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Antarctic Fire Angels; Q and A. (4)

Q1. Although it’s not the end of your expedition, when you get to the South Pole, how will you celebrate?

George – Moonwalking in my skis…just kidding!! Thinking idealistically, I’d like to pop open a hip flask of port and toast everyone who’s made it there through adversity. Realistically, touch it, get resupplied, make sure everyone is ok, quick rest stop then leave.

Alison – I think we’ll all have a little hip flask for monumental moments like this. In mine I will have some aptly names ‘Snow Queen Vodka’. It’s so smooth it can be drunk neat! I would also like to be able to ring my husband and tell him we made it to the South Pole. And as we will be resupplying I would hope for some cake. 

Nikki – Firstly, I’ll be bopping around the South Pole itself taking hundreds of selfies with it – my memory is shocking and I want as much photographic evidence of our achievements as possible! Secondly its got to be some sort of booze – I’d love to say a Baileys hot chocolate although this might be a stretch!

Nakita – Snacks, definitely snacks and a team picture…then off we go!!

Bex – A few swigs of brandy, some snow angels and a dance!

Beci – Knowing me I’ll probably happy cry. I think it’ll be a bit daunting to know my pulk is about to get heavy again…but we’ll be in a place only a tiny number of humans have stood. It will be a real mixture of emotions. Secretly hope they’ll let us shower there. A shower and clean knickers…heaven!! 

 Q2. Antarctica is a very special place that few get the chance to experience. Have you Guys appointed a team medic or all taken some extra med training for your exped?

Team – We all have basic trauma training but we will all be making sure our skills are current before we leave for the expedition. There is no doubt that some members of the team will be naturally drawn to that role better than others but any big decisions will be taken out of our control by the base camp doctor such as the decision to evacuate someone or the whole team. We have a few friends of the team that have first hand experience of being a medic in this environment and look forward to working with them. 

Q3. If you could take one imaginary item with you regardless of weight what would it be?

George – Can I have 3? My dogs, Pippa, Poppy and Luis.

Alison – Definitely my bed. I always miss that when I am away. 

Nikki – Probably my shower! I hate the idea of accumulating layers of grossness day after day! It’d be amazing to have a hot shower and a fluffy towel at the end of the day to reset and feel ready for the next one! Although I probably wouldn’t want to get out.

Nakita – Too many possibilities here!

Bex – George my dog, great hot water bottle and all round comfort and fun.

Beci – A bathroom.

Q4. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Beci – Working towards a big promotion at work. Two kids doing well. I’d like to start a degree. Delivering training/talks post expedition and maybe do some mountains too.

Bex – Enjoying life in wales with my family. 

Nakita – Having completed the expedition and using my experience to help others move forward with their own fund raising challenges to get their message out there. 

Nikki – Ooo I’ve actually no idea! I can see myself experiencing a void when I no longer have the Antarctic to focus on, so I’d imagine I’ll seek to fill that somehow, whether that be another physical challenge or something a little more family orientated! I don’t imagine I’d shut up about the incredible expedition I’d been on too, and if I can continue to help women realise their own possibilities I’ll be so happy.

Alison – I will be retired from the Fire Service then. So I would like to be helping other women to take on challenges and give them some leadership and coaching skills. I would like to lead a few outdoor type courses if my body is still in good order. I would love to have a place in France that my husband and I could spend a lot of time. Would love to have another dog but hopefully that won’t take 5 years! Who knows I could be looking for another challenge to take on. 

George – I see myself sitting in a beautiful holiday cottage with the dogs and my partner planning the next Expedition and probably my retirement! I also aim to be leading expeditions for people who never considered themselves capable of doing anything like this. 

Q5. Coffee or tea?

George – Tea when I wake up. Coffee mid morning with a biscuit.

Alison – Oh I am a massive coffee drinker. No brainier, this question. 

Nikki – Tea, tea tea!! Don’t tell anyone but I can’t bear coffee!

Nakita – Coffee!

Bex – I like both, tea first thing and coffee throughout the day! 

Beci – Decaf coffee.

Q6. Describe yourself in three words:

George – Only 3?! Ermmmm – prompt, focussed, sentimental. 

Alison – Determined, logical , impatient.

Nikki – Independent, Enthusiastic, & Stubborn (It’s personal growth to admit this one – my mother has been telling me this for years!)

Nakita – Unable to simplify! In all seriousness – Determined, passionate and loyal.

Bex – Resilient, dedicated and loyal.

Beci – Contradictory. Talkative. Hungry.

As always we have some lovely little videos for you to watch, click on the pictures to go there. Beci talks about her mental health and how she is coping with lockdown.

Nakita opens up about her reasons for starting the Antarctic Fire Angels. What it means to her personally and as a team…it’s an emotional one so get the tissues ready!

Written by Elissa

Antarctic Fire Angels; Q and A. (3)

Q1. Who came up with the name ‘Antarctic Fire Angels’?

George – Ok so officially, Beci’s children came up with the name – when asked they said “Well my mam is a firefighter and an angel” so that’s where it stayed and turned into the Antarctic Fire Angels! 

