The Only Sane One Left

 Mad as a box of frogs

Mad as a box of frogs

Being a parent has been one long slog of worry punctuated by occasional moments of joy and inspiration. They say as a parent you are only as happy as your unhappiest child. While that is certainly true I find myself only truly relaxed when all the planes are back on the mother ship and in the hanger. The way it tends to work though, one rolls in for a fleeting visit and another rolls out on a new crackpot scheme. In the odd idle moment of reflection I sometimes think I am the only sane one in the asylum. 

This time, it is Georgina, who is to have a crack at a 53 mile ultra marathon, The Race To The King from Arundel to Winchester, on June 23rd.

Very cool graphics of the route.


"On the 23rd June I will be attempting to run The Race to the King, a 53 mile ultra marathon along the South Downs Way.

After realising I would never run a fast 5K it seemed like a good idea to focus on a challenge where having a slow pace is an advantage. This weekend I completed my first 30 mile training run with over 1,100m of total elevation (more than Snowdon!).

A large part of my motivation for completing is the ultra marathon is the two charities I will be running for. The first is MIND, the mental health charity, which provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. The second is the Get Exploring Trust, which aims to inspire and support 13-25 year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds to get into the outdoors.

I understand that you receive emails like this all the time but I really appreciate the support. Here is the link to my fundraising page, any donations will help motivate me on the day!"


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MIND is a fantastic charity but we are thrilled that she is also running for the 'House,' charity, the Get Exploring Trust. GET is still a young and small charity. We have though made grants this Spring to a range of groups and individuals for the 2018 expedition season. These include a 22 strong team of cadets from East London heading to Namibia, other individuals joining British Exploring expeditions to Iceland and Peru and some self organised expeditions such as one with two young men cycling from China to Paris. 

So the game old Support Team will be dusting itself down for another outing. Do come and join me along the route. There are after all, some very fine pubs between Arundel and Winchester.

Spatula Challenge 2

 Epic bike ride, nine years ago now.

Epic bike ride, nine years ago now.

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Incredibly, it is nine years since the kids had a bash at, and completed, the 3 Peaks Challenge. That would have been interesting enough but of course they decided to cycle in between the three hills rather than drive which normal people do. It is rather a long way from Ben Nevis to Snowdon, especially when following bicycles in a support vehicle. Still, they cracked it and raised a healthy sum for charity along the way. They called it the Spatula Challenge, (from the movie Run Fat Boy Run), but the one who came up with the name, (the youngest), had to join me in the support vehicle for the duration. Oh what fun we had, setting up camp, striking camp, leap-frogging ahead of them every eight miles, waiting at the bottom of the hills in the rain with hot brews and doing running repairs to the bicycles. Worse than not knowing what I was doing, I thought I knew what I was doing so repair stops tended to linger somewhat. Funny how even with bikes you reassemble them and always have one mystery part left over. 

Anyway, the youngest has grown and does his own thing now and well done to him for cracking the London Marathon in his own Spatula Challenge. Some might suggest that running the marathon in a creditable four hours with minimal training in £26 training shoes from Sports Direct bordered on silliness but he gets a tick in my box for it. He did rather suffer somewhat the next day but hey, it's all for charity!

The Eagle Has Landed

Laura: Dead Sea To Red Sea

One of the strands of life that I find especially enjoyable at the moment is quietly observing the number of ‘Mums’ who are dropping their Tesco’s shopping bags and saying, ‘I’ve been a good wife, a good mother, a good employee.... now….. it’s me time,’ and are going off and doing interesting and challenging things. Some are doing courses in this that or the next thing, some are becoming magistrates, some councillors, some are starting businesses, some seek adventure or find confirmation or afformation of their being through sport or coaching. Some do so simply by helping others. I think it is kind of cool. This wave of enthusiasm for rediscovering their joie de vivre does no doubt, leave some husbands sitting at the bottom of the garden wondering whats happened to shake, rattle and roll their little world. I think it's joyful..... kind of reaffirms the very good decision making we made in choosing these girls all those years ago!

And in that warm spirit of enthusiasm I get to welcome Mrs Flashbang home having just completed her Dead to Red Sea Charity Bike Ride and big thanks to friends and family who have supported her! (How bad is it by the way that I seem to have broken the spin dryer?). Well done hon!

 

That's My Girl

A quick update from our intrepid explorer in the Middle East for her kind supporters.... the call went something like, 'I'm having the time of my life.' On you go then love. Clip above from some self satisfied sod who just got himself a drone... (I do secretly have drone-envy, IWOOT).

 Lau, the Flashbang thing was a joke love... not an instruction...

Lau, the Flashbang thing was a joke love... not an instruction...

Diesel, Arthur and I meanwhile are all doing as well as can be expected. If in passing there are any experts out there who know where the powder goes in the white washing machine in the outhouse, (it's one of those that lights up like a Tardis when you press 'On') or indeed where one finds the powder, then do please feel free to call. 

