Lunch with the Mayor of Brighton

Our Antarctic trip has taken us to unexpected places, like Brighton Town Hall on a very windy Wednesday lunchtime. “Would you like to have lunch with the Mayor of Brighton?” read the email from Anna of The Transplant Trust. “Oh, and by the way, would you mind giving your talk?” Sure we would. Now, I don’t need much of an excuse to go to Brighton, but helping launch National Transplant Week activities is a pretty good one.

The Town Hall in Brighton is finer than most town halls I’ve seen, an imposing (Victorian?) building, and the Counsellors’ Chambers were grand without been ornate. A good place to meet Councillor Garry Peltzer Dunn, Mayor of the City of Brighton and Hove, Angela Walledge Trustee of the Transplant Trust, and invitees from prominent Brighton businesses, all come to hear what National Transplant week is going to be about in 2009.

The Mayor Signs Up

The Mayor Signs Up

Apparently, the Government has a target of getting 25 million people on the organ donor register by 2013. There are currently 16 million. As Mayor Peltzer Dunn observed, 9 million people more in four years is a very big ask. So why not push for an “opt out” scheme, as invitee Mohan Rasanayagam asked, rather intelligently, I thought. If Spain can do it… According to Angela, it would simply be a waste of organs – the UK simply does not have the resources or infrastructure to retrieve and distribute organs. If we don’t reach those targets the simple fact is more people will die waiting for an organ. And that will mean two lives lost in vain. I can’t say too often how lucky we feel that Cim had her kidney donated by her brother.

Our talk, then is the “happy ending” part of proceedings. We aim to encourage signing up to the register and also live kidney donation. And I think it works because people see that a transplant has made a tangible difference in Cim’s life (and mine, come to that). Cim says that doing these talks and raising awareness is her way of repaying her gift.

Adjournment to the Mayor’s Parlour for light refreshments, it says on the agenda. It’s splendid – and so are the sandwiches and cakes, to be mercenary for a moment. It’s a chance for us to socialise with the invitees and pose for photos. We talk to Mohan again, who it turns out works for Epic, an online training company. It gives me the idea about that we could broaden our networking through potential sponosrs’ networks. We get visitors to our website and promote the Transplant Trust. The companies get seen by our visitors.

Posing with the Mayor

Posing with the Mayor

Susan Foster, partner of Knill James accountants knows a lot about sponsorhip. They sponsor Lewes Rugby Club and that gets her to see England vs Scotland and Murrayfield. So she’s well aware of the returns that sponsorship can bring. The Transplant Trust on the face of it, is a more altruistic choice. But need it be? Isn’t it ok to get something back? We’ve got to use what we’ve got and exchange it for what we haven’t. I’ll come and do you a corporate whisky tasting. I’m sure we can come to some arrangement.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

Photos courtesy and copyright Tony Mould, http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk

World’s Most Southerly Whisky Tasting?

It had always been my intenton to have a whisky tasting on our March 2008 expedition to Antarctica, and use the event for maximum sponsorship leverage for our charity, Transplants in Mind.

The World Record for the southernmost whisky tasting would be a sure-fire winner. Ardbeg – my chosen distillery – would be falling over themsevles for the outrageous publicity we’d create; sponsorship cash would roll in, and when we got back, there would be a tour of whisky tasting and motivational speaking for Cim and me.  What could possibly go wrong?

Tuesday March 18 2008, Research Vessel “Professor Multanovsky”, Argentine Islands, Antarctica

Plans to have the ‘Whisky on Ice – Antarctica’ tasting while we were actually camping on  Antarctica were scuppered yesterday: strictly no food or drink on Antarctica itself. Anyway, there was an alcohol ban on all campers; not a good idea to make yourself vulnerable to hypothermia when you are so isolated. I put word out that the tasting would be tonight, after dinner, on board the ship, on the top deck.

Worlds Southernmost Whisky Tasting: 65 deg 14 S

World's Southernmost Whisky Tasting: 65 deg 14' S

I had with me three whiskies: three miniature bottles carried in my luggage from Engand. Three single malts to taste, all from the same distillery, Ardbeg – as we whisky nerds call it: a vertical tasting:
Ardbeg Uigeadail (oogy dahl)
Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist 17 year-old (arry nam bayst)
Ardbeg ‘Almost There” 9 year-old

Big, hairy peat monsters, all (the malts, not the drinkers), cask strength, 50% alcohol and more. This was a baptism of smoke for my new whisky tasters, but I think just right for the bottom of the world.

Returning from the afternoon excursion to Vernadsky research base and the delights of Antarctic-distilled vodka and a bar draped with ladies underwear,  we ate dinner early again. This allowed tonights campers – who were foregoing world record glory for a night merely in tents on Antarctica – to speed off in the Zodiacs and make camp while it was still light.

