The Big Half...

 
 

SO working with people on their Next Steps always makes me think of endeavouring to be a good example. Can I also be bold? Put my best foot forward as an example? What about literally? What about a half-marathon? (Am I a runner, no - my friend Frances and I do try to run a bit in Greenwich Park but we've never managed to quite finish the Couch to 5K programme – I broke a bone in my foot on holiday last Summer and she recently fractured her ankle in Cuba). But then I read about The Big Half.  A half-marathon from the team behind The London Marathon, starting in Tower Bridge and ending at Greenwich's Cutty Sark. So, local. And I think again about being a good example. About stepping out of my comfort zone. And I call Frances. 

The Big Half says it will be much more than a mass participation running event with the world's best athletes and thousands of mass runners. It will be 'a street party of epic proportions and it aims to inspire participation from a variety of socio-economic groups, faiths, ages, ethnicities and to become the first sports event whose participants truly represent London's diverse population'. That now includes Frances (currently-with-lower-leg-in-plaster-cast) and me (sports-kit-rather-tight-due-to-cake-addiction). It's our Next Step. I'll keep you posted.

 

 

London Marathon 2017

I'm focusing on people's Next Steps for the rest of the year and so visiting the start of the Marathon seemed the perfect topic to restart my blog with. We stood at the Red Start and it took 28 minutes for all the runners who'd been lining up in Greenwich Park to pass us - and what a fantastic, amazing bunch of people we saw - congratulations everyone!  

We've seen the wonderful KAROKE MAN many times, Craig was a new spot for us this year. 

We've seen the wonderful KAROKE MAN many times, Craig was a new spot for us this year. 

I loved this moment when a runner spotted his cheering friend in the crowd and stopped for a supportive hug. I snapped it and, after everyone passed, sent it to the friend who immediately sent it to the runner's family. 

I loved this moment when a runner spotted his cheering friend in the crowd and stopped for a supportive hug. I snapped it and, after everyone passed, sent it to the friend who immediately sent it to the runner's family. 

We've watched at the Red Start for 14 years now and so far, there's always been a Scooby Doo - thanks Runner 51592!

We've watched at the Red Start for 14 years now and so far, there's always been a Scooby Doo - thanks Runner 51592!

'The Normal British Christmas?' 30th Dec

I don’t remember any of my presents, just lots and lots of happiness.
— Peter B

This was a quote from The Normal British Christmas? and certainly was what I wished for you and yours this year. I hope it was a wonderful time and that you are enjoying these days at the end of the year. 

While the decorations are still up I wanted to share the story behind the book and the fun I had researching it. The Normal British Christmas? is about how those of us that celebrate Christmas all do the same things very differently (very differently in some cases) and how we don't expect that. If you've ever shared someone else's Christmas you'll know how easy it is to get everything very 'wrong'. I know we would expect Christmas to be different if we were celebrating with a family from another country and I fully appreciate that someone from another culture has different festivals from mine that they celebrate, but I thought those of us that celebrate Christmas, well we're all doing the same stuff - shopping, decorations, Christmas trees, stockings, presents, turkey, crackers, eating more food than humanly seems possible and playing Monopoly. Ok, I did appreciate that maybe not everyone wants to play Monopoly and watch The Sound of Music on Boxing day but basically my understanding was that, for the most of us, all of you that did Christmas did it like me. This thinking tripped me up when I spent my first Christmas with my now-but-not-then husband and his family. (You can read the intro in the 'look inside' feature on Amazon here if you want to know what happened.) 

The research I've done over the last few years has been tremendous fun and I feel privileged to have had a peek at what happens in everyone's homes at Christmas - a time that I realised that, because we're all spending time with our own friends and family, we don't see what anyone else does. Hence so easy to assume we all do the the same. I found my research conversations often started the same way as people told me, 'We have the traditional Christmas', or 'Just the usual stuff' or (my favourite) 'All normal for us'. Then I'd say, so tell me about your day and they'd start:

Of course everyone starts the day with Baileys, even the dog - oh yes, he likes a bit of alcohol at Christmas
— Hollie Rose C
At my husband’s they use black woolly tights for the stockings so you wake up with these two lumpy legs sitting on the end of your bed
— Carolyn W
Our presents are set out on chairs, one for each of us, nothing is wrapped
— Joe O
My parents told us the stockings would disappear if we touched them before it got light.
— Penny H

None of the above seemed normal to me, all very much Not Normal in fact! (Although I half wished I'd thought of the disappearing stockings idea when my son was small and would wake up at 5am wanting to open his).

Along with the funny and rather outrageous (although not to them) family traditions, people shared lots of the very poignant and quite wonderful things they do as well (which made me both laugh and cry). I ended up with 2.5k quotes  which I divided into 21 festive sections and then edited down to the final 573 quotes. My original idea had been to write the book myself, about what people did - but when it came down to it I realised that using everyone's quotes meant not only the Christmas traditions of the British public would be shared but their voices too and I found this enhanced the collection. It has become a book about what people do and how they express it. 

For 2015 it is an Ebook and we are planning a printed version for 2016. I knew from the research that people liked talking about their Christmas - even the shyest people become voluble and just smile and smile while they recount their Christmas times - but I wasn't sure whether people would like reading about everyone else's Christmas. Early signs are good, it seems like they do. I hope you do. 

The Normal British Christmas? is available to buy or to give as a gift on Amazon here and on iBooks too. And if you would like to tell me of any of your family traditions or how you do your Christmas please do, I'd love to hear them. There's space in the 2016 edition for a few more entries... 

Catch up...

Have been to Poland, released two new Baizdon guides and finally written my Christmas book. Lots to catch up on for blogs - will add some news and pictures over the Christmas break I think! 

Lord Foster adds 'Well Done' for Gherkin Challenge 2015

Lord Foster has signed prints of The Gherkin Guide to be awarded to the highest fund raising individual and team in the 2015 Gherkin Challenge for the NSPCC. This year he has added a personal 'Well Done' to his signature. We, the event steering committee, are delighted and very grateful for his support and for the communications team Foster + Partners who ensured my request reached Lord Foster. We all hope the goal of receiving one of the signed, framed one-metre prints inspires participants to reach great heights, both on the day and in their fundraising!

Maybe you'll win this year? http://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-you-can-do/events/the-gherkin-challenge/

Presenting last year's Individual Top Fundraiser, Barinder Randhawa, with her Norman Foster signed print. Gherkin Challenge 2014. Will it be you this year?

Presenting last year's Individual Top Fundraiser, Barinder Randhawa, with her Norman Foster signed print. Gherkin Challenge 2014. Will it be you this year?