Unexpected reactions…

I’m currently sat in a pub that was my ‘local’ in 2003/04. It’s strange being here for many reasons. 

Most of all because my head is all over the place. Last time I drove back to this town (2 years ago) I came off the M1 and smiled broadly as I headed downhill toward Bedford. 

Today my reaction was so different. 

I became incredibly upset. That sensation that grows in the pit of your stomach until you can’t help but release the feeling via the tear ducts.

To put this all in to context for those who don’t know me, I grew up in Gloucestershire and then, in 2003 aged 20, I moved to this little town called Sandy in Bedfordshire. This was my home for 5 years. 

I developed friendships (some of those people I now love like family and will see this weekend!), lost friends, had multiple jobs, lost love (that’s a long story and one only a few people actually know the truth about) and I found an inner strength I never realised I a) had or b) would ever need. 

I did a lot of growing up in those years basically.

Last time I came here I was kind of in relationship with a guy living in the area and I remember talking to him about me moving in with him and coming ‘home’. As I sit here now I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had followed my heart. The guy in question was flakey and we were destined not to last! I’d probably still be in the area if I had moved back though. Possibly never to leave.

As I write this, I’m trying to work out why I had the reaction I did tonight.

I know for sure it’s not about Mr Flakey. 

This is something I’ve been storing for a number of years I think.

This short section has taken me over half an hour to write… I’m still none the wiser… maybe it’ll come to me while I’m here.

I’m going to carry on with my pint Doombar and listen to UB40’s ‘Kingston Town’ which has just come on the speakers! 

VLM16 – Week 1

So here we are. It’s the end of my first week of training for the London Marathon.. go me!

I had to move my long run to today as I’m working tomorrow, but it went pretty well. I took to the gym to give me the chance to do some weights work after the run. The weights were certainly easier than Wednesday night’s Run then Swim… 20 minutes of each were a lot harder than they should have been in all fairness!

Now, I’m not a fast runner by any means, but I’ve started the training at a steady pace which I’m pretty pleased with. I am finding the mental challenge the hardest of the lot and this is going to be a massive test for me.

I always judge myself against everyone else and with friends of mine clocking up 8, 9 or 10 minute miles, my 12:30 pace makes me feel really down. I won’t quit, but it’s tough. I need to get over this and remember that the only person I have to beat, is me.

In the meantime, I have some new additions to the fish tank in my living room in a bid to aid my relaxation.

On that note, I should really finish getting my kit ready for work (photographing Oxford United v Swansea tomorrow), so I will add some more thoughts soon!

Thanks to everyone for your support!

Technology thoughts

It’s the daily drudge of the average working persons life. You get up, you go to work, you break for food, you go home, you have food, you go to bed. Maybe a bit of the gym/social. Sometimes, if like me you commute on a train, you also spend an unfair amount of your day stood on a train going nowhere fast, but we won’t dwell on that today.

With life for so many being so predictable and, sometimes boring, it’s no wonder that so many of us find ourselves seeking happiness and gratification in material possessions. In particular technology. How many of us have at least two forms of mobile technology these days? A mobile telephone, a laptop, a tablet… how much of it do we actually need?

Personally I find myself missing the days of stepping outside the house and not being able to contact anyone. However, I remember getting really frustrated at a friend who refused to have a mobile while I stood for ages waiting for them in the middle of Stroud Town centre one Saturday night!

Technology brings with it, a lot of problems. I wonder if our increase in stress and depression are related to the fact that we, as a society are constantly connected. When was the last time you went an entire day without looking at social media/your phone/tablet/the internet? I’m just as bad as everyone else, don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these to sit and go on about how amazing my life is since I gave up technology or anything daft like that. And honestly, I have to wonder if it’s something that I could even do.

I find I’m quite an anxious person these days when it comes to knowing where people are. Simple things like where my Dad is, if he’s gone off on a bike ride and not returned when he should. Or when a friend says they’re coming round and they are later than normal (very few of my friends are ever on time!). If I can’t get hold of them on their phone, after a while I get worried. I think it stems from a few friends losing loved ones unexpectedly. I appreciate that’s a very negative way of looking at life, but there comes a time when we are all reminded of our own mortality.

