Let’s Play Shops – by Sheila

Those of you who know me well or who have read some of my blogs, will know that there I nothing I like better than a bit of scrumping or scavenging!  I know it isn’t logical, but there is something very satisfying about finding something that can be put to some use.

The best ever such find was nearly forty years ago.  I was doing a bit of digging around our broccoli patch in the garden, when I came across a coin.  Jae, aged four, was playing nearby, so I popped it in her pocket, thinking she could use it next time she was playing at “shops”, a game all little children love.

Sheila & gilrs in the garden where the coin was found
Sheila, Gwen & Jae in the garden where the coin was found

Later that evening when Jae was in bed, our friend Clare came for a meal.  Somehow the conversation came round to the garden and I remembered the coin I had found.  Once I had mentioned it, Clare was keen to see it, so I retrieved it from the washing basket, where it had ended up.

She seemed to know immediately that it was gold and of some value – not something for a little girl to play shops with.  She said I needed to take it to a coin specialist.  So Jae and I set out with it the next day to take it to a coin shop which existed at that time in Canterbury.

The shop identified it as a George II guinea and offered me £168 for it on the spot, which at that time was more than our monthly income. Flabbergasted wasn’t in it: without Clare’s intervention it would probably have been lost as easily as it had been found!  However, the shop said that first the coin had to go to the police, as all gold treasure trove belongs to the Crown.

The police kept it for a while, but subsequently returned it to us.  They told us that under a magnifying glass it was possible to see indentations on each side, suggesting that it had been mounted in a piece of jewellery, and was not therefore likely to be part of a horde of coins. A friend ran a metal detector over the garden, but nothing else of significance was found.  I did take it to London to Spinks the coin specialist, but they were not willing to offer as much as the Canterbury dealer.

The coin (both sides)
The coin (both sides)

So we hot-footed it back to the local shop and the deal was done: we sold it – but not before Stew had taken a photo of it.  The shop was willing to offer such a good price because they had a customer who collected George II guineas, but that particular year was missing from his collection.

It was later that summer that Stewart’s father retired.  His parents had never had a phone in their house: we had to phone a neighbour along the road if we needed to talk to them.  We were really pleased to be in a position to pay for a phone to be put into their house and to undertake to pay future bills from the money we got from the sale of that gold coin.

In later years, people have asked us whether we were sorry not to still have it.  The answer was always “No”!  What comes around, goes around.  We made good use of the money.

And the same will be true of every penny made from the 3G Kili Climb.  Every penny raised will be put to good use either helping the Canterbury homeless get their lives back on track or on Exodus’ charities in Africa and elsewhere.  Whatever size a donation is, whether large or small, it will make a difference to someone else’s life.  And that is pure gold!

Note from Jae: Bizarrely I remember the moment Ma found this coin quite well. She was gardening and I had a yellow plastic sieve that had come in a beach bucket set in my hand. She handed me the coin to go and wash, so I put it in my sieve. I ran it under the kitchen tap, and when I brought it back I said, “It’s not real money”, and that’s when she popped it into my pocket


If you’d like to donate this is the link: VirginMoneyGiving.com/3GKiliClimb
And don’t forget – all our donations are now being matched, so your money is doubled! If you are unable to, or don’t want to donate at the moment, we’d still be really grateful for “likes” on our Facebook page or retweets from our Twitter feed

Marathon v Mountain – a guest post by Elise Wortley

Today’s guest post is from a colleague of Jae’s at Exodus Travels. Elise is one of “The Cornrow Five“! The Exodus team loved Sheila’s “Baby v Mountain” post and, in some ways, this is a homage to that! Over to you Elise…

This past week I have both climbed a mountain and run a marathon. Jae asked me which was harder so I’ve compiled a list of important issues and curious comparisons…

Elise and team on Mt Toubkal
Elise and team on Mt Toubkal
Waving at friends during The London Marathon - just a few days after the Toubkal climb
Waving at friends during The London Marathon – just a few days after the Toubkal climb

I’d heard bad things about marathons. People’s legs so damaged they get stuck in their basement flats for 3 days afterwards, blisters, fatigue, “St Johns Ambulance” was mentioned a lot….so at the start line accompanied by 38,000 others I was pretty nervous to say the least. It took over half an hour to properly get going. The build-up was unbearable.

Compare this to Mt Toubkal in Morocco, a beautiful flat valley with a towering mountain rage ahead of you inviting you in with its tranquil white peaks. You feel at one with nature and don’t care what awaits you higher up; you just casually plod on taking in the scenery without a worry in the world.



Immediately as those EasyJet wheels touched down in Marrakesh, the toilet talk started. I knew from past experience that it would crawl its way in and take over all conversations at some point, but it got in there fast this time. “Better go now than up the mountain” people were muttering…”but I don’t need to go now” I thought, panic rising, not knowing where I would get the next opportunity.  But in all honesty there is nothing to worry about. There are plenty of toilet opportunities up a mountain, you can even fashion yourself a rustic looking toilet seat out of rocks, sit back and enjoy the view. After the deed you can go back to your group, let them all know how it went, and inform them of where the best spot is. You’re a toilet hero!

