Making Every Minute Count
What an amazing and crazy busy day it was today, pretty exhausted now!! No fitness training today thank goodness, but lots of meetings, followed by our evening fundraising event. First off a meeting at a local school with all the heads of department and a quick presentation and overview of our project and ocean row and our aim to bring the oceans alive for young people worldwide through my charity Oceans Project Georgia. I was a bit spaced out as it has been quite full on recently and the fatigue is definitely kicking in, but all in a good way. Was a great meeting, loads of potential, and I’m itching to get started on the educational side of our 8000mile ocean row across the Pacific Ocean.
Meeting over, it was a quick dash home, no time for a proper lunch, so thank goodness for the Vi-Shapes as they are super quick to make and drink, and contain all the nutrients you need, and don’t leave you feeling uncomfortably full if you are rushing about. Quick change of clothes and last minute jobs in the space of my ten minute window (thankfully our meeting hadn’t been as long as I had planned for, so that took the pressure off a bit). Not sure how great I came across, as I tend to waffle A LOT when tired!!
Business Coaching Session
A two mile walk into town, and arrived just in time for my next meeting, a business coaching session with Jenny McBean who had agreed to help me with the business side of project and how to deal with the personal side of developing a new charity or business and becoming better at time management, presentation, overcoming setbacks, for example. This was a very new experience and wasn’t at all touchy feely or about complaining about things or analysing them, so that was really great and different to my preconceived ideas of what a session might be like. It was also really good to have the first session on one of the craziest kind of days, at my most stretched to capacity because I could really tap into the things that challenge me at these times, like feeling overwhelmed or not knowing where to start, or just feeling worried that I might mess up or forget something important or give a bad impression. I waffled a lot, mainly because I was tired and unfamiliar with this new experience, and I’ve been so busy with doing things, that I’ve kind of parked the emotional side for a long time, so it was nice to off load some of that, de-clutter, and free up some space in my brain for the next things on the agenda.
We spoke about my anxieties with presenting to large audiences and being professional, and also about my experiences with culture shock and having changed as a person over my three years in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, as well as the new role of being self employed and having to lead from the front, rather than being just one component in a team and following orders or being in the background. This was especially useful, as we are pioneers in what we are doing, and that means that there aren’t procedures as such to follow or to learn from, and inevitably means I will make mistakes but have to just learn from them and not worry too much. So the session really helped me to verbalise a lot of the things that have perhaps been bubbling under the surface but that I’ve not had chance to deal with and I felt much more confident and grounded afterwards. I think just having a sounding board will be a massive help in terms of project management, especially with our ocean row team being away on a ship in the Royal Navy, in South Africa, or taking their exams, so in the absence of the team at the moment, it was nice to be able to share the things and decisions that I’ve been making on my own for the most part. For anyone who might have thought about support whilst setting up a new business or taking a career break or change, I can definitely recommend having a session with a business coach, and Jenny is a really great lady, who has ben successful in her own businesses and has a wealth of experience to bring to the table. It isn’t about telling you what to do, but listening and then helping you to find your own solutions or the right path for you, and with you setting the agenda or goals for each session, and that can change each week depending on what you have going on. I really think this is going to be a massive help for both the ocean row and for my charity as a whole and getting that financial sustainable in the longer term.
Meeting with Tom
Meeting finished, and it was time to head to Henley Train Station to pick up adventurer Tom Allen (he writes a great blog, well worth reading), our speaker for the evening. But first we took the scenic route past the river (this was Tom’s first visit to Henley) as we needed to visit Asquiths teddy bear shop to pick up more of the nurdle free bears which make up the ‘Fourbirdsaboating Friend‘ packs for folks who donate £25 towards our Pacific Ocean row. We have a stand at the Fawley Steam and Vintage Fair over the weekend (thanks to Lady McAlpine), and without a car, I need to bring the 100 or so teddy bears home in dribs and drabs, as well as displaying them at our Regal Picturehouse event this evening.
Meeting Tom at the Royal Geographical Society 2011
I haven’t seen Tom since I first met him at the Royal Geographical Society weekend in November 2011. I’d travelled over for the week from Georgia for several meetings about Oceans Project Georgia, and had the pleasure of sitting next to the one and only Michael Palin who was the RGS President at the time, and on the other side of me was Tom, who took me completely by surprise because he not only knew where Georgia was, but greeted me with a ‘gamarjobat’ (hello in Georgian), and that’s how we got talking. Tom visited Georgia on his round the world cycling adventures, before settling in neighbouring Armenia for a year or more, after falling head over heals with his now wife Tenny.
Talking to Tom about his experiences of the Caucasus and what it has been like for him in terms of returning to the UK and any advice he can give us for our own expedition was a massive privilege and something very special. So we talked for a while as we did all the various jobs that needed doing for the evening’s event and I felt a massive calming effect from being able to connect on that level in a way that I can only come about from someone who has been through a similar experience. Tom gave loads of advice which will really help in our own journey, just by talking about his experiences.