On the other side of the electronic nightmare that is our lives today, there is no doubting the amazing things that it now gives us. I jumped on the tube the other day and took up my fairly usual location of leaning up against the glass overlooking my fellow passengers who were lucky enough to grab a seat. A woman sat near me was checking her phone and I found myself being nosey. I hate those that read over people’s shoulders, but I was captured by what I saw when I had turned around. She was flicking through pictures of 3D imaging of her baby. I found myself wondering what people 50 or 60 years ago would have thought, had they been able to see their unborn child like that. There’s no doubting that it makes our life better in so many ways. But are we capable of making technology work for us, rather than letting it control our lives?

**written on my laptop, on a train, with my mobile next to me and signed in to social media**

8 hours to contemplate…

(Written on Sunday 12th while flying to New York City)
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There are some things in life which surprise us. There are others which make us sad. Most days however are ‘generic’. Those days where you know what will happen and how you will feel by the end. For most of us those days are the ones that we are paid for, the days we go to work, our ‘9 to 5’.

What if we mixed that up? Do you remember that feeling as you walked through the school gates on a Monday morning? That feeling of dread (you’ve forgotten to do your homework), excitement (at seeing all your friends) and the possibility of seeing that one special person who is yet to be yours?

You may think that those days are at an end… or maybe you still feel this way about the start of your week (in which case I salute you and hope you never lose it)… but what about getting those days back? If you are married or in a relationship, I’m not talking about having an affair, I just mean, how about you start looking at the life around you with those child-like eyes that you once had.

As I type this, I am on a plane heading for New York, looking forward to a week that contains… well I don’t know what! A week full of new things, of excitement, new people, new things to learn. A bit like attending school all over again.

But you don’t need to jump on a plane and fly 8 hours to get a new perspective on life. I have had a pretty ‘childlike’ view on the world since the start of 2014 and frankly, I am a lot more positive and happy for it.

Don’t get me wrong, I still have a lot of responsibilities and I haven’t just abandoned them, but I am looking at life in a much simpler way. Last year was very stressful and sadly I took it out on those that I cared about the most, friends, family and certain colleagues that I have come to admire over the years.

This year, is about remembering what life is about. What is the point in worrying about tomorrow when you have to get through today? And if today is your last, wouldn’t you want to make it the best day of all?

Take a chance to look up, to look into the eyes of that man/woman you love (whether they know or not) and most of all don’t take a second of the time you spend with loved ones for granted. Not because it might be your last, but because it creates the beautiful memories that will see you through the darkest times in life. And no matter what or who you are, there will be dark times.

Lets face it, it doesn’t matter how positive you are, there will always be a time when all you want is to curl up in a ball and for the world to stop.

I’m chasing the sunset as I write this. It’s the most extraordinary experience… my flight departed at around 4.30pm GMT and yet, nearly 4 hours into the flight, I am still looking at a beautiful red sunset. It’s times like this that remind you how amazing the world we live in is.

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that everything I have been through has brought me here. I don’t just mean to seat 43A on this flight, but I mean to those friends I have and the work I do.

How many of you regret? If you regret a person or a situation, remember this, if you’d never met them or never been in that situation, you wouldn’t now know the people you know and have the friendships you have today.

Even when I look back to some of my darkest times, I just look to the fun and laughter that I have shared since and I know that this life is the one I was mean’t to have. I wouldn’t change a thing or a person.

Right… New York City… What memories will you create?

Angling Trust RiverFest 2013 – Final

Following a busy couple of weeks of work, I decided to use my time off to be even more busy.

Last weekend was the final of the Angling Trust RiverFest 2013, held on the River Wye in Hereford. The finalists had competed in qualifiers on a number of different Rivers around England throughout 2013, in a bid to be in with a chance of winning the top prize of £10,000. The conditions the previous week had been awful and organiser Dave Harrell was pleased when the weather report looked favourably on the final weekend!