Nakita – George and I had sat in a pub in Clapham Junction after a meeting with Sophie from the Ice Maidens Army Team. We knew it had to be special. Various words and phrases scribbled across the page, a work in progress. When we started recruiting the team Beci had gone home to tell her children who then came forward with the fire angel concept.

 Q2. What is your favourite food?

Nikki – A burger; not McDonalds (that’s an insult to the name burger) but like a proper pub burger with lots of fillings and sauce – yummy! I also love Greek, Thai, Italian, the list goes on!

George – On the savoury side; salmon with noodles, nice and simple. In fact I’m not that overly keen on complicated food! Sweet; Turkish delight.

Bex – I love cheese! Something I will really miss in the Antarctic!

Alison – I love seafood. Any kind of seafood but particularly prawns and mussels. I could eat them in every meal. 

Beci – I can’t chose a favourite. I love food. The only thing I can narrow down is the small group of foods I don’t like (anything aniseed / liquorice flavour).

Nakita – This is really hard for me. Over the last year I’ve had to give up a lot of favourite foods as I seem to have a reaction to certain food groups. Currently have to be gluten free and dairy free which is cruel as I love pizza and cheese!! But a roast lamb with all the veg trimmings is safe……my Mum is the best at this!!

Q3. What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

Alison – Engage your brain before your mouth. Think before you say something you may regret basically. 
The other one relates to work and it was from a more senior officer who said no matter what you turn up to on an incident – look calm when you arrive. Take a few minutes to assess the scene and then detail the crew to carry out actions. If you are calm they will be calm. 

Bex – Rest and recovery is as important as training so always factor it in! 

Nakita – If you worry about what other people think of you, then you will have more confidence in their opinion than you have in your own.

Beci – To question your feelings, not just accept them as they present. Ask why and try to change it. 

George – Be the person you needed when you were growing up.

Nikki – Have faith in yourself – you can do this.

Q4. What item in your wardrobe do you wear most?

Beci – My skinny jeans and selfish mother sweaters.

George – Shorts and flip flops or pyjamas.

Bex – Jeans, I love a good pair of jeans in many colours. 

Alison – Jeans. I am always in jeans black, blue, white, patterned.

Nakita – Gym leggings…..I live in them! Working out, dog walking and as casual wear. Totally addicted. Sooo comfy!!

Nikki – Gym kit! I literally live in the stuff.

Q5. Why did you decide on the Antarctic and not somewhere warmer like the Sahara? 

George – Well, that was down to Sophie from the ice maidens! But there’s no reason why an expedition to a hot place would be out of the question. 

Nakita – Completely inspired by the Ice Maidens Team. George and I could of chosen somewhere different (and warmer), but the idea of the contrast between fire and ice, going into an environment completely opposite to our role as firefighters we hope would add to our inspirational challenge.

Nikki – I think the Antarctic is fitting for firefighters – like we’re used to one extreme so how about we tackle the opposite extreme.

Q6. If you could be any animal, what would it be and why?

Nakita – I love the idea of being a dog (completely pampered – especially in the Ross family!) but to mix it up I would say a shark! Ill explain, always had a weird fascination with them after watching Jaws. They are the best design they can be. I’ve always loved this poster I saw a while back – Do sharks need motivation? NO! They are up swimming around biting things and chasing stuff reminding everyone they’re a shark!

Nikki – Probably a dolphin – I think I make more sense in the water than I do on land! Although I definitely look more like a gangly giraffe.

George – I’d be one of my dogs. They live a life of luxury! 

Bex – A cat, you get pampered by your owner and fed but also you have independence to go and do what you want when you want! 

Alison – I would be a horse, free to run, out in a field, fed, groomed and looked after by humans. Taken out to different places on a hack, maybe exercised over a few jumps. Part of a herd. What’s not to like. 

Beci – A dog. Seriously mine has the life of luxury. Nice bed, constant tummy tickles,  food, walks and she’s always happy. 

Double whammy this post, Co-Founder of the Antarctic Fire angels, George, and Alison from Team WAFA has done a video for us all about how they are coping with lockdown and how it feels to be a keyworker.

Click on the pictures to go to the short video clips from our two Fire Angels.

Remember, Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

Written by Elissa

Antarctic Fire Angels; Q and A. (2)

So the last blog post with a short Q&A went down really well with readers so here is another one to keep you going. Whilst in lockdown this is the best way for you to get to know the Antarctic Fire Angels a little better; enjoy!

Q1. What is your biggest fear?

George – Not achieving, including the smaller things, not just the Expedition itself. 

Nakita – To not achieve the goals I set. It just feels like unfinished business and that I’ve let myself down.

Alison – Getting older and having to rely on other people. Being a burden to others. 

Bex – It was actually heights before I got into the Firebrigade, I had to really conquer this to do this awesome job. The training and skills I have learnt alleviated my fears and allowed me to deal with it throughout training and now at work. I have over come this now! 

Nikki – I fear by body becoming incapable of doing what my mind wants it to do – like through significant injury or old age and losing my independence. I also have a fear of regret.

Beci – Loosing someone close to me and/or having an unhappy family. 

 Q2. What are you most proud of?

Beci – My family, I’m so proud of the people my children are growing up to be (so far so good…) and my job. I absolutely love my job. 

