Friday, 24 June 2011

Goodbye dear Rose

My lovely friend Rose died last night.

Her daughter said that she died peacefully and was not in any pain.

She had battled bravely against cancer for over 3 years.

I met Rose on the Cancer Research forum. She helped me, and so many other people on this forum with her lovely kind words. She posted well over 1,000 times, and was often the first to reply to someone arriving at the site for the first time. She was always positive, upbeat, caring and kind - and her words were like a hug of friendship and support for everyone who received a reply from her.

She was a regular visitor to this blog too, and would often leave me a lovely comment. She would always give me a smile.

We never met, but I will miss her friendship very very much.

Knowing Rose however, she wouldn't want me to be sad. (Difficult Rose, sorry!) - so I will raise a glass to her tonight and celebrate the life of a lovely lovely lady who I'm so glad I knew.

Much love to her gorgeous family - they should feel very proud of their dear Rose.


'Its not where you go when you die,
it's how you live when you're alive,
who you touch and how you feel it

and its not about the time that you have
its how you cry and how you laugh
who you love and how you mean it...

My favourite song is for you today, Rose.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A Week in Pictures

I was wondering why I was feeling wrecked today, and why I nearly fell asleep at my desk at work. Then I remembered what kind of a week it had been...

Last Tuesday...I played cricket against Hexham Leazes. Got stuffed by them....

Hammered but still smiling.
On Thursday...I played cricket against Wylam and we won!


On Saturday...I took part in the 1st school fancy dress parade for the fair. The theme was 'Flights of Fancy.' We went as Virgin Atlantic cabin crew, pilot, co-pilot and plane. We didn't win - it was a lad dressed as a hot air balloon that got first prize - a trip in a helicopter!

Quite liked the uniform, but not sure about the red lippy!
Then on Sunday... I played cricket against our Under 10's KIDS. A mixture of emotions in that game...we lost, but our kids won. Disappointed and pleased all at the same time!

Kids v mums. That's my little lad with his back to the camera.
Then this Tuesday...Took the 10 year old to a county cricket festival in Stockton-on-Tees. He got a wicket against Yorkshire and managed to score some runs, and a wicket against Cumbria. It was a fab day.

This is him batting against Yorkshire...
...and after the game with his pal. (I used to go to school with his pal's dad - any ideas who, Jill/Liz? - there is a resemblance!)
And tonight - I should have been playing cricket against a team from Gosforth but its been called off for the rain...

Phew!...Time to get my feet up I think!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A Running Battle

For some reason, I was telling my kids about Zola Budd the other day. They listened intently when I told them about her clash with Mary Decker, and were keen to hear more about the whole story. I did a bit of research and wrote them the following tale. Its a fascinating story, and there's a lot more to it than just the Mary on the Decker incident that we remember so well. Its long mind, so get yourself a cup of tea first!...

A Running Battle
Here is a story about an ordinary girl who loved to run. She went on to win international races, break world records and become well known all around the world.

Unfortunately, the event she is most remembered for was one that she would most certainly rather forget.

* * *

It was the first time that a women's 3000m event had been staged at the Olympic Games.

It was 1984, and the stadium in Los Angeles, USA was bursting with over 90,000 spectators.
Many of those in the crowd were American. They were brimming with excitement. Their 'golden girl' of athletics, Mary Decker, was in the final. She looked confident, focussed and determined. She desperately wanted a gold medal as she hadn't been able to compete in the previous two Olympic games. But now, in her own country, in front of so many adoring fans, and watched by people all around the world, this was her chance.

Towards the inside of the track was a small, skinny, awkward-looking girl wearing a Great Britain vest. She was barely noticeable amongst the other runners. But as you looked along the tops of the running shoes pressed up against the edge of the line at the start, she stood out. This girl was barefoot.

The girl with no shoes was Zola Budd. She was 17 years old – 10 years younger than the darling of American athletics that lined up alongside her on the track that day. Mary Decker was her idol. And now, here she was, competing against her in the biggest race of her life.

