A Little Bit Different

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Little Bit Different

Competitive? What Me?!

I have never kept a diary so now I am past the big 60 I thought it is time to review some of the few little adventures I have had a go at over the years. This is not an autobiography as I don't think that my minor exploits justify that so I am concentrating on some of those things that were perhaps just a little bit different.

I was never destined to be a Ranulph Fiennes, or Edmond Hillary, in fact whilst I like the excitement of risk taking I never wanted to be anywhere where I might get hurt. I love to be in mountains, but I could never be a rock climber. I love to sail but would never try the Atlantic. I love to swim but the idea of a solo channel swim does nothing for me. Scuba diving is great but only in the Indian Ocean or Caribbean where it is warm.

I suppose at 3 years old I was already showing signs that life was for living even if I didn't fit the bike....

It wasn't long before competition reared it's head. One of my early races at a local sports day. I don't think I won or came anywhere near but the expression on my face was of determination so in my mind I thought I was probably going to win!

So years went by, I didn't become a child sporting protegy but in my early teens I did a 50 mile walk from Dover to Maidstone with my best mate Richard. We wore ordinary school shoes and it took us 15 hours 50 minutes. Picture of us nearly home on the Ashford Road at Bearsted near Maidstone. This was one of the first big sponsored walks organised by the KM the local paper. It continued for a few years but we never completed it again as we were getting older and into drinking. We gave up on one trip at Canterbury as the booze overtook us and we got a bus home.

...and then I Started Work

I do not propose to detail my 26 years in the Fire Service which wasn't at all different from countless others following the same career. However, it did give me the opportunity to get involved in a few slightly out the ordinary events. Here is just the beginning and the end of my firefighting career. I joined the Kent Fire Brigade as a cadet in April 1963, at 15 years 10 months. I was the youngest person to ever join as a full time fireman. I wasn't allowed to climb a ladder until I was 16 but made up for it very quickly. These pictures are of my very first fire, smiling for the camera as I shovel debris from the roof of the Beech Inn in Mereworth in 1963 and my very last big fire which I was in charge of in 1988 at a plastics warehouse in Aylesford.

I did meet the Queen in 1974 at the official opening of the Fire Service College in Gloucestershire and would you believe it? Nobody took a photo of it! However, I did rectify this slightly in 1981 when the Duke of Kent visited the Training Centre at Maidstone. I was the Commandant so I made damn well I got a picture this time.

So much for all that bull****! Where did the Fire Brigade open other doors for me?

Me an Author?!

Well I became a little bit of an author on local history. My grandmother, great aunt and another old aunt who wasn't really an aunt, all worked as staff at the Godlands in Tovil when it was in private ownership between the wars.
The Godlands became the KFB HQ in 1948 and so I spent quite a time there in various jobs throughout my career. I became interested in the family who owned it originally and the relationship with the "downstairs staff". The original owners were the Greens who were later to became the Barcham Greens who owned Hayle Mill in Loose Valley. I was lucky enough to interview both my oldest aunt and Jack Barcham Green when they were both in their 90's and I took them to see their old home for the first time in some 50 years.

Picture of me with Jack -Barcham Green with the then Chief Officer Sir Reginald Doyle. I wrote the story in an article for the Kentish Fire magazine in 1988 and then in 2005 at the request of the Loose Historical Society I had a larger article published in their journal. This followed a few guided tours I did for local interested groups.

Good and Bad News

I was married to Sue in 1969 but then the 70's started badly when a fire engine crashed killing my best man Malcolm and another close mate Roger lost his leg and survived with multiple burns. 1977 will be remembered as the year the fire brigades nationally walked out on an all out strike for better pay and conditions and I will always remember the horrors of that time.

...and then Fame at Last

But I also had some good times particularly with the support of the Kent FB and the terrific guys I worked with. Who could ever forget the BBC It's a Knockout contest held in Crawley. Along with two firemen friends I got into the Maidstone team and we took on Crawley and Dartford. After a fine start and excellent middle bit, we threw away the final game and came third (last)!