Fished over two days, 26 prizes were on offer, plus a prize for the biggest fish. 20 section winners (Saturday and Sunday) by default and the top 6 were all highly sort after places. Day 1 saw a top weight of 32-7 by Paul Bick and all 59 participants caught something. With 11 weights over 20lbs and 36 over 10lbs, the field was fairly open going into Sunday.

There were several reasons for my attendance. Firstly, being there to support my friend, Ian Didcote who was hoping to take the top prize. Another reason was to take photos (https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.648182291893201.1073741833.522651657779599&type=1) and finally to trial some software I have written to handle match results.

It was to be a big challenge as the usual fishing match consists of a top set of anglers (pay out top 3 or 5) and then section winners by default (meaning that those who win something overall, don’t also win their section). This one was a top 6 by cumulative weight over the two days and then 10 section winners each day (section winners by default).

When the first 4 sections (of 6 anglers) came in, I discovered a slight coding problem, which was quickly resolved (within 10 minutes). Once the manual calculation’s were underway (as a sense check for my system) I was able to enter them into my software and produce the final tally of results quickly. Pleased is an understatement after the work involved!

The fishing on day 2 turned the field around and saw John Urruty, who had 14-6 on Saturday, take home the prize for the biggest fish (Barbel on Sunday) and finish with the top 6 with 40-14!

Overall I think it was a successful weekend for the organisers and I’m sure next year’s will be bigger and better. Oh and a special mention to Hereford Rowing Club. I may be biased as a rower, but the facilities were brilliant and the view out over the river was perfect for those of us who couldn’t or didn’t want, to walk the bank.

Here’s to RiverFest 2014!

For a breakdown of the event and the final results – http://www.anglingtrust.net/news.asp?section=29&sectionTitle=Angling+Trust+News&itemid=1919

One for the ladies… but men take note!

Cancer has to be one of the scariest words in the world. Just the mention of it causes people to immediately think that they need to begin planning your funeral. The possibility of it, is enough to send you in to a dark place where you feel like your world is falling apart around you.

I know that it’s a scary thing, but what about all the things we can do to help ourselves?

I’m talking about tests and regular check ups. If something doesn’t seem right, what do you do? Put it off? Wait and see what happens? It’s strange really, when you look at the number of people who go to the doctors for a cold or flu, when it would probably go away with the help of over the counter medication. But how long do you leave a lump? Or bleeding? Or other things that aren’t quite normal, but we get too embarrassed to talk about?

Even worse, what if you’re supposed to go for a regular check ups (ladies, I’m talking Smears in particular here) and put them off? Work was particularly busy that week or it was the wrong time of the month. Maybe you get caught in traffic and have to cancel, promising to reschedule?

That last one was me. I kept putting it off, for what I saw as a legitimate reason. Work was mental. I was working in London (or somewhere else) and finding it almost impossible to get to my Smear test. Then, when my Grandfather got seriously ill, I decided to wait as I couldn’t handle two things going wrong at the same time (ever the optimist). I was also very nervous. Ok, scared.

When my Grandfather died in October last year, I made a pact with myself. I wouldn’t put it off any more. I saw, thankfully not in all it’s technicolor although I know the detail of what cancer does to the human body and to be honest I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

Anyway, I went along to my appointment in the middle of November and it was fine. In fact I have no idea what the fuss is all about. Yes it’s uncomfortable and in no way a fun experience, but it’s a couple of minutes and frankly worth it. Honestly, would you rather have 5 minutes of feeling embarrassed (when the nurse/doctor has probably performed 10 of them already that day), or just leave it so you end up dying slowly and painfully? Just wondering.

The week before Christmas I had the results that every woman dreads. I had an abnormal result and was being referred for a Colposcopy.