Nikki – My independence I think – I’ve worked very hard to prove that I am capable of doing anything I want to do. Lots of things I do in my life are to challenge and push my capabilities and it’s where I thrive.

Bex – I am lucky to have a number of proud moments to date such as passing out to become a firefighter in my old age of 37 and competing for my country in 4 different sports. However the one that will always stay with me was becoming world champion and world record holder in the sport of ‘surf lifesaving’ back in 2000 when I was 18. I went to the world champs in Sydney for experience and a goal of making one final so it was a surreal experience that I’ll never forget! 

Alison – This is a tough one. I am not a particularly proud person and don’t like putting myself out there. But I think it’s getting to where I am in the fire service and achieving it through hard work not because I am a woman. I would like to think I haven’t changed much through the process and I remember where I have come from. 

Nakita – Difficult one to answer! I’m proud of a lot of things, I want to keep pushing my limits. At the moment I’m extremely proud of the Team and all we have achieved, even through these difficult times. 

George – Oooo, tricky because I tend to be proud of things as and when they happen but if I had to nail something, it would be getting this amazing team together. 

Q3. Who would you most like to go for a drink with?

Alison – Oh dear. I want to say someone really intelligent and highbrow like Stephen Fry but he’s just too clever. But I would rather have a good laugh so Noel Fielding or Freddie Flintoff. 

Bex – Holly Willoughby.

Nikki – Chris Hemsworth – no explanation necessary!

Nakita – Oooo! For laughs Russell Howard! What a funny night that would be.

Beci – Ohhh loads. Can I have a party? David Attenborough, Tim Minchin, Dave Grohl, Hollie McNish, Caitlin Moran, Billy Connolly Michael Sheen, Ewan McGregor, Jodie Whittaker, Daisy Ridley, Brian Cox, Eric Idle, Mark Hamill, John Cusack, Ryan Reynolds, Max Boyce, Matt Haig…I mean, can we pick dead people too?!

George – Now that falls into categories for me;
Stalker fan – Emily Blunt.
Brain fuel – Stephen Fry and Sandi Toksvig.
Just to breath the same air as them – Dame Maggie Smith. 

Q4. Who are your heroes?

Bex – Sharon Davies – swimmer/presenter.

George – Fictional – Wonder Woman. Real life- Lowri Morgan

Nakita – I’ve been inspired by parents, their careers and the struggles they went through. Possibly basing my life on wanting to become a real life Lara Croft!

Beci – My grandparents. They are/were all such strong people.

Alison – Easy, Haile Gerbresalassie is my running hero. Usain Bolt would be up there too. What they have both achieved in the world of athletics is unbelievable, they’ve really made it a global sport and have inspired lots of people from very poor backgrounds. 

Nikki – Um tough one – my parents have always been incredible role models to me, showing how love and kindness will always prevail. Fictional hero someone like Katniss Everdeen – proper badass gal. Sporting heroes include Jenson Button & Rebecca Addlington.

Q5. What job would you be terrible at?

George – Any ball sport coaching.

Nakita – I think anything to do with sitting at a computer and selling something over the phone…I would probably convince them not to buy it!

Alison – A librarian as I can be very loud. I would be the one who would be told off all the time!

Bex – Surgeon – too heavy handed! 

Beci – A Teacher.

Nikki – Something really analytical and clever like an air-traffic controller – my brain would be fried!

Q6. What job did you want to do when you were younger?

Nakita – I wanted to join the Army and my parents had lined up Sandhurst for me. Stupidly I didn’t do it. It is one of my “what if” moments! 

George – Royal Navy or Army, BUT doing all the things the men did. Back then we weren’t allowed as women to do all the exciting things. 

Bex – An Olympian and a marine biologist. 

Nikki – I wanted to be a vet until I learnt that I’d have to stick my hand up cows bums!

Alison – Police Officer and I also wanted to join the RAF to be a PTI. I also thought about physiotherapy.

Beci – Firefighter and be a Blue Peter presenter. I still *really* want a badge…

Hope you’ve enjoyed this instalment of Q & A with the Fire Angels, there is plenty more to come whilst we remain in lockdown.

For those of you who haven’t already seen it there is a lovely video from Bex on her daily exercise talking about lockdown, how she is coping, what changes it has made to her routines and why we should all stay at home. (Click on picture for video).

Remember, Stay Home, Protect the NHS and Save Lives.

Written by Elissa

Antarctic Fire Angels; Lockdown Begins. (Week 10 and 11)

Week ending 29th March and 5th April

So here we are folks, in lockdown. It was something we knew was coming at some point and quite rightly too. Whether we think it was soon enough is a different matter but we are where we are now and we will ride this out together. Personally I can’t remember a time when everyone came together like they are during this; from the clapping on Thursday evenings to thank our heroes on the front line, to neighbours helping those who are vulnerable, FaceTiming family and friends and actually ‘seeing’ then more than ever. We are all pulling together in a way that is truly beautiful and it gives me some hope for humanity.

Team WAFA
Much like the rest of us in the country and indeed the world, the team is adapting and making the most of everything this world has to offer at the moment. For George it’s all about taking in the surroundings and perhaps taking on a new perspective. She feels very lucky to live where she does right now, in the countryside. It is something she has always taken for granted but with lockdown continuing for the foreseeable future she is certainly making the most of it now.