Still, we got on the telly and I met Stuart Hall and Eddie Waring- what more could a young man ask for?!

Look out France Here I Come...

In between putting out fires, meeting royalty and playing silly games, late summer of 1979 found me taking part in a Kent Fire Brigade relay swim across the English Channel. Now this took a bit of practice particularly as I was really thin in those days and hated the cold plus the fact that I couldn't swim front crawl. The cold was managed by smearing myself in grease which wasn't pleasant and despite my protests that I could swim breastroke faster than front crawl, our coach said that there was no way he would be embarrassed by one of his team of 6 swimmers performing breastroke in Captain Webb style! So, I learned a makeshift front crawl and that's what I did. The first picture shows me alongside the escort boat which was almost in reverse trying to keep at my speed.

Unfortunately, the luck of the draw brought me in for my second swim not far from the French shoreline. The tide was changing and if I didn't get a move on it would sweep me past Cap Griz Nez and it would be several more hours before we could make the shore due to the geography of the peninsula. Tensions were high but I made it and stepped ashore amongst the French holidaymakers who thought I had swum it all alone. Well- not being a French speaker I was unable to put them right so I just went along with the applause and camera flashes, well someone had to!

The swim was completed in 11hours 29 minutes the fastest relay crossing that year.

The Stage was Set....

From 1980 till 1982 we moved from Maidstone to the Fire Service College in the Cotswolds where I was on secondment as an instructor. The boys went to the local primary school where they mixed with youngsters from all over the UK and picked up a few strange dialects for a while. I taught Fire Brigady things and Sue and her friend started a play school. Each year the College staff would put on a show or pantomime for the students and staff families. As all the instructors had rather large egos there was never a shortage of budding thesbians and I suppose I have to include myself amongst them.

My first stage performances playing guitar and attempts at singing were in the college theatre. The "Urban Spaceman" number was my first followed as the lead "singer?!" in the "The Radishes" a send up of the then popular country group " The Wurzels". Oh yes I can still here the dulcet tones of "Combine Harvester" still thumping away in my head.

My song and dance routine in The Old Time Music Hall was quite something to behold, the opportunity to demonstrate one's dancing prowess and of course to carry a young lady around the stage was all worth it.

...and then on to my debut acting career as the Fairy Godmother in the never to be forgotten pantomime Cinderella. Why is it that I couldn't be content with just walking on the stage looking stupid wearing a ballet dress? Oh no it had to be a spectacular entry. So I rigged up ropes and a pulley and with three friends holding the rope off stage I leaped from the top of a ladder. The timing was all wrong, I crashed through the scenery and my pulley men let go when I was still 2 metres up.
With two damaged ribs I stumbled to my feet to the greatest applause ever. They say you should end an acting career on a high - and I did!

Back Home to More Telly..

On my return to Kent in 1982 I was posted to Sevenoaks for a while and then in 1984 I landed the job I had longed for- to be Officer in Charge of the Training School in Maidstone. This gave me the opportunity to develop and take part in a whole host of fun things mostly in the name of charity. In 1985 The Royal Tournament held at Earls Court was a special one to celebrate the role of the fire service during the blitz. Along with London FB colleagues we put together some spectacular stunts including me climbing from the from the window of a London Bus and onto the roof after a shell had supposedly hit it - from there I hung from the top of the turntable ladder fire engine which then swung me to the ground and safety. No damaged ribs this time!
The moment I will always remember and feel proud to have been part of was the finale where all the armed services and the fire service personnel who took part in the event massed in the arena and along with Dame Vera Lynn standing on a central platform sang "We'll Meet Again". If there was ever a moment when patriotism rose to the fore and the hairs on the back of the neck stood up, it was that moment. Coincidentally, as I write this piece they have announced on the radio that it is Vera's 90th birthday and still going strong. Long may she do so.

Now as this was all on the BBC telly there were no photos - I just got the video- easy. Unfortunately, one of my children decided to record a TV programme over the top of it so you just have to take my word that it all happened.

This picture was from the front of the programme which survived.

The Knee Gets Troublesome...so why not run?!...

