Friday, 30 March 2012

Who Was it Then?

[caption id="attachment_2398" align="alignleft" width="300"] Get out the way, I want to see the view![/caption]

Well, did you manage to guess who from the From S to N team went on a 'top secret' training camp in Majorca recently? Full marks if your answer was  Mark Charlton, with an extra gold star if you didn't need the extra clues for your guess :)

Mark divulges more about his trip in today's Guest Post...

[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="320"] Ahh, that's better ;)[/caption]

Those of a certain age might remember an old Heineken advert. It was a send up of My Fair Lady and featured a Sloane Ranger being trained to talk in a cockney accent. She fails miserably, until one swig of the amber liquid has her drawling, The worta in madjorca, don't tayste like it orta! 

Recently I've been to see for myself- not drinking lager but riding my bike with Andy Cook Cycling. It was my first visit to Majorca, and before going I'd have struggled to say much about it.  If you'd  pushed me I'd probably have ventured that Magaluf wasn't quite my kind of town! The truth is, our pre-conceptions of places are often pejorative and unfounded - and no more so than mine of this stunning island.

The day I left, a friend sent me an email vouching deep envy. She'd once worked on an environmental project in the mountains near Alcudia - by coincidence, where I was staying. She wrote of eagles and  kites, of fabulous coves and of ancient monasteries in the hills. I saw all of these and more, riding 400km in the Serra du Tramuntana, through orange and lemon groves, under cobalt skies and a temperate sun. On Wednesday I rode to Cap Formentor, the northern-most tip of the island - mile for mile I can't think of a more scenic ride in thirty years of cycling.

It's estimated over 80,000 bikers come to Majorca each year, providing an early boost to the tourist season. I vaguely knew this, but wasn't aware how comprehensively the island has embraced the influx: the resurfaced roads, the signed routes, the cafes with free oranges and cakes, the cries of hola from the locals. Add those to the mountain landscape and it is near enough cycling heaven.

You might suppose that hills and heat would make it more like a cycling hell. But it's surprising how the landscape inspires. One lady on our trip had never peddled more than 30 miles; she rode 100km with us on Sunday and beat me to the top of a 400 metre climb. I spent much of another day riding off the back with Andy, the trip organiser and a friend who goes back almost as far as those Heineken adverts. Confidence makes the biggest difference we agreed, and I thought how it applied to him too; he left a steady job to start his business two years ago, a leap of faith that's paid off in self-belief as much as financial returns. Hopefully both will continue to grow.

I came home on the Thursday, into a damp Bristol with the usual queues and traffic jams. Soon afterwards I rode the Fosseway in a southwesterly headwind, the sky inking and the temperature barely 6 degrees. Not quite cycling heaven, but just as surprising in its way.  As I turned for home, a male bullfinch was calling from the top of a hawthorn, its peach-pink chest as dazzling as the Majorcan sun - actually, that's not quite true, but you know what I mean.

Thanks, Mark for telling us all about your trip! We'll be catching up with Mark again, plus some of the other people who took part in last year's From A to B challenge, in Dispatches very soon.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Going the Extra Mile for Sport Relief

[caption id="attachment_2372" align="alignleft" width="640"] All ready for the off! (from left) Rebecca and Smokey, Nic with Sacha & Trixie, then Rachel and Stanley[/caption]

Members of the Community Week Committee from Finance and Comms  at Wakefield House continued their fundraising efforts with the Sport Relief mile last Sunday. However, their 'run' was with a twist as they decided it would fun to involve their pooches!

[caption id="attachment_2373" align="alignright" width="225"] Stanley cools down - awww how cute![/caption]

Rachel Cook takes up the story:

A beautiful sunny Sunday was the perfect setting for our Sport Relief Mile. Hundreds of people turned out to local beauty-spot Coate Water to take part in either a 1 or 3 mile walk/run in aid of Sport Relief. We and the dogs really enjoyed the day and were amazed that we far exceeded our £50 fundraising target. Sacha, Trixie and Smokey completed the mile with bags of energy remaining, whilst poor puggy Stanley had to take a breather and cool down with an ice-lolly!

We were amazed by people's generosity, and were thrilled to have raised £200! I’m not sure how much of the support was for us, and how much was for the dogs though!