It’s the little things, like taking in the sights and sounds, the birds seem louder on her daily exercise and even seem to be getting cheeky and brave around humans when they see them. It is almost like nature knows the human race is in some sort of difficulty, which or course, it is. #escapethepandemic is the hashtag the team are using when training because it’s important that we do that, escape it, for even a short period of time, everyday. Training is pretty much all there is at the moment so they are going to use this opportunity to keep going; hoping to emerge fitter, stronger and have a bigger appreciation of what we have and what we could have lost.

In a similar vein Alison has been pushing the training forward and managed to track down and buy a ski track trainer. It is from the 1990’s and they are really hard to get hold of and it was even in full working order too.

Her husband is not hugely pleased as it started life in the dining room but she is able to move it around and will be able to use it in the garden, which is what she has been doing. Check out the picture and if you want to see a short clip of Alison in action, click on it to take you to the AFA Instagram page.

Like the rest of us Alison is getting used to working from home and video calling; it is still nice to be able to see people’s faces even though we can’t go and see them at the moment. She has been putting music on to try and cheer up those who walk past when in the office too. It is also the realisation for most of us that we can’t just pop and see our family; birthdays, like Alison’s Grandson’s are celebrated by FaceTime or Zoom or Skype, whichever you use. For those who have elderly relatives like Alison’s Mum it is a daily phone call to check in. Altogether Alison has had 4 family birthday’s and her own wedding anniversary during lockdown; the family are already calling for a party at her house when lockdown is lifted. We hope we’re all invited?!

Beci has had a difficult time, the mood went from good and positive to anxious and frustrated children but they worked through it together as a family and are now back to some sort of ‘normal. Like all of us we are trying to find some sort of new normal with lockdown and those who have children are also home schooling at the same time. For Beci the day’s are; children’s PE wth Joe Wicks, yoga, ‘school’, lunch, more school work and then a long walk with the dog. Along with FaceTiming friends and family, dinner and bedtime it doesn’t leave much time for training. But we must all do what we can to get through this. Check out Beci on a family walk with the tyres and the children…click away.

She has also volunteered to help the Welsh Ambulance Service in whatever capacity she can through this very strange and difficult time. But she is still smiling and the family still dance in the kitchen and that is fantastic, because for those of you have followed from the start you will know how amazing it is for Beci to be dealing with all of this in the way that she is. It will be a fantastic learning base to see how well she copes with change and challenges on the road to Antarctica.

Team LAFA
After Nakita returned to work from the week of training with HART it felt like the world has been turned upside down. Everything was changing in order to keep the firefighters and community safe and with all the information about the virus coming in thick and fast it was all quite overwhelming. Knowing that two members of the household where her family are come under the high risk category she knew she had to make the call that she wasn’t going to be able to see them for the foreseeable. It sunk in that living on her own with her dogs at her parents it was going to be a tough ride. The first day off she got was totally surreal but as always she kept herself going and tried to keep herself motivated; not watching too much TV and eat everything she could out of boredom. (Believe me, I know the feeling and I don’t have such willpower to step away from the snacks…)

The closing of gyms really hit Nikki as she had just got back in to her stride after the ‘shark bite’ but it is 100% the right thing to do for the country and humanity so she is going to try and improvise. Having redone her training schedule to include home workouts alongside the workouts they can still do at work plus the tyre dragging she is in a much better place.

Mother’s Day was difficult, she managed to go on a long walk with her mum and step-dad staying 2 metres apart which was very strange and Nikki came home to the news that her step-mum was in hospital; a hugely worrying time, not virus related and she is now home and well. I guess it was more around the principle of not being able to sit with people when they need you most, not being able to hold their hands when they are in pain, that must be the hardest part of all this. It puts everything into perspective, the current situation, and hopefully will make everyone a little kinder when lockdown is lifted.

Nikki has been focusing on how she will stay sane whilst cooped up in her flat alone for a few days at a time. Luckily she can still go to work, so unless she has to self isolate the most she will be int he flat is just over 3 days but even that stresses her out. Keeping mental health in a good place is a huge deal and never more so than right now, so she came up with some rules to help her; turning the radio on in the morning instead of the TV and making sure she does exercise in the morning to start her day off well. They might not seem like big things but this is what works for Nikki, we all know ourselves well enough to know what helps our mental health and what doesn’t.

Be kind to yourself during lockdown. And why not listen to Nikki talk about how she is coping with lockdown during her daily exercise, click on her photo and it will take you to the video clip.

Obviously given the current lockdown all the team events have been cancelled, including the London Half Marathon, the Blue Light Stair Run, Harlequins Game Changer, The British Firefighters Challenge and all team training. Thank you to anyone who donated extra to see the guys run the London Half in their full fire kit, maybe next year? And yes this is right for the situation we are in, absolutely, there is no quibble or quarrel about that, and the guys will keep training and keep pushing so that when lockdown is lifted they are fit and ready to go. If anything, this is an ironic practise run of the isolation they will face in Antarctica.

Join us again for the next blog, follow us on social media, spread the word and remember, stay safe, stay in, protect the NHS and help save lives. We applaud every single person who is a key worker, every single one of you who get up each morning and put yourself at risk, go to work to help the country and keep it going. We salute you.