Earls Court and and being on telly is OK but doesn't keep you fit. Having suffered a deteriating right knee following a cartilege operation back in my soccer days, I decided it was time to start running - this was to make it worse of course, resulting many years later in a replacement knee but boy didn't I enjoy my running. So in the early 80's I tried a couple of half marathons - the picture shows a particularly fine finish to the Maidstone Half Marathon, note the knee bandage doing it's job.

Between 1983 and 1987 I completed 17 half marathons and three full marathons including the London Marathon. The most memorable part of that ordeal was going over the finish line ( 3hrs 40 something- pathetic!) and being handed a total of 7 Mars bars - guess who sponsored the event in those days? I ate them all and was violently sick.

My favourite and fastest marathon was the Maidstone which I did in just over 3 and a half hours. My last event was the Hastings Half Marathon in 1987 when my knee finally gave up and I limped over the line a pathetic and dejected figure.

Incidentally, I was admirably helped around that course by my old mate Richard - he and I ran several half marathons together and he was to figure again in years to come in some other wacky events I dreamed up. Does the name Richard ring a bell- yes he was my school mate who did that first 50 mile walk with me way back in the 60s. Here we are running the Tunbridge Wells Half Marathon.

In October 1986 I was invited to join a Kent FB team of 8 to run from John O'Groats to Lands End. My contribution was to scrounge a coach for nothing from a contact of mine. This was to become our home for 10 days plus the journey up to JoG for the start. The coach I am afraid wasn't in the best of condition when we had finished. Still we did successfully complete the run and raised a substantial amount for charity.

Sunrise at John O'Groats was a wonderful spectacle and a great back drop to our first day.

Each runner ran for an hour and then handed over a baton. We all ran a couple of times a day. Note the bandage still doing it's job. The coach was in reasonable condition at this stage!

Despite losing a few hours when we lost a runner in Edinburgh we made it to Lands End in the allotted time. I even wrote a book about the humorous side of the event - a friend drew some cartoons and I had it all typed up (no word processors about then). Around that time I had made friends with aTV newsreader called Gordon Honeycombe. He had written a best selling book about the London FB called "Red Watch" I went to visit him at his home in London and he gave me advice about getting my book published. The fact that it never made the bookshelves showed just how much I valued his opinion!

As my running career came to an end I was posted to Tonbridge - a fire station with a proud tradition for fund raising. One day one of the fireman - his name was John - yes that's his real name - came to see me. John had raised thousands of pounds with a range of remarkable events and still wasn't satisfied. Despite my protests to get involved we both came up with an idea for a Fire Run.

There were 65 fire stations in Kent all with the capability of raising money through sponsorship. What if we combined all this talent and potential into one big linked event then the income would be tremendous. On a long bank holiday weekend the run started with our Chief Officer and his henchmen running together from the HQ to Maidstone Fire Station. There he handed over a baton to a team from Maidstone who set off for Larkfield and that's how it worked. At each station a fresh team ran to the next station and handed over the baton and so on night and day for three days.

I travelled in an escort vehicle as my knee was pretty bad at that time. However, I did join in the run for one of the shorter stages.

I don't claim this as all my own idea but it terms of organisation it had to be own of our greatest achievements. With the combined sponsors and donations we raised tens of thousands for the East Grinstead Burns Unit and the Fire Service Benevolent Fund.

Now this was Different....

This same year 1987 was to be the pinnacle of my mad ideas career. It was also my 40th birthday as it was also for my old mate Richard- remember him? After having been to another friends "disco" 40th birthday we decided that the ritual of being teased by the now traditional and expected "surprise" stripper, was not our cup of tea. So we decided to leave our families for a weekend and go and live in the mountains of Scotland and explore the wilderness. This we thoroughly enjoyed including the ascent off Ben Nevis which we just had to do 'cos it's there.
Whilst on the summit we were surprised at how flat the summit plateau is."In fact" said I "You could play a game of volley ball up here". And so was spawned the idea for the craziest charity event I ever did.

