Thursday, 5 September 2013

Faversham Hop Festival 2013

There are times in drumming land that you go to a festival, especially a relatively local festival, one year thinking “ I'd love to get a gig here next year!”...... Little did I know.....

Faversham is a cracking little market town and 'medieval gem’ in the heart of Kent. (Sort of right of London and down a bit as you look at a map. (Assuming you still own a map) sat proudly on the old Roman road of Watling Street, or in modern day language The A2! For the past few years, during the first weekend of September and in celebration of the beer making plant of hops, Faversham comes alive with music of all genre, poets, comedians, food stalls, fine weather and a million plastic beer cups.
Lonnie Donegan Snr.
For the past couple of years, as well and stomping the 70s scene with Mud2, I have been playing drums with the brilliant Lonnie Donegan Jnr. Son of errrr Lonnie Donegan Snr. Keeping alive the music that really kicked off the “pop” scene as we all know and love today. Lonnie Donegan inspired all the greats of popular music to slope off to their local second hand shops (Pre Ebay.. don't y' know) buy a guitar, plonk a broom stick in a box, nick their mum's washboard and sing American labour working, and political songs, normally at great speed! This became known as Skiffle. Lonnie was the first to take this on in a big way and after serving as Chris Barber's banjo player he went out alone and rest is history.
It was mentioned over a pint with, Festival music organiser and general all round good bloke, Terry Carter, that Lonnie Jnr. would go well at the Festival. Having agreed to slum it and forego our usual rider of freshly painted magenta dressing room walls, four bowls of exotic fruit, sixteen cans of soft drinks, sixteen cans of organic beer, four comfy chairs, fresh cut flowers, two tubes of M&Ms with the red ones taken out, our own sound engineer flown in from Botswana and a tub of Greek yoghurt, Mr Donegan relented to the thumb screws and under some duress, agreed to get of bed on the Saturday and had me sign the contact with my blood...... well a Bic brio, but blood always sounds so much more rock and roll.
This, my dear reader, is when the fun started. First was Mr Carter from Carters Alibi. A blues band lovingly well know for playing, not very well known songs or well known songs in a not very well know way! “As you are going to be at Faversham in September,” Started Terry “could you play percussion with us please?”
I could see no problem, so long as there was time to get between stages. Agreed. Sorted. Done. Two gigs. Then “Oh, we are also playing on Sunday..... twice! Once at the Old Wine Vaults, then later on the Main stage.!” Four gigs!
Now I am a fair bloke BUT! Drum kits were supplied and I was on percussion duties, so I would have to sort a total strike at one gig, transfer congas, bongos, chimes, cowbells, blocks, timbale, cream buns, numerous shakie things, cymbals and, at the last count, fourteen million stands, to another stage! “Dear Santa, can I have a rack system please?”

The Sunday before Faversham,  I was approached by Dave Austin, a bass player type from the local band Keval. “I hear that you are at the Hop Festival next weekend!..... We need a drummer, could you sit in with us?” Now that's five gigs!!!

After looking at times and logistics, it would be possible as Keval were on a couple of bands before Lonnie Donegan Jnr. I would have time to do the set with Carter's Alibi, pop over to the Preston Street Stage set for Keval and be ready for Mr Donegan. Phew! Somehow I agreed to this madness! In for a penny..
Saturday morning arrived, Sarah and I set off with my drum kit and my percussion rig stuffed, like level seven Tetris, in the back of Morrison (my van).
Sarah
Drum tech, manager, Moneypenny, agent, life saver
After negotiating the Faversham temporary road closures, balloon and candy-floss brandishing kids and some stalls set up in the wrong place, we made our way to the back of the Old Wine Vaults pub, the site of my first gig. Unloading, I met with David, The landlord from The Old Wine Vaults. He was taking his final look at the sun shine and enjoying a breath of fresh air before descending into the pub's beer cellar for the day. He told me that the Franco-British folk act Sur Les Docks had opened the festival there the night before and the beer had started running out! Yikes!! He was in for a busy day underground.
So then, T minus one hour. I am set and ready. Sarah had checked that I had everything and spent a fair amount of time going too and from Morrison to get “just one more thing please!” Priceless.
Terry Carter. Liking my shirt
I was hiding, safe behind a couple of congas and strategically placed cymbals to deflect any plastic beer cups that my come my way for wearing such a hideous shirt! The set went well. The jolly Dave Tetmar was on drums, large bloke, large character and massive amounts of talent to boot. We had a good ol' goof about swapping fours and chops (not, sadly, from the barbecue). This line up is great fun. Terry plays, what I could only describe as, “angry harp!” He must rewrite The Devil Went to Georgia and call it The Devil Goes down to Faversham and swap out fiddles for blues harps! He really gives it welly! His lovely wife Alison shares lead vocal and they indulge in jolly marital banter throughout. After about an hour Terry announces a break. “BREAK????!!” I had this down as a forty five minute set in total! I have another gig to get too! I check times, speed eat some splendid noodles from one of the concession stalls in the garden and re-join the stage. With this came permission to slope off early for the Keval Gig. Half an hour in, I leave the the garden trying hard not to stand on sax player Nick Wyver's soprano sax, or stumble over Graham Covus' pristine guitar effects unit., laid out quite scientifically on it's own little carpet. Bless. Mind you, it made sense as we were playing on gravel!
Me and one of the day's heroes, John Martin
in full Zydeco vest mode
With breakables for the drums on the Preston Street Stage and timbales for the expected reggae, Sarah and I battled our way through the crowd with soon to be heroes of the weekend John Martin (no not that one) and Steve Ellis.
The kit was a blue PDP on kind loan from Terry Carter. Now is it just me, or are there gremlins at festivals that eat cymbal felts, wing nuts and cymbal sleeves! And once your back is turned they sneak up and tighten every wingnut, bolt, cymbal stand and pedal release beyond the strength of Iron Man's second and more powerful cousin Iron Pain In the Bloody Arse Man!?
I don't mind things being secure, but when you have a hernia trying to unfasten a bass drum pedal the joke's well and truly OVER!