Written by Elissa.

Another Week, Another Tyre Drag. (Week 8)

Week ending 13th March

Team WAFA
Alison has returned from her much needed holiday, 2 weeks away and 6lbs heavier she informs me. She managed to use the gym on board and keep at the weights and running, apparently running whilst on rough sea is interesting and a challenge. Imagine the core muscles you need to do that? Running on a treadmill, in a gym, on a boat in the sea; fabulous!

Given that she didn’t have access to social media it means she is also playing catch up with all the activity she missed whilst being away. For her it’s great to see what the team have achieved and that they have been as busy as always whilst she has been away.

Also this week George and Alison went to Eveswell Primary School where they presented to a fantastic bunch of 50 children who were all very interested in the Antarctic and their planned expedition. Thank you and a huge well done to all those involved! Now you might remember I mentioned the DSET (Defence Simulation Education and Training) conference that George was presenting at? Well her week was pretty much consumed by just that. She was presenting on Innovation to roughly 200 MOD personnel; her presentation was called ‘Communicate to Innovate’ and was all about the rare art of communication and how it can help with change and therefore innovation becomes more organic rather than forced. A fantastic few days but it really took it out of George meaning that her training suffered slightly.

George at the DSET conference with fellow heroes and speakers flying the flag for the AFA!

Team LAFA
Nikki, Nakita and Rebecca had a meeting with their Deputy Assistant Commissioner and Comms department to discuss how the AFA and LFB can move forward together such as media training to be able to handle sensitive issues in the press. It was hugely positive and they are excited to be on the same page going forward.

Nikki also finally met with Owen who is going to be their web designer. She was given the task of deciding how they wanted the website to work and what needed to be on it. Taking the lead in the meeting with Owen she got very animated talking about what the team would want, and like any good designer, when he explained everything back to her she could imagine the website coming to life. Combine that with Nikki’s friend who has just returned from Australia who will writing the content it sounds like a force to be reckoned with!

Despite busy work schedules LAFA actually managed to go for a collective tyre dragging session. They went out on Epsom Downs for two and a half hours covering 7.7km and dragging 2 tyres each; they even took along Nikki’s best friend Emily who is also a firefighter at Chelsea. Nikki shot off like a rocket and had to be reminded by Rebecca to slow down, the key is slow and steady so they can maintain the drag for longer. Something for Nikki to work on over the coming years and I’m sure she will have it down to a fine art by 2023!


One thing that stuck out for Rebecca whilst they were walking single file dragging the tyres was the stark reality of what could lie ahead, many lonely hours. Just think about that, the freezing temperatures, the long days and nights, the constant movement and the battle against the elements and themselves. It will be a long hard battle but the more they practise now the easier it will be when they get there.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Nakita and it has made her realise how important it is to remove toxic people from your life. Keep your circle strong and positive. Right now is the time to make sure they are planning fitness regimes properly and preparing for the pulk pull. LAFA had a team meeting where they went over their availability for the next 6 months and it made them realise how difficult it is going to be to train together as a London team let alone a whole team! Motivation is key to going out alone along with organisation and communication with the rest of the team, and of course not being concerned about looking like a weirdo pulling tyres around behind you…!

The team have also had a film company approach them, still all very early stages but so exciting to know that their story and expedition is getting out there. If this does become a film documentary it will potentially raise thousands for charity. How incredible would that be?

It is easy to sit and read this and think that the guys are just training every now and then, have time to go out and see family and friends and work casual shifts but you’d be very wrong. You have to remember how much of their own leave the team are using to train and are even planning to take sabbaticals to make this expedition happen. It is not easy and there is never enough time to fit everything in. It is going to be hard, so hard and sacrifices will have to be made along with a constant balancing act of work, family, friends, training and having fun. That is important, to have fun, you have to take a break sometimes from the relentless regime and rat race of life.

Last week we looked at the different videos and articles the team had released on IWD2020, some I didn’t include we on the ‘We Are The City’ website who are working closely with our team. Take a look at their pages dedicated to the inspirational women you might just recognise some of those faces and names as our very own AFA. https://wearethecity.com/category/inspirational-profiles/isw-public-sector/. How truly humbling for me to be involved with such a fantastic team, it is so important to celebrate women in this way and those that support them in achieving all they can.

Remember that these guys are raising money for their charities and you can donate on their GoFundMe page – https://www.gofundme.com/f/antarctic-fire-angels. A great way to do this is also to purchase that fantastic top from The Good Wash Company, one has even been shipped to Australia! If you have one, post a picture of yourself below or on social media and make sure you tag the guys, they’d love to see them.

Written by Elissa.

