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, 25 August 2014

There are none so blind .... and the launch of the short film #undertow

Time and memories; they're a strange combination.

Hard to imagine that this time last week I was reflecting on one of the most humbling 90 minutes of my life, and it's all because of a young man called Lewis Holden; the 19-year old son of my dear friend and 'honorary sister', Sam Holden.

Ninety minutes of hearing about what 'life' means for some people; ninety minutes of not wishing to interrupt, and ninety minutes that contained the most objective, balanced and mature recollection of human suffering and degrading that echoed lessons from history. 

I've had meetings with people who know they are suffering a lingering and painful death; people who have hushed a room of rowdy wanna-be actresses and media luvvies, busy quaffing free champagne, by revealing they have been diagnosed with cancer again; and I've seen what cancer had done to my father, after it finally took his life having ravaged his body and mind .... but this ... THIS ... was on a different level altogether. 

I have no intention of making any social or political statements via this blog or my challenges, ever (in fact I declined to work with one charity in 2013 because of its political overtone), but the way the story was told, I went through the paradox of aching to help and yet feeling simply helpless when Lewis had finished talking.

And when Sam innocently and genuinely asked "So what's your next big challenge Geoff?", I pretty much dismissed the question as wholly insignificant.

Of course it's not insignificant and of course I'm proud of how I challenge myself for the benefit of others, but it is important to keep things in perspective. Again.

I look forward to sharing Lewis's blog entries when he's published them; at which point you can make your own decisions; come to your own conclusions. Until then, I'll just reflect on what I can do to try to help make a difference.

1. The trial of The Longest Day

After a LOT of discussion and debate (and tons of effort and patience by the wonderful Michelle) I'm both thrilled and relieved to announce that the trial of The Longest Day will be taking place on Thursday 9th October, with the support of the wonderful charity Henshaws.

I took a day off work last week to complete a number of things; not least to visit the Lisa of Henshaws, at their specialist Arts & Crafts facility. After a walk around a great facility, I'm pleased to say the plans just came together.

It's been a difficult challenge to get off the ground, with Henshaws stepping in and coming to the rescue this year. So now we're almost ready!

I'm looking for up to another 14 pairs to commit to taking part in the event, at £50 per active person and £25 for your trusted guide (with all costs covered AND a £10 donation to Henshaws). You'll be catching a train; making some art; eating; buying, writing and posting a postcard, and everyone will get a go at playing 'blind bowling'.

There will be an entry soon on Eventbrite for those wishing to take part to pay their fee (and if you decide to fundraise for Henshaws as part of the event, if you raise over £200 your 'guide' gets their money back; if it's over £300 you both get your money back.

So who's joining in???  

Certainly at the Buy Yorkshire Conference earlier this year it created a lot of interest.

If, like Francis in the bottom photo, you expressed an interest, I'll be getting in touch very soon! I also need to contact the Yorkshire Evening Post as the experience could make some great reading for those who have never really thought about sight loss (except perhaps when, like me, you turn off all the lights as you go to bed, and then accidentally take the skin off your toe as you walk into the corner of a table leg).

Here's hoping this trial really does turn into a national event by the year 2020.

2. On yer bike (it's the Alternative Tour de France event).

Keith Appleyard and Bev Hodgson are dedicated supporters of Yorkshire Cancer and Pancreatic Cancer Action respectively. It was just over 6 months ago that we met, to talk about the village of Addingham's preparations for the Tour de France (which would pass through the village on both the Saturday and the Sunday).

I'd first met Bev the summer before, to talk through a pre-Christmas 12-hour non-stop cycling event in Manchester, in aid of Pancreatic Cancer Action; an event which subsequently raised over £4000.

We used the 5-seater bike in Manchester; November 2013

The event was so much fun, and so successful, that Bev didn't hesitate to recommend me and the 7-seat bike to take part in a fundraising event in association with Le Tour weekend. I'll not talk too much about the weekend other than to say it too raised £4000.

Enjoy the photos below, and especially the video!

One of the time-trial teams trying to ....

..... get onto our Top Gear-style leaderboard
Then it was time to wait for the cyclists to come through.

Some people took whatever vantage point they could

Some look on knowing their work had only just started

For others it simply became too much

Then a bunch of blokes on bikes appeared (Day 1)

And then they were gone in less than a couple of minutes (Day 2), after which the serious bike riding started
Some took it very seriously .....

Some took it all in their stride .....

Others .... well, they just took it (see the Police in action, at speed, in the video below)

3. Coming up in 2015: My calendar of events

Balancing work (to earn money to pay the bills) and the effort involved in preparing for and undertaking challenges (to live life and feel amazing) is difficult; especially when a group of charities ask what your calendar of events is. Oh for a Lottery jackpot win or sponsorship.

Still, it does focus the mind, so here's the first event of the new year: 

The first bank holiday weekend in May: The 100-mile row on the River Thames.

