By the end of 2021 I was exhausted. COVID had caught me over the Christmas period as the loss of my Mum began to take its toll. I hoped 2022 would give me time to rest and reflect. I certainly reflected, but spent much of the year on the road, on the sea and on the mountain..!
After a brief foray into the Lake District for the Kendal Mountain Festival, I skied in the Italian Dolomites and then spent a few days mountaineering in the Scottish Winter. The snow was beautiful, but high winds forced a retreat south early to lick our wounds.
It was time to face the reality of losing my Mum and sell the family home. My parents had moved in when they were married in 1960 and never left. Both my Sister and I had grown up there and knew no other childhood home. As I sat in the now silent house, surrounded by my parents life, I felt lost. To some extent, I still do. The house is now gone and I’m happy that a young family have taken over the reigns. I hope they will enjoy the large garden and wonderful views for years to come.
More travel came with friends, family and loved ones to Northern Ireland, Norfolk and Canada, before I headed to Norway on a mission to improve my Sea Kayaking. I’m not a natural paddler, but in the competent hands of Guides Laila and Christian, I learned the ropes enough to allow me a trip to Greenland during the summer.
I practised a little more on the North Devon Coast, before heading north to the Greenlandic Fjords in July. What lay ahead was open seas of calm water and more icebergs than I could shake an ice axe at..! I hope to return in 2023 and if anyone’s interested in joining the team, please do get in touch.
As if one trip to Greenland wasn’t enough, I joined Simon Yates and headed north again during August, this time by boat. I knew I wasn’t good on water and took plenty of medication which failed miserably, but the scenery was something else.
You would think by now that I’d slow down a bit, but I was having none of it. I worked at the Chatsworth Country Fair for the Buxton Mountain Rescue Team, visited the Commonwealth Games, cycled at Derby Velodrome and climbed in Italy, all before the end of September.
It was during September that we lost the Queen. She was the only monarch that many of us knew and her passing shook the world. Losing my own Mother only a few months before had shaken mine, and I was reminded of the day I took my Mum to see the Queen. It was to mark the 60th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh Award at Westminster Cathederal. My Mum was only partially sighted due to Macular Degeneration, but she jived on the Underground, lost a heel on some steps, hobbled to the Abbey, managed to pick out the Royal Party and almost every uniformed man she could dance with..! I miss her terribly.
The Kendal Mountain Festival was back on my radar, but so were my knees. I’ve been suffering since a car took me off my bike a few years ago, but I compounded the issue by coming off my bike on the ice. My right knee is a mess, straining my left. My Doctor sighed and said ‘well, you’re over 50’, which technically is true, but I’m not taking any excuses and will keep going whatever the cost.
Speaking has remained busy, with the move back to in person presentations. There’s nothing like being in the room with your audience, although online work is still popular. I’ve spoken with every audience from senior executives to primary school pupils, DofE Award presentations to industry apprentices. I find the mix keeps me on my stumps as every audiences is very different in its outlook, its demands and its expectations. My 2023 diary is already filling fast..!
Earlier this year in Greenland, one of my fellow paddlers Keitl said that if this was his last day on earth, he’d be happy. We’d paddled from a beautiful camp with three small harbours, down the side of a huge fjord to a site which had been inhabited by the Vikings over 500 years ago. The bay was filled with gigantic icebergs and one shattered and rolled as we headed toward shore. The sun set over the Greenland Ice cap later and the moon rose with a beautiful milky light. I have to admit it was one hell of a day.
As he spoke, I remembered the words on the Basra Wall at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire –
‘Honourable Age Does Not Depend on Length of Days,
Nor is the Number of Years a True Measure of Life’
I know I’ve travelled a lot during 2022, but since losing my mother and father, overseas trips have felt harder and harder. I’ve never felt so fragile and mortal, yet travel is what I do and I’ll continue to do. Both my parents lived to be 83 years old, and one of the most common things said to me after they died was ‘well, they got to a good age’.
Read that quote again and again and live every moment that life allows you. You have no idea when it will be over.
May I wish you all a Peaceful, Prosperous and Adventurous 2023…