASCU (Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit) there which will serve four million people in the south east, and where Myfanwy's Charity recently donated £20,000 to fund the appointment of a specialist skin cancer nurse, did the five minute operation himself. He also commented on the vastly increasing number of people attending with moles that were 'doing something': and again, we're getting the message over.
He put in a few stitches, put a plaster over the top, and told me not to get it wet for four or five days: and after that, to dry the plaster off with a hair dryer! Now, I could foresee this causing problems: a week without a shower or bath, especially in the close and large family environment that was about to follow over Christmas, might at the very least ensure my being given a corner to myself and especially with a gaggle of grandchildren and their friends not noted for diplomacy. Also, it might attract comment if I stood around with a hairdryer down my trousers. But I'd try!
I had a telephone call from Terry Tietjen, for whom Myfanwy had worked years ago in his sports shop: and for years he's been a great supporter. He's proposing to his outdoor bowls club that they make the Charity the beneficiary of money raised at their next club Quiz: watch this space!
One of my favourite days of the year: that's the day that the days get longer! Two minutes more daylight each day until June 23rd: and then it's all downhill again to winter! I think that I must suffer, in a mild way, from SAD, Seasonal Affective Disorder: or perhaps it's just that I don't like wandering around in the cold and the dark. But the main thing is, 'At least we're alive!', as I say to those miserable people who say 'Isn't it a terrible day?' as they brace themselves against a mild wind and a few spots of rain. 'Why, yes' they say. eyebrows raised: 'I suppose we are!' Obviously a new and innovative thought had suddenly invaded their mind: and they backed away nervously.
Boys day out! One of our grandsons, William (seven in January), was taking me to the pantomime to see Jack and the Beanstalk at our wonderful little theatre Chequer Mead in East Grinstead. Our eldest son Mark brought him up from Worthing: I initiated him in to the joys of cream cheese and crisp sandwiches first, with the satisfyingly crunchy crackle as you pressed down hard on top of the sandwich.
The pantomime was great, with lots of 'Behind you!', and 'It's a ghost!' followed by the mass singing of 'Why does a red cow give white milk, when it only eats green grass?' etc.
The we drove down to his other grandfather's at Barcombe, near Lewes, for the group family Christmas at Mark's wife Lucy's father's farm (hope I've got all the apostrophes in place!) with her four sisters and families for a scheduled attendance of 21. Sadly, one entire family of four had been stricken by the 'lurgy', which reduced numbers to 17: but you'd hardly have noticed!
I told William, on the way down, that I'd had to get a new mobile telephone because I'd sucked up the end of the telephone charger in the hoover and the shop hadn't been able to replace this. I told him that the man in the shop had told me that this was the first time he'd ever heard of this particular problem.
'Well, it's not quite normal, is it?' said William, eyebrows raised. 'You are a bit strange sometimes, aren't you?' he said: 'Mind you, I quite like it' he added consolingly. Mark writes down the sayings etc. of the children: I wish that I'd done that when ours were younger. Perhaps this will merit an entry: like the time that Lucy was taking him to see her friend Linda, whose dog Henry had recently died. 'Tell Linda that you're sorry about Henry, William'. 'Why? I didn't kill him!'
I took a shower at last: turned on the water, let the flex dangle, and water played around my legs from knee to toes without pointing upwards. After five minutes I had the cleanest toes in the business. Deodorant did the rest, after a quick flannel: but it didn't feel quite right! Fortunately, there was a stack of presents to open with eight children under ten around, which diverted attention. First, though, we all strolled down to the service in the little village church with a vicar who really entered in to the spirit of Christmas
I'd postponed the Empire State Building Climb until the stitches were removed: I'd done a 'half Empire State Building Climb (52 floors) a few days earlier: a sweaty climber, after maturing for the best part of a week, might have been too much for the assembled guests at the farm.
It's the day after the day after the day after the day before: and I settled down to erase a thousand or so spam e-mails, reply to the other ten, reply to letters and generally catch up. The big publicity push for Twelve Months to Raise a Million was about to start: and I needed help!
But first, my first proper shower for the best part of a week: I'd never used a hair dryer before, but soon got the hang of it although it was certainly hot. I didn't want to add third degree burns, so it was a brief but quite invigorating session on the upstairs landing.
A reply from Guinness at last! Obviously they'd been mulling over my request during Christmas and the New Year, perhaps wondering how they could placate me. I opened their e-mail eagerly. They hadn't entrusted it to Amanda Sprague this time: obviously, her reply had been way below the standards expected, and this time Carlos Martinez had been deputed, I imagined, to apologise for any hurt that might have been caused inadvertently.
But he didn't!
'Dear Mr Townsend', he wrote, 'Thank you for your enquiry regarding your intention to attempt the record for 'Most Sponsors for One Person for One Event'. Your proposal is not of interest to us as a new category (my emphasis, not his, I hasten to add). However, we have searched our Record Database and think that the following record may be of interest to you instead: 'Largest amount raised by a charity walk or run'. The current record (current as at the date of this letter) is: The greatest recorded amount raised by a charity walk or run is Can$24.7million (US$20.7 million, #9.1 million) by Terry Fox (1958-81) of Canada, who, with an artificial leg, ran from St John's, Newfoundland to Thunder Bay, Ontario in 143 days from April 12 to September 2, 1980. He covered 5373 km (3,339 miles)'
He added, as a somewhat cautious caveat, 'You may wish to check with us again closer to submitting your full claim to be sure that a new record has not been set in the interim.'
Not even a 'Sorry for all the anguish that this has probably caused'!
Now, I'm not often serious: but I can say, in all truth, that Terry Fox, and the wonderful Jane Tomlinson who died in the autumn of last year, are my true heroes. Terry, who had already lost a leg to bone cancer, ran more than twenty miles a day for five months to raise money for Cancer Charities: aged only 23, he was hospitalised near the end of his trans Canada run and sadly died. #9.1 million was scant reward for his fantastic bravery.
Jane Tomlinson had been diagnosed with terminal cancer six years ago: and in those six years before her death, with the help and support of her wonderful family, she worked her way steadily up the scale of 'Challenges' through a mere marathon to cycling across America coast to coast and to completing an Ironman Triathlon.
What's an Ironman? Well, you start by swimming 2.4 miles: then you get out of the water and cycle 112 miles and, as if that isn't enough, you climb off the bike and run a 26.2 mile marathon! Difficult enough if you're fit, trained and healthy: but suffering from terminal cancer, it's beyond belief. She raised more than #1 million for various Charities: what a wonderful lady!
A few years ago, in the mid 90s, I ran in the Midnight Sun Marathon in Nanisivik in northern Baffin Island, 480 miles north of the Arctic Circle. This alone was a wonderful experience: and every year, runners in this annual race would travel to the memorial to Terry Fox nearby and a short and very moving Service took place to commemorate a fantastic, courageous man.
Even in my wildest fantasies, I couldn't imagine raising such a huge sum as #9.1 million: he stands alone!
The only record that I could set was Most Sponsors for One Person for One Event: and it was quite a setback to be knocked back by Guinness!
Anyway, I'm going to establish an unbeatable record for Most Sponsors for One Person for One Event: and, fully documented, it will be the first (and probably only) entry in The Townsend Book of Records.
Too Big for Guinness? would be a great title!
Back to the gym: exercise and healthy eating would dominate my thoughts and my plummeting weight and cholesterol and increased fitness would soon be the envy of all around. But- can't really start just yet, because I was about to go to Buffalo to visit son Cameron, his wife Melissa and daughter Hanna (10), and I didn't want to cause them problems by insistence on an overly healthy diet. So I just 'ticked over': and when I get back, watch out!
Off to the USA via Philadelphia. Five hours in Philly meant an airport meal: and I wandered round and round the six terminals looking for a healthy option. I couldn't find one in the Junk Food Cafeteria, which was doing a roaring trade, so I settled for a South Philly Dog, with grilled onions and cheese whiz, for a mere $5.35. It was perhaps the most revolting meal that I had eaten to date: a soggy roll, filled with a disintegrating sausage composed of red pulp and meat flavouring, coated in melting cheese on a bed of greasy onion, and a smell that clung to me like the friend that nobody wants.
Then, too late, round the corner I found the Healthy Option at Au Bon Pain: homebaked (hmm!) bread and cakes, and a range of soups. I didn't want them to feel that they lacked my support, particularly as they'd tried so hard: so I settled for a bowl of salty Tomato Florentine, with (so it informed me) select spices, fresh garlic, imported romano, tender pasta shells, leaf spinach and beef broth. Well, what better could any man want: and with a hunk of bread as well, all for $4.65!
Buffalo (or more precisely, Williamsville) is great! A beautiful balmy day: just right for a stroll through the leafy suburbs to Tim Horton's where I managed to resist their tempting high calory bagels and settle for a cup of coffee. I went with Cameron to take Hanna skating in the evening: she's already had a couple of podium finishes, and her skill frightens somebody like me who has an almost pathological fear of ice. She'd generously given up her bed so that grandpa could have a decent week's sleep: and I snuggled under the duvet surrounded by posters of nubile young popstars.
I went with Cameron to the indoor track High School athletics meet at the University at Buffalo. I'd been deputed to help with the high jump: which meant raising the bar as necessary, and replacing it when the athletes annoyingly knocked it off. The facilites are amazing: a huge indoor sports hall with a four lane 160 yard track (refreshingly, they still refuse to acknowledge metres), long and high jump pits etc. Thankfully, they didn't throw the javelin or discus indoors: otherwise, Cameron and myself would have been perforated and/or pulped. Could lead to another TV reality show, I suppose: catching the javelin or heading the discus.
That evening, the proof for our mini sponsor forms arrived by e-mail from Paul Paine of In-Press: it is fantastic, with a breathtaking view of the Grand Canyon, and a promise of delivery for when I got home. They're amazing, Paul! Thank you so much
One of Melissa's nieces was celebrating her 17th birthday: so we all went to her pizza party at home with a cake half the size of a football field, and played a game called Apple as Apple. A strange game! Buffalo weather was doing what it normally does in winter: snowing!
Six inches or so is treated as just a minor inconvenience: the council keeps the footpaths clear with snow blowers, and the roads seem very much as usual. It would have closed Britain down, and a state of national emergency declared. Pity I'd omitted to bring any gloves: I went around with a pair of black socks on my hands, with the heel bits sticking up in little hummocks on the backs of my hands. Nobody mentioned it.
Time for a sad au revoir A week seems to have gone far too quickly. Hanna had another evening skating the previous evening: I took lots of photographs, which I promised to send to her so that she could make up a Valentine's Day card for Cameron and Melissa. Take-off at the airport was delayed for an hour and a half whilst they cleared the runways of snow: I bought a copy of the National Enquirer as I'd got nothing to read, but soon decided that having nothing to read was better than reading this!
We had only forty minutes to cross the six terminals at Philadelphia to catch the Gatwick flight: bearing in mnd that you have to be on board a cosy half hour before take-off, this seemed in the realms of improbability. But they commandeered an electric 'invalid cart' on behalf of myself and two passengers for Munich: and we sped through the airport, scattering able bodied passengers like confetti as we negotiated the Junk Food Hall and made it to the Gate in time.
Needn't have bothered, as it turned out: they couldn't get water pumped up to the galley and it took an hour and a half of high level engineering to rectify this. It was almost getting to the point where I was expecting the captain to clear his throat and say 'Ermm, we'd be grateful if passengers could refrain from using the toilets on the seven hour flight'.
They'd been repairing the water supplies earlier in the day, it transpired, but had obviously forgotten to test them out. Ah well, these things happen!
I learnt another very salutary lesson on the flight: my ploy of ordering vegetarian meals on the basis that a) you get served first and b) they're more tempting to the taste buds, came badly unstuck. It was (and I didn't need to consider my decision for too long- nano seconds, in fact- the worst meal that I had ever been served anywhere, even from relatives or at school as a child! I don't know what it was, so I don't know what to avoid if I see it listed on a menu in the future: but it was two slabs of subtly evil tasting yukk on a bed of soggy sticky rice beneath which a cauliflower floret and slice of carrot was cunningly concealed.
How do I know the taste? Well, actually, I ate it, because I was hungry: but even to the man who has never knowingly refused food, it was hard going! Anyway, I slept well for a couple of hours after that
After all that, we were only thirty minutes late landing at Gatwick!
Back home: could scarcely force open the front door for the mountain of principally junk mail. I was tempted to mound these up on a spike in the front garden as a 'Monument to Junk Mail', or make a modern sculpture for the Tate Modern: but I put it into the recycling bin instead. Maybe next year, though: after all, look what Tracy Emin achieved by just not bothering to make her bed!
Then I went through my e-mails: 1600 offers of cheap potions to ensure non-stop virility, sure fire investments, free inducements to casinos and lots of young ladies from Russia eager to show me their pictures. Oh yes, there were also a dozen or so e-mails which I'd actually wanted
Paul brought round the sponsor forms: and they are great! I'm really proud of these: and they will go down so well! I just need 100,000 people to get 10 names on each form, and we'll be there.
I was talking at Cowfold Horticultural Society that evening about Harry the Wheelbarrow Man: a really receptive audience, and I got my first sponsors and dished out lots of forms which will be taken far and wide.
Marian and myself met Rachel at Haskin's Garden Centre for coffee and a chat. Rachel is lovely; recently out of University, where she'd studied psychology (personally, I found difficulty in even spelling it, had to make two attempts), she'd then spent some months working at an orphanage in Ghana and was eager to get involved in worthwhile Charity work. We'd met when I was collecting at Haskins before Christmas, and she wanted to help with Twelve Months to Raise a Million.
She's happy to get involved in Horley, Reigate and Redhill, where she lives: and she also talked about YouTube and the possibilities of 'advertising' what we were doing there. I'd heard about it, but never seen it: and as soon as I got home, I put it up on the screen. There's an awful lot of rubbish there, at a very amateur level: but even these were registering hundreds of 'hits'. More importantly, there are also lots of brilliant videos there: and the boost for Twelve Months to Raise a Million could be fantastic!
Rachel is going to discuss it with a friend, who knows his way round YouTube: and as we said, the sooner the better.
We dropped in at Dove's Barn on the way home: Clive (the owner), Esther and Jo give enormous support and I dropped off a few sponsor forms with Esther who's going to distribute them amongst people that she knows.
Dropped in at the East Grinstead Courier to see Jessica. We're planning the campaign for the year: first thing is for me to prepare a Press Release, the most difficult thing to do, because you've got to get the salient points over to a not always over receptive journalist or researcher in very few words! I spent most of the afternoon on this, chopping and changing paragraphs, essential to keep it all on one page. Jessica wasn't too good with the office camera, so the lady behind the enquiry desk did the honours, outside in the road. She said it looked good. Not too sure myself.
Spent the morning on the Press Release. Sweet pea and sunflower seeds arrive today, great news
Then it was off to Yew Lodge for a Rotary Ladies evenng with Andy Ripley, one of the great extrovert England and British Lions 'stars' of the rugby of my youth! He was also a top all round athlete: I remember him running in the Polytechnic Marathon (in the old days, before the London Marathon, when it started from Windsor Castle!), running in the AAA 400m hurdles, winning Superstars (remember the days, when judo star Brian Jacks used to do phenomenal numbers of press ups), a top rower and recently World Indoor Rowing 2000m Champion: and oh yes, I almost forgot, a top business man in the City and an all round nice guy, who will do anyting for anybody at the drop of a hat! He lives nearby, and I'm very proud to count him as a friend: which meant that I was deputed to introduce him!
The downside to his story is that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer: but in typical Andy Ripley fashion, he'd taken it on as a 'Challenge'. He explained all the details of how it was diagnosed (almost accidentally, as it happened), the complications, and how it had changed his life. He'd written a really good book about it, Ripley's World, which has pride of place on my overloaded bookshelf (I love books!): and he was supporting the wonderful work done by the Prostrate Trust. We heard something about his rugby career as well: only thing he got wrong, I thought he said that Engand would beat Wales!
I had a further chat with him afterwards: sadly, he told me about one of my old Felbridge Juniors players and a 'star' of our World Tour to Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in 1979 and later of Rosslyn Park, Jim Agar (known as 'Bert' in senior rugby circles!). Jim now has motor neurone disease: and they're having a get together for him at Rosslyn Park on Saturday March 15th. The day of the England v. Ireland match at Twickenham! You just know that there'll be a twist in the tail from a plan like this, don't you? I'm writing this sentence in retrospect, you realise: because an e-mail from Andy early in March said that the get-together had been postponed until April 12th because Jim/Bert had got two tickets for England v Ireland! As Andy commented, he didn't know whether to be envious or sympathetic! In the light of England's defeat (in fact abject submisson) at Murrayfield, I suggested that 'sympathetic' might be more correct! We will see: anyway, Jim/Bert and Andy, I hope to be there on April 12th!
The day of the classical music concert being organised by the Muskateers, a Charity Group in North London. It was their first ever classical Concert, which took place at Belmont School, Mill Hill, and featured Gordon Back on piano, Serena Leader on violin, and Gemma Rosefield on cello: and I was on tenterhooks thoughout the day, guilty that I wasn't there, but common sense had dictated that this would be impossible given the complexity of Sunday evening travel across London, and hoping so much that it would be a fantastic success for Melanie Botkai, Nikki Pins and all the other Muskateers and their husbands.
It would also have been Myfanwy and myself's 46th Wedding Anniversary: I took some flowers to her grave and spent a few minutes with her.
Could be one of the lucky days of my life. I dropped in to the Dorset Arms for the usual low level networking meeting of the East Grinstead Chamber of Commerce and met Jill, who is a marketing strategist. She'd like to get involved in our campaign, she said: and I think that with her ideas, energy and genius for lateral thinking and marketing we could finally 'go global'.
Meeting Dale eight years ago was the first defining moment in spreading the word through Myfanwy's Charity about the menace of melanoma: he has done (and still does) such marvellous work constructing this great website, and constantly updating it and keeping it going purely out of the kindness of is heart, and he is one of the truly nice guys of this world.
Meeting Jill might be the second such defining moment!
Time for bed, I suppose: and I preparing to close down my computer but- wait a minute, just clicked on to the Guinness website! A new World Record! The record for Most Coconuts Smashed in One Minute with One Hand is now 81, and was achieved by Muhamed Kahrimanevic in Hamburg, Germany on 6th December 2007
I rushed across the road and bought my copy of the East Grinstead Courier. Just my luck: our story had been kept off the front page by an armed raid on the bookies: but at least we'd made Page 3. In fact, we were Page 3: most of it consisted of a picture of my tasteful laterally striped sweater, in fact. Should have worn vertical stripes. I mused: that makes you look slimmer. Anyway, too late now. Jessica had attached her story: now I'd better rush home to fend off the mobs of eager supporters queuing at the door, telephoning and e-mailing. Had I got enough sponsor forms, I wondered? Better not make plans for the rest of the day.
Our middle son Stewart, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee with wife Krysta and children Ronan and Alice, has agreed to trek the Grand Canyon with myself and Sarah. He's booked to climb Mount Whitney, not far away, on the Saturday and Sunday: and after trekking the Grand Canyon on the Wednesday and Thursday, he'll have a day free to get there, and put his feet up.
Youngest son Cameron can't be there, as he's representing the USA in the World Duathlon Championships in Rimini, Italy, less than a fortnight later and the Grand Canyon trek might well affect his training. Me, I've got to spend a couple of days partying in Las Vegas before rushing home, washing my kit, and then getting vere to Rimini to support him.
There's still room for two more in the team to fill the eight beds available in the two Pioneer Cabins that we've booked on the North Rim on September 8th and 9th. I'd like these to be filled by somebody from the USA and somebody from New Zealand, because I'm working on making this trek truly multi-national: and, as Sarah is female, I'd like one of these other two to be female also otherwise it might be a bit embarrassing for both! Must work on it
I'd arranged to meet Toby Eves and his son in a pub at Pease Pottage. It was the Black something, he thought (Lion? Possibly): but anyway, you can't miss it. Toby, you might recall, had been on Felbridge Juniors tours to Italy and Alaska in the early '80s: and in a little playful sparring in a petrol station in Alaska, he'd flourished a flick knife which had inadvertently taken out the nerves, tendons and ligaments in the little finger of my left hand. Bit difficult, because I'm left handed: and of course, it made driving a little difficult for the rest of the drive from Fairbanks to Anchorage, with an immobile finger sticking straight ahead.
I mentioned it back in Anchorage, as you do, somewhat diffidently: at the hospital, they told me that there was only one 'hand doctor' in Alaska and he was out moose hunting at the time, so it would be better to wait until I got home to England. Back home, I'd forgotten to claim on my insurance, which meant I was £250 worse off than I might have been When I came across the policy a year or two later, it was a bit too late to claim.
Anyway, they took me in to Queen Victoria Hospital in East Grinstead and operated to join everything up: but it didn't work, it all went septic, and they'd wanted to remove it. I resisted this, because I'd become inordinately attached to it having had it for over fifty years. So they washed their hands of it, and left me with a now permanently bent little finger. The only benefit was that, if working in the laboratory, I could wedge a test tube firmly in this crooked finger whilst working with other tools with the other four: a gift not shared by many.
The only downside manifested itself when going downstairs at Marks and Spencer in Crawley: and if the little finger slipped over the handrail on the stairs, I could't slide it off until I reached the ground floor. All in all, I suppose it all balanced out: good job I wasn't a pianist, a touch typist or a flautist.
Anyway, Toby (and his son) and myself all managed to converge on the same pub. We both had a shandy, in view of drink and drive: his sixteen year old son ordered a pint of bitter (swiftly followed by a second), but thoughtfully sidled away to a distant table before the beer was delivered. I made sure that only plastic cutlery was on the table before I sat down. 'I suppose I should apologise, really', said Toby: but he hasn't yet! I think he thought that I'd brought it all on myself!
He generously took fifty of my sponsor forms away with him to hawk round his clients: and we had a really good couple of hours reminiscing about the great Felbridge days, and people we'd known in rugby
I wrote to the edtor of Saga about Twelve Months to Raise a Million, hoping that they would take it on board as a campaign for this summer at least. After all, as I pointed out in my own succinct way, melanoma is one of the Diseases of the 21st Century, particularly affecting those with an outdoor lifestyle: walkers, gardeners, sunbathers, anglers, golfers etc. Saga readers: of whom there are hundreds of thousands. Can't miss, can I? I sat back waiting for the editor to get in touch eagerly ('eagerly' for both of us, I mean!)
A letter from Nikki Pins of the Muskateers: with a cheque for £4,019.00! Plus lots of Gift Aid envelopes and declarations! What a wonderful outcome from a concert which, her letter said, had been 'well received'! I'm sure that it had: and we were over the moon, no Concert had ever raised so much money. I hurried off to add it to Donations
I was giving a talk to a local Probus Club about Harry the Wheelbarrow Man: and something happened that made me very angry. A member came up to me afterwards and told me that his wife had had two moles removed in hospial, both of which had mercifully proved to be benign. She later showed a third to her doctor, who said that it was like the others, nothing to worry about, and implying that the local hospital had more to concern them than 'cosmetic' surgery.
The gentleman and his wife hadn't liked the look of it: but were forced to go 'private' in the face of apathy and even rejection by the local NHS.
The private hospital jumped in to action: it proved to be an advanced melanoma (perhaps Stage 3 or even Stage 4): now, a few months later, it was likely that she had very few months left to live.
Now, where is the education about melanoma in medical circles when even a qualified, experienced doctor refuses to act when faced with a mole that is 'doing something'? I'd like to make this man personally responsible for the treatment of this unfortunate lady and her husband, who had been forced to pay about £1,000 to find out that her condition was terminal: at the very least, he should have a crash course about melanoma. Why is it that this deadly disease gets so little press cover: and when I give talks, people are often amazed to learn about the dangers, that it is in fact one of the Diseases of the 21st Century.
Calm down, Harry! No, wait: why should I? Get it all out in the open: and in East Grinstead, I'm told, more and more people are taking their moles to the doctors who, locally, act very quickly if there is the slightest concern. It should be the same everywhere: we need free Walk-In Clincs, perhaps even touring the country, where (as long as they had a Doctor's Note) people could take their moles for instant diagnosis nd biopsy from a trained skin cancer specialist and nurse.
Myfanwy's Charity would sponsor this: and there's an offer that shouldn't be refused, because Raising Awareness and Providing Early Diagnosis are two of our three objectives, the other being to fund research to strive to find a cure.
I wish that the media would get off their backsides and publicise this!
Photoshoot today! John James O'Brien was going to take my photo this morning outside the King Centre, with journalist Andy Muskett (you remember him running across the Atacama Desert in South America, the driest desert on the planet, a few years ago raising money for Charity?) at his elbow to provide 'the words' for an article in the March issue of our great local Sports magazine, Meridian Sport. The standad and imagination of John's photography is fantastic: and I look forward to getting a bundle of copies to distribute round family and friends.It was quite an education for me. He had me posing in a varietry of challenging positions, but mainly on the slippery banks of Moat Pond, with overgrown willows in the background to simulate the Grand Canyon. Some with my trekking poles, some with my Foreign Legion type yellow cap with back and ear flaps that I'd worn in New Zealand, some without: some of me looking up, some of me looking down, some looking thoughtful, some of me just trying to stand upright on the slippery bank. I refused to give up the opportunity of a potential hold on a weedy looking shrub: the mud was coated with some sort of super slippery gloss that threatened imminent immersion in the pond if I so much as shifted my foot. He probably thought it was a rather weedy attitude: me, I don't care, I'd rather remain dry and upright. he could only store 700 images in his camera, he told me, so he reluctantly had to abandon his search for perfection. Andy rushed off on his bicycle to immortalise the morning in unforgettable prose.
Nici Dell, the manager of Haskins Garden Cente, gave me good news today: they are going to donate the money thrown in to the Wishing Well beside the giant Gunnera manicata during the next six months to Myfanwy's Charity.
Then it was down to Lewes to speak to the Riverside Club about my fundraising treks to date, titled From the Sahara to the Grand Canyon. It's always good to vist them there: they're always interested, and what's more thay have a very tasty range of biscuits to accompany the mid-talk tea. I don't usually like a mid-talk break, because it gives the audience a chance to escape, but I make an exception for the Riverside Club
Alan Hewitt (Aldo) is holding a 70's and 80's Disco tonight in the north of Scotland for us: pity I couldn't be there, but even I realised it was a long drive in my 1998 Peugeot 106, with 122,000+ miles on the clock.
So I slumped in to my old armchair and read Marian's Daily Express. There was a major feature article by Health Editor Victoria Fletcher with the headline Skin cancer rates up 50% and the sub heading Beach 'binges' and sunbeds blamed for rise. It was all good, rivettng stuff: and again, the Daily Express had said it!
Now, it's going to kick me in to mega activity: because a couple of years ago, the Daily Express included seven leader articles during the summer about melanoma. I e-mailed each author individually, but didn't even receive an acknowledgement. Sad, but in a sense expected: because, once a journalist has 'filed' a story, it's on to the next. However, my point is that somebody in a decision-making situation within the Daily Express empire had commissioned these articles: somebody, you infer, with an axe to grind about melanoma!
I wish that I could get to this person! I'll start with Victoria Fletcher.
I got that long awaited reply from Saga. I sat down comfortably to open the letter, so that I could savour the interest that the Editor was bound to show. When would Emma Soames want the article? Tomorrow? Would she want pictures? Wait a minute: she'd asked the Health Editor, Chris McLaughlin, to reply. Well, that made sense, I suppose.
Wait a minute: it wasn't even Chris him or her self that had written. It was a 'pp': surely he or she (never sure with Chris) hadn't asked an assistant to reply? Afraid he or she had: and indecipherable 'pp' had written (I put in brackets the words that had been omitted by pp in the interests of economy and English misuse):
'Sorry, so many similar and worthwhile requests (are received) and unfortunately we have (a) limited amount of space to mention all (of them). I thank you for taking the time and trouble to contact us.'
However, he/she ended on an encouraging note: 'Good luck with (the) venture' and he/she ended matily 'Yours sincerely'.
Now, I'm used to being turned down: but for a Health Editor not to appreciate that melanoma is such a high profile disease that is increasingly being publicised in the national press is rather strange. Saga, although one of the most boring magazines known to man with it's preoccupation with faded pop stars and actors (pity they don't write about real people instead of cardboard cutouts), should surely be making it's readership aware of this disease that affects more and more people in that age group, even if our campaign to find a cure and raise awareness doesn't figure in their plans this summer (the critical time): and it annoys and upsets me that (if they plan to include feature articles on melanoma, as most Health Editors are doing), they could at least find the time (just a few seconds to type that extra sentence, Chris) to say so.
There, I've got that off my chest: I'll update you if they do mention melanoma this summer (and if they don't!)
I dropped in at The Bookshop in the High Street: word had reached me that they'd sold nine of the ten copies of The Slowest Pilgrim, and wanted more! I was eager to remedy this problem!
The owner is one of the nicest people that you could meet: a real, old fashioned Book Shop owner, straight from the memories of my youth (and he's not very old, either). As he said, he really looks forward to coming in to work every day: and if I worked there, I would share this enthusiasm! There's a small tea shop, packed with his 'regulars': and the 'warren' of tiny rooms with uneven floors on the first floor of this old mediaeval building are packed with the most amazing range of second hand books. Downstairs, a similar 'warren' of interconnecting rooms are filled with a similarly amazing range of books, few of which you will ever see in the 'multiples', and I could put up my camp bed there and stay fr ever, it is so fascinating. What's more, my book is in his window!
He reckons that he will be The Last Independent Bookseller: I can imagine this, and I hope that this happy man remains there for years and years and years, long after normal people would retire, because he is happy!
Tuesday evening: the night of the acoustic music gig at CJ's Cafe Bar in the High Street, East Grinstead. You've already read how Steve Simms and myself met, after our mutual support for each other's book in Waterstones: now Steve's plans had come to fruition!
CJ's cafe bar is the 'in place' in East Grinstead, opposite the mediaeval Dorset Arms in the High Street: and Chris and Julie Tomlin had generously donated the premises for the evening. A fortnight earlier, it was already a sell out: all eighty tickets (for a suggested £10 donation, and woe betide you if you tried to get past the eagle-eyed Chris on the door for less) had been snapped up. Marian and myself had a job to get tckets(no, not really, just kidding).
7.30: and any lingering customes had been gently shepherded to the door, and the 'giggers' were taking up the sofas and seats around the musicians 'stage' which Steve, Chris and David and Danny Bridle had been setting up all afternoon. Me, I'd been giving a talk to the ladies of Crawley Parish Guild: felt a bit guilty, but Steve and Chris probably didn't realise how lucky they were without me there to 'help'!
Guitarist and singer Danny Bridle opened the show with thirty minutes of his own songs and music, accompanied by Oz Brinkhurst: I used to play rugby with Oz's uncle for East Grinstead Rugby Club, takes you back a bit!
Then singer and songwriter Mary Leay, formerly of Who Will Miss Mary?, accompanied herself on the guitar in what was quite an emorional experience for me, because Mary had been encouraged to sing by Myfanwy many years ago when she was a little girl living next door to us in Manor Road. In fact, her parents still live there: and they and the entire extended family were in CJ's tonight, giving vociferous support!
Meanwhile, Steve Simms had been rushing around extracting money from the punters for the raffle, for which Chequer Mead Theatre, my local gym Olympos, David Bridle's Bullfrog Music and CJ's had donated a range of amazing prizes.
The 'deal' had been that, if the raffle raised more than £300.0, Julie would sing! Well, Steve made £310.00: and Julie was primed to get up on stage, accompanied by Steve Simpson and Oz, to perform her own 'set'. Julie has a lovely voice (she's actually a very good jazz singer, I'm told), and she is such a gorgeous lady. Her singing was just beautiful: it should be the start of many and more frequent such evenings starring Julie in CJ's!
The evening closed with an unforgettable finale from Steve Simpson, formerly of Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance Band: it had been such a great evening of acoustic music and could be followed by a 'follow-up' when we all get back from the Grand Canyon! Thank you so much, Chris, Julie, Steve Simms, Steve Simpson, David and Danny Bridle, Oz and Mary. You are great friends!
As a result of a fantastic evening, we'd raised £1,100.00: I had a super time, and had to be helped home by Marian in a tired and emotional (alright, slightly inebriated, if you really want to know!) state, poured in to the front seat of a taxi.
I rushed for my copy of the East Grinstead Observer when I heard it being force fed in to the mail box. There it was! Page 3 again, but this time with two great photos of Myfanwy, one with Hanna and the other with me, and- Oh No! A half page picture of me with my trekking hat at a jaunty angle, holding a trekking pole, and looking tired and gaunt with a face as elongated as Jimmy Hill or Bruce Forsyth. Emily's article took up what remained of the page: it was great of her, and wonderful publicity. A friend asked me later where on my treks the photograph had been taken. I told him that it was on the grass verge outside the house a couple of days before, with school visitors looking on in some mystification at this portly old bloke wearing a funny hat having his photograph taken in various inspiring poses
The night of the Quiz at West Hoathly Bowls Club! Terry Tietjen, for whom Myanwy had worked years ago as manager of his Sports Shop in East Grinstead, was on their Committee: and they'd agreed to donate the entries from their Social Quiz for February to Myfanwy's Charity. The club house was packed: Marian and myself were allocated to a team that was a couple short, and we had a great evening. The onlyt downside was that we didn't win (well, you can't have everything, and it would have looked rather suspicious!): but another member of the six man team booked me to speak to the East Grinstead Society in March 2009. Chairman Glyn Lyford, with whom I struck up an immediate rapport, presented me with £200.00: it was a very enjoyable evening, with a tasty Plougman's in the break.
I had a great e-mail from Vicky Searle of United Clothing in West Hoathly. They'd already had our collecting boxes in the office for the past year, and raised almost £90.00: now their big spring sales in Oxted and East Grinstead were imminent and she wanted leaflets, sponsor forms and a couple of collecting boxes. When? Like, now!
I was there within fifteen minutes. Vicky is an extraordinary lady, who devotes all her spare time to trekking in the most demanding and seemingly inhospitable parts of the worls, such as the inner rainforests of Venezuela and the China/Tibet border. She really puts me to shame.
They're planning to flourish my sponsor forms in front of the seething queues of ladies, all eager for bargains, and try to extract a signature and sponsor money from them as they rushed past to get their bargains! Might be a good idea to get lots of stickers, as well, and for everybody working at these Sales to wear our ribbon badges and wristbands.
I dropped in to United Clothing with a batch of wristbands and stickers for Vicky. They were busy loading up racks of clothng. An old friend from France had just arrived: Victoria introduced me. She was in a huge ex-pat community, apparently: as big an enthusiast as Vicky, both lovely ladies, and she didn't need much persuading to become our 'agent' in France. Vicky gave her the two collecting boxes they had there, ready for the weekend. I promised to replace them before the weekend!
I dropped in at the gym to collect a copy of Meridian Sport: the last one on the counter, although it was only 11.00am! I collected another four in the restaurant (after all, they're free!) and sat down to read about myself surreptitiously. The photograph was good: and John agreed to let me use it on the JustGiving page that I'd launched www.JustGiving.com/grandcanyon-rimtorim Andy had taken a completely new, and very inspring, tack on the story of why I am doing what I am. It was great! I was really psyched up for action: only trouble is, he'd omitted to add any contact details so there wasn't much pont in my rushing home to sit beside the telephone!
I didn't like to mention this to John when we met at the Dorset Arms later: I'd really enjoyed reading it, after all.
He's arranging for us to have stall at the East Gristead Rugby Club Sunshine Sevenson April 26th and 27th, the 51st celebration of this giant rugby fundraiser: I'd better rush down and buy a gazebo from Argus, because I'll also need it at the Lions May Day Carnival in London Road on May 5th. Both of these events will allow me to meet lots of old friends: and at the rugby club, as long as I don't set foot outside the gazebo and divert money from the girls collecting for the Wooden Spoon charity for handicapped youngsters, I should add lots of sponsors from rugby friends (after all, they've still got my photograph in the team pictures beside the stairs!)
That reminds me, I'd better get in touch with rugby clubs before the season ends, hoping that they'll put a (brief) letter and sponsor form on the board..
I took two more collecting boxes up to Vicky: everybody there is so enthusiastic, and it was great to meet Geraldine, a friend of Nicky, the wife of another old Felbridge player Nick Penn, and the mother of Lydia who (at St Andrews Unversity, and a member of their charity fundraising committee), had been our original and equally enthusiastic contact with United Clothing at Kixes Farm.
I was speaking to the Trefoil Guild in Southwater that evening. These are all ladies associated with the Girl Guide movement: and they're all really lively ladies who Do Things! I always like speaking to Trefoil Guilds: and there's lots of them around. Thea Francis had booked me to speak about Harry the Wheelbarrow Man: and she had a very persuasive way of getting sponsors for me!
Basically, everybody who came in to the Hall had to sign my sponsor form and donate £1: and as she sat half blocking the door, and the Fire Escape could only be opened from inside, you had to have a pretty good excuse to get past her. In fact, even 'pretty good' didn't work! Then they had to buy their raffle tickets!
I really enjoyed the evening!
I've just about come to terms with our total rejection by Saga, and the Health Editors stance that implied 'it wasn't really their thing': surprising for a Health Editor to take that stance!
But the first copy of the first issue of the new town magazine, RH19 Uncovered, dropped in to the mail box that afternoon: and it lifted my spirits at once. A four page article about what we were doing, and why, together with some good photographs, and which would be dropping in to 19,000 letterboxes. Great publicity for Twelve Months to Raise a Million: no wonder that somebody in Sainsbury's later that day remarked that he couldn't go anywhere without my photograph leering up at him. Well, that, in a sense, is what we want: because without publicity there'd be no support. All the same, I was well on the way to becoming The Most Avoided Man in East Grinstead: pavements were emptying in a wave effect as pedestrians braved the intermittent traffic to cross the road!
My talk at Kingston was an evening of organised chaos built around their Free Trade evening with me having to fight my way through eagerly chattering ladies with cups of coffee, all discussing the items on display, trying to put up my projector and screen. I sold a couple of copies of The Slowest Pilgrim: I said playfully (I was going to put 'coquettishly', but I had difficulty in spelling it) to one purchaser, 'I hope you're going to read it!'. 'Well', she replied brusquely, 'We've got to support the Charity: and I'm sure somebody in the house will do!' I almost snatched it back: but then I thought, 'Well, £5 is £5 after all': so I let it go with a rather taut smile. Had Frederick Forsyth experienced this reaction, I wondered, when he was just starting his writing career and living down Mill Lane in Felbridge beside the lake? Perhaps not.
An e-mail from Melanie Botkai was waiting when I got home. The Muskateers had raised more than £3,500 from the Concert, and the final totting up had still to be done! Fantastic!
It was nice to get home to bed. It had been a busy day!
It was wonderful to meet middle son Stewart at Gatwick, on his way from his home in Nashville for a work study tour in France and Austria. There was so much on which to catch up: but sleep came first, before watching England plumb the depths in a dire display aganst Scotland at Murrayfield. Who won? Oh yes, I think it was Scotland....
Then off for a bracing beef and ale pie at The Star, a mile down the road from home, but just over the Surrey border. You fail to grasp the significance of this? Well, when the boys were at school, it was where all the under age drinkers used to congregate: Sussex Police couldn't touch them, too far from the nearest Police Station in Surrey to bother! So the ale used to flow freely through juvenile bladders! This, then, was a visit of pure nostalgia.
The Star had changed. Now it is quite a classy eatery: and any under age drinker would be on his way before he could say 'Actually, I'm really eighteen, but I look young for my age and I've left my Student ID card at home'.
Early start to go to Worthing with Stewart to see oldest son Mark, wife Lucy, and William and Jonathan (Jonny). Mark always denies that that Jonny was named after Jonny Wilkinson: but I have my doubts.
Anyway, we just made the kick-off, with seconds to spare, to see William play football for Rustington Otters Under 7s. We really enjoyed it: the commitment and enthusiasm of these seven year olds is just fantastic, and a 1-1 draw was an equitable result. Then they played a friendly game against the same opposition, to give everybody in the squad a good game. I'm full of admiration for the Coach/Manager: his enthusiasm and 'fairness' is an object lesson and, what's more, he had a touchline of parents right behind him in full agreement.
Back for a roast chicken lunch: then down to the beach to see a seafull of kite surfers. Rather them than me: I'd rather walk the Grand Canyon rim to rim. Youngest son Cameron telephone from Buffalo: it was, as near as you could get it, a real family occasion.
Up at 4.00am to get Stewart to Gatwick for the 06.40 flight: then back to bed, but I didn't get back to sleep!
I had a reply from Rotary International In Great Britain and Ireland magazine. As we'd had some cover in the international magazine, published in the USA, in December 2006 we'd hoped that our 'home' magazine might lend enthusiastic support.
Well, any support would, it turned out, be rather limited: as Annemarie Harte, Secretary/CEO Designate, pointed out, the bittersweet reality is that since the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave polio eradication a $100 million boost, the match funding of this will be the number one project for at least the next three years.
Well, you can't argue with this: polio is such a terrible disease that has handicapped millions of youngsters in the developing and developed worlds for many many years, and Rotary has embraced this wholeheartedly.
But, said Annemarie brightly, she would see what she could do to get me a piece in the magazine. Please, Annemare: just a teeny weeny space! I immediately e-mailed my original contact in the USA, to push the idea of the international link of my trek. She'd been really sympathetic, and I hoped that she'd be the same again. Back came the reply. She's away on maternity leave. I haven't had a reply back yet from the colleagues who are filling her shoes in the mean time. So, Annemarie, I guess it's down to you! I'd better get in touch again and plead!
Rachel Kingston e-mailed me today. She's super enthusiastic, a lovely young lady: and she'd held a fundraising coffee morning at her home in Horley last Saturday, baked all the cakes herself, all of which proved to be eminently edible: almost everybody turned up who she'd invited, and she raised £120.00! She'd had a ball at CJ's earlier in the week, in common with everybody else there!
