Monday, 28 February 2011


Whilst I'm loving being back in the sea on a regular basis it has been difficult to find the time to both run and swim so this morning I decided to try doing both. Mertz agreed to meet me on the beach so that he could carry my rucksack of wet towels home after the swim and I would then be free to go for a run. All very good in theory but what I hadn't accounted for was the drop in temperatures today and the fact the cotton socks may be great to run in but they don't warm your feet up.

I struggled into my running leggings/tights, not an easy task on the beach in 3 degrees when you are still slightly damp, and put on my trainers ready to go but couldn't feel my feet... running on the spot didn't work either. 15 minutes of jogging up and down as Mertz walked alongside didn't bring the necessary blood to my feet so I think it's going to have to be one or the other whilst the temperatures are this low.

It's still pretty miserable out there, with lots of cloud. I really hope it clears tonight as I'm planning an evening on the green roof with the telescope, the ISS is due to go over again and there were some great sightings of Discovery docking yesterday. I missed that but I'd still like to see its journey.

It's particularly poignant as I associate all space exploration with my Uncle Clive, who died yesterday. He was involved in the Apollo moon landings and once sent me a postcard from Cape Canaveral during the launch of Apollo 12. He was an innovator and inspirational man who will be missed by friends, associates and our family. A glass will be raised, even if it's just water.

Uncle Clive messing about with jet engines, as you do...

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Back in the swim

Now that the mornings are getting lighter it's been possible to start swimming again. In this weather I don't feel that it is prudent to swim alone and so I haven't been going for a morning dip because John and Denis have been going at about 8.45, which is too late for me. This week I managed to persuade them to bring swim time forward. It's been 4 weeks since I last swam and even though the water has now warmed to around 6 degrees, it's still a shock after such a long break. Yesterday was glorious, calm and almost sunny.

This morning was, however, a farce. It had rained all night, the wind was blowing so hard that we had to put stones on our towels to hold them down and the rain got us soaked before we even ventured into the sea, and yet the boys were still on flying form. As we undressed they sang at the tops of their voices, songs I knew existed but had never heard in this context - "I remember you-ooo" and something about the rain. Once in the current was strong, and I wimped out after about 2 minutes as I felt myself being dragged towards the harbour and panicked, but Denis and John tell me that the trick is just to go with it and off they went, floating for a bit, then swimming back. I shall endeavour to have the courage to do that next time.

I was hoping Andy would join us this morning but he didn't show....!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Virgin Money Giving is back

Murphy's law meant that the site was down on the night of our fundraiser, but it's back now and should be more efficient.

Wine Tasting event success

On Wednesday night we held our fundraising event, hosted by Adnams Cellar and Kitchen Store in Southwold and although we have not done a final tally, we know that we raised around £850. Thanks to everyone for the support and especially to Jez at Adnams for their efforts.

The evening was a really pleasurable experience, even though it's hard to go to a wine tasting event when you are not drinking. I've done 51 days without alcohol so far, 49 to go and this was a real test. The raffle prizes were great and Abi, who was on our original team, won the magnum of champagne. Judging by her squeals, she was quite happy. As Jez picked the tickets out of the bucket it seemed strange that only our friends were winning and there was heckling from the crowd, especially my Mother. What I realised was that we were actually surrounded only by our friends, so their winning wasn't really that surprising, however Mother's heckling paid off and she won the second prize of the zinc planter full of spring bulbs.

We are now looking towards a fundraising event at the Co-op, more details later, and Mark's fitness event at Bannatynes. Following our experience working with Jez, we think there are opportunities to put on more wine themed fundraisers too.

Thanks again to Jez and the team.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011


Thank you to all my supporters.

Today I calculated that I've raised just over £1000 on, which I am pleased about but as I have pledged to raise as much as £4000, I need to get on with it as we only have 46 days before we go! WE will continue to raise funds after the event and hope that we will reach our target.

We have our wine tasting event tomorrow, and that should help to raise our total considerably and the Anglia Co-operative have agreed that we can have a fundraising day in Bungay on the 19th of March, so we need to start planning for that too.

I'm hoping that we will have a more efficient service from Virgin as I received this today, but I'm not holding my breath:

Dear Claire 

On Wednesday 23 February and Sunday 27 February we will be making some exciting improvements to the Virgin Money Giving website and adding new tools to help you promote your fundraising. As a result will be unavailable between:

-22:00 Wednesday 23 February and 06:00 Thursday 24 February, and
-09:30 and 19:30 on Sunday 27 February.

