Read all about it! Click the link here …
Read all about it! Click the link here …
Day 80. My 2014 little British things Tour, around Britain in 80 days has reached its final day & its finishing destination back at Poole, where it began on 13 May, 80 days ago.
I feel exhausted & elated, perhaps in equal measure.
As I take a train back to take a break, to rest, process, reflect & review I wanted to share some of the initial thoughts in my over-used, under-rested, numbed, mind of marshmallow-mush which I’m deeply grateful for …
I’m grateful for the whole roller coaster expedition of energy & emotions born from a the dream seed sown back in August 2012. I’m grateful for all my learnings, self-discoveries & new experience (I can’t wait to put them to use next time!) For my energy, focus, self-discipline & for my ability to adapt to & accept the changes & challenges which became a daily occurrence throughout the tour. I’m grateful I didn’t experience any illness, accidents or injuries. I’m grateful for my personal safety, no serious transport mishaps or forgetting my suitcase (although sometimes I forgot some names!) I’m grateful for no technological crashes (even though there were occasionally power shortages of the human kind). I’m grateful I was able to keep on top of emails plus other messages despite unpredictable & unreliable internet signals around the coastline – MAN, I AM GRATEFUL FOR WiFi!
I’m grateful to every single person who has played a role in the support & success of me on my little British things Tour. Near & far, loud & quiet; from giving me directions on a platform to Tour Support through the 80 days. I couldn’t have done this alone.
I’m grateful to my favourite travel companion, Rohan for it’s fabulous clothing easing the way in my minimalist suitcase of 100ish things. To Team Rohan in its stores & Head Office, with special thanks to Brand Becky, Store Samantha & Designer Chris for all their ideas & efforts to support me with clothing & accessories plus fundraising events at a selection of their coastal stores on my route around Britain. And grateful thanks to Sarah, founder of Rohan & Rohantime for her unwavering enthusiasm, support & wisdom. What a Passepartout Tour Crew you are!
I’m grateful to & even more in awe of the lifesaving work of the RNLI. I’m forever grateful to the Lifeboat Station crews & their station teams who I’ve met around the coast of Britain. They welcomed me into their stations, on their boats, into their world & their Lifeboat family. They didn’t know it, but they have repeatedly re-reminded & re-motivated me to find a way through my own stormy seas during the tour. The experiences of sharing their training exercises, their character & their conversations will remain with me forever. With particular thanks to Michael in Douglas on the Isle of Man for getting the show on the road. And to the numerous RNLI volunteers like, Christine, Cathy & Geof. You are all magical inspiration!
I’m grateful to my Tour Crew including, dear friend, host & Tour Crew for the Day, Susie of Mildred Jones Fine Jewellery, Nina Lenton, Sam Dounis & Judith Morgan plus all the other supporters who have contributed & become members of my Tour Crew Community. I’m grateful for all my crowd-funding supporters, for the stamina & support of friends, Twitter & Facebook friends cheering me on from afar along the journey & for all the messages of support received. And I’m really grateful to Sue Fernandes who donated the daily task of updating the wonderful Tour Route Map on my website. You’re all brilliant Sunshines!
I’m grateful for my Dad. He’s getting really fast at texting now & has learnt how to do smiley faces. Put the kettle on Dad, The Whirlwind is on the train!
I’m grateful for all the media opportunities, invitations & support ranging from radio interviews, local newspapers, press officer interviews. And more. Even the request for an exclusive TV interview which unfortunately couldn’t happen back in Kingston-upon-Thames – I’m still grateful to have been asked!
I’m grateful for all the strangers I’ve met along the way, for all the kind, hospitable & generous hosts, some of whom have become friends. I have learned something from every encounter. I’m grateful for all the gifts of thoughtfulness, interest, flexibility, patience, sharing of contacts, action & wisdom.
I’m truly grateful for all the donations to the RNLI via my Just Giving page, in the street, at my breakfast table & in Rohan stores – together we have raised £1000 & rising! It’s definitely not too late to donate! The fundraising continues here …
I’m grateful for Britain & all its numerous little British things which continue to fascinate me including its untypically British Summer weather!
See you back out there soon, Sunshines! … with love & gratitude, fledgling on fire xx
It was easy enough to find as I turned right out of Temple tube station, but it wasn’t what I had expected. It was unlike any other Lifeboat station I had encountered. I was welcomed promptly by Andrew Stewart, the Visits Officer at Tower Lifeboat Station & soon experienced this entire station was afloat. And moving constantly, often vigorously. Andrew advised me to hold on to something as I walked around the station to the Training Room where Andrew offered me a welcome little British cuppa tea. I sat down, partly my choice, partly the effects of the river waves jolting me into my seat. The movement of the station was at times a little bit like being in a lifeboat out at sea. I glanced down at some information Andrew had given me. It said “The crew at Tower Lifeboat Station are ordinary people doing extraordinary things on a unique stretch of water” And that was why I was here. With one eye on my cup of tea braving the ‘stormy’ waters caused by all the passing traffic, the rest of my attention was on Andrew’s fascinating introduction.
