There was quite an ironic, rewarding, bizarre, unlikely event the other evening.
So for a quick reminder, and a brief introduction to new readers, Nicky (my AMAZING lady wife) and I live with, and care for, Frank, my father-in-law. Frank is suffering with dementia and, as this blog has regularly documented, life for all three of us can be quite exhausting. It can be incredibly challenging and, again for all three of us, unimaginably frustrating.
BUT, there are moments of self depreciatory humour and, like the other night, occasional moments of pure magic.
Nicky and I are both learning to tinkle the ivories (piano!). I’ve had a head start in that I play a bit of guitar, but we’re both thoroughly enjoying the process and sometimes Frank will join us and chill out to the delicately (slowly!) picked out tunes.
Well, Frank, a man who struggles to remember what milk is, regularly mixes up night and day and hides his remote control for the television, suddenly started singing “…hunger for your…” whilst I was chipping away at Unchained Melody.
Astonishing. Astonishing that something I was playing was recognisable. Astonishing that the person to recognise it was Frank. Astonishing that, from somewhere deep within the recesses of his memory, a few of the words to the Righteous Brothers’ classic made their way to his lips.
After a week of bad news, tragic news, desperate stories and more illness in our little world, a truly bright moment enjoyed by the three of us.
We soon got back to losing the remote control and spectacles whilst finding a collection of hidden spoons but that is the world of dementia.
So, a couple of weeks ago, a very jolly chap delivered our piano. It was a particularly jolly occasion. Alan, the jolly chap, banged out a couple of “We’re forever blowing bubbles” & “My old man said follow the van” type tunes before leaving us to wonder at the magic of the thing.
My father-in-law, Frank, suffering as he does from a progressive dementia, was briefly lit up by the music, clapping along and beaming from ear to ear. If you bump into a (jolly) man called Alan, selling pianos, in the South Devon area, please thank him again for us.
“A piano??” I hear you enquire, “but I thought you had no TIME!?” BUT! I retort, this is THE TIME. Ok, neither of us can play the thing! But it has ticked ALL the boxes from our ‘hobby’ conversation of a couple of months ago. Cheap (ish). Accessible. Pick up and put downable. Fun, involves learning and gives ESCAPISM.
Yes, Nicky is absolutely loving the start of her musical journey. Rumour has it that she has been recruited as back up pianist for the recently announced 3 year long farewell tour for Sir Elton John. Better get practising Nicky……..
Frank, then. Nicky’s father, my father-in-law. We moved in with him about 18 months ago, to support and ‘enable’ him. He’s still maintains a little independence, but, to be honest, heartbreakingly he seems to increasingly need a little prod and reminder about the simple tasks of day to day living.
He has been going to the Memory Café, a weekly pop-up support group provided by The Alzheimer’s Society. For a mere pound sterling, he gets two hours with his peers, in a safe, modern-life free, environment. He gets conversation, coffee and cake and activities. Quite often, these activities include a good old sing song. He absolutely loves these.
Sometimes the three of us can laugh at the situations Frank gets himself into. Sometimes, we can get frustrated, sometimes tearful, sometimes almost desperate. Sometimes, Frank is blissfully unaware that he’s in a ‘situation’ at all. The exploding microwave being one of the more dramatic examples this week!
But mostly we get through life, dealing with each day as a new set of challenges and learning ways to better support, not only Frank, but each other. Sometimes well meant comments about how life works for us can be frustrating. It is consuming, and we find ourselves feeling ridiculous as we get irritated by apparently meaningless and momentary incidents, but when these compound over a day, week, month…… a simple thing can be a tipping point.
If we weren’t here, Frank would certainly be in crisis, we feel we give him the safety to continue with as much of his life as he is able, in a slightly independent fashion.
The piano sits in our dining room, and Frank is really happy to have it here. BUT, his attention span dictates that whilst Nicky is trying to learn the whole concept of the piano, music, phrasing etc etc, from scratch, he is prone to either wander off to an aural sanctuary elsewhere in the house, or sit and call out inappropriate encouragement. Whilst working out the EastEnders theme tunes, both Nicky and I were calling out the notes, prompting a much repeated call of “play the F OFF!” from the ever helpful Frank!!