Stewart came back from Vienna: would you believe it, his cousin Toby had been there also on business, and I undeersand that they had a few orange juices together. I picked him up at about 7pm: he was going to take me out for a meal. We set off home from Gatwick: I soon learnt a lesson, not to take my mind off my driving whilst I'm talking. Funny, I thought, we've reached the M23 quickly as I turned left up the slip road: five yards in to the turn, with a car up my backside, I realised that we were certainly on the M23, but going in the wrong direction! Ten miles later, we turned right on the M25 and only a couple of miles later, managed to get the correct slip road down to Godstone. The White Hart is another eatery from his youth: half full, but the youth on the desk told us that there was nothing doing for half an hour. Stewart pointed to an empty table at his side. Bit close to the main gangway, said the youth, thinking on his feet as they say: so we went back to the Star, and had a large chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella. Stewart didn't eat his broccoli again: he's too big, now, to tell him to sit there until he's finished or we'd serve it up tomorrow. So I ate it instead: I love broccoli! There were no under age drinkers to be seen there again
Busy day. Stewart and myself took some daffodils from the garden to Myfanwy's grave at Mount Noddy: then up to the Antiques Mall at Ardingly. Actually, that's perhaps too pretentious a name for it: but Stewart wanted some sports memorabilia for his Boy's Room at home. we went on to the Royal Oak and booked a table for that evening.
'You want a table?' asked the well nourished lady behind the desk, who also doubled as waitress: she was a splendid advert for her cooking. 'For this evening?' Yes, we assured her.
An afternoon of Six Nations rugby followed. I still don't know who won the Wooden Spoon between Scotland and Italy: but it didn't really matter!
England at last began to play entertaining rugby: Marian was a bit disappointed that Danny Cipriani had taken Jonny Wilkinson's place, and was largely responsible for this change in fortunes: but she cheered up when Jonny came on later to form a link with Cipriani at inside centre. Might be the partnership that was lacking.
When we arrived at the Royal Oak, in driving (even, torrential) rain, splashing through the floods, we were the only people there: apart from another couple who had also booked and apologised for being late. It didn't appear to bother the lady behind the desk: good thing the youth from the White Hart wasn't there, or he'd have made us all wait. Now, the Royal Oak is lovely and welcoming, a real old fashioned pub: Sunday lunch times it's crowded out, and I wish that it was at other times (perhaps it is, Harry!) because it deserves better. Really good food and lots of it, and a cosy warm enviroment.
Early start again. Stewart was flying home to Nashville via Atlanta on the 09.00 flight, and we had to be there by 06.45. It's always sad to see him going back: perhaps he'll be over here again in April ,and we can discuss details of the Grand Canyon
Bad news! Stewart had asked me, at the weekend, if I'd booked accomodation at Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the Grand Canyon as it got full very quickly. Don't worry, I'd said, You can't book there until a month before your visit, so that it doesn't get filled up by people who change their minds and don't turn up. I don't really think that he believed me.
But it had seemed pretty reasonable to me, dredged up from a long distant memory of a few years ago.
Turned out Stewart was right. I got on to the website www.grand.canyon.national-park.com feeling distinctly ill at ease. Turned out that there are only two 10 bunk dormitories down there: one for men, one for women. Bookings could be made thirteen months ahead. Had anybody else, in the intervening eight months since bookings for September could be made, wanted to spend the night of September 10th at Phantom Ranch? Doubtful, I consoled myself: after all, the school holidays had finished and the children would all be back at school.
Nevertheless, I telephoned Xanterra (the agents) at once, in case I could just get there before the guy who was also going to grab the last bunks and therefore save my reputation. Suzy answered. She took my request for 3M, 2F quite calmly. The delay seemed interminable while she went to peruse the register. She was obviously doing her best. Then, finally, 'I'm sorry but there is no remaining accomodation throughout September'.
I put down the telephone and went alternately hot and cold for several minutes. Then I read all about the dangers of the canyon, the heat, the necessity to keep hydrated, plenty of food, lots of training etc. and how impossible it was to consider trekking rim to rim in less than four days.
Against this I balanced the fact that five years ago, myself, three fat old front row forwards and the wife of one had done this trek (almost) non-stop at the same time of year. We'd had a meal at Phantom Ranch, then at Indian Gardens (4.6 miles from the South Rim) we'd split up: Gary and Jimmy went for it, and arrived at the South Rim before dark (12 and 15 hours respectively): Ted, Carol and myself had put our heads down on a convenient picnic table from late evening (about 11pm) until early morning, when the temperature was only 76F, and carried on to finish in good health mid morning.
Was it legal to get your head down on a picnic table? Or did you need a Backcountry Camping Permit? I decided to telephone the Back Country Office for advice: fortunately, they were engaged.
Instead, I found a great website www.hitthetrail.com set up by Grand Canyon fanatic and former Ranger Denise and poured out my problems to her (by e-mail, of course!) Then I made a promise to myself to get really really fit (at least six marathon distance treks plus the Three Peaks) this summer, and to get myself properly medically checked out (properly, instead of 'How's the madman?', the usual greeting from one of the partners at my local surgery, and a 'Yes, you'll be fine!' after he'd checked my heart (still beating, that's good, and raised his eyebrows slightly at my blood pressure).
I e-mailed the 'team' from the Sahara race last March (we still stay in contact, and of course Sarah had been one of the team) to update them on our plans and perhaps get sponsors. I mentioned the JustGiving page in passing, as you do. It had suddenly come home to me that this was the most demanding marathon trek anywhere on the planet: and that, once you're in the Grand Canyon, only you can get you out!
I'd got to get training, footwear, clothing, food, drink sorted, and try them out: and I think that Denise's website might be just the thing for which we had been looking.
It was serious.
I thought that I'd ring the Canyon team members in the hope that they'd all say 'We're up for it again'. I rang Ted and Carol. Carol answered. Ted and Gary wwere doing a 200 mile canoe race in Canada in June: and she and Ted were boosting his recovery from this with a holiday in Italy in September. Ah well, can't win them all!
I also e-mailed Sarah.
I lay in bed thinking: sleep didn't come easily, as you might imagine!
So I picked up a book to drown out Radio 2.
Having picked it up, I couldn't put it down! It's titled How To Change Your Life in Seven Steps, by John Bird (Founder of The Big Issue). It's in the Easy Reader series, one of their Quick Reads and costs only £2.99 unless (like me!) you can pick it up in a Charity Shop for 20p.
John Bird was born into a London Irish family in a slum-ridden part of Notting Hill. Homeless at five, in an orphanage between seven and ten: from the age of ten he was shoplifting, housebreaking, and stealing. Vandalism and arson also figured. Amazingly, in his mid twenties and after several prison sentences, he became involved in politics!
He also fathered three children, became a printer, and successfully ran his own business and, aged 45 (fourteen years ago), his many life experiences enabled him to start production of The Big Issue, providing opportunities for people facing homelessness to help themselves.
It's an incredible turn-about: awarded an MBE for 'services to homeless people' in 1995, a Fellow of John Moore's University in Liverpool, a Visiting Professor at Lincoln University, Doctor of Letters at Oxford Brookes University and, in 2003. chosen by Her Majesty the Queen as one of the top Most Important Pioneers in Her Majesty's Reign: not to mention winning a public vote on the BBC as London's Living Legend (ahead of Terence Conran, Barbara Windsor and Linford Christie).
It's written in very simple language: it's designed to encourage people to read and enjoy, and (as I'm basically a readaholic anyway!) it stopped me in my tracks! I couldn't put it down: ten past one in the morning before I put it down, and then only because I'd read it from cover to cover and all the small print inside the covers as well in case there were a few more hidden gems!
Page 58 really gripped me: because this is what I've always tried to do (but frequently failed), all my life, without realising it! It's a wonderful way to live: see what you think yourself!
'Do you have a dream you want to follow? Are other people giving you their views on your life? You have to take hold of your ideas. You have to own them. You have to believe in them, at least until you realise that you don't any longer. And when this happens, you must change them. You have to stop relying on the wisdom of others to form your own opinions. You are not a child. You are an adult who has the freedom to think and act for yourself.
You are not your parents. Respect their views but don't be afraid to form your own. Know what your values are and stick to them. If you know what you stand for and you live by it, then others can't pressure you as easily. Don't be afraid to question others. But first make sure you get things right in your own head. Finally, remember that confidence is really a big trick that everyone's playing on everyone else.'
I'd been down to Sainsbury's last night, obsessed by the need for healthy eating once again. Soya, it appeared, was The Food of the Century: tropical rainforest was being ripped out at the rate of an acre a second to cultivate the new cash crop of soya, the food that would save the world, so I thought I'd find out what it was all about and perhaps get hooked myself.
I thought I'd start with a nice cup of tea with soya milk: and, as I had lots to spare, I poured it over my Fruit 'n Fibre.
It's not often that I throw food and drink away, but today was the day! I gagged violently: if this was the reason for destroying the precious, priceless rainforest on which life on earth depended, it had been sacrificed in vain! Never, ever, have I contemplated (let alone tasted) such a vile, sweet, vomit inducing substance: I didn't even keep it for friends, in case they happened to be Soya Junkies. Down the sink it went: and even the sink appeared reluctant to accept it!
I rang Ian Wilson, at Cancer Research, and Amanda Heaton at the Royal Marsden, when I'd recovered. Hadn't talked with either for a few weeks (well, you don't like to bother the Press Office too much, do you? Actually, yes, you do- and now, I felt (in fact, I knew, from the feeling in my water) was the time to get their publicity machines in gear, particularly as the majority of the money raised would support their research work. I had a couple of long chats: now I'm waiting to hear back from their PR people, because we need media cover! No use keeping it all secret: after all, rather than being just The Most Avoided Man in East Grinstead, I might as well become The Most Avoided Man in Britain.
I had an e-mail from Nick of Everyclick, who were holding a competition on behalf of The Sun to find Britain's outstanding Charity, updating me on the status of the Charity. We had, it appears, been nominated by one person (the competition closes on March 28th, apparently) which entitled us to 2p from the £410,000+ which they're distributing to a wide range of local and national Charities.
Well, you've got to start somewhere, haven't you: and if all our supporters get on board quickly, we might get it up to £1 by the end of the month. I know two things, though: firstly, publicity counts, and secondly, if we really do get a cheque for 2p, I'd put it in a big frame on the wall (and pay for the frame myself!)
RAFT, a centre for reconstructive surgery (and, for many years. a centre for melanoma research to which we'd already donated £23,000 to fund the setting up of a laboratory in Myfanwy's name, plus a further £15,000 to buy a Solar Simulator (no, not Stimulator!) essential for their work on sun screens etc., telephoned me.
They'd reduced their work on melanoma since a re-structuring of their work, although still retaining a section dealing with sun screens and sun damage: and, although we'd had less (in fact, no) contact since the appointment of a new CEO a year ago, we still support this aspect of their work. Now, a newly appointed CEO wanted to meet their supporters from over the years: and so, I'm going up there early in April to meet her. I had a chat with Christine Miles there, arranging this; she said that they knew that I didn't like money to be wasted on expensive buffet lunches for visitors! Well, perhaps I'd been a tad hasty and outspoken, Christine: what I'd meant was, don't go to the expense of pate, asparagus and champagne, but a nice Ploughman's with a spoonful of Branston's Pickle and spicy cheddar wouldn't go amiss!
I met lots of old friends at Hailsham Horticultural Society this evening: I was giving my talk 'Harry the Wheelbarrow Man' to pretty near a full house. They were really supportive: lots of sponsors, four books sold, fifteen packets of sunflower or sweet pea seeds and ( a really generous gesture, they donated £21.00 raised from the evening raffle to Myfanwy's Charity. And they want me to go back next year, to tell them all about Twelve Months to Raise a Million!
Lot's happening today! Vicky e-mailed me from United Clothing. Their support had been fantastic: and their weekend sales over the past gtwo weeks had brought about 200 sponsors and raised almost £300.00: with more to come, as our sponsor forms were being spread tghrough France and goodness knows where around Britain. Geraldine, who with her husband owned United Clothing, and her daughter Lydia, were giving enormous support: and every member of staff were wholeheartedly behind us!
I'm going up there next Wednesday for a long chat and to thank them all: more later.
Nici, the Manager of Haskins Garden Centre, is a great supporter: and I went to meet her and the PR manager/adviser, Gareth John, for the Haskins chain of Garden Centres. We hit it off at once: the three of us spent an hour and a half hunched over a bucket of coffee in their welcoming restaurant, then Gareth took a publicity photograph (well, actually, dozens of photographs) of Nici and myself crouched over a 'sunflower' made out of dozens of packets of our sunflowers 'The Darker Side of the Sun' which will soon be winging it's way throughout the horticultural world.
Gareth was very considerate, in view of my age: 'Is it alright for you to kneel on one knee, Harry?'
Lots of ideas bandied about: for a start, all donations from the Wishing Well at Haskins in East Grinstead from the next six months will be given to our Charity. I'll be giving some talks both before and during Melanoma Awareness Week (June 14th to 22nd), and there's the possibility of a children's tallest sunflower competition: perhaps even a raffle, with each entrant becomng a 'sponsor'. But there's lots to talk about. The main thing is, their really interested support: and enthusiasm counts for a lot!
I had a telephone call, hesitant at first, from John from Mid Sussex. He's been recently diagnosed with melanoma, and had picked up one of our leaflets from Queen Vic. Hospital in East Grinstead, where he will be a regular visitor, and wanted to do something to avert and cure this terrible disease, as he put it. We chatted for a long time: I'm sending him lots of information and we'll meet very soon.
He wanted to know if we had a large network of support, what merchandise did we have, what were we planning in his and other areas. I told him I'd let him know. We chatted for almost twenty minutes.
Than I sat and thought, about what grandiose things I could tell him, to make it all sound so slick and upmarket and the army of support that we have, spread throughout Britain. I couldn't do it: I read John Bird again! Aim big, get there small! Lies, he says, give you something to hide behind. So, tell it as it is. We started from nothing less than nine years ago when Myfanwy died: we've raised more than £120,000 to date: we've funded research, awareness and early diagnosis projects as we plan: and we're gradually getting more and more committeed people on board who help us to spread the word about why we are doing what we are. We've started Melanoma Awareness Week nationally: and, by a variety of often imaginative fundraising Challenges, we're aiming to do more and more to publicise the menace of melanoma.
We need more and more high profile media outlets supporting us: and we can only do this by our supporters telling more potential supporters, and the media, about Myfanwy's Charity. If you tell it like it is, then you'll get more and more support.
Down to Sainsbury's again, to get some milk to replace the soya: ugh, I can still taste it! Better get a couple of Easter eggs for the grandchildren in Worthing. Ideal: two easter eggs free of packaging (Saving the Planet, you see!) and only £1.69 each! I was hurrying out of the door when I saw one of their 'deals', a huge stack of 'Easter egg offers'. Almost fell over them on the way through the exit!
A boxed package of two (quite large) cream eggs, actually the same size as those I'd just bought: buy one pack, get one free for £1.99 !
So what could I do? Marian would have been proud of me. Avarice overcame conscience: I returned the two foil wrapped eggs, £1.69 each, for a total of £3.38, for two packages each of two eggs each for a total of £1.99. Well, what could I do? I guess that I'll have to start saving the planet tomorrow, after all.
Oh yes, and do you know (well, it was on either Sarah Kennedy or Wogan this morning, and what more trustworthy a programme could you find?), that chocolate is poisonous to dogs. They get hyper active, heart rate increases, they salivate excessively, and death frequently occurs according to A Vet. The more expensive the chocolate, the more lethal it is.
So, if you want to keep your dog healthy, eat your expensive easter egg yourself: mind you, too much expensive chocolate isn't much good for you, either. Fortunately, the chocolate I'd bought for my grandchildren wasn't expensive (better not tell them that they've got a mean old grandpa!), and they haven't got a dog either, so I could relax.
Neil Parker got in touch: he'd already raised more than £2,000 a couple of years previously from running the London Marathon, and his wife Helen had been similarly generous from a variety of fund raising events, and now he and seven golfing friends were planning a fantastic fundraising Challenge.
Starting at 0430 on June 6th, they were teeing off (technical term, don't worry!) at Purley Downs Golf Club to play 100 holes by 6pm that evening: no caddies, no golf carts, no golf buggies and some thirty miles walking (and that's if they kept to the fairways!) That's the sort of Challenge that I really like: and, if I'd played golf, I'd be right in there with them!
They'd invited me to join them for dinner after they finished: wow, yes, gentlemen, and I'll buy the first round!
I collected four brimming collecting boxes from United Clothing from Vicky: they'd all done tremendously well, especially as they'd been dealng with a throng of ladies pouring through the door eager for bargains! I could hardly wait to get home and start counting. £323.71 from 215 separate sponsors: fantastic! Thank you so much, Vicky, Geraldine, Nicky and everybody who took round the sponsor forms: and I've still to hear from their 'agent' in France!
As I drove back, the woodland was massed with wood anemone, celandine and pink Milkmaid: a sure sign that spring was here.
I had a good session in the gym later in the afternoon. I did my first Empire State Building climb on the step machine, 102 floors! I did it slowly, just under 34 minutes: but even at that companionable pace, I was soaked in sweat and had to give the entire machine and the floor around a good wipe over.
Wayne and Rebecca took a wad of sponsor forms to distribute round Reeds in East Grinstead, and the pubs of Lingfield: I also managed to get a couple in to British Airways (well, I'd coached their rugby team for twelve years, taking them on tour to South Africa and New Zealand the process, so I thought I'd better start to strengthen these somewhat tenuous ties).
In case you're thinking we were on a 'freeby' on these tours, no such luck: the only way that we'd got a good rate on fares to New Zealand had been by collecting vouchers from the Daily Mail!
Another envelope of cheques from Leeds United, £130.00 in total, arrived today. People visiting their training ground are really generous, and it's in memory of their coach Bruce Craven who had sadly died at the early age of 32 from malignant melanoma.
Three more JustGiving pages from Neil Parker's golfing team have appeared : also one from Polly Stubley, who's doing a cycle tour around Ireland. JustGiving pages are mushrooming: several people are running the London Marathon, and Sian Crosweller and her brothers are cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats in September. It's all so amazing: and our total funding research is rising rapidly all the time.
I dropped in to see Mitch Clark, another old Felbridge player and now my accountant. Who'd have thought, 30+ years ago, that I'd be entrusting my cash to Mitch? But it's a wise decision: if anybody wants a good accountant, just give me a ring and for 10%....
Mitch has been taking round my sponsor forms and pestering all and sundry: and on The Longest Day (which happens to take place during Melanoma Awareness Week, June 14th 22nd) he and friends, in common with a lot of other golfers nationwide, will be playing 72 holes (4 rounds) to raise money for Myfanwy's Charity. Well, that's not quite right: he and his friends will be, but the other thousands will be raising money for other Charities, but you know what I mean.
I mentioned that I'd had the idea of playing one hole on 18 golf courses in 18 hours as a fund raiser, until I realised (after a couple of sessions on Tilgate Park driving range with Marian), that my maximum drive was only about 50 yards, and the accuracy was minimal. I wasn't bisecting the fairway at all: and it had looked so easy when Tiger Woods does it!
Mmm! said Mitch: 'That's a great idea!'
He sat back and twiddled his ruler for a few minutes. Briefly, he (off 10) and a friend (off 8) would look at the idea, plan it out, and go from there. I offered to be the driver (in the car, that is!). They'd go round with a half set of clubs: I'd hang around the golf club with sponsor forms, hoping to attact sponsorship and of course, we'd have had to prepare the ground very carefully through club committees etc., first of all to attract their support and permission to 'play through'. There's a lot to do: but I think that the idea 'has legs'!
I told Marian about it.'Did Mitch suggest it?' she said, 'Or did you? I seem to remember that you had this idea a year ago.''Well, yes', I said, 'I did mention it in passing: but Mitch is a bit like me, it's a really great idea, and if I could play golf, I'd be partnering him and you could be the driver!'
Early appointment at Haskins with Nici, and a bucketful of coffee in the restaurant! She's really enthusiastic about Haskin's involvement, and Gareth has been sounding out contacts within the firm. It's all got to be firmed up over the next few weeks, but I'll probably be giving a talk in May to their Gardeners Guild, probably 'Kew Through the Looking Glass', stories from behind the scenes of my fourteen years as Assistant Curator at Kew (the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew), which would also launch a raffle with every name on a counterfoil counting towards my million sponros, and in Melanoma Awareness Week (probably Sunday, June 15th) I'd be in the Garden Centre giving demonstrations of making up Hanging Baskets, one of my favorite summer pursuits.
Haskins would also be selling our sunflowers (as would lots of other places), and this would lead to a competition for The Tallest Sunflower in early July aimed at the local schools.
I rushed home and started 'surfing the net' to find raffle ticket printers: North of Scotland, Cleveland....wait a minute, there's one in Hastings!
I had to break off to climb the Empire State Building at the gym: third time in three days! I chated with Dave Burnett first, an old friend, who's also taking my sponsor forms round work. 'Better go and climb the Empire State', I said' 102 floors, getting ready for the Grand Canyon'.
'Wait a minute', said Dave: 'Did you say Empire State Building? Alex (the World Junior Power lifting Champion, who works there: you might remember him doing my fitness assessment way back, but I'm feeling much better now) suggested to a few of us last week that we ought to try to climb 102 floors on the step machine. So that's what the 102 is all about! Well, we poohpoohed the idea, it looked so easy: then we tried it, and it was a bit difficult. and now three of us keep on trying to smash our records. Two of us lowered it, day by day, to 16 minutes or so, but one of us goes really manic and almost killed himself yesterday with 10.09! So that's what it's all about: the Empire State Building! I'll tell them'.
I suggested that, if they wanted a little more of a Challenge, they could try the Sears building in Chicago: that's 110 floors, and if they wanted something really challenging, they could try the Burj, in Dubai, which when it's completed (at an estimated height of 2,625 ft as opposed to the 1,250 of the Empire State) will have 162 floors!'
Dave didn't appear to think much of that: he went away to change and get ready for a 5 mile race in Oxford on Sunday, whilst I did my own Empire State climb in a slightly increased time of 32.05, which held out the chance of further gradual improvement before September. No use rushing it all at once!
I updated the Press Release slightly: I've got to find some way of broaching the purpose in a few succinct pithy to-the-point words of what we're doing to editors, because I never know quite what to say when I hear an unknown and slightly exasperated voice at the end of the line, from someone who clearly hadn't wanted to be interrupted in the first place just when they were producing a piece of unforgettable prose for tomorrow's early edition.
Basically, it distils in to 'This is the year for Melanoma Awareness' and 'Melanoma Kills!' I'll try it on Monday.
Julie Smith in Canada has put me in contact with Lisa, of the Melanoma International Foundation in the USA: I'd drawn blank from my approaches to the Melanoma Research Foundation, who didn't appear in the least interested in the idea that they should put up a FirstGiving page in the USA to raise money for their work on the back of my trek. Actually, I don't know whether or not they were interested, because they hadn't bothered to reply at all. I e-mailed Lisa, who is eager to talk
I received an e-mail from Robert Botkai to tell me that Melanie, who had been the driving force behind the classical music concert organised by The Muskateers that had raised more than £4,000 in February, had died from malignant melanoma. I was in tears when I replied: she had retained her mind until she died, but her body had just packed up over the last few days, and Robert had felt so proud and so sad when she gave her speech at the concert.
It is such an awful, awful disease.
I opened an e-mail from Lisa, from the Melanoma International Foundation in the USA. They are going to publicise my trek on their website, and put the information out to their supporters, inviting donations: and of course, all money raised by them in the USA will stay in the USA to fund their own melanoma research. What great news! At last it's going international: the next step is to get New Zealand on board, which I can tell you won't be far away!
I also had an email from Alan and Brenda Warwick, our 'support crew' for the Grand Canyon. They're coming to Sussex from Cornwall next weekend, and they want us to get together to discuss the details. Far better than exchanging e-mails and telephone calls: and over supper (less up-market than dinner!) we can discuss it all. The only downside: Brenda fell and cracked a bone in her ankle a few days ago, so she's at the culinary mercy of Alan for five weeks! Nobody should be asked to endure something lke that, surely!
I paid a return visit to Battle to talk to the Ladies Guild for the third successive year: either they have short memories, or they enjoy meeting me. Marian took me along: she'd press ganged her friends in to doubling the audience. I didn't have great hopes of selling more books of The Slowest Pilgrim, having already mopped up most of the potential and practising readers in the audience, but one kindly lady took pity on me and wisely invested £5. I did sell 10 packets of sunflower seeds (and you can always eat them if you're too late to sow them, after all!) though, and 5 packets of sweet pea seeds.
A lady told me that she'd bought my book last year. Had she enjoyed it, I asked? Well, she takes it away in holiday, it transpired, and sort of- dips in to it! It must be one of the most travelled and under read books on the planet, I guess: but perhaps she now feels overcome by guilt, and will rush home and sit reading it until the early hours (not).
I was sitting round the table at the casual weekly get together of the Chamber of Commerce at the Dorset Arms: I'd just met the severe Challenge of carrying a large bucket (cup) of coffee, lapping round the brim, up the steep narrow staircase without generating the waves that would fill the saucer and over spill on to the floor.
Gill is making marvellous progress with the idea of marketting a global brand/logo to raise money for melanoma research through Myfanwy's Charity: can't say more, at present, but she is without doubt a genius.
I was telling her about Mitch Clark's plan to play a hole on 18 golf courses in 18 hours to raise money for Twelve Months to Raise a Million. Why not push the 'sun' idea, and play with high visibility balls? I blinked and shifted uneasily in my seat: hadn't expected this sort of suggestion from such a well brought up lady. 'No, golf balls', she said 'You know, luminous'. 'Ah, yes': and I hurried home to surf the net to contact golf ball manufacturers. How many would Mitch and his partner need: would their accuracy diminish as the day wore on?
Turned out there's lots of luminous golf balls on the market: but I was particularly attracted by The Glow Company: www.theglowcompany.co.uk who make promotional golf balls- including the light up golf ball! I clicked on to this section eagerly- not only did they cost £7.99 each, but they were out of stock! Ah well, it was a good idea whilst it lasted: and you can see that neither myself or Gill are golfers. I'll just drive Mitch and his friend from course to course, and tout round the clubhouse for sponsors whilst they're foraging in the rough.
John O'Brien, who is a great photographer, has been toying with the idea of accompanying me on the Grand Canyon trek to take millions of photographs: and it would be a photographer's dream! 'OK', I said, 'Come along'. 'Well', he replied 'I'd have to lose a bit of weight first!'
Surely not, John! Although 18 stone plus is quite a heavy burden to carry round for 24 miles, 2.5 vertical miles and in temperatures of 120F plus. He suggested that he'll let me know in a couple of months: but it would be great to have him along. 'Anyway, what was I doing this evening', he asked? 'Why- do you want to take me out, John?': it sounded like a bit of bribery, something to which I'm not averse in the right circumstances.
It turned out that a new Indian restaurant, Xquisite (bit different to the usual Bombay Duck, or the Delhi Belly) was opening this evening in ast Grinstead: and would I like to go along and do some networking.
They say there's no such thing as a free meal: but in this case, there was! A glass of sparkling white wine and an impossibly sweet orange and mango fruit drink (both in different glasses, of course): a chat with the mayor (the first mayor of East Grinstead for years that I hadn't known personally: friends from East Grinstead Rugby Club, where I'll be taking my gazebo and display table for the Sunshine Sevens on Sunday April 27th to raise awareness of Twelve Months to Raise a Million: old rugby friend (and future potential mayor) Bob Mainstone, husband of former mayor Christine Mainstone: Andy Muskett, hovering round looking for another 'scoop' for Meridian magazine (he wrote that great story about the Challenge last month): and lots of others.
I met the new manager of LA Fitness, and asked if she'd like to pose for a photogaph with the two men in East Grinstead who'd 'rowed' a marathon on a rowing macine (42, 195 metes) non-stop: myself, and Chris Rolley, the Town Clerk. He'd done it about ten minutes quicker (I'd taken 3 hours 23 minutes): but he's younger and got enormously long legs. Sadly, she passed on the opportunity.
Anyway, it's her loss: both Chris and myself go to her rival gym, Olympos, anyway. I'd been in there alongside Chris last week: he drifted over to me tonight, glass in hand, to tell me that he also had taken up the Empire State Building Challenge! He told me that he'd started slowly and taken about 12 minutes. I gulped, and made a mental note either to speed up on my current 30 minutes, or not to do it when he was around.
The meal was good: a random selection of tasty Indian food, which I mixed together on my plate on a large bed of rice and some salad. Very tasty, too: I hope that they're giving out vouchers at the door on the way out. No, just a menu: might take Marian along some evening, though.
I sat next to the gentleman who's running the Post Office: he very kindly offered to let me put up a leaflet display beside the counter. He and his friend left, leaving me marooned alone on a small table. New Councillor Liz Bennett took pity on me: I was so impressed that I gave her a sponsor form.
It's thirty five years ago today that Martin Cooper invented the mobile phone, and made the first mobile phone call. Good job he hadn't done it two days earlier.
That had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that I got in touch with the Argus, in Brighton, this morning where Siobhan Ryan was really interested in what we are doing, and why. I e-mailed my Press Release: had I got any photos, she wondered? No, not those of four years ago of Harry the Wheelbarrow Man: up to date one! I pointed out that I hadn't really changed much in that time, but she shrugged this aside. The sooner I could provide an up to date photo, the sooner it could appear in the paper: so Richard Denn was pressganged in to service with his trusty digital in his lounge. Very few of the photos were even remotely flattering: but in the end he took one with my eyes open, and sent it to Siobhan. Hope it gets there for the first edition tomorrow!
I got a cheque for £1,650 this morning from Aldo (Alan Hewitt), from Killin in the north of Scotland. He'd organised a 70's and 80's Disco in the village, and he'd raised £3,300 shared between Cancer Research and our Charity. That one week in February our supporters had raised almost £7,000: and at last I felt that the tide was turning towards our £1 million target: and it got even better in the evening, when Marian and myself went out for a sunmptuous dinner with Andrew, Sarah, Kathryn, Thomas and Matthew Bayes in Crawley.
They are The English Family on a Walking Holiday from the Camino in Spain: our paths had interwoven for several days on the way to Santiago de Compostela, almost five years ago! Andrew had even lent me a T shirt when I had carelessly left my only spare outside a Refuge, and was too weary to spend a day retracing my steps to retrieve it: but for almost three years now we'd lost contact until tonight. It was an evening heavy with nostalgia: I took round a copy of my book The Slowest Pilgrim instead of a bottle of wine, Andrew had cooked a cordon bleu meal (good job it was his day off!), and we caught up on news as we chatted round the table until almost 11pm.
Once again, they embraced our Charity: and I left a big sheaf of sponsor forms with them.
Nothing in the Argus: I searched it from page to page, even through the Classified Ads. But I had more to think about than that: my computer wasn't reacting to my demands. Lots of spam seemed to get through: but the main e-mail address obstinately refused to let me send anything out. Lots of imaginative suggestions, some physically impossible, from such people as Stefano Galenkamp, Pasquale Cartwright, Demosthenes Fielding and Clarissa Casagrande: but nothing from the people that really counted!
I rushed to the Yellow Pages to find a computer engineer: and by sheer luck found Vernon Williams, just round the corner. He couldn't come today: but how about tomorrow?
The Trefoil Group in Burgess Hill took my mind off it all this evening, though. They're a group of retired and current Girl Guide leaders: and they're great fun, bright and positive, and I'd been booked to tell them all about Harry the Wheelbarrow Man. They're eager readers, as well, and eight of them bought copies of The Slowest Pilgrim: whilst lots of them queued to add their names to my sponsor form or buy packets of sweet pea or sunflower seeds. Even the area boss turned out to watch: she did live in Burgess Hill, though!
Might have made the Sports Edition, I thought, as I snatched up the evening Argus. On the other hand, it might not. Have to wait until Monday, I guess. Never mind: the arrival of Vernon drove such thoughts from my mind. The guy is a magician: he made my computer do tricks that I had never even imagined. He deleted several thousand empty files with the flick of a mouse button: and that was just for starters!
The problem was the Password! I thought that I'd remembered it: in fact, I'd scribbled it down on a tatty sticky label stuck to my computer desk. But no matter how we dealt with it, it didn't work. We tried every tactic: switching it off, and then quickly on: or leaving it to rest for a few minutes whilst we had a cup of coffee, in case it was tired and might revive after a few minutes. No good. He telephoned the Help desk: and a gentleman in India guided us through the process of adopting a new e-mail address. No longer was I firstname.lastname@example.org : I'd become, at the flick of a switch, email@example.com
Fortunately (and I shudder to think of what might have happened otherwise!) we managed to retain firstname.lastname@example.org : without this, the consequences and ramifications would have been unthinkable. Thanks Vernon: I owe you one! Well, actually, I don't, because I paid him: but my word, was he reasonable! If you want a great computer engineer, just ask me to put you in touch!
I opened the curtains this morning and saw snow: falling heavily! By the time it stopped, it was 4 inches deep! Thirfty years ago, my kids would have been outside hurling snowballs at each other: today, I guess that children today are either huddled up under their duvets or hunched over their computer screens. The snow covered streets were deserted: only winter sports venues (like, Colorado, with ample apres ski) appear to trigger what would once have been a 'normal' reaction. Snow untamed is probably antisocial and unsafe. Pity.
Marian and myself went out briefly: I threw a tentative snowball at her in a sort of reflex action. Most of it went in her handbag. She didn't throw one back.
Anyway it was a good day to e-mail more than 400 people to let them know that, if they e-mailed email@example.com, they would be doomed to failure! firstname.lastname@example.org , though, would guarantee success. Richard came round, looking for a cup of coffee. I composed an e-mail telling all 400 eager correspondents about this devastating e-mail crash, and also took the opportunity to incite them to come on board for Twelve Months to Raise a MIllion. Richard showed me how to send it to all of them at once: the distribution list covered several pages, enough to attract an automatic deletion. Unfortunately, it didn't appear to work: so we split it in half and tried again. This appeared to be ejected again, on the grounds that the list still contained more than 100 names.
Richard's attention span appeared to cease about this time. 'Well, I don't know!' he said. I decided to split the 400 into eight groups of about 50 and try again. It was very labour intensive, even with a pause for lunch: I had to enter them all individually, because I cojuldn't follow the instructions that I'd written down from Richard.
It turned out that everything had actually got through anyway: lots of people (well, three or four, and others followed irritatedly over the next few days) told me that they'd got my message three times. The other 380 didn't bother
Martin Johnson, the Dark Destroyer, and one of our Supporters (have a look at our website under Supporters) has been appointed Manager of the England Rugby team. What great news! That should scare the opposition, even from the touchline!
Continuing the rugby theme Tony Smith, the leading light in Crawley Rugby Club and who I used to coach twenty years ago, rang to let me know that I could put up an exhibit and try to attract sponsors at the Crawley Fatboy Sevens on May 25th, when a lot more of my old players will be cavorting round the Sevens Pitch in a grotesque rugby fantasy. You have to be either very old, or very fat, to quaify to take part: and no, I won't be playing! But it will be great to catch up with them all!
I had an e-mail from Steve at Dominos in East Grinstead. He and Becky have been great supporters for several years: and they're continuing this support as well as focussing attention on the environment. They're doing away with plastic bags there: and they've got a great poster advertising this, with a picture of an albatross. Turns out that 2 million of them nest and breed on remote Midway Island (so that's where they all go!): and ocean currents drag floating beach debris, including millions of plastic bags, around it's shores. Thousands of albatross perish as a result, entangled in these plastic bags. A sad comment on modern society. 'You should get a cheque for about £250 from Dominos nationally in the autumn, said Steve when we spoke: 'That's the saving that we alone will have made from this!' Thanks, Steve: another great gesture of support.
I went to the gym. Everywhere you look, there are posters advertising the Empire State Building Challenge: you can't ebven have a pee without your eyes focussing on a poster at a convenient height! The winner gets a free month Gold membership: more importantly, it arouses the competitive instinct! You had to fill in your name and time on the counter top chart. Trouble is, Ian had demolished the opposition on the first day! Apparently, he'd been practising for quite a time, according to Dave Burnett: and now he'd posted a 10.03 and finished in a highly distressed state!
I posted a 24.37, which gives (lots of) room for improvement: but I added as a caveat 'Target for the Over 60's'. I can't bear not to be competitive. If an Over 60 comes along and beats it (and I'm going to improve!), I'll cross it out and add 'Target for the Over 70's': and if an Over 70 beats it, I won't bother going back until after the competition closes on April 28th! Who says that I'm not a good loser?
I e-mailed the TV Chat Shows before the Rotary AGM at lunchtime. I always attend to make sure that I'm not elected to anything. Then it was off to the gym. A slip of a girl was floating lke a butterfly on the step machine: after 60 floors or so, she bent down to kiss a friend lightly on the cheek and had an animated conversation with her whilst still maintaining an astonishng pace without even getting out of breath. She did 100 floors in about 14 minutes before stopping. Turned out she'd never heard of the Empire State Building climb: she'd just been doing 100 floors for fun, as you do!
At las I managed to flush out my old friend Mark Habgood (e-mail address 007), former Chairman and a founder of the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand. The Melanoma Foundation, for the founding of which my wheelbarrow walk had been the catalyst, was in no position to capitalise on my Grand Canyon trek: but he gave his blessing to my approaching the Malaghan Institute in Wellington, who are doing splendid work on aspects of melanoma research, and who had similarly benefitted from of the walk of myself and George.
I dashed off an introductory e-mail, and sat back to wait for a response. It still hadn't arrived ten minutes later. Two wees later I write with hindsight) I was still waiting.
I met Nici at Haskins to confirm their considerable involvement in the summer fundraising. They're really giving immense support. I'm giving a talk 'Kew through the Looking Glass' on Friday May 16th in the restaurant (tickets £2 each, free tea and coffee), from which every penny goes to the Charity: I'm billed to give non-stop Hanging Basket demonstrations on the first Sunday of Melanoma Awareness Week on June15th: they're funding a raffle (every penny, again, goes to our Charity) with vouchers totalling £200: and they're holdng a Tallest Sun Flower competition (but only for sunflowers grown from our seeds, The Darker Side of the Sun, of course): and they're donating the money in their Wishing Well throughout the summer. As well as allowing us to collect outside the Garden Centre on both Saturdays and Sundays during Melanoma Awareness Week June 14th to 22nd! Wow! Fantastic! I'll keep you posted, of course!
I e-mailed fifteen local and fairly regional radio stations about the trek. I received two Auto replies instantly: anogther which indicated considerable sympathy with our objectives, but no promise of anything further: and positive replies from Radio Derby (both Myfanwy and myself came from Derby, where we'd been brought up almost round the corner from each other) and BBC Southern Counties, who were intensely interested. The remaining ten statins appeared unmoved by my e-mails.
Great news tonight: Cameron, who is once again representing the USA in the World Duathlon Championships this summer, has been elected an All American athlete. No one deserves it more: he trains incredibly hard.
I telephoned my sister in law in Derby to tell her about the radio broadcast, in case she happened to be listening to local radio before 8.00am: she didn't appear over excited, but ndicated that she might keep an ear open whilst she was getting ready for work.
Good news: JustGiving donations are increasing
I was up early, showered and brushed my teeth (no time for a shave, though) ready for my interview on Radio Derby. I took the telephone in to the shower with me in case they rang early. 7.50 on the dot: and I was on, live, on the Radio Derby Breakfast Show. It was good fun: and I was able to tell Shane all about what was entailed, 24 mile trek with 2.5 vertical miles and the necessity to drink: lots! Once you feel thirsty, it's too late! I didn't imagine that anybody would hear it who knew me (except perhaps for my sister and brother in law , who as I told you were rushing round trying to get ready for work .
I had a great letter this morning (well, by second post, just after lunch: they don't have a first post round here) from Duncan Godfrey in Bradford, with a cheque for £175.00! He'd organised an on-line poker tournament (free to enter!), and where the 'winners' were able to nominate organisations or charities to receive their 'winnings' through Duncan. We'd been nominated by David Paisley (presumably, he'd won!): and here was the cheque! It's certainly the first donation we've received from a poker player: and I wrote to thank them both.
The Empire State beckoned! I was just about to go to the gym when- the telephone rang. Chris Mallett, from the Derby Telegraph, wanting to interview me and get the story and why we are doing what we are. I hurriedly updated the Press Release to include our Derby background and look forward to reading the story. We've still got lots of friends there: and I hope that it will help them come on board in support.
First thing that I did at the gym was to look at the Empire State times. The sheet was three quarters full: one guy had recorded 9.15, another 9.45. Unbelievable! Jo said that both Andy and Alex had witnessed the 9.15 guy: and he'd looked distressed, but still conscious and he'd een able to dismount without help. Julia had also put up a time: she'd floated effortlessly along on Tuesday, now she'd really got down to it and clocked 12.45! I was glad there were none of my 'gang' there to watch me too closely: although Jo kept hovering at my elbow, trying to 'improve my technique' and 'would I like a cup of water?' like an anxious niece dealing with an elderly uncle. That's the last thing you want when you're knackered! I clocked 22.57, almost 2 minutes better than Monday: my target had to be sub 20 now! I told here that I'd entered as the Over 60's: she told me that there were a few more in this age group that she was going to prod in to action.
A fellow member took me aside to debate the subtleties of the step machine. Would it be best to use fast fluttering steps, almost running: or would deep thrusting steps be better, the sort that made your quads want to burst? It had the makings of a very boring philosophical thesis: it could even become an Olympic event given the backing of a few major newspapers and Microsoft
Up at 6.00, shower, breakfast and off to take on the M25 in rush hour with some trepidation, having battled my way along it for fourteen years to and from Kew Gardens, on the way to BBC Southern Counties at Guildford. I couldn't believe it: no traffic at all, it was like a Sunday afternoon. My AA directions had suggested a journey time for the 40 mles of 48 minutes: did they live in the real world, I wondered? Well, turned out they were almost right: and I was drawing up in front of the (studio?) after only 51 minutes. I didn't like to appear over keen, an hour early: so I sank down below the dashboard for half an hour and almost fell asleep.
