Peake of perfection for British space hero
By Clive Simpson
Helicopter test pilot Major Tim Peake was always used to living life on the edge. But it took on a whole new meaning in December when he blasted into space on a Russian Soyuz rocket. Peake’s boyish enthusiasm and infectious sense of fun quickly endeared him to the British public as his six-month trip to the International Space Station got underway.
As Britain’s first official ESA astronaut, our modern-day hero is proving he’s got all the ‘right stuff’ – from taking part in a gruelling six-hour spacewalk and handling intricate science experiments to presenting awards to pop stars like Adele or demonstrating how to make scrambled eggs in zero gravity.
To the delight of schoolchildren and students across the country, the 45-year-old father of two quickly embraced social media. Midway through his six-month stay, Peake – as any good dad would – shared a short video of himself via YouTube cooking a breakfast of rehydrated scrambled eggs in orbit some 250 miles above Earth.
He has also shown other dad-like tendencies on Twitter, not only posting about his space cuisine but tweeting lyrics from his favourite space-themed songs and asking his followers to guess the titles.
More importantly perhaps, he has also shared photos and short films of the stunning views he sees out his window which, he admits, is one of the best sights ever. And now and then he posts a selfie, probably the most famous of which was during his spacewalk.
Peake, a European Space Agency astronaut, is now nearing the end of his mission on the Space Station, which he has shared with an international crew of five other space explorers. His planned landing back on Earth is scheduled for mid-May.
Among a handful of other Brits who know what it is like is Nicholas Patrick, who was born in Britain but became a NASA astronaut after gaining US citizenship in 1994.
“Spacewalking is a real mental challenge as well as being tough physically,” recalls Patrick. “When the hatch is opened and you float out into space it’s a tremendous feeling. Earth looks the same but feels very different. You are in a suit and no longer separated from space by the shell of the Space Station but just by your spacesuit and the glass of your visor.”
Peake, who grew up on the south coast of England and attended school in his hometown of Chichester, is an ardent family man. His wife and young sons were at the Russian launch site in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, to wave him off.
“Being an astronaut today is a bit like being part of a big family, really,” he says. “We are all working together in science, on new technologies and for the education of our younger generation.
“I’m involved in some truly cutting-edge science on the Space Station, from exciting experiments from investigating metal alloys in search of stronger and lighter materials for growing protein crystals that will help develop better drugs to fight disease.”
Since the dawn of the space age, astronauts have always doubled as human guinea pigs too – and Peake is no exception.
“I’m involved with 23 human physiology experiments on my body ranging from research into asthma, into the body’s immune system and why the immune system becomes depleted in microgravity, to investigating the body’s ageing process,” he says. “This research will one day deliver great benefits for people living on Earth.”
From the outset, ESA and its partner the UK Space Agency (UKSA) planned a busy educational programme for the mission, reaching out to every school in the UK with activities for all age groups from four years old up to graduate level.
“I hope we will have shared this mission as much as possible with anyone who wants to be involved,” says Peake, who was excited to also carry the Union Flag into orbit 24 years after British woman Helen Sharman wore it in space on a privately funded flight to Russia’s Mir space station.
“There is nothing to stop the school kids in Great Britain today from being amongst the first men and women to set foot on Mars in the future,” says Peake. “It is exciting times ahead both in the short term and in the long term.”
As a youngster, Peake was a keen Scout and believes this set him on the right path for his ultimate adventure. “I love the outdoors and adventure, and as a young kid and a teenager, scouting was the first step to making that journey,” he recalls.
“From scouting I joined the cadet force at my high school when I was 13, and that opened up the door to be involved in things such as flying which sparked my passion for aviation. But it all stemmed from those early experiences of scouting, of enjoying the outdoor life, and the kind of adventurous activities you get up to as a Scout.”
Peake says inspiring the younger generation will ultimately be one of the best ways to judge the success of the mission. “Much of the UK’s investment into his flight is directly targeting education and trying to encourage our younger generation to get involved in science and technology, engineering and maths.”
Peake admits he is a fan of the recent run of big space movies from Hollywood and tries not to pull them apart on grounds of scientific accuracy. Gravity had “wonderful cinematography” and he loved Interstellar. “That a director even tried to take on gravitational time dilation and reality beyond the event horizon of a black hole was impressive,” he says. “If films like this get people excited about space and space exploration then I’m all for it.”
Peake named his mission Principia in honour of its author Sir Isaac Newton, Britain’s greatest scientist after the book of mathematical principles Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which set out the laws of motion and gravity more than 300 years ago.
In the six years since Peake joined the European astronaut corps, he trained in Germany, Japan, Canada, Russia and the United States, lived underground in a Sardinian cave system and underwater in a habitat off the Florida coast, an exercise that simulated aspects of a future asteroid visit.
For his spacewalk, Peake trained in diving gear in the huge swimming pool at NASA’s astronaut centre in Houston, and in a virtual reality environment that recreates – with stomach-churning realism – the sensation of working outside the Space Station. “The instructors make you tumble off now and then to see if you survive. To get back on, you have to orientate yourself and fire your jetpack. It is not as easy as George Clooney makes it look in Gravity,” he recalls.
Describing his first spacewalk as “exhilarating”, Peake posted a selfie on Twitter saying the feat would be “etched in my memory forever”.
The Union Flag ‘flew’ officially in outer space for the first time and the flag could be seen clearly as Peake exited from a hatch on the Space Station on a tricky six-hour mission to repair a faulty solar power unit and lay new cables. Peake described stepping into space with the Union Jack on his spacesuit as “a privilege” and “a proud moment”.
Watching from an inside window, NASA’s Scott Kelly added to the sense of occasion. “It’s cool to see that Union Jack in space,” he said. “The Union Jack has explored all over the world; now it’s exploring space.”
Not everything went to plan during the excursion. Four hours into the spacewalk Peake’s partner Tim Kopra reported that water had started to pool in his helmet and that the absorbent head pad was becoming wet. Earlier a carbon dioxide sensor malfunctioned suggesting water could be leaking. Ground controllers at NASA immediately ordered both astronauts back into the Space Station as a precaution.
Surprisingly, Peake describes being an astronaut as ‘less dangerous’ than much of his earlier work. He left the army’s training college at Sandhurst at the age of 20 to command a 30-man platoon of Royal Green Jackets in Northern Ireland. Then, as an army helicopter pilot, he did tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Some of his most memorable flying was in the hills of Bosnia, where he flew reconnaissance missions at night and during the winter. The terrain was mined, so landing was a careful process, and he encountered sporadic gunfire.
Peake went on to become a helicopter instructor pilot and a test pilot at Boscombe Down. During an exchange trip to the US he flew Apache helicopters and helped introduce them to the British army on his return.
One test flight in Arizona was beset by abnormal vibrations that could have spelled disaster. Peake was flying the Apache faster and higher than it had flown before, an exercise called ‘envelope expansion’. “Sometimes you only realise you are in a dangerous situation after it has happened,” he recalls. “A subsequent investigation showed that our tail rotor had been banging metal on metal, and drilling a hole through the tail rotor gradually, so we were glad we knocked that sortie on the head when we did.”
More than 6,000 Europeans applied to be astronauts when ESA advertised six vacancies in 2008. At the time, the UK was not interested in human spaceflight, and no funding for the programme meant no British ESA astronauts.
And so Peake admits he went into the selection process thinking his chances were very slim. “The process, a combination of online questionnaires, medicals, tests and intensive interviews lasted a full year,” he recalls. “Right up to the very end I was talking to my wife, Rebecca, and saying it’s so good I’ve got this far but I’m sure they are not going to pick a British astronaut.”
