good morning bigmoose friends,
we're 24 hours late this week, which i will explain why in a wee while, but first off, i want to tell you how excited i am about this weekend in smithland!
today, my fellow bigmoose cohort, and second born child of mine [and tania obviously, couldn't have done it without ya tan ;)] chloe, aka fluffy, is running her first ultramarathon.
well technically this isn't true, as she has run 30 miles in her training programme, which actually makes her an ultrarunner already, but on sunday she takes part in her first ultra race, and is aiming to run 42 miles off the bat.
now this is pretty mean feat for any human, but for one that a year and a half ago had never run a mile, and struggles with her health daily due to some kidney problems she has, i reckon this is a pretty monumental effort.
chloe rhian smith as we named her is a bit of a feisty one, and punches very well above her weight, and many many blogs ago i wrote the infamous story of how she categorically wouldn't wear the blue dress in her kindergarten production of the nativity play at her third christmas on the planet, resulting in her being given a supporting role, as opposed to the preferred by all part of mary.
the writing was on the wall.
at fifteen she summited mount kilimanjaro, raising fifteen thousand pounds for a local barnardos project in cardiff, and at seventeen she returned to africa to volunteer for a month to help build schools, mixing concrete and laying blocks among other tasks.
she studied to become a teacher, but realised it wasn't going to allow her the freedom she craved to make a difference, so she made the hugely brave decision to come and work with me in my business, and on the bigmoose groove, and recently whilst i was on everest she ran our social media, getting amazing comments from everyone who followed our journey, for her portrayal of my adventure in her words to accompany the pictures, as well as coping, the same as the rest of my girls did, with not knowing if i was going to be coming back.
as you can tell i am extremely proud of both our dustbin lids in equal amounts, but it just so happens this weekend belongs to chloe.
we will be driving to cambridge today to rest up ready for the early start tomorrow, for what i hope will be the culmination of an amazing amount of training and effort, and as somebody involved with bigmoose, what a fantastic show of courage and determination she shows us all.
she is a grafter, a fighter for others rights, and as with both of my girls i am amazingly proud of her, but this race is a big effort and mentally a biggie, so if you get a chance please follow her on @chloe_runs on instagram, and give her a bigup, i'm sure she would appreciate it, and hopefully she might inspire you to do something a bit out of your comfort zone as well.
so, why a saturday blog i hear you shout.
basically, i screwed up.
i'll start at the beginning.
last monday me and chloe trundled down to windsor to the delightful braywood school tucked away down a leafy lane, and full of lots of learning, ready for us to tell them about our everest journey.
the talk went great, and we did an assembly and visits to individual classes for some top questions from the kids, including the standard 'how do you go to the toilet?' enquiry.
as we had approached the school i did a double take, as i saw two huge heads which looked like ugly versions of our monarchs in somebody's garden, and on our return trip we slowed to reveal the queen and prince philip, looking pretty haunting, and had it been night time i worried about how my sleep pattern would have been interrupted.
i did a quick google and found a picture for you with the effigies owner ben bennet aged 83, who alleges to have found them in a house clearance, and decided to put them in his front garden to show the passing world, which i'm sure is what me and you would do as well, makes perfect sense.
so this was monday.
wednesday evening i had been invited to talk about homelessness at an event arranged by chris nott in cardiff, and the event was a bit of a biggie, with the leader of cardiff council, the head business correspondent for wales online, and a load of ceo's of charities and other companies in attendance, and overall very overawing, and i felt very nervous before my spot at the end of the evening.
thankfully it seemed to go ok, and some very positive connections have presented themselves, with one chap i know well whispering to me 'call me tomorrow, i think we might have a pot of money we can give you for the coffee shop' so i will see him next week, but i have to admit i am flipping super excited at this, so it just goes to show, you've gotta get out there and shout about what you're up to, marketing marketing marketing i guess, but it never fails to scare the bejesus out of me beforehand.
so two down, one to go.
thursday saw me head for sunny lancaster, where i had never been before, and when i looked at the distance from the station to the barracks where i was going to be speaking only being 2.2 miles i chose to walk rather than getting a taxi, and was rewarded with a stunning walk along a huge river, with a weir, ducks, and amazingly beautiful vistas worthy of constable's fair brush.
as i entered the barbed wired facility, i was met by a soldier called paddy, wearing fatigues, and a beret that fitted perfectly, and the way he stood exuded confidence.
we chatted and walked to where i was going to be presenting, which was a bit of a ramshackle looking facility, that looked a little tired and in need of some tlc.
however, once inside, the audio visual system was better than most five star hotels i have been in, and the kit had a lecturn with a touch screen monitor which mirrored the laptop that would be plugged in, and a sound system using a brand my day job has taught me is top drawer, this was hi tec indeed, never judge a book.
