Beci is next up, she has been balancing, being a mum and exercise over the last few months and none of us envy the home schooling…!
Lockdown has been really heavily focused on ensuring the children keep on top of their schoolwork and that the whole family get exercise. Often Beci would tyre pull while Matt runs and the kids were on their bikes. She also found she needed to ensure she stayed on top of the housework more so than ever; that meant sharing the space much more than usual. For Beci a messy house has a really negatively impact on her mental health.
“We’ve managed some socially distanced bike rides and walks with friends and family which has been amazing for us all. I also LOVED the cake ultra and getting to see the other WAFAs.
I treated myself to aNordic track trainer that I know will make training at home so much easier… I can even homeschool from it. Multitasking is a MUST!”
AFA training has been a huge motivator to get out and be busy even on the days Beci could happily have stayed in bed. Routine has been key, planning days and prioritising “Beci time” exercising.
“I’m in awe of the other AFAs and I don’t want to fall behind. Norway in January is getting so close and feels much more real now lockdown is easing.”
Alison is next up and her social media is one to watch;
Since lockdown started life has changed quite a lot for Alison. From suddenly being in work every day to remote working from home in the first few weeks. The first challenges she had to overcome were internet problems and the use of video conferencing for meetings. The internet and phone reception in her house has always been rubbish, and with all meetings being video conference meant it just kept dropping out or no one could hear her and sometimes not even see her! We’ve all been there right? It became very frustrating and stressful which led to arguments with her husband as Alison insisted in turning all wi-fi gadgets off when she was on VC, but that was no help. She was eventually assisted by another member of our executive leadership team who is very knowledgeable on ‘tech’ and ended up upgrading her internet and broadband service which has been a godsend.
“Another pressure was trying to keep my Mum’s spirits up as she is a widow and lives alone and also lives with cancer. Luckily with the kind weather her large gardens kept her pretty much occupied but she missed seeing all of us, her friend’s and going out which she does every day. So organising a rota of grandkids phoning and me in touch every day was a priority. We took her over a Sunday lunch each week and left it on the doorstep and it has been much easier now that we can meet in gardens in Wales.”
Quizing over Zoom became a weekly occurrence with her friends and a few late nights and sore heads the next morning! It has been great for Alison to catch up with the other Fire Angels on Zoom and keeping in touch with the world via social media too.
Like the rest of us, being in the house so much gave her a bit of time to sort through cupboards, clothes and catch up on a few things we always say ‘that can wait until next weekend’. Staying home has also made Alison think differently about the amount of clothes she owns and buys normally and the fact that some of it doesn’t come out of the wardrobe on a regular basis.
“I have bought some more training gear as some days I have been doing 3 short sessions to mix it up a bit. I seem to spend most of my day in this sort of gear.”
Alison also treated herself to a second hand track ski machine on Ebay to help with her training. On warm days she moves it out to the garden. She even skied for 2hrs 30 mins recently! To help improve her flexibility Alison has been doing three sessions of yoga a week, and as she couldn’t go to my normal gym she has been doing online sessions of high intensity training and following Nikki’s plans that she’s pulled together for the team. It seems that the whole country is getting fit as trying to find any kettlebells has been impossible online, however she did strike lucky with some dumbbells.
“Over the last month I have been in work a bit more and we have been taking it in turns to go in and we are still able to use the headquarters gym which has been great. We have to clean every item of kit we use as soon as we finish it and maintain social distance in there and everyone has complied with that.”
There has of course been tyre dragging when lockdown eased slightly in Wales but the highlight of training was Team WAFA doing the 32miles of Cake Ultra. It’s the first time Alison had trained with anyone in over three months. Lots of lessons learned from taking too much cake in her rucksack, too much water, too many clothes and wearing new trainers along with realising how important it is to fuel correctly as you go. She can’t wait to go again.
“I have found the last few months really life changing and I have liked spending more time at home with my husband. I can’t wait to see the children and the grandkids and have a barbeque in the garden with friends. Sometimes the simple things in life are the best.”
Over the coming weeks each blog post will be a little update from each Antarctic Fire Angel all about what they have been up to over the last few months in lockdown. I don’t just mean the relentless training hours that these guys are putting in but also a little insight in to what else they’ve been up to.
First up is co-founder of the team and leader of the WAFA’s George. Don’t forget to follow her on social media, links below…click, click!
“Initially during the first stages of lockdown, the main concern was staying as safe as possible in work which in turn meant keeping my partner safe, who thankfully works from home the majority of the time anyway. It was a very uncertain time in work, no one has ever had to deal with anything like this before so decision making was dynamic to say the least. As long as I did everything I could before coming home after each shift I was happy (ish!).”