On stage with Keval
A good crowd turned up for Kevel and the self written songs, with a reggae slant, went really well. Dave really is a great bass player. Tons of feel and he comes, at no extra charge, with the dead pan look of all his four stringed kinsfolk. My problem here though, was the kit. Not PDPs fault or Terry's but it was falling apart around me. Being bass drum heavy music, I was giving it some right foot grief and it was rewarding me by running away during every song. Me then pulling it back, it running away and so on. The hi hat stand going in the opposite direction. I was stretching like a dancer. (There you go Sarah, I told you I wanted the Darcy Bussell video for training purposes only! ) I had opted not to use my very lovely Paiste Alpha cymbals due to the lack of felts and sleeves and had a tatty old 14” Stag entry leval hi-hat cymbal (with only the one split) for a crash and a, god only knows what sort of ride, that I don't remember using! The hats were an old pair of Paiste Rudes, now these I know I could bash about with ease! Such fun! 
Keval went well. Nice chaps too. Thanks for the gig. My sore, pulled inner thigh muscles not throbbing just nicely thank you!
Next up for me was Lonnie Donegan Jnr. I came off from Keval and I was called over by my good friend Clive Sullivan. “Problems with the kit?”
PROBLEM???Do bears poo in the woods?!”
Clive had brilliantly done a reckie and found a way to get Morrison to an alley way across the road from the stage and get my own kit up. What a top chap.
This could be a problem though as all stages were “backline supplied” plus with only a 15 minute change over it would be damn near impossible. There was one more band on, then Lonnie!!

Lonnie Jnr
I spoke with the stage manager and short from becoming all Joan Collins in a Snickers advert, I made the pledge to keep the change over to fifteen minutes, but my kit just had to go on for Donegan. Seeing that I was close to tears and my bottom lip trembling like a three year the stage manager relented and ran for a pub.
I drove Morrison around Faversham to the alley and backed up. John Martin and Steve Ellis were there. We then, one piece at a time, made our way time after time through the crowd with the gear. I think five trips took half an hour. I apologize now for any knocked legs, trodden on toes, jogged pints (in plastic cups) and bruised backs of children's heads.
We unpacked the kit (my trusty old 1985 Gretsch that I have had since new.) and set it up, in call out order, along the side of the building next to the stage. (I bet Carl Brazil would have loved this gig. We must swap one one day!!!) The on stage band finished and we went for it. Once the drummer had cleared, I handed the PDP down to Steve and John, then my gear came up in clock work order. Mat, with Baskey Mat Markers.. Worth their weight in gold, especially in these time tight situations. Kit up, stands up and with a big sigh of relief, my Paiste Alphas on and looking shining and ready for action in the late afternoon sun. I have had the Alphas a couple of years now and they are just the bee's knees. I can tickle them and they respond or I can knock seven bells out of then and they never choke. Glorious I tell you, glorious! Well, did we do it in fifteen minutes? Nope. We did it in TEN!!! I took off my two gig old, hideous shirt and smartened up for Mr Donegan. By now a really big crowd had formed and even though accustomed to longer sound and line checks, Lonnie Jnr was Martin acoustic and banjo ready! It was like a skiffle home coming! The place took off. People of all ages were singing, dancing and having a great time. Even laughing at the “policeman in a dustbin” joke. Funny since 1959! The slots were a strict 45 minutes so we couldn't do any more but if we could have, we could have just played and played. It was a real buzz. Brilliant end to a first day. Topped off only by Sarah and I going off with John and Steve and their respected others Fiona and Mandy for a curry. Perfect.
I will be returning to Kent with Lonnie Donegan Jnr on October 4th Whitstable and October 26th Chatham's Brook Theatre. Details of these and other UK dates HERE (add Web Link) We are doing full theatre shows so time for a load more tunes. It is a cracking band and Lonnie Jnr is doing his dad proud.Do come along Tickets from the respective box offices.
Home to bed... back tomorrow.