 

 

 

Flashbang Away!

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That's Mrs Flashbang away then on her charity fund raising trip cycling from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea, (don't panic, she has more luggage than just a Sainsbury's plastic bag). Good luck to her, and to those of us left behind; that would be me and the dogs. She'll be joining her Dad on the trip, who actually started these international charity bicycle endeavours 25 years ago. I did a few of the early ones at the end of which I swore I was done. If every bike on the planet was melted down and turned into paper-clips I wouldn't lose any sleep. Still, these challenges raise huge amounts for charities and thats a very good thing. 

Only the one for dinner tonight then..

Where's that cook gone?

Wilbury Down

Nobody's Child.... gets me every time

I note that rock legend Tom Petty left his mortal coil today. I can’t say that I know much about him or indeed his music except that is, for his contribution to my favourite band, that antidote to the modern music industry, The Travelling Wilburys. A group which included Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Roy Orbison and Tom Petty must have something special about it.. and they did.

Handle With Care; Pretty cool when you have Roy Orbison just for the chorus

I first came across the band at a charity dinner in 1990, held at a restaurant in Beauchamp Place, the name of which I have long since forgotten. The dinner was organised by Olivia Harrison in aid of  The Romanian Angel Appeal. To be honest, I was a bit out of my league at the dinner but it was nice to be included. I nervously cast my eye down the items in the silent auction which read like a Bond Street Wish List. The auction proper had items that would challenge the pockets of a Lottery winner; holiday for ten in Mustique, that kind of thing. As I say, bit out of my league. Then they played a song on the sound system. By the end of the first verse of ‘Nobody’s Child,’ taken from the soon to be released first Travelling Wilburys album, I had my cheque book out. Song still gets me every time I hear it.

Farewell then Mr Petty and thank you.

Unlimbited; Simply Awesome Top Blokes

Drew Murray and Steve Davies; two top blokes doing good things.

There are times when the world may seem to be a joyless place. The last few weeks especially so with weather, geological and geopolitical chaos spreading misery across many parts of the world. We don’t though, have to look so very far to see the light of goodness and joy.

I found it in all places, in one of my favourite television programmes, ‘Shed of the Year.’ Who knew that was a thing? Well it is and very entertaining watching it is too. While watching one episode I was completely bowled over when the cameras took us into one wee small shed in Swansea in which, two guys, Drew Murray and Steve Davies  design and manufacture with 3-D printing to order, prosthetic hands and arms for whoever asks for one. Drew originally designed a limb for Steve who then decided to volunteer. Steve is a man who understands the difficulties facing the children he helps. He described in the programme one of the first prosthetic arms he was given as ‘something out of a medieval torture chamber.’ He said his grim experiences when a youngster with prosthetics were his inspiration ‘to make things better.’ The guys design and make the limbs in any colour and design at the childs request. The price to create one of his specially designed arms is about £30, far cheaper than sphisticated bionic limbs which can cost north of £50k. Given the rate at which children grow they are simply not tenable for most family situations. The charity, Unlimbited, doesn’t charge children for their services and they share their designs online so people all over the world can benefit.

Drew and Steve? Simply top blokes doing an awesome job. They certainly cheered me up watching them... well, made me cry first but who wouldn't get emotional?

The Good Guy Club

Way back in the early eighties I went to a Leukaemia Research ‘Ball,’ in the Hook area which was organised by a family who had tragically lost a young family member to blood cancer. In those days, Leukaemia in it’s various forms killed an unacceptable number of youngsters but great strides have been made in research and survivability has more than doubled since. The party in Hook was good fun. Held in a village hall the catering was done by the matrons and mothers of that commuting enclave and it was all cheerfully village fete, raffle and coronation chicken like. Ten years later the event had grown into something altogether more substantial and was held in a large hotel with auctions, entertainment and attendant celebrities to match. The growth of the fundraising effort over the years was mirrored with success in the laboratory. Those raffle tickets really do help.

My mind is again focused on the wretched thing with a close friend having recently been diagnosed with the illness. Fortunately, the doctor’s roadmap for him back to the bright sunlit uplands of health and happiness is likely to include stem cell donation. Unfortunately, while his friends would happily drive to wherever they needed to be this afternoon to donate our stem cells,  Anthony Nolan doesn’t actually want ours; mostly because our bodies are old and knackered. You see, the best stem cells come from those who are aged between 16 and 30, weigh over 7st 12lbs and are in good health. I should immediately point out, the old urban myth of stem cell donation being painful, ‘they stick a knitting needle in your thigh bone,’ is utter nonsense  90% of donors do so by blood in a process called peripheral blood stem cell donation. You can find out more here.

