One of the reasons I was first attracted to the Tropic range of skincare products was the fact that it was inspired by the tropical coast of North Queensland in Australia. It’s a place that holds many happy memories for me.
In 2018, we were lucky enough to visit the area, to see the Great Barrier Reef. It was a true bucket-list ‘tick’ on an amazing holiday. The only reason I wouldn’t call it a ‘holiday of a lifetime’ is that I’d love to do it all again! We’d just spent Christmas in Melbourne and New Year’s Eve in Sydney, watching the world-famous firework display from a paddle steamer in the Harbour.
We’d been advised by Australian friends that the place to explore the Barrier Reef from is a town called Port Douglas, about an hour’s drive North of Cairns. We picked up our hire car and made our way up the coast road. The stunning scenery, the exotic vegetation and the perfect beaches you see whenever you read Tropic’s literature, or the Tropic website, all reminded me of that wonderful time in our lives.
We had an amazing time at Port Douglas, including a truly magical day snorkelling on the Barrier Reef. If you ever get the chance to go, I would advise that you say yes in a heartbeat. You’ll fall in love with its unique beauty and will never forget that you were part of this tropical paradise.
Maybe, like me, you’ll feel more connected with a range of skincare products that came from the area and that respect the natural world that places like the Barrier Reef require us to, more and more. Maybe the sight of a few palm trees will take you back to being in paradise and maybe you’ll feel a permanently connection with the place, even when you’re taking care of your skin.
We’re back from the Lake District after another successful Great North Swim weekend. The caravan’s been emptied, the roofbox has been removed from the car and nearly all of the washing has been done. There’s just one more job to do – to say a massive ‘Thank you’ to all of you who gave your support.
This year was the fifth year we’ve attended the ‘Great North Swim’, held around the north-east shores of Windermere. With the exception of the 2017 event, we had some of the worst weather we’ve experienced there. Lower temperatures, higher winds and heavier rain all made for a more challenging weekend – and that’s before anyone got in the lake! With higher waves for the swimmers to contend with, the organisers took the decision to reduce the length of each event, to allow them to be set out over a more sheltered part of the course.
As Charlie’s only fourteen, even though he began the weekend a veteran of two previous GNS events and countless training swims over the distance, he was still only able to enter the half-mile distance. The organisers insist on a lower age limit of 16 for the mile swim so the same issue will occur next year.
Unlike the last two years, where he was ably escorted around the course by Warren and Aaron, this year they’d decided to swim at their own pace. That made things slightly trickier for spectators and photographers because in a field of mostly front-crawlers, Aaron’s breaststroke always made it easier to spot the three of them. As they were cheered into the water and began to swim away from the watching crowds, it was clear that they were swimming apart and both Charlie and Warren would be harder to spot.
The high winds had led to the course being reduced to 500 metres, approximately two-thirds of the scheduled distance. With Charlie hoping for a sub-twenty-minute half-mile, maths suggested that we could expect him home in thirteen minutes. Interpolating further, that would suggest, he’d reach the turn on the course at around six and a half minutes.
I trained my binoculars on the turn at around the six minute mark and looked for any of the three of them. Separated, as they were, there would at least be three times the chance that I’d see one of them, I thought. And yet after a whole minute had gone by, none of the swimmers I saw looked familiar.
Wondering what the problem was, I began to track my sights backwards along the ‘back straight’ and drew a similar blank. The only other thing to do was pan along the ‘home straight’ to the finish line. Surely they couldn’t be that far into the course with only seven minutes gone. And then I saw the unmistakeable bobbing action of a breaststroker.
It was definitely Aaron. Surely, Charlie would only be a short distance from him – but again, logic seemed to be a stranger to the unfolding events. I scanned the waters behind Aaron, to the left and then to the right. We were coming up to eight minutes on the timer and neither Charlie nor Warren were anywhere to be seen.
And then I looked in the waters ahead of Aaron. There had been a few training swims where he and Warren had said they’d struggled to keep up with Charlie but I’d expected that they were mostly saying it as motivation. Surely, today, with all the adrenaline pumping, that wouldn’t still be the case – would it?
