What a Load of Rubbish! – by Sheila

Kilimanjaro is a clean mountain

Rubbish is an important issue on Kilimanjaro.  It is a “clean mountain” unlike some other high peaks in the world, which are covered in cast off litter.  Kilimanjaro is a National Park and entrance into it is carefully regulated with lots of rules.  Everything, except food and fuel – you have to take your own fuel as you are not allowed to burn wood or trees – is weighed before you are permitted through the park gates.  This is partly to ensure that porters are not too heavily laden, and also ensures that nothing is left behind on the mountain.  When the group returns back to the gate, the packs will be weighed once again, and if there is any discrepancy, the tour company will be fined.  The fines are quite hefty, which means that very little gets left behind on the mountain.

The porters weighing the kit on Kili
The porters weighing the kit on Kili
Everything goes on the scales (except food and fuel)
Everything goes on the scales (except food and fuel)

I am very happy to be climbing somewhere with such a fine green reputation.

Rubbish lorry

Rubbish is quite a big issue at home too. Canterbury City Council have now issued us with six different bins, each with a separate purpose.  When we had only one or two bins, it was on occasions difficult to fit everything in, especially around Christmas when all the family were here and there was lots of packaging to dispose of.  I would quite regularly have to climb into the bin to trample everything down to make enough space to put more in.  I only occasionally have to do that nowadays – mostly in the gardening season, when there are lots of hedge cuttings and branches to tamp down.  The back of our house is rather like “Bin City”.  We have one bin for non-recyclables, one for garden rubbish, one for papers/cardboard, one for tins/glass/plastic, and two of different sizes for food refuse.   We can, at least, fit all of the bins into our garden: others are not so lucky.  The result of this is that walking down the streets can be extremely difficult and nigh impossible for wheel-chair users and those pushing prams. I am not sure that there is any easy answer to this.  Different countries and areas have different systems, each of which has its pros and cons.

Bins blocking the pavement
Bins, bins!

Jae’s boys were in my house when I said that I was going to blog about rubbish, and that I might rise to the “Calendar Girls” challenge put out by Jean in the blog of 14th May, and followed up by Gerda on the 26th of May, by posing naked in a bin.  The boys were very shocked at the idea and said they didn’t want to be anywhere near at the time: what if someone passed by and saw me?  It was only after some discussion that we realised that the boys thought I intended to pose in a bin in the front garden on the street!  As if!  They calmed down a bit when I assured them it would be in the back garden and hopefully witnessed by no-one save the photographer.  Stew and I thought it best to get on with the job while the boys were out in any event: I don’t know what they will think of the result!

Sheila's tamping down that garden rubbish!
Sheila’s tamping down that garden rubbish!

Note from Jae: I don’t care what the boys think Ma – I’m mega proud. You look amazing!
(PS Maybe I’ll show them Calendar Girls one day and they’ll at least have a clue what we’re talking about)


On our recent drive to the South West, we were very struck by the large number of roundabouts on the roads, particularly in the Southampton/Portsmouth area.  My memory is that there no roundabouts when I was a child and I think that in the south of Scotland, there definitely were not at that time.

Google tells me that the first ever roundabout was built in Letchworth Garden City in 1909, but that roundabouts as we know them have only been built since the 1960s, when the powers that be hit on the idea of giving drivers already on the roundabout the right of way.  Before that, there were some “traffic circles”, which gave those entering the right of way and caused more jams than they solved!  It seems that the USA has taken even longer to work that out.  They didn’t grasp how roundabouts should work until the 1990s. It seems that early experiences resulted in total gridlock!

Traffic Circle from Hell
Traffic Circle from Hell

Jae used to work in Hemel Hempstead, where there was a so called “magic roundabout”. We used to quake when we saw this sign, but funnily enough, it wasn’t so bad once you got into it.

The magic roundabout in Hemel Hempstead
“The magic roundabout” in Hemel Hempstead

There are plenty of roundabouts in Scotland now, as four of my paternal aunts found out to their cost about ten years ago.  The four used to meet up every year for a holiday in North Berwick, which is a delightful seaside town about twenty-five miles east of Edinburgh.  They had all read Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” and were intrigued by the scene which takes place in Rosslyn Chapel, so decided to mount an expedition to visit it.  At this time three of my aunts were well into their eighties, so they decided that the “young one”, Irené should hire a car for the occasion and drive them there: after all, she was only in her late seventies!  However, what they didn’t factor in, is that Irené has spent the last forty or so years living in the USA.  She said she was game for the trip, so long as it didn’t involve any roundabouts.  She had never driven round one in her life and was not about to learn how to negotiate this new fangled idea.

Da Vinci Code

Going by any sensible route, they could have been at the Chapel, which is south of Edinburgh, in about forty-five minutes. Irené managed to work out a route without roundabouts which turned out to take more than three hours!  Her sisters did not return from the trip very happy bunnies.  They had been cooped up in the hire car for more than seven hours by the time they got back, and had had to rush round the chapel when they were there, as they were anxious not to be out on the roads (too right!!!) during the Edinburgh rush hour.   I am not sure that poor Irené was ever forgiven for the nightmare trip it had turned out to be – all because the USA has been slow to embrace the roundabout.