With so many of us living to grander ages, the prevalence of dementia and related illnesses is only going to increase, and we could all take the time to ensure that we consider that the person next to us could be struggling.
I managed a Sunday long(ish) run. After Saturday’s epic (and wet) adventure on the moors (featured in this BLOG) on Saturday, my little legs were aching before I’d finished tying my shoelaces for today’s run. I targeted around 20 miles and hoped those would be at around 8m30s mile pace, on a flattish road route. Whilst I did abandon at 16 miles, I am quite pleased to have ran inside that pace on tired legs. Having to get up in the middle of night to let Frank know it wasn’t time to be microwaving Choco-Hoops and custard (I know!) for a few hours yet prevented us getting anywhere near a night’s sleep. Not ideal preparation. But ’tis what ’tis……..
I had the absolute pleasure of randomly bumping into a very old friend, Steve, on this morning’s run too. I changed my route slightly and accompanied Steve (Smithy) on his run to work. We studied together for our Sports Science Foundation Degrees a few years ago. It was a hard time for me personally and emotionally and it will be great to catch up with him some more.
He was a Torquay Athletic front row stalwart in those days, a family man who has got the running bug these days. It will be nice to share my happier times with someone who really was there for me in those rougher days.
So 2018 marches on.
Nicky and I pick up the baton and charge at another daunting week. Determined to enjoy as much training as possible, wondering if we’ll ever truly get ON IT when it comes to our eating and preparing to deal with another round of jabs from the challenges on life.
I don’t mind repeating myself…. Nicky inspires and drives me and I truly am blessed to have fallen in love with the most amazing woman in the world. It would be so easy to get knocked to the sofa and the soap operas by these jabs, but TOGETHER we push on.
This blog would never have happened if we weren’t the A TEAM. I’m sat here typing whilst Lukas Graham’s 7 Years is given the ebony and ivory treatment by my truly amazing wife.
I was brought up a Coventry City fan. My parents were both brought up as Coventry City fans. My Grandad used to never miss a home game, and that included the reserves too. He was the commentator for hospital radio, so he sat in his little booth at the back of the stand and described the games for those Sky Blues fans who were stuck in one of the city’s hospitals.
Rumour has it Grandad didn’t miss a football match at Highfield Road from the end of the second world war until he fell ill in 1986. His dream was to see his beloved Sky Blues play at Wembley…….. You’ve guessed it, Wilfred Brown departed this earth in late 1986. Missing Coventry City Football Club’s first trip to the iconic stadium a mere six months later.
This has been on my mind rather today, after hearing the sad news that one of the victorious 1987 FA Cup team, Cyrille Regis (‘Big Cyrille’) had died at the crazily young age of 59. There was a lump in my throat for sure.
Whilst searching around the internet for something to learn about Cyrille I discovered that Cyrille’s father, in his birth place, French Guiana, was supposed to register his child as GILBERT Cyrille Regis…. Whether he’d paused for a celebratory shandy or two on his way is lost to history, but he certainly forgot! And so Big Cyrille was born.
Quite often our mantra whilst we’re casually googling potential new challenges.
Swim 10km? How hard can it be? 50km over Dartmoor? How hard can it be?
You get the picture.
Also my work chum and myself……. plumbing? roofing, underfloor heating etc? Just how hard can they be?
So, a couple of days with the eldest grandson, Callum, taking him away for his birthday treat. Not a problem?
I’m often found to be idly flicking through the well-thumbed pages of Ultra Marathon websites, ooohhh, ahhhh, mmmmm, ha ha ha, how hard can they be?
But multi-day events. Ow! Not sure that’d be up my street, not my bag, unlike my cup of tea (which is actually coffee, anyway). Nope, as regular readers will know, I DO have ambitions for long single stage events, but multi stage events, nahh.
Legoland. Two days. Two CONSECUTIVE days! I know!! Is there a test of endurance to match it?
I’ve been blessed. I know I’ve mentioned this before, and my rather wonderful, beautiful and, quite frankly, HOT, lady wife, Nicky keeps telling me to stop being so soppy. I’ll be making the avid readership feel nauseaous, she reckons. BUT, I truly am blessed.
