Monday 1 February 2010

I gave my presentation for the John Logie Baird awards earlier in the week. I entered this innovation award on the premise that Wobbly Williams is a bit different to other organisations that raise awareness and raise money because we avoid the doom and gloom and try and use a bit of humour to break down the barriers non-wobbly people put up when faced with a difficult subject of a young person having Parkinson’s disease. The presentation involved me talking for 10 minutes couple which was followed up by 10 minutes of questions from a panel. Simon Cowell has a lot to answer for. A more grumpy bunch of people you would travel a long way to find, I think they struggled to accept that dealing with adversity through constant giggling is innovative.

Before I went in to the presentation I had a look at the previous winners in my category (Social Enterprise) and, frankly, with regard to innovation, the bar isn’t high. Take for example last year’s winner, the Scottish Seabird Centre. If it had been based in Stirling then I would have accepted that is innovative. But locating it next to the sea can hardly sit in the same bracket as inventing television like Mr Baird did. Allegedly. “Let’s build a tourist attraction right here beside the sea where there are lots of seabirds. What shall we call it?”. They probably got a consultant in.

I received my pack from “23 and me”, the company founded by Sergei Brin of Google, who has the Parkinson’s gene, to get my genetic code analysed to see what other medical dilemmas are ahead of me. I could spawn a whole range of websites. Sergei is recruiting as many Parkies as possible to see if there are any genetic similarities that have been missed. It will be interesting to see how they measure my carbon footprint from a test tube of gob. Or is it genetic footprint? Or genetic fingerprint? Not sure.

Speaking of my carbon fingerprint, we did our bit for depleting the ozone layer by driving to Great-Aunt Ailsa’s funeral in Leeds in higher gas guzzling Honda. It really doesn’t like to pass a petrol station without at least popping in for five minutes. It is a tortuous journey along the A65 from Kendal to Rawdon where the cremation took place. It was a lovely occasion, there was sadness because she will be missed but much happiness because she was a wonderful lady who left lasting impression on many that she met. It was good catching up with long lost cousins and aunties and, especially, Uncle Colin who has taken over Ailsa’s calendar making duties and raised a significant sum for Parkinson’s research with his first attempt.

Gareth spotted a sign combination on the way into the crematorium which caused much hilarity. Beneath the sign at the gates of the crematorium which says “Rawdon Crematorium” is another one which says “One Way Only”. Truly brilliant.

WobblyWilliams.com got some good PR this week with a two page spread in the health supplement of the Daily Record. The article was written by a very sympathetic journalist who took a lot of time to listen to what I had to say and reported it brilliantly. The article is here. The health supplement has a contents page which lists my article under the heading “Lawyer Gets Hit By Parkinson’s”. I bet the majority of the Record readers said “Good. F***ing parasites”.

We went to the indoor athletics at Glasgow’s Kelvin Hall this weekend. I have always fancied going to an athletics meeting and it is cracking fun. Our seats were next to the pole vault and every time a vaulter launched himself in the air, Rebecca would squeal and cover eyes. How do you learn how to pole vault? Do they start off with small poles and work their way up to the full-length ones? Surely there must be a certain length a pole has to be before it will bend. It must be quite terrifying doing that first jump. I have been thinking about this for three days and still can’t get my head around it.

I remember Billy Connolly telling a Chick Murray joke about a pole vaulter turning up at the gates of the Olympic village with his pole up in an enormous pole shaped suitcase. The security guard asks “are you a pole vaulter?”, The athlete replies, “No I am German and how did you know my name vas Valter?”

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

My life is zipping by. The judges put me through to the final round of the John Logie Baird award. WobblyWilliams is a finalist in the Social Enterprise category, one of three. I have to present to a panel of judges on 1 March and focus on the innovation of WobblyWilliams. Why it works, what it is that draws people in. To help my thinking I emailed about 30 people and got some remarkable answers. They will form the crux of my spiel. I’m not going to tell you what the conclusions are, rather I will post them over the weekend before the presentation so the judges can read them in advance (on the assumption they will be diligent and look at the website prior to my pitch but not so diligent as to look sooner than the night before!). The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony on Friday, 12 March 2010, a day after my 39th birthday. Once again my employer is embracing what I’m doing and have taken two tables at the award ceremony. It is a great show of support.