Once home, lockdown looked very different for George. She is lucky enough to live in the country and have fields and footpaths at the bottom of her garden, this meant that she was one of the few people able to keep doing normal activities during these uncertain times. Whilst adhering to the social distancing rules she managed to walk the dogs, pull her tyres, go for runs and also have room to exercise in the garden. Even though we were only allowed out once a day George made the most of it; walking the dogs and pulling the tyres became the norm and when people saw her without them they often asked where the tyres were! If you see her around don’t forget to say hello, from the correct social distance of course.
Although George has a very close family they are also very independent from each other so not seeing or speaking to them for a while is completely normal, meaning this hasn’t been such a huge change for her on top of the very bizarre world we find ourselves in at the moment.
As we know, because we all follow the team on social media right?, they are training harder than ever at the moment and taking advantage of extra time when they have it. George also managed to sell her bikes which has allowed her to buy a Garmin Fenix 5x watch, according to George this watch is a “game changer!” so she is super happy with that purchase. Training has gone very well during lockdown, lots of energy is now focused on keeping fit and less around going to meetings and schools for presentations etc. Naturally with more Zoom meetings and not so much travel time involved it means that the days have naturally become more efficient for George, as she says; “That’s me though, if I had children, that would obviously be a very different story.”
But as lockdown slowly eases there are big questions about going back to some sort of normality and how this will change up the routine each and every one of us has become used to. “One fear I have now is less focus on training and diverting that energy to other things as before, I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve had to totally focus on me, rather selfishly really but, we must divert some of that now to fundraising otherwise, what’s the point right?!”
This video from Caryn L Cox, an NHS consultant, was super early on in this journey and every now and then George watches it and reminds herself that even during the early stages the team were reaching people far and wide.
This is an adventure of a lifetime and it the teams message will reach far and wide.
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!
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.
As you might remember the last post was Team LAFA’s response to Jenna’s question, this time it’s Team WAFA’s turn. Enjoy!
I wanted to take a moment and say how inspiring you all are. I work in EMS and am deciding whether to do nursing or fire. I am naturally petite and honestly the idea of being a female firefighter is so amazing to me but also so intimidating. Normally that would motivate me to have to do it, but for some reason I feel myself holding back. Is there any advice or knowledge about being a female FF you could give me? Appreciate all you do! Stay safe. – Jenna
George – Ok, so first things first. We are all different but all equal. As a woman in the fire service, you will be the minority, right now that’s the reality, however, consider that the world is desperate for visible role models in every aspect of life. Be confident that you will be an inspiration to a lot of people, young and old out there who are probably feeling exactly the same as you. You are most certainly not alone in the way you feel.
I always say to people – set yourself up to succeed – do your research; meet the people you may be working with, be open minded and most of all manage your expectations. Not everyone you meet is going to be positive, there will always be those who can’t think outside their own norms but just remember that they are the ones who are missing out on the wonderful things life can show us. Someone like you smashing gender stereotypes, out there, every day, you will be one of those pioneers pushing the boundaries every day.
You CAN be a super hero AND be vulnerable too. Follow your heart and not what other people say you should be doing.
Alison – So I joined the fire service in 1995 and was the only female in the Service at that time. Below is our course photo and I thought I had better highlight where I was because I know quite a few people have found me hard to spot! I was 26 years old and quite slight.
The below photos of me shows when I recently took non uniform members of the senior management team into our hot fire training facility so that they can appreciate the conditions we sometimes have to face. I wanted to include these as wearing breathing apparatus is one of my favourite things and I still do my breathing apparatus requalification even though the likelihood of me having to go into a fire is very slim.
I worked at Cardiff Central for 9 years and it is one of the busiest stations in the whole of Wales so I was at that time pretty much wearing breathing apparatus on a at least two or three times a tour in house fires and factory fires. In those days our breathing apparatus sets were a lot heavier as the oxygen cylinders were made of steel. Sometimes we would be wandering around very large complex buildings responding to false alarms wearing these on our backs in case there was a fire in the building.
It’s amazing though that once you go from wearing it to donning the facemask and going under air that you don’t notice the weight of the kit once you are actually working at an incident. The adrenaline makes that all go away.
Beci – I decided I was going to be a firefighter when I was 2 years old. My dad was a retained firefighter (we call it on call now) and I loved visiting the fire station.
Here in the UK we have a TV show called “Fireman Sam” (it makes me sad they haven’t updated the name of the show 33 years late) anyway, I was obsessed with it as a child and wanted to grow up to be like Firefighter Penny Morris. I never diverted from that dream.
At 13 years old I was lucky enough to become a Fire Cadet at our local fire station. Not only did that experience cement my career goal, it gave me the confidence, guidance and role models I needed to apply when I was only 16 years old. Completing the tests and eventually station my whole time training course at 18 years old. I was 5”4’ and weighed 9st 4oz.