The Times 2. (Week 6)

(Week ending 28th Feb 2020)

Biggest news this week was the release of the Times2 interview that the team did a few weeks back. They were so impressed with the article and you couldn’t miss it, a whole two page spread inside The Times. For those of you who did miss it you can find it here on the official website; https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/the-female-firefighters-bidding-to-conquer-antarctica-s98nprdqn

It showcased the team with some amazing pictures and the article itself was powerful and reinforced the positive reasons for this expedition. Reasons for why they want to do this vary but I liked these wise words from Alison – ‘I’m a granny and I want to leave a legacy, I want my grandchildren to know that women can go anywhere and do anything if they put their minds to it’ and as Nakita points out in the article, no one has this life down to a fine art, no one is 100% certain of how everything will turn out. We just have to keep calm and carry on. ‘There’s no such thing as a mentally super-fit person. Not in life and certainly not int he fire-service. You do your very best on the scene at the time, but you’re only human; things come back to haunt you. Why did this disaster happen? On this expedition we want to show that you can suffer adverse events professionally and personally, but still achieve something incredible as a team.’

Team LAFA
In other news, Nikki has been desperately trying to get back to her peak physical fitness after the ‘shark bite’ incident and is still awaiting her medical to give her the go ahead to get back to work. It’s been a fairly quiet week due to that, going on a 20km walk with her mum who is 64 but very active and super keen on joining in as many walks as possible so that they can spend some time together.

Having had her walking boots for over 12 years which were falling apart Nikki decided to treat herself to a new pair and even got a bargain for a pair at £89 down from £180! With all the kit the team have to buy over the coming years, every saving is a bonus.

Sticking with the training, Rebecca started tyre pulling and boy was it hard work! With one hour at a time to get used to it it has made her realise that there is a lot of training to be done before they are ready to tackle the Antarctic. On a positive side it is hugely exciting for the team to get the specific training underway and ensure they are fit and ready for 2023.

With International Women’s Day coming up, and our team being just that, truly inspirational, Rebecca had an interview with Harlequins Rugby Club. You might remember she used to play for the club before her injury so it was lovely for her to have some involvement still and be asked to do this video piece for such an important day.

Team WAFA
George had a crazy busy week; first off she has been in contact with Helen Turton of ‘Newland Expeditions’ to plan and set the date for the team’s Norway training next year. The pressure now being to fundraise to cover the deposit as soon as possible; with her constant drive to get things done it has been frustrating for her not being able to get everything booked and sorted immediately. Despite that, it is SUPER exciting and the team can’t wait for the trip. Second on the list she has been in discussions with NatWest to go on to their pre-accelerator programme which would give them access to hubs for meetings instead of the usual coffee shops and also business links that we would never have otherwise thought of.

Along side that she has been busy sorting out her presentation for ‘Techniquest’ on 3rd March which will see 5 groups of 50 children pull a sled of 85kg! It will be a long day and it is also her birthday that day, she will have earned a treat a two by the end of the day. Not to mention the 25 minute PowerPoint presentation to write for the DSET conference later in March and writing her speech for South Wales Fire and Rescue Service International Women’s Day; this woman is a machine!

The Goodwash Company that have been mentioned a fair few times before are working with the AFA team, sorting out product lines to sell which will help raise funds for the team too. How amazing is that?!

Technically this was launched for International Women’s Day which is the week after this blogs events, but as it’s so incredible I think i’ll let it slip in!

If you haven’t already seen the top or purchased it, first off, why not?! Secondly, click the imagine and go and get yourself one of these beautiful tops!

Don’t forget to keep donating on the GoFundMe page and i’ve dropped another picture below shot by the amazing photographer Gareth Iwan Jones from the Times2; this is the training these guys are putting in. When we come home and think about what’s for dinner or think about sitting on the sofa and what to watch on TV, they are pulling tyres over beaches and muddy park land. They are pushing themselves to the limit enough to know that when this expedition comes they will have done everything they can to showcase what they as firefighters, women, grandmothers, mothers, daughters can do. I said it in the first blog and I’ll say it again, this is all out girl power pushing boundaries; when people say ‘but women can’t do that’ they are saying ‘yes we can!’.

Written by Elissa.

Be Kind. Always. (Week 5)

(Week ending 21st Feb 2020)

Team WAFA
This week has sadly been a bit of a write off training wise for the WAFA’s as it was all about their day jobs. It all started this week with the horrific weather I am sure we have all encountered and with Wales experiencing the worst flooding it has had in decades; this meant that Beci spent Sunday trying to help people locally in the immediate aftermath and the following days getting aid to those who needed it most. Alison was also involved with helping those effected by the floods and has also been fighting off a chest infection which unfortunately seems to be winning at the moment; she is off on a two week holiday so hoping to rest and recuperate. Although the holiday is playing on her mind because it means that her training will potentially suffer and being the oldest of the group she doesn’t want to slip behind. We are with you all the way Alison!

On Friday George, Beci and Alison had a meeting with Donna and Jenna discussing how the team can give some development opportunities to Fire Cadets and Volunteers in South Wales Fire and Rescue Service and how they could help with some fundraising. It was hugely productive and both Donna and Jenna were blown away with what the team have already put in place and the plans for the challenge ahead. For Alison it’s an interesting situation when she tells someone all about their expedition because in her head it doesn’t seem such a big challenge, that is until she sees the reaction from someone else! I guess that is what brings it home to them, it reminds them all that what they are working up to is truly phenomenal.

Alison also managed to sort out some old fire kit that couldn’t be reused and along with George collected it from stores to be used to make the bears for the schools talks. Do you guys remember Elizabeth Sews? She uses old clothing to make memorable and special bears; she will be using the old kit along with some uniform from each school to get a bespoke bear made for each school talk.