But not the marathon. Nobody talks about these toilet problems before you agree to undertake this challenge. It’s a silent issue that lingers over every runner. The problem is that while running a marathon you never know when you’ll need to go, it’s usually sometime after the 7/8 mile mark just when you have a good rhythm going. You obviously can’t go anywhere you want (unless you’re Paula Radcliffe) like up a mountain and, like me, you will probably get caught out a while before the next Portaloo stop, so when you arrive at your absolute limit there is a huge queue. You panic and look for other options: a bush, a bin, behind a post box…self-respect goes out the window. Luckily for me a run-down pub full of locals was on hand, so I ditched the queues and popped in there. I didn’t care about the funny looks or comments; I was a smug #toilethero!


  1. LEGS

It was the coming down that did it. 4 hours of continuous downhill, sliding through snow and climbing over rocks. Don’t underestimate the downhill walking! I thought I would need some serious physiotherapy when I got out of bed the next day.  The entire group were hobbling around like something terrible had happened to us. The main issue was stairs – we could go up them, but had huge issues getting down.

It’s now 2 days after I completed the gruelling 26.2 mile marathon course and I feel surprisingly good. I was terrified of what was in store for me this week but apart from the odd blister and tender stomach(?!) muscle I’m raring to go!


  1. MATES

You only have temporary friends during a marathon. Eccentric friends who you haven’t met before who make you laugh with their crazy costumes and inspire you with their wild outlook on life. They use you for your support and kind words…then they run off and leave you. Although there is a great sense of community during the race you realise that you are completely alone. It’s scary.

You don’t often get elderly men in tutus with a boom box karaoke set in hand singing “hit me baby one more time” up a mountain, but you do get a group of top individuals who have got your back. They are with you every step of the way, waiting if you fall behind, and willing to pick you up if you fall. They stay with you right to the bitter end!



Unfortunately we didn’t make the top of the mountain due to extreme blizzards and avalanche risks! So there’s your first mountain problem. If we had a clearer day I’m sure we would have been greeted with astonishing views, but as it stands we couldn’t see an inch in front of us and just wanted to get down. Then there is the altitude issue, which has you gasping for breath every step you take, although I was probably doing exactly the same amount of gasping during the marathon, for very different reasons.

With a marathon you know where the finish line is. You count down every mile the entire way until you see it – covered in balloons just for you, and surrounded by a cheering crowd shouting “GO LISA” which I happily accepted (it’s only a two letter difference after all). Once you cross the line you raise your hands and bow your head with pride, as a lady with a very kind face places the medal over your head.  All we got up the mountain was dried figs.



Whoever had to witness me eat (or should I say ravage) my salmon and cream cheese sandwich, moments after the finish line, I sincerely apologise. It was a hideous display of a loss of self-control which shamefully lasted just seconds. You are hungry by mile 15, you can’t eat because of the cramps, so when you finish you would go to the lengths of robbing a child of their lunch. But having burnt off over 3000 calories the feeling of being able to stuff your face with whatever you want is unbeatable!

Mountain hunger is different, it’s a creeper.  You don’t notice until you sit down, take off your boots, have a cup of local tea and reflect on the day. Suddenly you realise you’ve been walking for 9 hours and you must be starving! You eat with the rest of the group courteously around a beautifully laid table, politely forking the food into your mouth like a normal, sane human being.


So there you have it Jae – the results are neck and neck – both equally as wonderful or terrifying (depends how you look at it) as each other! I’m sure you, Sheila and Oscar will have lots of highs on Kili, and some lows too. You’ll create loads of memories, and have a new experience to compare all others to! Good luck, Elise x

She's a winner! With her London Marathon medal
She’s a winner! Elise with her London Marathon medal

Mishmash – by Sheila

Those of you – poor souls – who have been following the meanderings of my body and mind in the blog during the last few weeks, will know that it is a mishmash of the past, the present and the future.

I think that may be why I like making quilts out of bits and pieces so much: they represent all of that, but are also something real and useful in themselves.

I made a small baby quilt recently very quickly to send off to daughter Gwen in Oz for a new baby, Thomas, born to two of her close friends. In that quilt are bits of fabric from some different people and I have written in the blog about most of them.  So I suppose in a way such a quilt represents the scrambled wanderings of my mind!

Quilt for Thomas
Quilt for Thomas

There is a bit of:

– Gwen’s duvet cover (pink clowns) from about 1980

– Auntie Elsie’s duvet cover (blue with daisy)

– my friend Mary’s skirt (small blue flowers) chopped off as it was too long

– fabric (round the edge) brought from Holland by my friend Gerda and her sister Els

– fabric (large blue flowers) bought from a garage next to Grandson Samson’s nursery in Sydney

– fabric (spotty) bought from Spotlight, an amazing Australian department store

– a remnant (the green backing) picked up in a salvage yard

– a dress (pale blue) I made for myself in the 1970s

– a scrap of Laura Ashley fabric (stripes) bought in a 50p bag of bits in the 1970s

And that, I think, is what the best of life is about – a melange of different people and places all brought together and somehow forming something that will be of use to someone else in the future.

I hope that is what the climb up Kilimanjaro will be about too: three different generations spanning more than half a century in age, sponsored by dozens of people from all over the world and all different walks of life to raise money to help both the homeless of Canterbury at Catching Lives and those in several different countries, whom Exodus’ charities help.

