How My Son Spent His Summer Holiday – Prostate Cancer Ride 2015

How My Son Spent His Summer Holiday – Prostate Cancer Ride 2015

As children of the Why Don’t You generation, my wife and I are pretty keen on the notion that our kids should make time to enjoy the outdoors and enjoy a range of different experiences when the time allows – especially during the long break from school that the summer holidays allow.

Indeed, my wife is such a proponent of this that she even runs her own successful blog – Get Out and About – which is directly aimed at encouraging families to leave the house and enjoy the manifold experiences to be had across the UK and, for that matter, the rest of the world (her / our National Trust A – Z Challenge was a minor twitter hit throughout 2014!)

Thankfully, both of our sons fully embrace the idea. My youngest divides his time between a football pitch, rugby pitch and tennis court during most weeks of the year while my eldest son, when not treading the boards (a budding actor, you see), is constantly thinking up new experiences that he can give a try.

Sam Hill Prostate Cancer UK Charity Bike Ride 2015

At the end of 2014 my dad was diagnosed with Prostate Cancer. Whilst it’s always a shock to the system of any family when a loved one is hit by an illness, particularly one of those ‘C’ ones, for children it can be be all the more traumatic. As far as my children were concerned we were all, grandparents included, somewhat indestructible; constants in their lives always on hand to help with the school run or to cheer from the touchline or, often, to spoil them with sweets and other assorted treats. We made the decision to keep them informed, rather than overly coddle them on the situation, my dad’s prognosis was reasonably good and we decided that they ought to know that his situation was serious but that he was in good hands and would hopefully make a full recovery. But serious, as I say, nonetheless. To our great relief, my dad’s operation was a success and, despite a number of months recuperating, he has made a fairly remarkable recovery to full health. But the episode had had an effect on my kids; in particular my eldest son, Sam, aged 12. I won’t explain why because I’d encourage you to read it in his own words on the link below as he’ll elucidate a lot better than me. Suffice to say, however, that the whole business made Sam come to a decision: that he wanted to do something for those who might not be as fortunate as his granddad.

The Spirit of Why Don’t You / Get Out & About

With six weeks of summer holiday fun in which to look forward, Sam decided that, rather than contemplate the X-Box hours he could enjoy or the TV he could watch, he was going to get out, on his bike and ride around Cardiff to raise some money and awareness about Prostate Cancer. His other grandfather, Boppy Howard – a retired police inspector, professional grandparent and generally superfit bike enthusiast, was recruited to the task with the mission being to ride 70 miles in one week around the streets, parks and lanes of Cardiff City. 10 miles a day, every day for a week. The plan was to set up a Just Giving page and try to raise a few pounds to go towards the Men United / Prostate Cancer UK campaign.

We tentatively set a target of £500.00 to raise, and in truth, if Sam managed to get even half of that it would have been a job well done. So when we saw that the £500 barrier had been smashed by Day 2 of the ride, it was, to say the least, beyond expectation. Each day, Sam and Howard, dressed for the occasion in official riding tops kindly sent from Prostate Cancer UK headquarters, took to their bikes and hit the road, taking in the landmarks of the city and turning heads along the way; generating increasing interest and raising yet more money to the cause.

Their routes took them along the Taff Trail, to Llandaff, Heath, Rhiwbina and Roath Park. They stopped off alongside the Millennium Stadium, Swalec stadium and Cardiff Castle. Took the time to get a selfie by City Hall and make a few laps of Cardiff Bay and the Barrage. And by the time they arrived home in Whitchurch on Sunday, 70 miles and a lot of satisfaction later, there we were; proud parents, grandparents and brother, to greet them both in a fanfare of glitter (and kisses from his mum!) and raft of well wishes from friends, family and social media alike.

By the end of the week, Sam and Howard, slightly weary of leg but as full of enthusiasm as they possessed on day 1, had raised a staggering £1400!.

To read Sam’s story of why he did it and how the week unfolded, and to offer any donation that you may wish to add (if you are so inclined) then please take a look here: Sam’s Ride For Prostate Cancer 

Gareth J Hill.

Gareth J Hill.

Trying to figure out the world, as he seems to have lost the instructions

All you really need to know for the moment is that the universe is a lot more complicated than you might think, even if you start from a position of thinking it’s pretty damn complicated in the first place.Douglas Adams

These are the facts:

Born, not in a crossfire hurricane, but an operating theatre in the Heath Hospital, Cardiff in 1973, I was a C-Section baby long before it became fashionable. Oh yes, and I share a birthday with Danny DeVito, Martin Scorsese and Peter Cook.

So not much to live up to then.

As a child I wanted to be Indiana Jones when I grew up. It almost happened. Like Indy, I’m terrified of snakes.
I’ve lived in Cardiff, Liverpool and Rhode Island (US of A) where I once met James Woods in a cinema, an episode more memorable to me than to him, I suspect.

Along the way I’ve picked up a BA in American Studies (yes, this is a real degree) and an MA in Creative & Media Writing from Swansea University.

