03 Jul 2006, Henley-on-Thames, Oxon
Hours of entertainment - and the rowing was quite engrossing too...
Wednesday 28th June, and the row-fest of Henley was upon us once again. 5 days later, I am in dire need of liposuction and a liver transplant, but otherwise have had a thoroughly fantastic, fun, and hopefully productive time. Here are a few images of Henley from my album....
Lord Moynihan dishes the prawns
Me, George, Sally - ocean rowers being as sensible as usual
Oh go on, then, just one more glass of champagne... with friends on a launch to watch the fireworks
Getting arty - white wine and smoked salmon
15 Jun 2006, Oxford High Street
17 years on, and I still have nightmares about it - that I'm about to take my finals and I'm totally unprepared. Not so different from the reality of 1989 - I wouldn't have had a chance had it not been for the efforts of some fine friends who during that last stressful term would sit me down with a packet of chocolate Hobnobs as an incentive, and cram my head full of the bare minimum required to scrape through my law exams.
You might have thought I'd be over it by now, but the stress has clearly left its scars.
By contrast, when the exams ended the feeling of elation (coming shortly before a feeling of being extremely drunk) was incomparable.
I suppose I'd hoped for a similar feeling of elation and release from stress when I finished the Atlantic row, but I didn't - probably something to do with the fact that I already knew I was going to attempt the Pacific. While that is on the horizon there can be no let-up.
Why am I always chasing something more? Will I ever be satisfied? Will I ever again experience that feeling of closure, relief, completion, unburdenment (is that a word?)? Or will I always be planning the Next Big Adventure?
Finalists on Oxford High Street
Who knows. For now, I can live with it. They say that you only stop learning just after you stop breathing. I hope the same doesn't apply to adventuring. One day, a few years down the line, I'd like to start doing my learning a less strenuous way.
13 Jun 2006, Canary Wharf, London
This is Amy Fawcett, Chief Administrative Officer for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter Europe. Soon to become Amy Fawcett, transatlantic sailor.
She is a high-powered investment banker, I am an impoverished ocean rower, but we have this much in common - a compulsion to get outside our comfort zones. Here's what it says on Amy's website, www.makewaves4breakthrough.com
'I'm Amelia Fawcett, and in addition to turning 50 this summer, I am going to sail for the first time across the Atlantic Ocean on a 47-foot yacht with four men! As someone who has spent her entire career in the City, and therefore much more at home navigating the murky waters of financial services, this challenge is a first for me and represents a true leap out of, what management consultants call, our "comfort zones". And it's not just me - none of us on the challenge has made an Atlantic Crossing on a small boat before, and this unfamiliar 3,000 mile voyage is expected to be anything but comfortable - tightly rationed food, a routine of four-hour watches, battling fear of the unknown and nobody immediately able to provide help.'
Add to this that Amy suffers from labyrinthitis, which makes her feel dizzy and queasy (a bit like being drunk, but less fun), and you start to appreciate the full scale of her challenge....
They set sail from Manchester, Massachussetts on 30 June - join me in wishing them all the very best in their bid to raise £250,000 for breast cancer research.
12 Jun 2006, Westminster, London
On the House of Commons terrace: Susan Kramer, Stephen, Trish, me, Caroline
It was a boil-your-brains sweltering day in London and I was a sweaty mess when I arrived at the House of Commons to have afternoon tea with Susan Kramer, Lib Dem MP for Richmond, and the 3 winners of the prize from my Prince's Trust charity auction. Luckily it was soothingly cool in the Victorian Gothic halls of the Commons, and I took a seat in the Central Lobby to compose myself.
A white-haired gentleman tottered over and collapsed onto the green banquette next to me. 'Marvellous lunch,' he slurred. 'Fine wines. Excellent.'
'Hmmm,' I said, non-committally.
Turns out he was there with the Poole Conservative Association - they had paid a fair amount to come and enjoy some Commons hospitality. He'd clearly got his money's worth.
'Poole has got one of the finest beaches in Europe, you know,' he went on. 'Sandbanks. Funny thing happened. Couple comes to stay for a fortnight. Disappear off to the beach every day. Gets to the last day of their holiday, and they say, "Don't think much to your beach. No more than a mudflat." "Where have you been going?" I say. Turns out they've been going down to the wrong side of the peninsula, and that IS a mudflat. 100 yards further, and they'd have found Sandbanks. Daft buggers.'
I made a note in my diary. How many people settle for the first thing that looks vaguely like what they're looking for, when they might find something much better if they could be bothered to make a little bit more effort? 'This looks like a life, this will do.'
My jottings were interrupted by the arrival of Trish, Stephen and Caroline. Susan Kramer bustled into the Lobby to meet us and we went to the Pugin Room for tea - elegant sandwiches with the crusts cut off, scones with jam and cream, a choice of fruitcake or fruit tart, and tea served in fine china cups. Only the service was a let-down, our waitress arguing the point when Susan pointed out that one medium size teapot might not be enough to serve four.
We bagged a policeman to take a photo of us out on the Riverside Terrace. Neil Kinnock was out there having a meeting with 7 or 8 people. I wasn't brave enough to try and get a photo.
I WAS brave enough to try and rub Winston Churchill's toe (the statue, that is) - the Lib Dems and Tories do this for luck before a vote. But a stern security guard intervened.
Too bad - alongside Oscar Wilde, Winnie is one of my heroes when it comes to providing the pithy quote. How about this one - 'A politician needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn't happen.'
Best not to share that one with Susan Kramer, I thought, especially as she clearly does make things happen.. Not least persuading recalcitrant Commons staff to bring another pot of tea.