Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Eton Dorney Triathlon by Margaret Graham

The Eton Dorney Triathlon 21 July 2013

My fantastic son-in-law Kris Dore and his equally amazing mate, Lee Read, volunteered to participate in the Eton Dorney Triathlon to raise funds for Words for the Wounded, in particular to raise funds for the prize money for the W4W writing competition. A fair bit of training took place during some of the hottest weather recently and the language was interesting!

The big day came and the weather continued in its glorious vein - baking hot. I went with 'him indoors', and Martin, father of Megan and Josie, two of the grandchildren and avid supporters of Words for the Wounded, (and ice cream). Once there, after a diversion to admire the scenery (or because we were lost - the Sat Nav not deemed necessary by him who must be obeyed - ho hum) the air of excitement all around was palpable, and already the earlier races were underway. Our heroes were doing the sprint at 1.30.

We'd packed a picnic of course. I find that I (Margaret-greedy-Graham )can't go anywhere without 'just in case' supplies. Do I really think I will totally starve in a couple of hours? Well, clearly yes. This is why I take massive supplies if I drive for any length of time. We settled near the swimming starting line, (it's the lake used for the 2012 Olympic rowing) dashed to the portable loos - best no comment here but one day I will write a guide to the best, and bumped into Kris, Lee, Annie and Michelle so all ended up around the picnic. There, you see, I was right to bring it!
Then the lads donned wet suits, and were off.
We couldn't spot them in amongst the thrashing of arms but it seemed a long long way. Apparently the temperature was close to twenty two degrees in the water which gives some indication of the temperatures during our little burst of summer. I have to say that Meg and I who were the photographers of the group gave loud cheers to the women too who were giving their all and doing incredibly well. But back to our boys: we saw them leave the lake in the middle of the pack, stripping off their wetsuits as they ran for the bikes. They said that the change overs were the trickiest of all. Then off for their laps, in the searing heat with us cheering them on, and trying to take photos. So swift were they that Meg and I had rather a lot of blank spots, and could only say - that should have been Lee, or Kris!
Kris before he became a blank space!
They pulled up a fair bit of time on the cycling and then they were into the run. By this time we were wondering how much longer we, the cheer leaders, could cope with the heat so what must it have been like for the athletes?
How on earth our boys did it I don't know, but they moved up many places during the run and crossed the finishing line pretty near the front of the pack and within seconds of one another, feeling pretty rough, it has to be said. Our ice cream queens joined them for a photograph wearing the W4W T shirts. Congratulations didn't quite include sharing the cones. Ah well!
AND there was £280 in the pot for W4W. Stunning stunning effort. Words for the Wounded is so grateful. Only problem now is that Jan and I have to come up with something we can do next year. Sky Diving, or a L-O-N-G walk along the length of the Thames, even wing walking has been suggested. Hardest of all is a sponsored silence but we must stay within the realms of possibilities! Thank you to everyone who donated and to our heroes - bravo!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Great work being done to raise money for W4W! by Margaret Graham

My son-in-law, Kris Dore, has not only dug a couple of flower beds for the dreaded in-laws, he's now joined forces with his mate, Lee Read to take part in the 21 July Eton Dorney Triathlon to raise funds for Words for the Wounded!  If you'd like to contribute to the fundraising, please click on this virgingiving link.

We are just so grateful to these strong young men who are training, training, training, and somehow fitting it around their jobs. Why are they doing it? Because they know the difference every penny makes to the wounded. Last year it was Matt Pain, my son (and a W4W trustee) who did the Lanzarotte Ironman to raise funds. Where would we be without these fantastic youngsters. I have to say that the remains of the team, Penny Deacon, Tracy Baines and moi, all ever so slightly beyond the first flush of youth,  are now looking at one another wondering if it will be our turn next. Lordy. Anyone for a toddle around the park?

In fact I can remember doing a cycle ride around Israel some years ago now to raise money for Action Research. I did it with Chris Hancock, my Somerset neighbour, where I lived then. Neither of us had been on a bike for ages. (What possessed us? One of those 'why not' moments obviously). In fact, I don't think I had pushed the pedals since I was 8.

Good grief, the palaver once the panic had set in. First my saddle had to be considered. It ended up looking and feeling more like a sofa after Dick and I had inserted all sorts of foam rubber under the totally inadequate saddle cover I had bought to ease the situation. Chris was far more stoic and just got on with it.  As the trip was to be on and off road we trained for almost a year, on and off road. Perhaps not as either Kris or Matt would but it suited us. We cycled for miles and miles around the roads and lanes of Somerset equipped with all that we might need: sandwiches, flasks of tea and coffee, the odd Mars bars and yes, in there too, was the kitchen sink. All stuffed into our panniers. Never been fitter, or with heftier thighs. We were ready to take on the world, as long as we had access to our nibbles.

Just before we went we struck lucky because we saw a snippet on the TV about a bloke who had devised a saddle-post that included a double shock absorber and wrote to him, wondering if we could have one each, for free. Bless him and his wife, the answer was YES. It made the sofa even more comfy.