BOGOF Grandparents – by Sheila

When I was a young child, it was a great treat to visit my paternal grandparents. I had three grandparents – or so I thought. They were my grandfather (“the faither”), my grandmother (“the mother”) and my grandmother’s older sister Auntie Annie, who was affectionately known as Yanos.


When my grandparents got married, Yanos was part of the deal: it was like a BOGOF – buy one and get one free!  She moved in at the beginning of the marriage and stayed there for the rest of her life.  She was part of that generation of women who would have married one of the young men sent off to fight in the First World War.  Both my grandparents lost brothers in that war, as did almost every big and not so big family.

They must have realised when my grandmother married in her mid twenties, that there was not going to be a suitor for her sister, who was two years older, and that she had better come along too.  Yanos was one of the gentlest, kindest and put-upon women I have had the privilege to meet.  As each child in the family came along, Yanos was the one who did the bulk of the child care, the wiping of snotty faces and the settling of the child who couldn’t sleep.  Because she was capably in charge of the eight children back at home, my grandparents were free to go on cruises and take exotic holidays all over the world – something almost unheard of in the 1930s.  They led a very privileged life.

It was a great treat to go into Yanos’ bedroom, especially so because I knew I had been born in the bed in her room.  My parents did not have a home of their own when I was born – they were barely out of their teens – and were temporarily living with my three grandparents.  Of course, it had to be Yanos who gave up her room for my mother to give birth.

Yanos had an enormous wardrobe in that room, from which all sorts of interesting items would materialise – the most important being a seemingly endless stream of butterscotch sweets, which we loved, and treacle toffees, of which we were less fond – but encouraged to eat because they were good for our bowels, which were very close to our grandparents’ hearts!

Auntie Annie would sit at her dressing table and brush out her long hair, then put it up and push it into place with Amami Wave Set.  She would change her glasses there, always keeping her eyes firmly shut between taking off one pair and putting on the other.

Wow - read the text on this Amami Wave Set ad!
Wow – read the text on this Amami Wave Set ad!

The most exciting things in her room were the fairies that danced around the walls.  The “fairies” were caused by the sun hitting the crystal decanters which sat each side of Yanos’ dressing table.  We would run around trying to “catch” a fairy on our hands.

Sheila catching a fairy this week
Sheila catching a fairy this week

I thought about Yanos when I read about how to warm up my “bed” when camping on Kilimanjaro.  Yanos had a hard hot water bottle in her bed, and that is what we will have too.  Hers was an enormous stone one, which didn’t seem at all cuddly.  Ours will be a drinking flask, filled with very hot water, serving a dual function – we can sip from it as need be during the night too. I think she had an old cardigan to wrap around her bottle and I am sure we will find something to make our bottles cuddly too.

Note from Jae: Look Ma – last time we were in the caravan I took a photo of Osc with a fairy on his nose!

Oscar with a fairy on his nose

Wild Weather – a guest post by Gwen

It’s been a wild and wacky week of weather here in Sydney. In the space of a week, we’ve seen storms and rain that moved entire beaches into car parks, felled countless trees, and ground the city to a halt. We then had a couple of beautiful days of sunshine, during which I cruised around the city with our friend Katie with the roof down on the convertible, before yesterday’s pièce de résistance, a surprise flurry of giant hailstones that blanketed the city, caused flash flooding, collapsed roofs and flooded cars and houses. We’re all feeling a tad shocked as we put the city back together and are wondering what’s next – a giant plague of man-eating locusts, perhaps?

Gwen and Katie shooting the breeze!
Gwen and Katie shooting the breeze!

Thunderstorms weather

All sounds very crazy, right? And not like anything anyone would put themselves through by their own will…..but it just struck me that these are the extremes of conditions the Kili 3 – my Mum, sister and nephew – can totally expect to experience within the space of a week during their August challenge. Well, I’m guessing they might not have a convertible car up there, but you get the gist… I did a little googling and discovered that the journey from the base of Kili to the top is the meteorological equivalent of travelling from the equator to Antarctica in just a few days. They could traverse through 27 degrees Celsius at the bottom all the way to -27 degrees at night at the top! How the hell do you prepare yourselves for that?!?

Hail in Gwen's garden
Hail in Gwen’s garden
View from Gwen's house
View from Gwen’s house
Sydney weather
Outside Gwen’s friend Kerryn’s house in Petersham, Sydney after the hail storm – we hope your house is back together soon, Kerryn!

Back in Sydney, most of us have warm, dry  houses to hide in, to protect us from wet, hail and sunburn. The Kili 3 will be trekking through the forces of Mother Nature, carrying all their necessities in daypacks and sleeping in tents overnight, sometimes surrounded by snow. Puts the challenge into perspective, doesn’t it?

Snowballs in summer dresses
Samson playing snowballs with his friends (great shot Ste!)

Hair (fund-)raising! – by Jae

When I was 19 and travelling around the world I was about to go on a trek up into the hill tribes of Northern Thailand when a fellow traveller suggested that I should get my hair plaited. She said that she’s not found anywhere to wash her hair when she had done a similar trek, and that she wished she’d done it. Fortunately a Thai waitress in the bar we were sitting in overheard us and said she’d plait my hair for me. By the end of the evening my head was covered in neat corn rows with beads dangling and clacking as I walked back to my bamboo hut for the night. I looked the very epitome of a gap year traveller.