I’d love to sit here and say I was calm and rational, but I wasn’t. All that went through my mind was the thought of pre-cancerous cells and the threat of chemo/radio or even death. Yep, I was in full on panic mode. Thankfully (for me rather than her), a close friend had been through all this (and quite a bit more!) so I called her at once. She was brilliant. Calming me down and talking me through everything. From that point on, I wasn’t quite so afraid. I just wanted it done.

Come February, I still hadn’t had my appointment through and I was getting annoyed. After all, time is of the essence isn’t it? I harassed the hospital a few times… ok, quite a few… and eventually I got a cancellation.

I was frightened at the appointment. To make matters worse, they were 30 minutes late taking me in and then produced someone else’s notes! One of the nurses was lovely and we managed to have a laugh about the situation although everyone was mortified at the error. I was taken back out and sat down, waited another 10 minutes and then was called in again. The nurses were great, the doctor was still annoyed at the paperwork error earlier I think.

A few laughs, a bit of uncomfortable ‘prodding’ (it’s the only way to describe it) and the procedure done. I’d had to have a biopsy and I was informed I’d get the results in time and then they’d decide what to do. I was sent on my way with a list of things I couldn’t do. The worst one, was not being able to exercise for a few days. I had the Edinburgh Marathon on the horizon! I was mortified. But, I was pleased I’d had the procedure and that the results would be back soon.

When I say soon, I mean May. The week I moved house in fact. This time, the results were conclusive. I needed treatment. I didn’t have cancer, but the biopsy had concluded that the issue was advanced enough to require treatment.

I now lived 45 minutes away from the hospital, but there was no way I was risking changing the appointment. It had been sent through with only 10 days notice, so I was going.

This time, I only had to wait 20 minutes to be called and they had the correct notes. The nurse looked at me and said ‘sorry, you look really familiar’. I said I’d been here before and she said ‘did something happen?’. I recalled the experience of the wrong notes and she laughed. ‘Oh yes, of course, with Dr ***, of course’ and laughed again! I went into the waiting room for the doctor and thought back to my last trip there. This time, I wasn’t nervous. I knew it wouldn’t be fun, but I also knew it had to be done. I was told I would have a Loop Diathermy in order to remove the affected cells. I won’t go into the details here but it was not pleasant.

It also meant no training for a couple of weeks, no swimming until I healed and I wasn’t allowed to go abroad for a month (in case of complications – more for insurance reasons that anything else I believe).

What upset me most, was that I had planned to get back to sessions with my PT and to go rowing but that was all out for at least a week. I was left with people thinking I wasn’t doing my training due to injury or a lack of time to train.

The comments from a few people really did hurt. There was no need to pass judgement on why I was or wasn’t training. Frankly, it was no one’s business. I’m normally very open about why I can’t do something. If I’m being cagey, it’s for a reason. No need to push it. I certainly didn’t care for the comments about how I needed to take better care of myself. I’m 30, I’ve lived alone for a number of years, been training for a number of years and been through a couple of nasty health scares to boot. Oddly enough, I’m still breathing. Get a grip people and sort your own lives out 😉 Moan over.

Anyhow, I won’t lie, the Loop hurt. I had a local but it still hurt. The only thing that stayed with me throughout it all, was that the pain I experienced that day is nothing compared to what those fighting Cancer go through every second of the day.

The one thing I wasn’t quite prepared for was the emotional change over the two weeks or so that followed. Let’s just say that it wasn’t a good time for me to make decisions… or to be talked to… or try to make friends. It was like PMS. But worse!

Two weeks ago, I had confirmation that the treatment had been successful and that I just need to go for 6 monthly smears to keep an eye on everything. I was thrilled and frankly felt like I had been let out of jail free. It could have been so much different if I’d continued to ignore the reminders or cancel appointments.

I had no symptoms that anything was wrong.

Please don’t wait until you notice something ladies. It’s not worth it. And guys, encourage your lady to go and get checked and remember, if you do have an abnormal result, it doesn’t mean the end of the world or that you have cancer. Just means your body needs a bit of help to keep it healthy.

