Taking the Pee
“She was brave. Courageous. Really determined”.
“No, she wasn’t. She cheated and should have stopped like everybody else”.
Welcome to my kitchen for a family dinner conversation. The person in question was Paula Radcliffe. The event was the London Marathon a few years ago where she went to the loo while running in front of a TV audience of millions.
So why were we talking about Paula Radcliffe over dinner? It was to spark some creativity with my 12-year old daughter who was less than enthusiastic about obtaining her Media Critic badge from Girl Guides during lockdown. The task was to identify people in the public eye, to state their attributes that she admired and identify which of those attributes she didn’t feel she had but would like. The purpose to develop self-reflection techniques. Clever.
Paula Radcliffe was quite an ordinary athlete by elite standards for quite a chunk of her career. She came fourth a lot. But she went away and did something about it and turned talent into becoming a winner – both on the racetrack, on the road and then as very good pundit.
The example of Paula sparked my daughter to come up with Roald Dahl and David Attenborough. For the former it was about his patience, his attention to detail and his ability to sit in his shed day after day writing and writing. Oscar Wilde once said “The difference between an amateur and professional is an amateur writes when they feel like writing. A professional writes no matter what they feel”. That applied to Roald in bucket loads.
David Attenborough really did not need any explanation but simply animated nods in concert. He is Mr Nature. The oceans – as well as many other things – will be eternally grateful for his emphasis on educating humans on the dangers to wildlife when using and disposing of certain plastics.
My 7-year old son was clear that his idol was Steve Backshall of Deadly 60 on CBBC. Steve travels the world and focuses on endangered species, often endangering himself getting up close and personal. My son and I watched the episode on the orangutan and how you can balance the needs of humans and nature through – in this case – sustainable palm oil was utterly insightful to us both. Every product we now buy does not pass the front door unless it is palm oil free or is made using sustainable palm oil.
What runs through all these individuals like a stick of rock is passion. It iswhat all of us want to find in any walk of life. My partner, Kristine, spoke about the influence of Eliza Bennett in Pride and Prejudice and her not being afraid not to conform to social convention and to follow what she thought was right. It is no coincidence that one of my 11-month old twins, going by the same name, is following suit.
Kristine’s Mum, who is currently living with us for reasons outlined in my recent post RIP Badger, chose Chris Packham of Springwatch Fame. Again, his passion is wildlife and he doesn’t care what people think of him. Partly, perhaps due to being on the autistic spectrum, but definitely due to standing up for what he truly believes in.
What we all agreed is you don’t need to be in the public eye to be passionate or a role model. Over the last few weeks we have seen nurses, doctors, care workers, post people, supermarket staff and delivery drivers be totally inspirational and do as much for their professions – and society – as Paula, Roald, David, Eliza and Chris. I would also add to that list all of those volunteers like Guide Leaders who give their time and passion for others.
My12-year old daughter certainly has a lot of options to now choose from.
26 May 2020