When an adventurer sets off on a five-week mission to row half-way across the world’s largest ocean, it is not just they who are affected. Families, friends and partners have to provide support where necessary. Guest blogger Melanie Roberts, girlfriend of crew member Colin Parker, offers her first thoughts on the Great Pacific Race.
Among the many character aspects I routinely mock Parker about; his penchant for taking up and dropping new hobbies at exceptionally high speed and at great financial cost is up there with the best of them.
His former flatmate, Vicki will pay testament to this. During their time sharing an abode, she dubbed a particularly unsustainable phase of his, ‘Crazy Sports Monday’; a day that would see him partake in football, kickboxing and platform-diving back to back from 6pm to 10pm, all in separate towns. By Tuesday, he was broken. It was therefore somewhat unsurprising that he only managed the complete programme of activity a grand total of four times, despite paying in advance for several weeks of platform-diving and kickboxing complete with all the associated kit, which was eventually sold at a car boot sale when he and Vicki both moved on to pastures new.
In our final weeks in England, Parker and I held another car boot sale together in Hampshire. You could almost hear Parker’s parents’ pasting table gallop toward the garage door the morning of the sale. Finally, it was being enlisted to do the job it was always meant to do; to bow beneath the collective weight of its owner’s fad paraphernalia and snag with its corners at the cheap outerwear of punters who jostle and strain to catch a glimpse of gold in a yet to be unpacked box.
As we set out our stall, Parker realised he’d unwittingly marked out a corner of the table that could visibly be identified as a graveyard for his fads. A shin pad here, a kick boxing belt there. Just this week he told me his podcast history quite accurately tracked the story of his fads.
Eggy bread with blood
But there are exceptions. Journalism is one. These past few weeks have seen Parker navigate his way through a decent stack of reads and multiple rounds of eggy Burgen bread – with blood, not mud – as he continued on his quest for gainful employment (now found with the Australian Financial Review) in our new home town of Auckland.
Throughout this process, we’ve discussed almost every aspect of any role he’s considered. We’ve talked about duties, teams, challenges, locations, hours, bosses, possible lunch dates, how to travel to and from work; it goes on. The one aspect that had not once come up is pay. In answer to one person’s question to him about the salary of one particular role, Parker replied: “I don’t know, I didn’t ask”.
Spoken like a true journalist. There are few professions where such an attitude is typical, but in the newsroom, it is commonplace. It’s only when the transition into PR comes into play that money begins to feature. After so long spent in a world where the letter ‘C’ is seen flirting with your bank balance for only the briefest of moments before ‘O’ trundles in to take its place, it’s quite a shock to surface above a level of pay that qualifies you for student loan repayments. O, with its depressing, empty centre resembling the hollow abyss that has been your finances since university.
There are certain markers that both Parker and I, were we to be concerned with aligning ourselves with societal norms and expectations, should have hit. Being 35, he should probably be married and own a house by now. Being 31, my ovaries should be in such a state of hysteria that I’m sent positively demonic if a child under five-years-old wanders within a suburb of me. Only none of those things are true, or have happened. We’re travelling, renting and between us, partially unemployed. New Zealand feels like the right place to be doing those things. The attitude here is easier, people’s minds are more open and best of all of those things, the inane and quite frankly numbing levels of judgement and cynicism that accompanies almost every aspect of everyday life in the UK is absent. It’s one of many liberating aspects of life in this country and one of the things I believe will help Parker train for one of the biggest challenges of his life, rowing with three others from California to Hawai’i as part of the first Great Pacific Race being held this time next year.
For all his fads, Parker has a proven ability to engage an exceptionally wilful mind. Sure, hundreds of thousands of people have completed the London Marathon just as he did the year before last, but far fewer will have the guts to put themselves forward for anything more challenging. The race will take training and dedication and sacrifice, all of which he is capable of in spades. If you’ve been keeping up with his blog, you’ll know he plans to row the same distance of the race on a rowing machine. Somewhere, in a gym in central Auckland, he’ll be tracking his progress in kms on the tiny eye level screen before him while in his mind he’ll be nudging away sea birds from his boat as the Hawai’i shore grows closer and closer.
The pasting table knows it need not breathe a sigh of relief. Like me, it’s confident there’ll be no need to accommodate an ocean rowing boat anytime soon.