My reason for writing this is to share my experience. Yes it’s been frightening and daunting, but it’s also been good for me. I’m stronger for it, obviously healthier for it and best of all, I feel back in control of my life. Plenty of women go through Colposcopy’s every day, it’s nothing to be scared of.

Oh and I wouldn’t recommend looking on the internet for information about it. Unless it’s off the NHS website. Far too much scaremongering around 😐

If you have a friend who’s been through it, speak to her or if not, speak to your doctor about it. Don’t worry about it on your own.

Realisation

The time has come. I refuse to claim people are right, because I fail to see what that would achieve other than to fuel the desire of those around me to interfere in my life. However, it looks like I will not be able to complete the Half Marathon in Warwick.

To the fantastic people who have sponsored me, I am sorry. But with a bad few months emotionally and a dose of flu over Christmas which left me with bad chest problems for the whole of January, my training just didn’t progress as well as I hoped and needed. 

I remain determined to beat this and to keep running but I have to be realistic. I am only capable of running 6 miles and that’s not good enough this close to the event. 

I am most disappointed that I allowed the doom mongers to affect me as much as they did. The constant remarks on how my training isn’t right, how I’m ‘not a runner’ and that I shouldn’t push myself have, sadly, taken their toll. Only so much I can ignore. I hope you’re all proud of your interference.

You won’t beat me though. I’m just cutting you lot out of my life. I’ve had enough negativity to last a lifetime. I will face more difficult challenges in my life than this and I want people around me who support and encourage me. By that, I don’t mean telling me your way is the best and I am stupid for doing anything different. Or the disapproving looks, shrug of a shoulder and ‘well, it’s up to you’ comments. Unless you happen to be my personal trainer, in which case… you’re exempt from this particular rant.

It’s been two years since I went down with a virus that I thought would end my chances of ever taking part in a training session again. I look at where I am now and realise that although I am letting people down in terms of not getting myself to the start line in Warwick, I haven’t let them down in terms of the work I have put in over the last few months to get to where I am now. And I will continue to work hard and harder. I have more goals. I have a 10 mile run in Maidenhead planned in just a couple of weeks (which I hope to make) and a 40 mile cycle ride in May.

To those who have sponsored and supported me, I will make you proud. I’m just sorry not to be able to do it on 17th March.

The last few months

It’s been a while hasn’t it. My last post was after the success of London 2012 and the hopes and dreams which it had created for so many. It was such a positive time and one of the reasons I stopped writing here was due to personal circumstances which had brought me down to Earth with a bump.  I didn’t feel it would be productive to talk about it on here. My emotions were all over the place and I struggled to even speak to friends about how I felt. The few conversations I did have with friends ended up more a counselling session and that just made me angry. I didn’t want ‘help’ or ‘advice’. I just wanted to talk. To get everything off my chest and not have someone try and ‘fix’ it. If I had written a post, it would have been angry and hitting out at those who were only trying to be there for me. Sometimes, just listening not offering an opinion is all that I needed. Don’t know what to say? Try nothing but a hug and a cup of tea. And a chocolate biscuit 🙂

To those following me on Twitter… thanks for not unfollowing me after some of the things I’ve come out with! I have been unable to explain my feelings there… I can’t fit this into 140 characters 😉

The following post details what has happened. I feel I need to put this down in writing, as I have struggled to discuss it with people. Now I’m stronger and looking to a bright 2013, I feel this is the best way for me to get things off my chest.

So what happened?

Well, two things. One, my lovely sister struggling on as ever with her various conditions which continue to prevent her being able to work. July was a particularly difficult time with her ending up in hospital for a long and worrying stay. I know my Mum and Dad feel helpless and we all wish we could help, but sadly all we can do is try and support her. Our wonderful government – *chokes* – are doing their best to help her too of course. Cutting benefits and ensuring she (and our family) is put through as much unnecessary stress as possible just so she can afford to live and pay her bills(!) She battles everyday with constant pain and somehow still retains her sense of humour. For her and others like her suffering with EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome) I salute you.