On the 27th November 1987 BBC Children in Need day a team of hand picked firemen ( I picked them) set off to play the highest game of volley ball ever played in the UK. At Fort William fire station we met the team of firemen from Scotland who were to be our international opponents. Amongst our team was a reporter from BBC Radio Kent who would commentate the climb and the game live direct through to the studio in Gillingham. Nothing unusual in that we may now think but this was one of the first times a new fangled machine called a mobile phone was used in this way- it was huge and we had to carry a large battery pack with it and at the base of the mountain our engineer had a booster generator running. The phone line was clear (except for the breakdown when the generator caught fire) and members of the public were urged on the radio to donate to our cause. As a result several thousands were raised for Children in Need whilst we all had a great time playing volley ball in a white out blizzard on the summit of the highest mountain in the UK.
The evening spent with the Scottish firemen and the mountain rescue team who came with us up the mountain, was a night to remember.We were so drunk they even enjoyed it when out came our guitars and we sang my specially commissioned song wot I 'rote called "We're Going to the Top". We even recorded it as a jingle at Radio Kent and it was played regularly on air throughout the weeks leading up to the event.

Flying High....

The following year I was invited as a special guest to join a Kent FB Children in Need event which I had no part in organising. This was again with Radio Kent but was an on the air Treasure Hunt. I was to be the 'Anika Rice' (Anika who?) of the airwaves. I gave a clue on air and listeners then had to solve the clue and I went off with colleagues the way I was pointed depending on the answers to the clues. The highlight was to fly from a local airfield to the coast and the pilot let me have a drive! Very impressive.

The young pilot who flew us is now
the owner of the airfield!

Back on the Telly....

We were certainly on a roll with the media and in 1988 I came up with another silly idea which again raised a considerable sum for charity. ITV then had a TV studio in Maidstone and by cajoling my way into see the right people I managed to get them to stage the Telethon '88 around an idea I had to go for a Guinness Book of Records attempt at the greatest number of slides down a fireman's pole we could achieve in an evening- hmmm!

Well we managed to get ourselves into the studio and were the main feature on the local telly that night.

A mottley bunch, we slid down the pole thousands of times but although we claimed a record the Guinness Book of Records didn't want to know because we hadn't met all of their criteria whatever that was. Never mind we raised several thousands of pounds and got on the telly- again!

The observant will note that my old pal Richard took part in this as well. He was not a fireman, but who cares he wasn't going to miss being on telly.

This is how each fireman slid down the pole.

This was my job to help a visiting striptease artist (where did she come from?!) to slide down the pole. Well someone had to do it didn't they? and this was before pole dancing was invented- maybe that's where they got the idea from. Oh, by the way I did get her to wear leather gloves to protect her hands and this bit wasn't televised- thank goodness!

Now for Something Not So Different ....

In 1989 my knee was not in a good condition so I was discharged from the Fire Service. I tried to retire to a quieter life so I b
ought a boat. A 23ft 5 berth Leisure. She provided another nine years of fabulous trips both in Kent, Essex and Suffolk waters but also some trips across the channel. My sailing experience enjoyed by all the family was great but not unusual enough to fit my "Little Bit Different" criteria so I will leave it to others maybe to fill in the anecdotes and sailors stories which abound.

Similarly, Sue and I had a go at scuba -diving. We qualified as Open Water divers and enjoyed the Maldives, Caribbean and Red Sea. But once again, as thrilling as it was it was not that unusual- everyone does it don't they?

Training in cold water Cornwall wasn't all pleasure.

But the Indian Ocean was!

Sue has long enjoyed her ski-ing but my dodgy knee precluded me from taking part until frustration made me strap up the knee and go for it. So ski-ing, so far only in Europe, has been and hopefully will continue to be an annual winter fun time.

Still- it's not different to what every one else does so what else have I done since leaving the Fire Service?


Well we did go on holiday. Different? well our trip to Venezuala was a little different so probably worth a mention. We were escorted around the country, saw the rich and poor in Caracus, flew over the Angel Falls, stayed in an Indian village, jumped into beautiful mountain streams

and of course went fishing for pirannha fish.