The changes include:
-Enabling your supporters to make donations through their Paypal account.
-Making it easy to share your fundraising page using Facebook Connect.
-Adding Twitter tools to help you tweet a link to your fundraising page.
-Enabling your supporters to tweet and update their Facebook status with a link to your fundraising page once they have donated.
-Enhancing our email tools to help you thank people who have donated and follow-up with people who haven't.
We will be completing our final testing over the next few days and updates will be posted to our blogafter these improvements have been made. Help guides will be available on how to use the new features after the update is complete. 

If there are any other features you'd like us to add to Virgin Money Giving in the future please let us know by emailing 

Kind regards.

The Virgin Money Giving Team

Monday, 14 February 2011

Wine Tasting and Pasta Party

Wednesday 23rd February at the Cellar and Kitchen Store in Southwold, thanks to Duncan and Jez, and it promises to be a great night.

There will be three pasta sauces, chosen to compliment the wines chosen for the tasting and Adnams are providing the venue, wine and sauces at no cost to the team. We are so grateful! In addition there will be a Magnum of Champagne as the star prize in the raffle. The Cellar and Kitchen store is a wonderful and inviting venue, where I have spent many hours, not just browsing and buying, but meeting friends and eating cake! The store boasts a great cafe as well as the standard of wine we've come to expect from Adnams.

When I lived at the Crown Hotel  many years ago the store was just behind our flat and I'd often pop down for a chat with Helen, who used to be the manager. We are still friends to this day. Now the store has an amazing building down the road and will be our home for the evening of the 23rd. The tickets have sold well so far and I think we have about 5 left. I need a couple more raffle prizes to add to the list: the aforementioned magnum, a large zinc planter filled with spring flowers, a token for treatment with Anna, a token from Rosie at the Haven, a china egg designed by Thea full of choccies. I'm off a begging this afternoon.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Ice Music Festival

The BBC has been to visit this amazing festival, which is on my bucket list, and still is having listened to a report on the iPlayer:
"Every year on a frozen fjord in Norway, musicians gather under the full moon, and a canopy of Northern Lights, to perform ice music. Over a weekend, instruments are carved from blocks of ice, and music played in an arena of carved ice blocks to a well wrapped audience, who arrive on cross country skis. Sometimes standing in flurries of snow, sometimes in the light of flame torches, under the northern lights, they listen spellbound (and a bit chilly) to the magical sounds produced by instruments with a short life span - each one as unique and short-lived as a sandcastle."

As with the concept of the ice hotel, this festival takes from nature, makes music and returns to nature as the instruments melt.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Animal Aiders

Yesterday I attended a canine first aid course, set up by Animal Aiders, who run courses covering emergency aid for different kinds of animals. My very 'capable with canines' friend Naomi felt it would be good for us both. She rescues Bull Terriers  and has always got between 3 - 6 dogs at home. I learned a great deal and certainly came away feeling much more confident, especially about anatomy and wound dressings. We had cuddly toy dogs to practice bandaging on, well I say dogs, those of us who got there in time did, others had to make do with cows.

Our patient was not well, he had a number of imaginary injuries and we had to bandage his paw, ear and tail, which is the hardest of all if you have skinny tailed lurchers, but as I'll be working with huskies we picked a very well behaved, but rather tatty Collie. We had been shown how you can use their hair to keep the bandage on by teasing bits out and laying them over the bandage, one student misunderstood when the Veterinary Nurse told us to pull the hair out from under the bandage...

He doesn't look very happy, but he didn't complain.

This is Sophie, who runs the courses

In other news:
We heard from Gaynor that the sled-dog World Championships in Norway in the 400km and 600km distances have just been won by two women. There is more information here: As Gaynor says "I can't think of any other sport in the world where women compete equally alongside men and come out on top!!"

Anna clearly felt inspired and harnessed up the local Lurcher team for a burn across the common.

Friday, 4 February 2011

The lovely people at Radio Suffolk

Another lovely warm reception for verycoldclaire, this time from Lesley Dolphin and Darren Rozier at Radio Suffolk. It was great to be able to sit and chat to Lesley, who really does understand why we are doing what we are doing. In January she climbed Kilimanjaro from the Tanzanian side to raise funds for EACH, her story can be found here: Lesley's story

She kindly gave out information on how to sponsor us as well as this blog address, so here is a link to our Virgin Money Giving site:

Thank you to Roman Hill Primary School

I've just returned from talking to the 300 or so children at Roman Hill Primary School who were very, very polite and well behaved. They sat quietly whilst we tried to get the projector to work (to no avail) and were very patient, considering that we ended up viewing all the pictures on my iMac screen. The children all asked great questions,  mainly about the dogs and the temperatures and some of them told me afterwards that they had watched the Human Planet episode on the Arctic, which had interested them.

