It’s such a lovely day out there, so I’ll keep this short…
It’s exactly (and rather randomly) 1,600 days since my attempts to raise mental health awareness through a series of challenges officially got underway.
In that time, 110 challenges have been completed – an average of one every fortnight (14 days 12 hours to be precise) over four-and-a-half years; countless hours of preparation, e-mails, training, driving … roughly 8,000 miles so far.
I’ve done things I never thought I would … or could; met some truly amazing, inspiring people; made some special friends; created memories I’ll always cherish; written a book; and hopefully made a small difference to someone, somewhere.
None of it would have been possible without the constant love and support of my wife and family, and all the incredible help from so many people … however many times I say “thank you”, it will never be enough.
I have ten challenges left over the next seven months, but when the final task is completed, the curtain must – and will - finally fall.
This has been one of the most rewarding periods of my whole life; but also one of the most intense; and over the past few months, I have become increasingly tired and fragile (both of those are understatements) – and keeping the latter hidden is so draining.
I will complete the challenges. I will continue to support the work being done by Trigger publishing. But I will also be taking more time to look after myself, to regain my strength, and make sure I am the best husband, father, son, and friend that I can possibly be.
So much has happened these past few weeks that I’d almost lost track of the number of “challenges” to raise mental health awareness that I’d actually completed; but after a swift recount, I can confirm that as of today, the number is 110.
The 110th task (which took place last Saturday) to receive a tick was “to sing with a band” – a big enough challenge in itself, but something that was also arranged without Elaine’s knowledge so that the event would come as a total surprise…
As has been the case for the majority of the hundred-plus challenges, I had to ask for help. I know it’s that same old reference or link to the first time I sat in front of my GP and tried to explain just how low I was feeling … but it remains every bit as relevant as it did when the very first task was attempted back in January 2014.
On this occasion, I got in touch with Carl Pemberton to ask if he might be willing to get involved. Although we live just a couple of miles apart, we didn’t know each other; but if you thought Carl’s name was familiar…
He was one half of Journey South, who finished third in the X Factor back in 2005 and whose eponymous debut album reached the top of the charts the following year.
As well as running his own studio, Carl now sings and plays guitar in a band called V12; and he kindly agreed to help me get on stage and sing a song at one of their upcoming gigs.
If he’d heard my voice in advance, the answer may have been different, but after choosing a song (“All the Small Things” by Blink 182), I drove down to meet my new “band mates” (Jason and Adam play bass and drums respectively) and Carl’s wife Vic who was in charge of all things managerial and technical.
We had a quick chat about the reasons behind the challenges before a first full run-through of the song. At this point I should say that my singing voice is actually really deep (and incredibly manly … obviously), and I had to sing an octave below Carl. As an 11 year-old, I was in the school choir and had an angelic treble voice to match my equally angelic looks. Sadly (as I’m sure you’ve already guessed) things went badly downhill in both the vocal and facial departments during my teens. My voice hasn’t deteriorated too much over the subsequent decades … oh well; one out of two…
The first attempt went far better than I expected – as did the second – and Carl and I arranged to have one further session a week or so before the actual performance (which was to be at The Fox Inn in Guisborough on 12 May).
Elaine had been at work for that initial rehearsal, but that wouldn’t be the case for the next one. I made up what I thought was a plausible excuse to pop out for an hour, and Carl and I duly recorded an acoustic demo version of the song which would help me practice on the trips to and from work during the week.
Carl reassured me that I was not only in tune, but actually the two different pitches blended together surprisingly well. In fact, he told me twice because I didn’t believe him the first time…
I wasn’t totally convinced the second time if the truth be told!
Anyway, the plan was that Carl would do a bit of an introduction and get me up on stage during the second half of the performance at The Fox. The only problem was that as Elaine was still blissfully unaware of what was about to happen, Vic, the band and I would all have to ignore each other so as not to arouse any suspicion!