Rosslyn Chapel
Rosslyn Chapel

I understand that at times we will almost be walking round in circles on Kilimanjaro, though happily we will not be encountering traffic as we do so!  Some of the paths meander around and we will be taking in the meanders as a way of getting gently used to the higher altitude.  Often we will go up, only to drop back down again late in the day, to set camp.  The reason for this is that sleeping is difficult at high altitude, and we are more likely to sleep if we have been higher in the course of the day.  Also, it makes it easier to get going again in the morning, if our bodies think we have encountered the increased altitude the previous afternoon.  So I won’t mind if I feel like I am walking round in a circle on the mountain: I will be in a much better place than being cooped up in a car trying to avoid going round in a circle on a roundabout!

Note from Jae: Talking of roundabouts – look at Ma and Osc on one!!

Cold Cold Cold! – by Sheila

I keep thinking about how cold it will be, especially at night, when we are climbing Kilimanjaro.  I know now that we can expect cold evening and nights from the first night onwards.  The down sleeping bags and thermals will get plenty of use.  It may well be below freezing at night: it seems that Kilimanjaro has its own weather system.  Cold winds blow down from the snow covered top, despite the fact that the mountain is on the Equator.  With a bit of luck we will get warmed up if the sun comes out during the day.

Temperature chart

Thinking about cold nights brought back memories of chilblains, which were the bane of my life during my teens and twenties.  In fact, it was not until we moved into our present house in the late 1970s and had central heating put in, that I was able to forget about them.  I was always in absolute agony whenever my feet got warm.  I remember at times sitting with my feet in a sink of cold water, just to get some relief.  It could have been worse: I did google possible cures and I see that putting your feet in a bowl of urine is considered of benefit to chilblain sufferers.  I am glad no-one suggested that one!

An article in the Guardian health section on 15th January 2012 declared:

“Chilblains are caused by poor circulation in response to the cold. The tiny blood vessels under the skin narrow in low temperatures. When the skin warms up again they become leaky and fluid gets into the surrounding tissue, causing inflammation. To prevent them you should warm your skin gently after being out in the cold: don’t wrap yourself around the radiator when you get home. When outside keep your limbs and face warm with thermals, layers of loose clothing and a hat. Don’t rest your feet on a hot water bottle in bed but wear socks instead.”

I don’t suppose there is much risk of me running into a radiator on Kili, so maybe I will be alright and I will make sure I keep these bed socks on.

Jack Frost's been!
Jack Frost’s been!

When I was a child, there was no thought of heating bedrooms.  There would be a coal fire downstairs, and that would be it.  One of the joys of winter was when “Jack Frost” came and made patterns with ice on the inside of our bedroom window.  On winter mornings my sister Leslie and I would be really excited about opening the curtains to see whether Jack Frost had left ice on the window.  If he had, a line would be drawn down the middle of the window and we would have one half each to decorate further, scratching pictures into the ice with our nails.  I looked up on the internet to check that my memory about this was right and found a nice explanation aimed at children:

“You can see that the frost on a window is always on the inside. And if the outside temperature warms up, or maybe if a window is right in the sun, the frost may melt into water that runs down on the inside of the window. So, you can see that the frost is made out of ice that formed on the inside of the window.

Frost forms on a window when the temperature outside is below freezing. Inside it is warmer, and there is more water vapor in the air. Any water molecule in the air that hits the glass will stick to the surface. As it sticks, it is hooking up to other water molecules to form ice crystals.”

So now I know!

Paraffin heater
Paraffin heater

When Stewart and I were first married, one of the things we bought was a paraffin heater.  Electricity was an expensive form of heating and in our first couple of flats, we relied on the paraffin heater to a great extent.  The place always smelled as a result: I am pretty sure such heaters would now be considered a health and safety risk in homes in this country – though I note they are still sold for greenhouse use.  They were in such common use that the “paraffin man” used to call round door to door once a week in a van selling it and doing pretty good business.  Despite such heaters, we were still always fairly cold: most people expected to wear many more clothes indoors than is generally done nowadays.  It still amazes me now that some people routinely wear only a T-shirt or blouse on top indoors in winter, coming as I do, from a generation which often had three or even four woolly layers on indoors.


So at least I have had some practice for the several layers I will have to wear on Kili, though for Oscar, who has always lived in a warm house and has never spent much time in a very cold place, it will be a new experience.  We have been told that Jae and I should sleep on either side of Oscar to make sure he keeps warm at night.  Welcome to the 3G cuddle in!

Sheila’s Secret – a guest post by Jean Wilson (formerly Wishart)

Sheila & grandson Samson
A happy Sheila with grandson Samson

Some of you reading Sheila & company’s daily postings must, like me, wonder what Sheila’s secret is.  Every day there is some uplifting, touching or funny anecdote about her life.  All her friends and family are lovely, great or wonderful and it is so obvious that her two daughters – and five grandchildren – simply adore her.  Sheila appears to sail through life, learning new things, having fun or helping others; and very often she seems to manage to do all three at the same time.  Even her memories of childhood – her BOGOF grandparents, her holidays with aunts and cousins, and her early years in Hawick – all seem touched with the romance of Enid Blyton or some of the ‘comic’ books for girls of Sheila’s generation where they all have ‘lashings of ginger beer’ and super dorm feasts.  I think of my own life, which at best I can call interesting, and feel a tinge of envy.

