Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Joy Kemp cycles to France via the North Pole!

The moment has finally come. I'm on my way to Portsmouth to join the Royal College of Midwives' staff team cycling 230 miles across France for Women's Aid, our chosen charity of the year.  This is a huge personal challenge for me, being around 6 Stone overweight and not doing much exercise on a regular basis except for walking the dog to my favourite teashop. I am responsible for the RCM's global work and spend much time on planes, in far flung guesthouses with carb-heavy menus and a working long days in London when in the UK with a two-hour commute and too many station sandwiches. And then there's the cake which is a steady feature at the Royal College of Midwives office!

Travelling to Uganda in January

However, I turned 50 last summer and vowed to make some changes. My back and knees were complaining and my parents, 30 years older, seemed fitter and healthier than me! In early July. Whilst attending a training course in The Hague, I found myself cycling to and from the B&B at the insistence of the landlady, and loving it. Then, with my friend Anita, I walked the North Downs Way. 153 miles in total, to celebrate my half-century and hoped to continue the slow route to fitness. An opportunity arose to sign up for this bike to de and I thought it would give me the incentive to get back on a bike after 20 years out of the saddle and put in the training hours.
with my friend Anita at the start of the North Downs Way, July 2015

The best laid plans...! I was travelling in Asia and Africa almost continuously between September and January, Christmas was typically indulgent then the Global Team got very busy writing reports and submitting bids, working late to ensure everything was completed before my colleague Eleanor went on maternity leave. The winter nights made evening rides unappealing but I knew I had to get on with training so started riding Boris Bikes from station to office and around London between meetings. Finally, my friends Kim, Angela and Sylvie,  plus my wonderful husband Stephen, all volunteered to come out riding with me and I managed to do five, then ten, then fifteen and finally up to more than 40 miles. Midwife Claire  lent me her bike (Bob!) then when I struggled with injury Judith, from my church, lent me her bike too. I learned how to map my rides and share them on social networking sites and people started sponsoring me, then more and more. Amazingly I have raised over £3,000 and as a group we are nearing £10,000. I'm topping the leaderboard for fundraising which is good as I'm likely to be at the back of the ride!

The fundraising efforts culminated in a bank holiday Monday tea party earlier this week at which we raised over £400 with 55 people enjoying scones with cream and jam, cucumber sandwiches and vast quantities of cake as the rain miraculously held off between the hours of 3 and 6 PM!  I did my last proper training ride on Monday before the party, cycling pass the North Pole (yes really!) which was looking resplendent with bluebells and tulips in abundance. Who knew?!

So tonight the team of 8 riders (most of whom are much slimmer and fitter than me) plus three organisers, converge on a cheap hotel in Portsmouth before we board an  early ferry to Cherbourg and cycle out first 40 miles later in the day. My bag is packed with unfamiliar items such as gels and chamois cream, along with padded shorts galore and a ton of flapjacks and jelly babies. It's going to be a huge challenge and I may be slower than the rest but I'm not a quitter Nd I'll keep pushing the pedals, one after the other, and maybe, just maybe, I'll make it.

Please follow our progress at and continue to sponsor out efforts here to make a difference to women and families living with domestic abuse. Thank you.

Dhaka Diary

I'm back in Dhaka (Bangladesh), five weeks after my last visit in July, to help facilitate the first ever online election of executiv...