Tomorrow morning two of my buddies @niccombe and @fergusbisset will be joining hundreds of other people to run the Bupa 10k around London. They have both trained for this race – but neither is feeling like they’ve done enough and I think the technical term for how they are both feeling is ’bricking it’.
So this blog post is for them – two pics taken on my recent holiday.
-Amazing is sacrificing everything but belief
- Impossible is nothing
ps Seemingly ‘bricking it’ is a great recipe for success….Ferg and Nic after the race – looks to me like they enjoyed it way too much!
I thought I’d start this blog post by sharing a little bit about my family life with you, I guess by way of setting the context! My parents are very different people – my dad served in the Navy, has been involved for the past 20 years with the Army Cadet Force and a lot of his values that he gained from involvement with the armed forces were instilled in us from an early age; my mum on the other hand is a very different sort, she is a pacifist, a peace maker and peace keeper who is very uncomfortable with a lot of what my dad believes in – luckily her values were instilled in us from an early age too. At times a somewhat difficult mix for them but without doubt a great grounding for us as kids – it meant that things were always questioned, we were supported to make our own minds up and never was one view considered to be right or wrong or better than the other, without a lot of thought and reflection.
Photo by stuff_and_nonsense
So what has this got to do with anything? Well I grew up with uniforms, rules and routines as part of my life. Not just my dad but my sister too, first as an army cadet, then as an instructor and then more recently as an army wife. To be honest I always took the piss out of my Dad a little and ‘the toy soldiers’ as I referred to the cadets. There was something that never sat 100% comfortably with me; I’ve never been that big on authority and hierarchy! Having said that I could see the benefit that being an army cadet had to some of the young people my Dad came across – the sense of responsibility, the sense of pride in their uniform, the sense of belonging to something bigger than their own family lives, the hope and belief, the self-worth, the possibilities for the future, the positive response to routines and discipline. All of this demonstrated by some of the most ‘troublesome’ kids, those that were on the edge/excluded from school – all of it supported by a group of volunteer adults who themselves are driven by a pride in their uniform, a sense of belonging and duty, an inherent desire to do their best for little or no reward or recognition.
So what am I blogging about here….well just lately my twitter stream has contained tweets that I am increasingly uncomfortable with; people complaining about the ‘adoration’ of soldiers being repatriated to the UK; others praising army personnel, whilst sitting it in context of not being a fan of the army; lots of little grumblings about the military presence in Afghanistan. Now, in the spirit of fairness and free speech, I get that people are fully entitled to share their thoughts – and I *genuinely* want them to do that; I guess I just felt the need to redress the balance and offer my own commentary/thoughts on the topic. I strongly suspect that most of the people who are offering such thoughts actually have very little knowledge of what life is like for those people who choose to serve in our armed forces, or for their families that have to live with their decision to do so, whether they would want them to or not.
Last year a good friend of mine was blown up in Afghanistan; a week after he was flown back to the UK I visited him in Selly Oak in the critical care unit. I have never seen, smelt or experienced anything like it. I am used to hospitals, I’ve spent a lot of the past couple years in them; prior to that I worked in special ed with profoundly disabled kids – few smells offend me and few sights shock me. I thought I was all sorted and psyched as I went to visit Stevie but nothing could prepare me for visiting that ward. It was full of young lads missing limbs, lots of them missing multiple limbs, some very sick people fighting for their lives, for their futures. Without doubt every person on that ward has had their lives changed forever, in an instant. Something that few of us ever have to contemplate. I’ve watched my mate piece his life back together, he considers himself one of the lucky ones. A couple of operations to rebuild his knee caps and legs, a scary period where they didn’t know if they’d need to amputate one of his legs, months in splints, getting used to life in a wheelchair…six months later after intensive support at Selly Oak and Headley Court, he is back on light duties, out of a wheelchair and walking with a stick, driving, newly engaged and planning his future. Lucky without doubt.
Cpl Chris Harrison
Not everyone is as lucky though. Last week Cpl Chris Harrison was buried in his home town of Watford. Chris was a Royal Marine junior officer, he was 26 years old, married to Becky and my sister’s next door neighbour. Becky was aware of the dangers of Chris’ job but nothing can prepare you for that knock on the door. In her tribute to him she says:
“Even though I knew and fully supported what Chris did as a Royal Marine and the dangers he was facing, I am still broken by his loss. Chris was my life, he was my motivator and my inspiration, my rock, the one person with whom I shared everything. It hurts me beyond words knowing that I will never have my beloved husband by my side ever again and we will never raise the family that we so desperately craved to complete our lives together. He will forever live in my heart.”