A cup of coffee and a browse through the Times of March 15th in their palatial lounge (I was the only person tehre, in a room roughly the size of the Albert Hall): and I was on, live, with Mark Carter. Like any skilled interviewer, he made me feel instantly at ease: it was le chatting with an old friend in a pub. They want me to come back, to update them on progress: and the possibility, later. of an in-depth interview with Gordon Astley.
That evening, the telephone rang. 'Hello, sexy legs', said a voice: 'You don't know who this is, do you?'
Helen Mirren? Ann Widdecombe? No, turned out it was Brenda from Cassec Alarms in Brighton. She'd seen a couple of articles in the Argus (so it had got in, after all!), including a photograph of me posing beside George the Wheelbarrow: and no, she wasn't ringing because she fancied me, but because it had jogged her memory that it was time to service my house alarm system.
I managed to watch the first hour or so of the London Marathon before I was dragged away for a day of intensive driving. Three runners were raising money for our Charity, and I scanned the 35,000 or so runners as closely as I could to try to pick out their Dark Side of the Sun T shirts Andrea had even had ANDREA in big black letters printed on the front: but even that didn't register on my subconscious. What was amazing, in this huge crowd, was Linda Pymont making contact with Andrea Green: and neither had previously met. Having done the LOndon Marathon myself twice (in the early 80's!), I knew that it was impossible to find anyone that you'd arranged to meet, and who was also lookng out for you as well: so how you could find 1 in 35,000 who you didn't even know was taking part in the first place stretched coincidence beyond it's normal limits. Neither of them managed to find James Doggett, though, nor he them: which again wasn't surprising.
I videoed the remaining four hours of TV cover so that I could browse through the tape at leisure.
Marian had an 'Old Girls Reunion' near Witney, so I drove her up there (101 miles each way!) then went on to see one of my oldest and best friends, who was one of the great Felbridge players who went on the 1984 New Zealand tour and then coached the 1986 tour. He's not been well: and now his marriage has broken up and this weekend was the sad day when he was to move out.
Of course, I lost my way to Haddenham: so no time for lunch in the pub there, we had to get his borrowed van back to the Garden Centre so we were off on a hair raising chase to Bicester. Hair raising, because I had to keep him in sight as he wove his way in and out of the traffic: and he's not mastered the art of looking in his mirror (well, you can't really take your eyes off the road at his speed!) to see whether anybody following him is still in sight!
A nourishing bowl of soup: as I was hungry, I loaded it up with croutons. We had time for a chat at last: I eyed his immense pizza hungrily. Surely he couldn't eat it all himself! Turned out he could. Seven year old Charlie did similarly with his sandwich and chips. He wanted me to stay on for a further day: sadly, I couldn't. He regaled me with his jokes. He's a super little boy: the same age, and the same brightness, as my grandson William in Worthig. After the hour's rest, back to the car: and this time I had an almost new BMW to follow, having dropped off the van, which was an even more hair raising drive, all the way for a further 30 miles or so to the far side of Chipping Norton, because he wanted to show me the little almost mediaeval cottage that he's renting. Charlie asked me to find the stairs: in the end, we found them in a cupboard. I rang Marian as instructed to find out when I was expected. Where was I? she asked. I hadn't the faintest idea. My friend cranked up his SatNav (Yes, I have one myself, but I keep it in it's box at home so that a) it doesn't get stolen and b) it doesn't wear out, and I followed him on a mazy tour of the Cotswolds, through Chipping Norton and Bourton, until we parted for the time being in a lay by near Witney. I left him a few sponsor forms
Then, back to Witney: I told Marian that I'd driven 120 miles since we'd parted five hours earlier. And she'd been imagining me having a cosy chat over lunch in the pub! I sat down for a few minutes and chatted with her friend's husband about my Rally driving afternoon. What part of Bourton had I particularly liked, he asked (I don't think he'd got his hearing aid properly adjusted). It had all seemed pretty good to me, I told hm, when you're weaving through a chicane of cars and pedestrians at 30 mph, trying to keep a rapidly vanishing BMW in sight. He nodded thoughtfully.
Still, only a couple of hours driving back to Sussex: and the 320 mile drive had done my car good!
I heard from a delighted Andrea, Linda and James.They'd all finished, and they'd all raised amazing amounts of money on their JustGiving pages. They were all really ecstatic: it's something that they'll remember all their lives with immense pride and satisfaction, and I hope that they'll each wear their medal with pride at work today, and when they get home, put it in a place of pride and gaze at it constantly, reliving this fantastic experience. I received mine with such pride: they hang from the handle of the chest of drawers in the bedroom, and even after 20+ years, when they jangle when I open the drawer, they evoke so many wonderful memories.
Linda had finished her first marathon in 4 hours 5 minutes: just fantastic, less than 9 minutes 30 seconds per mile even after 'hitting the wall' at 21 miles. It beat my best by quarter of an hour! She'd also raised getting on for £900 including the 28% Gft Aid that is automatically raised. Andrea had got round in 5 hours, a very respectable time, and raised almost £2,000: James had taken around the same time, and looked good on the photograph that wife Victoria e-mailed afer 25 miles: he'd raised more than £700, and sponsor money is still flooding in to their JustGiving pages. Well done, and thank you all so much!
I thought that I'd send Charlie a few good jokes. I wandered in to W H Smith and picked up a copy of Horrid Henry's Joke Book. I opened it and rested a small wedge of paper on the open page on which I furtively noted down the best ones (like, What's brown, yellow and hairy? Give up? It's a slice of cheese and toast that you've dropped on the carpet. Alright, how about What flower grows on your face? Easy! Tulips!)
I was rudely interrupted by a shop assistant (do they still call them that? Or are they Customer Assistance Consultants?) 'Can I help you?' she asked from the other side of a stack of books. 'No. no, just browsing': and I hurriedly slid my wad of paper into my pocket and sloped off furtively.
I'd only had time to note down four! Still, I e-mailed them to Charlie that evening: and Marian supplied a further 'joke' (Can't remember it now, you'll be glad to know!)
Only three days before the Chamber of Commerce Open Day in the gallery at Chequer Mead Theatre in East Grinstead: and I'm rushing round trying to plan our display. Our normal exhibition panels need a little updating: but the one thing missing is a big focal point poster for Twelve Months to Raise a Million. I e-mailed Paul at In-Press in a panic: could he enlarge (and encapsulate) our sponsor form from A5 to A3 (or even A2? He is a genius: telephone call half an hour later to say yes, when did I want them! I've got to add some wording to the other panels, but we're saved with this major focal point and I hope that we can produce T shirts on the back of this.
At the same time, I'm liaising with Nici at Haskins and PR guy Gareth and emails were buzzing to and fro all morning. Haskins have produced fantastic posters advertising my talk, Kew Through the Looking Glass, on May 16th, and my Hanging Basket demonstrations on JUne 15th during Melanoma Awareness Week. The Kew poster is so good that, as I told Nici, I'd like to hang it in my toilet beside the caricature of the England team that won the Rugby World Cup in 2003, and a tea towel from New Zealand featuring kiwis doing the haka.
Haskins are also providing prizes for a raffle spanning this period, £200 of vouchers plus a meal in their restaurant: who says there's no such thing as a free lunch. I'm busy costing out the printing and designing the tickets: we'll probably do the Draw during Melanoma Awareness Week, probably the high spot of my Hanging Basket demonstrations! People can get excited very easily!
I rang Mid Sussex District Council to sort a licence for raffles: £40, but I could do as many as I like before December for this modest fee, and it would only cost us half as much!
Haskins are also organising (and providing a £100 prize!) for the Tallest Sunflower grown from seed of The Darker Side of the Sun, which we sell for £1 per packet. Originally Nici, Gareth and myself had decided on a closing date of July 7th: but I woke up in a panic last night realising that, if sunflowers take from 12 to 16 weeks to flower from seed, there wouldn't be many entries for July 7th even if competitors rushed out and sowed them at dawn today.
Fortunately, Gareth hadn't sent out the Press Release yet: he intimated that journos didn't take too kindly to PR firms who alter their Press Releases, and it was a good job he'd held it back for a week. We've rescheduled the closing date for August Bank Holiday Monday, August 25th. I breathed several sighs of relief.
I started to write to lots of horticultural societies and WI's locally to whom I'd spoken recently, or was scheduled to speak in the near future, to tell them all about these events and try to gee them up to buy tickets for my Kew talk (£2 per ticket, free tea or coffee, and limited to 100). It's a difficult letter to write!
4.30: time for the gym! It was already full of eager Empire State Building climbers, including the Town Clerk, Chris Rolley, who'd already done a time just over 13 minutes! Strange, everybody in the gym had rather looked down on the step machine in the past: now, they were queuing up to get on it!
I got out of bed and hit the floor running, in a panic! So much to do, so little time to do it (sounds familiar). I rushed up to Chequer Mead to collect the triple screen that I'm borrowing from the Friends for my display at the Chamber of Commerce AGM and Exhibition: the Gallery was full with everybody putting up their displays, and my empty table seemed to gaze up at me accusingly. Then off to Lingfield to get my hair cut. Phil Kemp has cut my hair since I came to the town more than forty years ago: and the boys' as well. I thought I'd better get my usual Number 4 in case the press were going to be at Chequer Mead. As it turned out, I needn't have bothered.
Paul Paine from In-Press had dropped by with the most fantastic A2 and A3 posters of my Grand Canyon sponsor form last night. The colours were brighter, as well: it looked just fantastic. I'm going to put one on my toilet wall, it's that good: beside the Kew poster from Haskins, and the tea towel of the Kiwis doing the haka and the caricature of the England Rugby Cup winners. I've got great plans for that toilet!
I fixed the major display items on the boards: then I dashed off all the information that we wanted to display, on the computer, before I put it through my laminator. The comforting smell of melting plastic soon filled the kitchen. Lots of nifty work with double side sellotape: and by 3pm, it was done! When I reached Chequer Mead, the Gallery was empty: not an exhibitor or punter to be seen.
I went home to change in to my 'smart' shirt and jacket and dashed back for the start of the AGM, an invariably depressing occasion. Everybody lolled around dispiritedly: I was forced to 'propose' the election of the officers 'en bloc', put my card in to the Draw for the bottle of champagne, clapped the presentation to Richard Lines (25 years as treasurer, 46 as a member), shook my head at 'Any Other Business' and then it was a free for all as everybody dived for the sandwiches and wine. The sandwiches appeared to be mainly mustard, with a hint of ham. I kept my eyes open for any potential sponsors: two hours later, I'd amassed £7.50 from four sponsors. John O'Brien was again making noises about losing a few stone and doing the Grand Canyon with me: by the end of the evening, he'd modified his ideas to hiring a helicopter and swooping down over me to take aerial shots.
Marilyn Munn, on the next stand, bought one of my books: she'd been intending going to buy it at the Bookshop, at the top of the town, and I was torn between doing my bit to encourage one of our stockists, and getting money for the Charity. In the end, I gave her the choice: if she bought direct from me, it would be cheaper and the Charity would get more money. She is a pragmatist, I'm happy to say: and I pocketed the money and signed the book. She's also offered to collect at Haskins during Melanoma Awareness Week.
Back home, my e-mail address had collapsed again: this time, the password appeared to have worked, but the melanoma-fund.co.uk obstinately refused to let me go in or out. This was serious: without this, how will we manage?
I read in the paper this morning that Miss Joan Hunter-Dunn had died last week. She was the 'fantasy girl' of every boy in our English Literature class at school (we were very deep thinkers!), the wonderfully evocative creation of John Betjeman, the open air girl of our dreams: the scansion, the lilt, the words were (like Miss Joan Hunter-Dunn herself) sheer perfection!
Remember it? Miss J Hunter-Dunn, Miss J Hunter-Dunn/Furnish'd and burnish'd in Aldershot sun..../Love thirty, love forty, oh! weakness of joy/The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy
How perfect can poetry be?
Anyway, I'd always thought that she was a figment of Betjeman's imagination: and it turns out that not only was she a real girl, it was her real name: until she got married, of course, and became Mrs Joan Jackson. She lived in Headley, in Hampshire, raised three sons and there she died last week, aged 92. Betjeman had worked with her at the Ministry of Information during the war, where they had met: as he once said, 'She raised our morales without lowering our morals'.
Remember her with affection: and if you've got a spare moment, and a spare anthology, read the poem and shed a tear for a way of life long gone.
I took Marian along to see the exhibit at Chequer Mead. Sadly, the exhibition was closed for the day. I went home and rang Mark in Worthing: the Easter holidays had just finished, and William and Jonny (they'd taken Lucy along with them, as well) had spent Friday at Drusilla's Zoo near Alfriston.
William's class had adopted a penguin, which they'd named Slasher (fascinating name for a penguin) and he'd been deputed to take a photograph and report back on Monday. Jonny preferred the flamingos.
Carole Meehan e-mailed to tell me about the rugby match at Old Dartfordians in memory of her husand Neil, who had died recently from melanoma. He was only in his mid-thirties, still an active player, when he was affected by melanoma: and the club turned out to honour him and to raise money in his memory. Son Thomas has just begun playing mini rugby at the club: and he and brother Patrick, and Neil's brother Brian with his own daughter Bethany, presented the trophy to the winners.
Brian is a friend of Neil Beytel, who had toured South Africa with Felbridge Juniors Bulldogs in a team coached by myself and former England and All Black cap Jamie Salmon, and captained by England and Lions player, and (for a short time) England coach Andy Robinson. Less than a year after captaining Felbridge Juniors in their 21-16 victory over South Africa Under 20s at Ellis Park, Andy was a Lion: you can't have a much more rapid promotion than that!
Carole herself works at the Royal Marsden: and she told me how kind Martin Gore, the world renowned melanoma specialist and our adviser from the start, had been. He had even telephoned her personally at home. He is a very kind man: and a wonderful and caring doctor.
I managed to get Ted on the telephone at long last: he's an old Wingspan rugby colleague, a paramedic, former policeman and a qualified plumber and electrician. Not many eventualities he couldn't handle, I guess! He's also a fantastic fundraiser, and makes a habit of doing extraordinary fundraising Challenges like cycling across Iceland. He and Gary Hall (another old Wingspan rugby friend) are taking part in a canoe race down a river in Canada at the end of June, 460 miles with a cut-off of 80 hours! It wasn't too bad, he said, because they'd be going with the current and they had a 7 hour rest half way.
I suggested that he might like to join us in the Grand Canyon when he'd finished, but wife Carol said that they'd be in Italy on holiday at the time. Anyway, Ted suggested that I should send him a packet of sponsor forms and he'd see what he could do.
Daphne Hodge rang: she'd got a wad of sponsors from Godstone Gardening Club, and she'd also met Geoff Stebbings, former Kew colleague. fellow Garden News columnist and now editor of Garden News, who'd listened to what I was doing and offered to 'put something in the magazine'. I'd better e-mail him to make sure he puts in the right things!
The Argus forwarded a letter to me from Stuart Bower of Upper Beeding. He'd read the story about Twelve Months to Raise a Million in the newspaper: and, a bit concerned, sent me some photographs of his own rim back to rim trek in 2002 and a great Trail Guide of the Bright Angel Trail, which starts at the South Rim and is the one that has water points! His letter was packed with good advice: I photocopied the booklet and sent it and the photographs back, and thanked him for his kindness.
Time to take down the exhibit at Chequer Mead. We'd gained one more sponsor: that made 5 for the week (4 of them at the AGM and the opening, though!) for a total of £12.51 plus one book sold. Obvously the few visitors had thought that everything on the table were free. samples: seeds, wristbands and even a book but they'd left the collecting box.
The great plus, though, was the fact that I'd had to put the stand together in the first place (I only react to deadlines!): and now all I had to do was unpack it at the Sunshine Sevens on Sunday, and there it was done! Well, actually, it's not quite as simple as that: for instance I've got to work out how to erect a gazebo on a muddy pitch, single handed, in a potential gale and even thunderstorm as projected gloomily on the BBC (and ITV: they tend to stick together on matters like this) weather forecast, but hey! that's another day!
I got my May copy of the old people's magazine, Saga, today. The magazine has a new editor, Kate Bravery (an inspirational name if ever I heard one!): I was really heartened by her editorial, with the headline Keep sending those letters. It continued 'There are many joys about this job and one of them is reading your letters. Well, most of them (a subtle caveat!). My heart warmed to her at once. As soon as I'd washed the dishes from the previous two or three days, I dashed off an eager letter, and said, if you enjoy reading letters from your readers, I hope youll enoy reading mine! Now I'm sitting back, eagerly waiting for her reply. The previous editor, who has been sidelined to become Editor at Large, obviously hadn't understood me: even so, it was a pretty harsh punishment that the Publisher had administered.
I had a telephone call from Jo Revill of the Observer this afternoon. No, not the East Grinstead Observer: or even the Crawley Observer; THE Observer, in London. She's doing an article about melanoma on Sunday, and wanted to chat about the disease, and what might have caused the tremendous upsurge in incidence: and hopefully, to publicise what we are doing to raise awareness. This couldn't be better news.
It was a beautiful day: 70+F, the sort of day that makes any man want to go out into the garden and test out a new gazebo. I'd been putting it off, on the basis that the clouds looked very stormy, in my usual fashion of leaving everything until the last minute:, but, on a day like today, there was no escape. Marian drove me out into the garden and I unzipped my tightly packaged gazebo with a sense of foreboding. She read the instructions: I followed them, It was impossible to put it up, I told her: it was tightly jammed, there was obviously a design fault. But she persevered, and hey presto! it gradually unfolded and I found out the truth behind the staccato instructions. It went up: it looked good! We were in business!
I loaded the car with every imaginable item that a man could want for a stand at a rugby match: then I went outside and did some serious gardening. Four hours later, several Sainsbury's carrier bags were full of annual weeds and in the kitchen waste bin (you can't compost annual weeds, in case you ask) and my massive and beautiful rock garden was looking good. I planted a few new plants that I'd bought recently.
Then I came inside and dashed off letters to all the horticultural magazine editors that I knew from my years at Kew and from working for EMAP with Garden News: Garden Answers, Garden News, The Garden (very upmarket, the mouthpiece of the Royal Horticultural Society) and Gardeners World. I'll sit back and wait for eager replies: might arrive at the same time as Kate Bravery from Saga, probably with a photographer in tow
I set the alarm for 0600: I scarcely slept a wink after 0300, I was so worried that I mght sleep through the alarm. Liam Johnson at East Grinstead Rugby Club had warned me severely not to be late, or there'd be no room in the car park. Be there before 0800! had been his parting words on Wednesday.
I bought a copy of the Observer on the way to the rugby ground, in case they sold out early.
I was in the car park by 0745. Nothing was happening. The few cars there were covered in dew. It was a typical scene of an English Club at Rest on a Sunday Morning.
I sat in the car, having got the best position beside the clubhouse without even a struggle, and opened up the Observer. There it was! A Special Report by Jo Revill, pages 14 and 15 of the main section (yes, two whole pages!), with a banner headline 'Skin cancer epidemic as Britons flock to the sun' The attention was captured by a full half page photograph of two lovely young ladies on the beach at Brighton, applying liberal amounts of sun cream to firm tanned bodies. It was an exceptionally good article, setting out the dangers, the dramatic increase in incidence, the poor prognosis unless diagnosed early, and the warning signs to look for during self examination. It was accompanied by two personal stories, and stories about pertinent research. It was very good.
But- no mention of anybody raising money to fund research, raise awareness, or set uo permanent early diagnosis clinics Even Cancer Research got only a passing mention. I read it twice: still the same. You'd let us down, Jo: how can we tell people what we're doing, and why, if a golden opportunity such as this gives no mention to the people at the hard end, working like mad on the streets to raise money and get cautionary leaflets in to hands?
I sighed, folded up the paper, and gazed out of the window. One or two people had turned up to clean up the pitches: they'd had the Ladies Sevens the previous day, followed by a big party which had involved massive amounts of alcohol. But the ground appeared quite firm: I carried the faithful gazebo, and crates of leaflets and books, sweet pea and sunflower seeds, wristbands and books. It hadn't begun to rain yet, either. I enquired of the only person standing nearby, holding up the clubhouse wall in case it was in danger of collapse, if Liam was around to tell me where to erect the gazebo. He laughed tolerantly: he intimated that Liam had been a principal sufferer at yesterday's late night.
So I began to erect the gazebo in the position beside the entry to the beer tent that Liam had suggested. I managed to do what the nsructions suggested required the services of two able bodied men, all by myself. I stood back, admiring my handwork, when the bloke who was going to set up the official paella stand on that very spot, arrived. Not to worry, though: we found an even better place, right at the sde of the beer gtent and with a view of Pitch Number 1. Three of us picked up the four legs and tottered the gazebo across. So far, the rain had held off: soon, the tables were up, the screens erected, wristbands, books, leaflets and sunflower seeds spread around, and sponsor forms enticingly set out accompanied by Barclays Bank free pens (so that's why you bank with Barclays? Hmmm)
Liam arrived: yes, that was fine! A few rugby friends appeared, and were persuaded to unload spare cash: so were Nick Penn and Dave Stoyles, from that very first Felbridge U14 team, and Steve Perry of the 1979 World Tour team, and Mitchell Knight who I'd coached at Crawley and who was (still is!) a wonderful player and not somebody with whom to argue at 6ft 6 ins (alright, 2m). Mitch is a great character: he also bought one of my books, which he left on the stand and now I've got to mail it to him tomorrow.
'If you could chose eight people to come to a dinner party, from any time in history, who would you choose?' he said suddenly, apropos of nothing in particular (the rugby was a bit boring at the time): 'I'll give you thirty seconds'. Not the sort of question that you expect whilst watching the quarter-finals of a rugby Sevens.
'Alright, three', he said, exasperated at my tardy response.'
'Brian Clough: Martin Johnson: Humphrey Lyttleton: Marilyn Monroe: Sir Edmund Hillary... Oh, I don't know, let's watch the rugby!'. But it'sone of those things that keep nagging at you: we'd suddenly keep firing out memorable names all through the afternoon, and it carried on when I got home. Trouble is, eight's too many: they'd be swapping stories with each other, and I'd be craning my neck and saying 'What?' Three's enough!
The rain began: half an hour of sold, unremitting rain which showed the gazebo to be fully permeable and distressingly porous, whilst the ground rapidly became unstable treacle. The favourites (including the holders, the British Army, composed mainly of Fijians) were eliminated in the semi-finals: and support dwindled a bit for the Woodenspooners and Ruck U (how can you stand and shout 'Ruck U, Ruck U, it might easily be misinterpreted?) in a hard fought final, which nevertheless demonstrated remarkable skill, pace and determination. The Sunshine Sevens, in it's 51st year, has always raised enormous sums of money for deprived and sick children: and this year was no exception, aiming for £10,000 on the day.
We gained 22 sponsors, donating £80, but also got several potential leads: and of course, we raised awareness which was a major target. Oh yes, and I've got a porous gazebo to dry out ready for the May Fair. I'll do that tomorrow.... or Tuesday....
I loaded my muddy gazebo in to my lovely clean car, and drove home.
I was up at 0700 this morning (I'd meant to be up at 0630, but I was too tired to stir): shower, shave, breakfast and off at 0820 to Brighton for a live interview with Gordon Astley on BBC Southern Counties (the Brighton team, not the Guildford team as last week). I was to be on 'live': Alison Taylor, whose 15 year old daughter Katie is so badly sick with melanoma and yet who is so brave, was joining us by telephone, as was Jeanette Williamsn from Eastbourne whose daughter Rachel died a few years ago from melanoma and who is fundraising to raise £1 million to set up Rachel's House, a respite centre and hospice for young people so badly affacted with this terrible disease.
It was such an important occasion: and I nearly mucked it up! I'd got impeccable directions from the AA, and had got into Brighton feeling very smug by 0910! But- I did my usual! I followed the wrong way on the A270 and found myself departing rapidly from Brighton on the one way system towards Lewes. A friendly van driver directed me back on track: by then I was in a panic and, despite the further help of a van driver who kindly got out his A-Z to do his good turn for Help the Aged and sort of got me back on track, I drove round a small corner of Brighton in ever decreasing circles narrowing down the studios.
Anyway, cut a long story short: I found the exspensive NCP car park in Queens Road, and strolled through the entrance of BBC Soutrhern Counties Radio at 10.09 ready for a 10.10 broadcast. Mandy didn't even seem stressed: 'Are you Harry?' she said with a welcoming smile. What she would have done if I wasn't, I don't even dare to guess. Yes, I admitted, I was.
'Would you like a cup of tea, or coffee?, she asked: 'Perhaps you could take it in to the studio with you?'( what she probably really wanted to shout was 'Where have you been? Don't you know the time, you idiot?'. But she didn't: she's the perfect producer
I answered with perhaps the most memorable reply that she would ever receive to this polite opening gambit: 'I could do with a pee'. An essential minute later (remember, I'd been under increasing pressure for the past ninety minutes, I was sampling a cup of BBC coffee in front of Gordon Astley. Gordon himself had suffered from skin cancer, thought fortunately not melanoma: not only was he thoroughly charming and understanding, he handled this three cornered interview wonderfully well with three people who each had a very sad story to tell and who are each motivated also by the wish to increase awareness, the importance of self examination and early diagnosis, and the necessity to find a cure. The interview lasted twenty minutes: by the time I left the studio, telephone calls were flooding in.
Mandy also gave me a couple of TV contacts: and she said something very pertinent:'Remember, TV needs a visual trigger'.
I had a letter from Carole Meehan, containing a cheque for £199.00 raised at the memorial match at Old Dartfordians Rugby Club on April 20th in memory of her husband Neil, who had sadly died from melanoma aged only 35. She and their sons Thomas and Patrick had beavered away, shaking the collecting boxes and distributing leaflets: and it was an incredible result! As she wrote, 'Thomas and Patrick are very proud as they were really keen to raise a lot of money. More important to me was that we distributed lots of leaflets and so I hope more people wll be aware of the dangers of skin cancer'.
I also had a phone call from Kate Thompson, from She magazine (distribution 400,000, she told me proudly!) She'd been deputed to write an article about the dangers of melanoma for the July and August edition, and wondered whether I could put her in touch with somebody who was willing to be interviewed to tell her devastating personal story. I'll do my best: but it is so difficult to 'lay yourself bare' in print with such an intensely personal story. I said that I hoped that she would be able to include something about what we're doing, and why, as it was a three page article. She said she was sure that her editor would help: but without great commitment! I do hope that Kate won't turn out to be another Jo Revill
I rang Jeanette, to make contact after our three way radio broadcast on Monday. My brand new hub phone that had cost £49.00 from BT (the only way I could get cheap telephone calls, they told me, on Option whatever on their Broadband offer, don't understand it myself) was cracking up. I told her I'd ring her back, after 6pm (get cheap calls then, anyway!) She is a lovely lady: her daughter Rachael had sadly died from lenaoma aged only 17 from melanoma in 2002, after a four year illness that had slowly and inexorably taken over Rachael's body. She herself is a Staff Nurse: and she is intent on raising a million also to establish a 'hotel' for children with terminal illnesses to enjoy, with their parents, a happy and carefree holiday beside the sea in Eastbourne. Have a look at her website: www.rachaels-house.org.uk (and be caeful about the spelling!) She's a lady who does all sorts of 'way out' things: London Marathon next year.
She was very willing to do an interview with Kate Thompson for She magazine: she is so eager to spread the word about this dreadful disease, and I rang Kate accordingly
I'm afraid that I pressured Jeanette to come and do the Grand Canyon with me: she thought that her husband would love it. Best thing is, there could be room for them both in the Pioneer Cabins that we'd booked at the North Rim. But I was knotted up with guilt after I put down the phone: and I e-mailed her, imploring her not to do something just because a hyper active Chris Evans-type nut-case had suggested it so enticingly! Now I'm knotted up with further guilt, hoping that she doesn't think I don't want them to come! Be your own person, Jeanette! And you, Harry!
I rang Alison, the other member of our radio trio. She was on her cell phone, outside the ward in the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham where daughter Kate, aged 15, was having treatment. Poor Katie is very sick: and currently has contracted a chest infection.
I woke up at 2.37 and the enormity of the Challenge, my garden to reclaim, training, and the builders coming in to repair the crack in the wall in a fortnight's time kept me awake until almost 4.30!
Daphne rang at 9.30: she'd collected 22 sponsors for me, raising £100, last week and now she had great news, that she and her friend Margaret were organising a fundraising Garden Party and bring and buy sale on June 14th, and could I be there? Yes, you bet I could: I'd break off from collecting at Haskins in mid-afternoon, and be in Godstone in a few minutes. Daphne and John are really great, two of our oldest friends from East Grinstead Operatic Society: and they're going to buy tickets for my talk at Haskins Garden Centre on May 16th as well. Only 98 to sell now!
The mail arrived early today: and it contained an envelope addressed to the Charity with an anonymous donations, £100 in well thumbed notes! Try as I might, there were no clues: even the postmark was virtually illegible, but it might have been DERBY, which would make sense. What a wonderfully kind gesture!
I went to see Nici at Haskins, and got a batch of tickets for the talk to sell at the May Fair. We agreed that a raffle, despite the great prizes donated by Haskins, could come under the heading of 'over kill', and of course printing and a lottery licence would mean we'd have to sell 85 books (because, as you might have guessed, set up costs would be £85.00!) before we broke even: so we'll just have the usual cloakroom ticket raffle on the night.
Then I rushed off to see Joy Buttle for 11.00: I arrived at 11.03, which took her rather by surprise because I'm not usually noted for being on time. Joy is a fantastic lady: she and husband Ron set up the Leftovers FC to provide football for boys who were 'left over' from other clubs and it rapidly became the Number 1 boys club in the district, sweeping all before them. Sadly, Ron died more than 20 years ago: but Joy continued as the matriarch of the club which has now become East Grinstead United with senior as well as junior teams. I took her a copy of my book: she has been the 'mother' of hundreds of boys for more than forty years, and our debt to her is inestimable.
She and Ron had also been the catalyst for Felbridge Junors Rugby Club: I answered their advert. in the local paper for somebody to start a junior rugby club, arrived with my face stitched up after yet another rugby clash, collected a notebook full of names, promptly retired from active rugby, cycled round the town recruiting players, and the rest is history.
The Leftovers in their heyday also had a basketball team (I became the league secretary!), and even had the occasional athletics and cricket matches! It was/is a remarkable organisation.
I rushed off to the gym for my final assault on the Empire State Building (last day of the Challenge!) and finished, still standing, in 18 minutes 10 seconds which left me really dispirited because a) I'd missed my very modest target by 10 seconds and b) I was not at all distressed, which meant that I could have gone a lot faster. But I consoled myself with the thought that I was still the fastest (actually, the only) over 70 on the list. Got to win somehow! The overall winner? Don't ask: 9 minutes 15 seconds, but he's quite young, and not overweight, which makes him the complete opposite to myself
They've got a brand new state of the art weighing machine at the gym, costing £250! I weighed myself and thought 'That's a bit heavy!' (we always blame the scales), so weighed myself again immediately and found I'd lost 0.6kgs in 5 seconds. I weighed myself three more times, just for fun (alright, I was just putting off the Empire State climb!), and each time got a different weight. Jo, the manager, sighed and set out to prove it was impossible: she got three different weights, and said she'd get the boys to have a go. I don't see what sex has to do with it!
I had a hot chili (my mistake, I'd thought it was spag. bol. when I took it out of the freezer, and it was only when red kidney beans began to emerge from from the frozen wastes that I realised my mistake). Anyway, it was very nice: I cooked so much rice that it took almost the whole half hour of Emmerdale before I'd finished.
Then I finished e-mailing 35 rugby friends of the past, trying to enlist their support: and now it's midnight, and time to go to bed.
I settled down for a read, and picked a Quick Read's book by Richard Branson, Screw it, let's do it. Strangely, I'd been attracted by the title!
It's a good read: packed with impact. One sentence stuck in my mind: Make every second count. I did: I turned out the light and went to sleep to get my five or six hours.
I had so much to do that I couldn't sort myself out to actually do it, surrounded by bits of paper with 'things' written on them. Got to mow the lawn, and dry out the gazebo, as well: the weather might be better tomorrow. I tinkered with Kirsty Yeoman's Press Release for her Bristol fund raising, aiming to speak to lots of schools and spread the message of awareness, and to organise a fundraising Bristol Bike Ride. The trouble is, getting something that will grab the attention of the media in the first line : and I don't know if I've got it yet, as I e-mailed my suggestions back to her! Kirsty's mother died a short time ago from melanoma: and she has supported our Charity fantastically with her fund raising.
upport is coming in all the time. I received a cheque for £216.80 from Reigate Grammar School , the proceeds of a 5th Form Non-uniform Day organised by Toby Eves' son Rory: you'll remember that we'd met up again after many years on February 15th at the Black something in Pease Pottage! I e-mailed Toby to thank Rory: if they were going to be at the Fatboy Sevens at Crawley on May 25th, I'd buy him a pint. Of lemonade, of course: forgot he's still under 18 despite being twice as big as his father (and his father's now twice the size of me.... and I'm not particularly small, so you can guess the size of Rory!)
I also received a cheque for £422.00 in memory of Carole Evans, who had died very suddenly on November 21st 2007 from malignant melanoma aged only 51. This had been collected, in accordance with her wishes, at the AGM of the AIVC (Association of Intervarsity Clubs www.ivc.org.uk ) in April. These are the events with which I find it very hard to come to terms and reminded me of why we are doing what we are. 51 years old, apparently healthy after a five year remission from melanoma, and her life suddenly cut short. It is a terrible disease.
Lynsey Tullock contacted me: she and a friend are going to run the Glasgow 10k as a fundraiser.
Toby got back to me: his wife Faye and daughter Chelsea will be at the Fat Boys with him (he'll be playing, so you can assess the entry criteria of the competition from this alone!) Faye had heard me on BBC Southern Counties: she'd recognise that voice anywhere, she said. Apparently, 28 years ago, she'd been Toby's girlfriend and intercepted my messages on the phone: and she hadn't taken too kindly to my whisking him away to play rugby on a Sunday, let alone coming to Alaska for a two week tour. Now, I was doing it again: taking him, and their son as well this time, off to the FatBoy Sevens. She'd decided to come along to keep an eye on them and probably to ferry them back home, because the Fat Boys is not noted for it's sobriety! Toby informed me that I could buy Rory his pint (or two!) there: and, as Rory couldn't legally drink in public, Toby would have them on his behalf
Marian and myself had a meeting with Sally Flint (Finance Director) and Paul Banwell at Queen Victoria Hospital. We'd been increasoingly concerned that there had been no apparent action on the appointment of the specialist skin cancer nurse for which our £20,000 donation a year ago, with quite a fanfare in the local press. We'd been writing letters for the past few weeks to Maggie Middleton (the big boss at QVH) and others to ask what was happening for a few weeks: mine were gently enquiring and philosophical, Marian's more direct.
Anyway, Sally told us that a) Maggie Middleton had left some time ago (she was, of course, sorry that nobody had told us nor replied to my letters) b) the money was in a holding account and had already gained some £1,000 in interest c)as soon as the planned massive re-organisation of the hospital was under way, we'd be in business with the MASCU (Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit) prominent, d) the plaque (for which we'd been asked to provide the wording) was now just about ready to put up and e) of course. we'd be invited to attend with the press present. Couldn't say fairer than than, could she? We had a cup of coffee, as well
Much to the relief of my conscience, Jeanette and her husband couldn't come with me to the Grand Canyon. Don't get me wrong: it would have been great to have her company, but they'd discussed my eager e-mail and sanity had prevailed. The interview with She magazine had gone well, though: and we looked forward to massive publicity in one of their summer editions.
There was a £100 donation on JustGiving, I was informed: I hurried to look, and it was from one of my old Felbridge players, from the 1984 tour to New Zealand, with a message on the lines of 'We Felbridge boys must stick together'. I couldn't get over it, and e-mailed him with my thanks.
Sunday was a busy day. I loaded up the car with the exhibit for the Lion's May Fair in East Grinstead High Street tomorrow: I found a big yellow reflective tabard amongst the debris in the back of my shiny new car, found an indelible marker pen, and inscribed in big capital letters front and back (neatly set out, of course!) the hopefully inspiring message HELP HARRY SET A NEW WORLD RECORD FOR MOST SPONSORS FOR ONE ERSON FOR ONE EVENT AND RAISE MONEY FOR MELANOMA RESEARCH
I also had my first replies to the 34 e-mails that I'd dashed off to former Rugby contacts: sorry, we support our own Charities, but best of luck. Well, that's acceptable: after all, I do the same. 32 to go.
Bad news on my e-mails, though: Sarah might not be able to come to the Grand Canyon, so I'd better prepare myself for the worst. She'd picked up a virus in the Turin Marathon in April (as you do!) that had affected her body and lower limbs: the doctor had said that it should go away within a month, but.... I could infer the rest! I hope that she recovers quickly: and all being well, I'll meet up with her and the rest of the Sahara team at the New Forest 10k on July 6th.
Jo and her sisters also brought sad news. Their mother is very sick, and of course she is their first concern: and their involvement with Melanoma Awareness Week could well be affected
Marian and myself popped in to Doves Barn Garden Centre, as part of Marian's annual spring buying frenzy. A large, plump, balding gentleman adanced on me, hand outstretched. I looked rather bemused. 'Conrad Bool' he announced (no, not me: him!) Wow, he'd been on the 1984 Felbridge tour to New Zealand. He'd lived in South London, and went on to play for Harlequins and now coaches Beckenham: and I'd never set eyes on him since we'd landed at Gatwick that September. Now, he's living in nearby Copthorne, and publishes an advertising magazine: and, if he's short of 'fillers' for his pages, he'll use some of the publicity that I thrust eagerly in to his hands. We reminisced, of course: we remembered Jim McCall, his close friend, who'd slept one night in Auckland (won't tell you whose house, because Mark might be a bit annoyed!) in an alcohol induced slumber on a sheepskin rug normally the preserve of a flea ridden Old English Sheep Dog, and had woken next morning with his bare legs resembling blood spattered pin cushions. Those Auckland fleas certainly make their presence felt! Conrad, I remember, had a well developed rugby players obsession for collecting souvenirs: some sixth sense, developed from years of rugby tours, had led Myfanwy to sit at the back of the sightseeing boat in the Bay of Islands just as Conrad was making a play to remove the flag.
I was up really early, ready for the May Fair. It was a beautiful day, even at 5.30am: two pieces of toast and a cup of tea later, and I found the High Street a hive of hyper activity. Even at 0730, I was one of the last there amidst a throng of stallholders tryng to work out how to put up a gazebo that hadn't seen the light of day since... well, the May Fair last year! The road was littered with hundreds of pieces of unconnected tubing, and frowning and increasingly frustrated people. I sidled on to my pitch, enlisted the help of a National Trust 'Friend', pulled the gazebo apart and- it sprang up almost of it's own accord! There's a lot to be said for Argos!
I rushed back to collect Marian and enjoy a second breakfast (well, it was 0900 by then!) and we were back on the stall just in time to be inspected by the Mayor and his wife. They'd inspected us only six days previously at the Sunshine Sevens, so we were pretty well on first name terms by now: fortunately, he couldn't sponsor me twice, as it would have infringed the slightly tenuous terms of the competition. It's only a week until his Year of Office finishes, though: so it won't be long before I can entice another Mayor on to my sponsor forms
I wore my decorated tabard proudly. Nobody seemed to want to read it, which was a bit disappointing. Nobody wanted to buy tickets for my talk at Haskins in ten days time, either, another fundraiser. Surely you can't go far wrong at £2 a ticket, including free tea or coffee, in the luxurious setting of their conservatory furnishing area?
The crowds were thronging the High Street, and we were getting enormous support. True, one stall holder told me that she'd got no money (strange, coming to a Charity fundraising event without your purse!): but during the day I attracted 110 sponsors, donating a total of £277.32 and the Lions are going to distribute my sponsor forms to all their members at their 'Wash Up' meeting tomorrow. We get enormous good will everywhere in East Grinstead, where Myfanwy was so well known and loved
It's surprising how much latent energy is bottled up in a Bank Holiday weekend, ready to burst out on Tuesday. Emily at the East Grinstead Observer promised to try to market the tickets for my talk, 'Kew Through the Looking Glass' through their pages: Stix at Leeds United, our greatest supporters, wants 100 ribbon badges (made individually by Marian at the dining room table) for their players, officials and supporters to wear at their crucial play-off next Monday evening (good luck, lads!), Moss Taylor from Norfolk (a great supporter, whose wife Fran sadly died from melanoma some months ago) told me that he's going to drop by on Wednesday May 14th to stay overnight on his way to visit friends in Kent, Jenny Llakmani from the Rotarian magazine in the USA (the international magazine that's distributed world wide) e-mailed to check details for a short article in a summer edition about my Grand Canyon trek, whilst an intensive dialogue with Annie Ackerman began to publicise my walk around the database of the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand and raise money for their own research. My walk with George the Wheelbarrow from end to end of the north island of New Zealand, you might remember, had been the catalyst for the formation of the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand, so this was doubly satisfying.
walked the couple of miles down to Rotary lunch. I changed my sweat soaked shirt in the toilet: I was relieved, after all this e-mail fuelled activity, to get to the placid environment of elderly Rotarians enjoying a quiet lunch with well cooked meat (from which the taste had been surgically removed) and a strangely pneumatic, self inflating, Yorkshire pudding (was this a clue to indicate that the meat had started out as beef, I wondered? Or was it just that the chef liked making inflatable Yorkshire Puddings?) I really enjoyed myself pressing down on the dome of my Yorkshire pudding. It compressed to a tickness of about half an inch: then, when I lifted my knife, it slowly inflated to a height of about three inches! Wow! I was really impressed!
