I’m not a man to sit about, so during 2016 I travelled to South Africa, Greenland, Iceland, Italy, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Spain. I took part in the ICEMAN Polar Race, walked the Otter Trail, spoke on two cruises and held down a full-time job. Phew..! I’m sure I slept at some point…
Thankfully all this was part of a plan. Unlike other years, I felt more prepared for the onslaught and knew well in advance what was coming. Living an adventurous life around work brings structure (which can be good), but it restricts spontaneity (which is bad). We’d all like a happy medium, however that can be very difficult to achieve. A little give and take is what we need…
I started the year with a list of things to do, and I did many of them, but not all. I’m well past beating myself up over their completion, preferring to do what I can, where I can, when I can. There are only so many hours in the day with a sunrise and sunset to stare into. I adore watching the rise and fall of the sun, knowing that these moments are the only important times of my day. I haven’t worn a watch in years, preferring to work with the seasons when I can. You certainly work with the sun when you’re on expedition and utilise every ounce of light you’re allowed.
Besides my expedition work, I’ve spent a great deal of 2016 supporting other people. Whether it be family, friends, Mountain Heritage, Mountain Rescue or the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme, I’ve happily given time to others. During this festive season, were reminded to give more than we receive, a statement I’ve worked to for much of my life. Some people take you for a ride, but they are the few, compared to the many who appreciate your effort. Just remember that you can’t be everywhere (something I’ve had to learn the hard way). Reward is not what we quest for, but during 2016, I’ve been recognised for my work and attended wonderful Royal Engagements, which I have been able to share with people special to me.
Children always ask straight questions. Why is/are/does are many of the opening words, but at young boy stole the years show with a simple line. I was speaking about historical mountaineering and adventure in Derby. In-between the usual barrage came the words “are you Jamie Vardy’s dad..?” Answers on a post card for that one..!
Time is precious and should be treasured, but during 2016 I had a few spanners thrown into the works. As I departed Greenland, my bank account was hacked and over £2000 illegally removed. When I reported the theft, I was asked if it had been myself withdrawing the cash. When I replied that I had been on the ice cap, I don’t think anyone believed me. Well, I suppose you don’t expect that as a reply..! I lost hundreds of hours during the complaints procedure, being passed to numerous departments, talking to UK-based call centres in the Philippines (still trying to work that out), being lied to and generally treated badly. It took over six months to resolve what should be a simple matter. I then decided to get my house extended with an Oak Garden Room. I chose a local company who promised ‘excellent customer service from a small dedicated team’. Lots of meetings and paperwork later we were all go. I extended my mortgage, organised my house and waited. There were some delays, but the groundwork lads were ready to start when suddenly the project was pulled, by e-mail, for little if any reason.
Why am I telling you this..? Because if we live our lives promising people products and services, then we need to deliver. All the headlines about customer service, excellent quality, trusting brand etc. fall to pieces if you don’t answer the phone or deny responsibility. I’m not saying that I’m always right, but I try. If I didn’t turn up for speaking events, or spoke badly because I couldn’t be bothered to practise, I’d soon be out of the presenting game. We need to be as good as, or even better than the headlines we create. Our reputations are everything. They can take years to create and minutes to destroy. Outdoor sponsorship has suffered badly with this issue over the years. Expeditions ask for help and enter into a contract to supply pictures, video and articles regarding gear and equipment. Unfortunately some people walk away with the kit and that’s the last the sponsors see of them. This has tarred many expeditions with one very sticky brush. I’ve always worked closely with everyone who supports me and I’m very thankful for their help. Relationships are vital, in business and our private lives. How we treat others will dictate how they treat us.
The human body is a mysterious thing. Seventeen years after I lost my fingers to frostbite, the nerves in my hands have been troublesome. It’s hard to describe the sensations that shoot from my stumps to my elbows, and so far the medical world seem dumbfounded. I’ve been poked, prodded, injected and medicated for over six months, but so far we’ve progressed little. I haven’t climbed much because of the stinging pains in my forearms, but a little light has just cleared the horizon. I’m unsure where this journey in my life will take me, but it’s a road I must travel. I hope for a swift resolution early in the coming year, so that I can use my hands without pain, but we will see. It’s given me time to reflect and think about life. No-one knows where their life is going, but we should consider the journey, rather than the end.
2017 promises more adventures, more travel and something rather exciting with cartography, but that’s for another time.
May I wish you all a peaceful and prosperous 2017…