The second half of 2015, following the sudden death of my Dad, was a hectic, grief laden time. My two sisters and myself did our best to continue with our own work and family commitments whilst taking time off to be with mum and of course dealing with our own feelings of sadness and loss. It was therefore a welcome reprieve when Clipper agreed to defer my crew application to the 2019-20 race. Planning and preparation could be put to the back of mind whilst I concentrated on more important and immediate concerns.
If I’m completely honest, I thought my mum would follow my dad within a matter of months. They had been together over 55 years and she seemed to rely on him for so much. Her grief was so intense that she appeared even more vulnerable and fragile than ever before. And yet, although remaining heart broken and with a deep sense of loss that would never fully heal, mum didn’t give up. There is something about the Liverpudlian ladies that means they are resolute, almost stubborn, in the face of adversity. For whatever reason it became clear that mum was not yet ready to leave us.
By the end of 2015 I had therefore come to realise that we needed to start looking at a longer term view of how we could support mum as a family and continue with our own lives. Up until that point I had been using my annual leave to take time off and spend 2-3 days, every 6-8 weeks, staying with mum and easing the pressure on my sisters. It meant that I was spending less time with Nicki and my children and certainly getting little if any time for myself – I couldn’t continue to be there for everyone and everything. Something had to give. If there was any silver lining to my Dad’s passing, however thin, it was that it prompted me to review my priorities. I knew that supporting mum and my sisters was important to me but it could not be at the expense of my relationship with Nicki and my own children. I knew that family was more important to me than work – so it was time to walk the walk and live my life in accordance to my values and priorities. It was time to work part time.
I resigned from my local hospital in March 2016, almost 21 years after I started there as a consultant. It was an emotional time but I knew it was also the right decision for me and the family. Over the next year, I settled into my new routine, not only enjoying the ability to spend time with mum without compromising other relationships but also enjoying a new sense of enthusiasm for my clinical work and excitement about the time I now had to explore new opportunities.
Throughout 2016 the Clipper race had never been far from my mind and as we moved into 2017, the excitement and social media coverage started to build in anticipation of the 2017-18 race – my original race, of course. It was ironic & more than a little disappointing when I heard that the UK host port for the race – the port that boats would start from and eventually return to 11 months later, was for that year’s race to be Liverpool – my home city. I found it hard not to dwell on what might have been had my original plans remained in place – setting out on my circumnavigation of the globe from my home port!!
But I still had my own Clipper adventure to look forward to and what better way to reignite my enthusiasm than being in Liverpool for the 2017-18 race launch. The race start weekend was a fabulous occasion. The Royal Albert dock looked incredible – awash with clipper flags, posters, fanzone and of course all the racing yachts lined up in with their brightly coloured branding and flags. The place was packed with enthusiastic supports, curious tourists and intrigued locals and so much going on – last minute packing and preparation, crew briefings and emotional farewells. Over the weekend Nicki and I were able to chat at length with the Clipper organising team as well as past, present and even the future 2019-20 crew, my potential team mates, who were also enjoying the occasion. It was starting to feel very real and tangible – my own stomach butterflies were beginning to take flight and my race was still two years away!!
We’d stayed with mum for the weekend and took her down with us to the Mersey shoreline on the Sunday afternoon to watch the first leg of the 2017-18 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race get underway. There were crowds of well-wishers and supporters cheering the teams as the yachts jostled for position on the start line and then tacked their way down the Mersey, out into the Irish Sea and across the horizon. I wasn’t the only one left in a quiet and reflective mood. The fluttering butterflies had been replaced by a growing realisation of the enormity of what I had signed up for. I could sense that mum and Nicki were thinking exactly the same thing – in two years’ time it would be me sailing of into the horizon and not returning home for nearly a year!!
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 fundraising for UNICEF UK, it was be a great help and much appreciated.
Look out for the next episode – Summertime Bloom.