The second, was my Grandfather’s (on my Mum’s side) Cancer. He was originally diagnosed several years ago, but last spring he went downhill and had another heart-attack (not long after my Great Uncle lost his life to Cancer). Eventually the Cancer resulted in a hospital admission last October which, if we’re honest, we never expected him to survive. But, survive he did and then in the spring/early summer this year, the doctors informed us that the Cancer had spread. Now it was invading his Liver.

My Mum and Dad had been driving to/from the hospital almost every day since last October, picking my Nan and Mum’s sister up and ensuring shopping was done etc. I know my Dad found this difficult. There was a lot of pressure on him to be there, which he didn’t mind, but as you can imagine it took it’s toll. It took a lot of time and a remarkable amount of patience (my Nan has been testing at the best of times!) but he did it… although at what cost to his own state of mind I don’t know.

By August this year, I had requested not to travel with work so I could be there for my family. I have to say, my company have been fantastic. More than I deserved. Colleagues across the group have asked how myself and my family are doing, which has been touching. But my colleagues in the UK office have been superb, particularly putting up with my ups and (more often) downs through September, October and my bad moods in November as I struggled with a lack of sleep and a tendency to go home, eat rubbish and drink wine. To them, I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

At the start of October, my Grandfather took a turn for the worst and sadly this was the start of the end. My Nan called the paramedics, who were convinced he wouldn’t make the end of the day. Being stubborn, my Grandfather had refused to stay in bed and got up to leave the bedroom, only to have a fall. Trying to get him to stay in bed, was almost impossible.

When I heard the news, I drove to be there and was confronted by my family looking slightly bewildered. My Grandfather had improved and was sitting in bed chatting away. He looked tired, but still smiled and asked me how my job was going. Then the family doctor arrived and we had the discussion every person dreads – do you sign the do not resuscitate form, should he have a heartattack/stroke? It doesn’t matter how old or young a person is. When you are faced with a decision as to whether you should give them the chance to live or die, it breaks your heart and tears you to pieces. Our decision made, the doctor continued to chat with us and commented on how he had been surprised at the apparent resiliency of my Grandfather. In his words, ‘he’s a tough old bugger’. I couldn’t agree more.

On the morning of 22nd October, he was back in hospital, his wife and daughters at his side, all of us aware that it wouldn’t be long. That Monday was one of the hardest for me. 80 miles away in my office, I had my Mum on the phone letting me know the latest and my heart was breaking. There was nothing I could do, I had to stay, work and just be waiting on the end of the phone for more news.

Tuesday 23rd October and my Mum and one of her sister’s arrived at the hospital. With my Nan at his side and as my Aunt walked onto the ward, he slipped away. The doctors said afterwards that they had no idea how he survived as long as he did. The cancer was everywhere.

I arrived at my Nan’s house that afternoon with her sat in his chair holding a teddy bear. She was talking to me about the bear and about my Grandfather. Catching herself several times as she referred to him as if he was with us, I was lost as to what to say. She had just lost her husband of 63 years.

The days that followed were tough. My Nan began sorting through belongings the following day, even suggesting throwing things out – which we stopped – and she was on autopilot getting things done. The funeral had been pretty much finalised by the Thursday.

Holding myself together, I tried to support my Nan, Mum and her sister as much as possible, but when my Nan started to read some love letters they had written to each other, I felt a pain deep in my chest. My Mum and Aunt left the room, unable to listen to the words she read. It was heartbreaking, but so beautiful, written to each other when they were first courting in 1947/48. We shared some laughs and she began to shed a few more tears. An hour or so later, my mum and I were about to leave when the phone rang. I answered the first call to find it was my Great Aunt (Nan’s sister). The second call, my Aunt picked up and then burst into tears. I took the phone from her to find it was my Grandfathers best friend. Breaking the news to him and telling him I would let him know about the funeral was difficult to say the least. He was absolutely devastated and with my Nan, Aunt & Mum crying behind me, I have no idea how I didn’t break down. I will never forget that conversation.

