Happy Birthday Rainbow!

Yesterday afternoon Iain and I enjoyed the serene surroundings of St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden to help Rainbow Trust celebrate their 30th Anniversary.

Otherwise known as the Actors Church, there are an incredible number of plaques in remembrance to the great and the good who have had their ashes scattered or kept there.

Here is my favourite

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We were there as Rainbow had asked me to address the assembled mass of friends and family of the charity. To tell our story, and to really instil the importance of what Rainbow does for those families they care for.

As you can see, I looked jolly smart – prompting my colleagues to ask I had a job interview – those wags!

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The event was overseen by the patron of the charity Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, and he did an amusing and considered job of shoving proceedings along, while really taking the time to get across a serious point.

I was there to share our story – about Iris’ illness, her treatment and quite what Rainbow means to us. It has never got any easier – it must be the tenth time I have spoken on their behalf, and it gets me every time – either talking about Mary, our Family Support Worker, the process of treatment and tests and the eventual loss of our daughter.

With Anne from the charity setting out their future aspirations, and some lovely musical interludes it was a special afternoon – rounded out with champagne and canapes!

Prizes were shared with some of their top fundraisers, some amazing people who have selflessly dedicated themselves to raise the money that the charity needs to keep going, and grow into new regions.

And therein lies the issue – the charity needs to become famous – it needs to become a household name. Spoken about in the same breath as CRUK or RNLI, they have national aspirations, and it can only happen with an increase in funding. In our small way, Iain and I are working hard to plug into that.

When we get on our bikes in July 2017, it will be with Iris in mind to drive us up those hills, and the thought of those families in the future, wherever they are in the country, whatever the universe throws at them – that Rainbow are there and able to help.

 

 

Play It Safe, Everybody

West Midlands Police made an interesting announcement this week when thy confirmed that they are actively going to target and prosecute drivers who do not give enough room when passing cyclists. By the laws of road in the UK, drivers should give cyclists at least the same space as vehicles, widely considered to be 1.5m (4.9ft).

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West Midlands Police Target Drivers Who Are Too Close To Cyclists – BBC News

While this has been met with an overwhelmingly positive response from cyclists, many of whom who have been knocked off or rattled by drivers that are too close, the same cannot be said for the driving community. I don’t usually read the comments on internet sites as it is usually the territory of the uninformed and/or the unintelligent but some of them made me chuckle. For the very numerous drivers shouting “they don’t pay road tax!” there were an equal number of cyclists shouting “neither do you, it’s vehicle excise duty calculated on the emissions of your car. A bike has none, some cars don’t either!” and so it went on….. and on…. and on. Each side of the argument getting more and more frustrated as a few in the middle tried desperately to reason with everyone but failed miserably.

As a user of both methods of transport I resisted the urge to add my own thoughts to the comments thread, preferring to detail it here. The fact of the matter is this – there are bad drivers, there are bad cyclists, there are bad motorcyclists, there are bad pedestrians. The only thing that we can do is to make sure that we take it upon ourselves to be better, more respectful of the law and others and more conscientious in our approach to road use. Only then will things start to get better. Last week Adam and I were out and about in Surrey – we were climbing a short rise with a car behind us, when we hit the top and I could see the coast was clear so I waved the driver past and he beeped his appreciation as he went by. It just shows that we can all use the road safely and cordially if we’re appreciative of the fact that EVERYONE has a right to be there.

It infuriates me when I see a cyclist go through a red light or run a junction, just as much as it infuriates me when I see a motorcyclist overtake in slow moving traffic then cut a car up to get back in as traffic comes the other way or that car who doesn’t indicate or that pedestrian who crosses from a bad locations. It infuriates me so I make sure I don’t do those things, it’s not a difficult conundrum to solve. The growth in popularity of dash cams and helmet cams is a sad sign that we are more worried about what everyone else is doing and waiting for someone to blame rather than being better ourselves. I quite often see these on vehicles and bikes of people that are breaking one or more laws themselves, I’m sure they don’t use that evidence to shop themselves to the cops! What’s that biblical saying about those without sin casting the first stone?!