As the starting gun cracked, the runners set off. Mary Decker glided straight to the front and began to lead the 7.5 lap race. She ran beautifully, smoothly and effortlessly. The crowd roared. They could sense that another gold medal would soon be added to the American haul.

Finding herself in the middle of the pack, Zola Budd gradually made her way towards the front until she was just behind Mary. She didn't look as graceful as her idol when she ran. Her elbows were too high and they stuck out clumsily. But for such a small girl, she could run fast. She had broken world records, and she thoroughly deserved her place in this 3000m Olympic final.

Or did she?

* * *

Zola Budd was born in South Africa. She was the youngest of 6 children. She was particularly close to her older sister Jennie who was 11 years old when Zola was born. When Zola was old enough, she would join her favourite sister running. Both ran barefoot, just like every other child in their neighborhood. They ran over the hills that surrounded their town, enjoying their time together in the cool, early mornings. Zola adored her sister. She was the only person in her family who she could talk to about her feelings.

Zola soon became a good, fast junior runner. She had a coach and she entered local races, but seemed to lack the extra 'gear' to beat her rivals. At this stage, she never imagined making a career from running. She ran because it was what she loved to do.

And then, at 4am on September 9th 1980, when Zola was just 14 years old, she was woken and told some news that would change her life forever. Jennie, her beloved sister and best friend, had died.

Grief stricken, but unable to talk about her loss or show how she felt, Zola did the only thing she knew that might dull the pain. She took to the hills, barefoot, and ran and ran and ran.

Over the next few months and years, her running soon stepped up a level. She began to win the local races, then national races. And only a few years after Jennie's death, still at school, she became the fastest woman ever to run the 5000m.

It wasn't long before the world began to notice this small, young South African girl. As the Olympic games drew nearer, excitement developed amongst the world's media. “The legs of an antelope,” the British press gushed, “The hottest property in world athletics.”

But Zola was not allowed to compete at the Olympic games. Her country, South Africa, was banned from taking part in sporting competitions around the world because the government had a policy of Apartheid. Apartheid meant that black people were not allowed to mix with white people and this was strongly opposed around the world. As a result, South Africa had not taken part in the Olympics for over 20 years.

Thirsty for the chance to thrust Zola onto the world stage however, a British newspaper approached Zola's father and offered him a deal. Because Zola's grandfather was English, the newspaper promised that they would be able to get Zola a British passport which would enable her to run in the Olympic Games as a British athlete. In return for the exclusive rights to Zola's story, they paid her father £100,000.

As her father glowed with his new-found wealth, Zola arrived in England like a startled rabbit in the glaring headlights of a car. She was now officially a British athlete, but she didn't attract a hero's welcome.

She was booed and jeered wherever she went. 'Go Home Zola!' screamed the headlines in one newspaper. People looked at this small, shy white South African girl and assumed that she would be a supporter of Apartheid. They didn't want her here. She wasn't welcome.

Zola coped with the pressure in the usual way. No longer running because she loved it, but running because she had to.

She won races, set records, and attended interviews and press conferences. Softly spoken and nervous, she was often asked about Apartheid, but she never spoke out against it because she didn't feel comfortable discussing such an enormous political issue. After all, she was only 17. What did she know? She was just a schoolgirl from a small rural town who used to enjoy running with her sister. It was hard enough dealing with the grief of losing her sister in her own world – never mind the wider world.

In the weeks before the Olympics, Zola grew tired of her father's greed and his constant interfering. He did nothing but add to the drama and the circus that followed Zola everywhere, so she told him that she didn't want him there. When his daughter left with her mother for America, he stayed in England, and refused to talk to her ever again.

Most teenagers would have considered a place in the Olympics as the greatest moment of their life. But for Zola, it was completely the opposite. She was surrounded by contraversy, contempt and greed. All she wanted was to get to the Olympics and get it over with.

* * *

Mary Decker was still leading the pack of runners around the 3rd lap. Zola was tucked in just behind on her shoulder. The pace was pretty fast, but both runners looked comfortable.

