Over the last 4 years or so I have spent a lot of my spare time fundraising for two charities that are very close to my heart..
First up, I have spent hours stood in the doorways of shops with a collection tin, an experience that can be both rewarding and frustrating! People were often rude and treated you as though you are an inconvenience. I have done bag packing days in superstores – a surprisingly high pressure task, remembering to put eggs and bread at the top of the bag… The checkout assistant would often stitch you up by firing the items through the till as fast as possible.
But, often you would be approached by people who would leave you holding back the tears, listening to their stories about why the charity you are representing is so important to them. And it is those moments that make it all worthwhile.
What was it that made me start fundraising? It was the realisation of how quickly someone’s life can be swept away from them! Experiencing something like that changes you, and is a stark reminder of how precious life is. There is no greater motivation to get off your arse and do something than seeing a friend or loved one suffer!
It is these memories that helped me reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. When you HATE camping as much as i do, it takes something pretty special to make you spend 5 nights freezing your **** off in what can only be described as one of the most useless inventions known to man – THE TENT! They call it waterproof…utter ****! And when they say two man tent, what they actually mean is – yes you can ‘fit’ two people in it, but you can’t sleep, because by the time you have added sleeping bags and all the other **** you have to take camping, you can’t stretch your legs out. So ultimately you end up curled up in a ball, face down in your sleeping bag, freezing you **** off, with the worst back pain known to man!
Then there is the ‘argh, I need a pee, but can’t get the zip open’ dance. The whole situation is made worse by the fact that you have had no sleep for the last 3 hours, because you’ve been trying to convince yourself that you don’t need to pee, as you know it means getting out of your sleeping bag, and exposing yourself to temperates that resemble those of your freezer at home! That and the fact it will take forever to put your wet clothes on again (and they are guaranteed to be wet, because you will have inevitably touched the sides of the tent, which will have made it leak!), only to have to take them off again to get back into your now wet sleeping bag.
But, even during those moments – I didn’t mind. Don’t get me wrong. I moaned like a *****! Well, every morning I exited my tent with the announcement of “I HATE CAMPING!” Indeed, I even wrote those very words in the Kilimanjaro visitors book! But, I tell you what, the feeling you get standing on the roof of Africa watching the sun rise…. Knowing you’ve raised over £4800 for the charity that has helped friends and relatives of yours. Indescribable!
Shortly after getting over the whole camping thing. I found myself out in a field running! What was that all about?? I hate running. It is one of the most boring exercises known to man. What has happened to me? Why am I in a field running? Well, it was all in preparation for some insane idea of fun. A 12km 20 obstacle Dirty Dozen mud run!
This experience was different for me, as i didn’t have my usual motivation. This time my motivation was to raise money for a different charity, and one that supports fellow horticulturists – indeed with my lack of diplomacy and actually not being very good at my job, it is a charity I may need the services of one day!
So, before I knew it, I was standing at the starting line of the Dirty Dozen (already exhausted after the ‘light warm up’ exercises they make you do before you start). I was running this race with a group of people who were experiencing the same “what am I doing here?” emotions, all but one person that is. I shall call him the instigator!
He seemed quite confident about the whole thing. So I decided to run with him for a bit – When I say run, what I actually mean is jog between the insane obstacles, where you either drown ‘a little bit’ or are made to crawl. Yes, you HAVE to crawl, because if you stand up, you become intwined and impailed by the barbed wire hanging inches above your head. It was only at the end of the race that I was informed that you are supposed to roll through that bit….Cheers then! Anyway, along the way I struck up friendships with my fellow runners, and little did I know what this would lead to??
The Dirty Dozen race once again took me out of my comfort zone, and pushed me to do things i wouldn’t usually do – I was running for crying out loud!!
But, knowing that our team had raised almost £5000 made it all worthwhile.
I still hate running though!
“Do you want to be on loose women?” Thats what the man on the phone said! Now thats not something you hear everyday. It was what he said next that actually caught me attention “you will of course be naked” He said what now??
I guess I should explain. Little did I know I had run the Dirty Dozen race with people who had a hidden agenda. You understand now, why I referred to him as the instigator. You see, somehow, taking part in the Dirty Dozen race led to the Grubby Gardeners taking part in a naked photo shoot at the Kensington Roof Gardens!
It turned out that a few really quite pale gardeners taking their kit off for World Naked Gardening Day would catch the attention of the media! God knows why?? Anyway, there we were, sat in the green in an ITV studio, facing the prospect of going out NAKED in front of a LIVE audience, on LIVE TV, surrounded by really rather pretty ladies.
There was only one thing for it – be funny, or at least try to be. Again, a collection of rather pale gardeners being naked on TV seemed to go down quite well. So before I knew it, I was up on the roof gardens again, NAKED, having a water fight with a group of other NAKED men!
This was all for a charity calendar, that would be sold to raise funds for the horticultural charity. Which again, surprisingly went down fairly well.
And it all comes full circle. You see, next weekend I am taking on the Dirty Dozen race… again! Then, next month, I’m going to jump out of a plane wearing a green morph suit (and a parachute), and in June I’m hosting a Summer Ball. In 2016, I am climbing the three highest peaks in North Africa too!
Why? Because its life changing, and changing lives!
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