It’s time to jump onto the ‘band-wagon’ and do what everyone else is doing this year. I am not going to do a ‘Review of 2018’ nor am I going to do a ‘Wish List for 2019’. Instead I am going to use the A to Z to look at me and what makes me tick. What annoys me and what makes me happy. Please stick with it to the end as it ‘paints’ a complete picture of who I am.
A – It’s an interesting and little known fact that my three favourite interests/pastimes all begin with the letter A. They are Adventuring, Amateur Radio and Archaeology. I have placed them in that order as that’s the order in which I took them up. Adventuring from as young as can remember, Amateur Radio since I was 10 years old, and in later years my interest in history and anthropology lead to me getting a BA and MA in Archaeology from Leicester University.
B – I started writing websites within a couple of years of the creation of the World-Wide Web back in August 1991. But nothing compares to the fun and freedom I feel from Blogging. Websites tend to be structured but blogging is freeform, it allows me to do as much or as little as I desire. It gives me the freedom to interact with others on a larger scale.
C – I have always had a love for Camping. My first ever night under canvas was at the age of 9 with the Wolf Cubs. That night we experienced a major thunderstorm and torrential rain, but my lasting memory is waking up in the morning to the smell of wood smoke and bacon cooking on the open fire.
D – Throughout my Scouting years I always swore my Duty to The Queen. This continued during my 30 year career as an Officer in the Royal Air Force. To me Duty means many things and it has shaped my life and made me the person that I am.
E – I am Enthusiastic about getting the Over 60’s outdoors and raising the profile of the over 60’s with major outdoor companies. The over 60’s account for 25% of the UK population and have a disposable income of over £66 billion to spend on leisure activities. There is more enthusiasm amongst the over 60’s than there is in 20 & 30’s to get outside.
F – I have very few real Friends. I do not have a bestie and never have had. I have spent a large part of my life moving from place to place so have never got close to one individual, partners and wives excluded. Whilst in the RAF I lost over 20 colleagues in air crashes, so again I never allowed myself to get close to anyone. I would trust my life to my RAF colleagues but would never tell them my inner most feelings.
G – The Ordnance Survey award-winning GetOutside project is one of the greatest outdoor programmes ever created. With the sole aim of getting more people outside, it is backed by a massive organisation with huge resources and global respect. I now enter my third year as a Champion with the team and can honestly say this association has been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences of my life.
H – Hiking has always been my primary outdoor interest. From the earliest age my parents always took me and my siblings out walking, it was a way of life. Over the years I tried to walk the fastest, furthest and most dangerous, but now I just walk for the sheer pleasure of walking , enjoying my solitude (I prefer solo walking) and the beauty of the countryside.
I – The Iron Age to me is the most fascinating time of our pre-history. It has left its legacy in the form of its huge hilltop enclosures or ‘forts’. It is the most misinterpreted period of our pre-history, assumed to be one of continual violence and warfare. It was, in fact, the complete opposite. It was a period of great organisation and advanced thought processes. The Iron Age Promontory Forts of North Eastern Scotland formed the basis for my MA Dissertation
J – One of my most enjoyable expeditions was into the Empty Quarter of Oman culminating in a climb to the real summit of the highest mountain in Oman – Jebel Shams. I say the real summit because the vast majority of the people can only reach the slightly lower twin summit. The highest point is a military radar base and so very much off-limits to all except the military. As mine was an RAF sponsored expedition we were given access to the military base and hence the real summit.
K – Kompas (Compass in Afrikaans). I wanted to mention my two favourite devices, the map and compass but had already used the letters M & C! In a modern world where we all have access to GPS and the OS Map App it is still essential to be able to read a map and use a compass. At the end of the day the batteries will never fail in your map and compass!
L – Leadership – There is no such thing as a natural-born leader, but there is natural-born leader potential and I think I was blessed with that. Throughout my life I have always found myself in a position of leadership, whether it was as a Patrol Leader in the Scouts, an Officer in the RAF, or a leader of Industry in recent years. My skill base and training have always made it easier to take charge and lead out of difficulty – a handy asset when on the hills, and things go wrong.
M – I joined the Military in 1979 when I signed up to a career in the Royal Air Force. I enjoyed 30 years flying the Nimrod surveillance Aircraft, serving on 42, 120, 201 and 206 Squadrons. I taught air communications at No 6 Flying Training School and did a three-year stint as Deputy OC Combat Operations Squadron, RAF Kinloss.
