Remembrance Ride

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I haven’t been out on my bike for a while. I’ve been doing other stuff trying to get a lot stronger and slimmer using weights and HIIT training with a big focus on my butt, abs and bingo wings… Anyway, I woke up this morning and the weather was so much better than yesterday and the early morning sun seemed to beckon me out. So, I took about half an hour of Top Level Faffing (I only do Top Level) to get my screamingest pink kit out and prepare myself and Gloria ready for the off.

I didn’t have a ride planned given that it was a bit last moment, I just wanted to get out and give myself some headspace in the glorious countryside and enjoy being alive. Autumn is my favourite time of the year. I love the amazing colours that nature creates as she moves through into winter and I love the smell of the damp earth and leaves and the scent of smoke that carries across the fields from chimneys across the countryside. Today, as I rode out, it was wonderful to be in the great outdoors – I felt like a horse who has been cooped up in its stable for a week and has been finally let out into its field! Freee….  The sun shone proudly over the fields and as I cycled, the wet roads and leaves twinkled and glistened with reflected light as if tiny little jewels littered my way. It was magical. Life and nature take my breathe away. Here we all are, tiny little dots living on this planet without compare and Mother Nature shares her beauty with us. If we’re lucky and we allow ourselves the time and opportunity, we get to appreciate the wonder of it all.

I find cycling a great way to ‘process’. This morning, I got to thinking about the fact that its Remembrance Sunday. My grandfather was a little 15 year old boy -one of the many who lied about their age in order to sign up and fight for their country – when he went off to The Somme. He was one of the ones who survived and we have a recording of him talking about his experiences. He was a wonderful man and we were lucky that he came home and after some time he eventually met my grandmother; a little strip of  a thing many years younger than him, but fate had a plan in store for them fortunately for me!!!

When I was studying for my A levels, I spent a whole summer season as a guide around the battlefields of The Somme and WWI (I was inspired by the fact that my grandfather had fought there) and so even though I didn’t go to Church today, I got some time to give thanks in my own way to grandad and all the other incredible people who have served – whether they’ve given their lives or not – to ensure that we are free to go out on our bikes or do whatever we want with our lives.

I pulled off the road at one point as I thought about grandad and looked at the beautiful colours around me.  I don’t take that many photographs as I am no David Bailey, but I took one today. What a wonderful planet we live on. How lucky am I to have had the opportunity to go out cycling and enjoy this beautiful view. In thinking about my grandad it made me also think about the future and the endless possibilities that lie in store. Grandad, if you’re looking down, I hope you like this picture – its for you. Here’s to the opportunities and experiences yet to come that you have given me.

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The Feminine Agenda- Part One

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I read a post by a woman on Facebook recently that said:

“Our generation is so busy trying to prove that women can do what men can do that women are losing their uniqueness. Women weren’t created to do everything that a man can do. Women were created to do everything that a man can’t do.”

Now, I’m not trying to spark any kind of gender debate, but I disagree with the lady that wrote this and I personally think that without meaning to, she is doing us a real dis-service.

Women have been ‘competing’ with men for centuries. We’ve been doing the same things because we’ve had to and not because we’ve wanted to prove to men that we are as good as they are. Think of women who have worked and still do work alongside their men folk as subsistence farmers. What about the Pilgrims who journeyed to the New World and the journeys across to the Wild West? If the man died, the woman got on with it. And we still do. I hate to mention it, but there were women convicts who were transported to Australia for their crimes, even if it was stealing food to feed their families. We got ‘equal’ treatment there then.

Mae West once said:

“Every man I meet wants to protect me. I can’t figure out what from.”

I’m with Mae. I don’t think we really want men to protect us from life. We want to taste it all ourselves and eat greedily with a big spoon. We want to be able to do what we want. We want the same opportunities. We are prepared to take the same risks but we also deserve the same rewards.

“Sure he was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything [Fred Astaire] did, .. backwards and in high heels.”

My Facebook friend, I think, was making a point about the women who risk life exploring mountains and parts of the planet that are a risk to any human life. However, she hasn’t done her homework. Before the current crop of female adventurers there was Freya Stark in the 19th Century (and there are many others).

I think she’s missing the point. Women have had to push through boundaries, glass ceilings and a lack of faith in every aspect of our life for centuries. Depending upon your beliefs, you may accept that woman was created from the rib of man. Through the ages, women have been the possessions of man. We have been chaperoned and protected to within an inch of our lives, whilst all we really want is equality.

During the Second World War women worked the farms to produce our food, they ‘manned munitions’ factories making ammunition and also made the wonderful aircraft that prevailed in the Battle of Britain (and delivered them too).