WMP have taken a positive step here to increase protection for cyclists and I hope this is replicated across the country but, when you’re out and about on your bike this weekend and any time in the future, make sure you’re obeying the road rules as marginal gains can work in all areas of cycling, not just the technical side.

Iain

Hills, Thrills & Lovely Cake

For the first time we managed to get together and get out on our bikes. We set out with the intention of covering some 25 miles, including a few hills and a stop for coffee!

Warlingham and out into the Surrey/Kent border is a pretty hilly area, you can’t leave my house without having to go up a pretty steep climb on your return. Despite riding on the flat most of the time, Adam was determined to get some climbs under his belt so he came over to my house and we set out from there. I think it’s fair to say that Adam found out the nature of the terrain round my way pretty early on but enjoyed hurtling down Titsey Hill immensely!

I was enjoying getting to grips with my new bike on a longer and more challenging ride, it was brilliant to push it around the Surrey roads to see just how different it was to my old Specialized hybrid bike. All credit to Proops, he kept going and we rewarded ourselves with coffee and cake at the Westerham Cyclery.

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Standard Poses

We’d never been to the Westerham Cyclery before but I shall definitely be going back, it’s great. As well as the drop in cafe there is a bike shop and a workshop. There are secure bike racks and free locks to borrow from the main desk which is great if you’re only planning a quick stop on your ride and don’t want to carry round a heavy lock. We took our choice of drink and slice of cake and set out back towards home, still with around 10 miles to go and the largest climb of the day.

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We Both Made It Up Clarks Lane….Eventually!

It’s a tough climb up Clarks Lane at any time, let alone nearing the end of a ride, but there is nowhere to hide on the route (no pavements or stopping areas) so you have to get through it. I’d done the climb a few times so I knew what to expect but it was a bit tougher for Adam – he made it though so that was a massive achievement in itself.

I really enjoyed the outing and, despite it hurting quite a bit, Adam was pleased to get some hill experience into his legs. Our motto of the day was borrowed from Jens Voight – “Shut Up Legs!”. We just about managed to beat the weather so that was a bonus and we managed a very respectable 26 mile trip.

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Pre Hill Selfie

I think we both realised we’ve got lots to achieve before the Paris trip but, thankfully, we’ve got lots of time to do it!

Looking forward to the next outing already

Iain

I Have A New Bike…. Well, Almost!

I got back on a bike in January 2014 after around 20 years of not being on one. I’d given up smoking the previous October and I was determined to get a bit fitter so, to have a goal, I signed up for the annual London To Brighton bike ride. I bought a Specialized Sirrus Hybrid bike (below) for that challenge and it served me well through six months of training and the 57 or so miles from Clapham Common to Brighton sea front.

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My Specialized Sirrus Hybrid Bike

I plumped for a hybrid at the time for several reasons

  • I thought the upright riding style would be easier on my ageing bones
  • It seemed, after so long not being on a bike, less pretentious than buying a road bike
  • The price at the time was decent (around £300) for a brand that I knew and trusted and there was a chance that I wouldn’t get on a bike for another 20 years!
  • The operation of the bike was more familiar to me with regards to gear levers etc
  • Most importantly I believed I would be more stable on it!

Since signing up for the London to Paris ride many people, including some very good cyclists, have told me to upgrade to a road bike. Their reasons range from it being lighter to more comfortable, but the one that always stuck in my head is that it is “easier, especially on climbs”. Now any help I can get on that element of cycling is worth having so I decided that I would eventually buy a new road bike.

I found that it’s an incredibly good idea to do quite a bit of research, especially familiarising yourself with common components across price brackets and then reading the reviews. I learnt to look for changes that manufacturers had made in order to hit pricepoints, usually though a lower spec chain or wheelset.

I found Bike Radar’s guide really useful and their You Tube channel has some great content on maintenance as well as equipment

It seems as though I’m buying at the right time as the 2016 models are being cleared to make way for the 2017 ranges. I’ve had my eye on a specific bike for a couple of weeks and today I took the plunge and ordered it, a Felt V75 Disc 2016 road bike from Wiggle.

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My New Felt Z75 Disc Road Bike

For the price I couldn’t find a better spec online and although I have spent more than I originally planned to, I do feel that it is worth the extra money.

