Monthly Archives: May 2014


I think the original purpose of the fundraising was to get me out of my morbid depression, and harness the goodwill of so many people that know me.
Two events were organised and money raised, for which I’m eternally grateful.
In addition, Dave B trekked miles across France,Dan inspired others to get out there by running a hundred miles, Terry will do his first Ironman, Robbie and his crew will conquer some of the steepest hills in France, and my cycling buddies will paddle from Devizes to Westminster in September.
So all sporty events, for a sporty guy.

The money raised has so far paid for some ski lessons ( not flights or accom or food ), and for the purchase of an Off Road all terrain wheelchair.
Has this helped me, as intended?
Christ yes, it’s taken my mind off the hopelessness, and reawoken my physical side.
About £750 also went on getting an old car converted to hand controls.

The next thing is an FES bike, electrocuting my dead legs, and making them move again ( though not under my conscious control ).

Anything with a ‘disability’ label is ridiculously expensive, FAR more than you’d guess at.

But when/if you see me cycling around/half lying down on what looks like an outsize kid’s tricycle, WITH A SMILE ON MY FACE..and legs not pathetically scrawny , then you can judge for yourself whether it was worth the money.

A message from a true ‘on line’ friend .

Hi Russell.
I have just been catching up on your blog. I was reading your piece to Morgan & was awe struck. I knew you were ridiculously active pre accident but I had no clue that you had achieved so much. It certainly made me appreciate why you struggle at times with your personal “moments”. But you know Russ a person who has tackled the physical challenges that you “list” must also be incredibly mentally strong……. Sooo mentally strong. Which is what you obviously are, I’m know you struggle everyday & maybe always will but I still believe it will get easier. It will be your mental strength which is innately Russell that will get you to a comfortable zone. Along with the love & support of your family & friends.
We have not met, I hope that we do sooner or later but I just love your spirit, strength, sense of humour & intelligence. I marvel at where you are after less than a year it is quite remarkable. That’s why you must write a book, it will be funny with out doubt but I see it as a message to others who too may be in a situation they far from expected, folks that need hope, encouragement & to be brave. All the things that are you to pass on to others !!
Jane x

From my Dad.

I met Bobby Windsor in Cwmbran this am.. He didn’t know about your accident. In spite of his reputation and background he is a very emotional man. When I told him what had happened he was terribly upset and actually shed a tear.
Love, Dad

( Bobby was one of the hardest, most feared rugby players in history ).


We have a small apartment in Portugal that we bought jointly with family about 8 years ago.
Since my crash, we’ve had it adapted for my new needs.
To be honest, it’s far easier here than it is in London, as I can access the lounge, the kitchen, a bathroom, and both bedrooms.
One of the best bits is that I can get onto the sofa, cuddle up to the kids and watch the TV.
And then I can even go into their bedroom and give them a goodnight kiss, not possible at home…
There wasn’t a single night at home pre crash that I’d forget to do that, however late I got home, and whatever state I was in… So not to do it for 9 months weighed heavily on me.

Yesterday we went for a drink to a bar on the nearby lake and met a load of friends.
As Dani helped me up the kerb, a lady was being pushed out of the bar in a powered wheelchair.
She had no arms from above her elbows, and no legs below mid thigh, so effectively just a torso and a head.
She was probably 60 or so. No attempt had been made to ‘cover up her stumps’, exposing them to the world.
She gave me a lovely smile and we talked for a few minutes. I asked her what had happened to her.
She told me that 8 years ago she’d contracted meningitis, with the consequent loss of limbs.
She was far more interested in me than she was in herself, asking me ‘how’ and for how long..
She talked about the dark days and the lows that I was undoubtedly getting, this ‘first year’.
Compared to her, my injuries are insignificant, yet she smiled cheerfully the whole time, and was so very caring, about me!

When I go out now, I wonder what people are thinking when they see me. I see people averting their gaze, people sometimes pretending not to notice me, maybe not moving their chair a bit to help me wheel past, when I know they have seen me.
If she can go out, in the ‘state’ she’s in, what issues do I have, by comparison? She can do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING for herself.

Nothing except be a shining example of the power of the human spirit.

My memory.

One of the most obvious ways that my memory has been affected by my crash, is the bit that remembers Band names.
For the life of me, I can’t remember who sang what etc, so I had a look on my iTunes Match to jog my memory.
Thought I’d write down all the bands/ singers that I can remember seeing live, at mostly London venues.