Before Margaret Thatcher was refusing to do a U-Turn in one of the most remarkable and iconic hairstyles ever, Indira Ghandi was Prime Minister of India. And by the way, in the UK the Suffragettes fought for the right to representation and finally won us the right to vote in 1918 ( 1928 for women over 21).

Marilyn Vos Savant (appropriately named) is the person who has the highest recorded IQ in history with a score of 190. Albert Einstein’s IQ was 160 and Stephen Hawking’s is 162.

In the medical sphere Marie Curie was doing her bit. Born in November 1867, she did pioneering research on radioactivity and was the first woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize.  Before her, Florence Nightingale was nursing soldiers on the battlefields of the Crimea.

We were at last allowed to compete in marathon running races in 1972 – for the first time at the Boston Marathon. The first British astronaut was Helen Sharman, who went into space in 1991, way before Tim Peak, who only went into space in December 2015.

In the financial world we have Nicola Horlick and Helena Morrissey, both of whom have been successfully running wealth management firms for many years. Clara Furse was chairman of the London Stock Exchange before Xavier Rolet.  Then there is Baroness Karren Brady who was voted as one of the 50 most influential people in the world, is a life peer, Chairman of West Ham Football Club and a non executive director of SyCo Entertainment.

And frankly, we need not say anything about Anna Wintour. The woman is a legend.

There are so many other influential women in Britain alone that I would love to mention, but the post would end up as a book!

I want to expand the content of this blog. I’m very interested in the development of women. I’m interested in the achievements that we’ve made. I’m interested in understanding why we are what we are now and how we got here. I’m going to write a series of posts on the Feminine Agenda and I’m really looking forwards to writing them and celebrating who and what we are.

 

 

 

My Night of Inspiration

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“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

Last Tuesday night I went to a series of lectures organised by adventurer and inspirationalist extraodinaire Alastair Humphries called the Night of Adventure. The evening was in aid of the charity Hope and Homes for Children, of which Alastair is a Patron. He had lined up a number of adventurers to come along to the evening and gave them the task of speaking about their adventures in 6 minutes ( or 400 seconds) whilst their 20 slides rolled along behind them. the speakers included Arctic Explorer Rosie Stancer, round the world solo rowing, cycle and kayak sensation Sarah Outen MBE, The Turner Twins, the sparkling Anna McNuff and the extraordinary Kenton Cool.

Each speaker rose to the challenge, captivating the audience in their own style, recounting the ups and downs of their journeys or adventures, and in the case of Kenton Cool we also heard a poo related story. These extraordinary people claim they are ordinary – or at least – human after all, subject to the same kind of issues, doubts  and voices in our heads that we all have. For example, Sarah Outen who has rowed across the Pacific and the Atlantic solo is frightened of deep water!! but despite their ‘ordinariness’ they just got on and did it anyway.

Here’s what I learned:

  1. You can’t NOT do something because you’re scared of failing
  2. Life is too short – if not now, when?
  3. Scare yourself sh*tless every once in a while – if possible do it regularly
  4. Never, ever give in
  5. Lie to yourself – its often best
  6. Complacency leads to mediocrity and sometimes death
  7. Always, always wear the most outrageous pants you can find
  8. Have a good poo story up your sleeve

New Year…New? or Same Old?

Its a little bit early, but I’ve been thinking and picking over my 2015.We’re just about to get into the circus of the end of another year. Once all the wrapping paper has been put in the bin along with the brussels sprouts we all start making promises to ourselves that next year we’re going to change, or change something about ourselves or our lives that we don’t like. I usually buy a lovely new notebook to record my Resolutions. Sometimes I write in it, other years the book stays in its clingfilm wrapping looking all shiny waiting to be used.

In 2007 a Bristol University Professor did an analysis – and I have no clue how, much less why – on whether we keep our New Year’s Resolutions. He found that 88% of all resolutions fail within six weeks.

The Resolution is a tradition that is most common in the Western Hemisphere but is an ancient practice. the Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year to pay back debts. The Romans made promises to their god Janus – after whom the month of January is named – at the beginning of each year, and in the Middle Ages, knights would renew their vow to chivalry.

The top ten most common Resolutions – and also the ten that are most commonly failed at are (and you know them already):

  1. lose weight and get fit
  2. quit smoking
  3. learn something new
  4. eat healthier and diet
  5. get out of debt and save money
  6. spend more time with the family
  7. travel to new places
  8. be less stressed
  9. volunteer
  10. drink less

I have personally failed more than twice at seven of these. I do want to change – be a better person if you like, but life always gets in the way. I know the path to Hell is paved with good intentions and I remember that every six months or so. So I get my combat bra and gym kit out, put it in my gym bag and then bring it back home again after work, unused…

I just tripped over this quote which seems so appropriate:

“Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

So even if you do want to get fit, or learn a new language, just putting your gym kit in your posh new gym bag or buying a language book won’t help unless you actually use them.