From the moment Nicky bundled her way into my soulless life and filled it with all this phenomenal love, adventure and laughter, I have felt, well, blessed!! AND I became Grandad to her two bundles of fun filled granchildren, which has now become three. And I absolutely love it.
Late on day 2 in this world of a billion coloured bricks, we found a perch and had a selfie with a lego batman soft toy. We looked drained!! In the most wonderful way. Callum has been full to the brim with excitement, with wonder, with awe and has, for two whole days been nothing but a joy to share the time with.
A 6am start (sounds like an identikit race report coming up….) followed by 4 hours in the car and we arrived at the park. It’s big! Luckily, we had booked, as the place was sold out, mostly because it was open late for fireworks.
Yes, we’ve had our moneys worth, getting to the Holiday Inn Express in Slough about 8.30pm that night (we know how to live!!) where we promptly ordered a Dominoes gorge fest. The three of us propped ourselves up on the (less than) double bed and feasted our tired, hungry faces. Bliss.
Callum slept well on his put-me-up, whilst we enjoyed the aural delights of Heathrow, and before we knew it, day two was upon us.
By the time we climbed into the car at tea time, we were all suitably sated of our lego desires and the trusty Mini devoured the miles home.
An extra hours sleep?
Nah, an extra hours RUNNING!!!
(Did I mention I’d completed a 50 mile Ultra? – read alllll about it HERE) I reckon the three weeks since my Gower exploits haven’t yet flushed the fatigue from my legs. Combined with the previous two days adventures, I was never going to break any records on THIS run.
BUT, I loved the three hours around the bay, much of it by headtorch, and, after the ‘injury’ at Gower, I seem to have also been blessed with amazing powers of recovery too.
I know, we will, and I’m sure Callum will too, treasure these moments forever!
Keep on keeping on people, don’t let the b******s grind us down….
I stood and watched a hundred or so runners, including my rather wonderful lady wife, Nicky, head off towards the moors.
“Follow the ORANGE flags!!” yelled myself, the race crew and other spectators. A race of 3 halves, as it were. Pure Trail’s Dartmoor 3-in-1. Those who had elected to try and run all three race on the day were to follow the “ORANGE FLAGS” on the first loop. At 9.75miles this was the longest of the day.
Not only the longest (and even longer for those who drifted off course in the mist) race but also the hilliest and the foggiest as it turned out.
In another guise, I did home delivery for Sainsbury’s (You KNEW you recognised me from somewhere!) and for a while we used to cover these west moorland villages. And what a lovely village to base a race, the quirkily named Peter Tavy. Quite a magical air to the village as we optimistically parked the mini on the wet field. (“it’ll be drier by the time we leave!”)
The village hall, acting as HQ for this cracking event, is classic fare – the modern era only nodded towards with the addition of a defibulator, not that heart failure is particularly a modern phenomenon.
Anyway, off they all went. Jealous? Moi?
I’d probably have preferred to have been gallivanting across the moors chasing sheep rather than perched amongst the kit bags in the village hall, notepad in hand, trying for all the world to look like “a writer”!
Well, if I DO want to be a writer, then write I must…..
But, my self-diagnosed fooked ankle (did I mention I did The Gower 50 ultra last week?? – read all about it HERE), isn’t in a hurry to get running again, so coat holder and cake eater I was. I also had a wander in the lane and found a Cornish pasty recipe on the village notice board!
I’m a bit of a Pure Trail fan, trail running events, usually with a twist, created by runners, for runners. We had a great time at their Race The Tide earlier in the year (blogged about, naturally, HERE). They have a regular group runs across the moors and are genuinely good guys to be around.
With a 9.75 mile race, followed by a 7 miler and finally 5 miles (with different coloured flags to follow), some were charging around, then using varied techniques to keep warm before the next race’s start time, the day was definitely one for clever pacing.
Rather dangerously for me, I ended up chatting to Steve, half of the duo who are responsible for Pure Trail’s success, whilst the runners were out on race 1. Dangerous? Well, inevitably talk of ultra challenges, “ooooo 150 miles on a canal…” “oooooo MOUNTAINS!” etc etc……..
