Hose-pipes, petrol queues & pasties:

Dear Friends,

I sit here on Easter weekend, counting my eggs and the cost of my Lent resolution. It was tough, far tougher than I ever thought. My resolution to clean-up my language and not swear for forty days and forty nights was something I faltered at, intermittently. I kept a tally. I kept a daily tally of my deviations from the Queen’s English. The tally served to bring to my consciousness, how much swearing can creep into my vocabulary. I had the best ever Easter gift from my neighbour, and training partner, Alison. It combines my interest in Chemistry and my habitual swearing: a Periodic Table of swearing. I will be honest with you: my penance to myself for deviating from Queen’s vocabulary is for me to give generously to the Penny Brohn Cancer Caring Centre and the charities of a couple of friends who are currently undertaking the Marathon des Sables. They are brave chaps for sure, as running over 150 miles across the desert in a few days, carrying everything they need, has to be something that requires real insanity, or a lot of beer, for it to seem a good idea. Good luck Ross and Tom, I am thinking of you as my training regime gets underway in earnest for my half and full marathons in May. As I begin to feel a bit sore at mile eight, I think of you, with sand in your trainers, and the sun beating down on your backpacks, and I tell myself to “man-up”. The good thing about running as slowly as I do, is that I get to truly appreciate the sights, smells and sounds of the Hertfordshire countryside: the cowslips, primroses, bluebells and violets are out, the hares are strutting their stuff, the footpaths are quite well covered with dog shite, and the birds are singing their songs of spring, trying to find their mates.

As I begin to get a few miles under my belt, in my attempt to make the marathon a little less painful that it could be, I have been able to appreciate my lack of car. The country ground to a halt in patches, with massive queues and chaos by petrol filling stations of hysterical bulk-buying drivers, and inappropriate advice from politicians about how to store one’s fuel in the home. I appreciated my non-driving, non-queuing, non-bulk-buying status, my lack of fuel tank and my lack of car became even more appealing, as did the public transport system, with which I have become quite familiar and fond. It made me wonder and ponder, as the global problems of crumbling currencies, wars that bubble on and on and on, yet our domestic news was about petrol pandemonium, a pastie taxation crisis and hosepipe bans, in April. This was no April fool, PastyGate seems to have just about blown over now, as our political party leaders fessed up to being partial to a pastie. The media inquests into when and where they last indulged have been completed. Fortunately, after a couple of weeks of sunshine, we’ve had some rain today, so the garden weeds have had a good watering, and hopefully our reservoirs have had a few inches. For those without water butts, before you get your hose out, why not get a butt? I hope Lord Coe has a good plan for ensuring that pasties, petrol and hosepipes are sorted by the opening ceremony of the Olympics in a couple of months.

So, since I last updated you, I have been testing my physical functioning and endurance, with a week skiing with a possie of twenty seven family and friends, in the Alps in France. I had a lovely balance of skiing, including the odd black run, and a good few reds and blues. I admit, that I’ve never been very good with the piste maps, and I have a poor sense of direction, which I think is nothing to do with brain surgery. I pretty much followed whomever was in front, which helps when they are a stylish competent skier, but it was more tricky keeping up with my little nieces who have built on their style and fearlessness. So, the good news is, I still have it: I’m still able to slide down a mountain covered in snow and ice, and I’m able to manage the high altitudes, moderate alcohol consumption, leisurely exertion and double dose of the anti-seizure medication I am on. Skiing may sound complex, with the physics of momentum, speed, velocity, the physical chemistry of the different forms of water in its solid state, you know, the snow that’s like icing sugar, or porridge slush, or rock hard ice etc, the geography and cartography of the mountains, the physiology of the human body, flexing and weight transfer and using edges, and up-weighting and down-weighting, but really it’s all in the mind. So long as you have the right attitude at altitude, it’s a piece of cake! As well as skiing, I tried some barefooted tobogganing, and I was a “sparent” for some of the time. Sparents are spare adults who help with parenting in a voluntary way. So I got my fill of the babes, toddlers and children in our possie, and helped celebrate our youngest participants first birthday, by eating cake. The things I do for my friends…. I am delighted to report that our holiday was entirely uneventful from a medical perspective, with little more than a few bruises for those that had a tendency to fall over, and a few nose bleeds for those whose noses aren’t used to being at altitude.

As well as testing my physical capabilities, I have been broadening my mind culturally; with my first ever trip to the Royal Albert Hall with my friend Kate. When I booked the tickets, they said they only had rubbish seats left, but in my world, they were the best. We were sat just behind the double bases next to the choir. We pretty much were in the orchestra and part of the choir.We could smell the musicians. We were able to check that the third double bassist got his notes in the right places, and we got a fantastic close look at the performers, and were able to hum away with the choir, as they made their way thought Choral Favourites accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. A fantastic experience, and a night that will stay with me forever. I have also had the very good fortune to see the Peatbog Faeries playing their folky funky tunes, at the Hatbox in Luton. I’ve nothing against Luton, don’t get me wrong, but I never thought it was possible to have such a good night out there. Thanks to Peter and your Peatbogers for guest listing me and a few friends, there’s nothing quite like a bit of funky folk from the Isle of Skye in Bedfordshire.