Lashings of ginger beer

But then I remember some of the early bits that Sheila doesn’t talk about.  When she was twelve her parents moved to Edinburgh, taking Sheila, Leslie and Robbie away from her beloved Hawick, friends and lovely grandparents (there I go with the ‘lovelys’ but I knew her grandma and Yanos and they really were lovely – both to look at and by nature).  Leaving Hawick was hard, but much more pain was to follow about six months later when her mother died in her early thirties.  And not very long afterwards another major upheaval when her father remarried and they moved to Burnside, on the outskirts of Glasgow.  Perhaps it would be better to draw a veil over what Sheila thought of her stepmother, although she became very fond of, and supportive to, her elder step-sister all the way through her sometimes troubled life.

Hawick - where Sheila originally grew up
Hawick – where Sheila originally grew up

Sheila coped!  I met her slightly older sister Leslie first when she arrived in my class at school and we were seated together – she was a Wilson (no relation to my husband) and I was a Wishart and in these days you didn’t get to choose your BF.  Sheila started to pop up, sometimes with my young cousin, and Sheila was so different from Leslie.  I thought Leslie was quite serious and well- behaved, and I must confess I had her soon tagged as a serious contender for the ‘top of the class’ slot, for which I had only a couple of serious contenders (Stewart was one of them).  (This is where I confess that I was a swot, and as serious as Leslie -although I managed to get over that to some extent!)  Sheila was a different kettle of fish with her wild curly hair, her great grin and madcap ideas.   Now that I am older, I look back and wonder if Sheila was covering a lot of her sadness with a happy-go-lucky persona.  But you know, if that was what she was doing, it soon became second nature.  That must have been how she managed another traumatic experience a few years later when she was diagnosed with a back problem that meant her being encased in a plaster cast from hip-bone to arm-pit (we called arm-pits ‘oxters’ then – a lovely word used as in ‘having to oxter him home’).  At home or school, she couldn’t sit on anything more upright than a deckchair.  Sheila called on her by now wide circle of friends to carry her deckchair, and the tray on which she wrote, from classroom to classroom, giggling and clowning all the way.  Nowadays, most teenage girls seem to expect stress counselling if they break a fingernail – well maybe not quite.

So I think part of Sheila’s Secret was her early experiences of coping with upheavals and traumas that few youngsters had to deal with.  I think she learned that she only had this life and that it was better to get on with it than to sit and lament over what might have been.  She obviously learned how helping a friend in need – even if only by carrying a deckchair – helped form bonds and did give mutual pleasure.  And a smiling welcome always helps, usually by bringing a smile in return.  I hope Sheila will forgive me if I say she reminds me a bit of our two lovely black Labradors (there I go again with the “L” word – it is catching) who assumed they lived in a world inhabited by people who loved them.  So they always approached people with tails wagging, a smile on their faces, expecting to be liked, and the strange thing was that many people who were afraid of dogs would reach out, tentatively at first and then with a more vigorous pat or tickle.  Like our dogs, Sheila always expects good from people and in return she attracts positiveness.  I have only very rarely known her to speak ill of anyone, always looking for the good points, even in some of the flawed characters she’s met in her various jobs and pursuits.  We could all learn so much from Sheila – an inspiring friend.

A mini gallery of Sheila smiles!

Sheila beach

Sheila surfing Sheila exercising in Toddlers Cove Sheila dressed up for wedding

Katie, Jae & Sheila walking over the O2 Sheila & Stewart Sheila & Oscar Sheila & Jae playground

The Kili3 in Folkestone

Sheila at Gwen's wedding

Jae and Sheila up a mountain in Italy!

Sheila on her beautiful new bike

Clare and Sheila striding out

Sheila in donated kit

Baggie Catcher – by Sheila

I think all children love playing near water, whether it is a lake, a river or the sea.  My children were lucky enough to be brought up in Canterbury, from where you get to the sea pretty quickly if you go for a few miles in three out of four directions.  My grandchildren all love the sea.  When Jae’s boys come to visit they love having the opportunity to run about and throw stones on the beach, and daughter Gwen’s children in Sydney have the opportunity to run about on the splendid beaches there.

Granddaughter Onnie on a Sydney beach
Granddaughter Onnie on a Sydney beach

As a child, I lived quite a distance from the sea, but we had beautiful rivers running through the Scottish Border countryside where I lived.  I spent a lot of time down by the river going “baggie catching” – baggie being the local term for minnow.  I don’t know if they still call them that, given that a baggie now seems to be the term for a Ziplock plastic bag.  I would set out with my friends, the main equipment being jam jars with string tied round the neck and a piece of bread.

Jam jars
Jam jars

We would go down to the river Teviot, which meanders through the park in Hawick, climb down to the river and carefully lay the jar on its side with a piece of bread inside on the river floor.  You just had to sit quietly beside it until the baggies swam into the jar, when you got hold of the string and pulled the jar back out.  It was a good way of catching two or three fish at a time.  We would admire them and eventually carefully return them to the river.Laurie Bridge, Hawick

My grandfather knew I spent a fair bit of time fishing, and one day, after a fair bit of nagging on my part I think, gave me a present of a baggie catcher.  This was a bit of shaped plastic which you could tie over the mouth of your jar: the fish would swim in, but couldn’t get out again.  I think he used it to catch baggies as bait for real fishing.