Sunday morning greeted me with aches and pains! I had over done the dad dancing while brandishing a tambourine or two so I suppose I was getting my punishment.
Then Dave Tetmar realizes he's asked me to play with his band!
First gig of the day was Carter's Alibi, back at The Old Wine Vaults. Landlord Dave had very kindly allowed us to leave stuff in the kitchen over night so the load-in was a doddle. Soon I was set and ready to go. Bass player Don Vanns was on top form. I am a fan of four to the floor bass players, but Don wanders all over the place but manages to keep it really tidy. Mind you with one Mr Dave Tetmar going hell for leather, if Don wasn't solid it could have turned into free form jazz with a cherry on top. I love working with Terry Carter he picks on some really unusual feels and genre. Even giving everyone a taste of Zydeco. He armed me with a Zydico rub vest, handed two out to the crowd and I set of around the garden.
Shaking things down with Carter's Alibi
The two sets went well and as I was striking down for the transfer to the festival Main Stage for my last gig, drummer Dave Tetmar asked me if I would play percussion with his band, playing original material. GIG NUMBER SIX! My rig would already be on the stage so it would be a matter of a fifteen minute break and back on.
Transferring all of my nonsense from the pub to the main stage was epic! A three hundred yard plod through thousands of people with a conga bag on my back while leaning over to waist height pushing a flight case was a challenge. I won't go into any detail about the sights I saw at this level but some people really can't own, or refuse to use a mirror! Jeepers! The good side of the trip was the brilliant Unison Bendz were hammering out pub rock classics from the main stage. This band is quite brilliant. A relatively new concern but singer and leader Dave Mac' is pushing boundaries and they are establishing themselves as a band to go and see.
The short set with Terry Carter went well and I was introduced to Rosco Levee. A singer songwriter from Kent. Now I must have had my head in the local River Medway sand or mud because I have never come across Rosco, but the thronging audience numbers started to wake me up to the idea that they could be good!
Ok, so I was over doing it!
A traditional Morris Dance troop did a great display of pre drinking worship in front of the stage then the whole area was solid with people. My side of the stage was open to the view and l to my right were just loads of people. I had ascertained that the band played southern rock so it should be lively. I was in position just waiting for the off when Dave Tetmar called me. “Pip! By the way, in the first song there is a break down and we'll need a conga solo!!!!!” Christ!! Thanks pal!
Rosco Levee and the Southern Slide were introduced to a massive cheer and it all kicked off. Within four bars I knew this band had it all! Feel, energy, stage presence and believe me, a future. It was amazing. If you mixed up the feel of the Allman Brothers with a helping of Lynyrd Skynyrd, topped off with the rockier edge of catchy Eagles' songs, powerful lead vocals and harmonies. Not to mention grinding Hammond and perfectly tasteful slide guitar, I may be half way to describing the band's brilliance. Sadly I got carried away towards the end of the set and caught a conga rim with my right hand just below my pinky! The pain went up my arm like an electric shock, past my neck and into my jaw bone. I thought all my teeth were going to fall out and I almost wet myself!!! Still, worth it for the experience. Rosco and the lads enjoyed my playing and have invite me to join them on larger gigs. In these situations, I have learned, they go out as a nine piece band, brass, backing singers, the whole nine yards. And now me makes it ten! Bring-it-ON!
Rosco Levee and The Southern Slide
Please check out Rosco's website. The album "Final Approach To Home" is available HERE It's fantastic. Go on Treat yourselves!

An amazing festival, great music, the legendary Lyn Sullivan popping from stage to stage with comic verse, the Ukaholics, great food, real ale and so much more. Please, please committee next year again please!

Monday, 3 June 2013

What a Week That Was!

I first picked up on Mike Dolbear's Ultimate Drumming Experience (UDE) a couple of years ago and sadly work prevented me from going. Last year's UDE was on hold due to Mike taking care of 999 drummers and me at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in London. So then... this year came along and I had a couple of things in the diary, including trying to finish the on-going saga of my studio.
In early May I was lucky enough to go to a Tony Robbins seminar as a guest. Yes, this had a price of £1900 but I went for diddly. I learnt so much about me and what I want to achieve, I came home to Sarah, bouncing off of the walls. The UDE was not on my agenda due to my diary. During the Tony Robbins four day seminar, as well as walking on hot coals, I learned about “Total Immersion.” If I wanted to get better and improve things quickly and efficiently I needed to immerse myself. A quick email to Mr Dolbear secured my place and on Monday May 27th Sarah gave me a lift to Barnet and the very nice Bull Theatre where I was to be drummed into the middle of next week!
The students were split into several groups, I was yellow group (For those who care!) We were rotated at 80 minute intervals in classrooms between Ash Soan, Billy Ward, Thomas Lang and a variety of guest speakers / teachers in the theatre.
The choice of tutors was inspirational. They couldn't have been more different.
Ash Soan in teacher mode
Ash Soan. Captain groove. Ash knows his stuff.. Recording and playing for the likes of Adele, Leona Lewis, Rownan Keating, James Morrison, Seal, Robbie Williams the roll call of 'A' listers from current pop is seemingly endless. Ash went into detail on a number of subjects that included covering straight rhythms and shuffles (You try and play Slave to the Rhythm all the way though with out a seizure!) He had a new Sakae kit (Check his web site for the story www.ashsoan.com  and a snare drum tuned so low my cats could dent it. But if it's right... it's right! Ash is a really approachable guy and his lessons very informative and challenging. Ash brought along bass player Winston Blissett to give us all the opportunity to "groove out!" That was fun fun fun! Great player indeed! 

