Now the swim is over, and my mind and body are getting back to normal (Well, as normal as possible), it’s time to say a few well deserved thank-you’s. If I do miss out anyone, please forgive me, but I’ve had so much support, it’s difficult to list everyone, let alone sing all of your praises.
Firstly, I must thank Ruth my wife, who has acted as support crew, chief paddler, motivator and guider (not to be confused with boss nagger!!). In addition, she has put up with the mood swings, from elation to despair, through the doubts to the hopes. She has put her own life and hobbies second in the pursuit of my goal of swimming the Channel. I believe that she fully deserves to be given as much of her favourite Irish Whiskey as she desires. Thank-you Ruth, the Paddy is on me!!
The rest of my family, though they are probably accustomed to the mad ideas and goals that I have planned over the years, I think the Channel, for them, was one step beyond stupidity. Both Ben and Katy, know however, that once my mind has been made up, then I will do my utmost to fulfil my aim. Their support has been vital in this project, in particular, Ben’s paddling efforts in training, as well as being the best “Maxim Pixie” a Dad could ask for. Brother John, who helped paddle on those long swims in the Mere, (note: I haven’t mentioned the aircraft moment!! Oops), his sense of humour and the often unspoken brotherly bond, means more than mere words. To Mum and Doug, who watched with a mix of concern and encouragement, but never doubting out loud. Oh and to Mum in particular, for dangling my toes in the sea at Prestatyn, before I could even walk!
Freda Streeter and all the team down at Dover. Freda, is the inspiration behind the majority of Channel hopefuls, and I doubt there are any words that I could come up with that describe her contribution, that haven’t been expressed more eloquently before. Without the motivation, enthusiasm, dedication, love and affection of Freda Streeter, I truly believe that many more swimmers would never achieve their goal. She is “The General”, without whom the battle could not be won. Behind her, are the team that keep the Channel swimmers, well, swimming!! Barry and Irene are ever present come rain or shine, with never ending smiles and good humour. Additionally, there are always a multitude of helpers who are too numerous to name but provide a smile, a kind word and a choccy treat, just when you are ready to give up.
SwimTrek. Well you guys are to blame for the whole idea!! If only I hadn’t seen your website, if I hadn’t booked that Greece trip, if I hadn’t chatted to Suzie Dodds, if JCR hadn’t been such a damn fine chap and hadn’t suggested I write to Simon, with the thought of guiding. If Simon hadn’t taken a leap of faith and phoned me up one mid week afternoon and suggested I get myself to Luton Airport, and join JCR on a flight to Croatia. So many ifs, but without your support, encouragement and belief, I wouldn’t of even contemplated the challenge (See, all your fault)!! I’m honoured to know you, work with you and class you as true friends. SwimTrek guides are a special breed of individuals, and I have had the joy of working with quite a few, and I look forward to working with many others in the future. They are all dedicated to swimming, but bring an enthusiasm to all aspects of a SwimTrek holiday, which is inspirational to all of our guests. I have learnt so much from you all, (especially cooking from Lizzie). However, there is one guide who deserves, a special mention from me, and that is Emily Morris, We first met in a rain soaked layby somewhere off a junction of the M6. Despite the weather, she was a little ray of sunshine. She is the sort of person who lifts the spirits, her verve and appetite for life is infectious. Her texts of encouragement throughout my swim and those of support post swim, were heartfelt and much appreciated. I hope I have the chance to work with her again soon – even if she continues to call me Gary!!
Friends new and old. As with my family, many of my oldest friends have come to accept the fact that I can’t grow old with good grace. There are too many to mention, but thanks for the support for both me and Hope House, through your donations. My colleagues at work, have often carried the load when I’ve popped down to the pool for a “quick dip” over an extended lunchtime. I’ll try to pull my weight from now on. New friends, were an unexpected and joyous bonus to my swim, again there are so many of you, that I can’t list you all. The camaraderie, of the SwimTrek training “boot camp” and the Dover weekends, is a feeling that will never leave me. For those of you, who like me, didn’t make it, I know what you are feeling. For those who made it, congratulations, we are all proud of your achievement. For those whose swim is yet to come, the best of luck, give it everything, if you make it great, if you don’t then be able to say that you did everything, you gave everything and be proud that you did your best. I have learnt that there can be no shame in doing your best even if you didn’t reach the ultimate goal. However, I must mention Ady Brown, who stepped up to the plate at the 11th hour and made an excellent and invaluable crew member, his video skills will forever live in Williams family memory!! My apologies to Adele, it isn’t my fault he now has the Channel bug, well perhaps it is!! Special mention also goes to Rob Windsor, as my training buddy, I couldn’t ask for a greater blessing, how many swimmers have been afforded the chance to train with a like minded swimmer who lives virtually next door? His sense of humour, willingness to travel up and down to Dover, even after his own training swims to support me, is beyond the call of duty. I hope I can support you in the same manner when your turn comes.
I have talked about the people who have been directly involved in my particular swim, but mention and thanks must also go to those, who perhaps don’t get the praise or recognition they deserve. The CS&PF, managed by a dedicated team of volunteers, headed by Mike and Angela Oram, their time and effort in organising pilots, observers, swimmers, to ensure that all marry up, is possibly overlooked by many a swimmer. The pilots and their crews, yes they are a business and are paid, but their knowledge is invaluable to the success of any swim. Their enthusiasm and good humour, swim after swim, their dedication to getting the best out of every swimmer, cannot be taken for granted. Many thanks to you all. Lance you are barking!
Well, if you got to this point you are probably bored senseless, if you were involved and I’ve missed you out, again I’m sorry. I’m privileged to know all of you and to be able to have you as friends and family. Without you all, this odyssey would never have even begun, I would have never stood on Shakespeare Beach, and faced the Channel.