Once the evening got underway, V12 sounded fantastic; but with every passing song, I was getting more and more nervous. The biggest of a number of worries was finding the right first note – start in tune, stay in tune; but what was becoming clear was that at full volume, I almost certainly wouldn’t be able to actually hear if I was in tune or not!
Elaine knows me incredibly well and she later admitted that she was wondering why I was wearing a black t-shirt (was it just to look “trendy”?); why I hadn’t gone to say hello to the band (because I’m a sociable chap), and why we hadn’t left at half time (I usually get tired…). However, the possibility that I might actually get up and sing had never crossed her mind.
Carl said a few words, and on hearing my name, all the pennies dropped at the same time. “You’re not…?”
Up on stage, it was just a case of going for it. A short guitar intro, I opened my mouth … and it was Barry White meets Blink 182 – sort of!! As expected I couldn’t hear my voice, but I didn’t sense that I was off-key, and Carl wasn’t giving me any funny looks, so I just decided to do my best and enjoy the next two-and-a-bit minutes.
And I definitely did – even though it all went in a bit of a blur. There weren’t too many in the audience – in fact the whole of Guisborough was really quiet for a Saturday night – but the reaction was great (or so I was told; I actually can’t remember!). As I returned to my seat, the first thing I had to do was to apologise to Elaine for the previous weekend’s white lie; Vic then came and sat down with us, relieved I think that she no longer had to pretend we didn’t know each other!
The gig ended with covers of two U2 songs – far from easy to play or sing, but the guys nailed them … really impressively. Afterwards, it was introductions all round and a chance for a chat and a couple of pictures, before the curtain came down on the briefest of careers as a rock singer.
I honestly can’t say a big enough thank you to Carl, Jason, Adam, and to Vic as well. V12 are a superb band made up of three top-class musicians; they absolutely didn’t have to get involved, but I’m so glad that they did – and it was a memorable experience.
This blog unintentionally coincides with Mental Health Awareness Week, although really this week shouldn’t be any different to the other 51 as far as talking about mental health is concerned. I know how difficult it is to be open about how you feel, and how much courage it can take to ask for help; but I also know what can be achieved if you can find the strength to take that first step.
The 109th of my list of 120 “challenges” to try and raise mental health awareness was “to meet a current or former soap actor”; and latest tick was duly added when I had the chance to spend a few minutes with Cheryl Fergison last night.
As most of you will already know, Cheryl played the role of Heather Trott in Eastenders, a great character, wonderfully brought to life (before her untimely demise courtesy of a photo frame of all things). What some may not realise though is that Cheryl has also appeared in my all-time favourite programme Doctor Who (as Mrs Lloyd in the 2005 episodes “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances”). Instant and permanent credibility in my eyes!
Anyway, Cheryl was starring in “Menopause the Musical” at the Billingham Forum; I had been in touch with her agent a few weeks in advance to explain the reasons behind the challenges, and to ask if it might be possible to meet Cheryl after the show. A short while later, I received a lovely message from the lady herself to confirm the time and place…
Totally by chance, I had ordered tickets for the musical on the very day they were released, and in my infinite wisdom, I picket seats A3 and A4 … front row centre. What could possibly go wrong?
Well I had an inkling after my boss from work went to see the show in Doncaster a few weeks earlier. She told me it had been a great night; but where was I sitting, because the nearest bloke to the front was, let’s say, “picked on”.
I checked my tickets again … oh dear.
When we arrived at the theatre, it was glaringly obvious that there was a distinct lack of males – one lady said I was “brave” as I took my seat … another simply smiled that knowing smile…
For the record, the show was amazing. The four ladies on stage, Cheryl, Maureen Nolan, Rebecca Wheatley and Hilary O’Neil were fantastic; there were laughs galore (I laughed even when I didn’t understand what they were talking about…), and their singing, both individually and collectively was superb.
Was I picked on? Oh you bet I was!