Billy watching every note!
Billy Ward, the happy chappie from Nashville sets the grooves for Carly Simon, Yoko Ono, BB King, Robbie Robertson and Richard Marx but as the whole list would fill this blog, I'll stop now. (www.billyward.com) Billy took the drum set in a completely different light. First conventional playing, then with hands, a tin can and anything else laying around. Billy boils over with enthusiasm and zooms down more tangents than a smoothie hitting the fan but every one totally valid and well worth while.

Thomas and Mike (Down time!)
All nine seconds of it!
Thomas Lang was parked out of the way in the big Portacabin. His lessons should come with a health warning. You think you can play? Go see Thomas! It was crazy, fun, eye opening and I found every chink my armour. Yes he's fast and feet as quick and accurate as his hands, but the man has feel. It's not just 32nd notes at 120BPM making your eyes go funny, it's music, dynamics, tasteful.. ..oh, and bloody mind blowing! After one session on Friday the room was like a gym without air-con'. The mirror was steamed over and people flooded out gasping for air, water and trying to get the feeling back in their fingers. Be afraid, be very afraid! You don't get to work with Robert Fripp, John Wetton, Glenn Hughes and Kylie to the Vienna Art Orchestra without thinking outside of the box!
If I really push on with the information gained over the week (and I will) my playing will start to get to the next level, and I though I could play a bit!!
Billy, Brian, Mike, Thomas, Clem, Phil (Gould not me!)
It was good to also have visiting teachers. Ralf Salmins came over all jazzy! (Nice) I first met Ralf at the Olympics last year, he delved into the art of swing with some detail. Only small changes do make all the difference! I saw Ralf with the BBC Concert Orchestra and later in the year we are going to see The Water Boys where Ralf is in the hot seat. Now There's diversity. Phil Gould (Formally Level 42) sat in for Ash on one day and we all got funky. There was an excellent visit from drumming royalty in the shape of Brian Bennett and Clem Cattini for a Q&A and Jeff Davenport gave a session on drum heads and tuning. I can now bring my Ludwig 402 out of retirement as it was my fault it sounded rubbish all a long!
Ash and Billy in clinic drum off!
The evenings were full too. We had a jam in the theatre on Monday. Then a clinic by Thomas and a joint one with Ash and Billy.
Billy. Arrived with a smile, left with a smile! 

I have my two new Billy Ward videos to go through and a pad full of notes. I'll be downloading the Ash Soan app from his site and I'll be screwing new heads on to my kit soon. On top of that I will arrange a session with Mike to further kick me into shape and carry on progressing. We go on learning guys!!
Worth it? Every penny.
The chance to get so close and talk drums with these men was quite an experience. I learned loads from just chatting and meeting people from so many drumming backgrounds. To have a breakfast cup of tea in a cafĂ© with Clem, Billy, Thomas, Ash, Mike, Brian, Phil, Jeff and Ralf was quite a hoot! 
Do yourself a favour, if you are a drummer of a good standard or teacher GO NEXT TIME you will benefit from the experience. Go to www.mikedldbear.com and register for the mailing list. The man really has his fingers on the pulse of all things drummy and a very impressive phone book!

Thanks  to Mike's family and the people making it all happen behind the scenes. Brilliant!


Unless I am gigging away I will certainly be going on the next one.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Stone and a Half and Counting

You will need fruit, Shreddies (or your choice,)
fat free yogurt and berries
People have been very complimentary at my recent weight loss. Following the London Marathon in 2011 I just ballooned to over 16 stone. I tried to shed some of the excess poundage but failed miserably.  I tried to run again but my knees thought I was giving a piggy back to a small pony and quit! (Costing me a place in this year's Marathon.)
Right next to where we live there is a weekly meeting of Slimming World. Put off by the cutting, but very funny, Matt Lucas and Peter Kay I avoided giving it a try. One day back in October last year Sarah and I gave it a go. I weighed 15 stone 10 pounds.
The group leader is Linda a very patient lady who tells it how it is in the politest of ways! Almost six months down the line I had got rid of over a one and a half stone and feel much better. Then there is the fun side of tastings and awards!! I have folder full of Slimmer of the Weeks, a Slimmer of the Month, Half stone award, Stone award and Stone and a half. Sarah and I won Couple of The Year too. At a respectful 14 stone I still have a few pounds to go for my personal target.  This would have been achieved a few weeks back but I had a dip over December and the scales went the wrong way.
Dice up the fruit while the shreddies
are soaking in the milk
What I am not doing is dieting or starving myself. I have just changed the way I think about food. We enjoy a balanced diet and I still pack it away in true drummer fashion. To show a case in point... Breakfast. Love it. My own concoction of fruit, yogurt and cereal.

Pip's Morning Canapé
Three pieces of fruit. My personal favourite is a soft pear, banana and a peach/ plum or similar large stone soft fruit. 60 grams of Shreddies. (Double the amount but I take the figure off elsewhere) Plonk the Shreddies in a large bowl and pour in the milk. One Ml of Milk is one gram so if you are measuring your milk do it while the bowl is on the scales, it saves on the washing up! I add the milk here because I like the Shreddies to go soggy!!! Chop the fruit into small lumps. Pile on top then pour over a tub of light yogurt and add a few berries. YUM! Enjoy.
Put the fruit onto the Shreddies. Add the yogurt before
the berries.
(It stops them falling off and it looks arty farty!!!)