N – New Home – the start of 2018 was slow and chaotic. I had gone down with a bad strain of flu on Christmas Eve (despite the flu jab!) and this took months to clear. In fact I am still wheezing a bit 12 months later. But more importantly we moved house in March, just as the beast from the east revisited. So to say that the first 6 months of the years were GetOutsideLess was an understatement. However, my new home is in the heart of the Southdowns National Park, a better location you couldn’t wish for.
O – The Outdoors is always were I have wanted to be. Not necessarily walking but being out in the fresh air. I find the connection to nature is vital to the body’s ability to recover both physically and mentally. I prefer to solo walk, where I can be at one with my own thoughts, without distraction other than from the sights and sounds that encompass me. The Outdoors is the best cure-all ever.
P – I was introduced to Caving and Potholing on a school trip to the Mendip Hills when I was 13 years old. I became hooked and could be found underground most weekends feeding my hunger for adventure. I caved into my late 20’s when an accident and a pending young family put an end to my caving and potholing.
Q – From the day I joined the Scout Association, my journey had but one aim and that was to gain the Queen’s Scout Award. This is the highest award in the Scouts and equates to the Gold DofE Award. It still ranks in my top five life achievements.
R – From the age of 10 I have always had a fascination with Radio. I joined the school Amateur Radio club and learnt the art of radio communication. I gained my Government Transmitting Licence at the age of 14 with the callsign G8FHU later upgraded to G4CFS. My interest in radio laid down the foundations for my entire career, though the RAF and now to my current job.
S – In my humble opinion, Scouting is the greatest youth organisation in the world. The brain child of Baron Robert Baden-Powell it was created in 1907 on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour. I joined as a young 8 year old and finally hung up my ‘woggle’ when I was 50. It shaped my life and gave me the skills I needed to survive in the world. I had the great honour to meet Lady Olave Baden-Powell and their daughter Betty Clay.
T – I believe that Trust is the most important attribute and individual can have. My life and career has been built on trust. When you are flying an aircraft you must have absolute trust in all those around you. When you are climbing or potholing you lay your trust in the person at the other end of the rope. When I lead a walk everyone places their trust in me to look after them and get them back safely. One small word with a very big meaning.
U – Throughout my entire life I have worn one Uniform or another. Initially in the Scout Association then in the RAF. I have always been proud to wear a uniform, it identifies me with like-minded people and instills self-discipline which is essential to succeed in life. Even now in my 60’s I wear the uniform of the Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champions.
V – Visualization – I am very lucky to have seen sights around the world that many will never have the opportunity to see. I have been to places others can only dream of, I have been fortunate in my life to have had these opportunities. However, the one thing that gave me this opportunity also showed me sights that no man should ever see. The effects and aftermath of warfare, the sadness and suffering of the third world populations, the suppression of people based on their colour or creed.
W – I have recently written a series of blogs called Walks Through History. There is hardly a walk in Great Britain where you will not be close to some pre-historic monument or earthwork. The prehistory of our little island is vast and diverse, starting with the earliest hunter gathers from the Paleolithic and Mesolithic. Through the age of the first settlers, the Neolithic, the Bronze Age and Iron Age to the Roman Invasion in 43AD.
X – Some would call me a traditionalist, some an ‘old fart’ because I do not like the term Xtreme Sports. The term is used to describe recreational activities perceived as involving a high degree of risk. Activities include surfing, abseiling, climbing, potholing etc. These aren’t extreme they are just fun – Don’t over-dramatize, just do it.
Y – Yabbering – I have often been told I talk a lot, which I regard as a great compliment. In my early teens I developed a severe stammer which meant I couldn’t string a sentence together. As a result I became very insular and introverted. As I grow older I learnt to control the stammer and now it is hardly noticeable. The result is that the inner extrovert has come out and I get the greatest of pleasure talking to groups about anything from history, to walking.
Z – Zaftig having a full; rounded figure. This a polite way of saying I carry a few more Kg than I would wish. In fact due to the reduced activity levels this year I have unfortunately added a few more Kg to that few Kg. Last year I climbed a total of 85,500 feet and walked about 1500 miles. This year the climbing has been very small and the distance was only 1100 miles. Hopefully, 2019 will see a return to longer distances and more elevation.
Well that concludes my A to Z. It was an interesting journey for me because there is so much that I have done in my life. I could have done with more than 26 letters in the alphabet, hence the reason for some strange words such as Yabber for Talk. I hope you have enjoyed reading this and have been encouraged to create your own A to Z – it’s a good way to learn about yourself.