Then, over dinner with his wife one evening, Peake’s mobile phone rang. It was a member of the Director General’s office at ESA and he was in. “I’d hoped to keep that call private but I wasn’t able to hide my excitement,” he says. “Rebecca knew instantly it was good news. She took it really well. She knows my character very well and she’s been hugely supportive throughout. My mother was less happy. Right from the very beginning, when I was a teenager, she wanted me to go into something safe like banking.”
To keep themselves fit and healthy, astronauts living on the Space Station engage in two hours of fitness training a day using a series of exercise devices design to work and stretch the body in microgravity.
“We do a lot of fitness training and I think these days most astronauts are pretty fit because we have realised that it is one of the best countermeasures for the effects of microgravity,” he explains.
“Just as you need to be fit for space you need to be fit for coming back to Earth. The better shape you are in before you launch gives you the best opportunity of maintaining that level of fitness on board the Space Station.
“We have a treadmill, a bike machine and a weight lifting machine up there and most astronauts today are either almost maintaining their level of fitness or only have a very slight degradation of fitness when they come back.”
And after his fantastic space-faring adventure, what will our new superhero have missed the most – apart, of course, from his wife, Rebecca, and sons Thomas and Oliver?
“The fresh air I think,” he says. “I love the outdoors. I don’t run on treadmills as a habit because I like to go out with a pair of shoes on and run outside. I like doing activities with the family in the outdoors and playing games, so I think that not having fresh air is what I will miss the most.”
Life-saving choices for South Sudan
By Peter Wooding
Imagine if your home was bombed and you suddenly had to flee for your life with your family. How would you feel? You leave everything you have behind in the midst of conflict and walk for days in the intense heat and dangerous terrain. When you finally arrive in an already overcrowded community, you and your family are faced with further challenges.
That’s the harsh reality for thousands of people like Angelina, who together with her family of ten children, have been moved into a camp for internally displaced persons in Abiemnhom County, South Sudan. On the brink of starvation and living in a conflict zone in the north, she was forced to bring her family to this camp in search of a better life.
Before the war her life was good, she had clean water and food from the land; but the Sudanese conflict has left Angelina and her family with no home, no food and no clean water.
Now she must walk for six hours in intense heat on dangerous terrain to collect dirty water from a river. She risks being attacked and beaten on each journey. Needless to say, the dirty water she brings back makes her family sick.
Along with 4,000 other internally displaced people, Angelina initially resettled in the main town in Abiemnhom but, with resources already stretched to capacity, the local authorities had to move them on. What is more, this isn’t a purpose-built camp. Each person and family, however young or old, had to construct their own homes.
When you have been bombed out of your home and travelled many miles, and with no permanent place to stay, to then be moved out of town and have to build your own home from scratch is heartbreaking.
But life at the camp has its own difficulties. Angelina had no choice but to come here, to a place of relative safety, hoping for something better. The conditions she faces, without clean, safe water, are just as dangerous as she faced back at home.
“People are being admitted to hospital; they are getting sick from cholera and suffering with diarrhoea because of the dirty water they are drinking. Now we become tired from walking such long distances; it’s very hard.”
On top of the exhaustion of walking so far for water, Angelina has to try to earn a living for her family which involves hard physical labour, cultivating land by clearing gardens and cutting down trees.
Angelina and her family are some of the 170,000 people in Unity State who are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty due to the conflict.
The world’s newest country
In 2011, South Sudan became the newest country in the world. Initial euphoria was short-lived as continual conflict made an already bad situation far worse.
In 2014/15, South Sudan was ranked as the world’s most fragile country and is currently a level-3 emergency (the UN’s highest crisis possible).
With an estimated 55,000 internally displaced people across Mayom and Abiemnhom counties in Unity State alone, overcrowding and overuse of hand pumps has led to one-third of existing wells breaking down.
Many who have walked up to three hours to get to a hand pump will find that wait times have increased to between one and two hours due to overcrowding. Fights often break out at overcrowded wells and consequently, for their safety and out of desperation, people default to a dirty water source close to their community.
No other choice but dirty water
Mary has been living with her husband and six children in a village in Mayam County for the past ten years. She lives with the constant challenge of looking after her family with access only to dirty water from a dried-up river nearby.
To get access to the water, they dig a hole until they reach water. The water is filthy, yet they drink it, cook with it and use it for washing – they have no other choice!
Not only does it look and taste revolting, but it’s ridden with bacteria, it makes them sick, and it could kill them.
Mary, who is also seven months pregnant, has to do this back-breaking chore three times a day.
Mary’s family are constantly ill because of the dirty water: “All of my family keep getting waterborne diseases like diarrhoea and typhoid. We also get eye infections and skin rashes. These diseases and problems keep occurring in our community.
“To get treatment, the hospital is very far from here … and we waste a lot of time travelling there. We have to leave the children behind on their own as there is no one to take care of them.”
The impact of dirty water
Dirty water kills 315,000 children every year from diarrhoeal diseases and takes the life of a newborn baby every minute from waterborne infection.*
Globally one in ten people do not have access to safe, clean drinking water. But in Mayom County, South Sudan, the situation is far worse: seven out of ten people don’t have access to clean water.**
79% of people living in Mayom County indicated that surface water was their main source of drinking water, often shared with animals. ***
93% of respondents are defecating in the bush. When the rains come, animal and human faeces mix in with the surface water that the people are drinking. ***
Samaritan’s Purse brings life-saving solutions
In the midst of all this, relief and development charity Samaritan’s Purse is responding to the challenge by providing clean water to communities in 11 developing countries.
In 2015, thanks to the generosity of donors and partners, Samaritan’s Purse helped over 425,000 people in 14 countries gain access to clean, safe water; constructed or repaired 121 wells; placed over 8,800 Biosand water filters in people’s homes; trained more than 95,000 people in good hygiene and sanitation practices; and built over 5,500 toilets.
In 2014, thanks to the generosity of donors and partners, Samaritan’s Purse helped over 430,000 people gain access to clean, safe water; constructed or repaired 75 wells; placed over 7,000 Biosand water filters in people’s homes; trained more than 100,000 people in good hygiene and sanitation practices; and built over 14,000 toilets.
In 2016, Samaritan’s Purse wants to provide clean water to over 35,000 people living in Abiemnhom and Mayom counties in Unity State, South Sudan, who currently have no choice but to drink dirty water. In partnership with local communities they will rehabilitate over 70 hand pump wells and, where funds allow, drill new wells.
Building on firm foundations
Samaritan’s Purse has two decades of programming experience in South Sudan. This is invaluable in bringing about positive change for desperate populations even amid conflict.
Because Samaritan’s Purse has its own drilling rig and large-scale logistics capacity, including air fleet, it is uniquely placed to bring clean, safe water to those who need it in remote and inaccessible locations, of which there are many in South Sudan.
Providing clean water for life
Samaritan’s Purse is committed to providing 70 sustainable functioning wells in South Sudan that have the right support structures in place to ensure that clean water can flow.
Samaritan’s Purse will achieve all this by:
- Providing training for 47 community hand pump mechanics who will cover all 70 wells.
- Carrying out water quality testing twice a year to ensure the water is not contaminated in any way.
- Training 70 water User Committees (nine members per committee, 630 in total) in water management and health/safe-keeping around the wells.
- Training 70 Health and Hygiene Committees (nine members per committee, 630 in total) who will, in turn, ensure local communities adopt best practice hygiene and sanitation behaviours.