My reactions ranged from amusement, via slight embarrassment, to genuine fear … but I sat and took it like a man (not that I had much choice…). Actually, in all seriousness, the interaction actually made the evening even more enjoyable.
A thoroughly deserved standing ovation greeted the end of the show, and Elaine and I made our way to the stage door. The cast were due to leave almost straightaway to head north to their next location (Newcastle upon Tyne), but we arrived just a couple of minutes before Cheryl appeared.
Obviously, there are quite a few “soaps” on television, and by definition a lot of people who have appeared in one (or quite often several), but I’m so glad it was Cheryl who I asked to help me with this particular task. She not only recognised me, but had taken the time to find out about what I was doing – and why – and she could not have been nicer. We were able to have a quick chat and a couple of photos, and Cheryl even encouraged the other audience members gathered by the stage door to find out more about my efforts to raise mental health awareness, which was such a kind thing to do.
So many of the challenges have involved asking someone I didn’t know for some kind of help (just as I did when I first visited my doctor to try and explain that I was struggling…); and it’s amazing how many of those people I’ve approached have been willing to give their time to support someone they’ve never met before. So thank you Cheryl; it was just brilliant to meet you…
As a brief postscript, over the past four-and-a-half years I have been incredibly lucky to meet a number of people like Cheryl who are talented (in their chosen field), generous and inspiring – but until last night, I’d never met one of my teenage crushes before; and on the basis she’s unlikely to ever read this…
I met Maureen Nolan!!
The passage of time hasn’t been all that kind to me, but I have to say that Maureen remains a stunningly attractive woman. It was lovely to briefly meet her, and I’m glad (and relieved) that I kept my composure and didn’t blurt out something totally embarrassing along the lines of: “I fancied you when I was 15…”!
Anyway, 109 challenges down, 11 to go before this five-year adventure draws to a close. There are more plans in the pipeline, but for now … that was the story of the evening when Walford and a series of hot flushes converged on Teesside. Thanks for taking the time to read the blog, and please always remember that it’s fine to talk about mental health … and to ask for help if you’re struggling.
This week saw the completion of my 108th challenge to raise mental health awareness, as well as the official launch of my book, “Today, Just Like Yesterday”.
The challenges will come to a close at the end of the year – and my only (and therefore final) fundraising event will be a skydive in July, which I will undertake on behalf of the Shaw Mind Foundation, the charity which is the parent company of my publisher Trigger. The proceeds from book sales all go back to the charity, which is doing so much to support those suffering from mental health issues.
I’ve never jumped out of a plane that is safely on terra firma, let alone one that is flying at 10,000 feet; the prospect is really scary, but I’ll be strapped to someone who’s done this kind of thing loads of times before - and he apparently brings a parachute with him too … which is reassuring.
Anyway, this most recent “challenge” was to visit six County Cricket grounds (nominally Durham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire) in as short a time as possible. I’d be planning the “road trip” since December and, with a week to go, five of the six counties were fully supportive of the event … the sixth (am I allowed to say it was Yorkshire?) had said it would simply not be possible to come into the ground and take a photo on a match day– although a space on the pavement outside the ground would be available.
It was a situation I accepted (I was delighted to have received five positive responses), but a friend from work - a long-time member of the county in question - was far from impressed; and a couple of phone calls and e-mails later, the decision was, shall we say, “reconsidered”.
Notwithstanding parking at, and gaining entry into, the grounds on the day, the two biggest worries were the vagaries of the British weather and traffic. The forecast was reasonably encouraging, but it was still quite chilly as Elaine and I headed north to ground no.1 – The Riverside in Chester le Street.
I had played at the ground 20 years earlier, for Chester le Street against Durham’s Academy side. I remember we lost the game, I took one for plenty, but enjoyed a very relaxing bath afterwards. There weren’t many grounds that had baths as well as showers, but this one was individual rather than communal, and all the better for it.
The arena has changed considerably over the intervening two decades; and it is as much a great stage for a test cricketer now, as it was for a humble club player back then.