A couple of terrible photos of Jae in cornrows in Thailand
A couple of terrible photos of Jae in cornrows in Thailand – 1991

The trek was amazing; we were a group of eight trekking with a local lad who called himself Rambo (we called him Rambutan – which he had the grace to pretend he found funny), and another called City who ended up having to leave us when his Malaria “got worse”!! I remember one particular night when I lay awake wondering whether I should have joined in with the opium pipe that almost everyone else had partaken of (was I a wimp / prude / missing out on life’s experiences?) only to spend the whole of the next day congratulating myself as the entire group looked greener and greener and had to dash off to the bushes as we walked to empty one end or the other!

And the other thing I was pretty smug about was my hairstyle; all the girls, and a couple of the boys, had long hair and were cursing how manky it felt with its sweaty greasiness and suncreamed edges! This thought came back to me recently when I was chatting to some of my colleagues at work. It was late in the day and there were only a few of us left in the office; the lovely Gina suggested that I might want to take Batiste dry shampoo up Kili to do a quick freshen-up when my hair feels horrid. I recounted (a very little of) the tale above, finishing on the word “corn rows”. I looked around and realised the young things I was talking to were all horrified at the idea that I’d do the same thing again. How hideously uncool I’d look up a mountain with beads dangling! Eventually they all burst out laughing and I said a cheery, “bye” and dashed off to catch my train. When I checked my email 30 mins later I found this:

Cornrows email
Cornrows email

How brilliant are they? I completely love that they’re challenging me to do it, and tempting me further with the promise of cash into the 3G charity pot! And with our new match-funding that’ll be worth £250 to our charities – wow!

Now, where can I find the right type of hairdresser…

It’s Getting Hairy! – by Sheila

Well, we seem to be back to the topic of hair again: it never seems to be far away!  Could that be because we have a fair bit of it, unlike most of the adult males in our lives, and don’t relish the idea of being filthy on Kilimanjaro?  I absolutely love the story in yesterday’s guest post about Rachael’s dreads.

I mentioned in the blog of 28th March about how Christine at Catching Lives was told as a child that washing her hair more than fortnightly could damage it.  Christine told me a bit more about this recently.  It seems that she was also advised that washing her hair during a period could be positively hazardous to her health. Better remember that girls!!!??!  Christine’s hair is a glorious deep reddish colour, and she says her aunt had similarly beautiful hair.  As her aunt got into her sixties, she became more and more concerned about the dangers of washing her hair: it seems that the family considered it a very risky undertaking.  So for the last twenty or so years of her life, her aunt never washed her hair at all, but just used dry shampoo.  Christine says that her aunt’s hair stayed the same wonderful reddish colour till the day she died – so maybe there is something in it.

Batiste dry shampoo

When I was a teenager, hot water wasn’t always easily available, and we did something called a dry shampoo, but what we used was talcum powder. We would simply sprinkle the talc out of the tin on to our hair, rub it around a bit and then brush it out.  It seemed to do the job.  However, Jae tells me that she has thought of a much better solution for when we are on the 3G climb – we’ll find out all about it tomorrow!

Dreadlocks and Friends – a guest blog by Rachael

I first met Sheila nearly twenty years ago, but we both had different names then!  Sheila was my solicitor, and has always been known professionally as Kate.  My name was Dawn: I only became known as Rachael some years after we first met. Our relationship was purely professional at first, but we liked each other, and once the legal proceedings we were involved in were completed, we became friends.  It was only then, that I found out that we were also actually neighbours, living in the same road!  It was on Jae and David’s wedding day in August 1997 that I saw the whole family all dressed up getting into cars that I realised that we lived only about two hundred yards apart.  Our families have become very close over the years since then.  We have a lot in common and both love being grandmothers.  My daughter, known as Plop, and Jae each have three beautiful boys now.

When we first met, I had dreadlocks.  Sheila/Kate texted me recently to ask me about how I had kept my hair clean, because that is likely to be relevant on the 3G Kilimanjaro climb.  She remembered that I had rarely washed my hair, because when I did, I had to stay at home for three days until my hair dried!

My dreadlocks: I grew them for thirteen years. The longest one was thirty six inches long.  I had loads of little beads and bells sewn in to them, which were given to me by my kids and friends. My son Kane and Plop loved the bells. That’s why I still wear them on my Doc Martens.  Kane also had dreads when he first started school, but he was such a pretty boy that a lot of the other kids thought that he was a girlie.  This upset him, so we cut them off and I sewed them in to my hair too, which made him happy again!  In order to have the ‘best’ dreads, they can’t be washed!  I would use a Jif lemon, twice a week and rub that in to my scalp.  To keep the dreads matted, involves constant ‘twisting’ of them – and that’s what I did! I would also wrap pretty coloured string round them.  They were very heavy. When at home, I would have to roll them up in to some kind of bun and have them balanced on top of my head. (It’s not easy for us women!)