- Implementing 70 jerry can campaigns to serve all 35,000 beneficiaries. This will focus on weekly jerry can cleaning and improving sanitation around water points.
The fundraising challenge
Samaritan’s Purse needs your help to help raise £525,000 between 1 April and 30 June 2016, to rehabilitate and drill 70 wells and provide life-changing clean water for the people of Abiemnhom and Mayom counties. On average it will cost £7,500 to rehabilitate or install a new well.
The life-transforming impact of this will include:
- Giving the children and adults of South Sudan the precious choice of drinking clean water from a functioning well nearby.
- Enabling mums to go to work knowing their children are healthy and safe at school.
- Stopping the horror and fear of sexual attack upon women and girls walking long distances to collect safe, clean water and at the same time encouraging young girls to fulfil their dream of getting an education, rather than spending their days walking for water.
- Freeing mums to spend time at home feeding and caring for their children rather than waiting in long queues for water – thus decreasing the risk of malnutrition.
- Building the skills of local people by teaching households good sanitation practices, giving communities knowledge of how to look after their wells, and ultimately giving them access to clean water for a lifetime.
A recipe for disaster
During a recent trip to an Internally Displaced Camp in Unity State in South Sudan, Samaritan’s Purse UK head of Programmes and Projects, Chris Blackham, observed how it was on the brink of a disaster of epidemic proportions: “All around me I can see there is limited opportunity for people to grow their own food, so they are going to have issues of malnutrition. When you have issues of malnutrition as well as a lack of clean water and poor sanitation, it is a recipe for disaster. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few months’ time there are cholera outbreaks here [at the camp], and people are suffering severe health problems.”
The choice is clear – together we can Turn On The Tap for thousands of people in South Sudan. To get involved visit turnonthetap.org.uk
**WHO/UNICEF JMP 2015
***Samaritan’s Purse baseline survey for Mayom County, February 2015
Bieber the believer
By Fergus Ewbank
While Justin Bieber’s teenage troubles have made headlines, less so have his strong, committed religious beliefs. It turns out the maturing pop star’s Christian faith is what really makes him tick.
Few performers over the past decade have polarised the public quite as much as Justin Bieber. For many, his talent as an entertainer is unsurpassable. For them, the pitch-perfect harmonies, flawless drum solos and painlessly choreographed dance routines are the building blocks upon which he has constructed his plinth.
Atop this towering pantheon Bieber resides – his angelic good looks and rigorously maintained body image only serving to embellish his swoonish superstar image. Of course, for every Belieber, there’s a dis-Belieber, and just as many people in this world see the star as nothing more than a petulant miscreant, a role model for youthful belligerence.
Last year was a fruitful time for the singer; not only did his sixth album Purpose receive huge global success but he also bagged his first number one single on the Billboard Hot 100. His music appealed to a wider demographic: less teeny pop and more dancefloor-driven, his sound had evolved towards an older audience – and in doing so, reflecting the singer’s own coming of age.
Undergoing the transition from teen pop star to independent adult proved a testing time. It was, however, one that would ultimately lead him to reassess, to realign his priorities and take a fresh outlook on life, and faith. Keen to shun any misconceived notions of ‘Belieber’ God complexes, Bieber now finds increasing solace in his own Christianity. For him, the time has come to level out, to slow the trajectory and begin trying to rebuild a public image warped by stardom. Had Bieber once sold his soul to a tight-jeaned devil on the pop chart crossroads, this would be his moment of redemption.
“I just want people to know I’m human,” says the 21-year-old. “I would like people to understand that when you have so much going on, and you’re constantly under scrutiny, it’s a very tough place to be. I started feeling very cynical and wanting to do my own thing and not listen to anyone. It was a hard time for me, and I needed to rebel against everything. That’s when I started making a lot of mistakes, but I think when you’re 19 or 20 you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. It’s just that in my case I have cameras following me around everywhere.”
On his recent press tour in support of Purpose, Bieber appeared keen to recast himself as a serious adult and positive role model. Evidently he recognises he fell victim to the pressures of fame and constant attention. “I’m more at ease, calmer, more collected, relaxed, and more in tune with myself,” he says. “I would love to be able to walk to the grocery store and hang out and not be bothered, but I can’t do that. But of course, a lot of people would also love to be able to perform on stage.”
Contrary to what many think, Bieber wasn’t born into his moneyed life as a performer. The son of a single and deeply religious mother, Pattie Mallette, who fell pregnant when she was 18, Justin showed a strong interest in music as a child, teaching himself to play many instruments. At the age of 12, he entered a local talent competition and was placed second. His mother posted his performance on YouTube and continued to post other clips of Bieber singing, which eventually started her son down the road of pop superstardom.
Signing a major record deal at a very young age, Bieber’s contract came about following a long period of hype within the industry, still just the product of those early YouTube uploads. Ultimately, his fate came down to a bidding war between two giants. Of the many heavy hitters involved in that formative period, it was Justin Timberlake and Usher who emerged as the key figures. Offers for a record deal came in from both camps, with Bieber and his young mother largely clueless on any of the small print.
Deciding between two artists the young star had always looked up to didn’t come easily. “I really could have gone wrong either way, signing to either label,” Bieber muses. “Usher and Justin were both great guys and the situations were both unique and really good, but it came down to having L.A. Reid backing me up as part of the deal with Usher’s side. It’s been great ever since.”
The star is quick to eschew any suggestion that career decisions were, or still are, financially driven. “I was just trying to enjoy the experience and enjoying performing for people who love my music,” he explains. “I was never the kid that was, like, ‘oh, I want to be famous’ or ‘I want to be out there’. Music was something I loved and knew I was good at, and that was what it was all about for me. That’s what I still want it to be all about.”
As he points out, it can be all too easy to envy the life of superstardom without knowing all that it entails. While other teenagers were enjoying normal teenage things, his youth unfolded in front of the world. It’s in those years that we all come to understand ourselves, and mistakes are all part of that learning process.
At an age when many teenagers are hiding away from the world behind slammed doors and long fringes, Bieber was thrust out into the open. It didn’t do him much good either. In the years following that record contract, he went through his fair share of knocks and scrapes – a bad break-up, multiple run-ins with the law, a night behind bars for drunk driving and drag racing, as well as the unfortunate emergence of some wincingly belligerent police videos.
“I was close to letting [fame] completely destroy me,” he frowns. “I wouldn’t suggest being a child star. It’s the toughest thing in the world. Look at the statistics on how many child stars have crumbled and turned out to be whack-jobs.”
Widely pored over in the media, Bieber said he felt “invincible” during that rebellious period. He’s grown a lot since then, and things have changed – now, he seeks to find strength in God rather than the false idolatry of fame. “Nothing is bigger than God,” he says. “If God’s for me, who can be against me? That’s helped me in a lot of situations where I feel judged. It gives you confidence and you can carry yourself in a cool way, but it’s not cocky.”
Clearly intent on rehabilitating himself as a chastened and more responsible figure, the maturing Bieber seems to be well on the road to redemption. The question is, are we seeing a true manifestation of faith in the star or simply a strategic PR move?
Bieber argues the former with a level of conviction that makes it difficult to see it any other way. “I’m a Christian. I believe in God. I believe that Jesus died on a cross for my sins. I believe that I have a relationship, and I’m able to talk to him and really, he’s the reason I’m here, so I have to remember that.”
