Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Anniversaries

Anniversaries; they come around with reassuring regularity. But this one has felt different, bigger and rounder than any that preceded it, taking up lots of space in my head.

Thoughts of my donor, who died from a cerebral haemorrhage in her early forties; thoughts for her family and friends left with their grief; the unknown family whose kindness changed my life. My donor had a strong heart that is still beating.

On an emotional level I wanted to do something that honoured my donor and her family, recognising how their gift has transformed my life.  I also needed to do something positive that stopped me googling "life expectancy of heart transplant recipients" and other variations!

As I write this, there's just over a week left until my 20th anniversary on 7th August.  On that day I plan to complete challenge number 17, walking the length of Hadrian's Wall, finishing in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.  It will be strange to be back in the city with the memories of twenty years ago, some as clear as yesterday, whilst others have blurred into the past.

Please do support my 2020 Heart Challenge by making a donation to The Papworth Hospital Charity or the Freeman Heart & Lung Transplant Association. These charities make a difference to the lives of other heart patients, particularly whilst they are waiting for their call or in those early and often difficult post-transplant days. To make a donation, please click on the links above. ..

Thank you for your support,

Ax

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Flying High..

Challenge 16 - Tiger Moth Flight - Sunday 7th July

So I was Amy Johnson for the day, well an hour, and it was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure as I had the opportunity to fly in a de Havilland Tiger Moth, a 1930s bi-plane.

In the red hot sunshine of this July day I donned a huge, heavy and very warm flying jacket, the smallest they had, and wandered across the runway to the Tiger Moth. Baking in the sunshine, we  needed to wait for the plane to have its safety checks and get re-fuelled before it was flight ready.

Finishing the 1930's look off with the flying helmet and goggles, I climbed into the front seat via the specially marked route up the wing, treading carefully so I didn't put my foot through the wing.
Once on board I chatted to the pilot sat in the seat behind, who explained via the headphones what would happen during the flight, including what to expect if the engine cut out. I posed in the cockpit for my photo, my thumbs up hidden by the enormous jacket.

There was a short delay before we set off, whilst the ground crew and pilot finished their checks and the ground crew helped start the propeller. According to Wikipedia, because the Tiger Moth has no electrical system, it must be started by hand.

Once in the air, we flew down to Audley End, circled around the Cambridgeshire countryside  and back up to Duxford for a 30 minute flight. The weather was fabulous with just a little haze on the horizon, although to see the horizon I had to look out to the side as you can not see forward past the engine and propeller. The pilot in the rear seat had a much clearer view.

Having the opportunity to take control of the Tiger Moth was fabulous but terrifying as the ground crew had impressed upon me how sensitive the steering was on the Tiger Moth, so I was extremely gentle with my manoeuvres, terrified that an over enthusiastic steer on my part would have us plummeting to our doom! 

Up in the air I didn't feel like quite such a potato, baking in my enormous jacket, as even though it was a warm day, it was cool up in the sky.  When I popped my head round the side of the cockpit to have a look at the ground below, note to the pilot if reading this - I wasn't "in control" at that point, I could feel the wind pushing against us.

What a brilliant experience and definitely to be recommended.  I learnt when I arrived back on the ground in one piece having not broken the lovely yellow 1930s bi-plane, that a video was taken of me during the whole flight, doubtless picking my nose and uttering amazing witticisms such as "ohh- that was a bit scary", so I'll be stocking up on the vino and inviting everyone round to watch it when it arrives.  Donations to FHLTA & Papworth, please click above!!  

Challenge 15 - Insane Terrain -Sunday 30th June

Took part in a "mini" Insane Terrain running obstacle course in Histon as part of their feast week celebrations.   As well as running the course, climbing under and over the obstacles, I cycled the 7 miles there and back from my home village to take part.

Thinking about signing up for their longer 5k obstacle running course in Doddington in Cambs, in  which I'd expect to come LAST but it looks awesome. Anyone else up for it?

16 out of 20 challenges complete: - .
  1. Climbed My First Mountain - Cadair Idris
  2. Learned How To Punt
  3. Learned How To Hula Hoop
  4. Road Bike Ride
  5. Taken Up Tap Dancing
  6. 5K Trail Run At Wimpole Hall Parkrun
  7. Archery Session
  8. Learning how to climb on an indoor wall
  9. Zumba
  10. Belly Dancing 
  11. High Wire Course
  12. Learning to skip - now up to 103 skips in 2 minutes
  13. Segway ride
  14. Tandem bike ride - bringing up the rear!! 
  15. Insane Terrain - obstacle course
  16. Flight in a Tiger Moth
Only four more challenges to go now...

Hadrian's Wall: we've been doing lots of planning for the BIG one, my walk of Hadrian's Wall with Keith, ending in Newcastle on  7th August, my 20th anniversary.  As I've not been up to Newcastle for nearly 10 years, there are lots of emotions around this one.

Sailing: I've got my sailing taster session booked at Grafham Water in late August, that had to be re-scheduled from earlier in the summer.

And for the other two - I'm thinking of some kayaking with the kiddies, maybe another crack at mastering ice-skating or even a roller-coaster ride at Lightwater Valley - the theme park of my Yorkshire Childhood.