Who said they are deadly with loads of teeth? well they tried to bite my finger off but so would you if you had just been dragged from the water with a barbed hook!

A New Job and Dizzy Heights....

Such holidays cost money so reluctantly I got a job in the civil service working for the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF). For the first two years I commuted to London- no fun in that but I did get involved in a charity abseil down the Guys Hospital Tower near London Bridge. In those days it was an annual event but was stopped soon after I did it as it was deemed to be a bit too high for such fun events.

At 325 feet it was the highest abseil ever permitted in London. We were taken up by lift 22 floors and then waited our turn on the roof garden. When called by the army who looked after us, we were hooked on- told to move backwards to the edge and lean back. I had just spent 26 years in the Fire Service but I still had jelly legs as I looked down at the sheer drop below. I had abseiled when I was 16 at outward bound school (forget to mention all that) but this seemed a lot harder. Some of those taking part lost confidence half way down and froze still. The army then used a rope in parallel and went alongside to coax them down. I managed my drop OK and really felt that I had achieved something when I collected my sponsor money for charity.

.........and the Highest of all

In 1953 I vaguely remember Everest being climbed. I vowed at the time that one day I would like to see the great mountain. I had no desire to climb it as it did look a bit chilly up there. Over the years I read many stories about the heroes of Everest such as Bonnington and Messner who was the first to climb it without oxygen support. I was always enthralled by their adventures.

Sue and I decided to take the classic Everest Trek in 1996 which takes you to a few miles from Base Camp. The highest we went was just below 13,000 feet but it took us close enough to get magnificent views.

This is one of my most treasured photos showing Everest summit looking magnificent. It was taken near Tengboche some 12 miles from Everest on the Nepal side.

This one was taken a bit further away at Namche Bazaar but it shows five of the World's highest mountains in one group. They are Everest, Nuptse, Luptse, Makula and Abu Dablam. All over 8,000 metres high. What a privilege to see them in such glorious weather.

We loved Nepal and as well as the incredible scenery we loved the people. One of the World's poorest countries but so rich in kindness, respect and friendliness. Food on the trip was basic - this was the "butchers" at Namche market !

...and oh yes - they don't do roads in Nepal!

(ps We did return in Nov 07 to open a school our Roatry Club had paid for. That's a story for another time)

Street Kids in Romania...

So one day I was at work and one of the young girls working for me at that time announced she was going on holiday- to Romania! She was going to visit a mission which works with the street kids who live rough in the cities. She was going to cram as many shoes and second hand clothes into her suitcase as she could. So my mistake? telling her that what she really needs is a lorry load not a suitcase and I'll sort it out.

So with the help of friends in the Maidstone Round Table Club, good friends and my stalwart wife, I spent the next few weeks collecting clothing and shoes, boxing them up and storing them in a borrowed garage. Then we dispatched it all overland by lorry and Sue, myself and the President of the Round Table club flew to Romania to receive it.

So here hangs another story about which I could tell much more but whilst it was different for me it is no different than that experienced by many others all trying to do their bit to help others.

What I learned on this 5 day trip was that I am not cut out for this type of work. I am good at coming up with ideas to raise funds but put me in the front line and I fall apart.

These are kids living between leaking steam pipes trying to keep warm and alive. Many of them have run away from abusive alcoholic parents and many have been thrown out. Some as young as 8 years old living underground, and some possibly becoming victims of paedophiles and pimps.

The missionaries and charity workers living amongst these youngsters, fighting Eastern European decay in a country trying to recover from a tyrannical dictator, are the heroes.
Someone I know who is dedicated to this type of work said to me before I went that I would either become hooked or immediately run away. I ran.

I have since been back to Romania to help a charity working with the disabled but I will never forget the impact that first trip had on me.

Into the 21st Century......

So we said goodbye to the 20th century and my love of the mountains became stronger and the need to be there more appealing. My previous Ben Nevis experience and subsequent trips to the Alps skiing fueled a passion to climb higher. A ski- lift is fine but it means so much more to make one's way on foot. I am not a rock climber- far to dangerous, but a good steady trek is more than enough to get the adrenaline going.

