If ever I receive a message saying; ‘I need to talk to you, when can we talk?’ I always worry. This happened one afternoon five weeks ago as I cycled through Ukraine; I picked up the message on my phone while stopped at the roadside.
‘I’ve got some very brilliant news’.
Yet my stomach still somersaulted with worry as I dialled the number, especially as ‘urgent’ had been thrown in as well. I was munching fistfuls of biscuits, glugging at my water bottle thirstily under the bright sky, flanked by a golden carpet of dandelions stretching away to the horizon on both sides.
I had hardly made it to the end of ‘hi George you asked me to call’, when she announced excitedly; ‘they want to make you an MBE!’
I grinned and stuttered, drew in my breath and shook my head all at once as I asked her to say it again – I didn’t believe it and needed to hear it one more time.
‘I’ve got the letter here: it says ……’ and she chattered through what had been written.
I still find the notion surreal over a month later and a few thousand kilometres further into my journey. Surreal but nice, as Hugh Grant said after kissing Julia Roberts in Notting Hill.
I’m really chuffed to have been named in the Queen’s birthday honours list for services to rowing, charity and conservation.
Even though I physically rowed across the ocean myself, I wouldn’t have reached the start if it were not for the help, support and encouragement of many people – family, friends, sponsors, my team and all the people who donated money or wished me well. This award is no different – I wouldn’t have been able to have done the things that have been honoured if it were not for the energy, effort and good will of many people around the world. And the chances are if you’re reading this, then you’re one of those people – so thank you.
There’s one person who won’t be reading this, but to whom I am eternally grateful – my lovely Dad. It will be five years on Monday since he died and my world turned turtle and, while it hurts to think he won’t be there at the Palace, I know that I wouldn’t have strived for these things if it were not for all that his life and spirit taught me.
This leaves one final person for the most heartfelt of thank you’s – to my wonderful, fantabulous, long-suffering and brilliant Mum. It’s a brave thing to let your only daughter go to sea to chase her dreams and honour the memory of her father. She never once tried to stop me; in fact she did all that she could to help. Her encouragement, support, friendship, love, guidance and Happy Socks are invaluable and I love her to bits.
So, thank you Mum – this one is for you and for all that you have done for me, on and off the water. I’m already excited about taking you to the Palace, just as soon as I’m home. I have a while to go yet though, so you have plenty of time to go and choose a hat.
With big smiles and three new letters here in Kazakhstan,
PS. On consideration I decided that MBE is rather apt; I think it stands for Mars Bar Eater. I have two very melted double Mars bars in my bag and shall eat them today in celebration.
PPS. 6,600 kilometres on the bike odometer since Calais – we’re now in and out of some patches of desert for a few days before the mountains start.