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.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

“The cure for anything is salt water - tears, sweat, or the sea.” - Isak Dinesen

Is fear a positive or negative thing? When is an action, or an inaction, equivalent to success or failure? Whilst this blog is about activity, it's underlying question is that of one thing:

Perspective: (def) a particular attitude towards or way of regarding something; a point of view.

Some of us have options about how we look at life; others don't have quite the same freedoms
I met with a guy called Phil Lee last week. I was on a day away from my corporate client and he was recently back from a weekend with his corporate client. I'd escaped from a desk in an office; he'd just got back from the Welsh hills. 

He told me about the incredible journey he's been through and I sat, listening in wonder. 

He told me about his ambition and desires for taking his life forward. I sat, listening in wonder. 

He asked me about what I hoped to do going forward. I sat, thought ..... and blabbered about stuff. 

It was then that something struck me, but we'll come back to the chat with Phil a little later, so let me quickly update you on the goings'-on since the last blog entry .... and update those of the 536 readers of the last blog who want to know how little Florence is doing.

1. Like salt water - Stoney Cove.

The photograph below is a quarry; intentionally flooded to make an inland diving centre of excellence. It was the location for my first ever attempt of going underwater.

Yes that's right; I've never scuba-dived, snorkeled and (as Bob 'the fish' Proctor knows so well) I don't even like sticking my head underwater when I'm swimming. As Bob will also probably say though, it's primarily about technique and then most definitely about the right mental attitude.

My interest in diving was piqued a couple of months ago when I spent 3 days in the suit, on dry land, being the anonymous central character in a short film entitled 'undertow'. I spent time in Leeds, Whitby, Otley Chevin, momentarily up to my thighs in the sea and yes, scaring sheep on a windswept hill.

The premiere of the film will be some time in the summer .... for the three of you interested enough to want to see it on Facebook and via Twitter. I'll keep you updated, but this entry isn't about me in the suit on dry land.

The diving suit we used in the film was provided by the Historical Diving Society, based in Chorley, and one key member of the Society offered me the chance to try the suit out for real. For real? Err so that means being totally submerged with an extra 50kg strapped to my body. "Oh what the hell" I thought, and accepted the offer.

I arrived at Stoney Cove and walked passed row upon row of cars and vans, brimming with scuba diving equipment. People bleeding air from used tanks (that's right ... I'm into the lingo) and taking off watches with faces bigger than a DVD, whilst some filled out diving logs. Down below I could see the Society, busy helping someone into their suits.

After re-introducing myself to the team, I was offered the chance to go 'next', so I sat down and let the guys who know how to make you entirely watertight do their thing.

And so, with two guys turning the wheels to ensure air was pumped into the suit, I took my first steps underwater. It was so surreal.

Having descended the ladder into the water, I turned and I don't know why, but I did not expect to see the floor of the quarry covered in large algae-covered rocks. Nor did I expect to see a sharp decline down into the semi-darkness. I froze as the fear I was facing tapped me on the shoulder and asked what the @&*% was I doing down here??

Movement was unwieldy and I was unsure if I dare move beyond the safety of the ladder. What if I couldn't get down the decline without slipping and ripping the suit? No-one could get down to help me get the suit off or pull me back to the surface. What if I couldn't get all the way back up the incline? 

For a couple of minutes I stood there, the ladder within arms reach (behind me) and fought the urge to go back up. I'd descended underwater and now stood like one of the statues at Museo Subacuático de Arte. I HAD to go down the incline, otherwise I'd probably look and certainly feel like a complete failure!

Slowly, very very slowly, I lifted each 10kg boot, one at a time, and edged down the slope. As I got halfway down I stopped as a 'school' of scuba divers were swimming by. Like a goofy tourist, pleased with his new found skills, I gave one of them a thumbs up and smiled like a dimwit. He (or she) glanced up, stared at me for a couple of seconds, and simply swam on.

I realised I was an intruder in their world; a total amateur and probably wasn't taking the dangers of underwater 'diving' as seriously as I should ... so I gritted my teeth and strode forward down the slope, to the level bottom. The mix of determination and the fleeting confidence in my own abilities stayed with me for a few more minutes, before I remembered I had to get back up the slope and climb out.

I could have walked another 100m before I came to the edge of this level (thereafter it dropped another 15m in depth), but I felt I had conquered my fear and, having done it once, I was sure I could do it again. One day.

And so I clomped slowly back up the ladder, feeling the full force of gravity on the extra 50kg I was wearing, and gratefully flopped down on the divers stool. What I couldn't decide was whether the dive had been a success or a failure ... and I'm still not sure.

2. Sweat - Rowing on Lake Windermere

A couple of months ago I put a post onto Facebook, looking for 6 pople to join me and make a 7-person team to row 10 miles on Lake Windermere, in support of St Gemma's Hospice. The response was almost immediate and so, two weeks after the diving experience I drove up to get ready for the mini-adventure.

The next morning the team gathered, arriving from either local hotels or driving north from Yorkshire; say hello to Team 'Are We There Yet?'.