At the end of the meal, I was able to get up and mention my talk at Haskins, and flourish my £2 tickets. Nobody seemed remotely excited. I'd hoped that they might organise a Rotary outing, or at the very least come along and heckle. It was rather disappointing. Even more disappointing was the fact that Stroke Awareness Day, with all Rotarians still standing enjoined to turn out in front of the British Heart Foundation Charity Shop in London Road to publicise this and persuade people to let Alan Smith take their blood pressure as a 'frightener', was on Saturday June 14th: the very day that I'd been hoping to persuade these same Rotarians to help me shake a collecting box outside Sainsbury's at the start of Melanoma Awareness Week.
It had not been a good day: the only bright spot had been the discovery of the self inflating Yorkshire pudding. I walked home, sweat dripping down my back, to spend a therapeutic hour weeding the garden.
Sally Flint, Finance Director of Queen Victoria Hospital, got back to me concerning their involvement in Melanoma Awareness Week. We got their full backing at our meeting last week: and now we're firming up dates and events. They're organising a Coffee Morning for the Friends of the Hospital on Friday June 20th, right bang in the middle of Melanoma Awareness Week, from 11am until 2pm: what a great opportunity to meet people with the hospital backing, and really boost local support. The newspapers will be there: their own Press Officeer will make sure that the wider media are informed: whilst our local radio station, Meridian FM, will have come back on air for it's one month summer stint and will probably do a major broadcast from there!
I dashed in to the Dorset Arms for the Chamber of Commerce Wednesday get together: Gill was there
Then I rushed in to town to order another batch of T shirts, principally for Lynsey Tulloch in the Glasgow 10km next weekend: and that evening, talking about Harry the Wheelbarrow Man at Rusthall Horticultural Society, I got £50 sponsorship from a gentleman in the audience!
I received an e-mail from Louise Mellish, a third year medical student from Hull York Medical School. They're promoting a 'Skin Cancer Awareness Day at Hull University Students Union towards the end of May, with medical students and dermatologists screening students for suspicious moles and dishing out advice about being safe in the sun: it's a remarkably good idea, along the lines of our wish to set up free walk-in clinics as they did at RAFT until the NHS frowned and stopped it. Great idea, Louise: and we'll support it all the way. I'll let you know how it works out.
Giovanni Carleschi sent me an update on his walk along the Pilgrim Trail to Santiago de Compostela this summer. His father Giuseppi had died recently aged only 57 from malignant melanoma: and as he wrote, 'the words malignant melanoma still send shivers down my spine' . The last book that Giuseppi had read was 'The Pilgrim' by Paulo Coelho, the story of a young man's search to find himself along the Camino. Giovanni and his father had talked about walking the Camino together: and now, he would be spending his summer holiday doing it in memory of his father this summer.I keep checking out his JustGiving page: he's already raised £500 towards his impressive £4,000 target!
Helen Parker, who has done an enormous amount of fundraising for us, and whose husband Neil (and seven more friends!) is doing a 100 hole Golf Marathon as another fundraiser, e-mailed me to say that she's having a 'Clothes Swap' Party next Friday! Her friends are coming rond, bringing along nearly new clothes to swap with others (for a fee!), with donations on the door and a glass of wine. It sounds great! Never been to one of those, personally: but I don't think that it's a Man Thing, our clothes are rarely in good enough condition to swap. Even the average Jumble Sale or Charity Shop usually rejects my 'Wear Until They Fall Apart' clothes!
I spent a couple of hours filling up Sainsbury's carrying trays with books from the room at the top of the stairs, baring the robust shelving for destruction on Wednesday. Now you can't get in to the back bedroom at all: and any idea of my wearing short sleeved summer shirts is now pie in the sky, because the wardrobe doors containing my 'summer wardrobe' are now firmly and irrevocably blocked for the next two weeks (actually, probably for the next year!).
I ripped up the fragile carpet as well: the dust and debris was choking. Underneath, I hit 'gold dust'! The carpets (wich I'd got free from Reeds Employment when they'd decided to use decent stuff) had been laid on old newspapers: and I'm a sucker for old newspapers. I spent hours downstairs poring over 1974 copies of the East Grinstead Observer. Mark and Stewart were both mentioned in reports about the Imberhorne Imps football team: and there were lots of fascinating headlines in the News pages, like 'Painful case of a shopper who tasted the cheese'!
Briefly, ....., an advertising executive, offered to pay for a piece of cheese he ate in Tesco but his offer was refused and he was charged with theft. However, I was glad to hear that he had been cleared after magistrates heard how he had suffered 'excruciating pain' from a sliipped disc while in Tesco and as a result hadn't realised what he had done.
I'm really pleased for him: I like a happy ending.
I received a very touching card from Irene and Bill Kershaw, with a £100.00 donation in memory of their dearly loved son Alan, who would have celebrated his 50th birthday today. Irene celebrates her own 80th birthday next Monday: a bitter sweet day for her and Bill, full of so manyn poignant memories
There was also a letter from Robert Botkai, with cheques for £704.00 donated in memory of Melanie by the parents and teachers of Holland House School in Edgwae, North London, where Melanie was also a governor and which is attended by their children Adam and Lucy
The builders came early: 07.25! Within ten minutes, Dave was taking my delicately crafted original shelving apart in the small bedroom at gthe top of the stairs, the work of many hard evenings after the boys went to bed, and exposing the battered walls and 'THE CRACK' that was the subject of the ongoing subsidence claim.
Gary Wilson from Radio Mercury rang me back to do an interview for Friday. He outlined the course of the interview before we started. This took about ten minutes: and as it's going to be edited down to two minutes, I hope we manage to get everything in! Remember: Friday 16th, between 0750 and 0810. What's that? That's twenty minutes? Well, they've got to fit the news in as well! Anyway, it was a good interview: he's a very good interviewer, guided me very sympathetically, and I really enjoyed it. He's going to give us a plug for my talk on Friday evening at Haskins (7pm, tickets £2 each, free tea and coffee, so don't be late!), 'Kew through the Looking Glass', lots of stories from 'behind the scenes' of my fourteen years as Assistant Curator at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
Haskins are incredibly supportive, and Nici is a real star! Gary, we need that plug: only 30 of the 100 tickets on offer have been sold so far! I telephoned Eric Eves at East Grinstead Horticultural Society as well: they've got their monthly meeting tonight, with my friend Laurie Manser talking about his life as a garden boy back in the good/bad old days of the bothies, and Eric's going to give my talk a plug there as well! As he pointed out, I've already given them that talk a couple of years ago: but you never know, some of them might have forgotten! How about 2 for the price of 1, Eric?
Moss Taylor arrived in his camper van, with me hopping about telling him that the house wasn't usually in such a mess, but that it was all down to the builders. I don't lie very well, unfortunately: but I promise it will improve next year, after the Grand Canyon! Moss is a bird enthusiast: he's written lots of books, does lots of broadcasts: and since he retired from 'doctoring' (he was a GP) has devoted his life to watching, photographing, writing and talking about birds. He also does lots of talks on cruise liners: might try that myself!
He has a more than passing resemblance to Bill Oddie, which can't be a bad thing! We went down to the Star for a meal, as my cooking for anything except home consumption is decidedly dodgy: even a GP might not be able to cope with the aftermath. Twice in a week at the Star: but the young lady behind the counter didn't recognise me, not even a twitchy (twitchy? Hope you notice the birdwatching analogy!) smile that might delude Moss in to thinking that this was my local.
At home, we sat and discussed Gill's marketting strategy for next year, and the necessity to get snappy 'strap lines'. I wish that I'd thought of 'Put a tiger in your tank', for instance. Moss suggested 'SOS'- 'Save Our Skin': then 'The Mole: potentially the world's most dangerous animal'. I e-mailed them to Gill next day (didn't even try to take the credit for them myself, either): she rather liked 'SOS'
I was up early (well, early for me, anyway!): because at 0730 there was a knock at the door and Ray Daniels was standing there! Ray and myself go back a long time: he, his brother Alby and myself used to play for East Grinstead Rugby Club and also used to be members of the Guinea Pig Tug of War team. He was telling me about the time that two friends rushed out of the beer tent when we were in danger of losing a particular tug, grabbed the end of the rope tucked beneath his arm and dangling over his shoulder (he was the 'anchor' so that you get some idea of his size) and wound it round his neck in such a way that resuscitation was necessary. I had to stop him at that point, as my two minutes of 'fame' on Radio Mercury was beginning. I hope that potential listeners hadn't turned round at that point, or they'd have missed it.
Oh yes: I almost forgot, you'll be wanting to know why Ray was standing on my doorstep at this early hour. Turned out that he was the decorator from Valley Builders who was going to strip out the smallest room (even smaller than the bathroom!) ready for the bricklayer to repair the crack in the back wall. Every bit of wallpaper that he removed made the repair potentially bigger: zig zag cracks everywhere.My day was largely taken up with supplying Ray with coffee, with time off to take the old carpet from 'the smallest room' up to the tip: and we both made time to browse through the old copies of the East Grinstead Observer which had been used as underfelt (you remember, I tld you about them on Wednesday). Strange how such newspapers are far more interesting than today's: it should be mandatory that every carpet should be laid on a thick underfelt of local newspapers, to give pleasure years ahead.
It was the night of my talk at Haskins Garden Centre, as well: after Ray had finished off most of the jar of decaff coffee, and gone back to the yard, it was time for me to go and get set up for the evening. Haskins have been fantastic, but it's all thanks to Nici Dell (Assistant Manager) that it took place at all. When sales seemed slow, she'd thrust 'flyers' in to hands, designed a great poster (which will take pride of placve on my toilet wall), and obtained free coffee and biscuits for everybody willing to pay £2 to come and hear all about 'Kew through the looking glass'. It's not an entirely serious talk!
She'd collected £85 from ticket sales: I sold twelve copies of my book 'The Slowest Pilgrim' , got £45.00 in sponsorship and sold loads of sweet pea seeds, sunflower seeds, wristbands and ribbon badges and managed to force down dangerous amounts of tea, coffee and biscuits.
It was a really 'fun' evening: everybody seemed to enjoy it (especially me!). Thanks, Nici, and everybody at the Garden Centre who gave up their time to make it so enjoyable.
I had an e-mail from Peter Kaye: turned out to be one of the most inspirational that I had ever received. His daughter Becca sadly died from metastatic melanoma aged only 35 last year. She was a Primary School teacher at Lewannick in Cornwall: but previously she'd been co-director (with her friend Donna) of the Small Scale Theatre Company, highly original shows full of music and laughter had toured the country. Well, after Becca died they set up Becca's Angels, and Becca's Angels did all sorts of things to make sure that Becca was never forgotten. Amongst these was the production of a fantastic DVD, made up of a series of films directed by Donna, the Melanoma Awareness Project.
The first short section is wonderful: it's titled Play Safe, and the children of Lewannick School share their memories of 'Miss Kaye'. They show how they take care of themselves in the sun: it's a film designed for primary school children and their parents. The second, Skin Sense, is an animated film by the creative teanm at M-Mad productions: it's designed for young adults and sun worshippers! The third, Doctors, has a medical background provided byDr Tom Lucke (Dermatology Department at the Royal Cornwall Hospital) and Jo Pope (MacMillan Nurse, and a specialist in skin cancer), in a film designed for medical professionals.
It's being distributed to every school in Cornwall, and Torbay and Bristol: and that's just for starters! We decided instantly to donate £2,000 to fund a further 1,000 copies: and we're pushing the idea like mad, our support will be unlimited, because education (particularly by children for children) is so vital. Peter wants a few hundred of our leaflets as well, so that one can be sent out with each DVD.
E-mails between myself and Peter were flying backwards and forwards all day: and it transpired that his son in law Ian has just been appointed Operations Director at the Eden Project! So Peter's going there with Jenny Parnwell, who I visited in November, to see whether we can get a very strong personal message on display there and alert visitors to the epidemic of melanoma.
Peter telephoned me in the end: turns out he's from Yorkshire, and went to school with Geoffrey Boycott. What better antecedents can any man have? I think, truthfully, that it's the start of a great partnership. I rang Alan Warwick down in Liskeard to tell him what we're doing: he also thinks it's a fantastic opportunity to spread the message of awareness. We've been talking about spreading awareness as a major objective since we started the Charity: but until now, we've been short of ideas of how to do it. Alan's going to telephone Peter: and he promises not to begin by singing 'Is this the way to Amarillo?'. Or is it 'Armadillo'?
Up early, packing parcels. Three collecting boxes to Kirsty Yeoman in Bristol for her big Melanoma Awareness bash at Royal Sun Alliance: lots of leaflets, wristbands, ribbon badges, seeds (and my book!) to Peter: a collecting box , leaflets etc. to Helen Parker. I had a phone call from Wendy Obey tonight, one of our oldest friends: she's holding a garden party in her house at Crowborough on June 14th, splitting the proceeds between Myfanwy's Charity and the Mother's Union for their relief work in Burma, and could I drop in? Wish I could: but we're collecting at Haskins and Sainsbury's and at 2.45 I've got to lay down my collecting box and dash over to Godstone where Daphne and Margaret are also holding a Garden Party. That reminded me: I'm giving a talk about making up Hanging Baskets in Croydon tomorrow, so I had to dash off to the Garden Centre and buy up enough plants to make it work. A lady there said how much she'd enjoyed my talk on Friday (don't usually get recognised in the street!): now she's been added to the list of volunteer collectors for June!
I was just getting my tea when I realised that a deadline was approaching: I'd promised a 1000 word article by May 31st for the Trail runner magazine (of which I'd been the first editor!), a nostalgic account of the 80 mile South Downs Way Run (later, the World Trail Running Championship) which Myfanwy and myself had organised for sixteen years, and which had become a cult event. I won't tell you more about it here, because I've got to write a book about it and if you read it here, there'd be no point in your buying the book. Anyway, I rummaged through the records and delved deep into my memories: I guess it'll be done in a day or so, and hopefully will induce our old trail running friends to support Twelve Months to Raise a Million. Wait a minute: last e-mail of the day, from Tony Smith and Steve Silver at Crawley Rugby Club. Yes, Tony: I'll be there at the Fatboy Sevens at 1000 on Sunday, with a small stand and hoping to meet lots of my old rugby friends! A day of pure nostalgia: trouble is, drink driving laws means it's going to be sadly teetotal for me!
I loaded up the car with lots of plants and hanging baskets to take to the 11 O'clock club in Croydon. They didn't meet ntil 2pm, so there was plenty of time. They were very receptive: I told lots of stories (mainly Irish stories!) in the long lulls as I make up the baskets, which seemed to go down well: as they were meeting in the Church Hall, I edited them a bit! I sold two books, as well: and I'm already booked to talk there in the autumn, after I get back from the Grand Canyon, about Harry the Wheelbarrow Man
I hurried off to the Post Office with lots of parcels: just made the 5pm deadline despite somebody with 23 parcels in front of me! And he didn't even seem ashamed: didn't even turn round from time to time to say 'Sorry!', with a nervous smile, to the increasingly angry (in a very Englsih way, so that a foreigner might not even have noticed) queue. Perhaps he himself was foreign? Anyway, I was alright: got my parcels off, don't know about the others!
There wasn't much time to have my tea (I'm a very slow cooker!) before the AGM of the Friends of Chequer Mead (our local Arts Centre, of which I'm Secretary: there was no danger of them starting without me, because everybody hates taking the Minutes! When I arrived at 7.40 (twenty minutes early, to take advantage of the free wine and nibbles!), the Treasurer said pointedly 'What's the time, Harry?'
'7.40', I relied jovially. 'Right' said the Chairman: 'Let's get started!' Strange, I thought: lots of other members standing around making small talk, and turning round to stare at me. Turned out that the Newsletter had mentioned something about a 7.30 start. I spent the entire evening (when I wasn't taking the Minutes, of course) waving the Agenda around which clearly said 8pm: and I should know, because I'd written it. Never mind: all the more time to hoover up the interesting cheeses and bisuits, and sample the somewhat bitter wine (End of bin, Melvin?) and get home to watch the documentary of the Marathon des Sables. What a fantastic race: it brought back so many nostalgic memories. I'd taken part many years ago, and had to be pulled out midway with a chest infection (in the middle of the Sahara!): I was so ashamed that, after I got home, I refused to talk to anybody or even take phone calls for three weeks. Mind you, I was much younger and far more immature in those days: 64, I think:or was it 65?
Anyway. I'd assuaged my conscience to some extent by doing the 5 day 100km (and the rest!) Sahara race in Tunisia last March: but that was the 'softies' version, where they carry your bags for you and cook your meals. Never mind, it was a great race and I made lots of friends like Sarah: I really hope that her virus clears up before Septemberl
Wow! Peter tells me that our £2,000 will enable them to send DVDs to every school in Gloucestershire, Somerset, Bournemouth and Poole as well. Meanwhile, the seven copies that he sent me are already being put to good use. I took one down to Halsford Park School next door to our house, and where I'm due to talk to Morning Assembly on Tuesday June 17th: sent one also to Helen Parker, who's a teacher in Ashtead and who's holding her Clothes Swap party (!) to raise money.
Steve Lewis sent £500 and 50 sponsors from Japan, where he works: thank you so much, Steve. He, like Toby Eves, had been a member of that great Alaska tour with Felbridge Juniors in 1982 as had Gerard Pearlberg, now a top athletics coach in New Jersey.
I also received $2,000 from Just the Right Shoe, from the USA. This is a club whose members collect porcelain shoes: they've helped us very generously before, when they auctioned two ballet shoes signed, respectively, by Darcy Bussell and Dame Beryl Grey. I thanked them and suggested that they might like to produce a limited edition hobnail boot to commemorate my Grand Canyon trek (only joking, I'll probably wear Nike trail running shoes!)
Telephone call from BBC Southern Counties radio: they were doing a chat show session about the new Indiana Jones film (who? I've only been to the cinema twice since 1973!), and wanted to hear from people over 50 who'd done strange things and had way-out adventures. I was a good target to start them off, from Mount Kilimanjaro to New Zealand and lots of things in between. I was flattered that they might link me withHarrison Ford (he's only 64, after all!), but not sure about the Indiana Jones link (Indiana Joe and the Temple of Blooms, as Alan Titchmarsh commented on TV tonight from the Chelsea Flower Show.
Anyway, I think that the discussion soon petered out when a charter flight with 224 Manchester United fans (or was it Chelsea? I forget) were stranded at Gatwick and couldn't make Moscow in time for the Champions League final kick-off. Got to get your priorities right, after all.
I'd been planning an early afternoon training stroll on the Ashdown Forest: but I happened to go in to the 'smallest room' which is currently being repaired on a subsidence insurance claim, and noticed that the inner skin wall appeared to be leaning increasingly outwards from the original house wall on to which it had been built. E-mails to the loss adjusters followed: they were all out, which was abit worrying! Anyway, it all came right in the end.
Finally, I got to the Ashdown Forest by 3.30: bought an ice cream from the van at Millbrook East, got my trekking poles extended, rucksack, waterproof andf waterbottle loaded, and I was off! First real test for a year: and I soon felt it! It was far more strenuous than the Forest Way (the old railway track footpath), as you might expect.
Ten minutes in to the walk, and I heard 'Hello, Harry'. Julie, the 'J' in CJ's, walking the dogs. She laughed at the suggestion that Chris (the 'C') might have been walking with her!
Past the Friends Clump: a long drag up to Camp Hill clump at the far end, a couple of miles from Millbrook. Should I turn back here, I wndered, as I sat on the bench watching a fit looking lady in an orange top and wellies stride past. No: there's no time to make preparation gradual now, with less than four months to the Grand Canyon. It was hard: round the loop at the top then back the rutted slope and up an immense drag back to the Friends Clump. And I was still almost two miles from 'home'! Anyway, a bit of a rest then I toiled up the slope and back down to the gate to the car park. I'd completed the normal two hour walk in five seconds under three hours! Hmm! Room for improvement, Harry.
I slumped into my battered armchair, half watching the Champions League final. The dreaded penalties were compulsive viewing, even though I hate them and the knowledge that somebody's life, even if only temporarily, is going to be destroyed. Sadly, it turned out to be that of John Terry, the 'heart' of Chelsea: he slipped as he blasted the ball at a virtually open goal, with the goalkeeper having committed himself in the opposite direction, and the ball clipped the outside of the post and skittered in to the crowd. I realised that I hated penalty shoot-ouits almost as much as I hated Deal or No Deal! and it's oily presenter.
Marian was busy telephoning people who had volunteered, in unguarded moments, to help us collect at Sainsburys and Haskins during Melanoma Awareness Week. We had 106 half hour slots to fill: by lunchtime, 32 had been filled! That left 74 between Marian and myself, unless we could get powerfully persuasive in the next fortnight. We met up with Rachel at Haskin for a coffees: she and her mother are collecting for the day at Sainsbury's in Redhill on June 7th, and she's then joining our 'team' the following weekend. Perhaps your mother might help, Rachel? Better let Marian deal with this: she's much more diplomatic.
The day of the Fat Boy Sevens at Crawley Rugby Club! I'd imagined that I'd be there in plenty of time at 09.50: but the clubhouse was already full of Fat Boys stocking up on a Full English before weighing in for the tournament!
Now, the Fat Boys Sevens is a unique rugby tournament, raising money for the local Children's Hospice: immense good will, and people appear on the field who you would normally never expect to be seen on a rugby pitch again, let alone involved in the physical exertion of 7-a-side rugby! It's cunningly handicapped: that's why all players have to attend a 'weigh-in' and tell the truth about their age! It's a bit complex: but here is the format!
Scratch players (the 'norm'!) are 35 years old and weight 102 kilos (16 stone). If you're under 35, you lose 0.3 points per year (so a 19 year ld would lose 4.8 points for his team!). Over 35, earn 0.3 points per year. Under 102 kilos, lose 0.5 points per kilo: over 102 kilos, earn 0.5 points per kilo. Are you still there? Right, let's proceed. The total handicap score is then averaged per squad member, divided by the number of players in your squad and then multiplied by seven to give a starting score! Bribery etc. also plays an integral part in the day!
The maximum handicap appears to be 55: and so you got teams starting a match losing 55-0!
One team contained an 80 year old; he sat in a chair on the half way line, with the other six performing on his behalf. At half time, he could be substituted by a young, virile 18 year old without penalty: but he'd already ganed 13.5 points on behalf of his team. Similarly, Goosy is alleged to weight 26 stone (165 kilos!), which gained his team a whopping 31.5 points! The difference being, Goosy still played an active part: in fact, he took part three times in one move, although admittedly they had to stop and wait for him at one point and he brought matters to a premature halt with a knock-on.
Anyway, it was a great 'fun' day: and no, I don't know who won although Toby Eves' team reached the final, somehow, which meant that he was excused lawn mowing duties by his wife.
I took along a huge box of old Crawley Rugby Club programmes from 1988-1990, which I'd produced and written when I was coach and 'Fundraising Manager' at the club for four seasons: a box of pure nostalgia, many of which were eagerly snapped up by still active Golden Oldies eager to bask in the nostalgia of their youth. The rain held off, despite the forecast: I collected £50 in sponsorship: I met lots of old friends: I found a market for a wardrobe full of rugby shirts in the garage: I ate two chocolate brownies and two huge bacon rolls: and I managed to get down to Marian's in Bexhill in time for a late night snack. An enormous crispy bacon sandwich with lots of ketchup! Magic!
The only downside of the day was Leeds United losing 1-0 to Doncaster Rovers at Wembley in the play-off final for promotion to the old Second Division (which is now probably the First Division!)
Lots of sponsor forms coming in: including £50 from the Thumrait Airwork Contract in Oman. Myfanwy's best friend Shirley Wallace from nursing training at St Thomas's Hospital, from before we got married almost fifty years ago, sent along a batch of sponsor forms as well, mostly from her Curling Club in Glasgow
Steve and Becky Hough of Domino's Pizza in East Grinstead have been tremendous supporters from the start: and they sent a cheque for £250.00 raised from their 'green' policy of giving up using polythene bags for wrapping. I've got to drop some leaflets in for them to display, as well.
Louise Mellish, a third year medical student at Hull University, held her first Skin Cancer Awareness Day at the University: ironically, in pouring rain. She and her friends, wearing our T shirts and wristbands, distributed our leaflets, advice, and sachets of sun cream: whilst dermatologists from the medical school were there to advise about skin blemishes and sun safety. The event had been publicised on Radio Humberside the previous day, and this had brought along a lot of friends and, equally important, many people worried about melanoma but with no idea about how to find out more! Great idea, Louise! It would be great if such 'advice centres' could be held nationwide on summer days. Louise had spent the previous evening baking cakes, and raised £71.00: whilst Consultant Dermatologist Dr Shernaz Walton donated £100 from her Charity Fund. All in all, a great day's work, Louise and friends!
Something else happened today, as well.
I've been unable to raise my right leg properly (loss of power in the knee) for eight months now: even going upstairs, I've had to haul myself up by the banisters, and taking two cups of tea upstairs has meant putting them down two stairs higher and hauling myself up to meet them. Pains in the thighs, as well. I didn't lke to mention it before, because.... well, you know! Couldn't turn my head round to see who was comng up behind me, either.
But something suddenly clicked: didn't hurt, it was quite subtle, but a definite slotting of something in to place: and, all of a sudden, I could walk up stairs unaided! I turned my head to see if there was anybody behind me.... wait a minute, I couldn't do that this morning either!
I walked up and down stairs a few tmes just for fun: no longer did I need to think whether I really needed to do so!
Matt's busy holding my house together with 'straps', holding the extension on to the original wall of the house and plastering the gaps where the original has fallen off the wall. Soon (say, a couple of months!) it will be my own perfect 'library' where I can chill out.
I had a letter from Katie May in Oxford. She's set up her little business selling greetings cards and wrapping paper, raising money for Myfanwy's Charity: and now she's in the process of arranging a Street Collection Licence (just like Rachel outside Sainsbury's in Redhill) for a day during Melanoma Awareness Week to raise awareness and publicise what we're doing, and why. She's hoping for a few donations as well! This looks like being an amazing day: and already, there are ten or more events taking place during Melanoma Awareness Week.
Alan Hewitt (Aldo) sent a further £300 donation, from a 'bar' that he runs in Killin, right up in the north of Scotland. He divides the profits between four cancer related Charities: not so long ago, he sent more than £1,000 raised from a Disco.
Alison Taylor, whose 15 year old daughter Katie is so desperately ill with melanoma, was interviewed on the Radio Derby breakfast show about the Midnight Walk that she and friends are organising on Saturday June 21st. The walk has really captured the imagination, and again could be the forerunner of 'things to come' nationwide! More than 50 people are raising funds from this sponsored walk, and equally importantly, publicising the menace of melanoma. Someone locally is organising a Fantasy Football League in Katie's name: and someone else has pledged to double the amount raised.
There are so many events being organised in and around Melanoma Awareness Week now: at last, it's beginning to take off and it's time to update and distribute the Press Release.
I NEED HELP: BUT WHERE'S IT GOING TO COME FROM?
Meanwhile, in New Zealand Annie Ackerman of the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand has held two meetings with Trustees of the Malaghan Institute in Wellington and we're well on the way to getting them to publicise Harry the Wheelbarrow Man's trek across the Grand Canyon, and attracting sponsorship to fund melanoma research over there.
Toby Eves e-mailed: he, his wife and daughter all want to trek the Grand Canyon with me if they can sort out their holidays! There's a lot to consider first, though: like, who's going to sleep outside on the verandah? But it would be great to have Toby with me: and his family can make sure that he only has access to plastic cutlery
I walked up and down stairs a few times, just for fun, got changed, and went off to the gym for the first time for a month to do a slow Empire State Building climb. Not bad: I did it at the lowest level, but I didn't need to haul myself up any more. Let's see what it's like tomorrow!
Matt's found two old, and six new, wasp's nests in the ceiling above the 'library'. Did I know they were there, he enquired? Well, not really, Matt: otherwise I would have publicised it as the Wasp Conservation Centre and opened it to schools for viewing through a retractable glass ceiling. Might get a grant from a conservation trust, though: don't touch them yet, Matt.... oh, it's too late, is it? Never mind.
Must ring Peter Kaye (Is this the way to Armadillo?) to find out how he got on at the Eden Project: that would be a wonderful link, especially if we could publicise it during Melanoma Awareness Week. I desperately want to go down there and meet up with him and everybody else involved, and also sort out travel for the Grand Canyon with Alan and Brenda: but it would be madness to think of doing this until the end of June, with so much happening here. I hope that Peter will understand.
Giovanni Carleschi e-mailed me to say 'I'm leaving on a jet plane', which he was doing: bound for the Pilgrim Trail, in fact. His father had sadly died from melanoma a few months earlier: and the last book that he had read was 'The Pilgrim', by , and he and Giovanni had discussed walking the Pilgrim Trail to Santiago together. Now Giovanni was taking his summer holiday to do just this in memory of his father: 31 days to reach Santiago, and in two days he would be leaving St Jean to take either the Route Napoleon over the Pyrenees, or the hard highway as I had done, with my book in his rucksack to see how reality today compared with reality four years previously.
Alan rang. He'd been in touch with Charmaine Hallmark about travel, as I'd suggested: and he made it clear that I'd better get round to see here very quickly- like, now! When she'd said she'd 'sort it' when we discussed flights to Las Vegas, I'd been way off target, said Alan. He told tell me how far off target I'd been! I couldn't believe it: all sorts of emotions fought for space within me! And 'now' was impossible for both of us: I had to wait until tomorrow! Can't wait, though!
Matt was busy up the 'tower' in the back garden, hacking out fractured bricks where the subsidence had split them.
I e-mailed twenty national newspapers and TV and radio stations to let them know that we're funding the distribution of Peter Kaye's DVD. Southern Counties were immediately supportive: two more sent automatic 'Out of Office' message: the other seventeen stayed coyly silent. Never mind, they'll soon get a further update!
Marian and myself strolled in to see Charmaine at Hallmark Travel, after a visit to CJ's for a coffee and sandwich and a look round Julie's Art Gallery.
The thing that you notice about Charmaine is her fantastic smile: it's all embracing, and lights up every room and every conversation. She's the kindest person imaginable, doing such a lot to help local charities without looking for, or even wanting, any sort of publicity: and she was going to help us by donating our flights to Las Vegas, and transport within the USA. I felt- well, I don't know how to describe it, although I'd had the best part of a day to prepare since Alan had told me. Nobody had ever done anything like this for Myfanwy's Charity before: and I felt like bursting in to tears at her generosity. It was so wonderful: the more so because I'd been unaware of what 'I'll sort it' had meant. Charmaine must have thought me so strange: but fortunately, she'd realised that I'd misunderstood everything from those conversations in the Dorset Arms. She's also going to put one of our Grand Canyon sponsorship and information leaflets in to their Newsletters, and enclose them with tickets as well. A further incredible opportunity to get what we're doing to a vast range of people, and promote awareness.
I went out- no, I floated out- with the itinerary in my hand and a resolve to train even harder so as not to let down Charmaine. I wanted to shout the news out loud in the High Street: but sanity prevailed.
Even Britain's Got Talent seemed an anti-climax after that!
We went to the afternoon Boot Sale at Blindley Heath: what a refreshing idea, starting at 1pm! It was immense: wandering round slowly, it took an hour and a half. I was reminded of Socrates' words when he wandered round a market: 'It's amazing how many things I can do without'. Nothing here of interest at all- wait, here's a great Roy of the Rovers mug! Roy of the Rovers was a cult figure for every boy and immature man in the 70's, 80s and 90s: and Marian had never heard of him! Next time any of my sons comes to visit, I'll proffer a cup of tea in a Roy of the Rovers mug: and I hope they'll say 'Wow, dad!' in tones of hushed reverence.
I even beat the price down from 50p to 40p! Could this be the new, hard me? Or had she been ready to settle for 30p, or even 20p? I'll never know! I bought an old battered tape of the Rock band Bad Company for 50p: this was the band in which my old rugby friend Clive Coulson had starred (and won loads of silver, gold and platinum discs) before he went on to manage Rod Stewart and others and then retired back to Raglan in New Zealand where he had sadly died two years ago, and until now I'd never heard them play. So, a moment of pure nostalgia. And then I found an Owbridge's medicine bottle for my bottle collection inscribed 'Lung tonic'. I offered 20p: he demurred a bit at this, but settled for 30p, and my day was complete! What a weekend, in fact!
I put in a panic request to Paul Paine at In-Press for another 4,000 sponsor forms for yesterday (we need them that quickly!), so that Charmane can get them into all their newsletters and send one out with every ticket: made even more urgent because Anthony Taylor, the Editor of the Trailrunner magazine, has put my 2,500 article reminiscing about the 'cult event' the Eighty Mile South Downs Way Run (the good old SDW80) that Myfanwy and myself organised for sixteen years, and is putting a sponsor form in to every copy of the summer newsletter. When does it go out, Anthony? When he gets back from holiday next week!
I know what it's like: I used to be the first editor of the Trailrunner many years ago, and was the first Chairman of the Trail Running Association (TRA) at an all night meeting held at our house! I had laryngitis, as well and could scarcely make my assent heard when I was elected! Anyway, the TRA is a recognised national athletics body now: but the SDW80 is no more, so I feel a book calling!
John Young at Southern TV e-mailed me, to say that he's putting the story up to his editor: even if he doen't bite now, there's hope in August!
Katie May in Oxford is definitely going ahead with the street collection on June 17th or 18th, which is marvellous: already we've got eleven events around the week, rnging from Scotland to Cornwall. Cornwall? Yes, Peter Kaye's established a dialogue with the Eden Project where they will be pushing the necessity for sun protection for children initially: and I'll be going down there in July to discuss things.
But he's also arranged space at the Cornwall Farm and Food Festival on June 21st and 22nd, possibly with a look display of his DVD, Becca's Angels: and a mole clinic facility where people can go and get their moles checked out by a dermatologist and a specialist skin cancer nurse. He and his wife have just been on a trek round the West Country distributing 1,200 DVDs to schools: it's very exciting, and I can't wait for feedback. It's the initiative that we've been wanting.
I e-mailed the Rotary Club of the Grand Canyon (and thoughtfully copied it to the District Governor), telling them what I'm doing and hoping that they might be willing to be my 'safety blanket' (not in so many words, of course): it took a lot of work, finding out their e-mails from searching the web, but I think I've got it right. All three of their officials this year are ladies, which is quite a turn-up: although my own club, East Grinstead, is booked to have Sheila Dongreay as President in 2009!
When I opened the front door, I found two heavy boxes full of Sponsor Leaflets: fantastic, so I sat down and weioghed them out ready to distribute this morning. I've got to go round and see Paul this weekend to see if he can help us with the 'sticky bits' for our ribbon badges which Marian makes. The original 'sticky bits' were printed in New Zealand five years ago for my walk with George the Wheelbarrow: now, the 'sticky bits' aren't quite so sticky and the safety pins get a bit droopy, and they're essential for Leeds United where the entire squad and management wear one of our ribbon badges for every match. Marian's grandchildren crowd round Sky whenever Leeds United are playing, to try and spot one of Grandma's badges on the touchline (players can't wear them on the pitch, sadly, probably Health and Safety are a bit worried that players or referee might be impaled and lead to costly litigation)
Helen and Neil Parker have been arranging media cover for the 8 man 100 holes in a day golf Challenge at Purley Downs Golf Club tomorrow: and I'll be there with a bottle of good red for the winner to buy the first round and enjoy the meal! I was about to offer to buy dinner for anybody who achieved par on the 100th hole, the 161 yard third: but I thought, adrenalin might kick in and, as they're all single handicap golfers, it might prove costly!
Neil's just heard the weather forecast: apparently, after a great day today (I even knocked nine minutes off my Ashdown Forest circuit, but wrecked one of my trekking poles in the process!), heavy rain is forecast all day tomorrow. He requests a rain dance in reverse: I'm dancing like mad!
Gareth John of Haskins is handling the PR for my Hanging Basket demos on Sunday June 15th, a lure (?) for visitors at 11.30 and 2.oopm and which I hope will net further sponsors for me: I really enjoy making up baskets, anyway, and as Haskins are providing all the materials and the audience, I'll really enjoy the day!
Then I put on a clean shirt and went to see Jeremy Peters, the Communications supremo at Queen Victoria Hospital, to see how the Coffee Morning being arranged by the Friends on June 20th is progressing: and to discuss press contacts, because Jeremy has an extensive journalistic background and nobody knows better how to handle the media. It was quiite a revelation: I learnt more in the next hour than I had in years of trying to overcome editors by sheer volume of handouts!
Basically, you've got to have an 'angle' to which an editor can relate: they've got to sell papers, and readers only buy in to 'human interest' stories unless you're reporting on a factual event of broad interest. So, to get in to the Crawley papers, say, you've got to be able to relate your story from somebody from Crawley: local and regional newspapers are essentially parochial, whilst national papers need something far out of the ordinary relating to a specific person. Name names, in fact: difficult for me, because I don't like intruding into private grief. I would never have been any good as an investigative journalist, even less writing 'human interest' stories. I wrote regular columns for Garden News and Rugby World (both at the same time) for many years, but of course you cultivated your own 'style' within quite a rigid format. However, when I had to report on specific matches, even my editor once told me that my rugby reports were 'gently philsophical' which pretty much hit the nail on the head!
Coffee morning? Oh yes,it's taking place in the Maud Barclay Room a fortnight on Friday: a Coffee 'morning' from 11 until 2 didn't seem quite right, so we changed it to 10 until 12, and I'll get there half an hour earlier and set up an exhibit
I did an early circuit up on the Ashdown Forest (knocked nine minutes off my previous abysmal time, can't resist trying to beat 'records' even if they're so easily beatable !), because it was the 100 hole Golf Challenge at Purley Downs Golf Club.
Purley Downs, to make it even more difficult, couldn't be further from a seaside links course if you tried! It is hilly (in fact, very hilly), and beautifully landscaped. A walker would find it a brisk and challenging walk, even unencumbered by a bag of golf clubs and the necessity to delve through the rough on occasions looking for golf balls. Doing this five mile 'walk' five and a half times (plus a last brisk hilly 161 yards!) would make him flinch and clutch the nearest tree for support! It was an extremely hard Challenge.
The Challenge had been organised by Neil Parker: his wife Helen's best friend, Gwenda Batt, had died from melanoma and he and Helen had done such a lot of fundraising over the past couple of years. But this was definitely The Big One. I got there by 5pm, with my bottle of 'good red' tucked under my arm and bags of wristbands and leaflets: I wasn't sure to what extent we could fundraise at a golf club, because it's sadly a game with which I had never been involved.
As I drove in to the car park, taking even greater care than usual to avoid scraping any parked cars, I realised that the eight golfers had already been playing for more than twelve hours, and Neil had also given live radio broadcasts on Radio Jacky (Surrey local radio, not a girl's comic) and Southern Counties with Mark Carter. They'd got in two rounds before breakfast at 0900, another two by lunch: and by 5pm they were just completing the fifth round! They were playing in pairs: and each player seemed to be going round in the 80s all the time, which gives you a pretty good idea of what good low handicap golfers could do! They all wore suitably worded bright yellow T shirts (you could see them coming for miles!), caps and fleeces, donated by Carl Lawrence's firm. I was very envious of these: but I could scarcely offer to rip off my own shirt and offer a swap!
Quick drink: then they were off on the next nine holes ready for a mass 100th in an hour or so.
Neil had implored me yesterday to do a 'reverse rain dance' as the forecast for today had been so bad: and his expectations had been spectacularly dashed! The weather had been cloudy, overcast and rain free throughout (it had even brightened up slightly for one md-morning round, but had then thought better of it) until it began to mist slightly during the last nine and drizzle during the final hole. In terms of playing 100 holes (as you do!), it had been almost perfect. Reverse rain dances (which means sitting down quietly doing nothing involving any movement) do work, Neil!
The club had lent tremendous support: not only did other golfers allow them to 'play through' in the interests of speed, but they had laid on a special private dinner with lots to drink, whilst the verandah was packed with members and guests for the final moments of the Challenge!
Seven thirty: another quick drink (Martin Watters had managed to down seven pints during the day, he proudly claimed!), then the massed verandah cheered them off on the 161 yard par 3 100th hole after the obligatory photographs by Helen Parker and Martin's wife. Fifteen hours golf: and six of them got down in par or better (one got a two), with only two taking four! Quite remarkable: and when I mentioned the day and the feat to friends (or indeed, anybody who would listen, I don't have many friends as such!) they were in awe at this remarkable achievement. All seemed fit, and full of energy: but after they showered, and assembled for a drink and dinner, they seemed to have lost certain fluidity of movement and by Sunday, I guess, they might have certain stiffness in localised muscle groups (in fact, probably all muscle groups!) All were excused lawn mowing this weekend: but the oldest player, Bryan O'Neill (no, he isn't 75, not even sixty actually! What? Oh, alright, he's only 58!) was booked to play golf tomorrow!
We all sat down to dinner in a private room at the golf club: Neil Parker, Bryan O'Neill, Martin Watters, Alan Page, Chris Blake (like Neil, a former London Marathon man), Richard McGrath (son of club captain Martin McGrath), Carl Lawrence and Jim Norrington (quckest downer of a pint in the club, so quick that Helen couldn't even get the camera ready before he'd finished!), Helen and their children Calum and Chloe, and myself.
After the meal (and more drinks, on the club!) came the 'presentations' which were principally in the form of Playboy Club golf club covers.
Special prize for the player who'd lost most golf balls on the day, as well: thirteen!
It couldn't have been better when the bottle of wine went to Neil Parker, leading points scorer on the day: and, would you believe it, a set of cap, shirt and fleece for me! I am really 'made up' by this: I'll wear them (when the occasion permits, like not near a golf club in case anybody offers me a game!) with real pride.
