March 7th, 2014 by Chris Stallwood
Where it all began…
Back in 2006 a brave young lad called Alexander Devine sadly passed away after a four year fight with a brain tumor. Fiona and John his tireless parents had very little help and support during those difficult times and were wholly reliant on the limited resources of the local NHS Trust, which meant a nurse was required for as long as it took each morning to replenish Alexander’s drugs.
It was woefully apparent that there was nothing set up in Berkshire to help the families of terminally ill children to cope through these most horrible and stressful times so in 2007, in Alexander’s memory his loving parents devoted themselves to providing local care and support to families who find themselves in this sad situation.
For the last five years The Alexander Devine Charitable Trust has provided dedicated nurses to give assistance, advice and help to the many suffering families in East Berkshire and the surrounding counties. But their dream is to provide a place where respite care can be provided in a home away from home.
In 2013 the Trust was given a small piece of land on the edge Maidenhead and in October announced to a gathered media their intention to start building within a year a permanent four bed facility capable of giving the respite care so desperately needed.
Along with their patron Sir Michael Parkinson, many local people and companies have generously supported the Trust over the years, first raising enough for one nurse then a second, but the funds needed to build and staff the Hospice are in a different league altogether and the fund raising has to raise its game accordingly.
Since Penguins’ first involvement with the Alexander Devine charity back in 2008 I have always been moved by Fiona and John’s commitment to their cause and like many others have been inspired by their dream, though I am a little ashamed to say that I have done little to assist them achieve their goals.
Well that stopped in October 2013 with their pronouncement of the hospice build commencing in 2014, so I started thinking what can I do to help them in 2014 to raise the millions of pounds they need? And slowly a plan started to form… I shall grow a Beard!
For 365 days I am going to grow a beard, I will not trim and will only shave my neck (otherwise I may look like a tramp). From the 1st January to the 31st December 2014, each Wednesday I will post its progress and even just 8 weeks in it is already getting quite impressive. But…
This is not all, each month I will be following The Beard on a different highly physical challenge which I fear will take me to the brink of exhaustion at times and the edge of fear at others. I fully expect to be a broken man by the end of the year; I am 47 this year you know! I will be posting, tweeting and blogging for you all to see how my adventures proceed and will hopefully produce a Go-Pro video after each event so you too can relive the pain and the joy. I hope you will enjoy following my journey.
In order to keep your interest peaked I am not going to reveal all of the activities now, but I have based each one on a different discipline, swimming, cycling, running, sailing, climbing, hiking, kayaking, etc. and with any luck there will be surprise waiting at the end of the year.
To whet your appetite, the first 3 challenges are;-
February – 2500m Swim in 1 hour
March – The 100km Surrey Hills Cyclone Ride
April – The 200km Devizes to Westminster Kayak
What I ask from you is your support, encouragement and whatever you can afford in the way of a charitable donation! You can sponsor me per event if you wish or just as and when you think I have really deserved it, please be generous, share with your friends, whatever you can give will be greatly appreciated, after all I am putting myself through a considerable amount of pain/humiliation and what’s more it’s a really worthwhile charity…
Thank You very much for reading and hopefully your support!
You can follow me on my Facebook page, or twitter @beard_365,
or my blog at www.penguins.co.uk
to sponsor me visit http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/beard365,
to find out more about the Alexander Devine Charitable trust visit the website www.alexanderdevine.org/
October 28th, 2013 by Sally Pinnock
Now back in the dreary UK, it’s hard to believe that we have just spent just over two days in 30 degrees plus!!
It amazed us all that not only is the flight just three hours from the UK but the transfer time to most of the hotels in Marrakech is about 10 minutes.
Our first evening took us to enjoy drinks at one of the oldest hotels in Marrakech. A location frequented by connoisseurs and celebrities able to relax in an atmosphere that combines history with enchantment and luxury. Even Winston Churchill considered the hotel and Marrakech to be the most unforgettable place on earth. The hotel was a temporary home to Churchill five times, including a 1943 visit he made with President Roosevelt after a conference in Casablanca. Alfred Hitchcock shot scenes from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” in the hotel’s lobby. Dinner followed at a contrasting restaurant that offered an uber cool space where indoor meets outdoor and serves as a unique space for any event. The contemporary menu and fine wine went down a treat.