Baggie catcher
Baggie catcher

I used it once only!  I left it in the river with my jar overnight – a bad mistake.  I returned in the morning to find my jar absolutely packed tight with the poor little fish.  I was pretty horrified at this jar full of squirming baggies and got them back into the river as fast as possible.  I am not sure I ever owned up to my grandfather what had happened.  I guess the baggie catcher cost quite a bit: plastic was not readily available then.  Nowadays you could make a catcher by cutting off the neck of a plastic bottle, but in these days there were no plastic bottles – drinks came in returnable glass bottles.

Another favourite outing was to go “up the Borthwick” with my mother and family or friends – it seemed to be a women and children only outing.  The Borthwick was another nearby river which was shallow enough for us to safely paddle about and try to learn to swim in.  Rugs would be taken to spread by the riverside, together with sandwiches and drinks.  We happily spent whole days there making damns, and running around or sitting on the grass.  When our cousins came over from Belfast in the summer, we would spend days on end in the river.

Cousins Anthony and Catherine, with brother Robbie, sister Leslie - and me.
Cousins Anthony and Catherine, with brother Robbie, sister Leslie – and me.

It seems looking at the photographs, that my mother was fairly cavalier about the passing on of swimming costumes from one child to the next!  Poor Robbie at the front seems to be wearing the costume, which I guess belonged to me previously and probably Leslie before that!  He is the only child without a smile on his face, poor boy.

I don’t expect to encounter many rivers while climbing Kilimanjaro – though it appears that the first people recorded to have climbed it, which was surprisingly late – in the second half of the nineteenth century – may have expected to do so.  It seems that it was generally thought at one time that Kili was the source of the Nile.  However, there are some mountain streams formed from water running off the glacier at the top.  I see that some sites say that the porters collect water from these streams on a daily basis to use as drinking water.  I am not sure whether our porters will do this, or carry the water with them.  I don’t think I will bother with taking my swimming costume up the mountain though – water off a glacier would be a bit on the chilly side, I reckon.

Hats Off to Us! – a guest post by Gerda Besteman

Talking with Sheila and my sister Els about Jean’s suggestion of a 3G Kili striptease in her guest blog of May 14th, we had some ideas about our own Calendar Girls’ moments.  Sheila was very outspoken about mine: “hats, of course it will be hats for you!”.

Els and Sheila have to tell themselves about their own moments – here is mine.

I have always loved hats. At the end of the sixties as a student I had a few. When I married in 1969, in a Bordeaux suit with a miniskirt, I was wearing a pink one.

Gerda's wedding day
In the seventies, busy with study and children, I just had some cotton summer ones and crocheted, practical  ones, especially in winter. At the end of the eighties I lost a job, was a little bit depressed and worried about never finding a job again. Solution?  I decided to start wearing hats again: when depressed to cheer myself up and when feeling good to put an exclamation mark next to me (on my appearance).

In the course of the years I bought lots of hats: daily summer and winter hats, special occasion hats for funerals, weddings and other festivities.

A hat for each occasion
A hat for each occasion

Every spring and autumn I like buying a new one. In every town that I visit, I will easily find the hat shop. At the moment I own about 90 hats. Those for the current season are in my hallway. The rest are in boxes in every room in my home. And another possibility: open any cupboard, except in the kitchen, and find more hats!

Gerda and her hats (but nothing else!)
Gerda and her hats (but nothing else!)

–   just a cloud of 3 layers of pinkish straw, worn on one occasion, which was a photo shoot for the hat shop on the steps of the big church in Nijmegen in the Netherlands, where I live.

Just before coming to England this spring for a walking holiday, I decided that I needed a new hat that would go with my walking coat – but it also went with a red cardigan, when I was  playing cymbals in an exhibition in the Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate.

Gerda plays cymbals with sister Els
Gerda plays cymbals with sister Els

I love all my hats and, as long as I have got the guts, the money and pleasure in wearing them, I won’t stop buying them!

Jean has thrown the gauntlet down!  I am looking forward to seeing the other 3gkiliclimb.com bloggers’ Calendar Girls’ Moments.  Can we get twelve pictures together to make a calendar to raise funds for the great charities Oscar, Jae and Sheila are supporting?

Note from Jae: Goodness Gerda – you look totally amazing – happy, and classy, and naked! I feel like both gloves are well and truly on the floor now. Hats off! Eek!

A Woman’s Place is on Top… by Sheila

How to Climb Mont Blanc in a SkirtI recently walked into a second hand book shop attached to a National Trust property we were visiting, and as I went in the door, I saw this book in front of me.  I tried to ignore it at first, but couldn’t resist having a quick look and, of course, ended up buying it.  I thought there might be a few ideas for me in it, given that it is in fact full of retro tips from history’s greatest female adventurers.  There is no way I will be going up Kilimanjaro in a skirt, although I note Jae has got herself a rather natty little walking skirt.  I rarely wear a skirt in normal life – maybe on half a dozen days a year – and the week of walking uphill on the mountain will not include one of these days.  However there are a few gems in the book that are worth sharing, and I suppose Jae and I are sort of “lady” adventurers.