Next  week Extra Large Kebabs and  Sherbet Dips... Only joking!

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Be back soon!
Ok it's been a while but I have been locked away in a plasterboard shell of a dust hole called a studio in waiting! I will have photos soon. I have also been working on some video projects. All will be revealed shortly. Do stay posted I am getting my, not very technical, act together slowly!!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Shine London 2012 on a Bike!


A few weeks back I saw a request from Cancer Research UK for volunteer cyclist to help out on the Shine London Marathon. An overnight affair with participants walking either a half marathon course or the full monty of a 26.2 mile marathon. Starting at the famous Battersea Power Station, well.... famous if you are a Pink Floyd fan, or trying not to have the thing knocked down.
Humm, ride a bike around London? I'll do that!” I thought. I know, I'll rope Sarah in as well, she'll love a night out standing about in the cold and dark waiting for the sun to come up!
I had recently started riding again following an altercation with a van some ten years ago. He lost, by the way, I smashed his windscreen with my head! That'll learn him!
I had taken my bike up to the newly opened Cyclopark at Gravesend a couple of weeks earlier and enjoyed the lack of cars and the fact that everyone was going the same direction! I have also been on a couple of the relaxed Sky-Rides. Now there's a way to spend a Sunday morning; a nice slow wander through the Kent Countryside.
My application was accepted by CRUK and I was given a section to “look after” and a start time of 10.15pm. Sarah was due to be dragged kicking and screaming to help at a pit stop a little earlier, with three coats, two woolly hats, gloves and an old empty dustbin with a ton of old pallets to burn!
Late on Saturday evening Sarah headed off under armed guard for the high speed Train to St Pancras, only a short way from her final destination, and I took my bike, with new panniers for the occasion, on the old rickety train to Victoria. On arrival, I left Victoria station headed south down Buckingham Palace Road, along Pimlico Road for Chelsea Bridge. Surprisingly I wasn't too worried by the traffic. There are bus lanes most of the way and ever increasing amounts of cycle lanes in London and I made reasonable progress on the one and a half mile jaunt, arriving at Battersea Power Station at about 9.30pm.
The Shine Walk had started and the sight of thousands of people walking along the roads with glow sticks, reflective tee shirts, flashing deely boppers and bunny ears was both astounding, surreal and somewhat slightly mad!
I reported in at the Volunteer’s point and duly had a look at the other bikes There was all sorts from fun mountain bikes to at least one ultra slippery carbon race bike, oozing yumminess. This was the first real trip out for my new bike. A birthday prezzie from the ever lovely Sarah. I chipped in for the handle bars and one wheel, (Otherwise I would be on a unicycle!) I was to look after Orange Zone with two other riders, one was Tom from the Dulwich Paragon Cycle Club. He was grabbed by me as a third member because he admitted to knowing his way around London! “Yup, You'll do!” I must really apologize here, because I have clean forgotten the name of the other chap who was with us. So, Should you happen to read this and recognize yourself, please let me know. You were riding a Blue Ribble road bike, I was on a shiny new black Giant Hybrid with one and a half miles on the clock! Tom's steed was a tasty white Cube road bike with just about everything on it!
Somehow I ended up with the team radio, making me team leader of Orange Two. Orange was split in to three teams to cover smaller areas. Orange Two had a little bit of Euston Road by Warren St Tube Station, down Gower St, including Pit Stop Five at Mile 19, then Great Russell St along to Southampton Row.
Pit Stop 5. The lull before the storm!
At 10.15 we made our way to Gower St and Pit Stop 5 to have a look-see. Tom weaved his way through the London streets like a trooper. He was brilliant, not only a good rider, he had great vision, aware that two people were in tow and (Now wait for this......) He stopped at every red light! Our journey of about 5 miles was a good start for me. It was at a nice pace and I had another chance to get acquainted with riding in traffic. I was greeted at the pit stop by Sarah who sorted me out with a cup of hot chocolate...... It's not what you know........
Walkers were just starting to build up at The Mall a few miles back, so I radioed in and offered our service further down the route as it would be a fair wait up at mile 19 for our first customers. We decided to ride the wrong way along the route to cheer on the early birds and six miles later we arrived at the Mall. There were calls about congestion a little further down the route so Tom & Co went off to see what they could do, I headed back up The Mall, Constitution Hill to Hyde Park Corner to check on the Security Guards and Marshals. There was one missing at the west end of the Mall at the traffic lights and pedestrian crossing, a G4 employee was meant to be there but hadn't showed up. I am not going to G4 bash, but they were let down on a number of occasions. I must also add that these words are mine and mine alone, so where I feel a good point or not so good point should be raised, hold on to your hats!
Two riders from Purple 2 were cycling along the Mall so I asked if they could hold the fort at the traffic lights while I try and sort out something. I called Event Control and following their agreement , I cycled back to Pit Stop 4 to gather up a couple of volunteers from the Pit Stop director to relieved the bikes. Bikes needed to be bikes and soon they were on their way and replaced by two very cheery volunteers from PS4. I made a couple more journeys up and down Constitution Hill and The Mall before Tom & Co had returned from their adventures at a pre arranged time. We then started to make our way back along the route heading for Mile 16, half way along Constitution Hill, though, I spotted a walker with shoes off a rubbing a wound. I left Tom & Co with her and cycled back to PS4 spoke to a first aider, grabbed a handful of plasters and headed back to the patient. We made sure she was ok and carried on our way. (This is what all of the bikers were doing, playing Yo-Yos. Talking to people, helping people, checking stuff and being the eyes and ears of the Shine Controllers.) By now Tom had warmed up! We picked up some speed towards the end of Constitution Hill and to my horror the traffic lights to Hyde Park Corner had changed green in our favour. I was hoping to walk round it!. For those of you not familiar with Hyde Park Corner, it is one of, if not, THE busiest road junction in London, and I was heading for it in top gear, on a blooming push bike, following a man possessed! “Oh SHIT”! I mumbled..... “He's only going for it!!” &Co had peeled of and was going for the route across the middle and under Wellington Arch. We however, shot out like a couple of pinballs and went left. I was trying to hang on to Toms back wheel like Mark Cavendish on a lead out train! I looked left down Grosvenor Place to see a wall of Black Cabs with horns on top, glowing eyes and breathing fire, just waiting to be let loose to come and get me! We carried on round the square then took the left off towards Knightsbridge, leaning the bike hard to keep tight left as the evil traffic came past us looking for their next meal! “Phew, that was fun.... sort of!”