So after some quaffing, and scribbling, and chatting, I limped outside to watch the runners arrive back to base. A regular fixture in this blog, Jamie Bullock (see blog about his Stoke Gabriel Carnival 10k HERE) came cruising back, well inside the top 10. In fact he finished 8th overall after all three races.
Nicky meanwhile came back with plenty of time to spare. Despite this, the week’s chaos, tight calves and poor night’s sleep had caught up with her. She opted to partake of the three C’s instead of lining up for race 2 – Coffee, Cake and a Cuddle.
Anyway, a great event and lovely day out on the moors, we took a scenic route home, the mist having cleared, and headed for a chilled evening.
BUT – the real action of the weekend was the pebble skimming at Elberry Cove on Sunday, as four generations of this wonderful and kooky family I’m so proud to belong to took a stroll (or limp in my case) in the warm autumnal breeze.
I WILL write a book…
Sounds more authoritative than ‘I would like to…’ or ‘I want to…’
Ok, so it’s taken me a few weeks to get around to writing a new blog post. Citing work commitments, fatigue, time, time, time and all that STUFF that fills our lives. But, if something is truly a goal, then just make it happen.
Actually, since the last blog there’s been a few events…..
THE EAST FARM FROLIC I know, I know, this was going to be my ‘target’ event for the year…… in the end a fabulous day out at a wonderful event. Fine fun in fine company….
The next day we went and did the LUSTLEIGH SHOW 10k another lovely day. Both of Nicky’s lovely girls came along, Alisa running her second 10k and Lou looking after the youngest two grandchildren whilst Nanny and Grandad ran too……
Oh, and I marshalled at City To Sea, a marathon and ultra marathon, in appalling conditions.
Then came the weekend just gone. Nicky, once again moving the bar, taking 20 minutes off her time for the River Dart 10k Swim. She finished alongside our great mate, Martin. Whilst they would earn a gold hat if they were to come back for a third year, it looks like chief goader (Nicky) has (once again) hooked chief goadee (Martin) and next years goals look slightly different……. But first, some pictures from the swim……
Soooo, whilst I’m threatening to go long (er) next year (and write a book of course), Nicky and Martin have quite publically announced their intentions to ………… drum roll……. do a Half Iron Man!!! There, it’s out there………
Martin has been walking like John Wayne this week, and he’s only sat on the bikes in Halfords so far…..
Then, on Sunday just gone, I ran the inaugural Torbay Tornado Half Marathon, Alisa running her first ever ‘solo’ race, did the 5k. A quirky series of races organised by relative newcomers, Riviera Racers. We both had great fun battling the tough point to point routes and more than earned our medals…
So, as for my targets…. well I (under the prompting of my wonder woman!) have entered the Gower 50 which is only 3 weeks away!
With this in mind, I ran to the start of the half marathon and then ran home afterwards (making 27 miles in total).
I’m planning a big run on Saturday to confirm to me that I’m fit enough for the challenge, then my wonderful lady wife and I are off for a weeks r’n’r in the sunshine….
Tell you what, those mandatory kit lists for trail and ultra events….. have a listen to the interview with Adam Campbell on Talk Ultra….. I’ll be carrying the essential items EVERY time I go off the beaten track.
Both interviews with Adam are on the podcast including the latest, after completing the Hardrock 100 .
To the soundtrack of my own paddles breaking the smooth surface of the dark, becalmed water, I, almost blindly, forged into the darkness.
That sensation when you’ve set a ridiculously early alarm. Suddenly sitting bolt upright “I’VE OVERSLEPT!!!! Oh no, it’s only 11.30…” Repeated at regular intervals until the alarm actually chimes at….. THREE THIRTY A.M.!!! Yup 3.30A.M.
Hence the dark on the river. I know the river fairly well and the banks and massed trees loomed with sinister shadows to either side, even in the almost complete darkness. I stuck to the very middle and daylight gradually improved my navigation as I approached our rendezvous.
Another weekend of adventure was well and truly under way….
I humbled am blessed to be sharing these precious weekends with my incredible, inspiring and, I don’t mind saying, HOT lady wife.