To climb Britain's three highest peaks in one trip is popular amongst walkers. Sue and I took the opportunity to do a charity challenge to do just that. We were bussed up to Snowdon in North Wales where at soon after midnight we climbed the peak and after trying to dry out our soaking clothing in the car park we were driven off to Scafell Pike in the Lake District. We thought we had seen the heaviest rain, but not so, this was to be the wettest climb ever.

The lack of photos is due to the camera being ruined although we managed to salvage a couple of the final ones taken, this is Sue enjoying her stroll up Scafell Pike and looking forward to Ben Nevis!!?

Final picture taken on my dear old camera. Consequently there were no pictures of Ben Nevis or happy smiling faces. However, we did it and although this was not a race or time trial we did it all in about 36 hours.

Many years later we were put to shame when son Michael and some friends did it in 21 hours and they finished off by running down much of Ben Nevis.

The Big One......

Dinner parties are where big ideas
for the future are made in a drunken haze but have evaporated into a hungover mist by the morning.

Except in our house ...!!

One such evening was spent with our good friends and next door neighbours Paul and Frances. The evening was
pleasant and the discussions composed but as the wine bottles slowly emptied Paul announced that he really wanted to do something different - "we are all in rut and not achieving anything" he said , A bit rich really bearing in mind he is a very successful Headteacher. I had been thinking for awhile about trekking up a real mountain - not Everest or anything too difficult but something where you don't need ropes and harnesses.

The name Kilimanjaro found its way into the conversation. So under the influence of several glasses of fine wine the four of us decided to plan a trek up the World's highest free standing mountain. At 5895 metres it is also one of the World's highest volcanoes and the highest mountain in Africa. The next morning I had forgotten the conversation but a knock on the door and there was Paul "What a great idea when do we go?"

So after 18 months of training including walking up and down Old Loose Hill 10 times with pack on backs we found ourselves in Tanzania. We climbed Mt Meru a nearby volcano and the photo shows daybreak as we went over the cloud line and watched Kilimanjaro some 30 miles away wake up and rise through the clouds. Another one of those never to be forgotten memories.

Sue and I at around 3,500 metres on the way up Kili. We camped at about 4,200 metres before we went for the summit starting at midnight. It was a hard scramble and the altitude played all sorts of tricks on the party.

However, we all made it to the summit - a long way from the wine and comfort of that dinner party some eighteen months before.

We also raised a few hundred pounds for charity.

...so back to the Water

Following on from our success on Kilimanjaro in 2002 I was hungry to climb more high peaks. I really fancied Cotopaxi in Ecuador at about the same height as Kili it is the World's highest active volcano. To date I have yet to do that or indeed climb any more mountains. From 2003 the arthritis in my knee got worse and walking was becoming a bit uncomfortable.

So it was time to get back into the water. I pushed on with my competitive Masters swimming. This is where you race against others within a the same age band. I had started this in the early 1990s and had quite some local success particularly at breaststroke which had always been my favourite. In 1997 I broke the County 50 metre record and also the Civil Service record for the same distance. 10 years on those records still stand. In 2000 I did the same in the County 100m event again the the record still stands.

I swam well through 2003 and my knee was OK although I was starting to feel pain as I whipped my breaststroke leg kick. Unfortunately that stroke is the worst for a deteriorating knee. However, my times allowed me to qualify for the World Masters Swimming Championships to be held in Italy in 2004. This was a chance I didn't want to miss so I stepped up the training. My knee got worse.

The time came when my doctor referred me to a knee surgeon. I told him that I was booked to take part in the championships in Italy. He said that I couldn't do much more damage to the knee so if I could manage it -go for it! So I did.

Now this is me in the middle lane without the cap in the 200m breaststroke. I did actually catch the other the fellow up and overtook him, I don't remember catching any one else.

Overall I did reasonably well and it was a fantastic experience to be part of sporting event with thousands of competitors and swimmers from all over the World. Sue came to support me which was nice - although perhaps it was the Adriatic beaches that attracted her rather than the swimming!