mark yates, who i had never met in person before introduced himself, and his firm but warm handshake, confirmed what i had already guessed about this blog reader who had contacted me post everest to see if i would come and talk to his troops, he was a goodun.
a man who has dedicated his working life to the army, and now trains soldiers to be the best they can be, is himself a very accomplished athlete, having completed among other things the 'triple brutal' consisting of a 7.2 mile swim, then a 336 bike ride, followed by a 78.6 mile run, all up hill and dale, including a summit of ben nevis, so not for one second did i underestimate this humans physical and mental strength, and i have to say when i meet people capable of doing such stuff, they tend to often be extremely humble, as was mark.
the talk seemed to go ok, and the q & a whilst not as lively as the schoolkids, seemed to be more cerebral, as you would expect, and post event feedback from mark states that "it evoked some deep feelings on social responsibility and compassionate leadership. also some of the guys were saying that i came across as a 'normal bloke' which empowered them to strike out a bit harder and go for their own challenges"
my work was done.
how cool is that, we're making a difference by making a difference, i love it!
mark and paddy, (peter kay fans sit down please) then drove to the station under the cover of night, and as mark looked at his phone he relayed that i needed to catch the 20:56 train for birmingham new street, and as we pulled up outside the dimly lit station, my watch read 20:54.
i boarded, and breathed a sigh of relief that i had made the last train, getting me back to the 'diff about 1am, all good.
i didn't check my phone for my connecting train time until we had stopped at preston, crewe and warrington, and a little bit of investigation revealed that i should in fact have got off at crewe.
i don't tend to do panic, but it soon became apparent that this faux pas had thrust me into an unretrievable situation, there was no way i was going to make birmingham new street before the last train left at 22:21.
aw fish, as princess carolyn would say.
i communicated this message back to the cottage, where tan and chlo questioned what i was going to do, and i assured them i would be fine, but that my journey from the midlands would not continue until 05:00 and i would see them for breakfast.
now in this situation, i had choices.
beat myself up about what a tool i had been.
get a hotel, which would cost me an arm and a leg for a very few hours of room useage.
or, i suggested to myself, i could use the experience as an adventure.
you know where this is going don't you.
i decided i would see what being homeless in birmingham looked and felt like, and i won't tell you the full story here and now, i will just boil it down to tell you i spent the night walking the streets of a very cold birmingham city centre, immersing myself in the danger and darkness that appeared around a number of corners.
this wasn't some corporate night on the streets with bands and pizza, please excuse my cynicism for such events, i'm sure they mean well, but for a more authentic experience go it alone, take away the safety net, then the senses are heightened i can tell you.
as day broke, i was cold to my core, and my three layers, including my rab down jacket, had only provided minimal protection, so what anybody with lesser thermal protection would be feeling like gawd only knows.
i knew i was going be making my way back to a hot shower, eggs on a bagel, with ketchup, and pondered that there were people of all ages that were now awakening to the next chapter of daylight and this was their life, life on the street.
man that sucks.
as the train took me back to my nest, i grew tired, and the safety of the carriage allowed me to drift into unconsciousness, knowing i wasn't going to get mugged, killed or abused in some way that the previous hours hadn't allowed me to do.
as i stepped out of the taxi and into my home, i was tired, but had lots of hope for the day and my life ahead, but my fellow street sleepers had this missing from their lives.
simple stuff, but oh so important.
our homeless event on wednesday had two young people that had come though a time living on the street, and were now living back in warm homes with food and shelter, and their stories whilst harrowing, helped me realise that there is lots of work to be done, and my small amount of time in downtown brum has only strengthened my resolve.
humans need hope, and it is our responsibility as parents, as employers, and as people to help give hope to others, in whatever form that may take, encourage, grow, nurture, however we can.
geez, i got into it a bit there, sorry about that, but hopefully you get why, and my war cry rally's you to take arms so to speak.
the bitter sweet taste of heinz blended with my bagel and egg, and i contemplated writing my blog, but dear bigmoose blog reader, i decided that i was spent, emotionally and physically, and what i needed was rest, and i banked on the fact that you would understand, and get it, that whilst always attempting to hit deadlines, and deliver in a satisfactory way, it isn't really that important, and the bigger picture is about the impact we make, and sometimes the story of failure or imperfection is more relevant and more powerful.
so, to end on a super positive note i just wanted to update you on the offer of furniture and stuff we were offered by mr x recently, who works for ***** ******* and has this week confirmed almost all of the furniture we looked at recently will be given to us free of charge, so as soon as we get the coffee shop we are rocking!!!
also, mr x doesn't work for pizza express as one friend recently suggested, her great attempt at hangman not being wholly successful, sorry nads.
have a top drawer week ahead, give people around you hope, invest in them, which will in turn deliver smiles for you, and send some positive vibes to my little fluffy kid running 67592.4 metres, GO ON FLUFF!!!