Being a donor gives ordinary people the opportunity to do something quite extraordinary in their lives. The implications for the recipients are as profound as they are joyful. Please, kindly spread the word.

GET Going!

Back in the day, I left school on a Friday afternoon and seeing no reason to muck around and waste time, joined the Army the following Monday. As it happens, one of the Crumble Kids has a few months spare before he kicks off as a long term employee of HM Gov and what bat-shit-crazy plan has he come up with this time? He and a friend are planning kayaking the 2000 nautical miles between Grenada and Miami. Moscow is closer to London than is the length of this undertaking. I swear, that boy must spend every waking moment dreaming up things for his mother to worry about. She's had a lot to worry about.

With just 24 days to go before the start preparations for the Golden Arc Expedition are warming up and every day more kit arrives at the house from kind sponsors, more 'no thanks,' emails drop into the in-box from not so kind potential sponsors and new challenging last minute issues raise their ugly heads......... 'son, this kayak which is being shipped to Grenada from Vancouver; are you on top of import duties?' 'Import what Dad?' So, what's the point?

Will and his chum George have started a charity, the Get Exploring Trust, (Charity No 116901). The aim of the trust is simple and straight forward. It aims to assist in the advancement in life of young people between the ages of 13 and 25 by providing small to medium sized grants to allow them to access recreational and leisure time activities in the outdoors designed to improve their life conditions and life chances. 

It is extraordinary just what a great equaliser clinging to the side of a windswept hill can be when you are all cold, wet and hungry. Being close to the elements on land, at sea or in the air is inspirational and life affirming. Way too many of our kids don't get the opportunity to access the outdoors. They genuinely don't know what they are missing. The Trust will help more of them discover the outdoors, and themselves, and from there they can make their own minds up.

Now, here at Expedition Headquarters we're not proud  and will of course accept help in any shape or form. If anyone were so moved to assist in sponsoring the actual expedition then there are still some niggly, naggly safety items which need to be purchased but any advice or local contacts through the route would be gratefully received. Obviously, the funding of the expedition is completely segregated from raising funds for the charity. All charity monies will go to the purpose for which donors intend and we are funding both the expedition, and the charity's administrative costs, separately.

If you did wish to donate to the charity the 'giving,' page may be found here while our bank details are, HSBC Sort Code 40-34-18, Acc No 54342615.

Of course, should you happen to be enjoying the azzure blue waters of the Caribbean between October and December and happen to see two blokes paddling in the direction of Florida then do give them a wave. If you see them paddling out to the Atlantic then give Air, Sea Rescue a wave. A bed for the night or dinner would be nice but then we wouldn't want to spoil them, would we?

I will be updating throughout.

 

Crumble Does Culture

I was quietly pleased to have the opportunity to polish my somewhat tarnished cultural credentials last week with some modest involvement in the staging of Noel Coward's play 'Fallen Angels,' at my Club in aid of Haig Housing's Coming Home charity for ex servicemen. 

Directed by Dominique Sinagra the fast paced play was a blast from the start to the hilarious finish. Sharp acting and with, as you would expect, witty and piercing dialogue, (how it passed the censors in 1926 is a complete mystery), provided a very relaxed platform from which to hand over some money to a great charitable cause. So I did.

Acutely aware that my 25th wedding anniversary is fast approaching I had no hesitation in digging deep here and bid in the auction for a terrific auction prize that solves the 'what to do on our anniversary,' issue.
 

Cue Mrs Flashbang

Yes, Mrs Flashbang is going on a Kidnap Avoidance & Survival Course. It's going to be a memorable and fun, fun weekend away. Now the uncharitable among you may suggest that only a stupid or suicidal person would attempt to take her on, far less attempt a kidnapping, but we can never allow ourselves to become complacent or let our situational awareness dim. And anyway, who wouldn't want to play at Bodie & Doyle for their 25th Wedding Anniversary, or should it be The Avengers? Think we'll go with The Avengers; I'm up for it! She's just going to love it.

  

Carry On Caravaggio

A plan so cunning...................

There are a number of things that I wish I had thought of before anyone else ; Cats Eyes, Velcro, Grocery Coupons, Wire Coat Hangers, the World Wide Web and so on but my odd flash of inspiration never seems to get traction beyond, 'be funny if that worked.'

How fantastic then that good friend Andy Ash has come up with a plan right off the "wish I'd thought of that,' shelf which is so simple in concept, even Blackadder would be proud. I'm trying, really I am, not to be envious, I'm pleased for him , honestly, and hope it's a roaring success. So, what is it?