One child asked which was my favourite dog and I know I'm not supposed to have favourites but I found myself saying 'Rune' straight away. I told them about his habit of hugging you first thing in the morning and explained that this was why I liked him best... everyone needs a hug at -40 degrees!

I have promised them that I will take a photo of Andy, who works at the school, in his swimming trunks in the Arctic and Mark has just sent me a picture of a beach ball which he is planning on talking with us. We thought that an Arctic calendar, along the lines of the ones that firemen do as fundraisers, might go down well. The boys had better remember to do a Gavin Henson and take their fake tan with them...

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Costing the Earth

A great edition today on Radio 4: Into the Arctic on the iPlayer

In 2010 the Canadian Arctic experienced its warmest year on record. Suddenly the area's resources - oil, gas, iron ore, uranium, even diamonds - seem accessible. From Siberia through Greenland to Canada and Alaska energy and mining companies are descending on the north, eager for a slice of the profits they believe to be waiting for them in the gathering slush.
In the first of two programmes Tom Heap is in Arctic Canada to find out more about the new goldrush and to ask if the scramble for resources could reignite the great Cold War rivalries.
The Arctic has held a fascination for Europeans for centuries. Vikings, fishermen and whalers plundered for short summer seasons and in 1576 Sir Martin Frobisher sailed around Baffin Island in search of the North-West passage to the riches of the east, a search that would obsess sailors for the next 350 years.
Today the passage is clearing and shipping lines are examining the possibility of a high speed route between Western Europe and China. The clearing of the ice is also making oil exploration easier and allowing mining companies to access the mineral wealth of the north.
That wealth is also attracting the attention of the national governments that claim a share of the Arctic. It's three years since the explorer, Artur Chilingarov piloted his submarine to the seabed beneath the North Pole, planted a flag and claimed it for Russia. The diplomatic repercussions of that dramatic act are still being felt around the Arctic today.
Does that make economic, diplomatic or even military conflict inevitable or can the Arctic states share out the spoils without further damaging one of the most fragile environments on earth?
Producer: Alasdair Cross.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

A lot can happen in a week

Things seem to be taking a turn in general now the Blue Monday has passed. Even Mark is finally putting on weight!

Our screens are full of programmes, good and bad, about the Arctic and I was especially impressed with Human Planet, which not only made me feel cold, but reminded me how long a single shot can take, although I have never been in a life threatening situation whilst filming, as their crew was. It was really compelling, as was Bruce Parry's series, which continues. One of the upshots of this is that people are certainly more aware of the kind of temperatures and terrain we'll be undertaking. There are some amazing photos on the Human Planet Explorer.

The good news is that Adnams of Southwold, our local brewery and owner of most of the hostelries in the area have offered us their support in a wonderfully practical way, thanks to Andy. They are hosting a fundraising evening at their Cellar and Kitchen Store in Southwold and will be cooking the pasta, kindly donated by Pasta Foods in Great Yarmouth, as well as providing a wine tasting. Duncan Gooch, the manager there has been brilliant and has even donated a bottle of bubbly for the raffle. We are still looking for other prizes but the have a massage voucher from world famous Anna Colman and a Spring flower arrangement. The Event will be held on Wednesday 23rd of February and tickets are £10 each. They are selling well so far and Duncan has said that if we are over subscribed he'd be happpy to do another one.

Mark is setting up an amazing day at Bannatyne's in Lowestoft in March with sponsored spinning, adult ballet and all sorts of other physical challenges. More details nearer the time.

Friday this week is a busy day, in the morning I'm giving a talk about the importance of team work in challenging environments to a Primary School and I'm hoping to recruit some young adventurers, as well as raising the profile of the challenge. In the afternoon I'll be the 'sofa guest' on Lesley Dolphin's show on Radio Suffolk, about which I am rather worried. She has very interesting guests, with far more exciting lives than mine. She seems to be brilliant at the informal chat type of interview though, so I feel assured that there won't be any awkward dead air moments, but I just hope the listeners aren't bored.

I'm also very excited that I have been chosen as a World Book Night giver and will be giving away 48 copies of Northern Lights by Philip Pullman on March 5th. I'm hoping to be able to give them to families of children and young adults involved with the East Anglian Children's Hospices and we are trying to work out the logistics, with help from Danielle and Simon at Quidenham.

Hopefully all this will help to raise the necessary sponsorship for us to continue towards our target of £3800 by the end of February and our total of £20,000 by June 2011