This is the nearest I got to the medals- posing next to the winners rostrum. I did manage to achieve a "standard" time - which means I was fast enough to be mentioned in the result sheet. I suppose to be 32nd in the world on that day, in my age group, is something to look back upon.

.... Oh Dear- that Knee

One week after returning home my knee gave up. I suffered acute hemorrhaging in the knee and found walking difficult without a stick. I went back to my surgeon "Now you have got that race out of your system - we'll give you a replacement knee - but that is the end of your breaststroke career." I had the operation in Feb 2005 and exactly 2 years later I won the South East Counties 200m championship. What stroke did I swim ? well breaststroke of course!

On your Bike....

My new knee gave me a new lease of life. It took a lot of hard gym work to rebuild my muscles but now I am competitively swimming again and I have taken up cycling.

I bought a bike each for Sue and I so we could take to meandering along quiet country lanes, strengthen legs and keep generally fit.

Not for long though- competition reared it's ugly head. I joined the local San Fairy Ann Cycling Club have taken part in a couple of 75 mile events and have started time trialling. I write this two days before the Tour de France comes through Kent- blast I don't think I'll be ready for that!!

We have also
joined a classic bike club and bought a 1934 Claude Butler tandem. Only a few rides so far but it looks like fun. Through a friend from our club I have also restored my Freddie Grubb bike that my Dad bought me when I was eleven. It was just a rusting frame and now it has pride of place as a family heirloom - and it still rides well.

So here we are....

So in terms of "A Little Bit Different" this now brings me up to date. I would like to believe that I will add to the adventures but I also have to be realistic and the old cliche "not as young as I used to be" does come to mind. Maybe I will climb that South American volcano one day- maybe I won't. All being well I know I will go to Nepal again, as the flights are already booked.

I could have added other ventures I have been involved in but they are not necessarily "a little bit different."

I could for example, tell the story of the villa that four of us had built in Spain, about the trials and tribulations of the Spanish legal system. I could tell of the fun we have had at the villa with our families and friends.

I could tell you about the charity ball I organised to raise funds for the Armenian Earthquake Appeal back in the 1980's or my life in the The Rotary Club of Maidstone Riverside. The fund raising achieved and fellowship enjoyed that has been an important part of my life. Later this year I will become it's President - that will be a busy time.

A youth entertainment show raised over £4k and gave youngsters the opportunity to perform with those who have already made it like Oliver Speers local lad who is now an international ballet star.


My involvement in all these Little Bit Different events and activities over the past fifty odd years has helped me to appreciate how lucky I have been to have had the support of a loving family and kindness and strength of good friends around me. Also to have had the good health to allow me to take part and to have been sufficiently confident (and perhaps just a tad egotistical!) to not be frightened in getting out and doing things.

.....and this has never been more relevant than recently when tragedy has struck.

In August 2006 our dear friend Roger who was a joint owner of our villa and a close friend since we were at school, died. It was Roger who survived the fire engine crash way back in the early 70's but lost a leg and had to live with terrible scars to a large part of his body. He died following a slip from a hot tub just when he should have been looking forward to a well deserved retirement. Life is just not fair.

Then in April 2007 our darling little granddaughter Grace died from chicken pox. Life doesn't get any more unfair than that. www.justgiving.com/gracebradburn tells what happened and about the funds raised for the paediatrics unit at the hospital - now something near £40k in total, it can be seen that out of this tragedy at least something positive has happened. It also shows that there are a lot of caring people in the world.

I am afraid that on this tragic note I now sign off until such a time when I feel more predisposed to add something "A Little Bit Different" to these notes.

As I said at the beginning this is not an autobiography merely a few jottings on some things in my life that were " A Little Bit Different". These recent tragic events have reminded me that In reality life is not just about doing things, it is about people and in particular, how much family and friends mean to us. I hope you don't mind me, therefore, dedicating these jottings to our dear little Grace and to her brave Mum and Dad and brother Oliver.