The day that Chris was buried Becky’s facebook update talked not just of her loss, but of the loss for the other families that day – Cpl Stephen Walker was being repatriated in Wootton Basset and two further fatalities occurred in Afghanistan.
So I guess I just wanted to remind anyone who has bothered to read this far, of the reality of life for those who choose to serve in our armed forces. I guess I’d just like them to think twice before so quickly dismissing their efforts and relegating their profession. In a world where we all seem to think that technology has the solution to so many of our problems it is easy to forget that some of the solutions that we are seeking have always been there – the formal and informal support networks, the sense of community, the collective responsibility – they might not be online or tweeting their own value and worth, but I for one am very grateful for the contribution that the men and women of our armed services make that allows each and every one of us to live the life we have.
I’m not really a big pizza fan, its not something I’d ever buy in the supermarket or make at home. Up until four years ago I’d never really been that fussed about pizza. So what changed that? Well I moved to Newton Abbot and discovered The Pizza Cafe.
The Pizza Cafe is quite simply the best restaurant in Mutant and without doubt the best pizza for miles. They have been operating for 22 years, get ingredients from local suppliers, deliver locally and have a restaurant open for lunch and dinner.
My current favourites are Porkys (Westcountry pineapple and apple chutney, slow roasted Westcountry pork, caramelised onions, crispy bacon, chorizo and fire roasted yellow peppers) and Thunderball (Sweet chilli sauce, Swedish meatballs, jalapenos, red onion, peppadew and roquito sweet peppers). You can have a nose at their menu on their website – if you are into pizza there is some great inspiration there.
So, why am I waffling on about pizza? Well this blog isn’t really about pizza, it’s about social media. The pizza cafe joined twitter last September and I tweeted all my friends to tell them about it, I regularly signpost people to them, encouraged twitter friends who were coming down from Exeter to visit them and generally spread the Pizza Cafe love.
Over the past 9 months I have regularly replied to the Pizza Cafe tweets, I’ve bantered with them, I’ve sent tweets when I’ve enjoyed their goods etc and had finally got myself into a dilemma! My favourite pizza cafe had *never* replied to me; now I understand that people use twitter differently but they had got to the stage where I wanted to share the love but (drama queen alert)….I was feeling a little rejected! I love twitter, I love the idea of social networking and making those connections with people….I was struggling to keep the love when I never heard back. What was particularly strange to me was that there was lots of banter over on facestalker whenever I checked in there but I try not to these days.
So this weekend I intended to sit down and write a blog about my dilemma to get everyone’s opinion about it. Should I stop frequenting the pizza cafe (I could certainly affect their profits if I did that)? Should I go in and try to have a chat with whoever runs their twitter account? Should I just accept that some people use twitter differently? This Friday a couple of us headed in for dinner and as ever, the staff were lovely, the pizza was amazing, good evening all round.
So imagine my delight yesterday as I sat eating cold Porkys in my garden when I got a reply on twitter from the pizza cafe:
Since that tweet we’ve exchanged a couple, they were able to identify my cold Porkys from the above photo, shared the info that the pork is slow roasted for ten hours and generally just joined the conversation. So I’m delighted to be able to end this blog post with a happy ending. I’m delighted that I don’t have to start boycotting my favourite pizza cafe…although I might need to reduce my intake for waistline reasons as summer is fast approaching
The realisation I had yesterday was that we’re all still learning with social media but it all boils down to conversation. This week our organisation went live with a twitter stream on the home page of our website. I’m sure this isn’t of note for most organisations but it was a big decision for us – for that feature to work, and our partners to feel valued, we need to ensure that we work to build the conversation and that we sustain it. This is a bit of a leap of faith but I don’t feel that you can ‘learn’ social media without trial and error; we’ve sat at the edge watching for a while and now we’ve dived right in…fingers crossed everyone in my small team will join the conversation and we’ll build even stronger links with the people we work for and with. We might not have pizza on our side but conversation we should be able to manage.
This week I’ve been blown away by the generosity of some lovely people in my twitter stream. I asked for a £1 off people who follow me, as sponsorship for a 15k walk I’m doing next month. The Starlight Walk is a 15k stroll around Swindon, home of the famous magic roundabout, in aid of Prospect Hospice. It’s not much of a physical challenge really in itself, it’s about 10miles and I’m doing it with my mates Anna and Tracy. I suspect it will be emotionally far harder though as we’re raising funds in memory of Dan, Anna’s husband, who died in February. You can read more about Dan and why we’re doing it here and here.
So this week I was wondering how I could convince more of you to donate a £1 towards this fantastic cause, after all lots of people have read the blog post but not gone the extra step and donated a pound. So I thought I’d show you what you could get for a £1 in our local Sainsburys garage this week! You could have:
- A large yellow sponge – ideal for cleaning the car or waterfights in this weather
- A Capri-Sun drink
- A Cornish pasty (on special offer this week – grab them while you can)
- A tin of tomatoes
So there you have it, four things you could get for a pound. Great, but none of them are life changing!