Neil had been doing some complex totting up on his laptop: Neil had worked enormously hard to make the day a wonderful success, and to cap it all he was able to announce that they had raised about £6,500 from this day of intense hard golf! Wow! Absolutely fantastic: I really didn't know what to say, and my bumbling response was woefully inadequate. I wish that I could have a second 'go': because I wanted to tell them all just how much this wonderful day meant to me and the Charity. It was just a fantastic day. Thank you all so much.
Chloe is about the same age as William, and shares a similar sense of humour as William and myself. She was understandably intrigued when I told her that I eat my peas with honey, as we sat dissecting the chicken, chips and peas at dinner. So, here's the full poem, Chloe: written, if my memory serves me right, by Noel Coward: nervously brilliant and a scathing social commentary on high society life in the '20s and '30s: I eat my peas with honey/ I have done all my life/ It may taste rather funny/ but it keeps them on the knife.
Sadly, she and Calum had heard the one about why the chewing gum crossed the road.
The evening drew to a close: and I took Martin Watters home to nearby Lingfield. I have never, ever seen anybody so tired: as we went through Lingfield, I had to wake him with a brisk shout at every corner to find out which road to take. I dropped him (I hope!) at home: I've just realised that I never checked to make sure that he reached the front door from the gate.
I was almost as tired when I got home and rolled in to bed. It had been a great day: thank you all
Helen Parker e-mailed me three photos from the golf: at the weekend, I'll send them to our local newspapers (might get some cover, as Martin Watters is a local boy from Lingfield) and try to pretend that the event took place the following weekend, which would give a boost toMelanoma Awareness Week. We shall see!
Third talk in three days: but today, Harry the Wheelbarrow Man had a rest and I gave a hanging basket demonstration to Dormansland Afternoon WI instead. I also got proof that I was at last a real author: Marion Pocock, who'd raised lots of sponsorship for the Grand Canyon trek and who'll be rattling a tin (Oops! Sorry! You're not allowed to entice donations in this way now: although I sometimes feel the urge to scratch my nose with the collecting box as people pass which sometimes makes it rattle, just a bit) outside Haskins next weekend, had been to a Jumble Sale last week and found a copy of The Slowest Pilgrim on sale for 20p! Only proper authors get this accolade! I was quite proud! Trouble is, it looked brand new, unread, even though I'd signed it! Never mind: I put it on the sales table with my other books and sold it again for £5. I hope that it's going to be better appreciated in it's new home
The East Grinstead Observer came tumbling through the letter box: they'd put in my letter asking for help with collecting over the next two weekends (in bold black prnt, as well!). I sat patiently by the telephone, list at my side, so that I could consider all the offers of help that might soon arrive. Midnight: still waiting!
Toby Eves and his daughter are sadly unable to trek the Grand Canyon with me. I'll have to try to persuade somebody to come along to support myself and Stewart: perhaps Annie Ackerman of the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand might have some success with her newsletter appeal.
I bought the East Grinstead Courier: they'd featured my letter, as well! I was a bit worried that my answer phone might be full of offers before I got home: but, as it turned out, I needn't have bothered. The only two messages were from a gentleman kindly offering to help me reduce any debts above £5,000 by trusting myself to his firm (obviously, driven purely by philanthropy), and a lady asking if I was Roger.
I spoke to Mid Sussex Probus Club this lunchtime: the big bonus about such talks, of course, is that you get a good free lunch. It was a good gathering: I sold two books, and gathered £103.06 in sponsorship. But there was further proof, if proof was needed, that melanoma is so little publicised. A gentleman came up to me at the close, and told me that he'd had a melanoma removed eighteen months previously. 'I hadn't realised that it was so serious!', he remarked.
Alison Taylor e-mailed to tell me that Katie, her fifteen year old daughter, is not so well. They have set up a beautiful website for her: you can get there by clicking on to http://www.freewebs.com/katie-taylor/index.htm Alison is organising the Midnight Sponsored Walk around Leabrooks (near Derby) on June 21st, and Katie so wants to be a part of it in her wheelchair. I read the website from start to finish, and left a message: it is such a moving story, and again it brought me to tears, it is such a terrible disease. If you read this, and visit her website, I hope that you'll leave a message as well.
Dr Cole Clissold has run the London Marathon for the past three years for Myfanwy's Charity, and he sent a cheque for £100.00 raised from sponsorship this year. He got round in 3-19, which made me really envious: my best time, way back in 1983, had only been 4-11, and that was after increasing my weekly training to almost 19 miles per week: about a quarter of what it should have been, so I suppose it's all that I could have expected.
I had a long chat with Carolyn Pettett, who's a wonderful supporter, and who'll be rattling (not!) a tin outside Haskns the following weekend: she's urging me to join Facebook, and made it sound so simple that I guess that even I could manage it. If not, I'm sure that my seven year old grandson William could help. It's joined the other dozen Things To Do on yet another list scribbled on the back of the newspaper.
Friday 13th! Up early to attack my massive list! First of all, I composed a Press release (remembering to keep it short and interesting): then I sent it, to one person at a time, to all the national newspapers Health Editors, national and regional TV chat shows, Saga, Rotary, the major Women's magazines, local and regional newspapers, BBC2 broadcasters (and a few others, just to show how broadminded I am!): 64 in total. It occupied almost two hours: and the response surely can't be less than the usual nil! Still waiting for possible collectors to telephone, by the
Marian rang to tell me that there had been a slight hitch on her way back home from Leicester, where she'd been for the day seeing one of her grandsons graduate from University. Apparently the exhaust pipe had dropped down from her daughter-in-law's car as they were speeding along the M1: they had been alerted by the increase in noise from the suddenly released silencer, and the sparks from the road where it had dragged along at speed.
Graham had a coil of wire in the boot, and was able to re-attach it (after a fashion): and they all got home to Bexhill by about 1.00am.
I hadn't liked to upset Marian on the phone by telling her that one of our major collectors for tomorrow at Haskins had dropped out at 8.30pm tonight: she'd thoughtfully asked her mother to ring and tell us that she had a virus, and couldn't be there.
I tottered across the landing hauling piles of dusty books from the back bedroom (where eldest son Mark would sleep tonight, he was coming up for a school friends re-union that he'd organised tonight) to the newly shelved 'library': I cleared a passage to the bed for him, made up the bed, hoovered round in a cursory manner, swabbed the kitchen floor, and cleaned the bathroom so that it didn't look too neglected. I fear that I might have failed in this ambition.
I sat up until midnight putting information about Melanoma Awareness on the collecting boxes, and getting tables, information boards, leaflets and T shirts loaded in to the car ready for tomorrow
The start of Melanoma Awareness Week! Marian wouldn't be here until midday: and I was all by myself with collectors at both Sainsbury's and Haskins Garden Centre to get going, before Marian arrived about mid day! Fortunately, she'd been busy for the past fortnight getting the collectors rota, and she'd left me precise instructions that began 'Get to Sainsburys by 9.30....' I was all set up, and busy relieving customers of cash, by the time Gordon arrived a few minutes later. Gordon is fantastic: he is Chairman locally of Leukaemia Research, speaker finder for East Grinstead Rotary Club, and a former English Amateur Golf Champion who had partnered Michael Bonallack for England against Scotland.
He helps us collect each year for hour after hour: and I do the same for him for Leukaemia Research. Once he'd got started, I rushed to Haskins Garden Centre, about three miles up the road towards Crawley, and had set up the table and information boards by the time Sarah and Andrew Bayes arrived for their two hour stint at 10.30. Then I was rushing back to Sainsbury's so that we had a two man team in operation there as well: myself and Gordon stayed there for the rest of the day, helped by fellow Rotarians Brian Neale and Peter Roberts. Meanwhile, Marian took charge at Haskins.
Marian and myself had to break off by 2.30: we had to get home and scrub up before going to the Garden Party at Godstone that Daphne Hodge and Margaret Brown had been organising for weeks. We couldn't believe it when we went through the side gate at Margaret's house an hour later and saw a solid throng of people in her beautiful 'Secret Garden'. Daphne and Margaret both love their gardens: and this was looking magical and inviting this Saturday afternoon.There must have been a hundred people there, the majority from the Church, thronging round the raffle stall (must have been forty good prizes, there, all donated!), plant stall, 50p stall and cake stall (I bought a sumptuous fruit cake!) and eagerly buying cups of tea and home made rock cakes. And these hundred people didn't just drop in and stay for a few minutes, just to put in an appearance: they stayed and chatted and the numbers steadily increased. It was a great social afternoon!
Marian and myself went home and counted the money from Sainsbury's (£270.00) and Haskins (£158.00): meanwhile, Mark had been home and gone out to a school friends re-union, and we just flaked out in front of the television after checking the e-mails!
A nasty suspicion was gradually taking shape: none of the 64 media directed e-mails appeared to have attracted any response, such as an Out of Office reply, or an Auto Response. They'd been sent (the computer said so!): but had they actually landed anywhere? Could such a thing happen? I e-mailed Richard, voicing this suspicion and asking him to reply to this e-mail both by e-mail and telephone if he receved it (well, obviously he wouldn't reply if he hadn't, would he? I only said this in case the e-mails had been sent, but the replies blocked: I'm not that stupid!) But it seemed increasingly likely that Melanoma Awareness Week was taking place incognito and unheralded. Computer problems, for the second time in a month, were impeding our fundraising: and if these had gone astray, how many more, and for how many days, had been doing the same? I'd better consult Dale
Gordon was on the door at Haskins, whilst I wandered round the Garden Centre amassing plants and baskets ready for my first Hanging Basket demonstration at 11.30.This was a well publicised attraction which we'd hoped would bring in the punters: but it was somewhat negated by the fact that a) it was Father's Day (which had removed one of our collectors, who hadn't reaslised the significance of the day until his children had announced that they were going to inflict themselves on him for the day) and b) it was the London to Brighton bike ride, which meant that access from the north was cut off until about 2pm, the start of my second (and final) demonstration of the day.
By 11.30, constant encouragement on the tannoy had recruited half a dozen spectators to watch me in action: I made up two baskets, which I rather liked: the main comments from the audience were that they realised that they'd 'done it all wrong'.
The reaction at the 2 O'Clock Show was similar: but, thanks to Haskins, we sold the baskets and they donated the money to Melanoma Awareness Day which was great!
Gordon, as ever, had done magnificent work. No one is better at extracting money than him (unless it's me!): but customers to the Garden Centre were few until after 2pm. Then they began to pour in: and, doing the last couple of hours myself at the exit door, I began to do very well. The final total for the day was £284.85! Next weekend could be even better.
It's amazing the range of responses that you get when you're collecting. Yesterday, I'd murmured 'Collecting for melanoma research' to a gentleman approaching at speed: 'Got that!' he said, as he strode briskly past. Today, I said the same: 'Seems like a good idea!' said a lady: and a minute later, sent a girl back with a £10 note. We distributed lots of stickers, and some leaflets: collecting money is one of our objectives, but raising awareness is a priority because without being aware of melanoma and the symptoms, a cure is almost irrelevant if you follow me!
I checked my e-mails: unspeakable sadness, Rufus Cole had died in New Zealand. His wife had e-mailed: Rufus had fought so hard against cancer of the salivary glands, and despite being so ill over the past few weeks, had been mowing the rides on his Kiwi Fruit and Avocado farm in Katikati, in New Zealand, only the previous day. He had died in Anne's arms. I am overcome by grief: he was such a dear friend.
He had started playing for Felbridge Juniors at the age of 13, and revealed himself to be not just an outstanding rugby player, in fact one of the great players of his generation, but such a nice gentle giant. He'd gone on playing for Felbridge from time to time until his twenties, even when he was a Harlequins 1st XV player (you could do that sort of thing in those days!), and toured Alaska with us in 1982 (Alaska? That's another story....): then he'd emigrated to New Zealand, played for the famous North Shore club in Auckland, where he'd even kept the great All Black captain Buck Shelford out of the team for a time! That shows you how good a player he'd been! He moved down to Katikati with his wife Anne, and there he'd farmed, as he had in England.
A year or so ago, he'd come over here to visit: still barely in his fifties, he'd spent a couple of hours with me, opening his heart, and I realised that this was perhaps the last time that I would ever see Rufus. I'd rang round his rugby friends: we organised a get together at The Hatch at Colemans Hatch, and there they'd all laughed and reminisced until the small hours. We'd framed that wonderful photograh of Rufus in action, and all wrote our tributes on the back before they presented it to him: it could have been a photograph to grace any rugby text book, body angle great, sheer aggression manifest, as he broke from the back of a scrum. Rufus was ....just Rufus, a wonderful warmhearted giant, and his friends will miss him terribly. I am just so ashamed that I hadn't kept in close contact these last few months.
I e-mailed his rugby friends from Felbridge days with the sad news
I had an excited telephone call from Daphne, who sounded really well. She and Margaret, with the help of their friends, had raised..... how much do you think, Harry? Almost £600: and still some donations to come and the collecting box to empty. What a fantastic day it had been: and everybody from the Church had rallied round to make sure that it had been a day to remember!
That brought the total that we'd raised over the weekend to around £1,300!
Marian had me unpacking boxes of books to put on the new shelves in the 'library'! 'Don't stand reading them!' she instructed: but there is such a vast range from my children's childhood and adolescence, ranging from a cartoon book 'Blow that for a lark: an inflated view of the Blow-Up Doll' to the various adventures of The Secret Seven (I'm a sucker for Enid Blyton!), and loads of books about rugby and plants! Now I've got to allot various subjects to various shelves: could take months!
Katie Taylor died this morning, at 03.45, surrounded by her family. She was just fifteen, and was so very ill with melanoma, almost completely paralysed and yet refusing to give in. She was such a courageous young lady, and although we'd never met, I will miss her terribly because I had followed her story through her mother Alison, who had e-mailed me to tell me of her death. Alison is also such a courageous fighter. Katie, and so many like her who I will never know, are the reason why we are striving so hard to raise awareness and find a cure for melanoma.
A few days ago, her parents created a website for her www.freewebs.com/katie-taylor : a wonderful tribute to her life, which I hope you will visit and read. You'll realise then how much she was loved, and how many people who's lives she has touched
Dale has put my computer right! How he does it, I can't even begin to guess: but all of a sudden, replies to my media focussed e-mails began to pour in, seventeen in total, mostly Auto Replies, Out of Office notifications, regrets that they get so many e-mailks that they can't read them all but assuring me that they really do care, and one or two very positive who want to know more. I wish that we could get more of the latter: I feel so angry and agitated that the media don't want to know more, because without press publicity we can't even begin to reach the 1,000,000+ people in Britain touched by melanoma. Just got to keep plugging away, I guess!
I was down at Halsford Park Primary School by 0830, for a meeting with Miss Good, the lady in charge of Morning Assembly, and who briefed me about my 'personal appearance half an hour later in front of 200+ children and assorted parents to tell them about melenoma. Miss Good had seen the schools DVD from Peter Kaye, and liked it: and she was going to show it to her class that afternoon, and get a discussion group going.
Miss Good introduced me: 'This is Mr Townsend, who lives next door, and he's got a very important message for you all'. Some of them shuffled about nervously: they probably thought it was comeuppance for having thrown each other's bags and hats over the fence in to my garden, and were relieved when I began to talk about the sun. You could sense a collective sigh of relief sweep the audience, sitting cross legged on the floor,
Me, I was getting rapidly colder feet: I'm very much at home talking to Women's Institutes, Probus and Horticultural Societies, but a group of 7 to 11 year olds, who I know could be affected for life by a misplaced word from me, made me very nervous. I contented my self by saying that although we all need sun, too much is bad, and to cover up, wear T shirts and hats, and lots of sun block, and on holiday to play games or go for walks rather than lying spreadeagled on the beach going red and then peeling. Really, that's all they need to know: it's the parents to whom I should be speaking.
Miss Good clapped enthusiastically when I'd finished: the children followed her lead, perhaps from sheer relief, then we all sang the school song and they went off to class. However, there was a big bonus:parents can now go to the once a week Morning Assembly (not like in my day!): and I managed to detain half a dozen of them and speak more seriously about melanoma and protection. Then another bonus: the Headmistress invited me to set up a stall (perhaps the trusty gazebo?) at the School Fete on June 28th. You bet: raising awareness and perhaps attracting sponsors both on the same day, and all I had to do to get there was to climb over the fence from the back garden or, perhaps better under the circumstances, walk down the path with a wheelbarrow full of equipment!
We donated a further £2,000 to Becca's Angels, the fund set up in his daughter Becca's memory by her father Peter Kaye to produce the Schools DVD about Melanoma Awareness, to purchase and distribute another 1,000 or so DVDs: Peter and Jenny Parnwell have arranged a stall at the Cornwall Farm and Food Festival, with a mole check facility, over the coming weekend so I sent off a parcel of leaflets, wristbands and an extra T shirt. I'm going down there to meet Peter some time soon, perhaps July, and to sort out details (I was going to say 'logistics', but that sounds a bit pretentious!) with the Grand Canyon Support Team Alan and Brenda Warwick.
A relaxing morning trying to tame the garden: then it was off to Gatwick Diamond Rotary Club for 6.30pm. I'd been a bit unsure about the content of my talk, since the guy who'd booked me had gone away on holiday without telling me how long I was expected to talk nor the size of the audience. I soon tracked them down: five, packed closely round a table, and a sixth arrived soon afer I started. It was not only the most informal Rotary group to which I'd ever spoken, but it was also young (average age, I was told later, of 44 which is 24 years younger than the age of the average Rotarian nationwide (yes, that's true, not just a fragment (figment?) of my imagination), and female dominated. Now, a brainteaser: how many ladies were there? Come on, quick! Well, it would either be 4-2 or 5-1. Hands up those who said 4-2: go to the top of the class.
I'd put on an almost clean shirt and a tie because, after all, it was a Rotary Club: but after talking for a minute, and feeling rather uncomfortably, I got up and ripped off tie and shirt to reveal my yellow Harry the Wheelbarrow Man T shirt and launch in to the talk that I'd hoped they'd expected in the first place. I told them what we are doing, and why: and it was great to have such an interested and receptive audience, who were fulfilling the original concept of Rotary: young professional people eager to get involved in their local community. My sort of club! Didn't sell any books, though! I couldn't have a meal, either, as I'd forgotten to transfer my money when I'd changed my trousers and didn't really think that I could use a credit card for £6.85 fish and chips. I'd had lunch at my own Rotary Club, anyway. So I had an orange and lemonade and came back in time to set up my Gro-Bag in a home made frame (gaudy red, yellow and green plastic bags didn't really seem to strike the right note) on the patio ready to plant Mark's peppers
I'd had no reply from the Rotary Club of the Grand Canyon to my e-mail of June 3rd: so I sent it again, in case the original had gone astray. I need a safety blanket and I hgope they'll be able to consider it on Thursday if they haven't done so already.
We received donations today totalling £490.00 in memory of Elisabeth Ritson of East Grinstead at the request of her partner. She had died on April 14th. I wrote to thank him: and I also wrote to thank Daphne Hodge and Margaret Brown, of South Godstone, for the wonderful Garden Party that they had organised. I concocted and printed out a number of leaflets for tomorrow, when I'll be looking for tombola prizes locally for the Coffee Morning on Friday at Queen Victoria Hospital: and then, all computered-out, wandered along to the Dorset for a £1 cup of coffee and convivial conversation. Who should be sitting next to Dale but Geoff Williamson, the President of Gatwick Diamond Rotary Club, who'd bought me a drink last night: wonder where we'll meet tomorrow?
I felt really good for the first time when I did my Ashdown Forest circuit later: admittedly, it was a cool and windy day, but it was still great! I knocked 23 minutes off my first stroll there a few weeks ago. Today, I had a threepenny walk (3p): ask any trail runner what this means! Got to keep hydrated, after all!
Katie's mother and father had given an interview on Radio Derby this morning: what fantastic courage, and how determined they are to keep her memory alive and, like us, raise awareness and find a cure for this terrible disease. I had a telephone call from Margaret Turner in Nottingham later, checking whether it was Katie to which radio and television reports had referred: Margaret is organising a fund raising Boot Sale. Sadly, I was able to confirm her fears
I borrowed the display screen from Chequer Mead Arts Centre in East Grinstead (after all, I am the Secretary of the Friends!) and set up a display board for the League of Friends coffee morning at Queen Victoria Hospital tomorrow which they'd organised on our behalf during Melanoma Awareness Week. Could I get some Tombola prizes, they asked? I rushed round to see my friends, who were really supportive. Nici at Haskins organised a £10 voucher: Clive at Dove's Barn donated two tubs of plant: Steve and Beccy at Domino's Pizzas donated four vouchers for a £9.99 pizza: and Chequer Mead Theatre four pairs of tickets. I added two copies of The Slowest Pilgrim
I hadn't liked to get to Queen Vic too early: I'd imagined beating down the door at 0930 to gain access to an empty hall. How wrong ctheman you get! The cake tables were bending beneath acres of obesity bait: chocolate cakes, fruit cakes, toffee slabs, chocolate brownies... you name any high calory food, and it was there! What's more, it was all home made! The Tombola stall.... well, my prizes were lost beside every type of booze imaginable, plus dozens of other tempting prizes. The Bottle Bran Tub was amazingly innovative: instead of rummaging through the tub, and analysing the packages that you encountered on the spur of the moment, you had to indicate your chosen string hanging from a bar across the tub and the stall holder raised the particular bottle to which it was attached.
Marian and myself won three bottles of lager, plus ginger ale and a bottle of Mateus Rose: and, would you believe it, on the Tombola won two pairs of tickets for Chequer Mead and a tub of flowers from Dove's Barn. Radio Mercury and the East Grinstead Observer turned up for in depth interviews and a cup of tea and a cake, whilst our great supporter, Skin Cancer Consultant Paul Banwell and the man who's threatening to accompany me up Mount Fuji next year, appeared in his operating theatre garb.
It was a great day: and when we looked like having too many tombola prizes left, the ladies from Finance Department who'd organised the entire day, baked the cakes and donated the prizes went in to the hospital car park and Outpatients and enticed donations from sitting targets. Sheila Kane, the brains behind it all, e-mailed me later. They'd raised about £400.00: and oh yes, I'd left a bag of T shirts behind.
Marian and myself went to see Daphne and John that afternoon. Daphne looks so well: I can't believe how much better she looks in a week! We counted out the money in the collecting box that had been on the table at the Garden Party last Friday; £41.46, which made the total raised on that wonderful afternoon to £671.46! Wow!
It was great to get an e-mail from Bob Boulton in Lincolnshire, whose son Matt had sadly died from melanoma in March. Bob was updating me on 'Matt's Fund', which they'd set up in his memory. Two of Matt's friends had done the 120k Lakeland Loop in the Lake District and raised more than £900: whilst ten others had raised almost £1000 from the Woodhall Spa 10. They'd embraced Melanoma Awareness Week and yesterday Bob's wife had raised £850 from a Coffee Morning: and there'd been lots of local donations as well!
They'd promoted Melanoma Awareness Week with the presentation of a cheque to the Cancer Charity of Professor Patel, the Clinical and Academic Professor of Oncology at Nottingham University Hospitals: and Bob got a 20 minute slot on BBC Radio Lincolnshire and a news item on Lincs FM.
Next events are a 'Fun and Fizz' afternoon at Willoughby: a Coast to Coast Walk by Matt's uncle in July: a parachute jump by Matt's housemate and his brother, and other events such as 'Dress Down Friday'. Furthermore, the local dermatologist is discussing how they can develop support in Lincoln for 20 to 30 year olds: whilst they've also got a 'facebook' page called Matt's Fund so that information can get out quickly to his friends. As Bob comments, 'Lots to do and not enough time!' Tel me about it, Bob: and keep up the good work!
Telephone call from John Young, of BBC South East. Good job I didn't just let it ring, and carry on watching the vital closing minutes of Emmerdale! Would I be up for a bit of filming tomorrow for a small item on BBC South East Television local news on Sunday? Would I? You bet!
It meant another re-arrangement for Marian's complex schedule of collectors at Haskins, of course: not only was I booked to sit in their office for a live interview on BBC Southern Counties radio at 1pm, but I now had to turn up at 2pm at Ditchling Beacon in my walking gear, wearing my French Foreign Legion type hat and flourishing my trekking poles which meant another two hours tin rattling for a rapidly tiring Marian and some rally-type driving for me to get to Ditchling on time. That's if I could find a parking space there, as well, if it was a sunny afternoon!
John Young rang. Could I make the appointment 3pm, and could I do it up on the Ashdown Forest to fit in with their rapidly changing schedule? You bet I could: it gave me time to do a few hours collecting first so that Marian just had to do the 'late shift', 2 til 4. The raio interview went well: it must have been about five minutes, and it was giving me elusions of grandeur sitting in the manager's chair in the manager's office.
I'd got my shorts, hat and trekking poles ready to change before filming: trouble is, I had too much time, and for some obscure reason decided that light khaki trousers with detachable legs would fit in better with the whole ambience rather than my usual long shorts (the same trousers, but with the lower legs unzipped- much cooler!)
I wish that I didn't have these second thoughts: by the time filming began, I was already regretting the long trousers idea! Ron Gaisford arrived with his shoulder mounted camera, and I took him round the the car park by the Friends Clump because there was a really steep rocky climb leading up to this with fantastic views over the distant forest (the only forest without trees, incidentally, apart from isolated clumps: the result, apparently, of cutting down too many trees to make charcoal in 1588 because they were in a hurry to build ships for the Armada. At least, that's what I was once told: might be wrong, though!)
Ron filmed me getting out of the car and closing the door (several times!), getting rucksack and trekking poles out of the boot, strolling along to the steep bit, then walking up and down the steep rocky path. He filmed my feet: he filmed me from in front, and behind, and sometimes from the side. He filmed me as he asked questions as I was puffing my way up the slope. He filmed the view from over my shoulder: he filmed my face as my gaze swept over the landscape in front. There weren't many ways that he didn't film me by the time he'd finished: and all the time, I was increasingly aware of this old man in trousers getting ready for one of the hottest environments on earth. I'd thought of suggesting that we did it all over again, wearing shorts: but on reflection, I didn't really think that he'd go for that. Ron, though, is a top cameraman: and he was going back to edit the good bits to add to our interview tomorrow.
I went home and helped Marian to tot up the takings: fantastic day, we'd collected £315.58 with Marion Pocock top scorer with £105.64 from her two and a half hour stint. She was only supposed to be there for two hours, but she'd wanted to beat her total for last year! She did: I like somebody competitive!
Marian went off to Haskins to get Des Baxter and his wife started on the 11am shift: I sat around at home waiting for John Young and Ron to arrive! Ron was busy filming some photos that I'd been asked to lay out of previous treks and climbs: John and myself sat chatting, as he got the 'feel' for the story. Then filming began: Ron took immense care positioning me in the lounge with Myfanwy's portrait in the background, whilst John did the 'guided' interview. They were here for about two hours: then they zipped off to film an anti-petrol price increase go slow on the A23 at Pease Pottage before getting back to Tunbridge Wells to edit it all up. I was impressed at their sheer professionalism: probably two hours filming and interviewing in total for- how long? Might not even get on at all, said John, if a good story came up! As they left, Ron (who's had a melanoma himself), said that it we ever planned to make a video, he'd give us a few days filming! That, as John said, was an amazingly generous offer: because Ron is one of the top cameramen in the business. As for myself, I was bowled over at this offer: because it might just come about, and I'd been sort of planning a Channel 4-type documentary for weeks in a sort of half-awake way! Thank you so much, Ron.
Marian and myself had to rush off for a barbecue: but in the evening we settled down to watch BBC South East Local News hoping desperately that breaking news hadn't broken! Only ten minutes left, I said despondently: the Pease Pottage go-slow left only five minutes, and they'd got to get the weather in as well- wait, who's that old man in a Foreign Legion-type hat and long trousers (they looked really hot!) working his way slowly uphill with his trekking poles! Will he make it, I wondered? I'd voiced my disquiet to John about the long trousers: he generously said that I would be wearing them in the Grand Canyon as protection from the searing heat. The interview was great, handled really well: he'd included about ten seconds of the DVD made by Peter Kaye featuring the children and their really good sparkling message: and he'd summed up with my message, full face, 'If you've got a mole that's changing, go to the doctor NOW! Not next week: NOW, and you might just have saved your life'. It was really good: and two minutes on television (yes, I timed it!), seen by millions, is worth a fantastic amount in publicity terms. We recorded it twice, on two different video recorders. It was a great day: and we'd collected more than £200, as well! That meant that we'd collected almost £1,000 outside Haskins.
Meanwhile, at midnight Alison's Midnight Sponsored Walk would start: and it brought us back down to earth, as my thoughts once again turned to Katie, and to Alison, father Wayne and brother Chris. Alison is so driven: what enormous courage she has, and a determination to find a cure for this terrible disease and to raise awareness
Bad news! In fact, terrible news! My computer had crashed again: I'd lost three days at the start of Melanoma Awareness Week, and it had happened again. I couldn't thank people for their work, or update them, or the media. Apparently the 'server' had gone wrong: lots of people had 'gone down', and Dale and his team were pulling out all the stops to get us back 'on line' (technical term. don't worry!) This is being written in retrospect, you'll understand.
I'm letting everybody know now, and hoping they'll understand, because we were all on a mega high, on a roll, after a fantastically successful week: we're all in a great team, and it's vital to keep in touch.
I spoke with Alison on the telephone. Such a brave, driven, lady: we've all got to get together and find that elusive cure. First, though, we've got to get people aware: because until they're aware of what they might have, we can't help them to be cured! It's a very circular argument.
More than 160 people had taken part in the Midnight Sponsored Walk last night, and raised over £8,000. It was so fantastic, and so emotional.
I went for a circuit on the Forest, and saw an adder, basking n the sun! I recognised that familiar zig-zag diamond pattern. It didn't move: I put a trekking pole in front of it, and it recoiled a little and it's forked tongue flickered, tasting the tip. It was the first that I'd seen.
Sarah Nesbitt telephoned in the evening: her Turin Marathon-induced virus had been sorted, she'd sold the house, got her own flat, was galvanising her running groups around Torbay, and the only thing missing was a computer. So we can only keep in touch by mobile. Never mind, might catch up at the New Forest 10, she said. When is it, I asked? I'd hoped that you would tell me, said Sarah! Wait a minute, Sarah, it's you that's running there: better look it up because I can't, with a crashed computer. Oh, of course, you haven't got a computer at all, have you? Anyway, she's up for the Grand Canyon again: so I'd better do a bit of sorting before we hopefully meet up on- well, whenever and wherever it is in July.
Still no computer on line! I had a letter from Peter Kaye in Cornwall. He, his wife, and Jennie Parnwell, had negotiated with the Eden Project to set up a stall at the Cornwall Festival of Food at the Eden Project last Saturday and Sunday, and a dermatologist and soecialist skin cancer nurse were doing 'mole checks' there for two hours on the Saturday. Fantastic: the sort of thing for which we've been pressing ever since we started the Charity.
They'd made a wonderful stand: huge, and both attractive and attracting. Unfortunately, they hadn't managed to get a space allocated inside Eden: in fact, they were before the entrance and outside the toilets. Nevertheless, sixty people came to consult the mole checkers and they found one serious melanoma and four potential problems! That was in just two hours! That is a fantastically high percentage: why, as Peter wrote, are people so oblivious? They also raised £250, and amassed 62 sponsors: but as Peter wrote, numbers were disappointing and by lunch time on Sunday it was 'dead'.
Nevertheless, we'd been noticed, wrote Peter: and that was the point of the exercise.
But as well, Peter had found out something very interesting: melanoma is on the Science National Curriculum, and his DVD would be useful for Secondary School Science Departments. How can we use it to the best advantage up here in Sussex, I wonder? Not for the first time, I realised that we need a huge 'team' to really hit people: and we haven't got that! We need a national newspaper on side: the Daily Express have promoted an enormous campaign about the dangers of melanoma for the past two years, but so far we haven't been able to prize open the door from our side!
I sent flowers to Katie: I'd originally ordered pink, but the florist rang back to say 'no pink' and we substituted my favourite yellow.
I chatted with Wendy Obey in Crowborough: at the same time as Daphne's Garden Party in South Godstone, she'd been holding one shared between Myfanwy's Charity and the Mother's Union, and again raised lots of money, lots of sponsors and, above all, lots of awareness.
I rushed down to Eastbourne to give my talk 'Harry the Wheelbarrow Man' at Meads WI: lots of them had seen this battered old man on BBC South East on the Sunday, which enabled me to kick start the message that I was plugging. Didn't sell any books, though!
Lots of people at Isfield Forget Me Not Club had seen me on BBC South East, as well, when I turned up to talk about myself and George the Wheelbarrow in New Zealand: wish they'd been able to see it in East Grinstead but, as Marian pointed out, they'd had me up to here locally, so it was probably a good thing that they hadn't! Sold six books, though!
My thoughts were with Katie and her parents. It was Katie's funeral today, midday at St Thomas' Church in Somercotes, near Alfreton in Derbyshire. It was just beside her house, and bordered by the field where she kept her horse. She would always be with them
Time for a circuit on the forest before I went to Edenbridge for an evening talk. I'd had a gym session last night, so this would be a modes stroll. I was passing the Friends Clump, high up on the ridge across the valley, when for some reason I searched for my car keys. They'd gone: or, more accurately, they weren't there! I searched my pockets, several times: and the awful truth dawned, that I must have left them in the boot lock when I got my rucksack and trekking poles! You'll realise, of course, that I'm only telling you this because it had a happy ending!
I beat my record time back to the car, very easily, rehearsing my story to the police should the car be missing. Couldn't say I'd left the keys in the boot, of course. Perhaps I'd lost them, slipped from my pocket? Should I get a taxi home and back, pick up the spare keys, and feign surprise or ignorance? It didn't really matter: because the car was still there, keys hanging brazenly from the boot, with a friendly coach driver keeping a watching brief. I was so overcome that I offered to buy him an ice cream! Apparently he'd had an in-depth discussion with another motorist: should they leave a note on the windscreen, and leave the keys at the ice cream van? But if they did, what if....? Anyway, it didn't matter. Should I drive round to the Friends Clump and do the remaining steep bit: or should I just go home? Guess which option I took, and figure out why I've got time to write this before a shower, a shave, and a double beans on toast?
Back to my haunts of years ago, Ditchling Beacon on the South Downs: it hadn't changed , even the same ice cream van was there, surrounded by lots of cars full of people getting in their share of inactivity as they devoured their Magnums slowly and gazed through their windscreens at the fantastic panorama of Mid-Sussex unfolded far below.
I had a great walk: miles of rolling grassy Downs, fantastic running area, your feet would bound over the sheep cropped turf effortlessly even after 60 miles of the 80 mile South Downs Way Run. Then down the steep trail to the A27: look right, look left, and across the busy road to the Newmarket Inn and the steep climb towards Itford Farm beyond. I didn't do that today, of course: and as ever, I lost my way on the final descent to the A27 (What's new? And I'm the guy who used to plan the route out for the SDW80 so meticulously!). Anyway, I got there in the end: by the time that I got back to Ditchling Beacon, four hours later, I'd covered a satisfying 11 miles or so.
Guinness must be busy! No wonder they've no room for Twelve Months to Raise a Million. Royal College of Art Student Freddie Yauner, 26, has set up an indisputed World Record for the highest popping toaster. It fired a slice of bread 8ft 6ins into the air at an art show! Wow! But it's nowhere near as useful in the 'green' world as the announcement by Mobile Phone Operator Orange, and renewable energy firm Gotwind, that they've invented a new mobile phone recharger powered by the energy of people dancing, and which they're testing at the Glastonbury Festival!
It was Sandra's 40th Birthday: and husband Bob had organised a wonderful party at number 5, across the road, which would have made any girl envious. It was in any case wonderful how Bob and Sandra had transformed what had been two years ago a derelict house and an overgrown jungle of a garden into a residence of which anybody would have been proud: it positively gleams, and all the neighbours as well as Sandra and Bob's friends filled the back garden, a DJ on the enormous deck. booze piled on the table in the corner, and a marquee filled with party food. It would have been the ideal place to test Orange's new mobile phone charger: it even got me gyrating rhythmically for a few minutes, and would probably have stored up enough energy to power an 0800 call
I'd wandered across the road a couple of days ago to shout to Bob in the garden that Marian and myself would be there. 'Shhh!' said Bob, running to the gate, 'It's a secret! Sandra doesn't know!' Well, Bob, I don't know about that: but I should think that the sight of a bloody great marquee going up on the back lawn on Wednesday might have given her some sort of hint!
Anyway, it was great: and we met a huge dreadlocked gentleman in a Panama hat who told Marian and myself that he'd been London Fireman of October 2000 on their calendar, and what's more, he was able to prove it with a photograph of the page in question stored on his mobile phone! '2000?' I asked. 'Well, I think it was 2000', he said
Today is one of those wonderful English summer days: sunny, slightly hazy, a slight breeze, and just crying out for a walk. I had a long chat with Katie's mother Alison: we're going to meet soon to plan out our strategy to promote awareness.
Then I was off to the beautiful old village of Alfriston, nestling snuggly below the South Downs, and a real tourist trap. Stroll through the village and along the road: and then it was up the steep rocky track to Windover Hill and down to Jevington and The Hungry Monk (where they invented Bannoffee Pie!). I sat on my usual bench and devoured a cheese and pickle sandwich: then up the steep rocky shaded track before you burst out in to the sun and sweat your way up to the brow of the hill where the SDW runners turned left and dropped down to the finish at Eastbourne Rugby Club. I carried on a little further to the trig point at the top of the hill, with a great view marred only by the gleaming tower blocks of Eastbourne.
An elderly lady (actually, she told me she was 87), stood beside me, and told how almost every day she would drive out to the car park over the brow for a 20 minute walk, the best walk in the world: if ever she couldn't drive, she said, she'd get a taxi up there and still go for her walk! I strolled back to Jevington: another four hour walk, another ten miles plus, more miles 'in the bank' for the Grand Canyon now only nine weeks away!
Another batch of cheques arrived from Stix at Leeds United, £110.00 donated by visitors to their training ground. Leeds United are wonderful and constant supporters, in memory of their Sports Therapist Bruce Craven who had sadly died from melanoma aged only 32
Busy day! Meridian FM, our local radio, have got another month 'trial' as they work hard to get a regular 24/7 broadcasting slot. I called in on my way to the bank to pay in £1,700+ of cheques: so I thought I'd drop by and show my face. I sat chatting with Sue and the three boys on work experience from Imberhorne School. They were called in to the studio for an update on air: and Lee thought that it might be a good idea for them to interview me on air, live, now! Very typical of BBC 2, I guess! So we all stood around the mike and I got ten minutes on air. Great!
Chequer Mead Theatre are compiling their programe for next year: Michelle e-mailed me to ask if I'd like a spot on their monthly speakers Corner as Harry the Wheelbarrow Man, splitting the 'gate' 50:50 with Myfanwy's Charity and the Theatre. 'What are you doing on September 10th?' she asked. I told her that I should be at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. So we settled on Thursday February 12th: I dropped in to discuss times, title etc.
Elizabeth from next door wants 100 words for the Caravan Club magazine for their travel book page about The Slowest Pilgrim: as it will be read by almost 400,000 people, the sales potential could be enormous! Almost half a million people eager for something to read as they settle down on their caravan sites of an evening: should I order another few thousand copies through David Brown in case I'm inundated with orders? Not just yet, I thought: I've still got a couple of hundred here, just in case.
Off to Ditchling Beacon: 3pm when I reached the car park, with a stunning view over the Downs, and promptly fell asleep for fifteen minutes. I woke guiltily with a start: greased myself up, daysack on back, lots of water, Sahara hat flap dangling down my neck and I was off, towards Pyecombe. Lots of youngsters trudging the South Downs Way, weighed down with huge rucksacks, maps dangling from their waist, and no idea where they were! Two of them thanked me politely for being unable to help them.
Down the track past Pyecombe golf club before I dropped in to the Plough for a J2O: putting off the moment when I had to tackle steep, rocky, rutted Newtimber Hill, digging in with my trekking poles as I clawed my way to the summit (actually, it's not that bad, a stern twenty minute climb before I crested the brow and got a distant view towards the electricity pylons beyond Truleigh Hill). I clattered down through Saddlescombe, crossed the road, and stopped for a cheese and pickle sandwich and a drink leaning on the gate at Devil's Dyke Estate. Two hours walking seemed a good point to turn round and make my way back to Ditchling. I glanced round furtively before dodging behind a gnarled old oak and did my usual magic trick: within seconds a man in a car with four dogs, and two girls on horseback had appeared. I pretended that I was exploring the hedge for something really fascinating, like an old bird's nest.
Two hours and a few minutes before I got back to Ditchling and drove home to warm up the chili con carne. Twelve more miles in the bank: two more Empire State Buildings for the previous two days: six hours collecting outside Iceland tomorrow for Leukaemia Research (Gordon and myself provide mutual support as Charity collectors. My collecting box and tabard were hanging from the door handle when I got home
Lauren contacted me again, from near Alfreton. She knew Katie, and her family, and she's eager to get involved with fundraisig and awareness. She baffled me with Powerpoint, Forums and Facebook etc.: not to mention Ebay as well as more mundane ideas (that means, things of which I've heard!) like collecting boxes in shops, car boot sales, merchandise, raffles and tombolas, fliers, leaflets and posters: but we'll meet up when I visit Alison. She's also trying to get a place in the London Marathon.