I have 4-6 days to wait until this beauty lands on my doorstep, I’m hoping that the autumn weather remains favourable enough that I can get a few rides out of it before winter really kicks in! I’m sure there will be some gratuitous new bike shots on our Instagram page when it arrives!

Iain

Preparation Out Of The Saddle

With a full time job and a family to consider, it is incredibly difficult to find the time to get out on my bike. Rides of any decent length are likely to be reserved for the weekends so I’ve become more aware of the exercise I do in the gym.

I’ve been going to the gym a couple of mornings a week, running the odd 5k on a treadmill and using a few of the weight machines. Signing up for the Paris ride made me more aware of my gym time and what I could do to improve leg strength. A friend through work is a bodybuilder and ambassador for USN so I got in contact with her to get some advice. She recommended all of the things I hoped she wouldn’t – squats, lunges, deadlifts etc!

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Squats And Lunges Really Hurt!

I did my second round of these today as part of my gym routine, 3 sets of 10 reps for each. Both the squats and the lunges were done with a 40kg barbell across my shoulders and it really hurt so these are definitely going to be a key part of my ongoing exercise plan. I remember at the end of the London to Brighton ride that it felt like someone had stuck knives in my thighs and we’ve got a lot further to go this time!

Hopefully the weather will stay dry this weekend for a decent ride

Iain

The love of cycling

A brief wistful moment as I pause to reflect on a lifetimes love of cycling. I had a half day today, and having met my lovely wife and daughters at the Southbank for lunch and a play, I got out for a quick midweek lap of Richmond Park. 

The metronomic motion, the focus on breathing and picking the right line. All of a sudden you realise that you’ve thought of nothing for the last ten minutes. The day’s stresses melt away, petty worries remain just that. 
I have always loved bicycles; the material technology, the construction, the exotic names, the smell…more than that I love the freedom they give. Jump on your bike and you are off. No one’s stopping you.
I am so excited about this ride to Paris with one of my dearest friends, I’m hoping to share my abiding love for this noblest of activities with all who’ll listen!

Clips, Slips and Countryside

The start to my reacquaintance with my bike was a punctuated by a week abroad in Corfu. I’d managed a 11 mile ride the week before we went away so I was itching to get out this weekend, though Saturday’s weather suggested that might not be possible! Fortunately this morning was dry, if a bit changeable, so I set out with the intention of getting 20 miles under my belt.

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Handlebar Selfie!

The area that I live in always amazes me. Go a mile one way and I can be in the hustle and bustle concrete jungle of Croydon, while a mile in the opposite direction takes me to rolling hills and farms along with some lovely village pubs. The fact that I’m always going so slow that I can enjoy the scenery is a bonus!

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View Over The Farms At Tatsfield

Unfortunately today wasn’t all plain sailing like two weeks ago as I discovered a fairly significant personal issue with clips! My left foot, the dominant one, is fine with clipping in or out as it used to doing what I tell it to. My right foot however, the swinger in football terms, really doesn’t want to know at all so any balance issues on that side result in me falling over. That happened twice today (once fairly heavily on the elbow) and fortunately no cars were coming! A bloodied knee and elbow plus feeling a bit foolish was the result.

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Bloodied Joints

The tumbles cut my confidence a bit so I turned for home, but still managed to put in 16 miles and any miles into the legs at this stage are good miles.

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A Fairly Eventful 16.5 Miles!

Hopefully future rides will be less eventful!

IAIN

Back In The Saddle

With good weather forecast, both me and Adam managed to get out on our bikes today (albeit seperately).

I’m off to Corfu tomorrow for a week so I wanted to try out the new pedals and shoes. I am pleased to confirm that, in just under an hour and over the course of 11 miles, I didn’t fall off once! It was a fairly leisurely cycle, just to ease back into it, but I still had to battle a headwind coming up Addiscombe Road so I was happy with the outing.

Adam, meanwhile, has taken the French aspect of our challenge very much to heart. His couple of laps round Bushey Park punctuated by a stop for a coffee and a croissant.

I received my Rainbow Trust jersey in the week. It’s very bright (as you would expect) and I won’t be breathing out a lot!