Hotel Galbraith has been open to my friends Clare and Colin, who have managed to keep on track with their schedule of job changes, house moves to Australia, all at the same time as getting married, going on honeymoon. I was fortunate to be part of the celebrations in a swanky Scottish castle, where a live eagle owl brought the rings to the Bride and Groom. I managed my reading, without swearing. The happy couple had a Laird’s blessing too, so it was a bit like going to two weddings in one day. After starting their honeymoon at Hotel Galbraith in Hertfordshire, they are off, to dive with sharks… something I will happily not do, after my close-enough encounters with sharks in Australia last year.

So, life goes on. Life goes on with a balance of weekends away and weekends at home. Work’s good, and I am gradually adjusting to double-dose drugs and what that means for me and my activity levels. I am gently trying to get a bit fitter for my awareness and fundraising events, but please prepare yourselves for some shocking times: I am certainly not an Olympian. Here’s a little about the events that are taking place, for myself and others, and links if you would be so kind as to support our fundraising efforts. I am really hoping that we are going to be able to pass the fifty thousand pound milestone soon. Please do forward the links to anyone you know who might like to support us in our fundraising challenges. For those participating in these events with me, please let me know if you want your name added to the e-giving pages.

19th May: White Peak Half Marathon, Derbyshire, which I am raising funds for Bare All for Brain Tumours (via Joseph Foote Brain Tumour Trust). This charity was set up by the amazing lady who “invited” me to get my kit off and participate in a naked calendar. She’s dedicated to raising awareness and funds for research into brain tumours in Scotland, and is being recognised for her contribution by being selected as a runner in the Olympic Torch Relay. I am wondering if she will be baring all as she does it. I meanwhile, will be running this half marathon with my kit on, with friends Harry Bird and Jo Chambers. http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=VixTryAgain&faId=200553&isTeam=false

21st May: RelayGB Marathon, London. Yes, I know it’s not ideal timing just 48 hours after a half marathon, but the date of my leg of this relay of marathons has moved, and I still want to take part, so I will, albeit slowly and gently. I might get a massage in between the half and the full to help my recovery. The RelayGB Marathon is an ambitious challenge that will see several hundred runners covering over 3,100 miles in 119 non-stop, back-to-back marathons, night and day, in May 2012. I will be running the final leg of this relay, and will be highly unlikely to be carrying a baton. My marathon is from Romford to central London, hopefully ending at Buckingham House or Palace, or whatever it’s called. I will be running with my neighbour Alison. I have written to Lizzie and Phil, to see if they will be home, and asking if they will give us a wave from their balcony, or better still, run a bath and make a cup of tea. My friends Helen MacVicker, with whom I used to play rugby with when we were at Leicester University some twenty years ago, and my Roche colleague Ben Walsh, both of whom are technically “athletes”, are also taking part in the marathon relay. Ben is doing his first even night marathon. A massive thanks to everyone involved in this epic event, and for those involved in making it happen behind the scenes. I hope it generates the awareness and funds we are hoping for the charity Brain Tumour http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=Vix&faId=200559&isTeam=true.  If you want to read more about it, and support runners in your area, please have a look at the websitehttp://www.relaygb.org/

26th-27th May: Mum and Dad (a.k.a. Ann and Alasdair) Galbraith are having an Open Garden weekend as part of the Yellow Book Garden Scheme in Scotland. It will be an opportunity to check out their lovely garden and croft on the Isle of Skye, drink coffee and tea, and eat cake, raising funds for the Beatson’s Pebble Appeal, Highlands Hospice and Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres.

9th -10th June: Blenheim Triathlon will see Team Vix, a heterogeneous bunch of triathletes and wannabe-triathletes, with a diverse connections including former rugby teammates, Roche work colleagues and family (including my Mum) and friends, will be undertaking sprint triathlons, either as individual entrants, like myself, or as part of a team, where each member does one of the legs. So, this will be a great excuse for a big pic-nic. This takes place a Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. We will be raising funds for AGE UK, Roche UK’s chosen charity of the year, and Cancer Research UK http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserPage.action?userUrl=Vix&faId=200559&isTeam=true

September: Walkers Haute Route will be undertaken by Alison & Stephen Hendry, a trek from Chamonix to Zermatt, in the French Alps. They will be raising funds for Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres in Glasgow. Alison is a colleague of Vicky at Roche. http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/team/Hendry

Here’s a bit of on-line food for thought, a total inspiration for us all:


Here’s a bit of philosophy for you: It’s never too late to be who you might have been

Living, Loving and Laughing, with big kisses and bone-crunching hugs Vix xxx



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