Only 15 minutes had been allocated for each stop; time for a couple of photos, a comfort break, then straight back on the road. The next stop was Headingley, the second of the three test arenas on the journey. I had played there too, sometime around 1980, but much as The Riverside has developed, Headingley is now unrecognisable from the ground that had witnessed that incredible Ashes test back in ’81.
Durham’s four-day championship game had lasted less than two; and Yorkshire were only two wickets away from defeating Notts when we arrived. That meant that entry was free for anyone wanting to watch the Yorkshire bowling attack deliver the final coups de grace … a fact that rendered the previous e-mail and phone various exchanges essentially meaningless. We strolled into the ground, and a couple of clicks later strolled back out, and set off for Derby.
Ground number three was quite exposed, but had a nice feel about it; the stewards were particularly helpful, and halfway through the trip, things were going better than expected. There had been no problems on the roads, and we were almost an hour ahead of schedule as we trundled along Brian Clough Way towards Nottingham.
Trent Bridge was the highlight of the day. Nottinghamshire had succumbed to Ben Coad up in Leeds, so there was no game on at Trent Bridge; but it is undeniably a superb setting. The outfield looked immaculate, and for the first time in many years, I almost missed the weekly ritual of taking to the cricket field, occasionally taking a wicket or two, but far more frequently being dispatched to all parts…
Matt Halfpenny, the club’s Media and Communications manager, was kind enough to show us into the Long Room and take us out into the ground for a couple of photos and a brief, recorded chat, which he later turned into a really positive article on the county’s website.
We made it to Leicester Forest East services before doing a short interview with Dean Jackson of BBC Radio Nottingham. The scheduled ten minutes was cut to four courtesy of the far more newsworthy arrival of the Royal baby, but I was so grateful to Dean and his producer Hansa, as well as Matt at Trent Bridge for making the Nottinghamshire leg of the journey so memorable.
The fifth port of call was Grace Road, home of Leicestershire, the county that my father had captained back in 1962. Perhaps naively, I was hoping to get some sense of what it would have been like to watch Dad lead out his side onto the field all those years ago, but sadly it didn’t happen. I didn’t even see the tractor whose engine would be started as soon as perennial no.11 Brian Boshier strolled out to the crease…
Five down, one to go; and Northamptonshire’s game had also concluded earlier in the day meaning the pleasant, modern-looking ground was almost deserted by the time we arrived. A few final clicks of the shutter and the challenge was complete.
Six grounds, 300 miles, eight and three-quarter hours … all designed to raise mental health awareness and show that it is fine (in whatever circumstances) to ask for help. I’m extremely grateful to everyone from the various counties who was willing to support the trip, and particularly to my beloved navigator Elaine, who did a sterling job in getting us from A to B … C, D, E and F.
And that’s just about it really; next on the list … to meet a current or former soap actor, which is planned for 9 May … blog and photo (as always) to follow.
Today’s short blog is my chance to say “thank you” to everyone who came to my book launch at Cobbler’s Champagne Bar last night.
To my family (my wife Elaine, and stepson Chris), friends from my work, Elaine’s work, the Grangetown Netball family, and friends I’ve met through darts and writing … I am so grateful to all of you for taking time out of your day to come along and help make the evening so special. I really hope that you had a good time.
Thanks too for all the messages from those who were unable to make it – I really appreciated you getting in touch.
“Today, Just Like Yesterday” tells the story of a life with dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder) and the “challenges” I have undertaken to try and raise mental health awareness. It was an incredibly difficult book to write, but it exists as a permanent thank you to everyone who has supported me, both emotionally and in turning 100 challenge ideas into reality; and if one person finds the strength to talk or ask for help after reading the book, then everything has been worthwhile.
Stephanie, my editor at Trigger, came all the way from Newark for the event; Trigger is a mental health publisher that is beginning to make a real difference; and I’m very fortunate that they believed in me and gave me the opportunity to share my story.