Aside from all the flooding, George did manage to get some training in and actually went on a 4 hour tyre drag…yes, 4 hours! Check out the picture to the left; that’s George on her tyre drag at Merthyr Mawr. Don’t forget all of this is to simulate the feeling of pulling the sled that the team will have to pull whilst in the Antarctic.

On this epic trek, George just so happened to have a little mishap which she wrote a poem about and we love it;
‘I wandered lonely as a cloud
Dragging my tyres, oh so proud.
Then there came a terrible smell
Yes I thought, I know that wiff well.
I’d dragged my tyres through some poo
But oddly thankful it wasn’t on my shoe.’

It has also been a hard week for all of us, well all of us who understand that this world needs to change; I am of course talking about the heartbreaking and tragic news of Caroline Flack. There is so much that could be said and yet I feel it is all too little too late, especially for Caroline. The journey most of us are on in this world is long and hard, you have to keep going and keep your head up when faced with tragedy and sorrow. You have to remember that not every day is easy, not every day reminds you that it is worth it but it is SO important to talk to people. Talk to friends and family about how you are feeling, don’t hide behind the fake smiles and chat; we all have demons that sit waiting in our darkest thoughts, waiting for you to fall back into the sea of black that pulls you under. To think that taking her own life is the only choice Caroline had is truly horrific and so so tragic, my heart goes out to her, her friends and family. And for this amazing group of women it has hit home that raising awareness of all mental health issues is something that needs to happen.

Team LAFA
Nikki went for a walk around Devil’s Punchbowl this week for a bit of training with her friend and her twins (who also happen to be Nikki’s goddaughters) in rucksacks on our backs (see picture). They are over 10kg each so this was a great way to train until she can acquire some weighted vests!

She has also been working on the website design, how it should look, what needs to be on there, what it needs to say so that when they sit down with the designer they are ready to go full steam ahead.

All this has helped take Nikki’s mind off her ‘shark bite’. Having had a medical at work this week she was told she was not allowed back due to her significant injury and that her body needs time to heal. The next medical is 2nd March and she is hoping for the green light! As frustrating as it is for Nikki to want to get back at it, she knows that she must make sure her body is fully recovered.

Nakita has been training hard with the guys at work who have been an amazing support and inspiration; after registering at a new gym she is ready to go full throttle. You may have already seen that Team LAFA released the news that they are going to take part in the London Half Marathon on 29th March 2020 and if you manage to get their GoFundMe Page above £2,000 they will do it in full fire gear! So what are you waiting for? Click the link to donate; https://www.gofundme.com/f/antarctic-fire-angels

This week I will leave you with the words that have been all over social media and are so apt; ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind. Always.’

Written by Elissa.

Scotland; Are you ready?! (Week 3)

(Week ending 7th Feb 2020)

We need to start this post off with a massive thank you to everyone who has donated so far; the total hit £1,000 and beyond! Thank you, genuinely, it means so much to the whole team. For those who haven’t yet donated, here’s the link if you feel like helping the team and charities out; https://www.gofundme.com/f/antarctic-fire-angels

Team WAFA
George has had a heavy week of training this week. We all know what the weather has been like so as you can imagine the trail running has been hard work. There was so much mud and water around that it was hard to keep some sort of sanity whilst she was slipping all over the place! But, for George, this is also her commute to work and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Combining these runs with an hour’s warm up on the cross trainer (with the bungee attached) has made a big impact on her mental strength and resilience. The runs home from work are still in the dark and last week George was followed by, presumably, some sort of wild animal. They normally run away and she is more than used to seeing eyes in the hedgerows and trees however this one followed her all the way through the woods! Needless to say she hasn’t taken that route home since…

There is a big challenge ahead for the team, a weekend away in Scotland to learn Nordic skiing. They will spend two days learning basics and then going out in to a forested area to practise. A combination of nerves and excitement is filtering through the team and Alison has had all her gear out on the spare bed for two weeks, not just out of excitement but her biggest concern is how she is going to fit it all in her suitcase?! An even bigger part of the weekend ahead is, for Alison, hoping she can keep up with the rest of the team. She has only ever been skiing once in her life and that was when she was 11, a long time ago! It’s also the first time she has been away and not taken any makeup with her, it’s all about being outside of your comfort zone and breaking new boundaries…!

Alison isn’t the only one who is hoping she can keep up with the rest of the team; Beci is nervous and excited about the weekend ahead although it wasn’t off to the best of starts as she has left her walking boots in her car in Wales and didn’t notice until she was nearly at the airport…! It is difficult for all the team to leave family, friends and pets when they go on these sort of training events but it is just a reminder of the dedication and sacrifices the team are making for this expedition. Beci has made sure the house was clean and tidy as she is leaving her poor husband in charge but an added extra that is weighing heavy on her mind is that she is going to miss her daughters 6th birthday. She is heartbroken to be away but she is hoping that they can get away with celebrating her birthday later in the week and her daughter will never know the difference?! We will keep our fingers crossed for you Beci!