That week was one of the saddest I’ve experienced. But I am so glad I was able to be there. I do wish that I had seen through my final words to him though. I told him, a week and a bit before he died, that I would see him ‘later’. I went downstairs, chatted to my Nan, left the house (as he’d fallen asleep). I didn’t see him again. ‘Later’ will come, just not in this life.

The funeral, on 5th November, was a lovely occasion (if a funeral can ever be lovely). The weather finally decided to take a break from raining and we had sunshine, a good turnout and plenty of good memories shared. I surprisingly managed to hold it together for most of the day (although digging my nails into my hands left impressive marks). My Mum’s other sister (who was not coping at all well) hugged me and said he would have been proud of me. I’d like to think that was true. I am so proud of my Mum, my Aunt and my Nan for that day. In particular my Aunt. She was there at the worst times and coped amazingly well, even though she may not believe that. Anyone who has been there for a person losing their battle against Cancer, will know what I am referring to. To those who don’t know… I hope you never find out.

To people who know me well, you’ll notice I am leaving out the trouble, heartache and downright vicious behaviour from one small section of the family. I am no longer angry with them. They aren’t worth the effort. But I will never forgive or forget what they have done and if I ever see them again, it will be too soon. All I will say is that I hope they are ashamed of themselves… that is, of course, if they ever find an ounce of humanity in their souls. Which I doubt.

Christmas this year will be a strange affair. My Dad’s mother died suddenly on Christmas Eve 30 years ago and so it’s always been a reflective time, but this year, we will have one less at the dinner table. Always putting on a brave face and smiling at everything, it will be sad not to have my Grandfather at the head of the table chatting about the Rugby, Cricket and how the garden is coming along despite all the rain we’ve had. He was, however, dreading the winter. I just wish that the summer had been better for him, so he could have spent more time sat in his garden, enjoying the beautiful colours and fragrance that his green fingers created.

I hate saying this, as everyone does when they lose someone, but so few remember it. Keep everything in perspective. An argument on Christmas Day about something that isn’t life or death is really not worth it. Be happy and tell those you love, just how much. My Grandfather and Nan had a wonderful relationship filled with love and both knew just how much they meant to each other.

As for Cancer, if you have any concerns, please see your doctor. No need to be embarrassed, they’ve seen it all before. Ladies, if you have a smear test due, go and book it in. Now! Any pain/embarrassment from a test, is nothing compared to the testing, treatment and potential death if you just ignore it. Not to mention the fact that it will scar those closest to you, forever.

In the same way, please, if you get diagnosed with Cancer, don’t see it as a death sentence. It is terrifying, but people do beat it. One of my closest friends was diagnosed with Lymphoma on his Birthday a couple of years ago and went into remission last year. But you have to do your best to make sure it’s caught as quickly as possible. Don’t ignore any symptoms, no matter what your age is.

On a brighter note I am pleased to say that, despite some bad days, my Nan is doing remarkably well. She and my Grandfather were inseparable  even before he became ill and we were all worried about how she would cope. She’s now demonstrating just how strong she is. Don’t get me wrong, she’s grieving and so she cries and has bad days, but her strength day to day is amazing.

If I am half as strong as she and my Grandfather, then I can do anything.

Inspiration v Age

What did you dream for your life when you were younger? Was it for fame and fortune? Perhaps just money? For me, it was to be a Paramedic. At least that was until I realised I hated people being sick, so I then decided I wanted to be a Fire Fighter. This still holds some weight with me. I would love to be able to say that I help people. To be able to say that I am making a difference.

Money and fame seems to be the driving factor for most people. I wonder whether this is born out of a need to be noticed, a sense of worthlessness in their life, or whether these people honestly believe that the only way they can make something of themselves is to be on X Factor, or some other ‘talent’ show.