Alternatively you could donate a pound to Prospect, for that pound you’d be helping one of the 1,400 people who they provide care to each year. Prospect provide support to people in their own homes, in hospital, in care homes or in their hospice; the support is life changing for those who are ill and also for their family and friends. It makes all the difference, really.
If everyone who reads this blog post donates a pound then I know we could reach our target of £500 for Prospect….I’ve got 35 days left until I walk 15k, please please please help by donating, just a pound. Thank you.
You can donate on the Virgin Money Giving site here http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/TeamDanDan or if you live outside the UK or prefer to use Just Giving then you can also donate here http://www.justgiving.com/team-dandan.
Thank you for your support. Big thanks to @markbigsw @dalekdoctor @fergusbisset @amcunningham @rufflemuffin @irishandrew @soundgirl64 @alpew @sarknight @juniorc0 @jeanetteleech @hen4 @segelstrom @tomarse99, Joe and anonymous x3
Thought I’d share some fortune cookie wisdom with you.
Is worth remembering methinks. That and my fave Margaret Mead quote:
Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Lecture over….carry on….nothing to see here
Help please, I need your help.
No really, I could *really* do with your help. My friend Dan died in February, he was 37. We buried him the day after Valentine’s Day. He left behind his wife, Anna and his young daughter Liv. You can read more and see Dan in a previous blog post here.
On the eve of what would have been Dan and Anna’s first wedding anniversary, Anna, her sister Tracy and myself will be walking 15k around Swindon to raise funds for Prospect Hospice where Dan spent the last weeks of his life. Prior to being admitted to Prospect Dan had been at home, with Anna, his parents, her parents and family and friends trying to provide the required support. He had been in and out of hospital and the strain on him and those closest to him was palpable. I am sure that there are few things harder in life than caring for someone who is so close to you, not knowing how long they have left, and just hoping that you are doing things right. The fabulous support from Prospect allowed his wife, daughter and family and friends to be just that in his final days…his family and friends, not his carers.
So this is where you come in….one pound, a euro, a dollar. More if you can afford it but just one would make an amazing difference. I have 611 followers (I’m sure that number will drop in the coming days now) on twitter; five of them have very generously started the ball rolling, I’d be really very VERY grateful if a couple hundred more of them were able to afford just £1. It would make all the difference to reaching our £500 target. None of us know when we’ll require the type of support that Prospect provide – I hope your family and friends never will – but I know the difference any size donation can make. Please give what you can afford http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/TeamDanDan
** Some people reported difficulties donation on the VirginMoney site so I’ve also created a JustGiving page. If someone would like to start the £1 ball rolling I’d be delighted http://www.justgiving.com/team-dandan **
On Sunday Erin Kennedy ran a marathon.
I don’t know about you but I’m *always* impressed by anyone who runs a marathon…or for that matter walks a marathon…or runs a half marathon…or walks a half marathon…or runs a 10k; I’ll stop, you get the picture. Those of you who swing by here occasionally will be well familiar with my struggles to motivate myself to get outside and run.
So why am I blogging about Erin and who is she anyway? Well, the thing is I don’t really know too much about Erin! I’ve never met her, she’s not been on twitter long (but you can find her here) and she’s also a relative newbie to blogging (you can find her blog here).
What I do know is as follows:
- she has a penchant for 80 music…come on, who doesn’t
- she is the Youth Olympic Games Young Ambassador for USA
- she plays rugby
- she likes breakfast…especially pancakes
- she has just run a marathon.
Not very much really.
So for me it’s all the more impressive that she’s managed to inspire me to register for the Cardiff Half Marathon in October. I was toying with it already but there was something about Erin’s description of her marathon that convinced me I would be able to do it (it’s not so much about the physical side of it, more the mental side….dare I say fear of failure or risk of making a mistake?). So its all in your head… there really are no excuses except your own.
I guess ultimately it’s nearly always a mental battle, as most things in life are. As my Dad is always ready to remind me, it’s all about the PMA (positive mental attitude for those of you without a Bobby J in your lives)! I’m not for a minute wanting to take away from the immense physical accomplishment of Erin’s race, more wishing to acknowledge her grit and determination. Go say hi, check out her blog post and see if you’re not inspired too
…and if anyone wants to join me in Cardiff you know where to find me – here or on twitter @georgejulian.
…and if anyone wants to know more about the Youth Olympics take a look at their site or talk to Great Britain’s very own young ambassador, @fergusbisset – you can meet Fergus over on youtube or check out his blog here.