One of the recommendations following the Marchioness disaster of 1989 in which 51 people lost their lives was for the RNLI to extend their coastal lifesaving skills to the tidal River Thames. Originally based near the Tower of London (hence its name Tower Lifeboat Station) it was relocated to what was previously known as the Waterloo Police Pier in 2006 & is now known as Lifeboat Pier. The Metropolitan Police sold this station to the RNLI for just £1 who then donated the £1 back to the RNLI who paid for the refurbishment of the pier. (Who says £1 doesn’t make a difference?) The £1 coin now has pride of place on the wall of the station, bobbing around on the Thames.
Tower Lifeboat Station has been the busiest lifeboat station in the British Isles since it began in 2002. It’s one of four lifeboat stations along approximately 60 miles of the tidal Thames. Last year Tower station launched no less than 492 times for reasons ranging from person in distress, injured or illness, to capsize, cut off by the tide or recovery of dead human body.
It’s a sad tale to hear that sometimes the crew can see the person jump from the bridge adjacent to the station or see the casualty in the water. With the crew on shift already kitted up & ready for action, they can be launched & arrive with the person in around 60-90 seconds. Their E-class water jet boat is fast tough & manoeuvrable. Sometimes this is fast enough to save a person’s life, but sometimes it’s not. Just one minute battling to survive the speed, depth (or lack of), the cold water, downward currents or traffic in the water is sometimes too long. Sometimes the person can not be saved, only the body recovered at some later time, date or place.
I asked Andrew when their last call out was. Just yesterday. Someone had raised the alarm because they had seen someone jump from the bridge next to the station. The lifeboat was launched in around 60 seconds but they couldn’t find anyone. Two hours later they were called out again to ‘something in the water’ – it was the recovery of the dead body of the person who had jumped from the bridge earlier. Often the currents can pull someone under water & keep them held underwater for some distance.
One of the ways that the station is particularly unique is that the crew do 12 hours shifts on site, rather than be paged to a call out, as with the coastal crews. This requires the station to have crew accommodation on site to allow them to get some rest while on shift. While I was chatting with Andrew, the crew invited me to interrupt their lunch, mid fajitas (which smelt delicious) to say hello. Four men & a women were on shift today, 7am to 7pm. Just ordinary people doing extraordinary work to save life along the tidal Thames. Another distinct difference I noticed was a lack of yellow wellies in their kit room. Andrew explained that as the crew live in their gear all day, ready for a launch, wellies would be very uncomfortable & unpractical. Instead, the crews here have extremely light steel toe & sole reinforced boots, similar to the police. I held a boot – it was as light as my shoe! But otherwise, the kit they use, including the lifejackets is similar to some of the kit used by some coastal crews.
The cost of running Tower Lifeboat Station in 2013 was £525,000 & as with everything RNLI, relies solely on donations for the skilled lifesaving work to continue. If you would like to make a difference with just £1, you can help me to raise £10,000 for the RNLI in three ways:
1. Donate by texting LBTT80 £1 to 70070, or
2. Donate directly to the RNLI via my Just Giving page here http://bit.ly/littleBritishthingsTour10KforRNLI, or
3. Join me at one of my little British things Tour Rohan store events where just £1 could win discount of Rohan clothing or free gifts in our RNLI Raffle. Here are the remaining events:
Rohan store Kingston-upon-Thames – Thursday 17th July 11-3
Rohan store Canterbury – Saturday 19th July 11-3
Rohan store Chichester – Wednesday 23rd July 11-3
Rohan store Wimborne – Wednesday 30th July 11-3
Find out more at Rohantime.com
My eyes needed a moment to adjust to the dark as I walked towards the noise of disorderly conversation over the bare floor boards. Oak I suspect. But also stone. And somewhat uneven. I had stepped into ‘Nellies’ (aka The White Horse, on Hengate in Beverley). I had stepped back in time, much time, to the 1600s, before the word refurbishment had been invented. And thankfully that thought has never crossed the minds of all who have owned her. And that includes Nellie herself. For Nellie’s is just as she always has been. I’d heard her described as Dickensian, but she was more Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn to me. In my imagination, I could hear the low conversations in the corners of the labyrinth of rooms that I wasn’t supposed to be hearing … It looks like a museum, it could be a museum, but it’s not. Nellie is a real, everyday pub. I followed the corridor around a corner to the hub of the pub banter & brovado at the bar. The ‘dark stuff’ is recommended. “Tis good for yer” one local tells me. “All alcohol is good for yer” the publican assures me. I half expect my half to be served in a tin tankard, but no the glass is definitely this century. It looked good. And it tasted even better. And I paid in pounds & pence, one pound & ten pence, rather than pieces of silver. I chose a seat in one of the larger rooms. There was only one other woman in there. She wore six inch stiletto heels & a floral skirt that was far too short. I seated myself on a bench at a table as unfinished as the floor boards. Rustic doesn’t even come close. The walls, in varying shades of amber, ranged from honey through to treacle, but I was told it’s nicotine from the days of smoking. Pictures decorated this living wallpaper. Lamps lit the rooms. At first I believed them to be imitation, but soon realised that they were real gas lamps fired via pipelines around the walls. All this bare wood & real gas lamps! And I could feel the heat. A regular tells me how the pub is really at its best in winter when the open fires, one in each room are also lit. I could imagine. And I could imagine a blast of icy cold air rushing in as ‘the law’ bursts in through the front door seeking out the undesirables. But then I remind myself that there is a beer garden out back & a car park … With love & gratitude, fledgling on fire xx