London 2012 was a chance for everyone to experience a different sort of ‘talent’ show. The likes of Jessica Ennis, Charlotte Dujardin, Pete Reed, Jade Jones and countless others put themselves out there to challenge to be the best in their respective sports. The aim of the games was to ‘inspire a generation’, but I wonder how many young people will step up to this challenge. And is it only the ‘young’ who can dream to compete? Nick Skelton took Gold at the age of 54.

I have seen a number of comments on Twitter, particularly from younger people, who would love to represent their country in a sport. Some have no idea which sport to take up, but all the same, the interest is there. I think in that way, the message has been broadcast, heard and understood. I only hope that those who have the passion to compete, are given the support by their families, friends and have the money to undertake the training. To everyone who makes the choice to take up this challenge, I wish you all the luck in the world and I hope that one day we are all watching and cheering you on to Gold.

But, I have also seen others who claim that it’s too late for them to try. These are people who are currently sportsmen/women, some in their 30’s, who feel they would be unable to compete at an international standard due to their age. At what point are you too old? I remember having a conversation with a fellow crew member at a rowing club who said she would love to compete at the Olympics, but because she’s in her early 30’s, she was laughed at.

So is that it? At the age of (nearly 30) am I now too old to ever reach an international standard? I agree that there are times you may be out done by a younger competitor, but does that mean that we no longer even try? I refuse to regret decisions I have made in my life, but sitting here, I wonder if I should have continued with my Karate training (and taken my black belt exam) rather than a change of direction and treading the boards at the local theatre. You certainly get more support, it seems, when you are younger.

I start my Karate training again this week but people approach you differently when you’re heading toward (or stumbling past) 30. As the average population age increases, why should people in their late 20’s and 30’s be made to feel like they are heading over the hill?

Personally, I think I’m still (slowly) climbing the hill and have no desire to hit the top or head over it, until I’m heading toward 50!

Music and the memories it carries

I’m the type of person to associate places and situations with music. It used to come in very handy when mixing an audio montage at a radio station and for my time at a football club for their highlights. At the end of a match, we’d use clips and set it to an ‘appropriate’ piece of music.

These days, I find myself setting my life to music. I have far too many to put down in one post… and I’m sure you’d be bored to death after 5 but I find it fascinating the way things become associated and how we replay them.

On my first trip to Dublin, (working on the Quarter Final Heineken Cup coverage of Leinster v Cardiff) thanks to a small snippet of a track, I find myself put right back there when I hear Titanium by David Guetta. If I close my eyes, I see my first glimpse of the Aviva Stadium, flashes of the setup of our kit, into rehearsals and then the game. It’s almost like having my own internal Director, complete with appropriate camera cuts and pans.

One of the oldest (working) ‘musical memories’ I have is from BBC Radio Leeds back in 2003. I was a Digital Audio Trainer at the time and the song was ‘These Dreams’ by Heart. It was one of the tracks that I always had in my playlist and it brings back some wonderful memories of my time on the road, but in particular of Leeds.

I can understand why those two memories exist. The tracks were played when in that place (multiple times no doubt), but, as I’m sitting in my hotel room ahead of the Semi-Finals, I find Florence and the Machine’s Shake it Out reminding me of driving to my new office from my flat in St Neots. It wasn’t the first track I heard when I did that drive… just seems to have stuck with me and I’ve no idea why.

I think my best and oldest memory from music is from when I was about 6. I would spend the evenings with my dad, helping him in the kitchen with the beer he was brewing, the front door wide open and Abba on the stereo.

With this particular memory, it doesn’t require one track. I think we must have had their compilations CD on loop for the entire evening. It’s a fantastic jumble of memories, most of which were full of laughter and fun. The evenings that were slightly less funny tended to mean a misjudgement on the bottling of the beer, resulting in smashed bottles and a soaked carpet. My dad became very good at mopping up but not so good at hiding it from my mum.

I do wonder what track this weekend will end up being set to, but I’ve a sneaky feeling that Titanium will cover this one too. The weekends have been so close together that I’d be surprised if I had a new track.

Having said that, the pub I visited this evening played 80’s power ballads for most of the evening… you never know…