When I had to have my Chemo, the time was right to cut them off. Another reason was that they were part of ‘Dawn’: my life had moved on and I had become Rachael! They weighed a mighty 3lbs 7oz!! That was twice the size of Kane, when I gave birth to him!  I have kept my dreads.  I tried a few times to throw them away, but can’t bring myself to…x x

Rachael's wedding day
Rachael’s wedding day in 2013 (post-dreads) with Katie, David, Jae, Stewart & Sheila

Holidays with Auntie Elsie – by Sheila

We will be existing in fairly primitive conditions on Kilimanjaro, and I remember living before in pretty basic conditions – certainly as far as bathroom facilities are concerned – when I was on holiday as a child.  My mother and her sister-in-law, my Auntie Elsie – one of my father’s seven sisters – would rent a cottage in Northern Ireland for a month in the summer and stay there with us children.  Their husbands stayed at home, presumably at work.  Neither family had any spare money, and what they rented was rough and ready – probably a nightmare for the adults having to cook and wash dishes, bedding and clothes – but for the children, it was heaven.

Caernathana, Tullybrannigan Road, Newcastle, County Down
Caernathana, Tullybrannigan Road, Newcastle, County Down

The most memorable was a wooden cottage, known as Caernathana, Tullybrannigan Road, Newcastle, County Down.  Just the name of it seems exotic!  There was no indoor plumbing at all – though there was a chemical toilet, which the children were banned from using: we didn’t want to anyway!  We had the massive garden with adjoining woods, which served better, in our opinion.  Leaves were our loo roll, and I can’t remember feeling unhappy about that.  There was a pump in the yard, which we loved taking turns at, to fill the buckets with water for dish washing etc.

Lazy days
Auntie Elsie’s son Anthony and daughter Catherine enjoying a lazy day in the sun at Caernathana

Our days were spent climbing trees in the woods, putting on musical performances for the adults, and lazing about doing nothing much.  However, as we had no washing facilities in the house, we were expected to go down to the sea or the open air unheated sea water Newcastle Rock Pool for the odd swim, in the interests of hygiene.  Auntie Elsie was a determined swimmer in the coldest of weather; she was always the first in, egging on any lackadaisical child to get themselves in.

Newcastle Rock Pool
The Rock Pool, Newcastle, County Down

Auntie Elsie had an interesting career.  She went to Northern Ireland during the Second World War to work for the government as a censor.  It was her job to read soldiers’ mail and if she regarded any words to be a security risk, she would physically cut these words out of the letter with scissors before it was posted on.  She went on to become a highly respected and pioneering teacher of the deaf and subsequently received the MBE for voluntary work in the area of mental health.  She was the sort of person who is always open to anything new.

I remember wingeing to her in the late 1980s about the stress of working for exams and writing essays to qualify as a solicitor, while at the same time doing a job, keeping the house going and looking after two lively teenage girls.  Her response was sharp: what else would you be doing?  More knitting?  Of course, she was right.  She had been there, done that and knew that the rewards would be more than commensurate to the effort.

In her early sixties,  having been widowed for some years, she remarried and visited us on her honeymoon with her new husband.  I told my rather unworldly mother-in-law about the impending visit and she said, “I can understand her getting married again for the company”.  When the newly weds arrived, Auntie Elsie looked amazing.  With a wicked glint in her eye, she told me that she felt like she was sixteen again.  It was quite clear that “company” was not all that was on the agenda!

When she was in her late seventies and early eighties, Auntie Elsie, again widowed, came with us on girls’ holidays on a few occasions.  I remember one particular occasion when a free yoga class was advertised to take place in the gym of the all-inclusive hotel in which we were staying.  The whole group of us and a few other odd bods turned up in the gym, but no teacher.  Upon enquiry at reception, we were told the class had been cancelled.  Auntie Elsie, however, was quite unphased.  She stepped up to the front, told us to settle down, and proceeded to take us through quite a strenuous yoga class for the entire hour!

She was a great advocate of education, and loved going to classes to learn something new.  I recall visiting her in Manchester, where she moved to be near her daughter (my lovely cousin) Catherine.  She was well into her eighties by this time, and talked excitedly about attending a history of art class at the university on the other side of the city. I asked her how she got there: you could have knocked me over with a feather when she told me that her friend – also in her late eighties – picked her up in her car and the two of them drove together across the centre of Manchester!  In her book, there was a solution to every problem.   Doing nothing, or giving up was not in her vocabulary – nor it would seem, in that of her friend.

Auntie Elsie
Auntie Elsie

Auntie Elsie said it was important to keep active in mind and body. She loved doing crosswords and did one every day, being particularly fond of the one in the Saturday Telegraph.  She could work out all the cryptic clue answers and was happy to give anyone interested a quick tutorial in the necessary skills for solving them.  In addition, she made sure she did a yoga session every day to keep her body fit – and indeed she pretty much succeeded in that almost until the day she died.  On that day, she phoned Catherine in the morning and said she thought she was going to die that day.  Catherine was straight over there in time to spend some time with her mother, until she did indeed die, later that same day, at the grand old age of ninety one.

If we told Auntie Elsie about our proposed 3G climb up Kilimanjaro, she would be backing us all the way – possibly even asking to join us on the trip!  She would have relished the challenge, and if I had expressed any doubts about it, would have brushed them aside in the same way as she did when I was a skinny child, hesitant about going into the cold North Sea.


Moroccan Mountains – a guest blog by Liz Verier (aka “Lizzie-Next-Door”)

When I first heard that Sheila, Jae and Oscar were planning a climb up Kilimanjaro, I was not a bit surprised.  I have known Sheila for nearly forty years,  thirty-six of them living next door.  I  have heard many a story and even been a part of some,  but nothing as mad as planning the 3G climb!