Thankfully Tom, aware as ever, knew that we were one short and pulled up to let & Co catch us up. I am sure we weren't going THAT fast, but it felt like it and I thank Tom for again taking the best route and keeping me safe. My breath was just about back to where it was when I finished the London Marathon in 2011 before we were off again. We went past the famous Royal Albert Hall (Not for the only time) right into Kensington Church Street then right towards Queensway Tube and Bayswater Road. Tom led us round the tricky junctions of Lancaster Gate to Sussex Gardens and we were soon in six lanes of London night time traffic along Marylebone Road. The few Walkers in the lead were on the other side of the road to us so Tom picked up the pace, past Baker Street (Yes, THAT Baker Street) Finally taking a tricky combination of bus lane, cycle lane a pathway into our target of Gower Street. We carried on down the end of our patch to check on marshals then went back to Pit Stop Five.
Sarah and the rest of the volunteers were having fun welcoming people in for a loo break and refreshments. We were called away again to help out elsewhere, (Sorry I have forgotten where) Later, on the way back to Gower Street, I felt a massive drop in the night time air. I had to stop and re arrange my new buff, a union flag one of course, I still have the Olympic spirit! My face was freezing as we made our way back. My right knee started to give me some trouble but I carried on. I called a break at the pit stop. Tom &Co carried on patrolling our patch. During my run for Breakthrough Breast Cancer in 2011's London Marathon, I twanged my knee and back, it has never really got 100% better, so much so that I deferred this year's place to next year and I have since written off any chance for running a full marathon again. Cycling has been good exercise, but keeping up the pace in cold weather while effectively new to cycling and out of condition with Tom as the engine was a strain. If I had told him that I was struggling, I am sure he would have eased up on the transit runs. In the pit stop a queue had started to build up for the loos. I was having a quick natter with Sarah then she said that she had to go, someone had fainted. Then another. Foil blankets started to be given out like cheap shoes at a Harrod's Sale. I said I would leave her to do her thing and left the site. I went to the top of Gower Street, junction with Warren St. There was a G4 Security Guard there, a young lady having a ball. Clapping people round the corner saying that is only a short way to the pit stop, keep going, your are doing great so on and so on. She was brilliant. Every time I rode past her she offered up a high five. If only all of the guards were like that. The next one along towards Warren St Tube was too busy texting and fiddling with his blasted phone to notice anything. However, the guy outside the tube station called me over to separate a drunk from the walkers. I re-directed walkers around phone boxes and a few trees to keep space for them as he sorted himself out and finally got into a cab. Then TWANG my knee called it a night. I rode very tentatively back round to Pit Stop Five and it was carnage in there! Blue lights every where, people in foil blankets, some laying on the floor, some on benches, some sat leaning up against walls. At least three were in tears and some had been physically sick. I found Sarah “What's going on?” I asked.
People are just passing out, they are in pain waiting for the loos, and freezing cold“
She was a mess. Almost in tears. I have seen her go through chemo but never saw her affected this emotionally. Then I stated to shiver. My knee became a fire pit Sarah helped me as I hobbled off to wrap myself in a foil blanket to try and warm up. Sarah popped back to check on me then went off again. The volunteers were working their heads off. They were even taking used foil blankets out of the rubbish sacks because they had run out, wrapping people up, talking to people and reassuring them while the medics tried to visit everyone.
At this point, I either blacked out or fell asleep because I woke up an hour later wrapper in the silver blanket with a sheet of tarpaulin over me, a Mud2 Tour Jacket and a giant foam hand as a pillow! I sat up in a start as another ambulance, complete with blue flashing lights drove in. I was helpless. I wanted to do something, it's only natural but I was stuck. All I could do was watch as the volunteers carried on their amazing work, over and well above the call of duty. Things calmed down for a while as Sarah had cleared a hold up at the toilets. Some were not being used, as people thought they were occupied. Sarah had banged on all the doors making sure they were all being used, she had then taken up toilet duties!
My knee felt a little better so I said my good buys to the Day After Tomorrow, gave the radio to Tom and aimed to get back to Battersea to collect some items I had left there. Well I made one pedal stroke and almost fell off the bike. My knee was having none of it.
I made it the three yards or so to a waiting mini bus and they kindly agreed to take me and my bike back to Battersea with other “downed” walkers. I saw Sarah and offered her a lift back. She declined it saying that although her shift was over (Just past five O’clock now) she wanted to stay and carry on helping out. You know, I have read posts on a certain forum calling volunteers “Cleaner uppers” and “pointless.” Let them say it to Sarah's face, or mine for that matter or any of the people staffing PS5 or all of the volunteer that night. It is people with spirits like Sarah's that make charities such Cancer Research UK and Breakthrough Breast Cancer tick. How bloody dare they?
I arrived back at Battersea and plonked myself on the floor in the volunteer unit where I nodded off. My phone rang at 8.00am, Sarah had finished and was on her way to Victoria Railway Station. I gathered my head and prayed that my knee was better. It was just about good enough to get me and the bike back to Victoria and it did. Sarah arrived and was shattered, too tired to even speak. We were soon back home and tucked up in bed.

