No, it wasn’t a typo at the end of Episode 2 – I had originally signed up for the whole circumnavigation in the 2017-18 race, yet here I am waiting to set off on 1 September 2019. So, what happened?
I thought I already knew the principles of achieving big goals and the importance of the right accountability, so with the confidence that the family support had given me, I had little problem telling the wider family, friends and colleagues of my upcoming adventure. The reaction was, perhaps not surprisingly, a mixture of disbelief, envy, concern, but largely encouragement and genuine excitement. Now there was no turning back – too many people knew!!
Over the summer of 2015, I began to quite enjoy my new-found fame as intrepid explorer and adventurer particularly as it all seemed so far way. I knew that any training wouldn’t start in ernest until 2016 and if I’m honest I didn’t give much serious thought to the enormity of what I’d signed up for and the real impact of being away for almost a year on myself, family and work. Those thoughts and considerations were brought sharply to the forefront of my mind in July 2015 when our lives suddenly turned upside down.
We were coming the end of a fabulous family holiday in Greece, when I picked up a missed call on my phone from my younger sister. I immediately knew something was seriously wrong. Whilst we are a quite close family, we wouldn’t normally disturb each other’s holiday unnecessarily. My stomach was churning as I called Helen and despite fearing the worst I wasn’t prepared for what I heard. My father had always been the fitter of my parents and even though he was 78 years old, he had continued to work part time until well after his 75th birthday, played golf regularly, was an active member of the local church community and enjoyed nothing more than walking the Lakeland fells. It’s weird that despite knowing that no-one lives forever and that under normal circumstances we will outlive our parents, I certainly hadn’t really thought about one of them passing away …. and if I did it was on the basis that my mum would probably be the first to go!!
On 25 July 2015 whilst walking with my brother-in-law above Grasmere (my Dad’s favourite part of the Lakes), without any warning, Dad suddenly collapsed. He was dead before he hit the ground. An awful situation for my brother-in-law as he sought to find help and even more so for my sister and mum, who were waiting in a Grasmere coffee shop for the boys to return. I cannot begin to imagine the impact and emotion of seeing Alan walk in, not only late, but also on his own and having to tell them the tragic, heart-breaking news. I will always be grateful to Alan for being there with my Dad, ensuring he wasn’t alone, but also for having the strength to be there for my sister, Liz and Mum despite his own upset and grief.
To be honest the rest of that year is a bit of a blur. The initial shock and disbelief, the grief and loss, the feeling of responsibility for my sisters and mum, whilst supporting my own children through their first experience of losing such an important person in their lives, not to mention trying to carry on with work at the hospital whilst sorting out Dad’s probate and finances. Needless-to-say, when Clipper emailed me in the Autumn of 2015 with the following year’s training dates, my personal adventure was the last thing on my mind. I realised that sailing around the world was a big deal that would require planning, focus and attention – I simply wasn’t in a place where I could take on anything that significant ..… and neither were the family.
The Clipper team were fabulous – sympathetic and understanding – and agreed to defer my application to the next race in 2019. My Dad’s passing, and having the Clipper pressure taken off me albeit temporarily, resulted in me taking a clearer view of my life – what was really important to me and how could I ensure that I made the most of the present rather than always living for future? Life is so fragile and the here and now is a real gift – I guess that’s why it’s called the present.
Where did my deliberations take me? They took me to a place where I realised that time was more important than money, that people were more important than career or status, that flexibility and control over my life, so I have the choice to do what I want to do, when I want to do it and with the people I want to share the experience with, was what mattered. To live a life of my design, not one of default. It was time for a change.
Thank you for reading my blog. If you are able to support and encourage me on my way by sharing my adventure or contributing to my fund raising for UNICEF UK, it was be a great help and much appreciated.