Sheila is one of the best people to have as a friend and a wonder when you are trying to cope with family traumas.

On a lighter side of things,  I have been lucky enough to have been included on many girly holidays. Well,  you might think that a girly holiday would be sitting in the shade with a long drink.  A long drink did often play a part in things,  but not until a bit of adventure had been achieved, with Sheila being one of the ring leaders.

The High Atlas Mountains
The High Atlas Mountains

But I have to take Sheila’s memory to task.  In one of the earlier blogs, it was written that she has never done a mountain climb, but the truth is that two years running we had our girly holiday in Morocco and on both of those trips, we spent a day climbing and walking the High Atlas Mountains. I know that this by no means compares with the planned 3G climb, but at times the terrain was challenging.  On the way to the mountains, we were very amused by the sight of goats climbing trees to get at the argan nuts that were growing there.  We suspected that at various coach stops the locals cashed in on the spectacle by placing the goats in the trees.

Goats in a tree

One of the funniest thing that I ever saw was on one of these trips: I think it was the first time that we walked on the mountain.  Our group was dressed in walking boots with back packs etc. (When going on holiday with Sheila, we all know to take everything from beach wear to walking boots).  There was a couple: I think that they were from Italy.  The lady was wearing a very colourful designer  tracksuit weighed down with gold and wearing make up that stayed in place all day. The husband was carrying a wicker and gingham bag.   After a very taxing climb we came to a stop for lunch. The said wicker bag was then placed on the ground,  and by some amazing feat of manipulation,  the bag became a basket for the tiny designer dog that it contained.  Until then, the rest of the group had no idea that there was a dog along with us on the trip.  We were served  a very pleasant lunch of local flat bread and a paste made from the argan nuts, washed down with some delicious mint tea.

Moroccan mint tea
Moroccan mint tea


I love your story Liz – it is one of the girls’ hols I wasn’t on, but it sounds like it was full of all the usual nuttiness! Remember we went back to the same hotel the next year? Here’s a photo of the 3GKiliClimbers and Gwen that time. Jx

3G Climbers in Morocco
3G Climbers in Morocco – 2003

*** BIG FUND-RAISING ANNOUNCEMENT *** (read right to the bottom) – by Sheila

We have the best friends and family in the world, I think!  They have to date donated £2,100 to the charities we are supporting. Isn’t that amazing, when we still have almost four months to go?

Not only that, but we have been the beneficiaries of several items from kind people to help us on our way.  As it was a sunny day, I thought I would try my donated kit out.

So here I am, kitted out from top to bottom in gifts to take up Kili.

Sheila in donated kit

On top is a cap kindly given by Baraka Community Partnerships.

Then there is a trendy pink T-shirt, provided by Catching Lives to assist in fund-raising.

Over that is a back pack, complete with a camel hydration pack gifted by walking buddy Anne S.

Below that is pair of purple thermal base layer pants – a present from Paula, the lovely nun I cook with at Catching Lives.

At the base is a pair of gaiters, provided by my handsome husband Stewart.

In my hands are the Nordic Walking Poles which Jae’s stalwart mother-in-law Pat can sadly no longer use, because she has Motor Neurone Disease.

And I know that I will soon have the gift of a cosy and pretty pair of cashmere socks from my Dutch friend Gerda: the first pair she ordered turned out to be too small.

And now – the icing on the cake.  I can hardly believe this.  This week an absolutely fantastic friend offered to match pound for pound however much money we raise before we set off for Kili – up to a maximum of £5,895!!!!!!  Our initial target was £5,895 representing a pound for every metre of Mount Kilimanjaro’s height.  So if we make anything like that, and our friend doubles it, we could end up with a total of over 10K.  We might have a pound for every metre we have to climb up and another pound for every metre we climb down too.  What a difference this would make to our charities: it could really change some lives and “catch” some others.

3GKiliClimb Wa-hoo for our fund-raising announcement

So with the amazing news that our lovely friend will match all donations, it means that if you donate before we go (or if you already have – thanks lots!) your donation will be worth much, much more. If you donate £50 and use Gift Aid, the real value of your donation to our charities will now be £125!!! The projects we are supporting are all relatively small so it’s a great opportunity to make a difference. If you would like to donate please just pop over to our VirginMoneyGiving page – it’s really easy.

Thanks so much! Sheila, Jae & Oscar xxx



Lodgers and Life – by Jae

I feel so lucky to have had such an open, liberal up-bringing. I think it’s why the three generation Kili challenge is a possibility – we were always made to believe anything was possible, and that a different country was a new and exciting thing to discover.

Ma and Pa were both pretty surprised when I declared at 16 that I was leaving school and leaving home, and I knew that they weren’t terribly keen, but they never made me feel like that would define me. In fact I remember them laughing (possibly through gritted teeth in retrospect!) when I told them that an influential figure – who I won’t bother to name – had said, “Miss Miller, if you leave school now you’ll be a failure for the rest of your life”. And they always told me my bedroom was available to come back to whenever I liked, which I have continued to do for between a night and 3 months for the last 26 years.

Whoever I’ve turned up with, and for however long, I’ve never felt anything other than totally welcome.