Day two was action day, an entourage of 4x4’s snaked their way into the Atlas Mountains, home to the Berber population. The Atlas range separates the Mediterranean and Atlantic Coastlines from the Sahara Desert and provides an idyllic location for one of Marrakech’s top boutique hotels which is nestled into its foothills. Not only did we sip traditional mint tea over the looking the mountains during our visit, but enjoyed the sheer luxury the Kasbah had to offer. The icing on the cake is that the Kasbah actively approached the leaders of the local communities to offer villagers the opportunity to work at the Kasbah. Most had never worked in a hotel before, let alone spoke English, however they now proudly employ and train the local villagers in all aspects of hotel operations and English and employ 120 staff together with an extended family of 4 mules, 3 donkeys and 2 camels!
The 4x4 experience continued through the Atlas Mountains and at some points looking at the drop down over the cliff side was quite something and left us wandering how the Berbers manage to live in this remote environment. A traditional Berber lunch was enjoyed. The scene was set as we were seated under a Bedouin style tent by the Lalla Takerkoust Lake.
The second half of the action packed day was split into two – Was it to be an afternoon of bartering at the Souks and an eye opening tour of the Jemaa El Fna Square with its snake charmers and mobile dentists…or a chilled spa treatment at a Country Club? As it turned out, it was more of an eye opening experience at the Country Club… the local spa treatment of a Hammam turned out not to be for the prudish or faint hearted…I feel that the spa posse now know each other rather well! For the Souk posse, it appeared that immense reserve was exercised not to be cajoled into buying hundreds of pairs of leather Moroccan slippers and thousands of spices for all the Tagines that were to be cooked upon return. Yes, hands up….a tagine or two was purchased!
The evening led us to the contrast of modern versus traditional which Marrakech is so good at. Pre-dinner cocktails were taken on a hotel roof terrace where a 360 degree view of Marrakech could be enjoyed. It combined sophistication with timeless design and effortless chic. Transfer to the dinner venue, a beautiful ornate Palace was of a traditional style, the good old horse and cart, locally know as a Caleche. An interesting experience not hampered at all by crazy drivers and motorbikes transporting families ranging from three to eight persons per bike!! By comparison the serene yet ambient dinner location, a traditional Palace was the perfect tonic. An impressive four course dinner was accompanied by the traditional musicians.
Our third and final day took us on a whirlwind tour of four hotels that ranged from traditional to modern, to Zen to golf. The hotel and venues in Marrakech offer top of the range facilities for a conference or incentive and you can go as modern and eclectic as you want to as traditional and regal as you want. There is something for everyone.
My recommendation: Marrakech has got so much to offer throughout the year. It is also great value for money, short flight and transfer times from UK and becoming more accessible worldwide. I would say if you’re looking for contrast and diversity, Marrakech is your destination.
Click here to view some of our holiday snaps!
August 7th, 2013 by Amanda Turner
The Olympic Games was one of the largest and most complex events the world has ever seen and definitely one of the proudest moments for Great Britain.
A year on from the festivities of this great event we thought it would be a good idea to take this opportunity to look back and reflect on what we all managed to achieve as a country!
As event gurus’ even all of us here at Penguins are amazed by the following logistical challenges the London 2012 team had to face:
- 26 sports, featuring 39 disciplines, were contested during the Games across 34 venues
- The Olympic Park, which held nine venues, was 2.5sq km in size – equivalent to 357 football pitches
- 8.8 million tickets were available for the London 2012 Olympic Games
- About 10,500 athletes from 204 National Olympic Committees took part in the Games, with 302 medal events being held
- Over 21,000 accredited media communicated the Games to a potential worldwide audience of 4 billion people
- There were also 2,961 technical officials and 5,770 team officials
- A total workforce of around 200,000 people, including more than 6,000 staffs, 70,000 volunteers and 100,000 contractors, were involved in the Games
- LOCOG had sourced over one million pieces of sport equipment for the Games, including 510 adjustable hurdles for athletics, 600 basket balls, 2,700 foot balls and 356 pairs of boxing gloves
- During the Games, 20 million spectator journeys were made in London, including three million on the busiest day of the Games
- Approximately 14 million meals were served at the Games, including 45,000 per day in the Olympic Village
Here is a short video to fill you all with nostalgia and pride…Enjoy!