The first few shifts were terrifying. I was just out of school, only just old enough to go to the pub and now I was on a watch with some extraordinary firefighters and phenomenal leaders. I didn’t know if I’d be enough. But I got there and I adore my job. I’m as excited to get up and go to work now as I was as a toddler waving to fire engines as they went past; as excited as that fire cadet learning new skills and the 18 year old on their first shift.
The fire service is my second family. It’s allowed me more pride and happiness that I could have dreamed for. Go for it. You have nothing to lose and a lifetime of memories and friendships to gain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Team LAFA You might recall last week I talked about Rebecca doing a piece with Harlequins all around International Women’s Day, well go and take a look at the video (click the picture) that’s out for everyone to see.
As all of our team are inspirational women it seems, quite rightly, they were all involved in IWD2020 in some way. Nakita, Rebecca and Nikki did a separate piece for the London Fire Brigade; why not take a look to find out from the guys themselves, what the challenge is and why they are doing this challenge; https://www.instagram.com/p/B9eFd6ojb-W/
In other day to day news, Nikki had her occupational health appointment at work and after completing various exercises with a BA set on her back to demonstrate that her leg could handle it, she has finally been approved to go back to work! She also did a CrossFit induction which means she can get membership at the gym; CrossFit is totally different and she feels it really challenges her, it is amazing preparation for what he will be putting her body through over the next few years. She has also managed to acquire 3 weighted vests from Gravity who are kindly donating them to the team, this is a huge help and great addition to the training days. Like the training isn’t difficult enough already…!
Nakita was involved in LACE training this week on her 2 days off, she loves training in line rescue so had a great time.Check out the picture to the right of Nakita and the team on the training days.
Away from the training and work she also went on her first date in a long time, she might have been nervous but if she can go to the Antarctic she can go on a date, right?
Apart from that Nakita’s training took a bit of a back burner this week as her car needed an MOT but she went for long walks with her youngest dog instead and after 5km he started limping. It wasn’t worth the risk to continue so she called for an emergency evacuation! Pup is fine now but had her worried. She also had some people try and throw negativity into her arena, and that 100% is not going to happen. She has no problem removing those who are negative or try and dull the shine. Life is about helping each other, being supportive and working together. Talking of supportive, don’t forget that although we are celebrating National Women’s Day this week these guys have plenty of men who are there every step of the way to lifted them up…quite literally! (See pic).
Team WAFA For International Women’s Day at South Wales Fire and Rescue HQ George was invited to speak on the day about what it means to us as women, the service and the wider audience. Beci joined her which was great, it’s always lovely to have some moral support when doing these things. George also got to introduce Lowri Morgan who is an inspiration to us all, what endurance event she hasn’t done isn’t worth knowing! She is absolutely amazing and the team hope they do her proud and follow in her footsteps someday.
On top of that George is still getting ready for the DSET conference next week where she is presenting to the military amongst other representatives on innovation and communication. It has been quite a bit of pressure to produce something that represents the team AFA and the service but 11th March will be judgement day for all the hard work she has put in. Also on the day there will be an official hand over announcing the team as their 2021 charity of the year!
The 3rd was George’s birthday and she spent the day at Techniquest presenting to 5×50 children all about the Expedition; how to tow tyres, what the weather is like and how dry it is and also how they will go to the toilet out in Antarctica! Talking of towing tyres she has been doing lots of that with the dogs and they love it.
This was all rounded off by a lovely meal in the evening in Penarth. Thank you George, you are truly inspirational. Happy Birthday/ Penblwydd Hapus!
Just as a reminder, the launch of the Good Wash products happened and you need to take a look at the amazing top available? (Don’t forget to go and buy one). There was also the launch of some amazing deals from KitTags UK. They did a run of freebie tags when you donated £10 to the GoFundMe Page. They might all be gone now, but head over to the KitTag website and take a look, you’ll never lose your luggage or bags again with these tags.
Finally, some of you may have heard of Kay Hallsworth, she is co-owner of Explorers Coffee who sponsor our Fire Angels. More importantly she is also Commander Kay Hallsworth of the Royal Navy and she was shortlisted for Women in Defence Unsung Heroes Award! She’s been in the Royal Navy for over 27 years, progressing from student nurse to Commander and Kay also has ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis). I found an inspiring and interesting article on her here; https://civilservice.blog.gov.uk/2019/05/03/personal-disability-stories-10-kays-story/
Hope you are all feeling inspired, whether you are a woman or support one in life, keep doing what you’re doing! In light of the current situation in our country and the world, just a reminder. Stay Safe. Stay In.