Whichever camp you fall into with the star, and there appear to be very few on the fence, his attribution of success to faith is certainly admirable. “At this point, my faith has gotten me to where I am,” he continues. “My faith has brought me to a whole other level. I love talking about my faith.”
And clearly he does. Ask Bieber about Christianity and a tap opens up somewhere inside of him. Truthfully, the way he discusses his faith sometimes comes across as flighty and inconsistent but, then again, while many his age seem outwardly apathetic towards religion, can there be anything to dislike about his outspokenness?
“I just wanna honestly live like Jesus,” he says. “Not be Jesus – I could never… I don’t want that to come across weird! He created a pretty awesome template of how to love people and how to be gracious and kind. If you believe it, he died for our sins. Sometimes when I don’t feel like doing something, but I know it’s right, I remember: I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t feel like going to the cross and dying so that we don’t have to feel what we should have to feel.”
It’s a faith for the millennial generation, practical and unfussy. Perhaps the consequences of a challenging life on the road, Bieber creates his personal understanding of faith, something that works for him. Beyond that, though, there’s clearly a dislike for stricter modes of Christianity. While he enjoys a following that exists within most corners of society – be that straight, gay, transgender, Jewish, Islamic and so on – it would be wrong for him to align with any notion that those people are in some way opposed to what he believes. In one sense, it’s very easy to place doubt on the star’s level of commitment to his religion but, at the same time, for welcoming in a more inclusive mode of Christianity, he has to be admired.
“Some people are bad communicators,” he explains, speaking of his dislike for the evangelism he often comes across in the States. “They find something that works so well for them, and they wanna share it, but they don’t know how to share it, so they’re kind of pushy. There’s a lot of really weird stuff going on at churches. You ever flicked on a channel, and a late-night church show is on? Sometimes it’s like, ‘You better do this or you gon’ die and you gon’ burn in hell!’ And you’re like, I don’t want anything to do with this!”
In a world where people should be free to believe whatever they want, Bieber’s faith both shapes and is shaped by the diversity of his huge following. It shows how anybody can adopt religion in a way that suits them and Bieber is, as a reformed adult, providing a positive example to a younger generation. In a world where Jesus Christ has 5 million likes on Facebook and Bieber 72 million, he serves to deliver the message of faith to a portion of society with which the Church lost touch a long time ago.
Instagram images of a body adorned with tattoos of religious imagery could well be as close as many of his followers will (or want to) get to classic iconography. As long as the original meaning is not lost, can that necessarily be a bad thing? A post from last year in which Justin uploaded an image from a passage in the Bible received 752,000 Likes, a level of engagement that even the strictest sects of Christianity would admit is nothing less than impressive, and positive.
It’s with great ease and much willingness that we can laugh at one of Bieber’s most quotable interview moments. In last year’s big cover story for Complex magazine, he famously said, “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell, that doesn’t make you a taco.” It’s hilarious on several levels – a laugh with as much as laugh at moment. However, for all of the contradiction that admittedly does exist in Bieber’s Christianity, this succeeds in summing up why none of that matters.
Faith should be a positive thing; personal beliefs shouldn’t be a cause for dissociation from anybody else. Bieber’s defence of his faith was found funny by everybody and offended no one. As with his music, it’s a message designed for the masses – it’s the encouragement to do your own thing in a world where doctrine has sadly so often divided us, and in spite of people’s prior commitment to dis-Beleibing, they can hardly argue with that.
A crew that changes lives
Considering that one in four of us is close to a person with a disability, it is amazing that there is still that element of prejudice and misconception about ability, and a lack of awareness of the things that can make life inclusive. International charity the Jubilee Sailing Trust is on a mission to build bridges of awareness and understanding and by using two fantastic, specially designed tall ships, to break down barriers for a better, more inclusive world.
There is something about taking on the challenge of tall ship sailing that enables the complete integration of physically disabled and able-bodied crew members. The environment is unusual and takes people out of their comfort zone – a positive thing in this instance. People who were once unknown to each other and from different backgrounds very quickly come together, as you have to work as a team. A buddy system is operated whereby two people are paired together, one able-bodied and one physically disabled. They share the voyage and help one another along the way, developing a special bond that leaves a positive and lasting impression.
By empowering the voyage crew to discover their abilities and to focus on what they can do rather than what they cannot, life-changing experiences are created. The crew arrive on board with doubts about the voyage and their ability to cope and leave with new-found confidence about themselves, new friends and knowing that they can be a useful member of a team, and more often than not it is the able-bodied crew members that come away having changed the most, as their misconceptions around disability are transformed.
Over the last 35 years, the JST has welcomed 45,000 crew members aboard their two globally unique, custom-built tall ships, with over half having some form of physical disability, including over 5,000 wheelchair users.
A voyage with the JST is about joining in and getting involved with all aspects of sailing the ship, regardless of your physical ability. Whether you are a tall ship enthusiast, fair-weather sailor or complete beginner – everyone is welcome.
READY, SET, RACE
Join the crew and set sail for the 2016 Tall Ships Races
The Tall Ships Races began in 1956 and were meant as a final farewell to the world’s last tall ships. However, the event was hugely popular and eventually transformed into an annual event, with races to all corners of the globe, and bringing with it millions of visitors.
The races are a great way to practise your sailing skills, make new friends from around the world, and to immerse yourself in the festival spirit in every port. This year’s festivities will start in the cosmopolitan city of Antwerp, who have hosted the Tall Ships Races four times. After enjoying the opening celebrations, including crew parties and a firework display by the quayside, you will embark on Race One; an exhilarating 16-day voyage across the English Channel and through the infamous Bay of Biscay. The finishing line awaits in the port of Sines, Lisbon, which will greet the fleet for the seventh time since the races began.
Race Two will see Lord Nelson participate in an exciting seven-day voyage from Sines round to the historic port of Cádiz. Founded as Gadir by the Phoenicians in about 1100 BC, there is a definite regal feel about this ancient city with its memorable monuments and museums. After some time spent sightseeing, the family of tall ships will Cruise-in-Company along the western coast of Spain and Portugal until they reach the final port of La Coruña. La Coruña is no stranger to the Tall Ships Races and will be welcoming the fleet back for the 11th time – the most ever – and will host this year’s closing ceremony.
The thrill and excitement combined with the challenges faced during a tall ship race leads to a kind of team spirit, emotional connection and general comradery unlike anything else. You may step on board the ship not knowing anyone else, but by the time you step off, you would have shared an experience together that can’t be replicated and formed strong bonds and friendships to last a lifetime.
A voyage with the JST gave Jasmin a new outlook on life
I’m Jasmin, and I currently work full time as a teaching assistant at a school for children with special needs. The school accommodates students aged two to 19 years, and I work with students aged 16 and over. Every few years a student is lucky enough to be chosen to go on a voyage with the JST, along with a staff member to support them. Although I’d never done anything like it before, I decided to put my name down as I believed it really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I hadn’t even ever stayed on a boat overnight, so I had no idea what to expect.
When my name was announced, I was giddy with excitement. I would be joining a student called Will who has a physical disability and hearing impairment. Physically Will was able to walk, but could sometimes become unsteady when tired, and so he uses a wheelchair. I signed up for the voyage, made all the relevant arrangements and waited in suspense for September to come round.
My voyage was a five-day round trip from Southampton on board Lord Nelson.