The book goes into some detail about a trip made towards the end of the nineteenth century by May Sheldon.  “She organised and led an expedition through the East African bush from Zanzibar to Mount Kilimanjaro” having hired “138 porters to carry her goods and equipment”.  I am not too sure that we can expect to travel in quite such luxury: I doubt anyone is going to carry us in a Palanquin!  Actually, to be fair to her, I think she only travelled to the foot of the mountain – there is no indication that she was actually carried up it.

A Palanquin

In the book I came across this lovely clothing list: a bit different in style from what we will need, although we will have to cater for similar temperatures.  I have looked in vain for a photograph of a “knitted kidney protector”: it seems to have been a kind of corset made out of wool.

Packing list from How to Climb Mont Blanc in a Skirt
Packing list from How to Climb Mont Blanc in a Skirt

I have been more successful in finding out what a “Jaros combination suit” was.  In fact I have found pictures for both the male and female suits: I imagine Oscar would look quite fetching in one! They were made of a “wool knit fleece material” and were recommended for “hygienic, therapeutic and prophylactic application”.  As children, we wore something not dissimilar to the Jaros combination suit as pyjamas – I suppose it was the precursor of the babygro and the onesie.  Ours were made out of fine cream coloured wool and had buttons up the front, and quite a large buttoned flap at the rear for obvious purposes.

Jaros combination suit for women
Jaros combination suit for women
Jaros combination suit for men
Jaros combination suit for men

Alison Hargreaves was an English mountaineer in the second half of the twentieth century and like many women adventurers was vilified in the press for embarking on risky expeditions.

“During her life and after her death … she was frequently accused of selfishness for going on high-altitude expeditions and leaving her young children behind.  Male explorers, by contrast, are never criticised for leaving their families to go off on expeditions, however perilous”

Well – that’s just the usual guilt trip that women with children always have to face, isn’t it?

Another recent mountaineer, the American Arlene Blum, planned an expedition to Annapurna in the Himalayas in 1978.  She had great difficulty in raising funding for the trip until she

“came up with the bright idea of selling an expedition T-shirt, and someone came up with the even brighter idea of using the slogan, ‘A Woman’s Place is on Top……. of Annapurna.’  Its mixture of humour and sexual assertion was perfect for the times; Blum and her team managed to sell over 15,000 T-shirts, which went a long way towards financing their expedition.”

I must say that I am extremely grateful not to have to resort to such lengths.  Thank you very much indeed to Exodus Travels and Ethiopian Airlines for helping to make our record breaking attempt possible.

My Naughty Little Sister – by Leslie

Sheila & Leslie with their Ma
Sheila & Leslie with their Ma

Yesterday I watched a most enjoyable film, “A Royal Night Out” in which the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret get permission for once in their lives to leave Buckingham Palace and spend an incredible night in a London full of revellers celebrating VE Day. They quickly get separated from the chinless wonders who are supposed to be chaperoning them but they also lose each other. Much of the humour comes from Elizabeth’s long chase after her young sister through the streets of London and after the film I started remembering things that happened to my own little sister.

Leslie & Sheila
Leslie & Sheila

Most amazing to recall in today’s climate is Sheila’s porridge rebellion. One day when she was maybe three years old she rejected the porridge that came at breakfast, so our mother put the same dish of uneaten porridge on the table at lunch time (nothing else to eat until the porridge was eaten). The porridge made a third appearance at tea time and Sheila still refused. So there was no evening meal for her. It is hard to say who won that battle. Sheila was strong willed but then so was our mother. She never gave up insisting we start the day with porridge. I wonder if the climbers will have porridge on Mount Kilimanjaro?
From the word go Sheila was a determined person and very brave. If she wanted to stand up on the back of my tricycle she’d do it. She was warned not to, and certainly not to ride on the back bar of a friend’s trike when he was pedalling at top speed along the pavement but she did and as she has already recounted in a previous blog, she fell off and broke her arm.

Sheila breaking the rules on Leslie's trike
Sheila breaking the rules on Leslie’s trike

As we know, the experience certainly didn’t put her off bikes. She was always on the go and for the first ten years of her life, at least, had permanently bruised limbs and knees covered in scabs. Even today her life is an adventure. She refuses to play it safe and she has NEVER been afraid of a challenge. I am full of admiration for my courageous sister and not in the least surprised she agreed to climb the highest mountain in Africa with Jae and Oscar. It would have been more of a surprise if she had said no.

My Naughty Little Sister book
My Naughty Little Sister book

Note from Jae:
Ha Leslie! Ma used to read us “My Naughty Little Sister” stories when Gwen and I were little; it almost always ended with her saying, “Ooh, that reminds me of the time when I…”

Lurking Haggis – by Sheila

In advance of the holiday with my friends in Charmouth (you can read about that holiday here), we worked out a rota of who would cook the evening meal each night.  Four of us volunteered to cook on the Saturday night, and as three of the four are Scottish born, we decided to have haggis, as Scottish dancing was planned for later that evening.  I therefore called into the butcher in Wincheap, Canterbury, near where I live, to order up the haggis some time before the planned holiday.