Up top, it was cloudy, but clear enough for the sun to set the clouds alight as it headed down over the Antarctic peninsula. The temperature was rapidly heading down too. Wind chill was a factor.

We borrowed glasses from the bar, and a supply of Andean minearl water. The miniatures gave us just enough whisky to share around (Cim, Taff, Tim, Marcus, Kieron, Luke, and me, later joined by Louise, Victoria who stuck to champagne, and AJ).

Photos were taken with me wearing potential sponsor’s t-shirt. Cim had the videocam rolling, and with whiskies poured, a quick introduction from me – and on with the first whisky…

I think I pitched the tasting about right, it being the first whisky tasting for almost all. How to nose first without water, what to look for in the flavours and aromas, why it goes cloudy. People seemed to like it.

The smoky power of the whiskies worked its magic and won over even the Jack and Coke contingent. AJ had the last drop of the Airigh Nam Beist and exclaimed, “That’ll put hairs on yer chest.” At this ambient temperature, even I was wishing for a few more on my already well-forested breast. “Jim Beam’s got nuthin’ on this”, says AJ. That’s a Result in my book.

But even the mighty Ardbeg is no match for the Antarctic night, so we retired to the bar, and some Glenlivet and Chivas 12.  There was just one more sponsorship task to perform: check if the video of Cim’s ice dance we recorded while at Vernadsky had worked. It had.

It was a big relief. For Cim it was the culmination of her trip, something to prove there is life after transplant: the thunder in her heart.

What we didn;t think was to run the tape forward past the whisky tasting footage (byte-age). Next day, we carried on filming from the end of the ice dance, not realising the shots we were taking were recording over the World’s Most Southerly Whisky Tasting.

…..

Now a year on. Isn’t it funny how a little button labelled ‘rewind’ can throw your carefully wrought plans into the Southern Ocean? I only realised what we’d done, when we were back in England.  The only way I could cope with the disappointment was to forget about publicising the event. I would have to come up with another idea.

And so was born: “The World’s Most Latitudinally-Separated  Annual Whisky Tastings”. Ideally, there would have been a follow-up expedition to the Arctic, with perhaps the World’s northernmost whisky tasting. The Arctic thing didn’t happen and I found myself in Lund in the south of Sweden.

Vernadsky Base’s latitude is 65 degrees South, Lund’s is 55 degrees North. That’s 120 degrees of separation. Beat that!

120 Degrees of Separation: Whisky at 55° 42′ N

Whisky Tasting: 55° 42′ N, originally uploaded by maltjerry.

The second leg of the “World’s Most Latitudinally Separated Annual Whisky Tasting” in The Bishops Arms, Lund, Sweden. Latitude 55° 42′ N.

Present: Helen, Rickard, Brian, Jerry and Ron. Photo taken by cj.

The first leg was offshore from Vernadsky Base, Antarctica, March 18 2008. Latitude 65° 15′ S. As Ron pointed out, that is 120 degrees of separation. Can anyone beat that?

We tasted Scapa 14 yo, Talisker 175, and Ardbeg Uigeadail.

Brian doesn’t usually drink whisky, saying the time he tasted one he liked was in 1993. Very gamely taking part in this tasting, he professed to being seriously impressed by the Uigeadail. I’d say “knocked out” but that could be taken the wrong way.

Antarctica: A Year On

It’s a year since Antarctica. Tonight, in 2008 we camped on the ice. A year ago the day after, I gave a whisky tasting on an icebreaker, in sight of Vernadsky Base, off the Antarctic peninsula, just shy of the Antarctic circle. It might have been the southernmost whisky tasting ever.

On my mind are the opportunities that came by during the year: some open goals blasted over the bar, some 30-yard free kicks bent around the wall into the top corner. The duality of it seeming simultaneously recent and on another planet a long time ago. The reality is sponsors money collected and chickening out on the possibilities of the sponsorship by Fullers brewery and Ardbeg distillery.

We did make a story, and we did work for what is now The Transplant Trust that got us inside Number 10 and the realisation of Cim’s website to promote women’s personal development. The culmination of the world record whisky tasting was to be the most latitudinally-separated tasting in a year somewhere in the far north (by which I mean a trip to the Arctic). Well, it will have to be Lund.

The media seemed to like us. Maybe there’s a clue here. The BBC called again. Not just Radio Southern Counties, but THE Beeb with talk about a documentary they are making – I don’t suppose it will all be about us, but they will be sending a car to pick us up. That’ll be two documentaries in three months, following Cim’s forthcoming appearance in a film about Tomatis.

Buoyed by this boost of self belief, we wrote to our old friends Woking News and Mail detailing our achievements and plans for future sponsorship and local events. They must be on holiday. Anyway, we’ll see what the Mayor of Brighton has to say when we talk at the lunch event he’s giving.

So, Lund and the Bishops Arms will be the venue for this made-up record attempt. I have promised to post my notes from the first whisky tasting, so I’d better dig them out.