[caption id="attachment_2385" align="alignleft" width="300"] Dave Moore and stepson look pleased at the end of their Sport Relief run[/caption]

Staying with Wakefield House, Dave Moore of Central Ops went an extra two miles for his Sport Relief action held at Staffordshire University. He says:

In total myself and my stepson raised £402.30 for Sports Relief. Although being the hottest day of the year it was a good run.

This means Dave smashed his fundraising target of £300, so as he says on his fundraising page, you can give yourselves a pat on the back!

Monday, 26 March 2012

Plymouth Get in the Fundraising Swing

Cornwall Air Ambulance LogoPlymouth's Steve Smith, Peter Lamming and Adam Chidzoy got in the fundraising swing by taking part in the Trevose  Spring  Charity  Golf tournament in aid of Cornwall Air Ambulance. Together with guest Pat  Fletcher they formed Smudgers Dreamers,  one of 33 teams taking part in the event on March 6-7th, who between them expect to  raise £1,500 to £2,000.

They report:

Weather and golf was good. We came eighth overall which is our best result to date. Many  congratulations to Peter and Adam  who came  2ND  in the pairs.

Sounds an enjoyable way to raise money for a good cause!

Friday, 23 March 2012

Jacqueline's Success is on the Cards

[caption id="attachment_2298" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Jaqueline's stall at the Restore event, complete with Hamish the patchwork dog"][/caption]

Wakefield House's regular contributor Jacqueline Bunnett has again been out raising funds for the Torbay Animals in Distress charity with her Thoughtful Paws Hand Made Cards and Gifts stall. The total raised so far from 3 events is over £70.

This month she's attended the charity family fun day held at Swindon Restore, as well as selling her cards at Wakefield House.

Reporting on her sale at Restore Jacqueline said:

This was an outside event which at the time of booking I was unaware of but luckily the weather was lovely and sunny. I held a tombola to win a plush soft toy if they found the lucky ticket or some sweets if they found a 0 or 5. This helped to draw the people to the stand. I received an enquiry with regards to a Hamish Patchwork Cushion .  Mother’s day cards were the best sellers.

At Wakefield House last Friday, Jacqueline concentrated her efforts on card sales. She takes up the story:

This was originally only to sell Mother’s Day and Easter Cards but I took a selection of General cards. I was shocked at the uptake of the cards and most of the general cards had been sold.  By 9am I had raised £20 so I took the decision to phone my husband who was at home and ask him to drop off my other cards. After informing the staff in the office by email of this new range I was able to raise a further £12.50

It sounds like Jacqueline's going to have a busy time making cards to replace her stock for her next  event! This will be the Shaw Ridge School Table Top Sale on 31st March - fingers crossed your running total tops the £100 mark after this one, Jacqueline.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Sport Relief Takes Off This Week

Following our report on John Bishop's Week of Hell, it's good to see a number of  participants from Smiths News will be involved in various Sport Relief activities this coming weekend.

Dave Moore of Central Ops at Wakefield House will be running 5km (just over 3 miles in old money) at the event held at Staffordshire University on Sunday. He has a sponsorship page set up for those of you unable to support him on the day.

Dave says on his page:

I'm doing the Sainsbury's Sport Relief Mile and taking on 3 miles at The Staffordshire Uni Mile to help people living unimaginably tough lives, both at home in the UK and across the world's poorest countries.

Which is where you come in... I really need your help to smash my fundraising target! And since you're already here, looking so kind and generous, I'm very much hoping you'll sponsor me now.

Thank you for all your support - and feel free to give yourself a big pat on the back!

Meanwhile in Swindon on the same day, Nicola Hewlett, Rebecca Hedges and Rachel Cook will be running the Sport Relief Mile with their dogs! Others from Wakefield House will be joining them, so we're expecting to have the full who's who very soon :)

Do let us know ASAP if you're planning to take part in Sport Relief this weekend (use the Publicity Form) and we'll aim to publicise your activities/sponsorship pages in another participant feature!

We'll have a news round-up of how everyone got on, pictures and a running total (groan!) of the amount raised later on in Dispatches.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Nicola's Sweepstake Raises Funds

News just in! We have another simple fundraising idea for you today which scored well at Wakefield House this time around. Finance's Nicola Hewlett ran a 6 Nations Rugby Sweepstake during February and March in aid of the Alzheimer's Society. She reports:

A nice easy way to raise money, whilst enjoying the rugby! Entry was a £1, and all money went into the prize pot. The winner received half of the prize pot, and the charity the remaining half. Information Assistant, Alexander Harding who works in Magazine Sales was the lucky winner - guessing the winning team 13 times (out of 15 games).