Their home is a very welcoming place; when I was small we always had a lodger in “the back bedroom”. I can see now that this must have been a way of subsidising their income to enable us to have holidays and brilliant birthday parties etc, but at the time it felt like a way of ensuring our home was always more exotic than our friends’! Over the years we had male and female lodgers from all over the world, of different races, religions and sexualities, and all were welcome in our home. Amongst the others there was an American girl who made amazing cheesecake; a man called Pete who always used the mug with the orange and yellow flowers for his tea; and Katsohiko Fukushima who could somehow source blood oranges the size of grapefruits in 1980s Canterbury, who prayed at an altar in his room that Gwen and I thought was a “Sindy wardrobe” – the Sindy factory was in Canterbury so we were aficionados!

Ballerina Sindy circa 1983
Ballerina Sindy circa 1983
Pete's mug
A mug exactly like the one Pete used to love (how amazing is Google that I could find this?!)

When Katsohiko left to go back to his family in Japan after a year living with us, he had noticed that I liked Sindy dolls (I hope he hadn’t realised that we felt her clothes ought to be hung in his alter!), and he gave me a beautiful doll that I always remembered as Kate Greenaway-themed; she came in a box saying so. I had called her Nell, and my cousin Louise (whom I have always been very close to – but more of that another time) and I had spent many happy hours over the years playing “hospital”, where Nell was the matron managing all the care of various pandas, bears, golliwogs and more. She was a capable, inspirational woman doll and Lou and I loved her.

Gwen recently told Ma that her daughter Onnie – the only girl in five grandchildren – loves hard, old-fashioned dolls, rather than modern ones. Ma immediately thought of the doll Katsohiko had given me, and dug her out from the back of a cupboard full of old school books and hideous 1980s jewelry. Apparently she came out without her hat, and with rather musty clothes, but Ma washed her up, made a new shawl and headscarf, and yesterday sent the following email to Gwen with me CCed.

Nell and email
Sheila’s email to Gwen about Nell. You may notice that she’s whipped up a quick quilt to send for one of Gwen’s friend’s new babies too!

This whole episode has had me looking for my well-loved doll on the internet. I Googled “Kate Greenaway dolls” and up popped the follwing pic. Look! – it turns out I didn’t name her Nell at all!!! #CrushedMemories

Kate Greenaway Nell doll
Kate Greenaway Nell doll


Off you go to Australia Nell – I’m glad you’ve been rediscovered – I hope you find a new, exciting life with Onnie; you’ve got a whole new country to discover!

Hep B & Gwen’s Gas – by Sheila

Well – it is official! I have been certified “as fit as a flea” by my Doctor’s Practice! i didn’t know that was an official category, but that’s what the practice nurse said to me when I went for another vaccination, in readiness for Kilimanjaro. She remarked that I looked rather sun tanned, and I said that was because I was out walking much of the time. I told her I had walked from Seasalter (where our caravan is) to keep my appointment – probably about eight miles or so – and she was clearly quite gobsmacked by that. I suppose many of the people approaching seventy coming into the surgery are not striding in, in quite the same way!

Sheila's injections 2015
Sheila’s injections 2015

I have now had injections for polio, diphtheria, typhoid, tetanus and hepatitis A, all free of charge on the National Health Service. I did say to the nurse that it seems to me that people needing jabs for exotic holidays should pay for them – it seems wrong that they are subsidised by the cash strapped state. So between us, she and I managed to come up with two more, which I would have to pay for, which seems to me only right.

She was very keen for me to have a series of hepatitis B injections. That is the one that is conveyed by bodily fluids, so at first I was quite indignant – there is no way I have any plans at all to be exchanging bodily fluids with anyone on Kilimanjaro! However, when she flagged up the possibility of someone cutting them self and other potential accidents, I could see the sense of that. So I have now had two hep B jags – it is a course of three. When I mentioned this to Jae, she remembered that she had had hepatitis as a child and wondered whether she was now immune to it. We had no idea what sort of hepatitis she had had – A,B or C – so I asked the nurse. I told her that there had been an outbreak of hepatitis at Jae’s primary school in the early 1980s. Children and parents were turning yellow and collapsing like flies and Jae was one of the unlucky ones. I remember her taking to her bed in a very weak condition, and I expended a lot of effort in persuading her to drink liquids. She couldn’t eat solids at all, save, if I remember right, for peeled grapes. It is the only time in my life I have peeled grapes. At some point we were told by the primary school that the outbreak had been spread by the use of the cardboard insides of toilet rolls in craft activities. Blue Peter has a lot to answer for. When I told this to the practice nurse, she was fairly certain that Jae must have had hepatitis A. She was clearly quite appalled to hear that there had been such an outbreak at all in a nice place like Canterbury. Unfortunately, having the illness once does not mean that you are immune, so Jae will still have to have the injections.

I was keen to have a yellow fever vaccination. At first the nurse was very against it, telling me of the increased risk to the over sixties and the possible side effects. I know that strictly speaking, the injection is not necessary for people travelling from Europe. However, I have read a lot on line about jobsworth officials at Tanzanian airports insisting on seeing yellow fever certificates – and if you can’t produce one, they insist on you going into a room in the airport and paying to have an injection there and then. There is no way I am going to risk some dodgy guy in an airport sticking a needle into me! Then when I heard that we will be changing planes in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, I was absolutely determined I was having the jab in advance. Yellow fever is endemic there, and although if you are there for under twelve hours, it is not strictly speaking needed for Tanzania, it seems to me to be common sense just to sort it before we go. I just hope that the nurse is right and I am as fit as a flea, and don’t get any of the possible complications she insisted on telling me about.