On the first day, we were shown our cabin, given our timetable or ‘watch card’ and were introduced to the crew. All shipmates are set into groups called ‘watches’ and each watch is based in a certain place. You are with the same people throughout the duration, so it really gives you time to get to know one another. The good thing is you’re not alone, and you each have an experienced ‘watch leader’ to look after you for the duration. We then learned the ship’s safety procedures, including how to evacuate in an emergency. Our special equipment was divvied out, and we all received our own wet weather clothes, climbing harnesses and boots. We then had the chance to climb the mast – I really am terrified of heights, so this was a huge achievement for me.
Later on that evening, myself, Will and another shipmate were on harbour watch duty overnight from 2am–4am. This meant we had to carry out regular checks, walk round the ship and ensure everything was running smoothly. I was then glad to be relieved of my duties at 4am and proceeded to wake the next group up.
After some much-needed rest, we awoke to a delicious cooked breakfast. We then went on to learn how to pull ropes, tie certain knots and how to change/alter the yard arms and sails. The weather that day was unfortunately not in our favour, meaning we couldn’t venture too far, so we decided to sail to the Isle of Wight where we anchored for the night.
We left the Isle of Wight and made our way to Portsmouth where we anchored in the harbour. Day 3 involved Happy Hour – which isn’t what you might expect and actually involves everyone cleaning the ship. We then sat down to a scrumptious meal. The food on board was excellent and hearty as you would expect – favourites included stews, bolognese and lasagne. And not forgetting the gorgeous puddings – apple crumble and custard was my favourite.
We remained in Portsmouth overnight until the next morning, so people were able to venture off the ship to explore and shop if they wished. The weather hadn’t been ideal the previous days, meaning that Will and a few other shipmates weren’t able to climb the mast, something they were eager to do. However, today was our lucky day, and the weather was beautiful, meaning it was time for Will to do his thing. This really was the best part of my trip. Will can walk, but sometimes requires support, so to see him muster the strength to pull himself using his arms and legs at the same time up to the platform (much higher than I could manage) was incredible. He was given the option to be hoisted up in the wheelchair but declined and climbed all the way by himself. It was a truly emotional moment.
Later that day we left Portsmouth and sailed back to the Isle of Wight, where we anchored again for the night. Our watch was on duty while we were sailing, meaning we had to help the captain steer the ship, check the sails, keep a lookout for other ships and report back. It really was a lot of fun.
After an amazing few days, we headed back to Southampton and disembarked.
I really was sad to leave my fellow shipmates, all of the team were so friendly and helpful; everybody chipped in, and nobody was left out. The most amazing part of this voyage was that everyone was included regardless of their physical ability. It really warmed my heart to see everyone enjoy full access of the ship and to really join in. I learned an awful lot during my time on board – not only how to pull ropes, alter sails and steer, but about myself too. I was able to conquer my fears, gain confidence, feel independent and learn about my fellow shipmates’ stories, some of which were truly inspiring.
Will said the ship helped him to build confidence through talking to other people while also helping his independence, as he was able to do things himself that he never thought he could do. Climbing aloft was his highlight.
All in all, the Jubilee Sailing Trust is a fantastic charity. The experience they gave me was life-changing, new, exciting, scary and more, but I met some wonderful people, and most of all, had fun. If you are looking to try something new, the JST’s buddy system can help you to support someone, help them to achieve their goals, conquer their fears and try new things – while you are too.
With three fantastic voyages to choose from, don’t miss out on your chance to get involved. To book, please call +442380 426849 or visit jst.org.uk
Risen - Joseph Fiennes
By Ella Timms
British leading man Joseph Fiennes made Gwyneth Paltrow and Cate Blanchett’s hearts flutter in his roles in Shakespeare in Love and Elizabeth two decades ago. But the younger brother of actor Ralph Fiennes turned his back on Hollywood, spending much of the next 18 years working on stage and in independent movies. Now 45 years old, he is ready to make his comeback in biblical drama Risen, playing a sceptical Roman military tribune who becomes a believer after witnessing the resurrection.
As a lapsed Catholic, he felt a little uncomfortable playing a member of the death squad who crucifies Christ, but after consulting with police detectives and attending gladiator boot camp, he was ready for his close-up. Wed to Spanish beauty Maria Dolores Dieguez with whom he has two young daughters, the charismatic actor divides his time between Spain and the UK. Today he talks religion, gladiator training and why he’s playing Michael Jackson in an upcoming drama:
This is an unusual role for you. How did it come about?
I met [director] Kevin Reynolds in an airport lounge in Madrid. I read the script, and I loved it for the idea that we should see this story which some know very well and is dear to their heart, and some might know a little bit which is the crucifixion and the resurrection and the ascension of Christ. If you’ve seen Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ, the movie ends with the crucifixion, so to pick up from there through to the ascension, I thought, “Wow, that’s a tall order.” But to see it through the eyes of a non-believer, a Roman tribune, was really exciting to me. And it felt like a really interesting detective story and I don’t want to be misquoted, but I said in one interview that it’s a little bit like Chinatown, in that he’s going down a rabbit hole and he doesn’t know in that sense with the investigation. It’s not like it [Chinatown] at all, but it has that sense of the investigation and he’s not quite as in control as he thinks.
And I love that element and that’s Kevin’s invention and I love the sense of the ticking clock; the idea that Emperor Tiberius is about to arrive in Judea and Pontius Pilate is breathing down the neck of Clavius and then Clavius is probably breathing down the neck of Lucius, his aide. So I loved the ugly bosses kind of relationships going on, but also that sense of ambition and duty and the investigation, and it wasn’t biblical, it didn’t smack of a biblical story.
Of course, we’ve got to come into the resurrection-ascension, there’s no denying that, and we want to, but we come at it from an oblique angle as this non-believer, this Roman soldier who is diametrically opposed; this is the enemy. And I loved that sense of the deconditioning; whether you’re religious or not, you can take away various themes which is: confronting your conditioning, second chances. There’s a great redemptiveness to the journey and Clavius, who’s in the industry of death, meets the man that he killed and is forgiven. We all make a bad choice and the idea that we can be forgiven for that is a wonderful thing – it doesn’t have to be religious – and then there’s the whole question of faith and I love that too. I love that scene with Cliff Curtis [who plays Jesus] and I on the rock [where] you don’t know if it’s a dream or not, but that sense of “Clavius, you’ve just witnessed it all and yet you still have this thread of doubt?” And that’s something that we all have, that kind of little intellectual thing going on; that “Really?” and I love that so there were elements for me that spoke to me and were a challenge, but I felt the right challenge.
Risen is biblical fiction. How close does it stick to the Bible?
There is a balance between Scripture and fiction. I play the character of Clavius, which is a conglomerate of a few historical characters, and we view the whole Easter experience through his eyes. We had theologians and Christian ministers on the set to advise us on the religious aspects. They were also there for the editing process.
There’s a moment in the movie when you meet Tom Felton’s character Lucius for the first time, and it seemed like it was a buddy cop movie.
Yeah. It smacks of that, yeah, it’s like “Oh, here’s my buddy”. I loved that, and what was interesting is that a lot of people of high-ranking positions in the Roman army, from what I’ve read, especially if you were a military tribune, it’s because Daddy knew somebody. In my mind, Clavius had probably worked his way up through the ranks to become a military tribune, and there were very few military tribunes, and it was a really big position of authority to hold; you would probably go on from a tribune to the senate, and the idea that someone should just walk in because Daddy’s friends know Pilate was just grating to Clavius, and I loved that, it did smack of that in that moment.
How was it filming in Spain and working with the Spanish cast like Maria Botto, who plays Mary Magdalene?