According to another study, this time by a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, although people use resolutions as a way to motivate themselves, they aren’t actually ready to change their habits. It can also be considered a ‘false hopes’ syndrome. People make resolutions to say, lose weight in the hope that once they are slimmer then life will change for the better and when the hoped for result doesn’t materialise, they revert back to their old behaviours.

I’m feeling quite cross with myself at the moment, I’ve failed at my resolutions this year, so for next year, I’m going to live by this rule:

“Life has two rules: #1 Never quit #2 Always remember rule # 1.”

And I’m going to try these easy steps:
1) I’m not going to make too many Resolutions – just two or three

2) I’m going to make them SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely.

3) I’m going to celebrate my achievements; no matter how small.

4) I’m going to remember those two life rules

Oh, and I’m going to buy another, nice, shiny notepad and this time I’m going to take it out of its wrapper and write in it….

I wish you every success with your goals for the New Year.

 

 

 

 

 

My 15 seconds of Fame

I am a member of an email forum for long distance swimmers. I’ve learned loads from reading the various emails on this forum. I don’t tend to comment much – I don’t feel qualified to add much as my swimming ‘career’ is pretty new. On this occasion, someone asked about trekking to Everest Base Camp. Now, that was something I could add a few words on. I was really thrilled to be able to give someone some guidance for a change. It had unintended consequences, because I was interviewed on the subject of mountaineering and swimming and their relative differences and similarities. The article is here. I hope you enjoy it.

http://dailynews.openwaterswimming.com/2015/01/on-highs-of-mountaineering-and-channel.html
http://openwaterpedia.com/index.php?title=Heidi_Sweetman

Just a Little Bit Star Struck

Chrissie Wellington is the British athlete who, after a sojourn in Nepal, took the triathlon world by storm and won the Ironman World Championships four times. She holds the record for the fastest time over the Ironman distance for a woman and was unbeaten over the 140.6 mile distance. Chrissie retired in 2012 and I had the opportunity to go along to a lecture that she gave in London last week organised by Exodus travel. Chrissie has achieved legendary status in the triathlon world and I wanted to find out what made her so special.

I was stunned by just how down to earth she is…and smiley. She is generous and warm and passionate. Really PASSIONATE about inspiring you to do whatever you want to do with all your heart and your head.

Chrissie says that you have to train your head to succeed. Your body will give all it has unconditionally, but your mind will start trying to cheat you out of your pocket money long before you get to the sweet shop. In order to be a winner, you have to have the mind of a winner.

Winner doesn’t just mean winning a race. It means whatever you want it to be. Want to run 5km? You absolutely can. Want to be able to do Downward Dog? You bet you can. You just have to teach your mind that it can’t just shrug its shoulders and huff and give it up as a bad job once your hips start creaking as you lurch into a new pose.

I came over extremely shy as I queued to meet Chrissie after her talk. Just as I’d decided to bolt, she looked up at me and beamed her welcome. When I told her my plans for 2014, she looked at me earnestly and said “Right, you just get out there and you do it. Its going to be tough, but you just tell your mind to get on with it. Don’t you let it trick you. You just get stuck in and you’ll do it”. She spoke to me with such passion and genuine interest. She doesn’t even know me, but she cared about my dreams. She hugged me and promised me she’d follow my journey.

I had a lump in my throat and a burning twinkle of energy inside as I waved goodbye. Speechless and a bit star struck I left the room. My brain on the other hand, was shrugging its shoulders and huffing. I’m not taking any nonsense. I’m going to buy it a little white flag on a stick. It may come in handy.

Chrissie and me

Congratulations, You’re Alive…

Life is amazing. Everywhere you look, little miracles are happening. Ever actually thought about the little miracle that heals our skin when its been cut? Inspired design. Inspiration is everywhere. I’m constantly humbled by people who do amazing things and achieve things that the human body shouldn’t be able to do. It never fails to amaze me that some people ‘just do it’ whilst others who profess they’re going to ‘just do it’ don’t actually do so and crank out excuses for why its flipping impossible to ‘just do it’ (I’m referring to myself).

In this blog, I want to share snippets about people who inspire me. It may be the actions of the people themselves or something that they have shared in a book. either way, their words and actions have touched me and started me on my journey…