There’s no accounting for taste, but here goes ..

Audio Bullys
Badly Drawn Boy
Basement Jaxx
Black Eyed Peas?
Brand New Heavies
Cake – twice
Catatonia – after which I did a bungee jump, from a crane, pissed.
The Chemical Brothers
Coldplay – when they’d just had one hit..
The Coral
The Darkness
David Gray?
The Divine Comedy
Everything but the girl.
The Feeling – 3 times
Feeder – twice
Finlay Quaye
Florence and the machine -3 times
Franz Ferdinand
Gabriella Cilmi
Goldfrapp – twice
The Gossip -3 times
Groove Armada – twice
Hard Fi -3 times
The Hives?
Hot Chip
Ian Dury and the blockheads?
JacK Johnson
James Blunt
Kaiser Chiefs?
Kasabian 3 times
Katy Perry – Lily’s first gig.
The Kooks
La Roux
Lily Allen
Lostprophets – if only I’d known.
Macy Gray – she was off her head, but still great.
Manic St Preachers
Marina and the diamonds
Massive Attack -3 times
McAlmont and Butler
Nelly Furtado
Oasis- twice. Love Liam or hate him, he’s incredible on stage.
Ocean Colour Scene
The Pigeon Detectives
Plan B
Portishead – at their best.
The Prodigy – twice.
Pulp – Jarvis was so good.
Radiohead – past their peak.
Richard Ashcroft
Rolling Stones – don’t ever watch a band at Twickenham rugby stadium. It’s worse than watching England there..
Scissor Sisters – I think Dani and I were the only straight people there..
Skin – best live performance of the lot.
Skunk Anansie
Snow Patrol
Stereophonics – so polished.
The Streets
Katy B
Tinie Tempah
Tom Jones -3 times. The first time, in Hammersmith, was the funniest. Total sell out.
We weren’t Tom fans, but went for a laugh.
In his early days, Tom used to get ladies knickers chucked at him. So I bought a pack of ten pairs down the market and wrote Welsh type messages in the gussets – things like ‘Slam in the Lamb’ and ‘How wet is my Valley’.
My brother Alwyn and I were about 50 rows back. You try throwing knickers that far.
People in front of us were catching them and throwing them on. At least one pair made it to the stage.
Me and my brother laugh about it still – funny night.
And we bumped into Shakin Stevens outside, after, and had a laugh with him – though he’s not the sharpest tool in the box…
Tori Amos
Turin Brakes
Zero 7
The Zutons.
The Couterfeit Stones – ten times at least – far better than the ‘real’ thing.

There might be more.
The question marked ones are bands that I probably saw, but really can’t be sure.

Oh, missed one :
The Goldie Lookin Chain… From Newport. If you’ve not heard ‘Your mother’s got a penis’, google it.
2000 people in the crowd singing the chorus was one of the funniest (2) times of my whole life.

That’s quite a few nights out.

Probably won’t be quite the same in a wheelchair, but hey.

Goodbye old blog.

Today I stopped copying posts to my ‘old’ blog site, the one started by Melissa, whilst I lay in Toulon, near death.

This site is much better, techy wise, and allows me more ownership and control of the content in the future, however that may manifest itself.

I’ve been chatting to Claire Lomas, of Robotic Suit London Marathon fame ( amongst other things ).
She wrote about the people that couldn’t help but write and tweet unkind things about her, and wondered why on earth they did. What motivation could they possibly have?

I read her book with fascination, so much resonating with me.

The ‘troll’ thing did too. I’ve wondered why anonymous strangers get pleasure from putting comments on my online diary…
People I don’t know, happily hiding behind daft, made up names.

I tended not to delete their comments, as the rest of you, like me, just thought ‘ what a twat ‘.

They can’t post stuff now, unless I approve it, so it’ll be easier to dismiss their idiocy, and you won’t see it at all.

Thanks Melissa, for kicking this thing off.
Baring my very soul has been my salvation from time to time, particularly whilst in Stoke Mandeville.
It’s not the most enjoyable of places, despite the great work they do there.
Short of staff, space, and equipment, it soldiers on, but I shan’t look back with fond memories. It kept me alive, when I wanted to be dead, then kicked me out when I wasn’t ready. It’s obviously in a no win situation, and for that reason I feel guilty implying criticism so through non gritted teeth, I’d like to thank that hospital for saving my girls’ Dad, by giving him something to do other than topping himself.
Last night we watched a film where a little boy visits his Dad’s grave and cries on his knees.
I imagined that was me in that hole, and that little boy my Amber.
I don’t know what she was thinking, as I stroked her hair, but I was filling up.

