The County trial…

Right, so the eldest is now on a 3 month trial with the County swimming club after winning the overall BAGCATS award for her age at the recent ASA County Championships and at the end of the first intensive ‘swim camp’ session, all athletes and their parents had to stay for a talk from the head coach.

We were told in no uncertain terms that the athletes were on the start of a journey that would require significant commitment and dedication from the athletes AND their families. We were warned that this would not be easy but the athletes had been put forward for this opportunity because they are deemed to have ‘potential‘.

‘It all starts here,‘ the head coach told us.. ‘You’re at the bottom of the British swimming ladder and I’m a very small cog in the overall swimming machine…but, and I’ll make no bones about it, we are looking for swimmers to stand on the podiums…we want Olympians’.

I could hear the rustle of paper and looked across at Carys, who was sitting next to a new swimming friend she had made earlier during the swim session. She was quietly giggling while unwrapping and eating chocolate!

Mmm, good impression she’ll be giving, I thought, as I gave her a stern look to listen to the coach. However,as I watched her, she was calm, unfazed by it all and just seemed confident and happy – with a few more giggles thrown in every now and then between her and her new friend!

As the coach continued with his talk, he made it clear that at the end of the three camps, the Club will pick their new recruits to join their Club to train to become regional, national, possibly international and hopefully for some of them, Olympic swimmers!

‘We’re giving you the opportunity, it’s then up to you what you want do with it’, he said as he finished his talk.

We understood the messages loud and clear.

When we got home, we asked if it was still what she wanted.

Without hesitation she stated she WILL be in the Olympics, ‘though I’m not sure what in yet‘ she finished, casually, referring to both running and swimming, where she is County Champion in both sports: she loves and excels at both.

Well, I’m sure we’d all agree it’s easy to say at nine years of age that you want to be an Olympian – with so many years in between that can change your outlook, your desire, your motivation not to mention the possibilities of injury – but I have to admire her current focus and determination: when she wants to win a race, she’ll pull out all the stops and usually achieves it.

We have no doubt this will be a very tough, very demanding journey, and we don’t know how long it will last, but if she get’s in to the Club, what a fabulous and exciting opportunity!

So yes, if Carys is lucky enough to get selected, then we’ll support her all the way.

The adventures of the missing Big Issue Seller

‘Hello my love!’, the big, cheeky grin accompanied the cockney greeting that bellowed out. ‘You alright? You ‘ave a lovely day!’

My local Big Issue seller near Euston was always smiling, a trendy looking guy with curly hair, maybe late thirties, very personable and always up for a bit of cheeky but fun banter with the commuters. It became a routine part of my journey to see him either on the way into work, or on the way home, come rain or shine.

For the first couple of days he was missing, I didn’t really think too much about it, I just missed seeing his smile and exchanging the brief but regular ‘hello’.

When it became a couple of weeks with no sign of him, and a new Big Issue seller was in situ – a middle aged foreign lady who adopted a completely different, more woeful approach, sitting on the floor wearing a headscarf, rocking backwards and forwards and barking out the occasional single word to passers by – then I felt uplifted, hoping he had got himself sorted and off the streets.

Then much to my surprise, he reappeared one night as I was rushing for my train. As I walked closer to him, he acknowledged me with a grin and having a couple of minutes to spare, I couldn’t resist saying I’d missed seeing him around.

‘Well’, he started. ‘I ‘ad a letter from the Tax office a few weeks ago, but you’ll never believe this..’ He looked at me, holding my attention, and I began to imagine the worst, that he’d been in jail…’they told me they’d made a mistake and they’d sent me a tax refund of £700! So I blew the lot on a flight out to Los Angeles!

I stared at him, my mouth wide open in shock but then I couldn’t resist sharing his big grin as he continued ‘And I can tell you this..it was THE BEST Fxxxin time I’ve ever had in my LIFE. It was amazing!’

I was literally ‘gob smacked!’ My grin still on my face, I had to continue my journey but I gave him a hug and honestly replied that it sounded amazing and what a fab thing to have happened to him.

He was absolutely over the moon and my grin remains, even now, as I think about the adventures he must have had over in the US. Where and how he stayed I dread to think… I can only imagine.

