What's this all about?

A new adventure beckons, and this is once again about my personal journey to make it happen.

It might make you laugh; it might make you cry, but by 'eck lads and lasses, it will be worth a quick skeg every now and then, tha's for sure.

Monday, 26 March 2012

There's only one way; the 'Mafia' way

Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd March saw a VERY busy week for me peak with my stand at the Yorkshire Mafia Conference in the Royal Armouries, Leeds.

I had visited the stand on Tuesday morning, after another PT session at Iveridge Hall and then racing to Ossett to pick up 'the flag' from those lovely people known as Rushfirth Creative.

Howard is a tad camera-shy, as was Kathryn (not that you'd know it ... lens-hogger)

The trip to see the layout at the Yorkshire Mafia Conference also meant I could check that those other jolly nice people at Prego Events had not faced any undue hiccups when delivering 'Peter the Polar Bear'; they let me use 'Pete' for the exhibition in exchange for getting their logo #ontheflag. Chris at Prego had called to say they were on their way to deliver the bear and I was supposed to be there to receive it, but was running a wee bit late. Fortunately 'Pete' was there when I arrived, and so it was off to Manchester to work.

Wednesday morning duly arrived and I set off in the beautiful Yorkshire sunshine with my bottles of water and sundry 'kit' for the stand, ready to help inform the swarms of interested passers-by with one of the all encompassing North Pole Trek business cards, as well as encourage them to empty their pockets into one of my collection buckets.

As I arrived the other Geoff (aka 'big Geoff', because of his status as 'Don' of the Yorkshire Mafia - no double entendre's here thank you very much) was already directing exhibitors and nervously biting what nails he had left. Without doubt organising this sort of event, with several multi-£millionaire speakers and lots of nervy exhibitors, meant he'd had several restless nights but here he stood, like a gargantuan of industry, leading the charge for Yorkshire business.

Or maybe he just looked like a bouncer at a posh 1980's nightclub; your choice.

For the first hour, a few attendees at the conference milled around checking out which exhibition stands they wanted to look at later, but most of the discussion was between the exhibitors, either checking out the competition or trying to understand what the heck was going on at Stand 24.

For me it was a good corner in the main hall as 'the neighbours' (Direct Voice & Data, Mitrefinch, Mosaic Events, Redvoice [with the lovely Helen] and Claritas Solutions [with the lovely and ever-so helpful Dee]) were supportive.

Dee and Helen even looked after my stand on the rare occasions @suebecks and I were temporarily unavailable. Sue was brilliant, taking two days annual leave from Hallam University to help me out, and eagerly capturing people's attention as they passed-by. In fact, every time I left the stand, when I came back either Sue or Dee had more people around them than I ever did !!

A highlight of Wednesday was just how many people wanted a photo taken with #peterthepolarbear  (below are just a few of the people), and it only cost them £1.

Even a photographer likes to be photographed sometimes

I'm not smiling, I'm wincing. Mandy has a strong grip with her (hidden) right hand

WHAT a shame Wednesday was marred by 2 guys who REFUSED to pay the £1 but still took a photograph! Wish I had taken their photograph to shame them, but hey they weren't worth the effort (the morons).

Another activity that day (apart from handing out over 200 of the business cards) was the start of a new activity called 'logo-spotting'; lots of people came to see their company logo on the flag and it was SO nice to say hello to some familiar faces as well as put new faces to Twitter accounts; those I'd only swapped tweets with but never actually met. Visitors over the two days (in 'left-to-right' order on the flag) included: -

- ranson associates, iSourceGroup, kokino-marvo, campus pr, giving you momentum,
- boutique media communications, Bartfields, Millenia computer services, SF Fire Protection Services
- The Mill Batley, The Big Gorilla, leaplikeasalmon.com, biskit marketing & design (weak punch Ed)
- stepteam.org, Rushfirth Creative, ALEA, Journey Customer Alignment Consulting, smilesSMS
- PIC Group, dmbgroup Customer Communications, Yorkshire Business Conferences, Ohh la la,
- company networking ltd, Charity Angels, Moments Coffee House (Tarique, fantastic to see you!!)

I even had a visit from the Yorkshire Air Ambulance team who were exhibiting at the Conference as well as two of the lovely Jane Tomlinson Appeal team.