I wonder what irrelevant comments my odd trolls will send about this post….

The small world of Spinal Injury.

So we’re in the departure lounge in Gatwick and Dani says ‘that’s the guy who broke his back,learnt to walk again, and went back to the mountain where the avalanche paralysed him ‘.
Paul Stewart did just that, in 2013. Google the Ironspine Challenge.
He came and chatted to us – lovely guy. He walks with sticks, but that’s a lot better than a chair…

Then on the flight, we see and chat to Lucy, the female presenter of Homes under the Hammer.
I met her whilst in Stoke Mandeville, a few times. Lovely lady. Incredibly, her best mate is my brothers ex fiancee’s sister, from our little home town in Wales, now living in the south of England ( work that one out…)

One flight, 2 spinal connections.. Bit spooky.

A message

Read your post – yes!!!!! Told you should write a book – absolutely the right decision because;
1) I am a voracious reader and have read many bio s of individuals who have faced disaster or challenge in some way and they have done a 10th of what you ve done ‘before’
2) You are way more eloquent and perceptive than they are.
3) You have an inbuilt sense of wit and know how to make people laugh so your literary effort would not just be a tale of overcoming adversity – it would also be a funny read.
4) All your friends and blog followers would buy it so there’s 10,000 copies sold for a start.
Brilliant idea Russ – just do it – do it x

My life.

I’m conscious that my posts are becoming less and less frequent.
I suppose that could be interpreted as me getting better, and less needful to share my thoughts..
That’s probably true, though life is still far from simple, and far from satisfactory ( when compared with ‘before’ ).

It’s very true to say that my friends and family continue to provide enough distraction to keep the demons out of my head.
In the last 10 days I’ve had lovely time with my parents, my brother, Stuart, his wife Mandy ( they enjoyed watching my beautiful Lily rowing on the Thames – I was too low to see over the fence..), my buddy Chris B from Uni, Rick, Quentin ( you know you must be ‘middle class’ when you’ve got a mate called Quentin …! ), Chrissy, Nick and Sophie, Pia, Irinder, Alice, Scott, Ina ( ex colleagues ), Adam in the Gym, Ken, Kev and Sam ( slightly heavy night out ), Dan, the paddlers at Richmond ( Roy, Dickon, Toby, Neal, Jeremy, and Frank, all helped by Richard H, and me a bit ), Cherie, Emma AF, Debs, my staff in Egham, Cressida, Liz, Marta, Caroline and Katrin.
There may have been others too..
Today I get to see Andy and Vanesssa and Julie too, plus Cherie again.
So I’ve not exactly been my myself have I?
Yet still I’m lonely, as no one else is with me in my head, in my new world of sadness, in a place unimaginable to me only 11 months ago.

I’ve made contact with a lady called Claire Lomas, who broke her back on a horse about 7 years ago.
She went on to walk the London Marathon in a robotic suit – and raised a fortune for Spinal Injury Research.
She sent me her book, and I’m a third through. Our stories, thus far are so similar, the horror of realising you’re paralysed , the total confusion, the morbid embarrassment of peeing yourself in public ( or worse ), the inability to do anything for yourself, the strange new misalignment in social situations and relationships, the joy of learning to sit ski, the suicidal thoughts ( and how best to carry out the deed – I think driving into the river would be easiest ),the wanting to give up but not being able to.
I’m going to see her speak at the Excel in London on June 12th – she’s kindly invited me.
I hope we get to chat in person.

What did strike me, from her book, is just how much I managed to do, pre injury, compared to her ( I’m sure she won’t mind me saying that ). I had 20 yrs more uninjured than her, which makes a big difference.
The other day I wrote a brief précis for my nephew in America of stuff I’d done in school / Uni and in sport after that.

This is what I wrote:

Hiya and happy birthday, Morgan

At school, or leaving school at 17, I got the award top scientist of my year for getting the best grades in Science A levels out of all the students.
I’d studied Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

At school, rugby was my main thing and I played for the school, as I described in my last email – I think I was probably recognised as the star player of my year, and played for Gwent Schools Under 15 and Under 17 for 3 years – that was called ‘playing for the County’ and was one level below playing for Wales Schools.

I also learnt to windsurf to a pretty good level whilst at school, and still did it from time to time until last year.