45 staff took part, thus raising £22.50 :)

Is this something which could be adapted to work well in your area? There's plenty of events coming up over the next few months to choose from e.g. Eurovision and the Grand National for starters!

Only Smarties Have the Answer

[caption id="attachment_2284" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Chloe Webb organises the Smarties Challenge for the 2nd year running. She is hoping to double the amount raised in 2011."][/caption]

NAC's Chloe Webb has a simple but effective idea for her Community Week fundraising, which went well last year and she hopes will be doubly rewarding in 2012.

Chloe explains:

We provide a free tube of smarties to anyone who's willing to take part.  Once they have enjoyed the chocolate, they simply put their spare 20p pieces in the tube between now and Community week and the money collected goes to our chosen charities.  You can get £12.40 in each tube and when it is just your change from the coffee machine or 20p you found in your purse today you don’t notice it.  We raised over £300 last year and we’re hoping to double that in 2012 just by starting earlier.  People can have a tube of their own or they can share one with colleagues around them.  Anyone that wants another tube to fill once theirs is full is more than welcome to more free chocolate.  It’s a great event.  It takes little organising and is easy for everyone to participate no matter how busy they are, so the whole team can get involved.

Two local charities will benefit from this great idea, Cancer Support, Bradford and Airedale plus SACAR.

Community Champion Jackie Atkinson said:

The Cancer Support Centre offers support to local people suffering from all types of cancer and most of us are affected by this disease in one way or another.  SACAR  is another local charity that supports adults with Autism and Asperger’s syndrome in leading an independent life.

Everyone from the NAC and BLS is able to take part and the total raised will be notified during Community Week.

Looks like chocolate and fundraising is a winning combination!

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Brislington Open Day Gathers Some Cash

[caption id="attachment_2265" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Touring the depot"][/caption]

A joint open day with the NFRN at the Brislington depot at the end of February was the ideal opportunity for a spot of light fundraising. Independent retailers from Bristol, Swindon, Taunton and Yeovil toured the depot and met with staff and key suppliers.

£81 was donated by staff and visitors on the day. The money raised will be split between the depot’s three chosen charities: Brislington Cancer Research, Cots for Tots and a local  donkey sanctuary.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

A Note of Thanks

My sincere thanks and appreciation to each and every member of staff who shared in Michael’s journey to qualify for the Olympics (I’m still getting goose bumps when I say that).

The messages of support after he missed out the 100m really helped him to stay focussed.

The 200m was his main event and prior to his race he sent a brief text message to his sister Lauren to say ‘I’m ready for this’.

I feel as though I took every stroke of that race with him, to see his time flash up on the scoreboard and announce that he had made the qualifying time was absolutely amazing.

Immediately afterwards the messages from friends and fellow colleagues came rolling in and I hope I managed to respond to everyone.

Michael has declined the option of a week’s holiday – he’s gone straight back to training this morning to work on his next race at the Olympics.

I cannot thank everyone enough for the kind wishes of support and messages of congratulations.


Update: Since I scheduled Jackie's note to go up this morning, Michael added a comment to last week's Michael's In! post as follows:

Thanks everyone for all the amazing messages, they made such a difference last week – especially after missing out on selection in the 100m!
I’m so relieved to have made it, I didn’t realise how nervous I was until the last few days but it’s now sinking in and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders!
I didn’t swim as fast as I was expecting/hoping and it was tough to lose both titles but there is definitely more in the tank and I’m thoroughly looking forward to the next few months!
Hope to do you all proud, thanks again for all the messages of support, really appreciate them all!

Monday, 12 March 2012

Goaaaaaal! For BLS

[caption id="attachment_2199" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Post shoot out fun with Billy Bantam, the Bradford City FC mascot"]The junior team after the shoot out with Billy Bantam the Bradford City Football team mascot[/caption]

Flying footballs were the order of the day when Bradford Disability Football Club held a penalty shoot out with Bradford City's mascot, Billy Bantam in goal.

BLS Commercial team's Jaimie Dorward ensured her and son Aaron's efforts didn't go unrewarded by raising sponsorship to the tune of £111.

They and the other children had to shoot at Billy Bantam and try to score 4 goals. Sponsorship was either a fixed amount or per penalty.