Cobbler’s Champagne Bar (which is in Normanby, just outside Middlesbrough) was the perfect place to hold the launch. Gel and Di took care of absolutely everything, and I can’t thank them enough for creating such a lovely welcoming and relaxed atmosphere.
Looking forward, I still have twelve tasks to attempt before the challenges come to a definitive end. I’m now hoping to be able to plan a few talks to share experiences and raise mental health awareness, but for now, I want to close by simply repeating my thanks to everyone who came along to the launch last night. It was everything I could have hoped for … thank you so much.
I broke my Netball Superleague duck last night with a trip to what was (back in the day) my old Polytechnic to watch Team Northumbria take on Severn Stars.
The game offered both clubs a chance to belatedly kick-start their respective seasons after the Commonwealth Games break – Stars’ solitary success had been an admittedly impressive victory at UWS Sirens before the enforced lay-off, whilst Te Aroha Keenan’s squad was still looking for that elusive first win.
With apologies for my ignorance, the names of some of the players on view were new to me, although Team Northumbria’s captain was the instantly-recognisable Ash Neal, who had been so influential in the recent promotion of Grangetown Netball Club to the top division of the National Premier League.
There was a small section of the crowd that was very much orange and black, with Grangetown club captain Vicky Rees, defender (and member of the Superleague squad) Jenny Mrozik cheering on from the sidelines along with the club’s head coach, physio and a number of supporters.
Hayley Mulheron is another player to have represented Grangetown, and she returned to Team Northumbria after helping Scotland to a ninth-place finish at the Gold Coast Games. A play-off victory over Barbados and a great win against Wales were highlights for the Thistles, who also came agonisingly close to sharing the spoils with a Malawi side that had previously defeated New Zealand.
I remember Paige Kindred when she played for Tameside against Grangetown a couple of years ago, as did Stars’ Ellie Cardwell, now a regular member of the England international set-up. However, the visitors also included Jodie Gibson in their starting seven; Jodie having been part of the England squad that secured Commonwealth gold in the most dramatic fashion.
The one-goal win over the host nation was not only the highlight of the entire Games, it was (in my opinion) the finest moment in any team sport since the hockey gold won by Team GB’s women in Rio; and the post-match celebrations were simply wonderful to watch…
Back on Tyneside, Team Northumbria clawed back an early four-goal deficit to lead 13-12 at the end of the opening quarter. The pattern was reversed in the second period, as the home side gained a similar advantage, only for the Stars to level the scores before an all-important goal against a Northumbria centre pass gave them the opportunity to take a two-goal lead into half-time.
With 15 minutes to go, the visitors were seven goals in front and, at that stage, they looked certain to return to Worcestershire as comfortable victors. However, Northumbria produced some superb defensive pressure in the final quarter and secured enough turnover possession to have actually won the game.
The margin was twice reduced to a single goal, but a combination of unforced errors, missed shots and some superb interventions by Phumza Maweni and Sam Cook handed momentum back to the Stars and the scoreboard read 43-47 as the final hooter sounded.
Northumbria will surely take a great deal from that final period. To restrict Stars to just six goals in 15 minutes (three of which came right at the end of the game), was an outstanding effort. They applied pressure throughout the court and the visitors were definitely rattled; but the disappointment will come with the realisation that this was ultimately a chance lost.
Choosing a player of the match was no easy task. Ellie Cardwell was the pick of the shooters; she was really strong in the circle and (for all bar a few minutes in the final quarter) assured under the net. The Northumbria attacking combinations never achieved Ellie’s conversion rate, so her performance was crucial.
However, my selection would come from the other end of the court, as the Maweni-Cook partnership was instrumental in forcing errors or interceptions at the most vital moments.
Over the past few months, I’ve seen Sam Cook play three times for her club (Hucclecote) as well as the Stars, and she has been outstanding on each occasion. Sam is a superb athlete, who reads the game really well, and she would be my totally unofficial choice for the player of the match award.