Above the physical and mental battles of this challenge is the emotional battle. Beci feels an overwhelming guilt as a Mum to ensure her children always come first whilst trying to steal time away to achieve this goal. But she knows this will make her children so proud and remind them that they can do anything they want to in life. It means that Sunday will be a combination of holding back the tears not being with her daughter on her special day but also aching in places she didn’t even know she had…!

Team LAFA
If you recall, Nikki had taken a huge step back last week after cutting her left leg open, which has now been affectionately named as her ‘shark bite’. After many doctors & nurses appointments it was agreed that she could go to Scotland and at least give skiing a try. She booked on light duties at work to permit her to do this but she is extremely nervous about the injury and does not want to stop the healing process. So instead she started working on sponsorship packages ready for the new website and after spending 90 minutes in Decathlon getting everything she needed her excitement reached top levels!

Rebecca spent the weekend with her Mum which was really lovely for her but she found it tough to see her feeling so lonely. If you remember, as mentioned in a previous blog, Rebecca sadly lost her step-dad in December. Her brother, sister in law and nephew came over from Singapore which was really great for her and her mum; she doesn’t get to see them that often with them living so far away and she misses them a lot. It’s always important to have family and friends that you can talk to and rely on in dark and difficult times; never be afraid to ask for help or support.

After a good long walk on Monday, 15km to be precise, in lots of mud and a few very busy days at work it’s finally time for Rebecca to get excited about the Scotland weekend ahead. Rebecca is also not a skier and since her serious injury to her knee back when she played rugby she has stayed away from any risky activity. As you can imagine skiing is pretty risky for her and the nerves are setting in for the training ahead; given that she ruptured 3 ligaments and no longer has a ACL she is unsure how her body will hold up. But as ever Rebecca has a strong determination to give it a go and see how far she can push herself, mentally and physically.

It’s been a slightly different week for Nakita; she is still in a bit of a whirlwind, having reached a point where she knows her relationship ending was the best thing but the way it ended is still painful and hard for her to take. The biggest issue is that it takes her away from what she loves, her energy levels are low and she is finding it hard to focus. As team leader and founder of the AFA she finds it hard to let go of the helm but she has been trusting the team to deal with organising events and meetings and they are of course more than capable of this. It just means that Nakita feels guilty for not being able to put 100% in, she likes to pull her weight and when she doesn’t it plays on her mind.

For Nakita being back at the station with her watch has helped her more than you can imagine, they are all incredibly supportive and it reminds her that they really aren’t just her work colleagues, they are her other family. Unless you are or have ever been a firefighter it is hard to understand the bonds that are built within the watch and this week when out for a drink they started talking about Grenfell, an evening they will never forget.

Red watch were in attendance on the night of the fire and what they endured was truly incomprehensible. Nakita was on blue watch at the time and attended the night after, recovering those that sadly didn’t make it.

Ricky, a firefighter on her watch had written a poem at the time of Grenfell which really touched Nakita. Little did they know she had also written her own but never shared it. It is only now that she feels she can share the poem she had written back then, all about the experience and emotions from that fateful night. I have pasted a copy of the poem to the left for you to read.

For me writing this, it is hard to imagine what this must have been like, it is best coming straight from Nakita on this; “Climbing those stairs again and again, where the outcome would not be any different, trying to imagine what our firefighters, and all those involved went through. But we would never know and all our experiences would be different, still traumatic, but different.”

After showing their support her watch encouraged her to share the poem with others, so that night that is what Nakita did on social media. She wanted to highlight part of the ‘why’ behind the AFA team and the expedition but she was also nervous of any negative response to this going out. Perhaps people would not understand what or why she had written the poem, however the response has been hugely positive. This is an expression of feelings and emotions from someone who was there and as Nakita says, each and everyone involved in that night will have different experiences and different feelings. It is only from sharing, talking and expressing our inner thoughts and feelings that we can start to try and process something like this. It is a hard subject to write and talk about, it conjures a lot of emotion even for those not directly related to it. Thank you for understanding and reading the poem.

One thing that the team are conscious of is spreading the word and inspiring women to be anything they want to be. Some of the team went on a school visit about mental fitness withHarlequin Foundation, it was a real eye opener on how to approach mental fitness with children who had a hugely positive response which was great to see. Although interestingly, when the children were asked what job they thought the AFA team did, not one of them guessed firefighter and when they were told, there was a combination of disbelieve and awe. It really reinforced for the team that an element of what they were doing would help get the word out there that women can be firefighters too, and with these guys as hugely positive role models it makes me think we will see lots more female firefighters in the future.

Some of you might remember the other week when Nikki ended up liaising with ‘We Are The City’ and this week Nakita found out that the AFA team have nominated her as a ‘Rising Star’. She is truly humbled and moved by this nomination; take a look at their website for previous winners and learn all about the 2020 process; https://risingstars.wearethecity.com/

This was also the week I was announced as Official Blogger for the AFA Team! Genuinely so excited and absolutely love hearing and writing all about what these guys get up to. I am in total awe of their determination and dedication to the cause and I can’t wait to see where the next few years take us. The drive to show and inspire women that we are strong together and that we can be anything we want to be makes me feel so proud to be a part of this team.

Tune in next week to find out how the Scotland trip went; I mean skiing, walking and a beer or two, what’s not to love?!

Written by Elissa