The marathon preparations go on painfully. My bendy foot problems which have been with me for 18 months are, in the view of Tom Isaacs, caused by Dystonia. When I said I had never been to Dystonia or, indeed, any Baltic state, he looked at me blankly. Then I went red as I remembered a lap dancer called Mercedes who once extracted a large amount of cash from me. She said she was from Portsmouth but, in hindsight, she sounded like she might be from somewhere like Dystonia.

In any event, my foot hurts. The next two weeks see some significant milestones: our first half marathon of ten at Blackpool this Sunday, our first 14 mile run the week after and the halfway point in our training schedule. I have never run 14 miles and each week from that point onwards, the distance increases by one mile each week. Every week I will enter new territory in my personal battle. Fantastic.

I had an enforced break from running this weekend as we were in Berlin which is submerged under a layer of snow. I probably could of run, but frankly, I was glad to have a break. The weekend was spent with Vicky’s parents and her brother Richard and his wife Lynsey. Richard and I spent Saturday afternoon in a traditionally German Irish pub watching the rugby and devouring traditional German Guinness. It was great embracing another culture. In the evening mother-in-law had booked us into a cabaret show. To her horror it turned out to be naked cabaret. She was mortified, I was trying to spot Mercedes so I could have a stern word with her. It was a great evening, we were all singing and dancing until 3 AM and then Vicky, Richard and I went off in pursuit of a restaurant called “Schwarze Cafe” which, according to a rather drunk student I accosted in the street, was the place to go for food. It took us an hour to find it, much swearing and cursing passed my lips, but once found it served the most welcome lamb curry I have ever had. I got to bed at 5 AM and paid for it the next day.

Sunday was a poor day, I was quite shaky and not terribly interested in the tramping around the sights of Berlin. It is quite peculiar that the biggest attraction of the city, the wall, only barely exists.

I ran today and feel much more at one with the world.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Oooohhhhh!!! The excitement! After years of being branded a couch potato, my athletic prowess is now beyond doubt. I have concrete evidence that I am, indeed, a serious player in the field of physical exercise. Lofty Lowther, my PE teacher from school, would not believe it. “What is this evidence?” I hear you say. It is not a medal, any fun runner can get a medal. No, I am proud to announce I have athletes foot. Inflammation, crispy bits, pain. The symptoms of an athlete.

Not surprisingly, my athletic foot is my left foot. The one from Dystonia is still firmly rooted in the Cold War, showing belligerence and offering confrontation at every opportunity. I am surprised it hasn’t tried to build a wall around the part of me which functions relatively normally to prevent the medication getting in.

Anyway, my athletic foot is a welcome friend, it is nice to have an ailment which normal (but athletically superior) people suffer from.

Karen, Adele and I ran the Blackpool half marathon on Sunday and it was a cracking day. My feet behaved themselves and my time gets ever closer to respectability, crossing the line in 2 hours 17 minutes. This is four minutes faster than my previous best time and resulted in me making obscene, gloating gestures at my Parkinson’s. Unfortunately my Parkinson’s isn’t something tangible which I can make obscene gestures at so I do look a bit peculiar. As if I have some sort of Tourette’s syndrome which manifests itself in gesture rather than language.

Things are exciting at the moment. I have my presentation for the John Logie Baird award next Monday and Dada, the PR agency behind the Wobbly Banquet, have given the visuals a much sharper edge. Whilst I love Dada dearly, I am starting to tire of them making me feel completely inadequate in my efforts to be creative!

Regarding the Wobbly Banquet, the website goes live this week, tickets will be on sale and a new era in this organisation will be launched.

This weekend I am meeting with other parkies to hopefully discuss how we can drive the agenda forward. The longer I have this disease the more I realise the patients must take control.

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