The Wincheap Butcher
The Wincheap Butcher

When I asked if they would order me a couple of extra large haggis in “natural skins” (stuffed into the stomach of a sheep) I was told that the shop planned to close and they would not be putting in any more orders.  I expressed my surprise: the shop has been there for decades – thirty-four years they told me – but isn’t getting enough trade now.  I feel really sorry that one of the two real butchers in Canterbury is being forced to close, but can understand why.  There is a very successful Aldi just round the corner, where perfectly passable meat is sold at a fraction of the price of the old fashioned butcher.  However the butcher said to me he would take a look in his freezer in case there was any haggis lurking there: he thought there might be a couple of small ones.

When the butcher returned, I could hardly believe my luck. He could barely carry what he had found! There were two massive creatures and half a dozen smaller ones, all in natural skins, rather than the ubiquitous polythene bags.  He put them on the scales and discovered they weighed a total of twenty-one pounds.  Did I want them all for £15? My money was out like a shot of course – it was the bargain of the week!   They went straight out of his freezer and into mine.  We did a trial run with some friends the week before we left with two of the smaller ones to check their provenance, and with the knowledge that they were top class, were happy to take the two giant haggis off on holiday with us.

The frozen haggis
21lbs of frozen haggis, bought for £15!

So on the Saturday we carefully cooked them up to go with mashed potatoes and neeps (what the Scots call turnip and the English, for some strange reason, swede).  One of the creatures was carried in, in the traditional manner and was formally addressed by Stewart and Ken, who jointly performed a vigorous and entertaining rendition of Burns’ “Address to a Haggis”. Amazingly nineteen out of the twenty round the table love haggis, so we made short shrift of what must have been twelve or thirteen pounds in weight of it.

Ken-the-kilt and Stewart address the haggis
Ken-the-kilt and Stewart address the haggis

A cooked haggis

And then it was on with the main event – the dancing.  Ken-the-kilt and his lovely wife Anne (read more about them in the blog post of 5th April) had the carpet rolled back, the music switched on and were ready to guide those with little knowledge of Scottish whirling.  We all did our best and loved every moment.  During a break in the dancing someone asked if I thought we would be dancing up Kilimanjaro.  I said I had not heard of dancing there, but that singing round the campfire might be a possibility:  I know that the African porters and guides are keen to teach others their local songs.  In the sober light of day I realise that of course there is no dancing!  We will be struggling to walk slowly at altitude, let alone flinging ourselves around dancing – that might be fatal!  The porters and guides will be saying “Pole, pole” to us all the way – slowly, slowly – and taking off into an Eightsome Reel or an Orcadian Strip the Willow will not be part of the plan.

Ken-the-kilt and Anne lead a reel
Ken-the-kilt and Anne lead a reel

A Good Egg – a guest post by Paula

Today’s blog post comes from Paula – the lovely nun that Sheila has mentioned before, and talks about in this post. Thanks Paula!

Paula in the Catching Lives kitchen
Paula in the Catching Lives kitchen

I am a friend of Sheila’s and work with her at Catching Lives.  What an adventurous lady she is.  I enjoy her blogs and her keen and appreciative eye for nature and recycling.

Her recent blog post about finding a wee bird’s egg and holding it in her hand and her granddad’s canaries reawakened memories of my own childhood.

My uncle Tom was a thrifty man and lived with his wife and four children in a place called Thornley just outside Durham. He had a strong Geordie accent.  He was a big man – rather a gentle giant as evidenced by the flowers he always brought Mam from his garden.  He kept goats, hens and ducks and grew all his own vegetables and flowers in three allotments near his home.  We loved visiting and especially watching eggs hatch in an incubator, which he kept in their small back bedroom.  We would spend hours both with the goats and hens and especially in the small back bedroom.


He also had hedgehogs, tortoises and tame birds. When I think of it now, I imagine he must have driven my aunt Ada mad as she loved to keep her home just so. Not a chance – my uncle also brewed the hens’ feed in the boiler in the scullery so their home always had an earthy perfume about it.

Copper boiler
Copper boiler

I imagine that Sheila’s keen eye will be on the look out for treasures as she does her climb on Kilimanjaro. I can imagine her picking up feathers, stones, small flowers for pressing – and who knows, by the time she descends she will have a wealth of small hand made gifts and may even open a small stall to sell her gifts for the charities that are so close to her heart.

Now every time I see a small bird’s egg I shall think of Sheila and my uncle Tom.

White-haired Cruiser – by Sheila

Last year in June, Stew and I went on a cruise on the Rhine for a week with my cousin Catherine and her husband Jim.  We had never been on any sort of cruise before, so thought it would be best to do one during which we were never out of sight of land.  We all thoroughly enjoyed it, but were subjected to pretty unusual weather.  It was well over 30 degrees centigrade for the first half of the week, and it reached 35 degrees on one particular day, when we were in Strasbourg.  We walked round the city in the morning, and returned to the boat pretty exhausted at lunch time.  Catherine and I had decided that nothing else would do, but to go for a swim in the afternoon to cool ourselves down.  We found out where the nearest outdoor pool was – it was at the European Parliament buildings – and made our way there.