Jaimie explains:

The team is a pan disability team for all with junior and senior teams. They run regular coaching sessions twice per week all year round. The coaches are qualified FA standard coaches with experiences of working and guiding players of all levels and abilities.

They participate in tournaments and games with other clubs throughout the UK. Most recently we went to Chelsea on a weekend trip to London, Bradford City beat Chelsea 2 nil (never thought I’d hear that). In march they will play Manchester United and get a tour of the ground and some free pizza.

As well as offering an excellent environment for the children it also offers some respite for carers and allows them to meet and support each other.

It looks like the children have a lot of fun!

This isn't the last we'll be hearing from BLS by a long shot. Stayed tuned for updates in future posts planned for Dispatches.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Michael's In!

We have a new Olympian on the block :D

In an exciting 200m breastroke final last night, Michael Jamieson led the race for the first 150 metres just shy of GB record pace, but was pipped to the post down the final length by Bath team mate Andrew Willis. Both qualified to make Team GB in the world's two fastest times this year (2.09.33 and 2.09.84 respectively). They're astonishingly good times which bodes well for The Olympics in July.

Congratulations, Michael from everyone at Smiths News. Now go for the big one!

I'll leave it to Michael to have the last word:

Add your congratulations in the Comments below and I'll make sure Michael sees them.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

After Michael's Race

Michael JamiesonI've mentioned Michael tweets a couple of times - via @mj88live. On Sunday evening I was so glad he does, because his reaction to the 100m breastroke race is an object lesson on how to take defeat in the right way.

This is what he had to say (in 4 tweets):

Hard one to swallow tonight, just don't have the speed on the front end. Sometimes have to hold your hands up & say wasn't quite good enough. Congrats @dsliwinski90 great swim & deserved after all injury problems in last few years. Smashing swim by Benson too, just a young lad & stepped up to the plate tonight. Need to get over this and come out swinging on the 200m on Tuesday! All the messages have been amazing.. really appreciate it, keep em coming :) thanks again.

And here's a mere fraction of the response he's had:

From the winner Daniel Sliwinski:

Thanks @mj88live great sportsman and I'm behind you all the way in 200 big man! #tearitup #greatsportsman #goodfriend

From swimming coach Ian Wright:

Well done @mj88live on your swim tonight. I know you were gutted but your interview was immense sportsmanship and you will blaze the 200.

From fellow swimmer Andrew Mayor:

@mj88live what a true sporting legend, your tweets tonight have been humbling, and inspiring, believe in you for the 200!#innerstrength

From sports enthusiast Elaine Vaughan:

@mj88live credit to your sport & family with your attitude. Good luck for the rest of the week!

From Rebecca Adlington, fresh from her awesome swim in the 400m freestyle final:

@mj88live well done tonight, you have the best attitude. I can't wait to see you in the 200. You're amazing and we all know it :-)

And finally from his sister:

Don't get many guys like @mj88live !! Such an inspiration and role model. So proud to say he's my brother!!!!

So come on everyone, let's all cheer him on for the 200! The heats and semi finals are today and the final tomorrow. I'll make sure any comments you leave below are passed onto Michael.

Update: Since yesterday's post I've also found out the twitter hashtag #champschat is being used by the championship organisers to flash twitter support messages around the Aquatic Centre during the competition. I'll be tweeting Michael with this to see if we can get a big cheer for him from Smiths News onto the message board :)

Thoughtful Paws Sales Start for 2012

[caption id="attachment_2173" align="alignleft" width="640" caption="Jaqueline Bunnett sets out her stall..."]Jacqueline Bunnett sets out her stall...[/caption]

Following January's post introducing Wakefield House's Jacqueline Bunnett and her charity handiwork, she has already started her 2012 fundraising activities for Torbay Animals in Distress via her Thoughtful Paws Hand Made Cards and Gifts/Babysitting Service.

She set up her stall for a couple of hours or so at the Toothill Charity Tabletop Charity Sale at the end of February, attended by around 75 people, including Brett from IT. Jacqueline said of her efforts:

Although not a large amount of money was raised a lot of enquires were made regarding my babysitting service and commission pieces.  I was also invited to another event in 2 week’s time so I am now back making a few more cards, Dolls Pram/Cot sets. Mothers Day and Easter Cards were best sellers on the day.

Donations were also placed in the pictured collection tin, which will be opened by the charity later. NB Jacqueline has more Mother's Day and Easter cards for sale if you're interested.