Sorry Sarah, this is going in the blog.
She woke up crying. Saying that she did all that she could do. She felt responsible, and that she was helpless. “Those poor people” she kept saying over and over again. She was in too much pain physically and mentally to move, she was wrecked. She would calm down and then just start crying again. This lady gave 100% and if any half witted moaner call volunteers “Cleaner uppers” again I'll have them sanctioned.

Shine is the most amazing event, it raises over two million pounds for life saving and ground breaking work. I, as a proud Ambassador for the charity, will carry on supporting them. I am sure lessons will be learned and I hope people's experience of Pit Stop Five will not put them off doing it again.

My theory is this, a combination of
1) The time 3.00-4-00am. if not re-timed your body starts to do funny things.
  1. The temperature dropped like a stone. Some people were dressed for a jog in the park on a Sunday afternoon.
  2. Not enough loos at the latter end of an event as long as Shine.
During a talk on marathon running, David Bedford said that if you are on a marathon and not too concerned about time; see a loo not being used? USE IT!
  1. This is a MARATHON guys! TRAIN for it. I spoke to many people who had not trained. Did you know that most people, unless they walk to work, have never walked at even a regular pace for more than twenty minutes for years! Even walking around shops you stop and start.
  2. NEVER wear new shoes, any pain or discomfort is multiplied a million times when you are tired and cold blisters will be a nightmare. I spoke to one "hobbler" who had bought new shoes ON SATURDAY for the event! Yikes!
On the way home at Victorian Station! I felt as crap as I look!
I would like to congratulate all of the walkers. The ones that finished at mile 10 gave 100%, the ones that dropped out at mile 20 gave 100%. 100% is all you can give. Thank you, it is an amazing achievement. Thank you and well done to all the cyclists, even Tom for leading me around Hyde Park corner at speed. I am going to dine out on that experience for years. Sarah is already bored with it. Thank you too to the radio team. Best calls of the night “Please ask the participants to leave the pub immediately!” and “ Err yes control, there's a drunk face down on the path, it's OK it's not one of our walkers!!!!!!”
My favourite moment goes to Sarah. Refusing to leave her post, showing true grit, a true inspiration and value to Cancer Research UK, the walkers she was supporting and for, somehow managing to tuck a large blue foam hand under my head while I was asleep!
Oh and thank you to Harpal (Walker Number One by the way!) for saying good morning to me as I saw him next to the British Museum, he was powering on, looking as fresh as a daisy. Very impressive! 
Shine? Amazing. I had a blast!!
Well then, back to MPs and the plain packaging debate! 

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

TREATS FOR TROOPS

Taking part in the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics was a total blast. Drumming my way through the industrial revolution and then mixing it up with the world's top athletes as a marshal is an experience never to be repeated. My main group (51) are lucky enough to have a place as marshals in the closing ceremony too. It is going to be one hell of a show. We have seen bits during rehearsals.
We have been in and out of the stadium grounds in Stratford for some weeks now and one thing has been more consistent than anything. Our military. They have been taking care of security but above all our safety. Most of these ladies and gentlemen have only recently returned from active duty. Many have had leave cancelled and some will be off overseas again as soon as the games are over. They have always been there with a smile, even in the rain, always polite and totally professional.
I would love it if we could make this coming Sunday, the day of the closing ceremony, "Treats for Troops Day!" If you are lucky enough to be going into the Olympic Park on Sunday, drop off a bar of chocolate or packet of sweets. Mind you any treat would go down well (But don't get Pringles.... in joke!) Don't worry if you are there on Saturday or Friday there are no rules to this, feel free to drop something off early!! I am sure they won't complain.
Our armed forces have been a credit to us during the games and we should be proud of them.
Twitter #treatsfortroops or share this post on Facebook. Please spread the word

Monday, 13 February 2012

To Boston or Bust!