Jim, Sheila, Catherine & Stew on their Rhine cruise holiday
Jim, Sheila, Catherine & Stew on their Rhine cruise holiday

We were pretty downhearted when we got there and discovered an enormous crowd of other people also hoping for a swim, standing outside.  We decided to wait for a while to see how quickly the queue moved.  After a while, some “bouncers” at the front called people with small children forward, and they all moved through the gates into the pool. We were not too optimistic.  Then suddenly, I looked up, and one of the bouncers seemed to be pointing over the heads of dozens of people, right at me!  I pointed at myself and said “Moi?”, and he eagerly nodded.  He waved his arms, indicating that the crowd should move to one side or the other, and immediately there was a path cleared between him and me.  I grabbed Catherine, and gingerly, together, we headed forward through the crowd.  We got right up to the front and were ushered through to the pay desk and thence to the pool.  We were in, before dozens, if not hundreds of people who had been in the queue in front of us.

The only possible reason I can think of why I was picked out is because I have white hair.  No-one else in that crowd did – after all, what self respecting elderly French woman would let her hair be its natural colour?  I was really chuffed to find that stopping dyeing my hair had been a positive advantage.  The bouncers must have thought I was really old to have let myself go to such an extent.

Sheila in swimming
Sheila in swimming

I don’t want to seek out favours when I am on Kili, but if push comes to shove, I might be quite pleased to play the white hair card!  If I am struggling to carry my backpack on that last all important day, or need just that little extra bit of encouragement, maybe I won’t mind too much if I get that extra bit of help.

100 DAYS TO GO! – by Jae

Here’s the post I’d written for yesterday before the amazing video appeared! 

99 days to go - not 100 days to go - until we summit Mount Kilimanjaro

So one hundred days from today – if everything goes according to plan – we will be standing on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. What an extraordinary thing. It feels in equal parts totally dream-like, and absolutely part of my every day life now. Ma wrote a post about the similarities and differences between having a baby and climbing a mountain some time ago, and one of the points was that “it’s in your head all the time in the build up”. That’s so true – I feel like it is part of what defines me at the moment, and the first thing I think of almost every morning. I’m so grateful for the support we’re getting from friends and family. It’s easy to worry that we could be driving people mad with our “obsession” but, instead, it feels like everyone is happy to embrace it. And even join in! What a treat that friends and family have helped out with the posts – giving Ma a rest, and the blog a fresh perspective, every so often. Do let me know if you’d like to join in too.

When I was at Ma’s recently she said she doesn’t like to get out of bed until she’s seen that that day’s post is safely up online (I do the posting). My lovely friend at work, Kate Gordon, says that she likes to “race” the blog up in the morning; Cousin Lou says reading it on the train to work is part of her ritual now; and friends everywhere I go mention something that, in some cases, I only learnt about my family and history a few hours or days before them, as they’ve read it on the blog. It’s wonderful, and a real privilege, to be part of people’s daily routine. Thanks so much to all of you who have taken the time to comment – either on the blog pages, or on the Facebook posts. I know Ma loves that feedback too – it’s a surprisingly collegial way to connect, and to know that she’s making people think, remember, giggle or smile.

Thank you - 100 days to go

How extraordinarily lucky we are to have so many donations to the causes we’re supporting. Catching Lives, where Ma cooks for the homeless, will benefit from 50% of what we raise; the Tanzania Porter Education Project (via Friends of Conservation) will get 25% of the funds to enable porters – both male and female – to safely make a living from the mountain; and the other 25% will go to small community projects that Baraka helps Exodus Travels run around the globe.

A huge thank you to everyone who has donated via our Virgin Money Giving page, and particularly to the donor who has offered to match fund every donation we receive before we set off – up to our target. It means each donation will go a very long way. If you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, but plan to, please do it before we head off!

Talking of fundraising, you may remember that “The Cornrow Five” (some of my colleagues in the Marketing Team at work) offered to sponsor me if I got my hair braided for the climb. That story has now escalated and the Product Team have turned their challenge on it’s head (appropriately enough!) by offering to donate even more if “The Cornrow Five” have their hair plaited for the same length of time as me. That could make for some very interesting photos on my last day at work before the climb!

So with 100 days to go, I looked back 100 days to see what we were up to and found this short post, with no pictures(!), about Ma starting to do her packing. She mentions, for the first time, her “Kili drawer”. How brilliantly organised she is. It’s a drawer that I know she’s been adding to regularly – with items she will need on the mountain, and with gifts she can give to the porters we meet there. It’s very typical of her to have both in there! And, unsurprisingly, she’s also been buying bits and pieces for Osc and me, to ensure we’re safe and warm on our adventure.

I think it’s a useful strategy in life to count your blessings, and I feel like this project has thrown a whole load of new ones into my world. One of those is the knowledge that Ma, Osc and I are surrounded by friends and relatives who will donate, click, read, write, braid, train with, and even go naked (thanks Jean!) in their backing of our madcap adventure. The Exodus “Kili Infographic” says that around two thirds of those who attempt Kili actually make it. We’ve been told countless times now that altitude sickness is a arbitrary master, and there’s no way of knowing how it’ll affect us, but if love and support could get us to the top, I feel like we’d be flying up. What a lucky bunch we are. Roll on those hundred days!


Climb Every Mountain – by All of You!