Jane Gregory, a Woman's Magazine Journalist from Petersfield, rang to ask me if I thought that Alison would agree to be interviewed for an article
When Gordon had asked me if I'd like to go to Iceland to collect, I'd imagined an all expenses paid trip to northern Scandinavia, not the end of the wind tunnel by the Car Park outside the supermarket of that name, wearing a leather jacket (in early July!) and still not breaking in to a sweat. My resistance was quite low by 3.30: I'd stood collecting for six hours, but on the plus side had met Damion Belgeonne, an old Felbridge player who I hadn't seen for- well, 35 years! Don't you recognise me, he enquired, sadly? Not really: he's now 50 and a retired Naval Captain. I sent him off with some sponsor forms. I staggered over to Waitrose to check in my tin with Gordon, barely conscious or able to move freely (me, not Gordon). He was really pleased to see me! Could I shake a tin for a few minutes whilst he nipped in to buy something for supper, he wondered? My resistance was too low to argue.
I was just recovering from my ordeal at home, faced with a nourishing cup of tea, when there was a knock at the door. The large gentleman on the doorstep seemed familiar: not surprising, it was John Simmons, the cornerstone of the pack in that first Felbridge Juniors Under 14 team back in 1969. How had I failed to recognise him? Well, it was, after all, almost forty years ago! He wanted copies of my book for himself, and for his mother Peggy. I'd worked with Peggy at Ingwersens Alpine Nursery on Gravetye Estate years ago, where she'd ruled the roost in the potting shed beside Sally, and George the foreman (One boy's alright, two boys is half a boy, and three boys is no good at all!) Great girl (actually, she's almost the same age as myself!), and for a week one hot summer when my landlord had been away on holiday I'd lodged with her, her husband Tony and John almost next door to The Bluebell in Sharpthorne. Tony had been the engine driver on the steam train that passed the end of our rural nursery: she used to hitch a ride on the footplate for the two miles home to Sharpthorne, whilst Tony always kept a shotgun in the cab for potshots at rabiits and pheasants if there happened to be no passengers on this sleepy little branch line train and either scramble down to grab his prey at the time, or come back later when the coast was clear. It was a sad day when the line was closed: Peggy had to walk home, and Tony drove the white line lorry that delivered road markings all over southern England.
John had also brought along massve sponsorship: we sat and had a cup of tea and reminisced. He now repairs old American cars, works by himself in his little garage at Pease Pottage, and the kettle's always on!
Nothing on television this evening (except Big Brother, and that doesn't count!), so I decided to research the Rotary Club of Grand Canyon again, turned up the same three e-mail addresses, and had my fourth (and, I decided, last) attempt to make contact. Why I'd failed so far, I don't know: but two other imporetant messages had failed to arrive recently,and it's a bit worrying. They'd probably been removed by the Spam filter (whatever that might be). I also did a Google check by name on the new President, Judy Hellmich-Bryan. Wonder of wonders, she turned out to be Chief of Interpretation and Resource Education in the Grand Canyon, with her own e-mail address there, Where was I going? You've got it! So I forwarded the Rotary e-mail to her work e-mail, and hoped.
Heard from Sarah Nesbitt today: she's got a flat sorted out, she's reunited with her beloved dog (which gets her out on the roads every day), she's got a new e-mail address (actrually, Sarah, it's identical with your old one, but I didn't like to mention it!), she's got her mobile working and I think she's back on track for the Grand Canyon! I'll give her a ring next week, preferably on a land line rather than a mobile, or it might get my phone bill in to the National Debt.
Marian and myself looked through the diary (as opposed to Diary), to fit in a visit to Cornwall and see Alan and Brenda, our drivers for the Grand Canyon, and sort out accomodation in the USA, catch up with Peter Kaye, Jenny Parnwell, the Eden Project and hopefully the people from Treliske to discuss setting up Mole Check days. How about August 15th to 19th? And when can we get up to Alfreton to meet Alison: she knows Lauren, and she's going to invite her along as well for a 'brainstorm' (business term, don't worry!)
The mobile Mole Check units are dear to my heart, because this would cater for lots of people worried about moles yet lacking the time or commitment to make an appointment through their doctor at a dermatology unit in hospital. It's terrible that the Walk-In Clinic operated by RAFT at Mount Vernon Hospital in Northwood every Friday, open to anybody who wandered in with a doctor's note before 3.30, was forced to closed because of NHS insistence on timed appointments. Apparently they'd seen up to 120 people in a day (with a small clinic attached for biopsies, if it was felt advisable), and picked up as many as four melanomas in a day. Where had that left the thousands who might otherwise have dropped by in the couple of years since it was forced to close? It made me very angry.
So, I'll be waging a campaign to try to get a major supermarket chain to back the idea of such a unit, and then take on the NHS!
My Diary closed at 1.30pm: Wimbledon final, Nadal and Federer, fantastic match. Lewis Hamilton won the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, as well, in torrential rain
Pouring with rain: even worse, there's a gap in the guttering above the back door which means a ladder job when the downpour stops. So it's a Computer Day: I'm trying to persuade big firms to lend (alright, give) their support to Twelve Months to Raise a Million.
Hampton Court Show, my favourite horticultural Show, is awash today. What a welcome for Private Members day! Too wet to go on the South Downs: so I did a double Empire State instead.
Alison agreed to talk to Jane Gregory: she e-mailed me to tell me that son Chris, only two years older than Katie, and his friends from school, have organised a 'bandfest'at a local pub, £5 for a five hour Rock Festival of local bands in the name of KATIE ROCKS to raise funds. As Alison said, they have so much energy and enthusiasm, and all had attended Katie's funeral clutching their single red roses. It restored our faith in teenagers, who have so much bad press these days, she wrote.
I didn't realise, she added, how much Katie had touched so many people, even before her illness, and now I feel even more strongly that this was always her destiny. It makes so much sense out of situation which has no rhyme or reason
An e-mail arrived from Judy Hellmich-Bryan tonight, President elect of the Rotary Club of Grand Canyon. She'd got my e-mail: but only through work! Where had the others gone? Don't know: probably still whirling round looking for somewhere to land. Anyway, she's going to send my e-mail round to every member: and they're looking forward to meeting us all on September 11th to exchange club pennants and have a nourishing Rotary lunch
I had a great e-mail from Charlie Tegarden, Rotary District Governor in the region that contained the Grand Canyon. Wow! It's hard to think of such an august person having a name like 'Charlie', let along taking the time to reply to somebody like me! BUT- Charlie was no ordinary District Governor. He and his wife had not only trekked the Grand Canyon three years ago from rim to rim: they'd trekked it rim to rim to RIM, there and back! They'd trekked from the South Rim to the North Rim on one day, had a day's holiday at the North Rim, then trekked back the following day: he was sorry that District Governor duties would prevent him coming with me, but he wished me luck.
Too wet for the South Downs: but I'm gradually extending the 'miles in my legs' with a five hour walk on the Forest Way (the old ralway line, before East Grinstead based Dr Beeching inflicted his cuts on rail transport) to Hartfield Station, about a fourteen mile round trip. FOOTPATH CLOSED was the notice that barred my way on the return journey PLEASE TAKE ALTERNATIVE ROUTE: FOOTPATH RENOVATION However, it ended on a cheering note EXPECTED TO BE OPEN JULY 12TH. So what should I do; wait until Saturday?
No: I thought of Charlie Tegarden, and what he'd have done!
I gazed round: alternative routes didn't seem immediately obvious, as I stood surrounded by banks of hawthorn and knotted bramble. I'll say one thing, they'd gone to extraordinary lengths to make it impassible to all but the most determined walkers (ME!)
I managed to work my way through the scrub to gain access to the 100 yard stretch under repair, which seemed pretty good and flat to me. They'd gone to more trouble at the other end: but I managed to find an old hessian sack and wriggle through under the shuttering.
I had an e-mail from Charlie waiting at home: lots of tips, which were really welcome. Still too busy to come with me, though: but he'll arrange for me to visit the Rotary Club of the Grand Canyon, which as you know meets every Thursday at 12 noon, at about the time I should be striding out of the Grand Canyon, and exhange club pennants
Alison had told me that a group of Chris' friends, 6th Formers from Anthony Gell School, were organising a Bandfest last night called 'KATIE ROCKS'. They'd built a magnificent wooden stage in a pub car park in Wirksworth, and half a dozen rock bands played far in to the night. They charged £3 admission, and £1 per hotdog, and raised £538! As Alison wrote, what a wonderful night! I hope that you'll read about it on Katie's website www.freewebs.com/katie-taylor/july2008.htm
I received an invitation to speak to the Modern World Study Group of Bromley University of the Third Age (alright, U3A) this morning. They didn't specify on what subject: but I always mistrust groups with handles such as Modern, or World, or Study: and this had all three!
I feared that I might be too intellectually challenged to interest such a group of obviously serious people, so I thought it best to reject the invitation. But I was tempted- just a bit, because now I'll never know what I missed! Anyway, Bromley's the other side of the M25: the modern equivalent of the other side of Hadrian's Wall. What would Julius Caesar have done with an invitation to talk to the Picts in Hawick? You're right: he'd have turned it down in the same way. I sealed the envelope with a sigh of relief
Lois and Louise from Sackville School are planning to organise a parents and pupils quiz on September 24th to raise money for us, and would I like to come along and say a few words? You bet I would: that's really kind of you- BUT.... Youngest son Cameron, who is now a US citizen and teaching in Bufalo, has been selected for the USA team in the World Duathlon Championships in Rimini in Italy on September 28th, and of course I'm going out there to see him. Opening Ceremony is September 25th I(evening): so Ive got to sort out flights. Might have to tae my bag along to Sackville....
I got the TRA (Trail Running Association) newsletter this morning, which goes to 600 or so members. I was a founder member and first Chairman and Newsletter Editor (well, after all, the meeting had taken place at my house): and old friends Brian Glover and current editor Anhtony Taylor had asked me to contribute a five page article (sheer nostalgia) to the current issue about the 80 mile South Downs Way Run which Myfanwy and myself had organised for the sixteen years of it's existence as a 'cult event', with my sponsor form as an insert. I read the article avidly: seemed good to me, but after all, I'd written it in the first place, so I was probably a bit biassed.Anthony had added a pithy editorial, which summed up the race aptly. I'll add it here: 'One memory I have of the South Downs 80 is not entirely pleasant. I arrived at Eastbourne Rugby ClubPavilion in the middle of the night having run/walked frm Petersfield in Hampshire. I didn't feel quite well enough to eat so I was ushered up some stairs. The club bar looked as if it had been pressed in to service as a mortuary after some appalling national disaster.There were bodies everywhere, strewn over the floor with hardly a gap in between them. Desperate for sleep, I could see no space apart from an empty chair in the middle of the room. I stepped carefully amongst the stricken forms and sat down. Immediately I was struck by waves of nausea. Imagining that a bout of vomiting might wake the dead, I fought to control it. I just about managed to do that before lapsing into unconsciousness.
However, it wasn't always as bad as that. It is an event which is fondly remembered by early members of the TRA. Hundreds entered each year. It was an enormous loss to the running calendar when Harry Townsend decided to call it a day. His wife Myfanwy fell ill and subsequently died from Melanoma. I remember the warm welcome she gave to finishers. She was crucial to the event's success'
Thanks, Anthony. Now It's over to the runners! Tonight, I had the first telephone call, from old SDW80 runner Ian Waddell. He's the same age as me, but much much more active. Last year, he'd completed a 2,000 mile fundraising run along the major footpaths of Britain. He'd been a bit disappointed that he'd taken 7 weeks and a day (50 days, 40 miles a day), as he'd been planning to do it in seven weeks! Now he wanted to run in the inaugural Thames Ring race, being organised by the TRA, on July 24th to 28th next year, sponsored to raise money for Myfanwy's Charity. It is along canal and river footpaths encircling London: 256 miles within a cut-off time of 100 hours!
Wow! That's fantastic, Ian. It puts the 156.4 mile Grand Union Canal race, from Gas Street Basin in Brmingham to Little Venice in London, which Geoff Worsley and myself had organised for the TRA way back, well in to the shade! I'd taken part that year, but had dropped out after 50+ miles having taken the wrong turning! Wrong turning? On a canal? Well, I'd got on to the wrong bank and sort of- shot up a handy towpath and ended up near Rugby. After that, it hadn't seem worth continuing: so I got my head down in a bivvy bag on the towpath, and caught a train to London next morning in time to see the only three finishers arrive.
Ian and Sally Newham, from Nottingham, contacted me to tell me that they're cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats to raise money for Myfanwy's Charity in memory of Katie Taylor. So are Sian and Huw Crosweller, independently of each other. Again, it's wonderful support for which we're so grateful. Alison confirmed her invitation to myself and Marian to come up to Alfreton to receive the cheque from the Midnight Sponsored Walk and a BBQ in their stables on August 9th, which would be great: and we'd hope to meet Lauren as well, who's now come up with the idea of a fundraising quadrathon (swim, cycle, run and kayak). Only thing is, she'd have to buy a smaller kayak: we'll get the chance to discuss it, because she is such an active fund of ideas.
Sarah Nesbitt is now definitely on board for the Grand Canyon: now we've got to sort out her flights, and hopefully we'll all meet up with Alan and Brenda Warwick when we go down to Cornwall August 15th to 18th to meet up with Peter Kaye, Jenny Parnwell, and hopefully the dermatology department at Treliske to discuss Mole Clinics. Oh yes, we might manage to get down to the Eden Project as well....
The weather was fine! The sun was shining! It was the final day of Hampton Court Show and I wanted to be there! I waited impatiently until 8am (Gerald should be up now, surely!) and rang to see if Dorset Water Lilies might have any spare tickets. Gerald had gone to the Show at 6am: but I got his mobile number, rang him, and got him and another 'Ingwersen Old Boy', Dick Gallehawk (who owns the firm!) Yes, they'd got tickets! Yippee! We were in business: and by 10.45, we'd entered by the old iron gates at Hampton Court Palace and were immersed in a treasure house of wonderful plants!
Unfortunately, Marian saw a bargain within the first half hour: a discontinued line of enormous iron support hoops for plants. I nobly offered to carry them: the only way I could do this was by putting them round my neck, with the 'legs' in front and locking behind my hips so that I was, effectively, in a strait jacket unable to bend or turn very much. She saw another bargain shortly: more hoops, slightly smaller, which made the Man in the Iron Mask seem like a holiday home tenant. Fortunately, I managed to get my rucksack on which left my hands free to carry bags.
Surprising how iron hoops manage to store the heat of the sun. If the weather had been colder, I'd have been nicely warm. It was a relief to sit down for nourishing fish and chips: and even the mile walk back to the car, six hours later, seemed satisfying even though we couldn't get on to the bus to the car park for sheer weight of numbers.
But hey! I'm not really grumbling! We met friends, saw and bought some great plants, and we're so glad that we're active and interested
Back to Truleigh Hill Youth Hostel, high up on the South Downs behind Shoreham, and for years the 'nerve centre' of the SDW80 (the Eighty Mile South Downs Way Run). It was a visit of sheer nostalgia (and, of course, necessity because it's a great base for a training trek) Iused to walk the South Downs Way every year for sixteen years, mapping out the route for the runners: and the Youth Hostel hadn't changed a bit! There was still no lock on the Boot Room toilet door.
I walked up past the old back bar, the halfway point of the SDW 80 where the Venture Scouts used to serve a two course meal (beans, sausages, smash, fruit salad and rice pudding) to the 500 runners: then down to Saddlescombe and up and over steep Newtimber Hill to Pyecombe. I sat and ate the inevitable cheese and pickle sandwich: then I retraced my steps for a satisfying five hour walk. But I need MORE!
There was a note waiting for me from Helen, across the road. She'd made contact with 'the right person' at Boots, where wewanted tofloat the idea of walk-in Mole Check Clinics: and they were waiting to hear from me! Bang went my new resolution of regular early nights. I sat down and penned an inspiring e-mail: it wasn't too bad, it was winging it's way to Boots by 23.57.
But I couldn't really sleep: I was busy writing down all the even more inspiring things that I'd forgotten to put in the e-mail, and in the end I was up at 5am and sending an updated e-mail
Alison has invited us to a BBQ in their stables in Alfreton and a cheque presentation from the Midnight Sponsored Walk on Saturday August 9th. I wouldn't miss it: it will be great to meet up at last. Hopefuly, Lauren will also be there: ideas spew from her like lava from an active volcano! She is planning a 'quadrathlon': after a swim, cycle and run comes a few miles in a kayak, if she can get hold of a one man kayak that would be easier to manhandle than the old family model that they have at present.
Peter Roberts at Rotary (yes, it's Tuesday already!) told me that St Luke's Church had donated the proceeds of £72.00 from their monthly Coffee Morning last Friday, which is really generous of them: whilst the new Rotary 1250 District Newsletter has a new editor, Anthony Beevor. Would you believe it, he's an East Grinstead man: and I satdown and penned an inspiring paragraph or two.... or three... I'm not known for my brevity!) about what we're doing, and why, and the links with the Rotary Club of Grand Canyon. The Rotary District Governor of that area, I wrote, is a supporter: in fact, he and his wife had done the rim to rim to rim only three years ago, which rather puts me to shame. Anthony replied within the evening: fantastic! What's more, he was interested: and he could even see a wider interest within Rotary! It made up for all the e-mails and letters that had fallen on apparently deaf ears!
It's the East Grinstead French Market on Saturday, and I went in to the Library to book a place. They're closing the London Road for the occasion: although, to be fair, it doersn't involve all that much work because half of it has been closed for weeks for pavement repairs. Lots of stalls of French cheese and tinned frog's legs, I imagine (do tins of frogs legs have a sell-by date, I wonder?) and, of course, Charity stalls. We'll be there, with our trusty gazebo: just hope we're not allocated the bit of uneven pavement behind the barrier.... I saw the official town posters plastering the walls: these stated that the Market was in the High Street, but I don't suppose anybody will notice. Pity the posters hadn't been proofed, though.
Chris Brasher himself had been one of our original supporters: I still use one of the original trekking poles that he had donated, and which has accompanied me up Mount Kilimanjaro, across the Sahara, and the length of the Pilgrim Trail in Spain: plus lots of other places as well. Well, they're very kindly donating two more 'compact' trekking poles after one of mine shattered up on the Ashdown Forest: they'd like to add a direct link to our website: and would I like to send them a photo from down in the Grand Canyon?
I was so energised that I immediately wrote to Gatorade. They'd provided a free bottle in exchange for a Daily Express voucher last weekend: and it had tasted so good on the South Downs on Monday that I wondered whether they'd like to add their support to our trek. Couldn't take a crate of drinks over, of course: and the Customs in Las Vegas might not be over enthusiastic if they found a packet of white orange flavoured powder in my luggage. Go on, taste it.... it'll give you lots of energy.....
I had a lovely afternoon, talkng to a group of very young-at-heart 'oldies' at Southwater U3A. I love the whole U3A ethos. Thea Francis has been taking round sponsor forms for us: and she'd raised £61.50 from 20 sponsors. It was the third time that she'd heard Harry the Wheelbarrow man: and she wants to know when she can catch another show! I also sold eight books (not all to Thea, of course!): which took sales in to 'the black'! I'd thought of commemorating this red letter occasion by presenting the 'break even' book free: but then I thought, if I do that, then the next book would become the 'break even' book, which would mean an on-going self-defeating situation. So I smiled, took the money and signed the book.
No time to go up on the Forest: so I did the best part of a couple of Empire States, and went home to watch Emmerdale and Coronation Street with a home made chili con carne
Funny I should have mentioned Emmerdale: because Alan Sutton from Leeds rang me this morning from 'the set' where he was treating aches, pains, pulls and strains of various cast members. Lots of them are serious runners, and I'd wanted Alan to do his best to persuade one of them to accompany me across the Canyon. 'Bob Hope' for instance had done a 3-03 in the London Marathon, wearing costume! 'Eric Pollard' was the other possibility: but, would you believe it, he'd already trekked the Grand Canyon a few years earlier and didn't fancy a second helping
It felt and looked like rain: I delayed going for a training walk, waiting for the rain to begin. I gave up at 3pm, and went up to the Ashdown Forest for a 6 mile lap. After five minutes, it began to rain: forty minutes later, I was as wet inside my boil-in-a-bag rain top as I was outside. The rain stopped: I felt great, the miles flew past (well, there weren't many of them, to be fair: I felt very guilty that I hadn't gone out earlier)
French Market in East Grinstead tomorrow: I spent a couple of hours updating the display boards and loading up my trusty porous gazebo
I'd loaded up the night before: by 0800, I'd had breakfast and shaved and was on my way to find Jo in London Road to find my pitch. It felt a bit cool: so I kept the white top of my short sleeved pyjamas on beneath my T shirt. I was a bit worried that I might be first there: after all, it wasn't scheduled to start until 0900. Turned out I needn't have worried: I was almost the last to arrive. I was tucked between The Badger Truet and a lady selling handknitted glittery scarves, opposite the Lions second handbook stall, and against the wall of Queens Walk that filtered punters from the car park to the London Road. It was the best place we could have had!
But any illusions I might have had that everybody would flock eagerly to our stand, fighting to add their names to my sponsor forms, were soon shattered. People strode eagerly past, gaze fixed on the tempting array of French cheeses and hand made croissants that they could glimpse in the distance. So it had to be a Hard Sell! Fortunately, not for nothing am I known as The Most Avoided Man in East Grinstead: lots of people know me, as a result!
'Hi!', I'd say: and they wandered over, almost instantly regretting this first impulsive move. 'What are you doing?' 'Well, iif you'd like to empty your loose change into my bucket, and sign my sponsor form, that would be great'.
So they'd sigh, and rummage through their pockets: I'd try to get themt to divide it up between other members of the family on the form, so that I'd get more sponsors. That's how I got my first (and to date, only) dog. The lady didn't have a partner, so she added Spot the Dog (or Deefer Dog, not sure which) and donated £1 of his weekly allowance. Hope she ddn't cut back on his Pedigee Chum as a result: don't think so, she looked quite kindly.
The Mayor and Deputy Mayor came past, weighed down by their chains. I got £2 and a kiss from the Mayor (Ginny): the Depout ayor also sponsored me, but without the kiss.
Marian arrived from grandmother duties to do some stall sittng at 3pm, so that I could wander round the other stalls: but by 4pm, it was pretty well over, and time to pack up. By the time I got home, I'd had nine hours non-stop at the stall: but it was worth it, because I'd sold a wristband, a book, and gained 112 sponsors for a total of £180.06! Marian did the books: I'd now got 1,501 sponsors, but of course we'd got about £80,000 'in the bank' for the Grand Canyon trek, because so many people had organised fundraising events. People are very generous
House and garden beckoned: and in the evening, I took Marian to the pictures to see Mamma Mia! Thank you for taking me out without a collecting box, she said. Trouble is, she meant it. It struck deep, I can tell you. I resolved to be more thoughtfu: especially as it was her birthday next month. She'll be- well, I'm not quite sure, but anyway, she doesn't look her age, whatever it is.
Mamma Mia! was wonderful: a great romp, total unreality, a breath of fresh air and release from the everyday world. The Box Office had suggested that I book in advance, as they reckoned it would be a sell-out. We got there early, as well, and got the best seats in the house: in fact, they were the only ones occupied until a family of four arrived. But by curtain-up (as we say in the theatre!) 38 people were scattered around the large auditorium, getting stuck into their buckets of popcorn and throwing sweet papers at each other.
But it wasn't like it used to be! No Pathe News: no second feature: no usherettes with a torch to guide you to your seat, and a tray of ice crems in the interval as it was last time I went in the '70s, to take the boys to see Swallows and Amazons. It was all very informal.
Even more so than the last time I'd been to the theatre with numbered seats. The lady steward had inspected my tickets. 37 and 38 D. Well, she said, just go down the stairs until you see D on the side of a row of seats down towards the front: then you'll find the numbers on the backs of the seats, I forget whether ithey're on the left or right of the gangway, but it's one or the other. She smiled encouragingly, and offered to sell me a programme
I was eager to get up on to the South Downs: the sun was blazing in a cloudless sky, and I wanted to get the distance increased. I twa s only six and a bit weeks until we would be doing it for real, in the Grand Canyon. But first, calls to make. I rang Anna Hilton, Cancer Research Press Office. It's difficult to get any animation out of Anna: only the usual response, that she'd give my contact details to anybody worthwhile. Then, as an afterthought, she gave me Lynn Daly's telephone number. Lynn is the Southern Region Organiser . She was bright, interested and supportive: all the things of which Anna could never be accused! I sent her our Press Releases and some photographs she's going to look at it and amend them, and hopefully we'll be in business.
I set off for Alfriston with a song in my heart (in a manner of speaking, that is!) I was greased up and ready to go by 11.30, trekking poles at the ready, surrounded by coach loads of elderly day trippers milling round the car park and eager to spend, spend, spend. Two hours later, I'd climbed the rocky path to Windover Hill: and a beautiful mile along the ridge on the springy sheep-fed turf, with wonderful views of the Sussex Wead on one side, and the sea on the other, before I slid and slithered down through the woods for a frugal lunch of cheese and mango chutney sandwich, and half a bottle of water, on the bench opposite The Hungry Monk (where, forty years ago, they'd invented Bannoffee Pie)
Two more hours, and I'd reached Beachy Head and dropped down to the pub for something to eat. I'd been salivating for the past few miles at the thought of a cup of strong tea and an ice bun: but it was all too upmarket! Even the day trippers spoke Spanish and Japanese. I had to settle for a bottle of J2O and a packet of cheese and onion crisps. The young lady with bright red lipstick in the ice cream van (probably Miss Whippy: Mr Whippy was absent), valiantly straining to escape from her tight sweater, was pouting in to her mobile phone and trying to keep warm by nestling up against the generator. I interrupted her for a Magnum, then set off on the four hour trek back to Alfriston. The only blip was when a thirty-something year old cyclist shouted 'How are you, Sir?' when I waved a trekking pole at him in friendly greeting. He wasn't American, either: surely he didn't think that I looked that old?
But, all in all, I felt great! No aches or pains, and I was back home in time to heat up my Shepherd's Pie and frozen vegetables before News At Ten just after 10pm
I had a message from RAFT, where Leonor (the new Chief Executive) was apparently eager to meet me in November. We'd donated a lot of money there a few years ago, to set up the Myfanwy Townsend Laboratory and provide a solar simulator for their work on sun screens: and was eager to catch up on their work, anyway. Then I was off to Brighton, to get a pair of trail running shoes to break in for the Grand Canyon. Sam Lambourne, of The Jog Shop, has been a friend for many years, ever since the days of the SDW80: and once again, he looked after me. He was waiting on the doorstep when I arrived, probably hoping I wouldn't be there for long because he was wanting to go out for a run.
The Jog Shop is an amazing place, tucked away in a hilly side street behind the town centre: and every runner from miles around beats a track to the door. You'll find every level of runner sitting there, having a chat: from Olympic runners to plump ladies taking their first tentative running steps, they'd all sit around in this cosy atmosphere. Want to try your shoes out? Go for a jog up the road: Sam didn't mind, unless they tucked their other shoes under their arm on the way out. Even then, it didn't matter: the shop was full of people who could capture any escapee within seconds!
I got home to find that Lynn had updated my Press Release already: it reads well, and I'll get back to her tomorrow.
The Newsletter of the 100km Association, The Mercury, had also arrived: editor Kathy Crilley had given my trek an entire page and hopefully, we'll hear back from old running friends with support.
Alex rang from BBC Southern Counties radio. Could I come down to Brighton on Saturday for a half hour broadcast with Sid Sloan at 1pm? It would be great if I could get there, because we'd have the whole half hour, talking about my fundraising and the whole ethos of Charity fundraising treks, and the companies that organised many of them. It sounded as though it might become deeply philosophical: and of course, that's meat off a ducks back to me! We'd get an entire half hour! No wonder I said 'YES (please, of course)'
Mark Habgood, my best friend from New Zealand, is arriving on a 'surprise visit' on August 9th for a week. He's arriving at 3.30 at Gatwick: I'll be up in Nottingham! So I'll leave a key out under a plantpot: and he'll probably still be asleep (he sleeps for New Zealand!) when we get home in the early afternoon next day! Especially, that is, if the music from Tony' sixtieth birthday party next door that same Saturday night keeps him awake. If I were him, I'd get up, get dressed, go round and join in
I don't often get really angry, but the August edition of Saga provoked an exception. Saga, as you know, is a publication devoted to the elderly well-off, packed with articles about faded film stars, pop singers, fashion designers and businessmen who never quite made it. It's soporific articles are designed not to alarm or excite, or provoke deep thought. It helps it's readers to maintain an untroubled lifestyle, and the opportunity to indulge in expensive holidays: even it's many pages of letters are gently philosophical. If ever I want an early night and an untroubled sleep, I read Saga: much quicker and better than Valium.
Actually, the August issue was better than usual, and I stayed alert right through my bowl of morning Fruit 'n Fibre laced with non-fat Probiotic Natural Yoghourt and a helping of formerly frozen Fruits of the Forest. I was beginning to nod off a bit by the time I reached the Health pages, but a photograph of a heavily suntanned matron in a deck chair at the back of a row of beach huts woke me up with quite a start!
Sunny side up was the headline. Sunshine is good for you...Barbara Rowlands examines a revolution in scientific attitudes about exposure to ultraviolet rays
It contained an amazing collection of selective quotes from impeccable sources.
'For many years we've been told not to go out in the sun and put on sunscreen', says Dr Ann Webb, a physicist at the University of Manchester. 'But if you don't get UV exposure, you're taking away your major source of vitamin D'. True, Ann: but....
Graham Bentham, Professor of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia, says: 'We begin to see a link between vitamin D and osteoporosis and falls, but there is accumulating evidence that low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of some cancers and some auto-immune diseases. The levels many of us have might be fine for avoiding rickets but may be insufficient to get these protective benefits'.
True, the article continues 'Set against all this good news is the fact that too much sunlight can cause skin cancer and the number of people with skin cancer in the UK has quadrupled since the Seventies'
That's the limit of any downside: facts, that a quarter of all those with melanoma will die: that the incidence is doubling every ten years: that it's become an epidemic, one of the Diseases of the 21st Century, are absent.
Advice, like if you have a mole that's changing, go to the doctor NOW: and you might just have saved your life.
The necessity to emphasise awareness of this terrible disease: the necessity for early diagnosis: the necessity for walk-in mole check clinics.... not a word. If you're a bit worried about skin cancer, then Saga sets your mind at rest: Sunny side up Sunshine is good for you... Saga editor, you should be ashamed to publish an article like this. But I guess that you're not in the business of upsetting your readers. As long as they have an untroubled sleep at night, that's fine....then they can wake up refreshed, and book a nice holiday in the sun!
Had I blown it, by not going out walking yesterday? Had the hot sunny weather gone? Not according to BBC Weather News last night: but I keep getting flashbacks of Ian McCaskill telling us soothingly not to worry too much about the windy weather, that October evening in 1987 when fifteen million trees were blown down in the South of England.
Cattle were munching contentedly in a sea of ragwort (what's that about a fine if you don't eradicate this obnoxious weed?) as I drove up the narrow lane leading up to Truleigh Hill for another training walk, I could see black clouds building up and scudding across the sky: so, to be on the safe side, I coated myself in sun screen cream and stuffed my boil-in-a-bag raintop into my rucksack as an insurance policy alongside a litre of water and a litre of Gatorade, plus a couple of cheese and pickle sandwiches, an apple, and a couple of cereal bars. It's a 75 mile round trip: but where else could I get in the miles for the Grand Canyon?
Down the steep hill to Beeding followed by the long drag up to the wonderful amphitheatre of Steyning Bowl, the local 'home' of the paragliders. The patchwork fields and villages of beautiful mid-Sussex were spread below, stretching as far as you could see. Truleigh Hill was high on a distant hill five miles away. Magically, the stormy clouds had vanished: and unbroken blue sky, and a light breeze, had taken over.
I sat on a wonderful bench for a sandwich and a drink, gazing contentedly around. The bench was new. It was in memory of the Landale brothers, Gary (1962-1996) and David (1963-2006) It said simply 'Enjoy the view'. Thanks, boys: rest in peace! What finer memorial could these two young men have?
A few hundred yards away was another poignant memorial that I knew so we ll from my trail running days: every tme I passed, I would pay my respects. The cairn bore the words 'In loving memory of a Sussex farmer Walter Langmead 1904-1987. His ashes laid to rest by his dear wife Mollyand sons on his cherished South Downs'. Beside it was another plaque 'Thelma Mollie Langmead 1909-1996, loving wife of Walter Langmead, a gentle and devoted mother, remembered with great love. Her ashes laid to rest by her sons'.
As ever, it moved me to tears. What changes this farming couple and their family must have seen in their lifetime: but the timeless South Downs still rolled on in to the distance
A wiry, nuggety little lady runner passed me, burnt nut brown by the Sussex sun. As she jogged up the hill she said 'Warm!' There didn't seem much more to be said, really: it summed up the day very neatly.
Brightly painted butterflies spread their wings on the path ahead, fluttering away as I approached: blackbeetles scuttled across the stony path. I love the short wiry turf around Chanctonbury Ring: then it was down the steep, slippery gravel path to Washington. I leant over the sgtury gate and thought of the SDW80 checkpoint there, organised by Worthing Harriers, in the Girl Guide camping field. It had taken me the best part of four hours to get there: the runners did it in less than half the time, and they'd still got another fifty miles to run!
I sat down for a sandwich and found a hole in my battered trail running shoes, the same pair that had taken me along the 5 day, 100km of the Sahara race fifteen months earlier. I'd thought it might be a hole: I'd felt it three yards after starting out this morning from Truleigh Hill, but hadn't been able to find anywhere to sit down and inspect it until now. I fiddled about with the sock, and pushed and prodded: but, although I felt nothing more for the next four hours until we got back toTruleigh Hill, I guess it's time to retire them to gentle gardening duties. Sweat was dripping from me on that final two mile climb: it was a really hot day, just what I needed to get ready for the Grand Canyon
BUT- I still had half a pint of water left when I got home. Bad! Keep hydrated at all times: first lesson for the Grand Canyon. I watered the giant busy lizzie on the kitchen windowsill (don't worry, it's not the usual sort, but Impatiens gordonii, an endangered pecies from the Seychelles: wish I'd got a plant of the even more fantastic Impatiens kilimanjarica that I'd met on Mount Kilimanjaro: but that's another story, as they say), and made myself a pot of tea. It was getting on for 1 a.m before I had a shower, and fell in to bed.
I sank in to my armchair (sitting on a towel to stop greasing it up with sunscreen and embedded dust). I was tired: in fact, very tired.I have a new respect for the 500 runners who, for sixteen years, took part in the 80 miles South Downs Way Run (the SDW80) that Myfanwy and myself organised. Mind you, some of them looked like death: but the majority still did it! If I felt less exhausted, I'd take my hat off to you all, here and now. Well, I'd still got a lot of getting fit to do: but not at this moment, not right now!
When I told Marian yesterday that I was taking her out for the day, to Brighton, I hadn't actually told her what other plans we might have along the way: I sort of sprang it on her gradually! She took it well: at least, she didn't have a collecting box in her hand. Anyway, I thought, 11.15 start should give us lots of time to get to the studio by 12.45: especially as Alex had got the key to the BBC car park round the back, with which she'd rush out when I drew up outside the window! It all sounded so beautifully simple: I even imagined all the traffic lights at green down the straight road to the BBC studios.
I rang her from the first traffic jam about five miles south of Crawley: this was just a starter for five, it turned out, because five miles out of Brighton it had expanded to become the biggest traffic jam in the south of England. I'd got directions from the AA website, of course, which as ever got me within a couple of miles from my objective and then dumped me. Don't worry, I said to Marian (trust me, I'm a doctor!), I've been to the BBC in Brighton before, and set off confidently in the opposite direction to that at which the AA had hinted. After half an hour, we began to ask passers by who looked reasonably intelligent: the biggest bonus was finding a traffic warden, who seemed delighted to be wanted. Five minutes to broadcast time: Marian was in regular contact with Alex, who was guiding me in rather like an Air Traffic Controller, on the mobile. Traffic was static: turned out to be a Jehovah's Witness Convention in Brighton today, and of course the first sunny weekend of the holidays had brought most of South London down for a day of fun. Five past one: we were outside the studio. Alex' assistant, who'd been lolling on the wall waiting for us, put his head in the window: 'Nice to meet you', he said politely. I felt like shouting 'Never mind that, where's the car park?': but he'd already walked ahead (slowly, he wasn't exactly a human dynamo) to direct us through a narrow passage to park the car. We ran back to the studio: glass of water, ten past one, and I was sitting opposite Sid Sloan without any 'game plan' to guide us!
'Absolutely on time!' smiled Sid. Turned out that, far from being the sole guest, I was merely their insurance policy (in case nobody else rang, the studio guest within the framework of a Charity fundraising talk-in: my big bonus was 'meeting' (on the radio, of course!) the guy who had masterminded Across The Divide and it's amazing range of adventure treks. Half past one, and I was ushered out: lots of local Charity fundraisers and trekkers followed, fighting for space on the telephone talk-in. Nobody, one felt, was listening on this hotest afternon of the year so far. Alex was fidgetting about: she wanted me out of the car park as soon as possible, because she was going home at 2pm and had to lock up. Bang went Marian's plans for a leisurely stroll round Marks and Spencer.
We got back home quite quickly, via the Crown in Turner's Hill for a nourishing shandy, vowing never, never again to drive to the middle of Brighton on a sunny Saturday morning. Mark said the broadcast had sounded good: but a) he's my son b) he doesn't like to upset people and c) his children had probably distracted him a bit
What a contrast! Brighton and the South Downs! Midday, 28F+, and I was off to Ditchling Beacon loaded up with two big bottles of Lucozade (cheaper than Gatorade, and with a nice high velocity nozzle that propelled liquid far down the throat as opposed to a feeble dribble). Oh yes, and my two big half litre bottles of water. 2.5 litres, 4.5 pints: should be enough for six hours, shouldn't it? It felt good: down to Beeding, up and over steep Newtimber Hill, up the hilh at Saddlescombe to Devil's Dyke, and at the valley beyond the Fulking Escarpment (must put a spell check on that!), I turned back. Three hours plus each way: I was soaked in sweat. 2.5 litres of drink drunk, and I'd never had a pee! At home, I drank three glasses of water and three cups of tea: and I still didn't want a pee! 4 litres of liquid, and I never challenged the scorer! Boy, was I tired: but another fifteen miles or so under my belt!
I sat down and updated the suggested Press Release from Lynn Daley of Cancer Research. Kirsty Yeoman e-mailed me. She'd had a stall at Royal Sun Alliance during Melanoma Awareness Week, and collecting boxes in significant areas: and she'd given two talks to schools, which she loved. Must have been good, because they've invited her back next year! Well done, Kirsty! Now she's back from holiday in Hawaii, Los Angeles and a brief visit to the Grand Canyon. She's about to buy a 'duck' on our behalf to enter in The Great British Duck Race on the Thames on Saturday August 31st (www.thegreatbritishduckrace.co.uk ) : 60 prize winners, amongst a Guinness Book of Records entry of 250,000 yellow plastic ducks. Our duck, Rambo, will need to be super fit to beat off the opposition in an entry list of this size to become Top Duck (as opposed to Top Dog): so I hope she's got his (or her?) training planned and in hand. Only a month to go, Kirsty!
I had a great e-mail from Katie Clarke, of the giant multi-national pharmaceutical company Smith and Nephew, based in the north east. It had been suggested that Myfanwy's Charity might be nominated as their Charity of the Year for next year, and would I like to meet up to discuss it? Would I? You bet! Apparently Bruce Craven's fiance worked as a nurse for the firm, and she had nominated us
What a start to the day! A visit to a drill wielding dentist! I lay back in the chair whilst my dentist discussed his recent triathlons, drug tests on Tour de France cyclists, and the exorbitant cost of wetsuits and the potential for hiring them and buying them cheap at the end of the season.
I managed to thrust a sponsor form in to his hand as I left: but I don't think he could understand what I was saying because most of my mouth, tongue and lips felt like rigid plastic. He'd only been mildly amused when I related how my oldest son had bitten his dentist yesterday when she'd left her finger too long in his mouth whilst he was trying to gulp, and how she'd danced around the surgery rubbing her finger and shouting 'Wow! That really hurt!'
I didn't get to Amberley until 1.30. It was years since I'd been there: in the early days of the SDW80 one of our checkpoints had been outside the station there near the wonderful Amberley Working Museum. The Amberley Working Museum does just what it says: it's at Amberley, everything there is historic (after all, it's a museum), and it (all) works. Marvellous for eager children and nostalgic old people (like me!) I've got to visit properly soon, like in October when hopefully everything has settled down after we get back from the Grand Canyon.
It's a long gentle uphill grind along a country road for almost a mile until you reach the edge of the Downs: then it's another uphill mile until you reach the crest of the Downs, with fantastic views over the Sussex Weald on a sunny cloudless day. Sweat ran down my face and back in little rivulets that stung every time they get in to your eyes. I ran my fingers through leggy aromatic Fennel, Wormwood and Thyme beside the track: it brought back memories of the Pilgrim Trail in Spain. The long gentle slopes persisted for three or four miles until the steep mile long descent to the A24 south of Washington, then a scamper across the dual carriageway (thank goodness there's a central reservation!) and I was able to slump down on the weedy bank of the car park and devour my soggy cheese and mango chutney sandwich and a large bottle of Lucozade Sport. A young man (only about 50- maybe 55 in a bad light) had caught up with me up on the ridge and we had a brief chat. Then, 'Well, must be going' (he was on a circular walk down to Findon) and within minutes he was a blur in the distance.
On the way back to Amberley, just past Chantry Hill, I got in to conversation with (it transpired later) David and Heather Hart. Did I know the Downs? he asked. So we got talking about the SDW80 race: we'd both run lots of marathons (he'd done 29, including eleven Seven Sisters: I'd only done nine (and three) I told him about how we'd set up Myfanwy's Charity, and fundraising, and my trek from rim to rim of the Grand Canyon now increasingly imminent.