As a brief postscript, my evening ended with a chance to meet Severn Stars’ Becky Oatley. Although she didn’t get any time on court last night, Becky is a determined, brave and genuinely inspiring young woman and it was a pleasure to spend a couple of minutes in her company…
I have to say that yesterday was a pretty surreal day.
Almost exactly one year ago (on 30 April to be exact), I spent an afternoon looking at the websites of various mental health publishers, with a view to sending some e-mails in the hope that there might be some interest in a book I was writing.
There were plenty of possible companies, but there was only one that stood out - Trigger Press. They were a relatively new publisher, set up by a charitable foundation, totally dedicated to mental health, and committed to publishing individual stories about mental illness … the real-life struggles, and the fight towards recovery.
They just felt “right”, so I sent a message.
They were genuinely the only company I contacted, and I suppose the rest is, as they say…
It’s no secret that I found aspects of the writing and editing process really difficult. I dipped quite badly on a couple of occasions after remembering, thinking and writing about some moments in my life that I’d spent any number of years trying to suppress.
Trigger (they’ve recently dropped the Press) are much more than simply a publishing house though. There is a passion for the subject and for making sure every book is as good as it can possibly be. Some of the staff have lived experience of mental illness, but all of them genuinely care about the welfare of their authors.
So, despite some tough times along the way, and however busy the Trigger team was becoming, they were so supportive – not just in relation to the technical aspects of writing, but emotionally as well, which is something very special indeed.
As the months passed, so the edits and drafts became a final proof (with a cover that, quite by chance, was orange – my favourite colour), and eventually a box containing ten advance copies was delivered to my modest little semi on the outskirts of Middlesbrough.
The overwhelming feeling on seeing and holding the book for the very first time was relief … relief that there would be no more edits or requests for more content … no more thinking. Relief developed into a sense of pride, but didn’t quite extend as far as excitement (bloody dysthymia...).
At the final proof stage, my parents read the whole book. Much as it was hard to recall and relate episodes from so long ago, I was more concerned with how Mum and Dad might react to seeing those episodes in print – whether or not they actually knew about the moments in question. Obviously we talked through some things, but the fact that they were fine and as unfailingly supportive as they have been throughout my entire life … well, that meant the world to me.
I had (and still have) doubts about my ability as a writer, and worries about how I might be perceived – or even judged – particularly by people I don’t know; but I can say for certain that knowing that my wife and parents believe in me and are proud of me is more important than I have the ability to convey.
“Today Just Like Yesterday” was published … er … yesterday; a date that coincided with Trigger’s second birthday, and an invitation to visit the office in Newark to meet the team, fellow authors, and hopefully grab a sausage roll or two along the way.
The trip to Nottinghamshire was actually a last-minute decision which was fortunately supported by work; but their birthday party turned out to be a really enjoyable event, during which I met so many lovely people (the overwhelming majority for the very first time).
And I was successful in the sausage roll department as well…
I stopped off on the way back north to see Mum and Dad, before heading home to find that the Trigger team had arranged for a box of publication day cupcakes to be delivered. It was such a lovely gesture, that was totally unexpected, but which maybe gives an insight into the relationship between this particular publisher and its authors.
Trigger is creating something very special on the banks of the River Trent; I feel incredibly lucky to be part of what is rapidly growing into a “family”, with every member dedicated to removing mental health stigma, to show that talking is fine, and recovery (in whatever form) is possible.
Yesterday was a good day…
So I’m just a day or two away from receiving the advanced copies of my book.
How do I feel?
Actually, I’m not really sure. I’m not particularly excited … maybe it’s a legacy from the emotional investment in writing the book; or simply one of my condition's long-enduring traits.
I suspect there will be an initial sense of relief when I can finally hold the book in my hand; relief that I no longer have to dwell on certain times gone by and try and put long-hidden feelings into words. Honestly, it was just draining at times.
