Next time I'm using arm bands


All the gear for this challenge was supplied by Decathlon
I usually advise people about safety and staying ‘injury and disease free’. So what on earth possessed me (not a strong swimmer) to jump into the River Kennet, with its rusty shopping trolleys and discarded TVs, and gnarly old sticky-out-bits that could rip your leg off when you jump in? I know all about gnarly old sticky-out-bits because I found one, but it takes more than a scratch to stop me. Then swim past a not-busy-enough shopping centre, knowing that the press would be there with their cameras. I was wearing a pair of Speedos that just covered enough to stop me getting arrested and a highly conspicuous, bright red figure-hugging top, and there’s a lot of figure to hug, believe me! Had I been drinking? Was I on some kind of recreational substance that you can’t get in a chemist? Had I had a bang on the head?
I had a wee dram the night before, true. I never touch the other stuff and the bang on the head was 25 years ago… 25 years? Blimey, where did those years go? Anyway, can’t blame anything on my madness apart from the bang on the head.
I used to wear khaki for a living and walk around with a metal tube that went bang when I squeezed it. Now and then I’d come across people who didn’t like me doing my job and would aim their bang-bang-tubes in my direction. Sometimes, some of these people would throw bottles of petrol at me with burning rags in the top to help keep me warm. The glass always smashed though so the fire got too big too fast. When some of us went to this big sandy place, some people used to bury things in the ground that would make a loud noise when you went past or stepped on it. I used to shout “Surprise!” but it didn’t have the same effect. Anyway, one day one of these people was swinging a large lump of wood around when I came walking down the road and it hit me in the head. Didn’t even see it coming, but it must have been a big bit of wood because it fractured my skull, broke my nose, gave me two black eyes and I needed 11 stitches to keep my eye in. It even snapped off the odontoid process from my axis, so I spent several weeks staring at the ceiling while it got better.
 Sorry, slipped into medical talk then…
“…snapped off the odontoid process from my axis” = broke my neck
So as you can imagine, I was a mess. Now bones heal and bruises fade, even the scar where the stitches were is hard to see unless I point it out. You can still see a lump on my head above my right eye but that’s nothing to write about, says he, writing about it. It’s what goes on inside that takes time, sometimes it never gets better. Take a look here. I was lucky, everything went back to normal after a while, but I still spent ages trying to learn how to talk again. Doing mental arithmetic was hard for a while, if I gave someone a pound note (remember them) I had to think hard how much change to expect if the thing I was getting cost 90p. What I had was an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). Aside from the physical trauma the mental pain can go on and on. It can drive you mad because people think you’re OK when inside you are still finding it hard to do everyday stuff.
Justin Miles is another Brain Injury survivor, and when I saw he was kayaking from The Bristol Channel to The English Channel to raise awareness and hopefully a bit of cash for Children with ABI then I just had to join in. I was going to borrow a mate’s kayak and paddle through Reading alongside Justin, but he was using it a competition somewhere. (Poor excuse) so I asked if anyone else could lend me a kayak, canoe, rubber ring, driftwood, anything that would float, so that I could give Just some moral support on his challenge. Nothing, not even an offer of some armbands. So there was nothing for it, I’d have to swim. Like I said, I’m not a strong swimmer by any stretch of the imagination, and as for style, let’s not even go there. But this was for charity; I wanted to make a big splash, which I did. What colour will stand out? How can I make myself look ridiculous enough to get an interest from the press and make people ask “why?”
So that is why a middle-aged man who should know better, jumped into a river wearing red budgie smugglers, swam through Reading town centre thrashing around like a dying swan caught in a fishing net. Stopped to talk to the press then carried on along the Kennet.
I was not alone though, Justin was in his Kayak, Melanie Gow and her two sons were in a canoe she borrowed from a friend. (She borrowed it for me but I was already committed to my Speedos) Daniel Martin who can swim, boy can he swim, was in the water showing me how it should be done, and The A-Team aka The Shanks Family were on the river banks collecting money, making sure people got fed, transporting equipment from A to B, and generally being a fantastic support crew. 
Me and The A-Team!
So what on earth possessed me to jump into the River Kennet?
The Children’s Trust and some of the finest people you could spend a day on the river with, that’s what!

You can make a donation to the Children's Trust here! 

This little day out was sponsored by

Thank You to the store in Reading!

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