02 Apr 2005, Oxon/Devon/Hampshire/London/Leeds
I now have a boat, a home for the summer, two new sponsorship deals, a radio interview, and a lot of new friends. It's been a good week.
Things are hotting up as I dash around the country trying to tie off old loose ends and start new balls rolling in the last few days before I leave for Cape Verde and my sailing trip on Steamy Windows.
Quick summary of the last week:
Monday - met Damian West, top bloke and 2001 Atlantic Rowing Race veteran. Guided tour of his boat, and loads of helpful advice and contacts. Great dinner with him and his fiancee Harriet, but stayed up too late and drank too much damson gin.
Tuesday - Damian/damson hangover. Forced self to go for run to sweat it out. Meeting with Jill White of Yukon Tourism to line up dog-mushing experience in Canada post-row. Spent evening in Tetbury with Womad Stevie, who transfused me 1000 songs for my new iPod.
Wednesday - down to Devon for photo session on board Solo with Mick Dawson of Woodvale, to get pics to go with forthcoming mag interview. On to Exmouth for long chat with Justin Adkin of Rowsell and Adkin boatbuilders re the structural work to be done on Solo while I'm away. R and A built the hull of Solo and are THE ocean-rowing boat specialists, and Justin is also an entrant in this year's race, so he's quite the guru. Then on to Portsmouth to stay with Dave and Jane of Polaris fame...
Thursday - up at crack of dawn for 7.30 a.m. interview with Julian Clegg at BBC Radio Solent. I'll be a regular guest on the morning show - next broadcast will be via satphone from Steamy Windows somewhere between the Azores and England, on 11th May. Then a meeting with Furneaux Riddall (watermaker sponsor) in Portsmouth and on to Emsworth for a highly enjoyable meeting with James Hewitt of Tacktick - see the Sponsors page for the outcome. Then quick bit of househunting, resulting in finding my PERFECT home for the summer - a gorgeous old cottage in the heart of the village. Take a look! Quick drinkie with Owain Evans, father of Russ, the skipper of Steamy Windows, to pick up a vital part for the generator, then on to London and the Ocean Rowing Society HQ in Camden...
Friday - meetings in the City to plan a business/charity breakfast, and to see various potential sponsors, then off to new Apple superstore in Regent Street to upgrade my Powerbook so AT LAST it will speak to my iPod... then on to an evening seminar at the ORS to glean yet more information from Those Who Have Gone Before.
Saturday - drive back to Leeds, and contemplate pile of stuff to be sorted and packed ready to move to Emsworth next week. Decide it's all too much for now, and collapse in a heap.
Tomorrow's another day, but for now I think I deserve to sit down and enjoy a small glass of wine and a big sense of accomplishment.
31 Mar 2005, Stratton Audley
"Friend of mine rowed across the Atlantic." My lunch companion leaned conspiratorially across the white linen tablecloth at the National Liberal Club. "Hasn't worked since." And he sat back with a told-you-so look on his face.
So when I rang Damian West, I was half-expecting to find a traumatised recluse, no longer able to relate to the real world. Instead I got a very personable and cheerful-sounding individual. When I told him about my misconception he laughed.
"Yes, M likes to believe that nobody could row across the Atlantic and come back normal. I do work - I just don't put on a suit and tie and get on a commuter train."
It reminded me how I used to filter reality - probably still do. But I used to filter in a destructive way - I'd ignore all the good bits and focus on the negative, and it made me very unhappy. In appraisals from my bosses, I could hear only criticism, never praise, and believing that I was hopeless at my job, I duly lived down to my expectations.
Now I focus on the positive, interpreting everything in the best possible light, and the world seems a much better place. No doubt it's exactly the same world that it was before - it's just that my perception of it has changed.
Objective reality? Who needs it? I'll stick to my optimistic view of life and of myself, and hope that it continues to live UP to my expectations.
29 Mar 2005, Devon
Got 3000 to spare? It's 2am, and I'm lying in bed worrying about how I'm going to pay the next instalment on my boat.
I've been working immensely hard on the sponsorship drive, and I have a good number of promising leads. But promises don't pay the bills.
I've read many books on expeditions, to poles, mountains and oceans. I know the sponsorship drive is always the hardest part. I also know the money usually turns up in the nick of time. A kind soul comes up with the readies, and our hero is saved from ignominious defeat, his dream strangled at birth by the cruel hands of poverty.
As a past ocean rower, Damian West, said to me the other evening, 'All you need is one stroke of luck'. And I've been working hard at making my luck.
But right now I can't see where the money is going to come from, and so I'm lying here in bed at 2am, worrying and hoping and praying for that stroke of luck to strike soon.
23 Mar 2005, Yorkshire
My final word on the rules of expeditions...
...As has been highlighted in the last few days, expeditions are subject to rules just like any other area of life. If every member of the community abides by the rules, then everybody including the sponsors know where they stand.
My discussions with Ken Crutchlow of the Ocean Rowing Society have brought home the potential consequences of breaking these rules. Honesty pays. Not always in the short term, but abiding by the rules is essential to integrity, credibility, and reputation.
The pursuit of the sponsor's dollar is what causes the trouble - in the era of spin, it's all too easy to yield to the temptation to sex up an expedition. It must be marvellous to be a Branson, to have the money to do something simply 'because it's there', or 'for the fun of it'.
I'd love to live in a world that regarded FUN as a perfectly valid objective - where we didn't have to try to be the first or the fastest or the youngest.
Yes, some people (myself among them) find things more fun when we come first, but ultimately, if we take on a challenge and give it our best shot, and learn a few things about ourselves along the way, then we're a winner whether or not we're the first across the line.