Once in Israel we had to use the bikes provided. My saddle-post fitted. Chris's did not. I am ashamed to admit I did not offer to swap. No way. Off we went, with the 80 or so others. There were 8 women and a huge number of young men in lycra who I doubt we'd recognise at any reunion as we became inordinately familiar with their black lycra clad bums roaring away into the distance. We came to dread the call of the leaders. 'A slight undulation ahead.' Which meant a mountain. We stayed in kibbutz. We ate together. We felt we'd die halfway through each afternoon as the miles built up and so too the heat as there was an unexpected heatwave. We saw the most amazingly fertile country, with its almond groves, its irrigated fields. We dipped into the Dead Sea and there was an unseemly rush into the waters of an oasis during one exhausting morning. What's more, neither Chris nor I ended up in the dreaded coach that followed, picking up stragglers. It was a life changing experience. It made us realise that if we put in the work we could probably pull things off.

So, here we are today with Words for the Wounded doing its bit to help those so sorely hurt; mentally or physically. Thank you to our own young men who are helping -it moves us and makes us proud.

And it's not just Kris, Lee and Matt who are helping, but Matt's friend, Freddie Hodgson author of Putney Ferret has sponsored us for over £200 towards next year's prizes.

Problems with the upcoming generation? I think not.

So, with the help of everyone out there, we'll go on donating to the cause.

In the meantime, be thinking of 'Your journey', which is the theme of our next writing prize because not everyone is an athlete, or a cyclist (!), but  have other strengths. Whoever and whatever you are, don't forget the lads and lasses who are struggling in the aftermath of their experiences.

Keep training Kris and Lee, we're with you in spirit. I do have a comfy saddle and I,  Margaret Graham bequeath it to you if you feel the need..!

with hea

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

How Rock Choir kick-started Words for the Wounded

A couple of years ago I watched an episode of Harry's Arctic Heroes. After which, as the daughter of an RAF bloke, I wanted to do something to help the rehabilitation of wounded troops, but what? The following week I was sitting at a Rock Choir rehearsal in a quiet moment (rare but it happens!) and pondered Caroline Redman Lusher, the founder of what has become a cracking national Rock Choir. Caroline, a successful solo artist, - see her on the left - was intent on providing an outlet for those who wanted to take part in performance singing but who were scared to death of auditions. That's me, and many like me. From small beginnings this impressive professionally trained musician has created a new singing culture with over 16000 members around the country and it's still growing.
Back then, as we stood to sing under our High Wycombe leader's, (Katy Seath), amazing and amusing direction, I knew that of course, as an author and creative writing tutor,  I could do something. Nothing as big initially perhaps, but something. So I borrowed an idea from my founding of the charitable Yeovil Literary Prize and dreamed up Words for the Wounded which raises money for the rehabilitation of wounded troops through writing competitions and donations. I chatted about it to Tracy Baines, a successful commercial fiction writer, Penny Deacon, another author, and Matt Pain, and we decided it would work. Not to mention Dick Graham, (him indoors) who, crucially, agreed to do our website. We had a founding team. We gathered up amazing patrons such as Julian and Emma Fellowes, Paddy Ashdown, Lt Ian Thornton, Katie Fforde, Elizabeth Buchan, Katharine McMahon and many others. But we had no-one from the music world. Would Caroline Redman Lusher join us?

Indeed she would, and has been enormously generous in her offers of support ever since. Yesterday at the 02 Arena I was there at the Rock Choir Concert, not as a singer as I should have been, but as a guest of Caroline's, representing Words for the Wounded. You can see how much I'm enjoying myself. We took a photo of me with Caroline but our new iphone 'jacket' subverted the flash so you're stuck with me and a glass of wine, toasting you all.
It was an awe-inspiring evening. There was not a spare seat in the Arena, our leaders and Caroline sang on stage for 3 hours in total, and so did the Rock Choirs and their families, and so did I. Margaret Graham rocked!
So much can be achieved if we believe in what we do. Caroline believes in the power of performance choirs, and we at Words for the Wounded believe that those who enter our competitions can change the lives of servicemen,(every penny of the entry fee goes to them). Not only that, our entrants can grow their own talents and if they win W4W Writing Prize, they have that accolade for their CVs. Remember, if you don't want to write, then you can always donate. Our troops need us. Last year we had 425 entries. This year, let's follow Caroline's example and grow, and the same again and again with every passing year. Thank you Caroline, for your support, your generosity and for your vision that has brought so much joy to so many singers! And thank you, all our supporters out there. Let's continue to make a difference.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Battle Back Are Receiving Funds From Your Entry Fees

Well, this first year has whizzed by and we are ready to write our cheque for Battle Back who will receive £1800 of funds from our 2012 Words for the Wounded writing prize. Every penny raised from your entries goes direct to helping our wounded personnel.
The Battle Back programme is a UK Military initiative funded by Help for Heroes. Battle Back uses Adaptive Adventure Training and Sports Rehabilitation to help seriously wounded Service personnel participate in sporting activities – and we’re not talking tiddlywinks here! The sky’s the limit, literally, and the ingenuity and courage of both trainers and sportsmen is incredible. The focus is all about what can be achieved not what can’t. Confidence and independence soars with regular sporting activity.
The Battle Back scheme was formally launched on 28 July 2008, exactly 60 years after Sir Ludwig Guttmann created the first Stoke Mandeville Disabled Games.
Not everyone wants or feels able to run a marathon, bungee jump or abseil down a block of flats. Physical activity may not be your forte and so other sponsored events to contribute may pass you by (especially if you’re anything like me!).
So sharpen your brains and your pencils and get ready for this year’s competition.
This year we have a theme - The Journey. This could be a physical journey, an emotional, or a mental journey, a flight of fancy. Take it as you will and use it to create a piece of flash fiction, fact, or poetry, you decide, but remember the 400 word limit. Give us a flash!