At the half way stage, the pace slowed slightly, and another British athlete, Wendy Sly moved up onto Zola's shoulder. Zola looked tiny betweeen the two athletes. “The little girl seems to be dwarfed there,” said the British commentator. “They call her the little bird.,” he added.

Because Zola always ran barefoot, she preferred to be out of harms way by being in the front or at the back. It was at this point that Zola decided to make her move to the front. She passed Mary Decker and after a few metres cut inside to take the lead. There wasn't much room between the two runners, and Mary clipped the back of Zola's left foot, knocking her off balance slightly. Contact happened again, and this time Mary clipped Zola's calf with her shoe. As Zola tried to regain her balance, Mary made contact again, but this time she fell – ripping the number off Zola's back as she tumbled to the ground.

As it dawned on the spectators that it was their golden girl rolling around on the infield in agony, there were gasps and screams.

“Mary Decker is out of the race!” the British commentator spluttered, “Little Zola Budd may have clipped in too soon.”

Mary Decker looked to be in a lot of pain as she lay on her side, clutching her thigh. The race continued as officials rushed to attend to the stricken athlete. The crowd watched on in disbelief.

Zola had extended her lead slightly after Mary fell, but then, seeing her idol wailing and crying as she ran down the home straight, she suddenly realised the enormity of the situation. She also started to become aware of the crowds reaction. To her horror, tens of thousands of people were booing and jeering, and it was all directed at her.

Over the last few laps, Zola drifted further and further back. Athletes passed her easily. Any desire she had to win the race evaporated as the American spectators made their feelings heard. She was frightened and lonely. She had nowhere to hide.

Zola finished in 7th place, and as she left the stadium with its hostile crowd, she came across Mary Decker in tears in the tunnel. She went across to apologise – sorry that the race had turned out the way it had.

“Don't bother!” she cried angrily, “I've got nothing to say to you!”

At the press conference later, struggling to hide her anger, her bitterness and tears, Mary said that Zola was to blame for her fall.

Zola was disqualified after the race, but then the decision was overturned after race officials examined the video tapes and decided that she wasn't to blame.

None of this mattered to Zola any more, though. Traumatised by the experience and in receipt of death threats, Zola and her mother were escorted by the police to the airport runway before flying back to London.

Zola's Olympics was over with, just as she had wished, but the story of the race rumbled on for many years afterwards with the videotape played over and over again.

Should Zola have been at the Olympics? Was Zola to blame for Mary Decker's fall?
Whatever anyone thinks, this young, talented South African girl's only real crime was that she could run.

* * *
Zola continued to represent Great Britain for a few years after the Olympics. She even competed against Mary Decker again, finishing fourth – 13 seconds behind the athlete that once took pride of place on a poster in her room.

In 1992, Zola qualified for the Olympics in Barcelona. This time she ran for South Africa. Apartheid had been abolished, and her country was allowed to compete on the international stage again. She failed to make it to the final this time.

“I never strived to be the best in the world,” she said in an interview. “I just ran every day, just ran.”

Zola ran with joy when she was with her sister Jennie. She ran with grief when Jennie died, and then she ran because she was made to run by those who fed off her talent.

Mary Decker, meanwhile, went on to have a fantastic few years of competitive running after the 1984 Olympics, but she failed to win a medal in 1988 at Seoul and didn't qualify for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

She still struggles to agree that Zola was not to blame for the incident that sent her crashing out of the Olympic 3000m final.

To this day, Zola is still running, still barefoot, still carrying her elbows too high. Nowadays though, she doesn't run for joy, nor grief, nor a need to please others. She runs to be at peace.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Angels Flying High!

That's me - front row, second from left with all the hair!
Last year, me and a few other mums and daughters formed a cricket team called the Angels. We entered the ladies league last year, despite not having a bloomin clue how to play the game, and we didn't win a single game for the whole season. Not one!

On Wednesday though, WE DID IT! We won our very first game!

Fans of cricket, turn away now, but if you're a fan of determination, spirit and a willingness to try, try and try again, then click on the link to read all about it....:-)))))) 

Oh, and please feel free to add any comments on there!