Maria was phenomenal, incredible. She brings such a vulnerability, pathos, a purity, spirituality and such emotion. It was great to work with her and a lot of the guys who were playing the disciples, and we had a co-partner in the production. It was great to be in Almeria where Clint Eastwood rode his horse on a number of occasions in spaghetti westerns in Sergio Leone films. So there was history everywhere, but also to have a Spanish crew was great and talented and wonderful and brought that diversity, so regarding casting and look it felt authentic [to] the casting, the territory, the land, Judea. And also Cliff – let’s celebrate the idea because so much of Hollywood talks about the casting and the whitewash, so let’s celebrate the fact that we have a Jesus that’s not blond and blue-eyed.
And you went to gladiator boot camp?
Yes, for me the way into this film was I went to Rome and studied with all these gladiators. They go round Europe to these amphitheatres … there’s this one guy called Darius and he and his team go round Rome, and he and his team look at every depiction of frescoes and murals and sculptures and fabrics, and any depiction of military warfare in Roman times, that they would copy and re-enact. So it might be physical gestures like this ancient boxing which is based on the idea of pulling a bow and arrow, and he would re-enact all that. He’d talk about the gladius [sword] which was rather like the Samurai for the Japanese in terms of the stabbing motion. The economy of the Roman army, the philosophy; the surgical, economical precision was amazing. And that for me was the mindset, the idea that you would go into battle rather like a boxing guard, you’d only reveal the eyesight there to know where I’m going to go, and the gladius would come down, and you’d hide again, come down, Achilles heel. And down again. And so what I learned at school was phenomenal, and it wasn’t just picking up the bruises and feeling macho, it was actually mentally, I was like, “Wow. These guys are surgeons.” And now I understand how you can take over huge parts of the earth – [it] is because of how you think and how you think as a unit and not just as an individual, so that was a big lesson for me.
Cliff Curtis took a vow of silence in preparing for his role of Jesus and didn’t even speak on set. How was that?
That was great. It played into my way in and certainly in my attitudes on camera and off-camera, it’s the same for me, whether I’m on or off there is no difference, so if we happen to be sharing the same space, he didn’t exist – until he existed – and the same for all the disciples. And what you’re trying to do is form a platform, a space that when you film on camera, it is imbued with the right kind of chemistry and energy and quality. And you can dissipate that, you can dilute it if you’re faffing around and having a fag and everything, and it kind of somehow filters through so the moment when we’re on the rock is the moment when we first met each other; the first moment we had eye contact and spoke to each other, and we saved it for that moment. It might work; it might not work. Maybe it doesn’t make any difference at all but for the actors, in our mind, and having a platform, its important, so it’s great when you have an actor that is like-minded because there are certain actors who don’t want to go there, and there are certain actors that do, and it just brings a chemistry and invites a consideration, and a tension which you’re hoping the camera might get that energy. So that was important.
Was that a rather lonely experience – not talking or hanging out with Jesus and his disciples on set?
Yes, there were days when I was rather jealous and felt isolated that all the crowd in the next tent were all laughing and joking and talking about the dinner that they’d had together as a collective group of disciples with Jesus, and the prayers that they had. Meanwhile, Tom and I were silently together in our leather in another tent. But it’s all good, and it’s all part of the off-camera work.
It seems you’re the go-to guy for faith-based films?
I wouldn’t say that – but I have to admit that these films strike a chord with me. I don’t know why I gravitate towards them or them to me – if it’s coincidence or if it’s conscience. I guess it has to do with integrity – my own and the integrity of the project. When you raise your consciousness, you attract projects of higher consciousness as well.
Your character Clavius is a non-believer. Do you believe?
I believe in a greater consciousness. I believe that a conditioning and polarisation and locking straight into one’s own ideal can produce walls between people. Umm, so what do I believe? I don’t know. I’m still on that quest. There’s a constant conversation, a constant inner dialogue. I’m baptised Catholic, but I’m lapsed. I don’t go to church. I live by simple rules that I hope are just basic humanitarian, kind of humanistic beliefs, and I’m still working it out as Geoffrey Rush said in Shakespeare in Love: “It’s all a mystery”, and it’s all a theological mystery.
As an actor it must be fascinating to play someone who is not a believer but then is faced with such an overwhelming experience which cannot be explained?
It’s delicious. How do you go from the guy that was in the death squad that crucified Christ to a man that is now going to safeguard the Christian word by defending a group of men through the gullies of the desert against his own compatriots? Brilliant. I always felt that he was a man who is exhausted by the industry of death, that he’s at the end of his career, he’s looking to get to Rome.
What made you decide to consult with police detectives for this role?
Yes, when I spoke to a detective, I learned that a lot of detectives smoke cigars because they have the smell of death in their nostrils, hence Columbo. And I suddenly thought: that’s really interesting, so I had this plant which I would smell or wash, and I always felt Clavius was at a point where he was prepped for something. It wasn’t like he was a 20-year-old. If he was 20, I don’t know if he could make that change, but when he’s in his late 40s, I felt that Clavius was in a position where he was almost bordering on post-traumatic stress, exhaustion, and he had a spirituality to him in that he prayed to Mars; he invited Yahweh to cross over, and I loved that. He’s already beginning, and he’s in a place which is not absolute black and white – he’s this, and then he’s that. I felt like here’s a man who’s ready for change and here’s a man that happens to [think], maybe if you want to enjoy this idea, which he might be part of God’s plan. That actually he’s not someone that’s made the change in discovery, but maybe God has brought him in to safeguard the word and to get the disciples out, so there’s lovely themes there, but certainly delicious is the one word that comes to mind when you get to play that juxtaposition. He’s exhausted I think, and that’s what makes me believe that he’s malleable to take on or decondition rather than being a young, sprightly, fixed person. He’s an interesting character, and he’s a loner, a thinker, he’s an intellectual on the battlefield and in terms of the detective story. I felt it was believable. It was a challenge as an actor to take the audience on this story. You don’t want to make them like you. In fact, I wanted the audience to really not like me for what I did and then try to carry them with me. That was the big challenge. We’ll see if it pays off.
Is it tough to find challenging roles?
I did [find it challenging], until the other day I got a script and an offer to play Michael Jackson, which I took. They do come around. It’s a comedy; it doesn’t poke mean fun. It’s a story which is possibly an urban legend whereby Michael, Marlon Brando and Liz Taylor were all together the day before 9/11, doing a concert. And airspace was shut down, they couldn’t get out, and Michael had the bright idea that they should go to a car hire company and drive. So the three of them got in a car, and they drove 500 miles; took them a while because they had to stop at a lot of Burger Kings for Marlon. They got out. It’s a lovely road trip, and a lovely thing about Michael’s relationship with Liz Taylor, and Brando with Liz who had been in a film together. So it’s [a] fun, light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek road trip of what it is to be a celebrity of that kind. But it’s also rather beautiful and poignant as well. Marlon is played by Brian Cox, and Stockard Channing plays Liz Taylor.
You’ve worked with many different directors in your career. How was Kevin Reynolds to work with on Risen?
Kevin’s a veteran. He’s someone that I trust 100%, and I felt so happy and secure with, and from the first conversation we had, enormously collaborative, which was a surprise to me because some veterans, quite rightly, they know how it’s going to work out and you don’t need to question it. Not that one questions … I like to think ‘collaborates’ is a better word, but he was really welcoming, and I think we both got off on the same foot in terms of wanting this film to satisfy. Of course it’s going to satisfy the faith base, but also we wanted it to be a cinematic event and we wanted to have creativity within that and so we pushed hard to strike the balance between honouring Scripture and what is really pertinent and precious to so many but also, being a cinephile, offering up a great epic film that you would enjoy whether you’re religious or not. You read so much about “It’s Sunday school. It’s just so conservative and boring” or it’s “Whoa, its revisionist. Don’t go and see it”. So how great it might be that we get both camps in the room, in the auditorium, who can share the spectacle and appreciate it and take away elements whether you’re religious or not? That would be a great success.