After this years introduction to rowing, when a group of friends and I took over 150 minutes to row 10 miles on Lake Windermere, I decided that the only way to push myself was to take on something that I knew would be physically and mentally exhausting.

Coincidentally Clive Ongley; the CEO of the charity the AHOY Centre, had spoken to me earlier year to ask whether I thought he had a viable fundraising challenge, and could I help him bring it to life. That idea was a 100-mile row along the Thames in a 48 hours.

We discussed it over a number of emails, phone calls and weeks, until Clive finally confirmed that he had too much on his plate to commit to it. I did say however that I thought it would be a great challenge for me, so I set about finding 5 others who would 'man' the boat.

As it turned out, it was easy! Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, I already have a team of 6 and now just need to recruit (or hire) a coxswain willing to take us 100 miles up and down the Thames; two tri-athletes, two people with significant experience of rowing ... and two idiots (me included).

I filled a boat with willing idiots wanting to join me, so I immediately put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard and printer ink into my KODAK C310) and wrote to Clive.

Training has started although we need to learn how to row as a team (once we all get our arms, chests and bums conditioned). Of course, it's a significant step up from the row on Windermere, but it still amazes me just how it pales into insignificance when compared to the cross-Atlantic challenge that the 4 ladies (known as the Yorkshire Rows) are undertaking in 16 months time. Just awe-inspiring!!

Since writing I've now probably got TWO boats full now ... with the aspiration to fill a third (and a fourth). If you're interested in joining in, tweet me, text me or drop me a line via a comment on here.

I'm doing it as a way of helping the brave little girl Florence, and her family, as well as all others going through the sad and draining fight against cancer. You, dear reader, can do it for whatever reason drives you to push yourself beyond the norm.

4. Happy 13th birthday

Last week saw the 13th anniversary of me leaving corporate employment and setting up BlueDucks Limited (yes, there IS intentionally no space between the words 'Blue' and 'Ducks').

As a gesture of thanks for my relative good fortune (because it's not always been an easy, fruitful and stress-free 13 years), I spent a few minutes reflecting on the highs and lows. The lows including the financial crash of 2009 and its effect on the market, but all that paled into insignificance compared to the first 6 months of being independent.

I'd launched the business full of promise and excitement on my part (having appeared in a business magazine with two other start-ups, to feature our early steps into independence; and me having 37 leads to follow-up), only for the horrific events on 9/11 to wipe away all opportunities.

October 2001: Wonder what happened to the other two start-ups?

Interesting reading and the reasons I set-up on my own are still true today. Just not sure whether I've fulfilled them yet.

What it did do though was remind me I have survived 13 years and I am grateful beyond belief; especially when you consider I could have given up in that first 6 months when all I billed for was £500 in the entire period. Thank you to a certain John Catling that he provided me with a small but wholly significant thread of hope. to keep the desire alive.

My first real invoice (despite it being referenced as BDL 00002)

 And so, with a smile of gratitude in my face I decided to celebrate. Nope, I didn't open a beer nor have a slice of cake ... (the latter being because my PT, Becci Skelton, would have battered me).

The brilliant Becci Skelton; the love-child of Wonder Woman and Thor

No, to celebrate I went on social media and posted the following message:

Within seconds, Suzanne had grabbed the first of the 13 cheques ... and the rest were nominated for within 30 minutes, so the above message lead to these photos:

First cheque written; 12 other charities nominated

Remaining 12 cheques written, ready to be posted one a month for the next 12 months.

You see, despite money being tight and life having so many other things demanding time, effort, money and/or emotional investment; I still believe that those who 'can', should!

5. And finally ....

And so I come to the end of this post with some wonderful memories clearly in my mind and plans to start new ones already well underway. Looking back the adventures have been a heady mixture of new experiences, amazing challenges, great fellow trek friends and proof to myself that I am capable of more than just stepping outside my comfort zone:

The great thing is there could be so much more to come. Certainly 2015 looks like it could be an amazing year with work, marriage to Lucia, and a series of exciting and exceptional adventures. And best of all? It helps other people through the challenges they face every single day.

It's also fun, as the following short video clips show. My first ever attempt at a handstand in my entire life; Anthony Lamoureux's teasing video that made me chuckle so much at the end with his cheesy thumbs-up, and Therese Charlton's failed attempt to re-capture her youth by doing a handstand - only to be interrupted by a customer.


And amongst it all, please remember (#1):

And (#2): New experiences can lead you into unknown and exciting adventures. New unknown destinations; new destinies unfold; new opportunities arise from new challenges.

I hope you enjoyed this extended blog, and I hope you'll enjoy the short film I was privileged to be part of, with the investment of 3 long, painful and scarring days of my time in May, wearing an extra 50kg of deep sea diver suit. Ladeeeez and gentlemen; I give you the OFFICIAL launch of the short film #undertow. Please click on the link below to launch the movie.

Undertow - a short film symbolising that, without struggle, we cannot get to where we want to be.

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