Cold Feet

A Teacher's Tale

Apr 2006

Planning

Claire arranged for us all to meet up at the Babraham Insitute where she works. It was a major first step in finding out just what is involved in all this. There is a rather fetching photo of the six teachers and Steve that now adorns the front "page" of Steve's own website. Bull Precision Expeditions. Examining the maps and seeing the area where the four will be going was fascinating. The scale of the Antarctic continent is hard to grasp. We talk about the Ellsworth mountains as if they were the South Downs. They're more like the Alps! Zoe and I just have to look on and enjoy the planning but set our sights on the next expedition.

Not the whole banana

A phone call has been followed by a letter confirming that I have been made one of the two reserves for the expedition. Zoe Strong and I have the promise of a trip to the Arctic in 2008 or 2009 as our reward for waiting in the wings.
It's still marvellous of course, but I do have a feeling of slight frustration. In particular, I think that fundraising will be tougher with such an uncertain outcome and it will be harder to "sell" to the children.

Utterly done-in

The three days in Derbyshire were pretty exhausting but also great fun. Meeting the other candidates on the shortlist was a salutary experience. They are nearly all much younger, terrifyingly well-qualified and fearsomely adventurous. Ruth (surely an absolute certainty for selection) has recently cycled the length of Africa!!
Fortunately all nine shortlisted candidates were very friendly and it has been an absolute delight to meet the many others involved in the selection process, including Peter Fuchs, Sir Vivian's son. Presentations, walks and interviews followed over the evening and following day. A final meal in a local pub was a treat but what happened next was something that I really should have seen coming. Perhaps I had an inkling, because I was sufficiently cautious not to drink too much, but Phil and Ruth had their rucksacks packed and ready when we were all rudely awakened at a little after midnight. I had certainly had less than an hour of sleep and it turned out that that was all that I was going to get over a span of about 40 hours. A "rescue" on Kinder Scout in the misty darkness was followed by a game and presentations, breakfast to be prepared (it was our turn) and another long walk with many other delightful people (including Mike Sharp of A.L.E., the company that will fly the team to Antarctica). Finally, as we arrived back at the House in the early afternoon (believing that we can finally rest), Steve announced that we had to go on and do several more miles over the moors. Several of the party began to express total horror. I said "Give us a reason why we might need to do this." So Steve said, "You've been walking all day and have come to the spot where you planned to put up your tent, but a ferocious wind is blowing and you've got to walk several more miles to find a suitable sheltered site." Unfortunately, the absolute plausibility of such a situation made me see that you just HAD to accept that this wasn't mere capricious sadism on Steve's part! So off we went again, after a little over half-an-hour Steve announced that we had indeed come to the end of the selection process and could turn back (thank you!).
We had to tidy and clean the hut and I had a half-hour of interrupted sleep before attempting the drive home. In the end I was the last to leave and I certainly felt the strain of the previous three days, but it had been a great experience.