Is there a specific inspiration for Clavius besides the script?
Yeah, you’re right. He’s a fictionalised historical character. I’m thinking about Emperor Constantine, much later, which was the kind of watershed moment in Christianity. Up until that point, I think there was just horrendous Christian brutalities and he was the emperor who had a dream, and Christ came to him in the dream, and he converted. So that’s one big historical happening and writers, or Kevin, might have taken that but I believe it’s really a device in which to give us a fresh take, a fresh look on an old story, and introduce the story again and take us through it but obliquely so there’s not that stigma of being really upfront and religious, and its striking those balances.
Were there any Roman soldiers in cinematic history that came to your mind?
I think Russell Crowe in Gladiator was phenomenal. His depth was extraordinary, and I loved that for Ridley Scott’s cinematography and direction. So that plays in your mind. The last thing we wanted to see was a sort of evangelical transformation.
So much from so little
Exclusive feature for Sorted magazine.
Fortunes in business. First, he established and built the Lind motor business, which became one of the UK’s larger and most respected car dealership groups. Graham sold the business for over £100 million just days before the market collapsed. Parallel to this he built and retains an equally impressive commercially let property portfolio.
Over the years, he has donated the greater part of his income to various charitable causes. Through the Lind Trust, he acquired the magnificent former regional headquarters of Barclays Bank in Norwich and invested over £10 million in turning it into what has been described as the finest youth provision in Europe. This is but one example of many.
But what drives the man who likes to drive fast cars? Quite simply, his faith in God.
He says it best in his own words:
“Getting started in business and making your mark on the world can be exciting, adrenaline-fuelled stuff. Entrepreneurs get a buzz of satisfaction from clinching a new deal, breaking into a new market, launching a new initiative. It’s only natural. It’s what they were born to do.
“I have not been a typical entrepreneur in that my faith in God takes precedence over the need to grow a business and make money. Yes, I was driven to succeed. Yes, I wanted to make money. But early on God got my attention and helped me to see something vital. While being successful was, in and of itself, a laudable goal, he had much bigger plans in mind. I needed to grasp the fact that I was living for a purpose bigger than myself.
“Herein lies one of the greatest revelations I’ve learned over the years. We are more joyful, more peaceful and more prosperous when we are living for something greater than ‘me’. If the only purpose of generating enormous wealth is enormous self-indulgence, where is the meaning in that? But in living beyond ourselves, we truly live.”
What was Graham’s ‘greater’ cause? Initially, it was to make sufficient funds to plant a church, equipping it with unrivalled facilities. When that dream eventually came to pass, he turned his attention to funding many other worthwhile ventures.
In his recently published book, Graham tells the full story of his highs and lows in business, but he is more interested in passing on to others the principles he has learned. Here’s a small taster:
Live for something bigger than yourself
Life is worth nothing unless we use it to finish the task that God has assigned to us. Life is meaningless unless we are living for a higher purpose. If I can offer some valuable advice, it would be this: Find your greater purpose in life and live for it. If your purpose looks easily achievable to you, then that’s unlikely to be it. If you can’t imagine your purpose coming to pass without some kind of divine intervention, you’re probably on the right track.
There is a great joy to be found in living out what you were born to do; being the person God made you to be and doing the thing that you are passionate about. As someone once said, “If you love what you do, you’ll never do a day’s work in your life.”
Throughout the lifetime of what was to become the Lind Automotive Group, life was exciting. It got us out of bed in the morning. It didn’t feel like work. We didn’t just survive from day to day; we thrived. We were doing something with our lives, and it had a bigger cause attached to it. It gave us purpose and a reason to excel. It satisfied our need to do something worthwhile, and together we celebrated its growth and success.
Purpose = hope
I’m the sort of person who is always looking forward, seeing where I can progress. Ironically, after all I’ve managed to achieve, I still don’t feel I’ve arrived. One characteristic of a good leader is to celebrate the small wins. Unfortunately, I’ve never been able to do that. But I do look forward optimistically with hope.
Living with purpose gives you hope because it means you can constantly look forward to the bigger, better things to come, and you don’t dwell on the past, whether the past contains failure or success. Once we lose hope, we lose our direction in life; after that we plunge into hopelessness.
When I became a BMW dealer, taking over a failing business, I had high hopes. I hoped we could turn the business around; hoped and prayed we’d survive; hoped we’d make some money. I hoped I wouldn’t be a one-hit wonder. But this was all ‘negative’ hope, as you can see.
Positive hope is grounded elsewhere; founded in something that is secure; in something that cannot fail. Just as God gives me purpose, he gives me hope. As a Christian, I have a sure and certain hope in the future. I have a hope that is not dependent or reliant upon me, but upon him.
I came into a relationship with God and found hope. Great hope. Certain hope. Sure hope. Once I lived without hope, but not anymore. Today, I am hopelessly hopeful. Here’s hoping that you will grasp this truth for yourself and begin to live a hopeful life, investing your efforts into a purpose far greater than yourself.
Take a leap of faith
Those not from a Church background may find my perspective on faith and its role in business hard to accept. All I can say in response is that my faith is an integral part of who I am. It defines me. Therefore, it plays a central role in all I do. Faith dictates who I am, what I do, why I do it and how I do it.
Frequently, faith appears illogical to others. I agree. The concept of giving away money and somehow receiving more back than we’ve given, for instance, is entirely illogical. But then many things about faith appear illogical on the surface. Yet, they prove to be true in due course.
As a man of faith, I believe that God speaks to me. Sometimes he will ‘plant’ thoughts in my mind; pearls of wisdom that couldn’t have been generated by me. God can give you insights that, if acted on in faith, can provide the key to unlocking otherwise intractable situations.
On one such occasion, God woke me up early one morning and gave me the strategy to turn around a business that was haemorrhaging money and needed a massive cash injection to get it out of debt. They owed the bank £1 million. God’s big idea? Simply go to the bank and explain to them that it was in their interests to write off the debt, in full. What? Surely not? But that is exactly what happened. You can read the full story in my book.
This single, ludicrous move helped launch the Lind business. It goes to show that if you – whatever you are doing – are prepared to hand your business over to God and allow him to become its CEO, I promise you will be amazed at what will happen. What would have happened if I had chosen to ignore what God spoke to me? What if I had stopped at, “No, wait a minute, that’s ridiculous. There’s no way…” Right there and then I could have put paid to plans to grow an incredible business that would become an incredible resource, funding all kinds of worthwhile humanitarian projects. The fact is, no business grows without the principal taking a leap of faith at some point. But instead of taking a leap of faith with some new marketing initiative, a new product or service, or some financial risk – take a leap of faith and trust God. You will never regret it.
In business as in life, there is a need for tenacity. We must have sticking power in order to see ventures through to their logical conclusion; to push as hard as we need to see the results we desire. There is also the need to remain agile, able to respond to changing circumstances, and to take calculated risks when necessary. Sometimes in life, you just have to stick your neck out and go for it. Make a plan – even an audacious plan – and put it into action; throw everything you have at it. Plan to succeed and not to fail.