Friday 27th of January the Virgin Atlantic Airbus A340 (the long pencil shaped ones that bend in the middle) started it's take off run along London Heathrow's runway 27L. Sarah was next to me, Radley was wearing a woolly hat all tucked up snug in the hold. This was it. Game on! We were all heading to Logan Airport in Boston Massachusetts in the good ol' U.S of A. for three nights. Why? Good question! Sounds mad, but sometimes things like this are totally worth it.
 
Windsor Castle.
(Shame they built it under a flight path!)
  
Regular readers of my wafflings will have heard me talk about Dusty Showers, a passionate advocate of breast cancer issues in the states, a prolific fundraiser and all round good egg! Dusty, living in Florida, had formed a “movement” for want of a better word, called The 2nd Basemen. Well, as of last week The 2nd Basemen became an official not for profit. What we would generally refer to as a charity. Anyone remotely close to the forming of a charity, in any country, will appreciate the, understandable, scrutiny and miles of red tape needed to go through prior to getting a number. Well, Dusty along with Mara Gorden from Boston Massachusetts have done it! They were to have a launch party in Needham MA, and I wasn't going to miss that for the world. Dusty and I had grown our friendship via social media and a joint hatred for breast cancer. I was doing my “bit” over here and he was campaigning away over there, albeit in far nicer weather! I had been in contact with Mara to make it a surprise. We had been counting down “the sleeps” like a couple of school kids.

Well....... why not!
 

 We arrived on the Boston runway, seven hours later, with a thump! I am a fairly regular flier and I can assure you, this was a thump! Still we had arrived and any landing you walk away from........

Straight to the car hire company where we collected a bright red Ford Focus and a GPS. Oh well here we go, Sarah took up her position as first officer sorting out the Sat Nav (I'm rubbish at tech stuff) and she gave the pleasing news that the hotel was 28 minutes away. JOY! Off we went straight through a red light! They hang them up in the air over the road without lines on the road (At the airport at least) Still, I buried the “gas pedal” (Well I was in the States) in true Brit abroad style and cleared the road. Then the fun started. It was dark, it was raining, it was busy, I was driving on the right (on purpose) in car with less than a thousand miles on the clock and a SAT NAV voice jabbering on like a horse racing commentator! Take ramp left! Take ramp right! Make yer mind up! Then we went into the longest tunnel ever and lost signal. Popped out the other end to find out I was heading back to Chatham. “Re calculating” she said with a smirk. Take ramp left!” Only used to leaving motorways on the right, this screwed me up yet again “Re calculating.” she said with an “I have a limy in the damn car” tone developing in her voice.
Then we were on the wrong Interstate, then came off too early. She was having a laugh with me, I tell you. Still our 28 minute journey took an interesting hour and a half and I didn't have a single paddy. I was captain calm. The drivers over there were amazing. They let you in, and out, don't tail gate you and not a horn to be heard.
The hotel was lovely. We had just over an hour before Mara was due to bring an unsuspecting Dusty in for the meet and greet.

Boston! Me, Sarah, Radly, Dusty
and 2ndBasemen Co-Founder Mara Gorden

I have tons of respect for Dusty. He never tires of his work for breast cancer awareness and has made quite a name for himself. He went onto the Oprah Winfrey Show last year and has done many other TV and radio programmes. He is, though, quick to divert the attention away from himself and on to the issues.  My phone beeped the arrival of a text, it was from Mara, “We're here!” I was feeling like I was about to meet Frank Sinatra! He walked in, tall, wearing a white cowboy hat with pink trim and a smiling Mara by his side. I stood up from my seat and walked over to him “Hello Cowboy!” I said and he was speechless. He was amazed to see us and had absolutely no idea that we were there. Yes ok, Man Hug happened. We sat down and talked about all kinds of stuff. Dusty is instantly likeable, with a warm trusting personality. A true gentleman.
After a couple of hours chatting, we agreed a time to meet up the next day before the launch party and they left.

 The Saturday Sarah and I went for a nose about the local area and the time flew by. We were picked up and went to the party. This was at the very nice home of David and Karen Miller. I said a hello and spoke a little about breast cancer in the UK and thanked everyone there for supporting the event. Mara introduced a video. This was a short film showing the work that The 2nd Basemen does and also showed photos of survivors and people not so lucky. A photo of Sarah came up unexpectedly and made us realise how lucky we are to have people doing everything they can to beat this disease from Dusty going on telly in a pink bra to the fantastic work Breakthrough Breast Cancer carries out.

 After the video Dusty thanked the people there and he was very sincere.
 We all went to another room and mingled. Radley said hello to a few people and before we could check the clock the evening was over.

Just one reason to go back to Boston
YUMM!!

I would like to thank everyone who was there supporting The 2nd Basemen and for making Sarah and I so very welcome.
This blog is running it's time so I won't say much about our sight-seeing trip to down town Boston.
Thank you, though, for staying with me over the past few months it has been tough to get going but I will have details on the next blog about my new Breast Cancer Podcast, the training for it and other bits and bobs. The odd picture from our fantastic visit to Boston and tons more.
See you soon.