Andy is a Caravaggio fan. The word fan does him something of an injustice, perhaps 'studious admirer,' is more appropriate. Now I do like to think that Crumble enjoy's a sophisticated and enlightened readership but for those of you who are staring blankly at the screen, Caravaggio is not a sixties folk band, nor is it a French cheese. Caravaggio was in fact a bloke who could paint a bit. In fact, he could paint rather well. On his website, Carry on Caravaggio, Andy describes how 'Canadian researcher Philip Sohm, recently established that in the past 50 years, Michaelangelo Caravaggio has overtaken that other famous Michelangelo – Buonarroti – as the favourite subject of art historical research. Perhaps it is because of his wild life: Caravaggio was a womaniser, a bisexual, a brawler, a pimp, a drinker, a murderer, a Knight of the Templar, a prison escapee.... in fact a full Shakespearean romantic tragic figure.' I've got your attention, what's Andy up to?

Not being a man given to standing around idly watching the world go by, it is Andy's intention to embark this Sunday, (20th), on a charity 'party' tour with the aim of seeing every Caravaggio painting in existence, 65 of them globally, in under 3 weeks in 50 locations. I wish I'd thought of that. 

Being a clubbable sort he has invited friends to join him at locations various from Texas to St Petersburg and the resulting book of the experience, 'Carry on Caravaggio,' ought to be an entertaining read. Doubts expressed about the improbability of Andy and his chosen few remembering any of the experiences from Texas to St Petersburg may be well founded but what could be more in keeping of the reputation of the great man himself. 

Anyone making the erroneous assumption that this is just a self indulgent hedonistic World Tour by a crisis struck middle aged man determined to tick off his one-item bucket list couldn't be more wrong. Apart from family, fine claret, a little known football team in South West London and Caravaggio, Andy cares deeply about two other things in life; a fine charity called Shelterbox, (provides disaster relief shelter and food across the world at moments of maximum distress and dislocation), and the Royal Academy of Arts. His Justgiving page is here where you can see a long list of friends prepared to donate to see the back of him for three weeks.

You can visit his Facebook page and keep up to date with his adventures here and of course, I hope to post the odd update on MC too.

 

This is not as you may think a likeness of Mr Ash but is in fact Caravaggio, (although who knows what dashing figure will be returning to our shores in 3 weeks time).

"Every man once before any man twice"

The "Silver Badge," given to all returning veterans became the badge of the British National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers

Today, the 11th November, I’m going to step to the side and invite you to remember one pretty extraordinary ordinary soldier, a Lance bombardier Tom Lister from Lancashire.

You, like me, may have grown up believing that Earl Haig  started the British Legion and indeed, he was responsible for creating the environment which led to the amalgamation of disparate charitable efforts for ex-soldiers to form the Legion after the Great War. In fact, after he finished active service Haig devoted the rest of his life to the welfare of ex-soldiers and remained more popular among them until his death than revisionist historians would have us believe, (although his reputation has been recently somewhat restored with the publication of some more balanced biographies).

 

Back to Tom Lister. At the end of the Great War not a family in Britain was unaffected by the loss of 888,000 souls and the 1.75m who suffered some form of temporary or permanent disability. The Government was unable or unwilling to alleviate their physical and financial distress so Tom Lister rolled up his sleeves and decided to set about improving their lot. He himself was invalided out in 1916 and after the war started to raise funds to buy tables and beds. He convinced landlords to let their dilapidated buildings to ex-servicemen and widows conditional on him attending to repairs and maintenance and he persuaded Burtons to supply suits for the men to use for interviews. He also gained access to old drill halls to use as soup kitchens for his British National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers.

Subsequently, Earl Haig persuaded Lister and other organisations to meet and discuss consolidating their efforts into what was to become, in 1921, the British Legion. The Unity Conference was held at the Queens Hall in Langham Place where a draft constitution was adopted. On May 15th, 1921 at 9am at the Cenotaph, the shrine to their dead comrades, the ex-Service men sealed their agreement. The Legion was born.

The Legion was formed with the amalgamation of four associations:      

The National Association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers (1916).

The British National Federation of Discharged and Demobilized Sailors and Soldiers (1917).

The Comrades of The Great War (1917).

The Officers' Association (1920).

Men of the British National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers marching on the occasion of the Armistice in 1918 before such events became formalised.

The amalgamation of these four diverse bodies can be attributed largely to Field Marshall Earl Haig and Tom Lister By the time of the Legion's formation in 1921, the tradition of an annual Two Minute Silence in memory of the dead had been established. The first ever Poppy Appeal was held that year, with the first Poppy Day was on 11 November 1921.

Lister became chairman of the RBL until 1927, was appointed CBE in 1927 and was knighted in 1961. He died in 1966. As I said, an extraordinary ordinary man and I’m proud to say, a fellow Gunner.

Moreover, we are a country that throws up Tom Lister’s in happy abundance, not just working for ex-servicemen, and there are a great many indeed that do,  but throughout the charitable universe. Something we can all join in giving thanks for and to be proud of. It’s one of the things that we actually have left that binds us together and that politicians have no claim on.