Gemma from JTA ... and me

Oh and I must send Douglas Jackson a photo of me pointing out their logo on the flag, as they'd asked me to.

As well as those companies, a number of others (including Bold Penguin) came to see the flag, and a couple of individuals came to see the tributes they had donated to get on the flag in the way of photos of loved ones. None so moving as visitors on Thursday.

I was talking to the ever-young Barrie Hopson, who I'd not seen since the mid-1990's, when I noticed two women with three children stop at my stand. Not the usual sight at a business conference and exhibition, but I knew immediately who it was and excused myself from the conversation with Barrie. Oliver Shaw's mother had come with her family to see not only Oliver's photograph on the flag but also the blog extract that was part of the stand.

Later that day Oliver's mum, Frances, wrote this on Facebook: -

"I took the kids through to Leeds at the Yorkshire Mafia Exhibition today to see Geoff Major and offer our support. It was lovely to see him and he was just as lovely and kind as his blogs suggest.

We got to see Olivers beautiful picture and the wonderful flag that will be going on the North Pole trek - very worthwhile and emotional as I know Oliver would be soooo impressed.

Good luck from the Shaw's and again, thank you x"

So now if anyone ever asks you why on earth I've put myself through the discipline of training, the financial discomfort of paying all this money to go on the trek, as well as the challenge of balancing the time necessary for work, family, girlfriend, training and fundraising (basically all by myself) then the above is your answer, because it is certainly mine!

Even now, sat here typing these words, the raw emotion is welling-up in my eyes and the lump in my throat is evident as I hope and pray my efforts (this year and for the next 8 years) go some way to ensuring other families do not have to go through what Frances and her family have been through. My thanks to Liz Green of BBC Radio Leeds and Seth Bennett of BBC Radio Sheffield for giving me the opportunity to go on air, because without those opportunities Frances would never have been able to show her children that Oliver's memory lives on forever in someone else's heart and mind and deeds.

('Dora' and Alison, you can put the Handy Andy's away now).

Fundraising over the two days was fairly minimal (£185.53) until the lovely, charming, elegant, sexy ..... (what was that? Oh okay I'll stop grovelling now) .... Kathryn Rushfirth said she had someone who wanted to come and donate. Within minutes she and someone (who shall remain nameless) appeared and moments later they had promised me a donation of £1000 !!

Dee got £5 out of Gary King (no mean feat) and made him look uncomfortable in this photo: Result!!

I even found out I could slice a golf ball in the Leeds Golf Centre computer simulation. Well, I sort of knew that already to be truthful which is why you should never stand to my right as I swing a golf club.

And so with that revelation, the donations, the amazing help and support from Sue Beckingham (and the self-named Mowgli - you know who you are), with the ceaseless support and expertise of Howard and Kathryn Rushfirth, and the generosity of Geoff 'Mr Yorkshire Mafia' Shepherd, I had a thoroughly worthwhile two days.

After that my weekend was about resting, and today (Monday) I waved off my eldest as she flew out to Canada, potentially for up to 6 months, but then again that's what my brother said to my parents when he and his wife flew out to California 34 years ago ..... and they've never returned to live in the UK since. Hmm, presumably that's NOT going to be something people say about me and the North Pole !!

And so, with only 8 more sleeps before I depart for Svalbard I have to get my sore boot-rubbed ankles better, my twisted knee stable and my mind focused on things other than whether I will have any income from working when I get back from the Pole. Getting to the Pole and getting back are my immediate priorities .... along with the remaining ability to count to 21.

Figure that last comment out for yourself!! Good night.


  1. Awesome post Geoff.

    2 things I can't believe;
    1) only 8 sleeps to go!
    2) that you got a picture of Gary that makes him look so tense!

    See you soon.
    From all at ME Consultancy Ltd / SMileS SMS

    1. Gary preferred the other photo I took of him ... which is why this first one made the blog ha ha

      Re. the 8 sleeps; you and me both Mark

  2. Can you just get on with the bloody trek and stop sending me links to blog entries that reduce me to tears in the workplace!! All the best mate. Donation made this morning.

  3. Donation seen and MUCH appreciated Jon.

    Now go buy some Handy Andy's as there's probably 3 more 'North Pole' blog entries to come before I close this one down and open up my new blog, about my 2014 challenge.