And you're doing this because...?

Thursday, December 02, 2004



I have promised several times already (in my own vague way) to write some more about why I’m doing this and, more importantly, why I’m doing it for the Sobell House Hospice Charity.

I once heard Midge Ure talking about Live Aid. He was being lauded by the interviewer for having had such a wonderful idea and for having gained so much power to change the world. Midge was shaking his head - “The power is in the idea, not in me, and the idea could have been anyone’s.”

Live Aid is perhaps rather grand company to be holding the Ultimate Olympian up to just yet, but there is certainly power in the idea – people are interested in what I’m doing, and not all of them just because they hope to see some footage of me hurting myself at some point.

The idea popped into my head in a very weak way when my wife and I were watching the Olympic final of the women’s pole vault on TV. Such questions as “How would you find out you were good at that?” and “How on earth would you go about learning to do it?” were left hanging, answerless in the air. Then my wife said, “I could be the best pole vaulter in the world, and I just don’t know it because I’ve never tried it!”

That week, I found a list of all the events and the idea became more concrete – as did the notion that it could be used to raise some money.

Sir Michael Sobell House provides care for people in Oxfordshire with life-limiting illnesses. It also provides support for their families. At any one time, they are helping hundreds of patients to live as constructively and creatively as possible in the time that they have left to live. The service is completely free to those in the community who may need it, regardless of their beliefs, race or age.

My wife’s father, Terry Beardall (above), spent the last three weeks of his life there in August 2002. The care he received before he died and the support given to his family (and recently arrived boyfriends) at what is always rather weakly described as “a difficult time” was wonderful to witness and to receive.

I think Terry would have enjoyed the notion of someone using sport to raise money in his memory. I got to spend far too little time with him, but the time I did get showed me a man who liked to shout at the TV when his national team did something stupid and to organise his day around what time the golf coverage started – two factors involved in being “a man, my son” that I think Kipling gravely overlooked.

His death, which came less than two months after his fiftieth birthday, was a travesty of anyone’s notion of fairness. Nothing could have made it alright, but Sobell House at least made it less horrific for all concerned. He was a fine man, and it is a fine place, and I am proud to be doing what I’m doing in his memory and for Sobell House.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What you are doing is amazing! Dad would have thought you were insane but he would have loved it! He would have offered to help in anyway he could and then been totally over bearing and reorganised everything for you. Sound like anyone you know? Most of all though John, he would be incredibly proud of you...as I am.
Love Katie x

SwissToni said...

It's a good cause and a great idea... I look forward to some of the events I might be able to help you with.

.... is medieval history an olympic sport?

OLS said...

I think what you are doing is very cool. And obviously for a great charity. Before my uncle died, he spent the last 3 weeks of his life in a public hospital. It was horrible. He wanted to go home but couldn't be released because of the morphine drip, which was all that the medical team could do for him by that stage. If only something like Sobell House had been around for him.

Oh, and I can answer your question about pole vaulting as well - as in how you find out that you're good at it. One of my mates was very good at high jump in primary school (age 11 or 12) and had the right body type for it (tall and lean). She was asked to go along to the Queensland Institute of Sport to be taught how to do pole vaulting and see if she was "a natural". Turns out she sucked at it (bad hand/eye co-ordination), but those that did well stayed at the QIS and were trained up for the Australian athletics team. So there you go.

- OLS

John said...

See, I'm tall, and frankly couldn't be leaner - but I have GOOD hand-eye coordination. This whole thing could be a revelation, you know. Maybe I'll cap it all off with an Olympic gold in the pole vault.

Or by watching someone else win Olympic gold in the pole vault. Who knows?

SwissToni said...

OLS - all very well, but how do you explain the fact that Australians are so good at so many sports eh?

Sheesh.

OLS said...

Well, having spent some time in both London and Dublin, I can honestly say that it's because we do more of them. I was your average neighbourhood kid - I played soccer, netball, cricket, tennis, tag, and catch & kiss. I also swam a lot, and ran "fun runs" from the age of 9, and did gymnastics and ballet. There are very few Olympic sports that I can think of that I have not tried at some stage of my life - shooting, boxing, wrestling and weight lifting are the only ones that come to mind. Ask me about any other obscure sports and I'll let you know.

But the notable thing here is that I really was your average Aussie kid. Nothing really extraordinary about the amount of sport I did.

None of the kids I came across in either London or Dublin did this much physical activity. A couple of my friends from Europe that I talked to about this have put it down to weather - it doesn't seem to rain as often here, that's for sure, and it doesn't get as cold - it does get a lot hotter though, and that prevents running around outside more effectively than the cold does you'd think.

But maybe in the end it just comes down to places like the Qld Institute of Sport and the Australian Institute of Sport - we find the talent and nurture it. The Americans do the same thing and they also seem to be very good at sport (though they also have a much bigger population to select from). I don't know if the UK does this also?

A semi-serious answer to a probably-not-serious question. ;o)

- OLS