He does lots of fundraising, including supporting a children's charity in The Gambia (where he and Heather had been following their passion, birdwatching)
'You know', he said,'I met a chap once whilst I was out walking, and we got chatting and he took out his wallet and said 'I'd like to donate £10 to what you're doing'. I nodded sagely: I still hadn't caught on. 'Just like I'm going to do to you', he said, producing £10 from his wallet. I didn't know what to say: I'd never met such unexpected and wonderfully appreciated generosity. It's the wort of thing that really kindles your faith in human nature. Fortunately, I'm never without a leaflet or a sponsor form: I gave them our leaflet, so that they could read what we're doing and why: Heather completed a sponsor form (which is how I know their names!), and I carried on back to Amberley with a new spring in my stride. What a fantastic thing to happen!
But the day wasn't over yet: after my tin of Branston baked beans on thick multiseeded bread toast, and several cups of tea, I opened my e-mail: and there was an e-mail from Sid Sloan, who'd interviewed me on BBC Southern Counties on Saturday, wanting to know my JustGiving page address so that he could make a donation!
It really had been a super day
I always open the mail box with the eager anticipaton of a small child marooned in a sweet shop overnight: and these days. I'm rarely disappointed. Yesterday and today were no exceptions. There was a letter, and a further cheque for £82.07 to add to the £100 already donated, from Louise Mellish. She's a medical student at Hull University Medical School: and she'd organised a Skin Cancer Awareness Event at the University with the help of hospital consultants during Melanoma Awareness Week.
I got a letter (and a sponsor form!) full of nostalgic reminiscences from Patrick Hobbs, one of the stalwarts of the SDW80: 9 finishes in his 13 runs (and remember, there were only 16 SDW80s!) He's one of the many who'll help us to write 'the book of the race': I've already got the floor and bed in the front room covered with letters and information: so many stories, the hallmark of a cult event, and it's a story that's got to be written
Marian had been given a Guide to Las Vegas for her birthday (she'd had other presents as well, of course!). The chapter on Excursions included the Grand Canyon. Bit of a long trek for an excursion, I thought: 260 miles each way, especially if you wanted to get back for an evening meal. Anyway, it suggested taking two days to walk down to the river and a little longer coming back. Didn't say where you could eat or sleep, though.
Marian was going for a day of serial shopping in Eastbourne, coming home on the bus through the bleak Pevensey Marshes where, three hundred years ago, malaria had been endemic.
I drove down to Birling Gap out of sheer nostalgia (I'm very big on nostalgia, as you know). Birling Gap was the last checkpoint for the Seven Sisters Marathon: and previously, I'd only ever seen it previously through a haze of tiredness, trying to snatch a drink at the RNLI station before climbing the Seven Sisters (they're steep cliffs, not people!) and Beachy Head and the glissade down the steep slippery slope to St Bede's School and blissful hot showers.
It didn't look very different. The RNLI Station still looked like a Victorian Workhouse: whilst the dark single story hotel and cafe also hadn't changed. I went in for a pot of tea. Nobody spoke English easily. Then back up the windy hills to Beachy Head to start my walk. Parking for the day at Beachy Head, beside the Information Centre and sturdy toilets, was cheaper than Alfriston (£3.90 as opposed to £4.00), so it had been a good decision to do it that way round for a change. But, to be fair, there were more shops and pubs at Alfriston: although bus loads of tourists were about the same in number.
Trouble is, I didn't have quite enough change: so I had to buy an ice cream. The young lady in the tight sweater wasn't on duty today. Instead there was a man with a Monday morning shadow (remember, it was Friday today), who obviously didn't see the dispensing of ice cream to sporadic customers as a long term career move. Everywhere and everything was cold in the gale force wind: everything except the ice cream. I ripped the cover off my Feast: it slipped slowly down it's stick, depositing blobs of chocolate on the back of my hand. I managed to catch and eat most of it.
Walking was great, though. Yes, it was blowing half a gale: but once you got moving it was wonderful, and the sun was out amidst the scudding clouds as I walked across the golf course and down to Jevington where I sat on my usual seat opposite the Hungry Monk and devoured my cheese and pickle sandwich and a bottle of Lucozade. Up and over Windover Hill and down to the gate at the start of the Folkington Estate just above Amberley: then I retraced my steps, including the cheese and pickle sandwich and the Lucozade. Six and a bit hours walking, about fifteen or sixteen miles. 45 miles or so this week. Sounds alright, but I must do better. Five weeks tomorrow, and we'll be on the plane to Las Vegas: and there's lots to do before then as well as getting in the miles
The East Grinstead Courier had the banner headline £75m rebuild plan for QVH. At last: the promises made at our meeting on May 2nd with finance director Sally Flint and Paul Banwell were about to be realised! And as it hadn't yet been rebuilt, that accounted for why our plaque hadn't yet been put up on a wall- somewhere! I rushed eagerly tp pages 4 and 5. Wide range of services it announced! 33 different headings! I scrolled eagerly down (visually, of course). Nothing about a MASCU (Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit), for which our £20,000 donation to fund the initial appontment of a specialist skin cancer nurse fourteen months ago had been specifically intended. 32 of the sections had four or five explanatory lines: wait a minute, how about Dermatology? That's all it said: just one word. I wrote to the new CEO Sharon Colclough (we'd written to her earlier, of course, after we found that Maggie Middleton had disappeared), which is how we'd been hived off to Sally Flint). I even sent it first class, I was so conerned!
I quoted words from the Press Report of May 16th 2007, and never denied or amended by QVH: The cash injection will be ued by the hospital to allow more patients access to one-stop pigmented lesion clinics, education programmes and involvement in clinical research....The skin cancer unit, headed by consultant plastic surgeon Paul Banwell, provides skin cancer servies and education for more than four million people in the south east....We are delighted to be actively involved in providing funding for a new skin cancer specialist nurse with an initial donation of £20,000....It's a dream come true that this unit will be at our local hospital
As I added Nowhere is a MASCU mentioned in the new plans: and it seems that all our £20,000 has done is to purchase a plaque on a wall- where?
Another letter arrived from Stix Lockwood of Leeds United. One of their coaches, Bruce Craven, sadly died from malignantmelanoma aged only 32: and the club has been one of our greatest supporters. Their players dug in to their own pockets to provide £2,500 to fund our lime green wristbands with the wording MELANOMA AWARENESS www.melanoma-fund.co.uk and visitors to their training ground, especially parents with small children coming to see the 'stars', are encouraged to donate to Myfanwy's Charity. A further £185.00 arrived this week: to add to £120.00 donated only a few days earlier. Stix sends out one of our lime green ribbon badges to all enquiries: whilst the entire first team squad and management wear these for matches. Marian has had to gear up her production to meet the increased demand after the summer break: and every time they're seen on TV, her grandchildren are more and more impressed! 'Wow, grandma. did you make those?' I hope she basks in the reflected glory: she deserves it.
Then I went out for a walk. It was already midday, and I had to be home, showered and sweet smelling ready for the meeting of Chequer Mead Friends Committee in the Rose and Crown by 8pm. I could have missed it, but they might have noticed: especially as I'm Secretary. No time to get to the South Downs: and anyway, rain threatened. So I decided to walk the Worth Way to Three Bridges, about fifteen miles. It was months since I'd last walked this: and I really looked forward to it.
I'd been walking for an hour or so when I heard singing: and soon, a lady in a low cut blouse and swinging a large handbag joined from a side track, singing 'You'll take the high road/and I'll take the low road/and me and my true love/will never meet again/on the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond'
She rounded the corner but didn't seem over embarrassed when she saw me. 'Me and my true love will never meet again!' she remarked brightly as she passed. She didn't seem over sad at the prospect. Her voice receded in to the distance, trying the single verse that she knew in a variety of keys. It was a strangely catchy tune: I found myself humming it from time to time for the rest of the day
Half an hour later, I heard more singing: this time, 'How much is that doggy in the window?' A small dog of indeterminate breed appeared round the corner on the end of an immensely long lead, towing a lady who was either a late starting mother or a young grandmother. The small child by her side was attempting to join in. They smiled as they passed, and I carried on to Thee Bridges, sheltering in the Ticket Hall from the rain before I bought the obligatory chunky KitKat.
Boil in a bag raintop soon came and went: and by the time I got home, the sun was out. Shower, cup of tea, check e-mails: and I was in the Rose and Crown (almost) on time
I don't usually have dreams, but I had one last night, about Toby Eves being bitten on the bum by a tiger fish. What does it mean? I must have a word with him.
I spoke with Mark Habgood on the telephone about his trip to the UK this weekend. Would you believe it, probably my best friend, and he'll arrive on Saturday whilst we're on our way up to Derby: and it means such a lot to me to visit Alison and Wayne in Alfreton. Also, it's Tony-next-door's 60th Birthday party, which will be a music gig until well in to the small hours. Hopefully, I'll leave the house key with them for Mark to pick up, and then he can go to the party!
I spoke with Mark's eldest daughter Ashleigh as well. She's a 'dance workaholic', setting up a dance studio in Auckland from scratch covering every age, and every sort of dance: I've known her since she was- well, five? and I'm so proud of what she's doing, as a sort of 'surrogate uncle'. But she's calming down now, she told me: she tries to stop work to get some 'home life' by 11pm, and not starting again until 8am. That's except in an emergency, when she might have to keep working until 4am. Keep it up Ashleigh: you're a great girl!
Carole Meehan had e-mailed me yesterday, telling me to buy the Independent today. There was a very poignant two page article about her and her husband Neil, and his battle with melanoma. It is such a terrible disease: from full health in July 2005, a bright and active rugby player aged 35 and with two young sons aged four and eighteen months, he had died only eight months later on February 6th 2006. It brought me to tears again: the progress of the disease had been so typical.
Midmorning, there was a telephone call. 'Could you put me through to your Press Officer?' said a voice. 'It's me, actually' I replied, putting on another of my hats.
It was GMTV: the article had put details of Myfanwy's Charity in their list of contacts, and they had traced my telephone number through the website and wanted to invite Carole on to the programme on Friday morning. All I could do was to e-mail her with the information: she telephoned me this evening to discuss it. Don't know what her decision will be: she is a very private person, and it must have taken enormous courage to open her heart for the newspaper interview in the first place
Katie Clarke from Smith and Nephew contacted me: yes, we were to be Smith and Nephew's Charity of the Year, and would we like to meet up to discuss what we could do! What a fantastic thing to happen! We arranged to meet up after I got home from the Grand Canyon
People say I'm indecisive: but I'm not so sure about that. Anyway, that doesn't really matter, because today I just couldn't make up my mind: should I go for a long walk on the South Downs as planned, or should I sat local as the clouds seemed very rainy. There's nothing worse than being three hours from 'home' with only a boil-in-the-bag raintop when it starts to pour with rain (well, there is, actually, but we won't go in to it here). I hadn't updated Charmaine at Hallmark Travel, who had so generously sponsored our trek, for a few weeks: so I e-mailed her to suggest meeting up at the Chamber of Commerce weekly gathering at the Dorset Arms. Cup of coffee, lots of 'networking' (dishing out leaflets and sponsor forms): then I took my battered trainers in to the local sports shop and asked them what they thought. The gentleman behind the counter actually seemed to know what he was talking about: he couldn't get the precise model and size that I wanted at short notice, anyway, but suggested that there was a good 200 miles of wear left in them and that, with new insoles, I'd get by. I brightened up at that, said I'd take a pair, and fished in my pocket for a couple of pound coins.
'That'll be £18.00, sir!' he said. Well, they are special, it turned out: he gave me the wrapper to take home and read all about it, and kindly replaced the insoles himself.
Then off to Milletts to get a 'breathable' rain top: the days of old boil-in-the-bag were numbered. I got one in the sale at half price: it looked suspiciously boil-in'the-baggy, but I'll report back on that later. It was getting late: my only training today would have to be an assault on the Empire State Building in the gym. Anyway, it was a chance to increase the breaking-in of my new trainers (as opposed to those with the expensive replacement insoles) in a more combattive situation on the step machine.
I weighed myself first. 93.7kg. I'd lost 3kg (almost half a stone) in the past month. No need for alarm, though: I still weighed almost 15 stone, 206 lbs. I could get down below 90kg, first time for years, if I keep up the training schedule: less weight to carry across the Grand Canyon. 80 minutes on the step machine, and off home for a nourishing spag bol: a lot of bol and a mountain of spag (I had no idea of the extent to which dried spag swells in boiling water): and as I never like to waste food, it took me all the way through Emmerdale before the beast was conquered
I had a telephone call from Gill Nuttall, from Manchester. A close friend, John Herron, had died aged only 30 from malignant melanoma: and they'd set up a website, www.factor50.org.uk , to raise money to fund specific research at the Christie Hospital in Manchester. She wanted to make contact and talk about setting up a Charity: but that's a long term project, I told her. Nothing to prevent them raising money, though: and there's an impressive list of fundraisers ranging from the Three Peaks to an Ironman.
I'm really glad that more and more organisations and Charities are being established to fund research and awareness in to melanoma: but... we're not fighting against each other, everybody is so sincere, but our efforts are not unified. Why should they be, you might ask? Well, it would be nice to get together and discuss where we could go whilst still retaining our own fundraising independence, and not losing our identity. I'm not explaning it very well, I know : but I'd like to chat about it with other fundraisers.
Lynn Daly, of Cancer Research UK, has done a wonderful job with my Press Release, headed Meet Harry- Most Avoided Man in Town. She's sent this to a number of media contacts in the south and south east: Radio Mercury has already been in touch. Lynn's now going on holiday for a fortnight, so now it's up to me!
I stood outside the front door, and again, I couldn't make up my mind! Should I go on the forest for two six mile laps, or go to the gym? There'd been torerntial rain and thunder over night, and even this morning Marian had driven through heavy rain. The Forest and the Downs would be waterlogged in places. The clouds were heavy and fastmoving, spitting rain. As I laboured on the step machine in the gym, inner struggle sorted, the sky got bluer and bluer outside: by the time I'd staggered out, after almost two and a half hours on the step machine alone (they'd put the cricket on the TV, so that the time passed a little quicker), it was blisteringly hot and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. But But I still felt good: an intensive uphill grind, almost half way up the Bright Angel Trail to the South Rim, and according to the array of information in front of me, I'd burned off 725 calories! Wow! That's about three ounces: set it against 250 mils of Lucozade Sport, plus the biscuits and Maltesers when I got home to stave off the pangs of hunger before supper, and.... well, I'd probably just about broken even!
Carole telephoned. It wasn't GMTV, it was This Morning with Fern Brittain and Philip Schofield. As neither of us have time to watch early morning TV, we only had vague ideas about it's content: but they wanted to link an interview with a practical mole assessment session some time in the future. Understandably, she was rather reticent: because in the hands of the media, you can be persuaded to say things that you might prefer to be left unsaid. It's a bit like a rollercoaster: once you've started, you can't control the outcome!
The important thing for us all, as I said to Carole, is not to do anything with which we're not completely happy. For the media, it's just a story: for us, it's our inner soul that's being mercilessly revealed, and we've got to feel totally happy before we take any public step
Marian and myself drove the 180 miles to Alfreton in Derbyshire to meet Alison, Wayne and Christopher Taylor. Their daughter Katie had died only seven weeks earlier, aged only 15, from malignant melanoma: three days before the Midnight Sponsored Walk that Alison had organised, and in which they'd hoped Katie would take part in her wheelchair as a gesture of her own strength and determination.
But it wasn't to be: yet Alison has such inner strength and determination that the Walk still went ahead: 157 walkers, carrying torches and lanterns, snaking their way though the streets and the park flanked by all the local Special Constables, wending their way to the hall where Alison and Paula had laid on food and hot drinks. It was such a remarkable event: and I've got goose pimples just writing about it.
Alison, Wayne and Christopher had arranged a BBQ for their friends, to which we'd been invited, and for her to present Myfanwy's Charity with a cheque for £8,075! We stood behind a huge six foot cheque(I'd seen these in the newspapers, but never realised that banks produced these on request) for the photographs: and then, there was another six foot cheque presentation from Sally and Barry of the Lime Kiln pub in Wirksworth, who had raised a further £1,100 collected by their customers for a sponsored bungy jump by them!
Sally, in fact, had done two bungy jumps, in the second of which she burst three blood vesses in an eye! Why two, I asked: did she get a huge buzz from jumping 200ft in to space on the end of a rubber rope? No, she said, she'd hated it! I never did get to the bottom of that! In fact, my only regret was that I hadn't realised that they would have to go so soon, to take up their places behind their bar: I'd got so many questions to ask, and now I'll have to make a special trip to Wirksworth to ask them!
The BBQ was an amazing celebration of Katie's life: pictures of her around the walls of the sparkling new 9 metre long gazebo, which was filled with her and her parent's friends. It was pouring with rain, but nobody noticed warm inside the gazebo in front of the stables where we could hear, from time to time, the snorting of Katie's horse Whisper. The food was fantastic: I'd never eaten salmon or tuna kebabs,and certainly never come across fruit kebabs. It wasn't sad, it was fun: because everybody was chattering about Katie, who was still effectively there
Alison took myself and Marian to Katie's grave, where she laid a rose as she said good night. The stables were beside the cemetery, and Wayne had built a gate between so that they could visit Katie. It was such a touching moment: and it set it all in perspective, that Katie is still a warm, vibrant member of their tight knit community. It served to reinforce our determination to raise awareness and ensure early diagnosis of this terrible disease of melanoma, and to find a cure.
It was such a privilege to be there tonight.
Ian and Sally Newham, from nearby Blackwell, were also there: they're doing a fundraising sponsored cycle ride from John O'Groats to Lands End, starting on Saturday. Ian works at Nottingham University: as he's only got two weeks holiday available, they've got to do it in eleven days! They've got a support van with them, of course: and Ian's wife, who has had melanoma, will meet up with them half way. Must send them another batch of T shirts: those that they already have will probably need washing after the first few days
We slept in this morning, after the 180 mile drive home: Mark Habgood, my best friend from New Zealand, who's Chairman of the Melanoma Foundation of New Zealand, had arrived whilst we were away. I'd missed two days training: and there was less than a month before we would set off. All I could manage was Empire State Building climbing at the gym.
We're getting a little more positive reaction from Lynn's Press Release: Phil Mills from Snapit Now is trying to place the story, but (with hindsight) with little success.
I was sweating away, wondering about the faint burning smell: Andy, on duty, stooped amidst the machines sniffing busily. No, it wasn't the step machine, he announced: probably a treadmill! But Andy was wrong! Disaster struck!
I'd been stepping busily for two hours and ten minutes, feeling good and only twenty minutes to go, when- everything cut out! The steps sank to the floor and the lights went out! Andy did an instant diagnosis. It's not working, he said. Well, I know that, Andy! Better leave it for a few minutes, he suggested. Well, that's not much good for me, Andy! It's probably the fault of the guy who'd been on the machine when I arrived, I thought: he'd probably overstressed it, by going much too fast!
Poor step machine, standing there with a notice saying Out of Order, and suggesting that potential users should see the Instructor on Duty (in capital letters!) to ask for alternative machines. I'll ring tomorrow to ask how it's getting on
Raena from Sun Precautions Inc. in Washington USA (www.solumbra.com and www.sunprecautions.com ) e-mailed to say that they'd help us with clothing in the Grand Canyon, and possibly hats as well. Their specially treated clothing protects against 97% UVA and UVB: set ths against the fact that most summer clothing has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 7, and only 3 when wet. So that is a fantastic offer: and I e-mailed back at once to say YES- please, and request further information about colours, sizes etc.
There was a cheque for £280.00 in the post from East Grinstead United FC: the club which was, really, the Leftovers of the old days. A great man named Ron Buttle, who had sadly died from cancer twenty or more years ago, had formed a football club for boys who had been 'left over' from other junior clubs. What better name to call them than 'The Leftovers'?, and for many years they grew and grew, becoming a legend n junior sporting circles, and sweeping all before them, as juniors and later seniors. before becoming East Grinstead United when respectability had been thrust upon them! Almost forty years ago, on the day that man first set foot upon the moon, they'd given birth to Felbridge Juniors (LOSC- Leftovers Sports Club) Rugby Club, which had been a name to reckon with in junior rugby worldwide and which Myfanwy and myself had run for almost twenty years: and the Leftovers had even added a basketball team, plus occasional athletics and cricket matches! I'd even been Chairman of the entire club for a time: but now, just the football club remains, still going strong in Mid Sussex and, as I said, donating a welcome £280.00 to boost our fundraising for the trek from rim to rim of the Grand Canyon thanks to Joy Buttle and Denis Turnham, still the 'powers behind the throne'
Then it was off to meet my seven year old grandson William at Horsham Golf Club, where he's playing in the Tigger Tour. The Tigger Tour spreads over five weeks, every Tuesday in August: and it's for seven to eleven year olds, over nine holes on Sussex golf courses. Twenty or more came along, with parents or grandparents in tow. They are grouped in two's or three's, according to age, with proper tee off times, and score cards: and it was the most wonderful experience for them (and me!) Nobody cards more than a 10 on any hole: and throughout the two hours, all three in William's group struck some wonderful shots, and then followed, for no particular reason, by making seemingly easy shots incredibly difficult. It's all about learning the golfing experience and etiquette: everybody shook hands at the final putt before trooping in to the clubhouse for an orange juice followed by the prize giving and a few words from the Sussex Under 12 team manager.
See you again next Tuesday? I wished it had been possible: next year, I'd better set school summer holiday Tuesdays aside!
I found my guide books to the Grand Canyon at last: blow by blow descriptions of the North Kaibab and Bright Angel Trails, which I'll photocopy for Sarah and Stewart.
There's such a lot to do in three weeks! It's approaching pressure point: got to get in the hours and miles tomorrow, and emphasise healthy eating and drinking. But that comes after Mark Habgood and myself have digested our fish and chips from the Chinese Chip Shop down Railway Approach in East Grinstead. Got to get up early tomorrow, anyway: BBC Southern Counties rang to ask me to be ready for 0840. Was it about the Grand Canyon trek, I asked? No, it was a programme about old people 'doing things', said Clare: but Sid can probably give you a few seconds to mention it!
I opened the envelope from Derby Magistrates Court with my usual circumspection. My first impulse, in advance of opening such a letter, was to prepare my defence. Firstly, I hadn't been there in the first place: even if I had been, I hadn't done it: and even if I had done it, it had been accidental and/or I hadn't been aware that it was illegal.
But it turned out that they'd held a collection on behalf of Myfanwy's Charity, and enclosed a cheque for £40.00, which was really kind.
Elizabeth Leay brought round a letter from Peter: we'd had to miss his 60th Birthday Party, a night of fun and frolic; and he'd asked for guests to donate to the Charity rather than bring a present, and he enclosed £99.00! Hardly had she gone, than Peter Roberts was on the phone: the monthly Coffee Mornng at St Luke's Church had again nominated the Charity as the beneficiary for this month, and he brought round a fdurther £59.00! What a day: and my bright red and silver running shoes from New Balance also arrived, which needed to be broken in before the Grand Canyon.
Mark Habgood wanted to arrange his ritual visit to the Wing Wah tonight: memories of his youth 35 years ago. Clive and Linda Buttle, Jody and Dylan, and myself, made the 'pilgrimage' (Waiter, this chicken's rubbery: Thank you, sir!): and as it was Jody's birthday, there was further cause to celebrate, with an entire crispy duck as the centre piece. Good job Marian couldn't come: she hates crispy duck!
Oh yes, I actually got a reply from Chris McLaughlin, Health Editor of Saga. She kindly pointed out that of course they knew the harmful effects of too much sun, and they'd said this in the article in question (well, yes, they had: but put in such a way as not to cause alarm of make people think twice about booking expensive sunshine holidays through their pages): but really, the article had set out to stress the importance of Vitamin D, and it's special relevance to older people but she did concede that the photograph they had used, of the sundried lady in a bikini behind a row of beach tents, might have been a little ill judged. As she wrote, 'I think that perhaps we might have chosen a different illustration for the piece'. Thanks, Chris: the nearest to an apology that anybody is ever likely to get from Saga
We'd had a nine hour drive to Liskeard: why, oh why, had we chosen a mid-summer Friday to drive the 265 mile coast road from Worthing through Dorchester, Exeter and Plymouth, with hardly any dual carriageways? We stopped after 100 miles at a Motorway Cafe (forgot to mentionthe 20 miles of Motorway through a constant chicane of roadworks. We bought a mini tube of Pringles as a treat for 99p: it contained 20 Pringles, so we got ten each! Pretty fair and economical, eh?
Anyway, to cut a very long story short, we got there in time for supper: tomorrow, we were going to get down to the nitty gritty of a 'team talk' for the Grand Canyon with Sarah coming up from Teignmouth. But I'd got a radio broadcast to do first: at 11.30pm tonight, they were going to ring me from New Zealand to go out live on Radio ZB. It was originally scheduled for 11.50: but as it was late at night, they'd brought it forward twenty minutes. So I sat up in bed, chatting on Marian's mobile for five minutes about the trek and our hope for people in New Zealand to raise money on the back of this for research over there.
After I'd finished, the producer came on the line. Might be back in New Zealand again soon, I told her.
'Wow!' she shrieked: 'That would be AWESOME! Don't forget to come in to the studio to tell us all about what you're doing!' Typical producer: when she put down the phone, she probably thought 'Now who was that?' as she checked the running order for the rest of the programme before heading off to the beach for a day's surfing.
Rain. We sat and planned the Grand Canyon trek, designed the T shirts, telephoned Sun Precautions and the Grand Canyon North Rim office, booked the first two nights in Las Vegas, found out that a night in Death Valley afterwards might cost £300 each (!) and made out lists: and then went out to a local pub for a great meal
More rain. We piled in to Alan's car (it knew the way, after all) to the Endsleigh Garden Centre to meet Sarah. She looked fit and honed: and she also looked a little askance at the sight of this old bloke, who she'd last seen in the Sahara desert eighteen months earlier) hauling himself laboriously out of the car and levering himself up the shallow steps in to the Garden Centre. It's alright, I'm writing this with hindsight have a look at my entry for August 21st. I think that she ate a fairly healthy meal: Marian and myself settled for beer battered fish and chips.
I've got to get her trekking poles to her: of course, I'd forgotten to transfer them to Alan's car! Then we settled down to discuss trek details and 'Things to Bring' (like a Survival Bag: won't bore you with these) before we all (except Sarah) set off on a sightseeing tour of rainy Dartmoor via Princeton and the prison. Sarah looked thoughtful as she waved goodbye, watching me slowly descending the kerb and climbing in to the car
We were off early to Bodmin to meet Peter and Bet Kaye, for a quick chat and a quick trip to the Eden Project. Sadly, our contact there wasn't available: and as it was raining hard, we stayed at Peter and Bet's for a long chat and a nice lunch before we rushed off to the Royal Cornwall Hospital at Treliske to meet Dr Tom Lucke, the skin cancer consultant, and Sara Roberts, from CIOSPCT (don't even ask: but I'll give you a clue, PCT means Prmary Care Trust). Jenny Parnwell was there also. I put my foot in it staight away.
You must be Sarah?' I said brightly. She looked a little put out. 'Sara, actually', she replied. Turned out she was there because her boss was on holiday: but she's a really bright lady, slim and elegant, and I think that we can count on their support.
Our aims were to explore the possible benefits of using a mobile unit to increase the awareness of melanoma- and how such a unit could be employed in diagnosis and treatment. Equally important, we would be exploring possible links between the Primary Care Trust and the Myfanwy Townsend Melanoma Research Fund in the provision of such a unit, and how costs could be met.
We sat round chatting for a couple of hours. Everybody supported the broad idea: the problem was, how to do it? NHS involvement would involve costs- high costs. We (the MTMRF) are very willing to help with funding, both as an educational unit and as a mobile screening unit; basically, a 'Man and a Van': going round Cornwall (and probably Devon as well), staffed by people well aware of melanoma and what it looks like, and provoking awareness and the recommendation of immediate treatment if necessary. A mobile surgery was also discussed: but this would be incredibly complex and expensive, and at the moment would have less priority.
If we could get such a unit off the ground in Cornwall and Devon, and prove it effective, then we could provide further units (South Coast, for instance?): but let's get the first 'Man and a Van' unit off the ground first! Awareness and early diagnosis are critical: as important, in their own way, as finding a cure!
Anyway, we all left with our Action Plans: mine is to meet Smith and Nephew, who have designated Myfanwy's Charity as their Charity of the Year in September and seek their support, whilst Peter will look at the development of the educational side. Peter has already been fantastically successful with The Melanoma Awareness Project, the wonderfully effective DVD for schools made in memory of his daughter and for which we are providing funding for production and distribution.
Couldn't speak with Alan that night, because he and Brenda had gone up to Sussex on a 'babysitting' errand, leaving myself and Marian (well, Marian actually, I was in a non-decision making supporting role) in charge of their house. But there was a great bonus when I spoke with Alan later: he's willing to oversee the project in Cornwall on our behalf and he'll certainly come to our next projected meeting at Treliske in October. Altogether, the meeting had been a giant step forward: and I feel that at last we're gettng somewhere very positive.
We left Liskeard by 0945 on the way home: all we had to do on the way was to go to Honiton to buy a birthday lace handkerchief for one of Marian's friends. After all, we were welcomed to the town with a big sign saying HONITON- TOWN OF MARKETS AND LACE.
A few stalls flanked the long High Street to substantiate the MARKET claim. Lace, however, proved harder to find. Apparently the lace shop had closed five years ago: but there was a Lace Museum (£2 admission, Gift Shop free) where we had high hopes. No, said the couple behind the counter, they'd sold their last handkerchief a week ago: and in any case, they cost £60 each. Marian gulped. She'd been prepared to go to £5 at a pinch. Well, said the lady, one square inch of lace represented an entire day's work.
We managed to find a few pseudo-lace hankies in a second hand/antique shop: 3 for £8, and that's a couple of extra presents up her slieve, so to speak!
A letter was waiting for me from Queen Victoria Hospital when I got home: ah, the answer to my letter to the CEO Sharon Colclough at the end of August 3rd, asking what was happening with the £20,000 that we'd donated 18 months previously to fund the initial appointment of a specialist skin cancer nurse. The letter was dated the 11th, and postmarked the 16th: not that it mattered!
Lynn Hunter-Rowe (the Executive Assistant to the Chief Executive, no less!) had been deputed to reply. '....Your letter is important to us and deserves an immediate response: however, Mrs Colclough and Sally Flint are out of the office. Your letter will be addressed upon their return'. Well, I thought, when she gets back in to the office (probably nipped down the corridor for something or other, back after lunch) she'll be in touch: tomorrow, perhaps- or the day after? You know how these highflying executives get sidetracked when they're out of the office: ancd the same goes for Sally Flint, the Finance Director. Both out of the office together, I guess
At last I was back on the Downs! Not until 2pm, though, because I lost my way (!), and I was up at Truleigh Hill, testing out my battered old yellow rucksack and my breathable raintop (half price from Milletts, but the same old cheese and pickle sandwiches. It was blowing a gale, but it was dry....wait a minute, a mile gone, and it was beginning to drizzle. On with the raintop: for a couple of miles, until Devil's Dyke, and then I got sidetracked by the sounds of men hammering in tent pegs and putting up marquees and chain link fencing. Turns out there's a Music Festival there over the Bank Holiday Weekend: I must remember to give it a miss, unless a hard day's walking takes me up there. The rucksack was better than the day sack: but my big problem was wearing the wrong socks, single skin instead of double skin, and I had to sit and hack away at my toe nails to reduce the agony of feet in slippery socks sliding forward a every step downhill in my wet shoes. There's little worse, in the home, than bits of toe nail littering the carpet: so I kicked the bits tidily under a convenient stone. Sorry to fill you in on the gory details: won't do it again- until the next time!
But I got up and over Newtimber Hill: good job I got back when I did, because the rain bucketed down all the way home from Truleigh Hill
Three big tasks completed today: I had my hair cut to give me that sleek hungry look and reduce wind resistance, I ordered the UV protective shirts and hats from Sun Precautions in the USA for us all,which will be delivered direct to the North Rim, and I sent out a Press Release to the major media. It wasn't long before the Autoreplies came flooding in, plus those wrongly addressed. But Mark Carter from Southern Counties actually replied: they're starting a section on their Breakfast programme entitled 'Prime Minister for a Day', and they're inviting people along to propose two items that they'd like to introduce, and would I like to come up to Guildford by 0930 one day and have my say? What's more, could I let him have my mobile number, and he'll ring me down in the Grand Canyon on September 10th to say 'Hi!'. It seems a natural follow up to my live broadcast from my bed down in Cornwall, just before midnight last Saturday, live on Radio ZB in New Zealand!
Marian and myself went to Gatwick to meet Diana, Mark Habgood's friend: she was on her way to join 'the gang' for a narrow boat holiday in France, and it was a great chance to meet up and have a chat.
But when it was time for her to leave Joe's Cafe in the North Terminal to glide up the escalator to go up to Departures, an amazing thing happened!
I haven't told you this, but for months I've had no power at all in my right knee and thigh: I'd had to pull myself up the stairs by hauling on the banister, walking on the South Downs (especially up hill) had only been possible by leaning heavily on my trekking poles, and when I was in town I used to dread having to walk up the slight hill in London Road. I'd had to adjust my step carefully when I approached the kerb (either going up of down) so that I led with my left foot. Walking of any sort had been a very tiring chore. I'd still done my miles on the South Downs: but it had been hard!
All of a sudden, it came right: when I stood up, I could suddenly move freely. No problems: I'd got back the power in my right knee and thigh.
I could go up the stairs carrying things in both hands! It was fantastic! I hardly liked to test it out: but even kerbs now presented no challenge!
I felt like jumping for joy: but as nobody knew that I'd had a problem in the first place, it might have been misinterpreted! Actually, it's probably not correct to say that nobody knew: because at the 'team meeting' last weekend at the Garden Centre, I'm sure I saw Sarah looking quizzically at this old bloke, her Grand Canyon treking partner, making heavy weather of the two steps up in to the cafe even without a tray of food in his hand: or was it just me being my usual paranoid self?
So it was happy hopeful Harry who made his way home to go up stairs without using the bannisters! Yes, the power was there again!
Tilgate Adventure Centre in Crawley with Mark and Lucy, and grandchildren William and Jonny (Mark always denies that Jonny is named after Jonny Wilkinson!) I followed them car in to the car park: William (7) was hanging out of the car window with a big smile on his face chanting 'Daddy's in a m-o-o-o-d!' Five minutes later, he'd changed it to 'Daddy's in an even worse mo-o-o-d!' before he shot back in to hos seat a the speed of light. After ten minutes on a novel rope climbing frame (the children, that is, not us!), we had a great picnic, followed (after a strenuous bout of frisby throwing and football) by the Olympics. Long and triple jumps: then a suitable twig guided us into the entire range of field events, from hammer to javelin.
The Maze was great: the birds and animals in refreshingly animal friendly enclosures: and my knee was fantastic! I could actually walk up small steps and kerbs without thinking twice. Oh yes, and William and Jonny gave me a card and a really useful birthday present: a head light, for the Grand Canyon! Good job I'd been my usual lazy self, and hadn't been shopping: because a headlight was almost top of my list!
Moss Taylor, who dropped in for the evening a few weeks ago and whose wife Fran had died from melanoma, is one of our foremost bird experts (all right, ornithologists!) and a leading author and lecturer: and he sent a cheque for £145, raised from an evening lecture in Norfolk. What's more, he will be captain of Sheringham Golf Club in 2010 and has nominated Myfanwy's Charity as his chosen charity for the year
Good weather at last! In fact, it was such good weather that everybody seemed to be heading for the countryside: and by the time I reached Ditchling Beacon, having been forced to visit Sainsbury's to get two sorts of pickle for my sandwiches, I did well to grab almost the last parking space. This was 'road test' day for my new New Balance shoes: so I planned a couple of 'out and backs', with my old shoes in the boot as a failsafe. But even more important, I was testing out my knee. Was it really alright? It had come through yesterday with the grandchildren: would it be alright today with the grown ups?
Well, it was! I never used my trekking poles for the first ten miles or so: a week ago, I couldn't have got up the slightest slope without leaning on them heavily. The shoes were so good, as well, that I didn't turn round at Blackcap (2.5 miles) but carried on down the bridle way in to Lewes. Past the prison, down Spital Road, and after six miles I dropped in to Greenies Sandwich Bar for a pannini and a cup of tea. You can't do that very often when you're out walking on the Downs, either!
On the way back to the prison (well, past the prison, actually!) I stood astride the world for a second. Apparently, the Greenwch Meridian Line crosses Spital Road, just up from Greenies, and I couldn't resist the opportunity.
I was actually quite tired when I got back to the car at Ditchling Beacon, after 12+ miles: but after a cheese and pickle sandwich and half a litre of Lucozade Sport, I was ready for anything. More specifically, I was ready to walk the next six miles down to Pyecombe Golf Club and back: and I felt quite satisfied with my 18 miles, with my massive boat-sized shoes (size 14 USA!) having proved themselves to be just what I wanted, and with my knee perfect! But I had renewed respect for the eight golfers who'd played 100 holes in a day : out on the course for more than 15 hours, carrying their own clubs, and with five of them getting par at the last hole!
So it was a happy Harry who came home for his meat crumble, frozen mixed veg and tomato sauce!
Marian is a great walker: and a great weather forecast persuaded us to go for a walk this Bank Holiday Monday from Beachy Head over Willingdon Hill towards Jevington and The Hungry Monk. Well, the lady doing the weather on GMTV obviously hadn't put her head out f the window to test the accuracy of her forecast: more like Fantasy Island than a serious contribution.
We had to hold the car door firmly to stop it snapping off in the gale when we parked: and we zoomed off downhill, wind assisted trying had to keep up with our feet. We stopped beside a sheltering shrub to put on our raintops: the wind veered round so that it hit us sideways on, and just after Willingdon Hill we turned back. We were overtaken by five cyclists, who were just completing the 100 miles of the South Downs Way from Winchester: we stood back respectfully as they ploughed on in the teeth of the gale towards Beachy Head. Well, we made it back: but the last mile was pretty ferocious. Just over 7 miles, that's all: was I going to the gym to make up for the missing miles, asked Marian? I struggled with my conscience: sadly, conscience lost.
But the big plus was that I hadn't used my trekking poles, and my knee was fine.
When I got home, there was a real treat waiting for me. An e-mail from Renate Binder, from Austria! Now, if you've read my book The Slowest Pilgrim (very reasonable, £6 including postage from me!), you'll know Renate (spelt 'Renata', by the way, in the book!). We'd walked together, off and on, for some ten days in the early stages of the Camino (The Pilgrim Trail): there's even a long distance picture of her sitting in a deckchair wearing a sensible hat by the side of the Pilgrim Burger Bar after we'd descended the Monte de Perdon)
Renate wasn't a serious walker, the sort that strides out grimly in lycra shorts in every weather. She'd been in church one day when she'd received the message that she should walk the Camino: so up she got, and a few weeks later, she did it! Now I'm waiting to hear how far she got, and what she's doing now. We shared memories of so many Pilgrims: Dieter, with the horribly lacerated feet and teeth like tombstones, Maggie the Canadian clairvoyant of Venezuelan extraction, the voluptuous Anita, Popeye the Unsuccessful Juggler, Benoit the Canadian.... so many others. It will be great to catch up thanks to the magic and mystery of the internet
We haven't (or, more accurately, I haven't) designed the T shirt for the Grand Canyon trek yet, and there's less than a fortnight before we set off! Fortunately, Richard was at home: as I've said many times before, I don't know how I could manage without his expertise on the computer. Charmaine was also co-opted: we've got to get Hallmark Travel in the design! Clem from Wealden Workwear is vital: could he get breathable T shirts, and V neck T shirts, and print our yet to be designed design on the front, by next Thursday (ten days)? Well, you want to know the answers, don't you? So yes, Richard could transer my woolly ideas in to a computerised design: yes, Charmaine e-mailed her logo across: and yes, Clem could get the T shirts and print them by next Thursday! I went off to Rotary with a smile on my face, and a spring in my step. Not for the first time, I'd been rescued by my friends!
Downs day! Only four or, at most, five long walks before we set off for the Grand Canyon: so, after posting the photocopies of the North Kaibab Trail and the Bright Angel Trail to Stewart and Sarah to provide some light bedtime reading, I was off to Ditchling. I was strangely lethargic for first three or four hours: I seem to get better the nearer I get to the finish! I'd intended to go all the way to Truleigh Hill and back, about 20 miles: but the lowering grey clouds, and the fact that I'd done my usual, thought of all sorts of reasons why I shouldn't leave home in plenty of time, meant that I didn't start walking until almost noon. The old black barn at Truleigh Hill was in sight, though, when I turned back: so it was a good 17 miles before I got back to the car.
Now, if the gentleman with a Scots accent and a broadbrimmed cowboy style hat (and his wife) who I met just out of Saddlescombe reads this (very unlikely, because he wouldn't know where to look even if he were interested, which he probably isn't), then I owe you an apology.'I always feel better when I've got over Blackcap' I said. 'Is this Blackcap?' he enquired. 'Oh yes', I said with certainty. ''He and his wife looked at each other, eyebrows slightly raised 'There's another Blackcap, near Lewes', he remarked (with a slight Scots accent). I smiled at his ignorance, but let the remark pass as I went slowly up the hill.
It was only when I was cresting the hill that I realised that it was, in fact, Newtimber Hill: Blackcap was miles away, near- well, near Lewes, actually. Should I shout 'Hey, Scottish gentleman, this is Newtimber Hill!': or should I run down and tell him personally? I decided on neither, much to my relief. But, if you do happen to read this, Scottish gentleman, I'm sorry- really, really sorry.
