Tag Archives: scotland

Skiing in Scotland! (Week 4)

(Week ending 14th Feb 2020)

It’s been a busy week for the team with the main focus being on their weekend away in Scotland learning how to Nordic Ski. It was also the first time that the team had “lived” together. Which was something they were really looking forward to, with busy lives and work schedules it is hard to find time out to do these events together. They all found the time away a great bonding session, given that they had only ever met once before as a team it was a real step forward in cementing the AFA family. Beci has taken the role as team chef making sure the team were fed and watered and Rebecca was bin lady and furniture mover extraordinaire!

Team LAFA all stayed together in preparation for a 4am drive to Heathrow, ouch! They got there in great time and were slightly nervous that they hadn’t heard from the WAFAs but they knew they were staying local to the airport and were sure they were all safe and sound. Hopefully they got an extra hour in bed or maybe they were helping Alison fit everything in to her suitcase?! The full AFA team reunited at gate 5 ready for the flight. Nakita had the new team jackets with their logo ready and George had gilets from Mountain equipment ready too. They all looked very professional and felt like they were part of a proper team.

Once in Scotland their first trip was to Tesco to fill 2 trolley’s up with all the essentials they needed for the long weekend before heading to their beautiful cottage; no wi-fi and slightly off grid which certainly helped them all focus on the days ahead.

The skiing was full on and although the team were up to the physical challenge they certainly all felt it mentally as it took such concentration. It has helped them look at, amend and tweak their training plans to ensure they are ready for the longer skis ahead. Over all the weather was pretty kind to them with only a bit of rain and some high winds. For the Fire Angels, day one was all about learning the basics; getting moving and staying up right, which is pretty key in all of this! They were moving up and down a 25 metre track initially and then going around a track before hitting a ski slope in the afternoon. Alison had a big fall which bruised not only her ego but her bottom! She had previously expressed her concern at not being able to keep up with the team but the instructors were really lovely and showed a lot of patience. It was a mixed ability group of 16 people it was great to support each other on what ended up being a more physically and mentally challenging course than they all imagined.

Day two was all about working on the technique, to try and glide better and use the poles correctly. Alison was a bit sore from the fall the day before so sat it out with Nikki, who you might remember couldn’t really take part due to her ‘shark bite’. The guys really felt like the Sunday consolidated everything they had learnt and that they had made huge improvements from the day before. It has also made them realise what a monumental task they have ahead of them over the coming years; they are already putting the time and effort in ten fold and now they know they’ve just got to keep going.

Also you might recall that Beci had to deal with the guilt of leaving her family for the weekend, especially as it was her daughter’s birthday on the Sunday. She managed to hold it all together, that was, until she saw a rainbow. Her daughter is a rainbow baby and owns a lot of rainbow clothes which triggered the guilt and emotion all over again and she ended up crying on all the girls. As always they were a great support to each other and really helped Beci through the day and as a team they all went for a lovely walk in the forestry together. Baring in mind that this was the most amount of time they had all spent together it really was an ideal 4 days for them to get to know more about individual personalities and learnt a lot about each other.

I am sure we can all remember the horrific weather and storm Ciara that weekend; well with a delayed flight it meant the team had a very late finish. However they put the delay time to good use and did some planning and task assignments for the next few weeks as a team.

Monday was tyre pulling day with the Times 2 magazine which rounded off a busy weekend for the team. They all got to drag the tyres on Merthyr Mawr sand dunes, remember those tyres, the ones that George managed to rescue? The interview and the photoshoot was great fun and the article will be out soon so keep an eye out! Although it all went really well it was a huge eye opener for the team. It is going to be hard, really hard, probably harder than they ever imagined; but they are going to keep pushing and training and getting stronger. As George says, it is better to find it hard now and be more attuned to it when they finally get out to the Antarctic!

It is hard to understand the time, effort and dedication the 6 firefighters are putting in. It just proves that the reasons they want to do this; to raise awareness of mental health, to push stereotypical boundaries and to show every girl and woman that they can be whoever they want to be and do what ever they want to do are deeply embedded into who they are as people. This comes from the heart and to remind people we are always stronger together. For example, for Beci the weekend meant 3am bedtime on the Sunday after the delayed flight before getting up for 6am for the school run followed by a full day at Merthyr Mawr sand dunes dragging tyres and then straight onto a nightshift…! Needless to say on Wednesday night she went to bed at 7.30pm! Dedication, resilience and stamina.

I just had to share this; the picture to the left is fantastic, remember that Beci left her walking boots in the car in Wales…so Nakita, as founder of the AFA, was there to help out whenever she needed a ‘lift’ in more ways than one. Never leave anyone behind.

There are many more exciting projects on the horizon which means much more work for the team. However they will keep their end goal in sight to help with the extra pressure, and keep striving for greatness.

Overall this was a brilliant weekend for the team, and a huge thank you to the Huntly Nordic and Outdoor Centre. Yes they had ups and downs and yes it made them realise how steep the road ahead is; but Rebecca’s knee survived the weekend, Nikki’s ‘shark bite’ is intact even though she found the weekend hard, she is not used to sitting it out and being physically at the ‘back of the pack’ and last but not least, all the guys have improved on their skiing. Not bad for a long weekend, delayed flights and no wi-fi!

This really is ordinary women doing extraordinary things!

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