Having worked as, among other things, a sales rep, sandwich maker, sausage batterer, chauffeur and cleaner these days I spend my time and earn my way as a freelance writer, producing copy & content as well as developing WordPress style websites for clients around South Wales and beyond.

And if that’s not enough I’m a husband to a wonderful wife and father to two awesome boys.
For my sins, I write fiction, a bit of poetry and blog posts – one of which almost certainly rants against people using phrases such as ‘for my sins’.

What do I like?

Being a Welshman I’ve fallen into the trap of following rugby. Which is fine if a bit of a stereotype and, to compound things I used to know the words to Max Boyce’s ‘Scottish Trip’ until I was hit on the head by a golf ball, coincidentally by Max Boyce.

I still like rugby and, whisper it – football. But what really does it for me is film, TV, literature and wallowing in the mire of pop culture from my youth. All of which I will tend to write about through misty eyed nostalgia whenever the mood grabs me.

Yes, I love Dangermouse and ‘Allo ‘Allo in completely non-ironic ways and firmly believe that Tiswas marks the high watermark of kids Saturday morning telly.

I love fiction and I love the short story – Raymond Carver, for me, is just about as good as it gets.

What I like I tend to love and what I hate isn’t much and tends to change on a regular basis.

So turn on, tune in and for God’s sake wash your hands when you’re done.

Remembrance – A Family Tale

Remembrance – A Family Tale

I’ve been engaged in a spot of genealogy over the past few weeks. It began as a bit of a school project with my youngest son and spawned out into a minor obsession of my own. Trawling through, through old and faded birth, marriage and death certificates – slowly yellowing in old suitcases in my parent’s attic; looking at census lists, compiling names, dates – tracing the blood line back through history. It is entirely fascinating.

It is extraordinary to discover you are the latest in a line going back centuries and spawning over 100 relatives all with their own branched out families, even if, logically thinking, you already knew this to be the case. But to unearth the names, dates, locations suddenly and rather powerfully personalises the whole affair. That nagging sense of fate, chance, whatever – the notion that we are where we are and we are who we are, simply because all of those people existed and lived a certain life decades and centuries beforehand.

But then, beyond that, perhaps because it is the curiosity driven writer inside me, I start to look at the names and wonder. I ask the questions, most of which remain unanswered, about who these people were, what they did, how they lived. Why did one relative die so young, why did another live apart from his family for a while, only to reunite years late? Why did one line of the family suddenly move from Devon to Cardiff in the 1880s?

And, then, because history is so dominated by them, I think of the impact of war on the family. War that has pierced the fabric of society all too often over the last 250 years. How much did any of these conflicts impact upon my own bloodline? Perhaps, because this is remembrance weekend, the question has bubbled to the surface with more prescience.

My grandparents, all four of whom I was lucky to have in my life throughout the entirety of childhood, would often mention the war, if not necessarily go into detail. Both of my grandfathers served in the RAF and what I know of their experience is sketchy at best, as neither gave too much away about their time in service. My grandmothers would offer anecdotes that I’ve long since used to paint a picture of wartime Cardiff. Of how my Nan was in the pictures on one of the nights Cardiff was bombed, of seeing buses and buildings ablaze, of the family a few streets away who all died in their bunker from the blast of a nearby strike – found the following day without a discernable mark upon them.

Another story that my grandfather told me, a tale that has stayed with me ever since, was of a relative of either his or my Nan’s, I don’t know which, who was involved in the evacuation from Dunkerque.

As the story goes, said relative was part of a platoon of men on the retreat from Hitler’s forces in Belgium. Under the fairly constant threat of fatal engagement with the enemy they marched, mainly on foot, through the Belgian countryside – mile upon mile upon mile – finally crossing into France and the coastal town of Dunkerque to await their final seaborne escape.

The walk had taken its toll. My relative had worn through the soles of his boots, then most of the soles of his feet. He was exhausted beyond what we might be able to believe possible and weak from a lack of adequate nourishment. He also had another problem with which to contend.

He couldn’t swim.

This was a source of major concern as to get to the salvation of a boat required him to swim from the shore to get aboard.

Throughout the trek across Belgium my relative had been walking with a mate from the regiment. They stuck together through it all, a constant shoulder to lean upon for the other as the going grew ever tougher. When they arrived at Dunkerque his mate was a rock of assurance. If my relative couldn’t swim it didn’t matter. Swim alongside me, he told him, we’ll get there together.

My relative did get there. With the help of his mate and through the desperate measures requiring a crash course in staying afloat, both men arrived at the safe haven of a rescuing trawler and my relative would come home to recuperate and relay his astonishing tale.

His mate, whose name is lost to me in history, was dead before they reached England.

I don’t know which of my relatives this happened to, nor do I know the absolute truth of the story – beyond that which my grandfather told me. But, as I stare at the names upon my family tree, it sends a tingle into my soul that this was a defining moment in the life of one of those names – one of those contributors to my being here today.

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