Don't forget Jacqueline is is appealing for donations of cotton and polycotton fabrics for her patchwork products if you have some to spare.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Olympic Trials: Michael's Progress

[caption id="attachment_2163" align="alignleft" width="197" caption="Getting ready..."]Michael Jamieson Getting Ready to Compete[/caption]

The Olympic Trials are well under way and the brand new Aquatics Centre at the Olympic Park is proving to be a popular venue with GB swimmers.

On Saturday the 100m breastroke semi-finals saw Michael qualifying fastest to take the coveted Lane 4 spot and gain a psychological edge over his rivals. At the turn he was just 2 hundredths of a second (a mere fingertip!) ahead of his friend Kristopher Gilchrist, but then finished strongly and well ahead in a time of  1 minute and 66 hundredths of a second (1.00.66).

With just over a second separating the eight fastest swimmers, there was all to play for in Sunday's final...

After the race Michael tweeted:

Needed that to settle the nerves! Game on tomorrow! Atmosphere was awesome, thanks to everyone coming to watch!! :) #champschat

In yesterday's final, British record holder Daniel Sliwinski showed he was the swimmer most eager to get the race over and done with, storming over the first 50m in 27.78 seconds. His commanding lead proved to be unassailable and Daniel easily made the first qualification spot for the Olympics. But who was to join him in second?

Michael's turn at the 50m mark showed him down in 7th place in a time of 28.79 seconds. But he dug deep over the second length, clawing back the lead from his other rivals. 7th, 6th, 5th, 4th... come on Michael!!!! The race finished in a blur but had Michael done enough?

The scoreboard said it all. Michael had indeed made the qualification time of 1.00.50 required for the second Team GB spot. He'd swum a Personal Best time, BUT 17 year-old Craig Benson swam the race of his life to finish just ahead at the touch in a time of 1.00.47.

Michael looked very disappointed at the medal ceremony and I hope he can recover from this moment and take forward the positives from his race. 200m breastroke is Michael's better event, so last night was an excellent platform to build on ready for Tuesday's and Wednesday's 200m races.

I've tweeted the following message to Michael on behalf of Smiths News:

...take the positives from today ready for your next race. Me and all of #smithsnews are still cheering for you!!!

Now let's all get behind Michael and cheer him onto his next race.

Friday, 2 March 2012

On the Eve of the Olympic Trials

On the eve of the Olympic Trials this weekend, Michael Jamieson updates us on what's been happening since he got back from Australia... 

Since the last blog from our camp on the Gold Coast, we have been resting and preparing for next week’s competition. After three weeks of reduced volume and intensity, it feels great to get up the stairs at home without gasping for air or grimacing from the burning sensation in my legs!

Every tapering phase is different from the last and although I mentioned in the last blog about the importance of staying calm and putting faith in the training that has been done, it’s easier said than done. The body adapts and repairs through taper at different rates and the feeling in the water can change on a daily basis. Logic would suggest that you can swim faster and more consistently when you rest, but unfortunately it’s not as simple as that, it takes time, and at the moment, I’m waiting for my ‘taper blues’ to subside.

I was inspired last week by Sir Chris Hoy’s performances at the Cycling World Cup event in London. It seemed that Sir Chris was sending a message to his competitors ahead of the Olympic Games this summer, he seemed determined to make his mark on the velodrome in front of a very noisy home crowd. What a great spectacle of sport and fantastic to see Great Britain performing so well. I briefly let myself drift past the Trials next week and thought about walking out at the Games and hearing the roar of the crowd before my race. At the moment, that’s still a long way off but I’m desperate to be a part of that atmosphere.

It’s been a long road to get to this stage and the nerves are definitely playing a role already but from now I need to remind myself to enjoy the event next week and focus on my own performance. I have swum at so many competitions over the years and this is just another one.

The psychologist I’ve been working with this year asked me recently, “when are you going to stop training to prepare and just say you’re ready now”. That was a bit of a light bulb moment for me and I’ll be repeating it in my head over and over again in the next week.

My first event is on Saturday 3rd March – the 100m Breaststroke. The event will be shown live on BBC via the Red Button so tune in!

Thank you for all the well wishes and I hope the next blog is reflecting on a successful week.

Thanks Michael for a most insightful post.  Now let's see if all our good wishes can push you through the water even faster! I'm looking forward to reporting some very good news in Dispatches next week.