Tom’s Lovely Host
Next stop was Jean’s house. A lovely lady from the alto section of my choir (Henley Choral Society) who had agreed to host Tom for the night. I’m massively grateful to Jean as I knew that Tom would have a lovely restful place to stay, in return for supporting our fundraising event. I’m already crashing at my grandmother’s house, so it is difficult for me to invite others to stay, but we don’t have the budget for Henley hotels and are reliant on the generosity of folks like Tom to make our film screening and Q&A sessions happen. I was also still quite anxious about how many tickets we had sold, and whether or not I could do anything more to promote the event, because if we didn’t sell enough tickets, we wouldn’t be able to host our monthly fundraising event, or cover the cinema costs or film licence fees, or Tom’s travel. That is certainly the most overwhelming part about organising events, especially when the aim of them is to raise funds, so the last thing you want is to run at a loss!
Tea and Cake
Hanging out at Jean’s house was super. She hosted us with tea and cake in her beautiful home, and I think that really set the precedent for the evening as I soon became more relaxed and certain that everything would be fine, especially now the speaker and star of the evening had arrived, and at least one person (Jean) would be attending the event! Refreshed from a cup of tea and sit down, Tom and I headed to the Regal Picture House to meet the manager Scott and the team. I heard that we had sold some tickets, the books had arrived, as had the film we were screening, and everything was good to go. Lots of boxes ticked and my anxiety levels dropping every minute, though I was a lot more calm than our first film screening anyway as I kind of knew the building and how things would work now.
With the cinema set, Tom and I headed to Strada for some dinner. Both on very tight budgets but knowing that Strada had some special offers and was right next to the cinema. A couple of calls about the evening whilst waiting for our pizzas, time to chat about Tom’s adventures and me hanging on his every word in the hopes of some magical knowledge to be applied to our ocean row, quickly grabbed the bill, and then back to the cinema.
Not long after we arrived, we spotted Henley Round Table Chairman Rob who had come to present my team Fourbirdsaboating with a cheque for £250 towards our boat build and a few moments later, Richard and Liz from Meadows Farm Film Studios arrived. Giving us the perfect opportunity to do a quick video interview with Tom and take a couple of photographs.
Filming is becoming a bit more familiar now, and I’m working hard to try and film little bits fo what we do, so that we can build up our story over time, but it is definitely a new skill!
Both Tom and Fourbirdsaboating have been lucky enough to be supported by Buff, so this was a great opportunity to give thanks to Buff with a photo or two (thanks to Richard).
Our filming session over and the cinema ready with guests, it was time to face the audience, for me to receive the cheque from Henley Round Table and for Chairman Rob to say a few words, and for me to then introduce the format for the evening and to say a few words about Tom and the film, whilst being filmed as I did so. An anxious moment as we waited for the film to start, but soon enough all running well. Watching the little bit of the film which features Tom as he cycles through Tbilisi, Georgia, I had to fight back a little tear as I tend to get quite emotional whenever I see Georgia on the screen these days. Though I can’t really explain why, as I’m generally not an emotional person and I rarely cry at films, but I guess Georgia really left a mark on me.
Tom and I nipped out to set up the books and run through a few things, and I made the most of the chance to asked Tom as many questions as I could so that I could prepare as best as possible for our own expedition, and I was especialy keen to find out more about how he had filmed his own journey to the point where it was now being shown on a large cinema screen. Tom literally just had a handheld camera, and this was before the days of DSLRs. Time for a quick cuppa before I went back inside to watch the rest of the film. Tom set up his books ready for signing them at the end of the film.
I was very excited to discover that the cinema also stocks Joe and Seph’s Gourmet popcorn as we’ll be taking some bags of this on our ocean row with us, and it comes in a whole load of crazy flavours, including goats cheese flavour, and whisky flavour!
With the film finished, it was time for me to face the crowd again and to chair the Q&A session. Loads of great questions, and I was pleased that I didn’t have to think of any myself and that the audience seemed eager and interested. I’m still learning how to chair these events and sometimes it is hard to know how long to run such sessions for, so this was a great experience, and to see how Tom went about answering questions as this is likely to be something we will have to do post ocean row. A nice big round of applause, time for me to do a little bit for the camera whilst Tom headed out to speak to his new fans and to sign some copies of his book.
Pretty exhausted but happy, it just remained for me to escort Tom to his digs, to thank Jean and have a quick beer with them, before walking up hill to my own house and crashing out ready for another day ahead. But all in all a great evening and lots of great comments afterwards, and lots of encouraging tweets. One such message was from 2016 Olympic rowing hopeful Rachel which was super cool:
Very inspiring evening from
@tomsbiketrip at the @RegalPH tonight. Highly recommend watching @Janapar_Film! #howabiketripcanchangeyourlife
Really touched at how many messages I discovered as I checked my emails on getting home, so pleased that folk enjoyed the night, whilst helping us to raise funds to build our ocean rowing boat. Massively rewarding.