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I shall see what that looks like after the holiday!

Iain

Rainbow Trust – Some Info

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Following on from Adam’s story below, I thought it would be useful to share the information given to us by Maxine at Rainbow Trust. It really highlights how every penny helps them to help others

Rainbow Trust supports families who have a seriously ill child. Family Support Workers provide individually tailored support to each member of the family for however long they need it. This could be taking a family to and from hospital appointments, listening to a parent’s concerns or taking healthy siblings out for the day. It’s only with the help of fundraisers like me that they are able to raise vital funds which enable them to continue to support families in need. 

How donations will help Rainbow Trust to support more families:

  • £24 provides an hour’s vital support to a family with a terminally ill child, giving them quality time together

  • £154 transports the whole family to and from a hospital appointment in a Rainbow Trust vehicle

  • £1650 supports a family with a terminally ill child for a whole year.

So, even if it’s just a pound you found down the back of the sofa send it our way and we’ll pass it on

Iain

Why a bike ride and why Rainbow Trust

Hello dear reader,

Thanks for coming and checking out what Iain and I are up to in July 2017. This blog site should be a funny, uplifting and interesting place to be over the next few months. 

I wanted to pause and inject a serious note, briefly, in explaining why we are riding for The Rainbow Trust. 

In 2008 my wife Kate and I were joined by Iris, our first child. She was a pure delight, and when she was six months old we decided that a week camping in Scotland was a good idea for a holiday.

Typically for a Scottish summer we returned home with stinking colds. Iris did not get better, on the evening we came home she collapsed and we found ourselves being rushed through our local A and E. 

After a midnight sprint through town in an ambulance and another transfer to Kings PICU we were told that there was a mass growing on her liver, and to prepare for the worst. A genius surgeon operated after a week of waiting and watching, he resected her liver along with what we would later find out was an aggressive Rhabdoid tumour. 

She was still alive but with a year of chemotherapy at Great Ormond Street to deal with.

It was then we were introduced to Mary at The Rainbow Trust.

With no car we were travelling into town by train, or expensive car sharing schemes – a member of our home care team heard about this, and referred us to Rainbow. The party line is that they support families with children with life threatening and terminal illnesses. What they really do is send an incredible person to help you and your family. We got Mary.

They work hard to make sure your family support worker is well matched to you – and we all just clicked straight away. Mary would get us to hospital, help with shopping trips, make sure we knew what was going on, and generally ease the pressure. 

A tiny Lancastrian, she’d phone and announce herself ‘it’s Mary love’. She will always be Mary-Love to us.

We were driving home from GOSH one morning – I had left Kate and Iris for another week of treatment, and was feeling quite flat. Mary knew exactly what to say, or how to lift a mood. ‘Did I ever tell you about the time I was banned South Africa?’ she asked. It transpired she had spent years writing to Mandela, and the apartheid government wrote her a shirty note telling her to never visit. A genuinely funny person, who understood others. 

For the next year Mary would turn up at our flat early in the morning, transport them to hospital and bring them back a few days later. She was a grateful constant in our lives.

Iris finished her chemo, and normal life resumed. She would go in for monthly scans, to check her liver. For a while everything was alright, until one month they spotted something on her liver. Test after test after test were carried out, and we were given the worst news. Her cancer had returned, the chemo had not worked, and there was nothing we could do.

We took our little girl home to face an unfair and uncertain future. Mary remained there for us. 

Months past, and Iris remained well enough – we had our final holiday in a much loved corner of Suffolk. We decided that we would care for Iris at home, that she would not go into a hospice. With the right mix of GOSH, local care and Rainbow support we were able to give her that.

Iris died quietly at home, surrounded by the people she loved, in October 2010.

What The Rainbow Trust do is incredible, they allow families to focus on the important things, to have time with their child and not to sweat the small stuff. The mundane and everyday is not important at that point, your focus is required elsewhere. That we were given that opportunity is something for which I will remain ever grateful.

And that I why I am going to mount my trusty steel steed, and along with my dear friend Iain, ride like we’ve never ridden before, to raise money to allow other families that same important time.