And even though I had plenty of support from everyone at Trigger Press, writing is essentially a solitary pastime; and when I was physically alone with far too many thoughts and memories filling my head, there was more than one occasion when I could quite easily have stopped typing and clicked “delete” instead of “save”.
The two reasons I kept going (contractual obligations notwithstanding) were – and are – both simple and compelling. I had to make sure I completed the book to the best of my ability because it exists as a permanent and tangible “thank you” to everyone who has supported me. From my wife Elaine and parents (to whom the book is lovingly dedicated), and my family and friends, through to all those who gave their time to help me complete the 100 challenges; it is because of all of you that the book means so much.
And secondly, hard as it was to tell my story, the possibility (however remote) that I might make a small positive difference to one person would make the whole process worthwhile, and totally justify the decision to work with Trigger Press.
I do have to say that what Trigger Press is doing is wonderful. They are giving people a voice … a chance to talk about just what it is like to have a mental health condition … to show that it is fine to talk … to ask for help … and that that recovery (in whatever form and to whatever extent) absolutely IS possible. These messages are so important, and I am privileged to be a Trigger Press author, as well as flattered at the faith they have shown in me.
I have also had the chance to meet (either in person, or “virtually”) my fellow authors: Hope, Karen, Terri, Mark, Chris and Lucy (I’ll start your book soon, I promise) – as well as Paula, whose book will be published later next month. They are all inspiring people, with amazing stories. I’m not sure I deserve to be in their company, but I’m glad that I am.
That’s all for now … all eyes are now on the postman.
As someone who can barely stand in a pair of ice skates, and has never even put on a pair of skis, I have total admiration for all the competitors currently participating in the Winter Olympics over in South Korea.
Whilst Team GB has regularly won medals across a range of sports in the summer Games, success in the winter equivalent has been much less frequent – hardly surprising given a climate that is far more temperature than my constant moaning would suggest.
There have been some notable British triumphs down the years, particularly on the skating rink; the household names of Curry, Cousins, Torvill and Dean being responsible for three of just 11 gold medals across the 23 Winter Olympic Games.
(Actually that number increases to 12 if you count the ladies’ singles figure skating gold won by Madge Syers at the 1908 summer Games in London, which given the blog’s title, I absolutely do!)
Robin Dixon and Tony Nash are arguably less well-known, but their victory in the 1964 two-man bobsleigh event in Innsbruck has ensured they have a deserved place in British sporting history. Believe it or not, Great Britain has also won a gold medal in ice hockey too; although the team in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936 was mainly composed of dual-nationalist British-Canadians, many of whom had learned and played the game in Canada.
Apart from 1936, Canada won every ice hockey gold up to (and including) 1952, so whatever the make-up of the British squad, it was still a superb achievement.
Apart from figure skating, curling is one of only two other sports in which Great Britain has won more than one gold medal – Rhona Martin leading the women’s team to the top of the podium at Salt Lake City in 2002, some 78 years after the men’s team tasted similar success at the inaugural winter Games in Chamonix; the quartet including a father and son in Willie and Laurence Jackson.
The other sport is skeleton. What is truly incredible is this event could be dominated by a country that doesn’t even have a track! The University of Bath has a push-start track, but there are no ice-based facilities, and for five different British women to have won medals in each of the five Olympics since the sport was introduced is an amazing statistic.
Men’s skeleton had been held prior to 2002, with David Carnegie and John Crammond taking bronze medals in 1928 and 1948 respectively, before Dom Parsons’ third-place in Pyeongchang. However it is our female athletes that have provided a string of wonderful performances and unforgettable medal-winning moments. First came Alex Coomber with bronze in 2002; four years later Shelley Rudman went one better by claiming a superb silver in Turin, before Amy Williams’ fantastic and historic gold in Vancouver in 2010.