Our friend in adventure, Martin, was driving himself and Nicky to Totnes. From there they would swim back to Stoke Gabriel from where I had just paddled (having left the car there).
I love it when a plan comes together!
“I say old chap, the water really is rather nippy” (or words to that effect) Nicky exclaimed as they entered the river at 5.45AM. Martin concurred.
Just a couple of false starts as they acclimatised then off. Approaching the first set of bends, the sun introduced itself through the trees. To describe the scene as idyllic would be under selling it rather.
Over the next 2 hours we all agreed we had shared a magical and quite priveledged experience.
Being Martin’s first river swim this year, he wasn’t quite as confident as Nicky who was really powering on. At one point I had to signal her to slow down as I was uncomfortable with the gap between them.
It might seem overly risk averse but, perhaps especially because of the early hour, any other river traffic we might be unlucky enough to encounter would be unlikely to be expecting to see two swimmers. Keeping both of them close to the kayak gives others more chance to spot us.
As they climbed from the water, with most of the world yet to start their weekend, we were all smiles and back slaps.
Leaving them to retrieve vehicles, I set out on the next instalment of the weekend. With The East Farm Frolic looming, I felt my fatigue from the weeks work and a rather short sleep, plus this morning’s hard kayak to Totnes would help me replicate running tired in the later stages of the 12 hour event.
I was right. I felt very tired. Having waxed lyrical about last week’s long run, I won’t dribble on…..
Suffice to say I stuck mainly to trails, some of them completely new to me and managed a satisfactory 30 miles. Loads of great routes to check out here.
I arrived back home, into the garden, to the wonderfully chaotic scene of grandchildren, step daughter, father-in-law and a refreshed and beautiful Nicky. All seem pleased to see me and enjoyed a “MAN DOWN!” moment as I slumped onto the garden bench!
My recovery was accelerated by the invitation to join the imminent mob march to the beach for ice cream.
Raberry pavlova. Mmm mmmmm.
Too tired to join our neighbours barbeque gathering, an early night beckoned. They are a musical crowd and it was quite mellow drifting off to the distant strum of a ukulele…….. I’m sure I dreamed of cleaning windows……..
The year Nicky and I got together, we were both at this event. We didn’t spot each other but less than a month later we were embarking in this incredible adventure that is our life together.
So it’s always a special day. But this year topped them all. After 30 miles the previous day I was fairly confident I wouldn’t be troubling my PB list!!
So, with my parents supporting, step daughter, Lou supporting too, it was a true family affair.
“Go get ’em Mum” yelled my other step daughter, Alisa as the two of them tore across the field towards the finish line. Three ladies from the incredible Plymouth based club, Storm, vied with them to cross the line first.
This was Alisa’s first ever race as she continues smashing down the barriers on her incredible journey of weight loss, healthy living and fitness drive.
Lou and myself both seemed to have something in our eyes as Nicky and Alisa crosses the line.
Proud too as I lined up with grandson, Callum for the fun run prior to the main race. He blitzed around his mile in under 9 minutes and it definitely loosened my creaking legs!
One of the best family says on the local race calender, the 10k itself winds it’s way to Dartington via the trails alongside the river. There’s a lumpy section with one proper climb about 2/3 of the way and the going is sapping, but after the Snowdonia Trail Marathon the other week, it’s pretty much flat!
Setting off with the afore mentioned Martin, we ran toe to toe for about 4 miles until he goaded me in to running harder. I was really pleased to clock a couple of swift miles towards the end and thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
A fabulous event, thoroughly recommended, great to meet up with so many familiar faces from the running community.
Two clubs in attendance on mass were Teignbridge Trotters and the afore mentioned Storm. Storm are quite a success story, in only their second year and have well over 1000 members. Over 100 of them toed the line in Totnes today, a fine blaze of purple.
The Teignbridge Trotters, meanwhile, our hosts for the day, provide (as with all of their events) a fabulous atmosphere, family friendly environment and set up barbeques, hot drinks, a bar, a constant running commentary which is quite legendary, photographers (piccies are free!) and a fantastic, well marked, brilliantly marshalled course.
Sign up early next year, it was massively over subscribed this year.
Next up for us….. the RAT 32, miles on the Cornish coast…….