But a few months on and he is once again ‘missing’ – he only stayed a short while after his ‘adventure’ so unless he moved his patch, he must no longer be a Big Issue seller.

I only hope this time he really HAS had an opportunity to move his life on..whether it be off the streets in the UK or maybe – and now I’m grinning from ear to ear again – he’s gone back to the US!

My imagination runs riot, but whatever you’re doing Mr Big Issue near Euston, I wish you well and much happiness…

Special Easter Sunday

As a non Catholic, taking my devout and very non Catholic mum to a Catholic Church on Easter Sunday, may seem rather odd.
While my mum might not agree, to me it was perfectly natural and absolutely the best way to spend Easter Sunday morning.  And, as usual, it was packed, much to my mother’s surprise!
My hubby is Catholic and our two girls go to a Catholic Primary School. I’m not at the stage of wanting to convert to Catholicism – there is so much I don’t align with in this faith – but I do however, really value the strong sense of community, and pulling together, and friendship when I enter and spend time in our local Catholic Church. My girls would love me to be Catholic, like them, but I currently don’t see it as an issue, especially as I go to Church as often as they do and do most of what they do when we’re there.
Having been a key support for my eldest during her Holy Communion, I know the Priest very well – we established a mutual common ground in the writing of poems! – and he welcomed me into the Church with open arms. No preaching, no trying to convert me, just accepting me, irrespective of my faith.
I had always found churches to be very cold and austere and was never encouraged or brought up to go to Church,  despite being ‘C of E‘. My Dad was Catholic however, and i can always remember the story of when, after he was really ill in hospital, a Priest came to see him and actually REFUSED to pray for him, because he then found out my dad had got married in a C of E Church!  Needless to say, this is why my mum is not a fan of The Catholic Church!  I, however, entered a Catholic Church after my dad passed away (many years later, I hasten to add), and gained enormous comfort from it’s warmth, a warmth I never felt in a C of E Church.  It really helped me through a very difficult time.
Compare the Priest above to my local Priest, who will visit, counsel, support and pray for ANYONE who needs it, whether Catholic or not.  He is outspoken, abrupt, but has a heart of gold and everything he does, is all for his  congregation.  He would also be great Company over a pint!
That’s why I liked going to church on Easter Sunday.  The feeling of family, the familiar faces, the sense of belonging to a Community, all the basics that in the current stressful and pressurised world we live in, is a welcome and easy release.
So one of the best bits is that after Sunday Mass, a few of us go to the Church Hall, all the kids run riot and we mums and dads sit with a cup of tea and a piece of cake or biscuit, and have a good old natter!

Future Olympian?

When I was young, I wasn’t really into anything.. apart from reading. With a stash of Enid Blyton, I’d happily retire to bed, landing light on and hunched over my book, so positioned to ensure every ray of light fell on my well thumbed and aged pages. The creaking of the bottom stair was my signal to go to sleep, my parents bedtime indicating it was already way past mine.

So it is today, with my own daughter following the same pattern, but frustratingly, with an iPod, not a book! She is much like I – my parents moaned about my constant headstands and handstands and gamboles (now known as rolypoly’s!) and my daughter has obviously inherited the same gene: like I, she never seems to sit still or relax, she is always doing something! But that something is starting to develop into something special. Three County Championship titles in three different sports and still only nine years old, she has channelled her energies and focus with outstanding results.

Two of the biggest County titles were won in the same weekend: a tough County cross country race in mindnumbingly cold conditions on a wintry, March Saturday morning (with a devil of a hill) saw her easily race home to first place; this was swiftly followed by 6 sprint finals over the next two days of the most important amateur swimming event of the year – the ASA Swimming County Champs. She breezily completed her tally of medals from this Championship to 4 gold, 4 silver and 1 bronze (over 9 events), winning the overall and well earned BAGCATS award for her age group.

Unsurprisingly, after her most amazing weekend, she had THE most massive and heart warming grin, spread ear to ear, wearing a GB Olympic T shirt, signed by local Olympian Lucy Hall AND carrying her collection of medals and trophies.

Thanks Lucy and enjoy the moment Carys..

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