Amy’s medal was the first individual Winter Olympic gold won by a British woman since…
Jeannette Altwegg at the Oslo Games in 1952. Jeannette was actually a talented tennis player who reached the junior finals at Wimbledon before turning her attention to figure skating…
The subsequent feat of the inspirational Lizzy Yarnold in winning back-to-back skeleton competitions in Sochi and Pywongyang is unprecedented in British Winter Olympic sport.
Just as with her predecessors on the skeleton podium, Lizzy is an outstanding athlete, whose dedication, determination and bravery has been rewarded with success at the very highest level. The fact that Laura Deas joined Lizzy on the podium with last week’s third-place simply reinforces the strength of the skeleton training programme and the ability to identify and develop athletes with all the credentials to grow our tradition in this most non-traditional of sports…
With today’s official publication of Lucy Nichol’s book “A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes” (which I’ve pre-ordered and am really looking forward to reading), the next scheduled offering in the Trigger Press “Inspirational Series” is now “Today, Just Like Yesterday” written by yours truly.
I’m thrilled that I will be working with Hope Virgo on the promotion of the book – Hope’s book “Stand Tall Little Girl” was the first in the series mentioned in the previous paragraph. It is a remarkable story, powerfully told by a genuinely inspiring young woman. We’d been in regular contact well before Hope took on her role within Trigger Press; so from a personal point of view, the timing of her appointment couldn’t have been better.
Some of you have been kind enough to agree to help “spread the word” – for which I am extremely grateful – and if anyone else is willing to share future posts and messages, please just leave a comment or drop me a line. Any and all support means such a lot.
I recently became aware that Amazon has a number of categories or genres through which books are rated (presumably according to sales), so this morning I inadvertently (and equally deliberately) looked on my pre-order page to see if my book had attracted an early rating…
“Today, Just Like Yesterday” is currently 1,912,091st in the Amazon book charts…
You can just imagine the celebrations.
The book was further defined as being a biography, within the general social and health category, and specifically concerned with depression and mental health. In this chart, I have shot up to no.809.
Quick … more Prosecco.
A quick glance at the business end of the chart revealed that paperback, hardback and Kindle versions all attract individual ratings, meaning that many titles appear multiple times. Basically what I’m saying is that if each title featured just the once I could conceivably (without a hint of unwarranted exaggeration) be bubbling just under the top ten despite the book being seven weeks away from publication.
Anyway, amongst the fine pieces of work within the current top hundred is Jonny Bairstow’s “A Clear Blue Sky” – bowling at Jonny (a fellow former pupil of St Peter’s, York) was one of my 100 “challenges” back in 2014. Lucy’s book appears at no.24, which is really impressive. Chris Young’s “Walk a Mile” is at no.47, with Hope completing a trio of Trigger Press authors at no.58.
So whilst I’m not fully aware of exactly what “promotion” entails, it would appear that the Trigger Press team is very good at making potential readers aware of their authors – as well as producing books of real quality and depth (as witnessed by the many positive reviews).
In truth, my reasons for wanting to tell my story never included things like sales and ratings. It is possible to sell a dozen copies and have a lasting impact on someone … yet I could sell 1,000 and positively affect no one. I would pick the former every time…
However, I do appreciate that by definition there has to be a commercial element to the process, and I am certain that Hope and I will work really well together to make the book as visible and available as possible. I recognise that with every sale, the profile of dysthymia will grow … and that has to be a good thing given what I believe is a general lack of awareness of the condition.
The messages that it is fine to talk about mental health, as it is equally fine to ask for help will also be highlighted; and anyone who has followed my “adventures” over the past four years will be well aware how these themes have underpinned the challenges, and given me the resolve to keep going through the tougher times.
Today’s blog started with Lucy Nichol’s book and it’s only fitting that it should end in the same way. Congratulations on the publication of “An Unfortunate Series of Stereotypes” Lucy. From what I’ve read of your blogs, I know the book will be superbly written … good luck with everything!
Richard... Jack of some trades... you can guess the rest