None of us had rowed before, which (I think) is why it was such an exciting challenge. It's at this point that I have to acknowledge the bravery of one of the team - Michelle Wise - who arrived with partner Steve, and was having serious doubts whether the row was a good idea.

Another member of the team, Geoff Shepherd, giving it a well 'ard selfie before we boarded the boat

If ever a person faced their fears that day, Michelle did. As part of the row there were 4 rowing positions, one rudder manager and two interim passengers; this meant that at some point in the middle of the lake we had to swap rowers. As it was we did that twice and Michelle (despite her hands shaking with nerves as she swapped places twice en route) played just as much a part in the physical and mental challenge that rowing gave us as anyone else did

Looking as calm as a cucumber, as ready as a female Matthew Pinsent, and soooooo courageous
Hold on, are Becky and I rowing while Chris and Geoff S have a chat? Bloody back seat drivers.

In my opinion the rowing was a success, and St Gemma's will have received about £1000 from our efforts once all the monies are collected. It's also surprising where desire and inspiration can come from, but the rowing has ignited an interest in me; an interest in possibly completing a 100-mile endurance row over a weekend, with a team of people. I'm glad to say Chris Greer has expressed an initial interest .... please form an orderly queue folks if you want to know more.

3. Tears? An update on Florence

If you follow me on Facebook you'll have seen pretty little Florence Leppard smiling from her hospital bed on a couple of occasions. One photo had her fast asleep, blissfully unaware and hopefully dreaming of happier things, and another was of her sat in the garden, enjoying some summer sunshine.

If you follow me on Facebook you'll probably also have seen the news that she and her parents spent an emotionally draining few days in hospital with her between chemo sessions, as she had a high temperature. I can also tell you Florrie came out of hospital a week ago, after her 2nd and hopefully telling round of chemo.

Why is it a telling round? Because in a week or so, we all hope and pray that Jay and Kerry will be told, against original expectations, that the chemo is showing signs of making a difference. We all hope and pray that this news provides them all with a much needed lift in spirits and takes away the dreadful prognosis they faced just a few (but VERY long) weeks ago.

The month of July will bring sleepless nights for many of us, but hopefully some tears of joy. Your thoughts and best wishes (and prayers if you are so inclined) will be greatly appreciated.

I'll keep you posted as best as I can and thank those who have already passed on their positive thoughts and hopes.

4. The conclusion.

No parent should face what Jay and Kerry are going through; no child should go through this ... and yet there are so many instances of parents immeasurable bravery and determination.

I'm neither stupid nor arrogant enough to suggest I will make an immeasurable difference, but 2015 will see a shift in my focus as cancer becomes my fundraising target ... and that brings me back to my chat with Phil Lee.

I've seen two charities this week (both of whom have asked me for my 2015 Calendar of Events), and I've already agreed to dedicate my Friday, Saturday and Sunday to helping Yorkshire Cancer and Pancreatic Cancer Action raise money, as part of the Le Tour celebrations in Addingham, as the world's biggest cycle race comes through the village twice.

Earlier this week I also met Dawn Fidler (Mum to Super Josh) and promised that I'd do something on the Lancastrian side of the country to help raise funds to support brain tumour research.

What's all this got to do with my chat with Phil Lee? The year of 2014 has been a particularly frustrating year for me after the brilliant adventures of 2013, with many of the things I'd hoped to do being postponed, cancelled or delayed.  

Phil has grasped his dream and is driving it forward. He has found a way to combine his passion for the outdoor challenge with his role of professional management coach. Phil spent last weekend with  management from 1st direct, and the previous one with the Chairman, management and players of Huddersfield Town FC doing the 3 Peaks.

Now I don't want to do the 3 Peaks-like challenges; they're not for me, and my lifestyle means I can't give up the day job (after all I have ongoing obligations, as well as also saving for Lucia's and my wedding), but I also cannot continue to do occasional adventures and lay claim to being a fundraising adventurer.

Phil said my entire body language changed when we got onto my experiences raising money, cajoling people into going #ontheflag, and getting others interested enough in some 'different' adventures to want to join in. Developing the inspiration and ideas into reality, and seeing the enthusiasm of others for things like the Yeti family (more great work by Rushfirth Creative for an Everest basecamp trek) really floats my boat (to maintain the 'water' theme):  

It's time to stop being a part-time events guy, but it's not time to throw-in the corporate towel. It's time to commit to bringing things to life, or to decide the best things have been and gone.

It's great that people ask me what's next; it's great that charities are asking me about events calendars for 2015, and I so want to keep building the reputation of Involve. Maybe it's time though to take stock of what comes next; time to stop promoting the aspirations and only promote the commitments.

The best thing I did for me last week was to dedicate some time to building a spreadsheet. That's what I intend to do for the rest of July and into August; put more focus into what I can do. Sometimes I think it's time for my 'Peter Pan' side to grow up, and sometimes I'm so darn sure that I'll grow up when I'm dead; not now.

I guess life, personal success and financial reality can be defined in many ways; it's all a matter of perspective. Phil has his perspective and now it's time for me to get mine back.


  1. Keep going Geoff and inspiring people along the way x

  2. Thanks Mark .... I'll try to make 2015 as good as 2012 and 2013 combined!