Gosh! Gwen just emailed this to me. I can’t believe she roped so many of you in – and you all kept it quiet from us! How in the world (literally!) did she do it?

How brilliantly appropriate that it arrived today, as the 19th of May marks a pretty important moment in the 3G Kili Climb adventure; it’s exactly 100 days before we hope to get to that summit. I had a post all prepared and ready to go but we’re just going to have to do “99 days to go” tomorrow, because you’ve all totally trumped that post.

We could not feel more supported. Thank you so much folks.

We love you all! Sheila, Jae & Oscar xxx

PS It runs straight into the lovely video Samson made for us previously – worth a watch too if you haven’t already seen it! Jx

Golden Girl – by Sheila

Enjoying retirement!
Enjoying retirement!

There are so many benefits in being old!  I was quite frightened on entering my sixties about how I would face retirement and the loss of identity I felt that might entail.  How wrong I was. I really do think that on a day by day basis, my life is better and happier now than at any time before. Don’t get me wrong – I had great highs before both in family and career terms. But on a daily basis, the freedom that I now have to do and say pretty much anything I want is amazing.

I am lucky – I think it is all about the balance of good health, available time and sufficient money – and at the moment I have all three.  Not all my friends are so fortunate.  All three rarely come together earlier in life, unless you are born with a silver spoon in your mouth.

I love having the freedom to say what I want now, as I have been doing in our blog in the last few weeks.  If what I write is totally mad, people just laugh and say I am a batty old woman: I wouldn’t have got away with it before.  I always felt I had to “watch my back” before as far as work and colleagues were concerned – but now there is no reason not to say whatever I like.  The same goes for my “elders and betters”.  That generation no longer exists: I could not have been as forthright and disrespectful as I have been of them in the blogs, had they still been alive!

What I want to say to Jae’s many lovely friends and the great bunch of younger people, who are racing around doing a balancing act taking care of their families, working hard, counting their pennies and are mad enough to find time to be reading this is: enjoy every good moment that comes your way – you really deserve it.  Never feel guilty about anything: guilt is the biggest sapper of energy there is.  Know that you are absolutely doing your best, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! Look forward with anticipation and smile. I have learned that these are the most important things in life.

Where did all that come from?  Quite the philosopher today. This 3GKiliClimb thing seems to be turning my brain: woo hoo – I am loving it!

Just adding this poem I’ve always loved for fun! Jae x

When I Am An Old Woman

Stonebarrow Manor – by Sheila

I have just got back from a great week in Charmouth, where a group of twenty of us rented an enormous house – Stonebarrow Manor – which has eighteen bedrooms.  I have been part of the group for nearly twenty years.  Some people have left us and others have come – and we have stayed in lots of different houses, mostly in the West country.  On the very first such week, we rented a whole youth hostel.  However, although we loved going out walking every day and cooking for ourselves and arranging evening entertainments, we decided bunk bed rooms and two showers between us all, was not what we wanted.  Nowadays every person/couple has a room and most also an en suite bath/shower.  We still walk every day, with other activities too.  On offer this year we had painting lessons, a book group, Scottish dancing and a poetry evening.

Stonebarrow Manor
Stonebarrow Manor

Our first day was just fabulous.  We walked up the lane beside the house and over lovely footpaths, taking in masses of blue bells, primroses, pink campion, wild garlic and other such delights on the way.  At the top of the lane we looked across to Golden Cap, and girded our loins ready for the assault on it.  All fifteen who set out made it, and were rewarded with a picnic lunch at the top.

Picnic at the top of Golden Cap
Picnic at the top of Golden Cap

On our way down, a rather elderly lady suddenly appeared out of a hedge, and told us that if we went back the way she had just come, it would avoid walking on the road.  So through the hedge we went, and across a couple of fields.  We were rather aghast when we hit the third field to discover that not only was it full of cows, but also almost perpendicular!  I doubt if even Kilimanjaro is as steep!  We made it to the top and collapsed on the grass.  It was rather pleasant, as the sun was out, so we lay there for a while.  I was next to Anne S. who said that lying there reminded her of lying beside the road on an Easter weekend in the 1960s after walking for many miles on an Aldermaston March.

Wikipedia says that: “The Aldermaston marches were anti-nuclear weapons demonstrations in the 1950s and 1960s, taking place on Easter weekend between the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston in Berkshire, England, and London, over a distance of fifty-two miles, or roughly 83 km. At their height in the early 1960s they attracted tens of thousands of people and were the highlight of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) calendar”.

She said that she remembers lying beside someone who told her that if your feet are completely done in by walking, what you need to do is lie on your back with your feet in the air for a while and they will soon feel better.  It seemed to help at the time, she thought.  So she and I, lying in a field in Dorset half a century later, decided to give it another try.  I am not too sure whether it helped my feet or not, but it seemed to give my stomach muscles quite a good work out and caused general hilarity among the group.

Sheila & Anne S practicing a bit of leg up
Sheila & Anne S practicing a bit of leg up

We can give it another try during the Kilimanjaro challenge.  I am sure we will be looking for things to entertain ourselves with in the evenings, others than card games, so a bit of leg up might be just the ticket!

The whole group at Stonebarrow Manor
The whole group at Stonebarrow Manor