She says next time I go for another injection, we will talk about malaria. I am not too keen on taking malaria tablets, because I remember daughter Gwen phoning me from some exotic Asian location about twenty years ago telling me that her hair was falling out. She wondered if it was a possible side effect of the malaria tablets she was taking. I did the research, and yes, it was indeed possible. I seem to remember Gwen saying she just stopped taking the tablets, despite the risk, and her hair stopped falling out. Happily, she didn’t come back with malaria, though she did come back with giardia – for which there is no vaccination. Giardia is a parasite, which lives in your intestine, and Gwen even gave her parasite a name: he was called Jeremy. At first we thought the symptoms were just Gwen being Gwen! The main symptom is excessive gas. Gwen specialises in flatulence – see the blog of 25th February. However, she really did have the infection, and it took quite some time to clear, much to the detriment of the atmosphere in our home. I hope to retain both my hair and my dignity on this trip!

Jeremy Giardia
Jeremy Giardia Up close


What Goes Up Must Come Down – by Sheila

One of the things I have increasingly been thinking about is how I am going to get down Kilimanjaro – that is supposing I actually make it up!

We are meant to get to the top at dawn on the seventh day, having commenced the final assault – taking about seven hours – before midnight.  The reason for the timing is that the scree on top freezes overnight, making it easier to climb up, so they say.  By the time we have spent twenty minutes at the top taking selfies, the scree has started to defrost and slides about as we start to go down.

I actually found myself in Tesco recently looking at a pile of tiny sledges reduced to £1 each, wondering if I should pick one up to pop in my back pack, so I could try sitting on it to slide back down.  Have I lost it entirely?

Mini sledge
Worth packing?

Then when guest blogger Clare Ungerson mentioned Yaktrax in a recent blog  I started to wonder if that might be an answer for coming down.  The thing is, you have to come down quickly: having spent the best part of a week getting up, you are expected to get down in a day and a half.  I read about one guy who started to make his way down and was considered to be progressing too slowly.  One of the guides and another climber each took one of his arms and ran him down, making sure he didn’t fall over.  You can see where I am coming from, with the little sledge and the Yaktrax now!

One factor in having enough energy to do anything at all by this stage seems to be the amount of calories consumed.  Apparently being at high altitude takes away your appetite and you have to force yourself to eat – you can burn up to 4000 calories a day walking on the mountain.  Given that none of that can be alcohol, that is a lot of food!  I can’t say that eating food has ever been a problem for me: I have always quite envied people who can’t eat because of flu or a tummy bug.  However unwell I might have been in my life, I have always been ready to eat my dinner. Now for the first time, that might be a real benefit.  By that time I will definitely not be thinking about losing weight. I will be able to and should eat absolutely everything that is going and then, with a bit of luck, I will be running down the mountain when I come!

Mealtime on a previous Exodus Kili trip
Mealtime on a previous Exodus Kili trip


Ooh-ooh Dedication’s What You Need! – by Jae

As you may know, we think that if we make it to the top of Kili, Ma will be the first Grandma to do it in a team with her child and grandchild. We’re not sure whether we will be allowed to apply for a Guinness World Record as the criteria now seem to say that they only authenticate records that can be broken; obviously a “first to…” is not a breakable record. We are pretty confident that we’ll be the youngest three generation climb too (we can only find two previous successful three generation climbs – all male apart from one granddaughter, and older than us in both cases)., so maybe we’ll be allowed that record instead. I’ll be contacting them soon to find out whether either is possible!


Bizarrely I already have a Guinness World Record certificate from when I was part of “the most number of people simultaneously bird calling” at a Twitter conference (see what they did there?!) about 4 years ago. It seem to have been broken many times since, so I need to regain my crown!!!

In order to put forward a confident proposal to the folk at GWR I’ve been doing quite a lot of Googling to see whether I can find any other evidence of three generational climbs / grannies climbing Kili. On a recent investigation I found the following article and just thought it was suitably mad to be part of our blog! Can you believe that this wonderful old lady sat down to write a marvelously fabricated obituary, thought, “What is the most daft thing I could do”, and decided it was to pretend she’d been climbing Mt Kilimanjaro? With her daughter no less!! She also purported to have taken her dog and cat with her – rather than her grandson – but you get the picture.

And the very best thing? The paper printed it; she pulled off her subterfuge right at the last. Well done Norma – we salute you!

Here’s link to the obituary that was printed it The Connecticut Post.

And here is the debunking article from the next week!

Norma Brewer
Norma Brewer – A grandmother decided to have one last laugh when writing her own obituary, declaring that she had died climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Norma Brewer in fact passed away from a stroke aged 83 on Jan 27 and the death notice, published in a local newspaper, was one final whopper. Her family said the prank was typical of their fun-loving relative. According to her obituary Mrs Brewer “passed away while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. She never realised her life goal of reaching the summit, but made it to the base camp. “Her daughter, Donna, her dog Mia, and her cats, came along at the last minute.”