At times, we need to be tenacious by taking calculated risks. One can argue the case for business being scientific – consisting of certain principles that, when applied, will achieve certain results. To me, business has always been more of an art than a science. I’m more interested in gut feeling, instinct, a sense of the right way to go and whether something has the right feel about it. Without good instincts, you can apply all the principles you want and still not achieve the desired results. That’s why I am always much more interested in developing character than expounding business principles.
Mistakes help us to grow
If you are an entrepreneur, you will have made mistakes. If you’ve never put a foot wrong in building your business, you are either completely unique, a total one-off and should celebrate the fact, or you have never taken a risk. The odds are overwhelmingly stacked in favour of the latter.
The most important thing about mistakes is simply that we learn from them. Mistakes happen. Mistakes are inevitable. Yes, they may make us feel stupid. But the only really stupid thing is to make the same mistake again. Here is my advice regarding mistakes:
- Learn from the mistake. Be better prepared next time. As George Bernard Shaw said, ‘Success does not consist in never making mistakes, but in never making the same one a second time.’
- Don’t punish yourself. I made a decision never to pay twice for my mistakes. Mistakes happen – you don’t need to torture yourself emotionally.
- Don’t let it ruin your life or sap your confidence. Ok, so you made a mistake. Now get over it and move on. One mistake, however bad, doesn’t cancel out all your success.
- Don’t give the matter undue head space. Don’t allow previous bad decisions to dominate your thinking.
- Carry on as though it never happened. Success is not just something that happens to you; it is a state of mind. Get back on the horse. Get going again. Stay positive.
As the singer Johnny Cash once said, ‘You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. Don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.’ Sound advice.
Finally, people often ask me to give them business advice. Frequently, I suspect they are looking for me to impart ‘secrets’ that will fast-track them towards success with the minimum of hard work and effort on their part. I don’t believe in quick fixes. Over the years, I have come to believe that the character of a person is by far the most important component in the formula for business success. In fact, it is by far the most important component of the mix in any context in life.
- Motivation is more important than marketing
- Perseverance is more important than PR
- Faith is more important than finance
- Character is more important than commercial ability or cash flow
Every entrepreneur, regardless of their level, faces essentially the same challenges: being forced to think on your feet; trusting your gut feeling often; accepting that with big gains come big losses; remaining agile and being able to adapt to new circumstances; making mistakes, quickly learning from them and moving on ... the list goes on. What will sustain you through all of this and more is character.
So Much From So Little is published by River Publishing, available from March 2016.
Caving, potholing, spelunking
By Corinna Leenen
Why caves are more than dark and muddy holes – the appeal of underground places.
Winter, fading light and snow on the ground. The grey limestone outcrops and stepped hillsides of the Yorkshire Dales, so characteristic for this area, are moving past the window. My hands are stuck in gloves, and I’m nervously tearing up an empty sweet wrapper. The limestone scar on Ingleborough’s plateau is just visible. With the heating on full blast and a folk band providing jolly background music, we’re heading out to Ingleton. Sell Gill Hole is our destination.
No one seems the least startled as I walk into the Spar in a full caving suit to pick up some snacks. This is, after all, Yorkshire’s prime caving hub, where cavers meet in pubs, line the small country roads with their vans and walk over hills and moorland to find hidden cave entrances. It all seems to have an air of slight secrecy and madness.
Further south in the Mendips, information plaques map out the extensive systems hidden beneath visitors’ feet, alongside signs telling cavers off for getting changed out on the village Green. Caving seems a ubiquitous but quiet pursuit with a closely knit persevering community of serious enthusiasts. Unlike mountaineers, cavers face their challenges where nobody sees them, only making headlines when something goes wrong.
But alongside the study of geology and archaeology, which accompanies cave exploration, there’s vast expertise around the tables of established caving pubs. The owners of small caving shops turn out to be seasoned explorers who, in their time, discovered new connections and passageways in old systems and tell elated stories of near escapes. The community wrapped around this activity and the amount of study, knowledge and history that comes with it make caving exciting and unique.
Cave exploration in the Dales began in the 1890s with more and more clubs and universities joining in on notable explorations and the production of cave surveys, which are now invaluable for guiding cavers through the systems. By now, more than 500km of cave passages have been mapped and documented in the Dales alone. Becoming a member of a caving club is easy, and you can have keys for cavers bothies in most areas – rough and basic places which are, however, well-adapted to muddy caving suits and wet kit.
We park up next to a pub behind other vans. Another group had just headed out; we can see a string of lights moving across the hillside. I’ve had my fair share of pep talks and jokes to make me feel at ease, but the usual thoughts of “I could be sat on the couch watching a film instead” keep recurring, as I’m waiting for the others to put on their harnesses.
It’s a 40-minute walk-in, and I’m starting to sweat in my four layers. As we’re walking in the dark with a patch of light marking out lumps of heather and icy puddles, I’m astounded at the thought that there is an endless system stretching out beneath our feet – the longest in Britain. The Ease Gill system makes for a nice caving fact: extending over three counties, the system has an impressive 88km of connected passages so that it is possible to walk through Yorkshire, Lancashire and into Cumbria – underground.
Finding the cave entrance in the wide limestone pavement, following streams sinking into the ground or looking for deep pothole shafts sealed with metal lids can be a challenging task, but we’re lucky this time. An old stream way drops down to the first entrance pitch; it is unmissable. A pitch, in caving terms, is a section of vertical cave. A short daylight shaft leads down into a big chamber, to a stony slope and the second pitch.
Old photographs show members of the Craven Pothole Club go down the shafts in tweed overcoats and felt hats, using rope ladders, up to 28ft long. Tweed suits thankfully gave way to Cordura oversuits, and dangling from my harness now is a 326g Petzl Stop Descender. Squeezing the red handle, I can lower myself down the rope – piece of cake.
Below is a vast room, the main chamber, from where we go lower and lower. It is hard to grasp the fact that there is now 50 to 100m of solid rock above our heads, separating us from the surface. Once at the bottom, we have done the easy bit – now we’ve got to climb back out using the same ropes.
Walking back at 3 a.m. with water in my Wellies, I’m freezing but in high spirits. I’m exuberantly proud of what I’ve done and feel like I now belong to an elect group of a daring few, to whom this underground world is accessible. The far reaches of some systems have been seen by fewer people than have walked on the moon. Childhood curiosity has waned and at times given in to fear, after concerned parents have throttled the exploratory ventures of their children, lured by mineshafts and cave openings on Sunday walks and holidays. But now, with the right equipment and some tuition, these places are suddenly open.
I’m enthralled by what those ‘dark muddy’ places have to offer. The caves of the Dales are extremely varied, from trench-like muddy crawls in which your caving bag gets stuck every few metres to staggering canyons, the clean-washed stream ways of Lancaster Hole and deep vertical shafts of Cow Pot. Silent galleries of relic passages, where the water has found a different way through the bedrock, lead into huge boulder-strewn chambers which dwarf the light of our head torches. There are forests of straw stalactites hanging from the ceilings, 12,000-year-old stalagmites in White Scar Cave, curtain-shaped waves of calcite, and tall column stalagmites, nearly 2m in height.
Experiencing the unexpected glow of light shining down a daylight window underground, or emerging from the darkness into the bright surroundings of white limestone scars is intriguing, and the ever-changing variety of the cave systems will make you ask for more.
Fancy exploring a cave for yourself? Book a caving weekend in the Yorkshire Dales with Exped Adventure. You will learn some of the techniques for moving safely through a horizontal or vertical cave system, try out cave navigation, and learn about cave geology. Find out more at expedadventure.com
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