At Uni, I spent the first year injured -ankles – so didn’t play sport at all, though still did an awful lot of press ups and sit ups etc – acquiring the nick name ‘Russell the Muscle’.. Which has followed me to this day..!

I went on to play for the Uni First Team for my last 2 years there, and also played for Pontypool ( my home town, and one of the top 12 sides in Wales) whilst still 19, at Uni.
They would get crowds of 10,000 people watching, pretty cool for a kid.

I graduated from Uni with a degree in Ophthalmic Optics in 1987.

There then followed ten yrs or so of frustration with recurring hamstring injuries that stopped me doing many sports, especially rugby.
At 30, I finally sorted my injuries out and took up endurance sports.
I ran the London Marathon twice, New York twice and Chicago once.
I’d finish in the top 5 % of runners.
And I took up marathon kayaking too, at 30.

From my :

Nearly every Good Friday since 1999 has been spent by me in a preparation frenzy for competing in the Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race, which starts tomorrow.
125 miles long, non stop, through the night, it’s been called ‘the Everest of canoe races ‘ ( and I thought it was til I did The Yukon 1000 mile Race in 2009 ), and is very, very hard.
Eleven times I’ve been in it and managed 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th places, as well as winning the Mixed Doubles one year with Roxanne.
I’d like to thank Henry, Piran, Rox, John, Randall and Stu for partnering me.
Three times I’ve not finished it, the most notable being the time I went virtually blind in my left eye two thirds of the way through, and felt compelled to stop, fearing for my eyesight ( which did recover 12 hours later ).
I’m one of a small group to be in the 1000 miles Club, by virtue of 8 finishes.
Yes, the Race was an obsession for me in some ways, and this is the first year in many that I’ve had no input into it at all.
I’m guessing that it’s now impossible for me to partake in,given you’re not allowed ‘assistance’. There are 77 portages, where you jump out and run with the boat around locks/ over islands, before putting the boat back in and jumping in it again.
It’s usually very cold at night , and falling in the river Thames is an omnipresent danger ( though in the 1200 miles of it I’ve canoed, I only fell in twice I think ), once I recall after a light was shone in my eyes, dazzling me, after which I stepped straight off the tow path into the deep river at 3am. I remember it taking 3 hours of canoeing before I stopped shivering.

Good luck to the 200 plus canoeists who are
doing it this year, at least it’ll be a ‘warm’ one, being a late Easter. Most of my former partners will be involved in either competing or supporting other crews.

One things’s for sure, I’d rather be suffering in a boat this weekend than being trapped in this wheelchair.

My annual obsession with the race is something that drove Dani to her wit’s end, me invariably training most days at 5.30 am for the 3 months before Easter.
Again, she’d far rather me be doing that than havin the daily grind of looking after me, post accident.

The Yukon was a cool experience ..
1000 miles in 6 days, 2 hours and 11 minutes – a record that is unbeaten thus far.

Yep, numerous cycle races – the Marmotte in the French Alps probably the hardest – google it.

The sort of race people train for for a year .. Me 6 weeks..

The Raid Gauloises – ‘the hardest race in the world ‘ at the time.

Legendary race, ridiculously hard.

The 1998 race was in the Andes – mostly Equador – 9 days long, non stop, trekking, running, ocean kayaking, rafting, white water swimming and mountaineering. Included summiting Cotopaxi, the worlds highest active volcano ( 5,897m at the top ). Was televised by Transworld Sport – for years, people were saying they’d seen me on TV.

We came 6th, the best result a first time team had ever achieved.

The second time was in the Himalayas in 2000- starting in Tibet and finishing in Nepal/ India.

Another 6 days of suffering .. Awful blisters and cold. Mid race my blood oxygen saturation dropped to 46% ( normal is 99-100) – enough apparently to kill most people in an operating theatre – let alone someone still standing in sun zero temperatures at 4,500 metres above sea level. But i got through it and we finished the race strongly.

So, I’d got a fair bit done, you could say – and really there was an awful lot more than the above.

I’ve left out my work achievements, my incredible friendships, the ridiculous number of parties, trips away, the joy of marriage and fatherhood, the amazing Scuba experiences, the off piste skiing times.. So much I’ve done pre injury.

I do now think, as many have encouraged me to already, that I should write a book, because let’s face it, I have had an extraordinary life, with just the funniest things happening to me ( a lot of which might be far too bad to put into print )

To think I could have broken my back at 21 and been denied most of them is inconceivable.

Overall then, I ought to be happy.