I had my spag. bol. with pasta (couldn't find any spag.), then passed an hour and a half (!) online booking my Ryanair flight to Rimini, to watch Cameron represent the USA in the World Duathlon Champonships on September 28th. Still, I'm getting out there for £1 including taxes (special September offer!): although coming back will cost £20.99 plus £14.98 taxes: oh yes, and £16.00 to check in self and a bag... and £8.00 for airport check-in (can't do it on line with a bag!): and £8.00 for paying it all with a Debit card (how else could I pay? Can't send cash on line!) Then there's a taxi to and from Gatwick: and the coach from Gatwick to and from Stansted: and an extra night in Rimini because there's no flight back on the 29th and I've got to wait until 30th.... but £67.97 is still lots cheaper than Alitalia or BA, between £400 and £1,000+! (I don't want to buy the airline, I just want to hire a seat for a couple of hours each way)
It's my birthday! I telephoned Marian: she was engaged, so I left a message on her answerphone (in case the significance of the date had escaped her) 'Happy birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me, Happy birthday dear Harry, Happy Birthday to me'.
I was heartened, when I listened to the news, to find confirmation that I'd made the right choice by choosing Ryanair for my flight to Rimini. They really are the caring airline. Apparently (and this is true, folks, as Bob Monkhouse would say with a leer), a flight from London to Budapest had made an emergency stop at Frankfurt when a jar of mushroon soup in an overhead locker had leaked on to a passenger with a severe mushroom intolerance. His throat had swelled up, and an emergency landing was the only solution.
But, as Wogan said, if you are only allowed to carry a maximum of 100ml of any liquid on board, how had the mushroom soup escaped the eagle eyes of Customs?
Marian gave me my birthday presents, a kettle and a couple of singlets. Who ever said that romance was dead? But she did take me out to dinner later: and what's more, she did the driving!
We sorted out sizes and styles for the T shirts for the Grand Canyon: I got my dollars, and then bought myself a (weatherproof) digital camera for the Grand Canyon trek, and spent the evening trying to find out how it works! Trouble is with digitals, you can't really see what you're photographing when you're outside! Inside, no problems.
Sons Stewart and Mark telephoned, with grandchildren singing my song down the phone: and Salim dropped by as well. All inall, a good birthday!
It was after midday when I got up to Ditchling Beacon with my weatherproof digital camera. I wandered slowly along towards Blackcap, snapping everything that didn't move. Signposts, views, blackberries, pub signs, the meridian line on the pavement in Lewes (yes, I'd decided to get another Greenie panini, this time served by Mrs Greenie, as the last customer of the day before she closed sharp at 3!): all in close up as well as distant. I was really looking forward to an evening at home looking through them, to see if I'd mastered the art of overcoming camera wobble, getting things in focus, and operating the 5x zoom (and 8 megapixels!) satisfactorily, when- bingo, the message flashed on to the screen in electric blue 'Battery empty'! I'd only taken 34 photos!
The battery's on charge as I write: I'll let you know the outcome tomorrow
I'd been slightly taken aback as I dropped down past the prison in to Lewes (being careful not to do any filming in the area, to avoid being taken in for intensive interrogation), when an elderly gentleman came running down a side track to catch me up, and panted 'Excuse me. you don't know what time the cemetery closes, do you?' I explained that I was a visitor to the town, and lacked a working knowledge of local cemeteries. He thanked me and looked round for further help. A man in a flat cap, wth a dog, seemed to hold ot more hope
It was almost 7.30 when I got back to Ditchling Beacon: seven hours, and only 15 miles, having been sidetracked by my filming and the Mrs Greenie panini: a total of 57 miles for the week. I sighed. Not much I could do now, was there, as dusk settled in for the night
Well, the photos looked- all right. Just that- all right. I need a crash course on digital photography: and who better to admnister this than Richard. He'd actually come round to sort out my printer: but stayed for a couple of hours to teach me something about the amazing world of digital cameras. By the time he left, I was fired up with enthusiasm.
The day was getting steadily better. Sneha Patel, who has the most ravishing smile which lights up the entire room even on a gloomy day, was in the Post Office with her father Manhar (not surprisingly, as he is the Post Master), saved my morning by finding a parcel tube in which to send Sarah's trekking poles: then Manhar, already one of my sponsors (and his wife made it two) agreed to display my sponsor forms on the counter and put a suitably persuasive poster on the door (on the lines of Give! Give! Give!), whilst in the post were three copies of the Rotarian, from Jenny Llakmani in the USA, with a small article about my trek.
The Rotarian is everything that a 'club' magazine should be (and Rotary is a vast worldwide club, after all): our own British magazine has been revamped to be a sterile 'company' publication, polished and emasculated, and lacking complete interest. Pity: it used to be good, just like the American version
I had a long chat with Sarah about 'What to carry down the Grand Canyon'. Lots of liquid, a raintop, a light fleece, simple medical kit, toilet paper and a trowel (for 'you know what'): and of course, something compact to eat. She'd got a box of 24 energy Bars. How many should she bring with her? 24, I said.
Only five working days before we leave: and that ncludes two days 'training' and a day's hoovering and packing! Help! It was midday before I'd finished rummaging through my rucksacks to choose the right one, and rejected my filthy battered old Camelback water bladder which I doubted that not even neat Milton would sanitise sufficiently. I bought a new one, installed it in my rucksack, cut my sandwiches (cheese and pickle, since you ask) and set off for Ditchling Beacon where I left my National Trust membership card inside the windscreeen to placate the warden.
Another day of photography beckoned. But- every time I tried to focus the camera on this sunny day, all that I could see in the screen was my own reflection! I held it high and squinted through it on tiptoe: I held it low: I tried to catch it sideways on. All with the same result: me, and the hedge behind me, was all that filled the screen. Once or twice, by sheer chance, I caught a glimpse of the scene before me and snapped it hurriedly. But generally- zilch! I need help- and quickly!
It was sunny and blowing a gale: I walked down the track to the main Lewes to Brighton road, and was just about to trace my steps when I saw an advert for a Snack Bar (with customer toilet!) in the next layby. Well, if I couldn't have a Greenie panini, a snack bar cuppa was the next best thing. I went along the secluded private road that ran, hidden by trees and scrub, parallel with the main road. I found the missing link with the South Downs Way along this road and passed the gleaming water tap to which a filthy algal-green once clean bowl for dogs was chained- and there was the gleaming sterile palace-amongst-burger- vans for which I had been looking all my life.
'We're shut' said a nubile young lady, tipping a bowl of hot soapy water in to the gutter. Why do I have this effect on people? It was the same at Greenies on Friday (although there, they'd kept the cafe open in myhonour as I devoured my panini, with Mrs Greenie on guard inside the door to repel any other customers). I bought a Bannoffee Muffin for £1 (£1!: no wonder they could afford to close at 4pm) and set off through the fields and woods to join the main track near Blackcap, sucking on the bite valve of my new Camelback (actually, it was the English version, a Platypus, but not to worry) and wishing that I had a digital image of the view to fortify my evening. It was a long drag through windswept fields, but I perked up and strode out briskly as I reached the last long steady drag up to Ditchling Beacon. A young couple ahead of me were strolling hand in hand, pausing from time to time to admire the view. Worryingly, they were drawing steadily further ahead. I fear that both Sarah and Stewart will be even quicker. Even more worryingly, I had a faint hot spot under my left foot
Ted rang me this evening: he'd been one of the first Grand Canyon team, back in 2002, together with Gary, Jimmy, Carol, Malcolm and myself, and he and Gary had been taking part last month in the 400 mile canoe race in northern Canada. At least they'd got back in one piece, he said!
Apparently the other crews were rather better trained: and they'd shot off in to the distance from the start leaving Ted and Gary to concentrate on finishing. As they reached a forty mile by five mile lake, a storm had blown up: they'd capsized (fortunately near the shore) but managed to put up their tent and extract dry clothes from a sealed storage bag, light a fire and wait for rescue. They'd actually started again: but by that time the checkpoints had stood down, a further storm blew up, and after another twenty hours huddled round a fire on the bank, they'd been 'rescued'.
Ted's thinking of doing triathlons next year now, to celebrate his 50th birthday: less challenging than trekking the Grand Canyon or cyclng across Iceland, as he'd done last year, and by the way, did I want him to get me some sponsors?
Today wasn't scheduled as a training day: which was a good thing, because it was blowing a gale and rain was lashing down. I looked at my huge list of Things To Do Before We Leave, so today would be a Day To Do Things. I bought an electrical adaptor for the USA, and spare battery for my point-and-click Olympus camera for good old fashioned slides. £6.99? You must be joking.
Bodily functions down in the Grand Canyon are strictly regulated: used toilet paper has to be backpacked out, so I bought a pack of tie up freezer bags. 'Human waste' (how can I put this delicately?) has to be buried, many yards from the trail. A metal trowel would set the alarm bells ringing at the airports: so I went round the Garden Centres, and finally Woolworths, looking for something sturdy and plastic. I confided in a lady shop assistant at Woolworths: and to her everlasting credit, she didn't even smile. 'Are you the gentleman who does these walks and things?' she enquired. She nodded sagely when I said 'Yes'. All was now explained, it implied. She thought that plastic kitchen utensils would be too fragile to excavate the rocky terrain of the Grand Canyon: in the end, we settled on a sturdy bright yellow transparent ice cream scoop costing 50p, a sort of human Pooper Scooper. One things certain, I'll have to soak it overnight in neat Milton when I get home before I can deal out the vanilla and chocolate chip (only joking, we hate vanilla!)
Jenny Parnwell's son and a friend are once again doing the Fowey Triathlon this coming Sunday to raise money, and Peter Kaye has been roped in as starter. I sent a parcel of leaflets, wristbands and ribbon badges. It was about time to contact David Turvey, as well, I thought: he, his brother Peter and Kate, the wife of the third brother Ian were doing the Coast to Coast Walk this weekend to raise funds, and I wanted to make sure that they got their T shirts and wristbands in time. Naturally, they'd probably need to wash them on a twelve day, 192 mile Lakeland walk: so I put in two T shirts for each of them.
It was this coming weekend, wasn't it? A horrid thought was crossing my mind. I clicked on to their JustGiving site: both David and Peter had raised almost £1,000 each. My stomach missed a beat (no, that's wrong, surely? Anyway, you know what I mean). They were starting the walk tomorrow: and I was so ashamed, I'd allowed them to go without my thanks and appreciation for what they were doing. Peter, David and Ian are the same ages as our three sons Mark, Stewart and Cameron: they'd all gone to school together, and when Myfanwy and myself went on that first major Felbridge Juniors tour to Trinidad and Tobago, Gary and Hilary Turvey had looked after all six boys for the fortnight! Now, I felt that I'd really let them all down!
I telephoned David's work, just on the offchance that they'd postponed the walk by a day (as you do: NOT!). No, they'd all left a couple of hours ago. But they gave me David's mobile number: and I rang him in the car (Gary was driving, not him!) and arranged for the parcel to be freighted up overnight to brother Ian!
I was really, really ashamed that I'd neglected to get to these old friends before they left: we all get home on the same day, September 16th, and we'll all meet up as soon as possible after that
I wrote to Sharon Colclough, CEO of Queen Victoria Hospital. We'd donated £20,000 to fnd the initial appointment of a specialist skn cancer nurse in their rapidly expanding MASCU (Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit) eighteen months earlier: and, despite several letters, we'd heard nothing about progress since then. My most recent letter had been on August 3rd: I'd had a reply on August 11th from the Exective Assistant to the Chief Executive saying 'Your letter is important to us and deserves an immediate response: however Mrs Colclough and Sally Flint are out of the office. Your letter will be addressed upon their return'. Well, three weeks had passed and presumably neither of them had found their way back to the office: otherwise, they'd have replied, wouldn't they?
So I suggested that perhaps we might meet at the public meeting about the future development of the hospital on Thursday evening: and unless she replies by return, I'll have to go along! Hope she replies: I need every minute I can get before we set off for the Grand Canyon!
Boy, was it a busy day! First thing was to write a Press Release that would have Health and Features Editors leaping to their word processors and yelling 'Hold the front page!' I sent it to fifty media outlets: it immediately drew ten Auto Replies, warning me not to expect too much, a reply from Alex Lester saying he'd told me before that they couldn't mention individual Charities by name (so he had: the great thng was, that he'd remembered! Either he's got a great memory, or he doesn't get many e-mails: but it was really nice of him, all the same) Mark Carter, of BBC Southern Counties, is trying to get a broadcasting 'first': a live hook-up from the bottom of the Grand Canyon: and I did a pre-recorded interview with Petrina of Radio Mercury in Crawley.
Kathleen from Banstead telephoned me: she's organising a dance at the end of October to raise money for Myanwy's Charity and MacMillans Nurses, divided between us, and wanted leaflets and background information about Myfanwy's Charity
I went along to see fellow Rotarian and chiropractic magician Alan Smith for my pre-Grand Canyon service. He really is a magician: with a little pressure on precise places he can inactivate (or, in my case, re-activate) entire muscle groups. He identified the left shoulder and right knee as being below par: and he was right! Half an hour on the table, and I could use both to full effect. The right knee, that I thought had magically righted itself a fortnight ago, really was alright now: I could walk up the stairs without even minimal reliance on the banisters. I (almost) skipped out of his surgery!
The Great British Duck Race had taken place on the Thames last weekend, so I was informed by Sabina Smith by e-mail: and we'd missed it! 175,000 ducks: and Rambo hadn't been amongst them! Never mind, next year we'll get him in training well in advance: and then the other 174,999 had better look out. But I was sorry for Kirsty, who'd sorted out our entry for us: and I'd let her down! Perhaps she'll volunteer to be offical Duck Trainer next year?
But wait a minute! Sabina went on to say that they hadn't lost a single duck! They'd all been rounded up and sent off for recycling! Thank goodness Rambo hadn't been there: we'd never met, but I still felt a sort of closeness
I was half listening to BBC2 when I half heard of another gripping World Record: in Sydney, Australia, 265 people wearing stiletto heels (not all of them women, let alone ladies) had taken part in a single race thus setting a NEW World Record for Most People Wearing Stiletto Heels Taking Part In A Singe Race! How far? Don't know. Who won? Don't know. I'll try to find out more: and when I do, I'll let you know! But as they say, it's the taking part, not the winning, that counts
I wandered in to Boots by 9am: Helen was waiting with good news, the Tommy Hilfiger designer sun glasses were on their way (free!) and would be with us today! I don't know how she did it, but we're really grateful. I collected the super light, breathable Grand Canyon T shirts from Clem at Wealden Workwear on the way home: Jenny's done a fantastic job, and they look really good. Lots of jobs to do in the next 60 hours before we're sitting in the large taxi on the way to Gatwick!
I sorted out my plants for Pete next door, who's going to keep an eye on them whilst we're away: then it was time to go for the final pre-Grand Canyon walk. Rain was teeming down: but I still put my trust in the weather forecast, which promised scattered showers in the afternoon rather than a steady downpour!
I didn't want to go up on the Downs because a) it would take a couple of hours just driving, and I didn't have time to spare and b) I didn't fancy taking a tumble on the slippery stony track with the Grand Canyon so near. I opted for the railway line (no, not dodging trains! The Worth Way towards Crawley) I'd got that distance from home where there was no turning back when the first heavy shower broke. I spent twenty minutes trying in vain to shelter under a large tree, and spent the time trying to master my camera by taking inspiring artistic photos of hedges and fences, and a large stream that was steadily widening along the track. It didn't rain for a further twenty minutes: in fact, it didn't really start until I'd taken off the rain top and stuffed it in to my rucksack. Anyway, I did a brisk ten miles before I got home: an hour to see Pete and take him round my plants, wash, change and get to the Hospital Meeting. There was a message waiting for me from Sally Flint, the Finance Manager, suggesting that we might meet before the meeting: and we cleared up a lot of misunderstandings. Basically, there is every chance that the MASCU Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit) at Queen Vic. will become the Centre of Excellence in the South East it's being discussed last week and next week, and by the time I get back plans will be well advanced. How about popping in for a cup of tea and a chat when you get back? suggested Sally. Good idea: I'll reserve judgement until then
Lynn Hunter-Rowe, the Executive Assistant to the Senior Executive and who'd written that letter of August 11th, introduced herself: I was impressed, not merely by her working title, but by the fact that she was the sister-in-law of the legendary ultra-runner Caroline Hunter-Rowe
I went home and tried on my designer sun glasses. I looked very dashing
The Procrastinators Society had named this day in 1997 National Be Late For Something Day, I'd learnt from the Daily Express. Apparently, several members had decided to celebrate the following day instead. Hope they've remembered to celebrate the anniversary today .... or tomorrow
I found out from Mark this morning, who gave me another memory stick and an attachment that enables me to plug this in to my computer for instant viewing, that I've got two readers of my 'blog', as he put it: Sarah across the road, and his sister in law Ally (or was it Sue?) both read my 'diary', which as I pointed out to him is not a 'blog'!
I dropped in to see Dr Dunstan to try to blag a prescription for those celebrated 'stopper-uppers', Immodium. I felt a little uneasy at the prospect of using my yellow pooper scooper behind a bush deep down in the Grand Canyon. He greeted me with the words 'In which particular act of lunacy are you about to indulge this time?' He raised his eyebrows slightly when I told him
Anyway it was another busy day: I took a couple of T shirts in for Charmaine (plus a bottle of wine!), and checked that my Sponsor Forms were available at the King Centre. We've got some £95,000 raised from this year: but only about 1,600 sponsors! I've distributed over 5,000 forms: and only some 200+ have found their way back. But, on the 'plus' side, so many people have organised fund raising events: and their generosity has funded the impetus of ths wonderful year.
I took some roses to Myfanwy's grave: her birthday is the day before we trek the Grand Canyon
BBC Southern Counties rang: I was invited to be their Prime Minister For the Day, and given almost ten minutes to talk about things that I would do if this was my elected post! First was a plea for a more active lifestyle for everybody: everybody can enjoy SOMETHING active, and it's not necessary to excel but essential to enjoy. Sport and recreation of every form should be affordable for all.
The second was the need to take health checks to the public. We've got mobile breast screening vans: melanoma screening, with early diagnosis, is also essential. As you know, we as a Charity aim to get mobile mole checks 'on the street' (a man in a van): to factories,shooping centres, beaches, everywhere that crowds can be found. But before that, you've got to check your own and your partners moles: and if you see a mole that's changing noticeably, go to the doctor NOW: not next week, NOW, and you might just have saved your life.
There's a chance also that we might get the 'hook-up' from the bottom of the Grand Canyon that I mentioned yesterday: I've got to ring from down in the Grand Canyon, and see if they can hear me on the Breakfast Show!
Well, you won't hear from me again for ten days: so here's a story that I heard today, about the vet in Hesketh that found thirteen golf bals in the stomach of a labrador. It's owner had taken the dog to the vet, because he was worried about the way that it rattled as it ran.Said the vet 'We thought we'd find three or four, but they just kept coming'
It's been the greyest summer since records began: but these sunny moments of so many great fundraisers have lightened it up for us all
The alarm went off at 0500. Marian groaned: 'I never get up at this time of the morning!' Little did we think that it would be eighteen hours before we reached our room at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas. Fortunately, it was one of the smaller hotels, with less than 3,000 rooms, so that registration only took fifteen minutes or so. The lady behind me in the queue told me how, a week ago, they'd queued for an hour to reach a reception desk staffed by a dozen young ladies exhibiting various levels of boredom: after all, they had 7,000 guests to welcome that day!
There appears to be an unwritten law in Las Vegas hotels that, no matter from which direction punters approach the Reception desk, they have to walk through half a mile of slot machines: the Imperial Palace was no exception.
Thanks to Charmaine, we'd enjoyed the luxurious Super Economy status of Virgin Atlantic, welcomed with a glass of champagne: we'd flown over the Nevada desert and the vast salt lakes, with Las Vegas a haphazard splodge of buildings in the mountain ringed desert punctuated by a small area of skyscrapers that became The Strip from ground level.
When we landed, we were met by a wall of 100F+ heat: it literally knocked us back after an airconditioned flight in which we'd fought for blankets to keep warm! Sarah was there to meet us: then we went off to collect our super 4 x 4. Alan loves driving on the right, apparently: he and Brenda guided us through the back and side streets of Las Vegas to the vast parking lot of the Imperial Palace: so vast that the parking attendants used bicycles to get round!
We fell asleep for four hours, without even trying: then we all went for supper at the Breakfast Bar. As the casinos are active non-stop, breakfast lasts for twenty four hours also: then we got another two hours sleep, woke in the dark, and tossed and turned until the Las Vegas dawn broke
We had proper breakfast at Betty's (Ugly Betty's): then I took the 'team' on a sightseeing forced march. We visited the Venetian, with the unisex powered gondolas taking punters on a first floor canal ride to St Mark's Square amidst the upmarket shopping malls: we strolled past the lofty waterfalls and through the long and lofty gallery, the arched roof painted in gold like the Sistine Chapel. Then we walked through the heat for a mile or so to the Stratosphere, for lunch in Roxy's (a reproduction of a 50's eatery). I told the singing waiter that it was Marian's birthday: it wasn't, but it was worth it, as she was serenaded by a flock of waiters singing Happy Birthday.
Treasure Island came as night fell: the galleons in the lake outside fought out a pitched battle every ninety minutes, with the ships in flames and nubile young ladies falling from the rigging clad only in bikinis. It was all pure kitsch, and I loved it!
The spray painter capturing views of Las Vegas captured our attention and occupied half an hour (mnust buy one of these, but dounbt that I could affords it!) He must get as high as a kite: even standing on the sidewalk, we felt heady! Then early to bed: the north rim of the Grand Canyon beckoned tomorrow
Early breakfast at Ugly Betty's: Sarah had had bad news, her daughter's father in law had been taken in to hospital with a heart attack and she needed to get back home to Devon as soon as possible. The earliest was 0800 on Friday, which meant a quick trek across the Grand Canyon and a speedy drive back to Las Vegas. The additional price quoted by the airline for this emergency return was £660.00! We rang to make sure half an hour later and it was now £157.00! There's no answer to that: hopefully it will be covered by insurance, but that's got to be argued out after she gets home.
We left the Imperial Palace at 0950, driving through the sparse vegetation of the desert with the distant mountains like paper cutouts against the skyline. Past the prison area far out amidst the palms and cacti lined roads: strangely, there was a prominent roadside sign HITCHHIKING PROHIBITED.
We passed signs to The Lost City and The Hidden Valley: but we couldn't find them as we flashed past. Distances are vast: a sign read Salt Lake City 400, whilst the lady at the end of the Sat Nav had an easy job: 'continue on E89 for 55 miles', for instance.
The landscape was dotted with creosote bushes and Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia); the story that the Joshua Tree grew only above elevatations of 3,000 ft seemed to have some credibility, as it appeared and disappeared as the road rose and fell. Perhaps old wives tales really can be true sometimes!
Through Nevada and in to Utah and then Arizona: only the speed limits varied until we came in to vast fields of wild sunflowers nodding their heads beside the roads. We didn't stop for more than 100 miles: then we drove in to a roadside diner at St Georges to get a subway sandwich. The girl behind the counter had never travelled far beyond this small isolated town. Her boyfriend was going to work in London: she'd lke to go with him to find out what it was like. I'm afraid that it would be a massive culture shock: I hoped desperately that she wouldn't go, but couldn't really say so.
After 261 miles we rolled in to the North Rim village. We had two Pioneer Cabins: log cabins, each with two rooms that slept two, and divided by a central shower, washbasin and toilet. Marian and myself would share with Stewart: Sarah with Alan and Brenda. $119.00 for each cabin for two days. There was nowhere else within 50 miles, until you reached Fredonia outside the park boundary, excet the camp site beside the general store: nowhere to eat except the dimly lit dining room at The Lodge, or The Deli in the Pines, unless you fancied a doughnut (not the sort that we have at home, they don't know how to make them properly in the USA!), a coffee, or a beer in the Saloon. The Post Office was a narrow grille in the wall between the Saloon and the Gift Shop: whilst you could get advice, maps and books at the Visitor Centre. It was immaculate and compact.
We ate a very average meal in the Dining Room in the gathering dusk beneath the low energy bulbs (it was very 'green'!) and had an early night. Again, we couldn't sleep: we were too keyed up for the challenge ahead, I guess
Breakfast at Deli in the Pines. We scanned the menu eagerly: we liked the Trekkers Breakfast, eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns.... We seized the cardboard containers that appeared over the counter as if by magic eagerly. Marian ripped her's open, eager to see real bacon and eggs... If only we'd read the menu more carefully, and not been seduced by our hunger, we'd have realised that we'd actually bought frittatas! Frittatas have everything mixed up together in a sort of culinary cement mixer, processed, nauseous flavour added, and cooked by some mysterious process to be transformed in to big dollops that looked and tasted like Playdough. But we were hungry, so we ate it. Then we explored the trails and viewpoints around the North Rim: rain and thunder rimmed the distant Canyons.
We drove a couple of miles to the trailhead of the North Kaibab Trail. The car park was full of cars parked by 'day trekkers: the mules that ferried non-walkers down to Indian Gardens looked balefully down from their tree-shaded corral. We strolled down the gently graded path for a couple of hundred yards, and took the obligatory photographs. Little did we realise that, round the next bend, it changed- dramatically!
But the Grand Canyon is magnificent: I'd trekked rim to rim in 2002 with the BA Rugby Gang, and walked from the South Rim to the Colorado River and back in 1992, and these treks had begun a 'love affair' that will never end. I enthused non-stop to Alan, Brenda, Marian and Sarah. Stewart soon arrived by car from Las Vegas, and we stocked up at the Store on high energy foods to add to the Go Bars that Sarah had brought. Salted peanuts, Pringles, Lucozde drinks: the worst thing down in the Grand Canyon is to run out of drink (dehydration) and energy foods. 40 people a year, we read, are brought out by Search and Rescue annually: most from dehydration.
We were scheduled to ring BBC Southern Counties to do a 'live' broadcast from deep in the Grand Canyon: but there was no reception for cell phones from the North Rim at all, let alone down in the Canyon. Even worse, we couldn't ring them to tell them this! I imagined the tense audience of millions.... well, thousands.... alright, one or two.... waiting tensely for the hook-up. Sorry about that. Stewart had covered this eventuality and brought along two hand held radios, one for use down in the Canyon, the other for Alan and his crew on the rim. We agreed that, to conserve the batteries, we wouldn't use this until 4pm (we started at 0600). This, as it turned out, was a mistake as you'll find later!
So, early night: but again, little sleep as we ticked off the hours until the alarm went off at 0400
The big day! I wasn't just awake at 0400: I'd been preparing to be awake for the past three hours, day sack packed beside the bed. Neither Stewart nor myself could face the rapidly stale-ing breakfast rolls: Brenda made a couple of cups of tea: and Sarah, myself and Stewart put on our special Grand Canyon T shirts (breathable, thanks to Clem at Wealden Workwear) and our UV protective, long sleeved shirts and back-flapped caps from Sun Protection. Day sacks were heavy with camelbacks full of water, and bottles of Lucozade, Go Bars, peanuts and Pringles. It was still dark at 0545 as we all piled in to Alan's car and set off for the Trail Head.
Obligatory photos, standing proudly in shirts, then T shirts, holding our trekking poles in heroic pose. Dawn was breaking oer the trees: and at 0615 we were OFF. Soon- in fact, VERY soon, the trail curved steeply down hill. The vista of the Grand Canyon gradually opened through the thinning trees: the 'finely graded track' of the Guide Books was rock strewn whilst, as the gradients became steeper, logs slanted across the trail to take run-off water and stop the trail eroding during the winter storms.
There were deep pits behind the logs. Even deeper pits the other side: I needed trekking poles to ease my way over these. Stewart strode ahead, waiting at the corners. Sarah was itching to move faster, I could see: she bent over me solicitously. I was happy at my own pace: but time constraints meant less available time, and the day was rapidly becoming lighter- and hotter!
Deep down in the Canyon, my trekking pole found a hole as I turned a sharp hairpin bend, and my knee gave way (the same knee that had been troubling me through the summer) and I fell heavily, sprawling on my back amidst the undergrowth. Also, my shoes were slipping: too big by far!
Two hours or more down into the Canyon, the same thing happened again, and I cut elbow and thigh: and soon, I was going even slower, testing every step across the rocks and logs. Stewart and Sarah set me in a corner and put it to me that I was slowing everything down: and I agreed to make my way back up to the top and let them continue so that Team Harry could complete the Challenge and claim the sponsor money. They were totally right: I'd completed the rim to rim six years earlier relatively easily, but this would have been harder than hard. Iwas totally 'gutted': I don't 'do' failure, and this was one of the worst moments of my fundraising, particularly as this was to have been my last 'Challenge'. Well, it really was!
I made my way back, passing other trekkers striding carefree down the track: at the top of the North Kaibab, I stood miserably, looking for the support crew of Alan, Brenda and Marian. But they were long gone, on their way to the South Rim to meet us. Ironically, we couldn't make contact through either mobile or cell phones: and to save power, they'd agreed not to turn on the radio phones until 4pm to save power! So nobody knew where I was!
A gentleman who roamed the country in his trailer home (I don't need a woman around me all the time!, he said robustly) gave me a lift back to the North Rim: all I had was the key to Stewart's car, $80.00 that I'd borrowed from him, an old vest and my raintop plus my Go bars, peanuts and Pringles: oh yes, and my water and Lucozade.
I put my gear in the car, and wandered down to the Deli in the Pines for a cup of tea. I tried to keep out of the way of people who knew me. I tried to ring Alan, but to no avail. Apparently, they'd set off before 0800: and by now, they were safely ensconced on the South Rim, just about to ring Stewart to find out when we'd be popping up out of the Grand Canyon for tea and cakes!
There wasn't much to do at the North Rim. I went to a lecture by one of the Rangers about the re-introduction of the giant condor to the Grand Canyon, which was very interesting: I sat in the lounge beside the dining hall looking out over the Grand Canyon: had another semi-inedible meal at the Deli in the Pines: and when it all sghut for the night (about 9.30pm), went back to Stewart's car, put on my raintop and tried to get to sleep in the passenger seat as I couldn't open anything else. It was very cold: so I pulled the rain top over my head and warmed myself up by breathing down it, very much as a dog sleeps with it's tail to it's nose so that it can do it's own bit of thermal warming
Apparently Stewart and Sara had reached Indian Gardens, less than 5 miles from the South Rim, by about 7pm: but they were very tired, and decided to huddle up under a picnic table beneath an awning to grab some sleep for few hours and re-stock. They reached the South Rim by 0930 next morning: what a fantastic achievement, trekking the Grand Canyon rim to rim non-stop!
But they didn't have time for sightseeing! Everybody piled in to Alan's car, and drove the 215 miles round to the North Rim to pick me up. Meanwhile, I'd gone on a guilt-ridden sightseeing limp round the rim trails to the various viewpoints, feeling worse (mentally) by the minute. When they got back, I presented Stewart and Sarah with special T shirts saying 'I hiked the Canyon': and I kept one for myself, to remind me that I had to earn it again, some time....
Marian and myself travelled the 261 miles back to Best Western in Las Vegas with Stewart: he was on a tight time schedule, as was Sarah.
The Best Western is wonderful, just off The Strip: a small hotel (only about 300 rooms!), all the rooms opened on to a long balcony overlooking a garden and swimming pool. Rooms are great: an all in one sitting and sleeping space, where any single man (or woman, for that matter!) could be happy
We had an in-depth discussion about the sponsorship angle of my failure: some 1,600 people had generously sponsored me with about £6,000, plus about £90,000 raised from so many fundraising events I felt immense responsibility to them all. But it was agreed that, as 'Team Harry' had trekked the Canyon, the sponsorship should stand: and I just hope that you, the readers, will all agree. But I've got to put it right later....
I was up at 0400 to thank Sarah for all that she'd done and to wish her well: she was off to Bristol via New York to help her daughter in this immense emergency
Stewart picked up his boss at Las Vegas Airport a few hours later and set off for Lone Pine, at the far end of Death Valley
Stewart and his boss climbed Mount Whitney, the highest mountain (14,000ft+) in the (contiguous) United States: hard going, with a 0400 start and a late evening finish, after which Stewart (kept awake by his boss!) drove the 200+ miles back to Las Vegas to grab a few hopurs sleep before flying home to Nashville next day. It had been a fantastic achievement: trekking the Grand Canyon rim to rim one day, driving some 1,000 miles, and then climbing the highest mountain in the USA. He's a wonderful son, as are Mark and Cameron, and I'm so blessed
Meanwhile, Alan, Brenda, Marian and myself set off on the obligatory sightseeing tour to Death Valley. Lunch at Furnace Creek, a drive round the Painter's Palette, then Badwater, 280ft below sea level, where the salty spring bubbles out of the ground and all around stretch the immense salt flats, as far as the eye can see! I tasted the wonderful salty salt: and this time, I brought a small phial back with me to lick in moments of sheer nostalgia.
My only regret was not taking the others to have a meal at Stovepipe Wells, where I'd stayed with Stewart, Krysta, Ronan and Alice a few years earlier, and the chance to walk the vast shifting sand dunes.
But it was a wonderful day: yet, at the back of my mind, I felt this nagging sense of failure
Last day, this visit, at Las Vegas. Presents to buy, sights to see. I bought a spray painted picture of the fountains outside the hotel, an original Tony Vegas! I could smell the acrylic spray paint even through the cellophane envelope: but at $39, it was too good an offer to resist. It will look good in the toilet beside the New Zealand ea towel Haka and the caricature of the England team that won the 2003 Rugby World Cup!
Marian and myself paid a visit to the Stratosphere, and after a 'fix' at Roxy's Diner (didn't tell them it was Marian's birthday this time) we zoomed up the 1,000ft+ tower to the sight seeing gallery. Las Vegas looked suddenly insignificant amidst the vastness of the desert: The Strip was hard to find, from high in the sky! The rides are terrifying: the 'Upside Down Bungy Jump' and the spin on the giant Grab at the end of a crane over the 1,000ft drop down to the Las Vegas Wedding Parlour ($99) and the Quickie Divorce Centre (same price, but not necessarily on the same day!) far below!
Time to go home! Alan and Brenda are such great friends, and without them, and th support of Charmaine at Hallmark Travel, none of this would have been possible! Only one thing marred it: but you know all about that! They took us to the airport: they're stopping for a further week sightseeing and travel. I'll give them a week after they get back, then we've got to get to stuck in to negotiating to set up the first Mobile Mole Clinic Unit (Man in a Van!)
Alan, who is a born manager and negotiator, is interested to oversee this if we can get it organised in the West Country: bt there's a lot to do before we can get it 'on the road'!
They dropped us off at Las Vegas Airport. 'There it is, Virgin American!' said Alan: and Marian and myself tumbled out of the car and raced for the desk to try to book an aisle seat. The young lady behind the desk beamed at us condescendingly: 'This is Virgin American!', she said. ''You want Virgin Atlantic: next terminal down the road, about ten minutes and then turn left!'
Trolleys at US Airports demand a $3.00 donation: you receive an incentive reward of 25c when you check it in! But it was worth $3 to trundle our bags down to the next terminal. Unfortunately, on the plane we were greeted by a steward who'd not only trekked the Grand Canyon many times, he'd made a special effort to be on that flight to greet us! I felt a little uncomfortable as he greeted us with a glass of champagne
Gatwick: and a taxi home. The big problem: how was I going to face so many people who had sent me off with such high expectations? Well, tell the truth, Harry: I fell, I failed, but at least I tried! But there was such a lot to do this week: and the first thing on the agenda was to meet Debra Davis, whose husband had worked for many years at mediacom before he sadly die of melanoma and whose friends there are eager to come on board with help, and the next day to meet Katie Clarke and Jacqui Stead of Smith and Nephew before I went to Rimini next weekend to support youngest son, selected for the USA team in the World Duathlon Championships the coming weekend
This was a great day: I really felt that at last we'd made a major breakthrough. I started off really early, and still only just managed to get to Borehamwood almost on time to meet Katie Clarke and Jacqui Stead of Smith and Nephew. It will be fantastic to have them on board for a year: and they were going on to their area meetings the next day before meeting their overall manager a month or so later. They can do so much to increase awareness of melanoma, they are such a big player multinationally in the pharmaceutical world.
Lois and Louise, two 6th Formers, had organised the annual Staff/Student Quiz at local Sackville School, and this year that'd named Myfanwy's Charity as the beneficiary They'd invited me to come along and say a few words before the start about the Charity, and whywe were doing what we are: and, they informed me later, they raised £730.00 from the evening including innovative moments like inviting teams to donate £10 to dock 10 points from another team. Strangely, the Headmistress' team seemed to suffer most! 10.30, and tme to go home. Good job I'd packed earlier in the evening, because my taxi was booked for 0400 next morning and it meant a 0300 alarm call to get a bite of breakfast first!
Yes, you've guessed! 0400 taxi: and by 0500 I was on the National Express going, not just to Heathrow, but a three hour ride to Stansted!But it was worth it! Ryanair had an offer of £1 per flight (!): and, including the return flight plus £24 for the privilege of taking a bag and checking it through, I still only paid £67 for the entire return flight to Rimini! The taxi driver had suggested that it would have been much easier to take a taxi all the way to Stansted: £75 each way, that's all, and think of the comfort. He went quiet when I told him that, as a Senior Citizen (OAP to you) I was paying only £17.75 return from Gatwick including insurance.
I took my own sandwiches (cheese and pickle, of course!), as you have to buy on-board meals. I got to the hotel before Cameron: in fact, he was quite late. He was in the USA team for the World Duathlon Championships that weekend (run 10k, cycle 30k, run 5k): and his bike (can't do without it in an event like this!) had gone missing at Rome. He'd found it in the end, standing (in it's carrying case, of course!) between two carousels: and then, having missed his flight, the bike had gone astray again at Rimini along with four others!
Found it! After lots of effort by the girl behind the desk at the hotel, the airline had been persuaded to deliver it direct: so Cameron put the bike together, had it tuned by the US team mechanics, and took it for a training spin. Yes, you're right! He got a puncture: and it was bach to the mechanics because these high pressure tyres (100psi+) need 24 hours to bed down!
Race day: and Cameron did brilliantly, 19th out of 105! I was so proud of him, and so happy to be there! That night, there was the celebration dinner for all the riders and teams from around the world (and their fathers, if they happened to be there!): and by the time we'd all staggered back to our hotels, it was 01.30 and Cameron (good job he'd dismantled and packed his bike earlier!) had to be up at 0400 to catch his flight back to the USA. I went down to wave him off in the taxi: then it was back to bed. It seemed that, alone amongst the 1,000+ people involved in the race (apart from the British team, who like me had cheap flights by Ryanair!), I was staying a further day and night! I negotiated a cheap rate (the hotels and travel agents had 'seen the athletes coming' judging by the rates charged during race weekend): and I spent a peaceful day sighgtseeing, away from the wall to wall sunbathers that constituted Rimini in summer, and strolled round the beautiful old walled town and port
Back to Stansted: three hours on the National Express to Gatwick: an hour's wait at Gatwick: and back home to another mountain of mail and e-mails! Lots of spam, as well! I've got sixteen talks booked before the end of October, as well!
You'll remember, before I went to the Grand Canyon, that David, Peter and Kate Turvey were walking the 190 mle Coast to Coast Walk to raise money for Myfanwy's Charity. Well, there was a telephone call from David: and when I went down to Interlink to see him, he gave me a blow by blow description of the entire twelve day walk inlcuding a photograph of 'the team' paddling in the sea at Robin Hood's Bay to prove that they'd done it! The weather had been appalling: in fact, on one day, a Lakeland farmer (at whose farm they lodged one night), informed them that he was sleeping in late that mornng because nobody in their right mind would go up on the Fells in weather like that! They reckoned that they only had two non-rainy days: but they did it, with memories to last them a lifetime, and raised almost £3,000!
Elizabeth Leay, from next door, who works at the Caravan Club, had persuaded the editor of their monthly magazine to do a 'book review' of The Slowest Pilgrim: and she brought round my 'complimentary copy'. She'd hardly gone when the postman arrived with a half a dozen orders for the book!
Good or bad news? The East Grinstead Courier has merged with the East Grinstead Observer (our two local newspapers, in case you were wondering): and Sheila Gow rang me to catch up on the Canyon. She's been a good friend over the years, more of a gently philosophical than an investigative journalist. I hadn't been avoiding the local press: but I hadn't gone out of my way to find them until I'd got my head round what had happened. But I just 'told it as it was': I'd given it my best shot. Seven successful 'Challenges', including the Grand Canyon six years earlier: but I don't suppose this will get a mention. Never mind, as long as the Charity gets some space, that's what it's all about
The new East Grinstead Courier and Observer is out! Was I in it (hope not, perhaps a paragraph on page 11 or so)?
I needn't have worried. It was obviously a slow news week: the placards outside the corner shop read (in big capital letters!) CANYON TREK: HARRY RETURNS.No, I wasn't on page 11: I'd got the top half of page 7 with two photos! Why, oh why, can't we get this much space to tell people why we're doing what we are? But Sheila had been very kind. No, she hadn't mentioned the previous seven 'Challenges': but she did get in what we were doing, and the fact that we'd raised about £100,000 this year. Just got to go along with it, keep my head down, and plan for all the great fundraising that we're doing in the future.
I soon got proof that people read the local paper: people crossed the road to avoid catching my gaze, and those that couldn't murmured sympathetically
Book orders have tailed off a bit: but I've still sold 22 (three by telephone!)
Marian and myself went to Queen Victoria Hospital (Queen Vic) to meet Finance Director Sally Flint and a colleague. You'll remember that we'd had misgivings about the inaction on the £20,000 donation that we'd given eighteen months earlier to fund the initial appointment of a specialist skin cancer nurse in their MASCU (Melanoma and Skin Cancer Unit): well, it's all about to happen and after lengthy negotiations, the MASCU will be very prominent in Sussex and West Kent. She showed me the plaque that's going to be put up: they want us to put a small garden there, which their own garden staff will tend' on the theme of 'The Darker Side of the Sun', and we're to have regular meetings to see if we can have more involvement. This close link with Queen Vic is what we've wanted since we started: so it was great news!
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