It was. Far further ahead of Aaron than I’d dared imagine, I finally spotted his laconic crawling style. Not only was he so far ahead, he was actually nearing the finish. I trained the camera on him and began to click away, making up for lost time.
In no time at all, he reached the ramp that leads to the finish line, got to his feet and virtually sprinted to the line. His official time was ten minutes eighteen seconds but his time in the water was nine minutes forty. A combination of the shorter distance, the watching crowds and perhaps a little competitive spirit enabled more of a sprint but even so, it was an impressive time.
Minutes later, Aaron and then Warren crossed the line and all three of them gathered in the finishers’ zone for the obligatory photographs. Once again, they’d all completed the course!
As a result of their efforts, I’m delighted to confirm that Charlie and Warren have managed to beat their £500 sponsorship target for Amelia’s specialist support. As I type, the appeal has reached £665, a third more than they’d hoped to raise. Of course, don’t let that stop you adding to that figure, if you wish to. Every pound raised is as important as every other. Once again, thanks to all of you who made that happen!
Two years on from my last blogpost about her, she’s now nine years old and is still severely autistic, non-verbal and has learning difficulties. She’s still as friendly, with a smile and a hug to melt the hardest heart and, when she wants to be, she’s as mischievous and keen to get her own way as much as any other nine year-old.
As you can imagine, she has quite complex educational needs and thankfully, she is able to have them met by her amazing school, Astley Park in Chorley. As you can also imagine, budgets are tight and so much more could be achieved with just a little more funding. For that reason, they established a charity, ‘Friends of Astley Park School’ (FAPS) and over the past few years, so much of the money raised for this charity has directly benefitted Amelia. If you’re familiar with my Facebook offerings, you may be well aware of the various weekends we’ve dedicated to supporting Warren, “Amelia’s Daddy”, in his various physical challenges to raise money for FAPS and for Amelia. Only last month, we cheered him on as he completed two runs around the Asics Windermere Marathon course – each 26.2-mile run, a lap of England’s largest lake, with some huge inclines to run up, as you’d expect in the Lake District. Here he is approaching the finish line – the second time around:
Last year, we also supported Warren and another friend, Aaron, as they entered the Great North Swim (this time in Windermere), obviously for the same cause. While we were there, something unexpected and unbelievably affirming happened. Charlie, then aged 11 asked what the minimum age for the event was. We told him it was 12. Immediately, he vowed to come back next year and swim the half-mile event for Amelia. Charlie has always been a strong swimmer in the pool but this is a tough assignment – many people have panic attacks once they get out into the open water – and we gave him every chance to pull out gracefully before we publicised his endeavours.
Since last summer he’s been preparing for the swim – and we’ve stepped up the training since April this year. Even when we’ve been abroad in that time, there happen to have been lakes nearby and he’s kept up his training.
In that time, he’s tapered up from a couple of hundred metres at a time to around a kilometre – well over the half-mile he’s training for. He’s trained in all weathers, in three different countries and at various times of day. He’s even suffered the blight of open water swimmers, brought on my taking on too much unclean water.
All the while, he’s remained focused on his goal – and on raising as much money as possible. When I set up his Justgiving page, I gave him a target of £500 – with no idea if it was a realistic figure for him to raise. If I’m honest, I just hoped he’d get somewhere near that figure.
With a few days to go until the Windermere swim, I’m delighted to reveal he’s now passed that notional target of £500. There are so many people who have already said some wonderful things about him and pledged their hard-earned money to support a cause that they may only be aware of because of Charlie’s efforts. It really is humbling stuff to see and we’d like to thank everyone who has already donated.
Obviously, those closest to us have already added their support and naturally, they will tend to be more sizeable donations. Please don’t look at the donations made and think we expect any particular level of support – anything you can offer would be massively appreciated. We all know that even £3 barely covers the cost of a cup of coffee but if you are willing to pledge even that amount, that’s better than just leaving the page without adding your support.
Thanks for reading and for any amount you are able to pledge. We all really appreciate it!
Paul, Helen, Charlie, Jacquie, Warren – and, of course, Amelia!