Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Task 7: The Final Task = Y Dasg Derfynol

I truly cannot believe that this day has arrived- who knew my 23rd birthday would mean so much? Its hard to be imagine now that this all began because I so desperately did not want to turn 23. The number 23 has always been associated with such heartache, losing my brother Oliver at the age of 23 on the 23rd March 2006. I was only 16 years old when we lost my big brother and to imagine where he would be in his life now is extremely difficult, but it always so comforting to think of everything he achieved in such short time. He is the sole inspiration behind everything I have done these past 8 months and without doubt it has been equally the most amazing and emotional experience of my life. I cannot pinpoint the highlight as they have all been so special in their own way. Scotland will always have a special place in my heart as it was the most daunting and meant so much to me, I never dreamt that is how I would be completing that task. The list in general has brought so many wonderful opportunities I never thought I could achieve and I genuinely don’t know how I am going to get used to know thinking about the next task I have to do.

Oliver on his 23rd birthday..

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all those who have helped me with tasks along the way. To my family- for having to put up with my constant nerves. To my friends ‘the girls’ who have had to hear about me talking about the same thing for the past 8 months, and also for helping me to complete tasks. You all played such a big part. To everyone who donated and helped me achieve my target for the amazing charity CRY.  And finally to everyone who has read the blog and learnt something. This was the whole point, for you to appreciate how short life is and the importance to live it to the full. I beg you all to do make sure you do everything you have always wanted to do.

Remember you can still donate at www.justgiving.com/23b423 and my new blog page www.lifeafthelist.blogspot.com will be live soon- just let me have a few days break first.

Some of you may have realised that there is still one task left to complete- learning welsh. So please prepare yourself for my final words in my favourite language. (apologies to anyone I offend with my horrific welsh)..

1. Go to New York
2. Get a tattoo
3. Appear on a TV programme
4. Run a charity race
5. Buy a pair of designer shoes
6. Start a blog
7. Learn Welsh
8. Hold a tarantula
9. Go to a music festival
10. Bet £100 on red or black at the casino
11. Climb Snowdon
12. Watch the sunrise on New Years Day
13. Get a piercing- not ears!!
14. Go on a blind date
15. Volunteer for a day
16. Write the first chapter of my book
17. Go to Paris
18. Streak
19. Ride a motorbike
20. Appear on the radio
21. Go to Scotland
22. Learn to do the splits
23. Do a bungee jump


Thank you for reading,

Grace xx

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Task 22: Act Your Age

From an early age my Saturday mornings involved putting on my pale blue leotard and walking to my weekly gymnastic lesson with my Nan. Even though I hated being deprived from Saturday morning cartoons I did love it once I was there. I would spend the Saturday afternoons showing everyone who would watch what I learnt that day. From what I am told I wasn’t half bad and touching my head with my toes and handstands. My friend Amy still reminds me how I fell into a bush at school whilst doing a headstand and showed my knickers to the whole playground! I always wish I had continued but unfortunately my interests soon turned to make-up and boys instead of gambols and cartwheels.





I thought that learning to do the splits again would be a great way to re-live my youth and perhaps kick start a new hobby....I couldn’t have been more wrong. I should of left my leotard where it belonged- back in 1997! I tried every stretch possible and even got a few injuries just from practising but I gave it my best shot....

Having a practice

Completing.....

...Failing



I think it was a fair attempt but sometimes you can’t act a kid forever...so I am rather glad I spent my last night of 22 thinking I have the flexibility of an Olympic gymnast and maybe tomorrow at the grand age of 23 I will start acting my age..............................Nah! ;-)

 One last task to go everybody!


Grace xx

Monday, 11 June 2012

Task 16: The Next Carrie Bradshaw

I have always, always wanted to write an autobiography and see my name on the front of a hardback book. I know I am only 22 but I believe you only get out of life what you put in so I know I will make my life worth writing about. In the words of Benjamin Franklin ‘Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing’. Ever since my friend Rachel introduced me to this quote it has stayed in my mind and I will endeavour to live my life that very way. Prior to this blog my writing finished as my education did and like everyone else my English A-level has come into very little use! But now, through documenting every task as I completed it, writing has become more than just a hobby. I have always struggled with talking about my emotions so being able to write about them instead has proved a much successful medium. Not having to see people’s reactions as I talk about things I have never said before has actually given me the confidence to say them. 


I have thought about many ways to begin the first chapter of my book and everything that has brought me to this stage in my life...and then I thought why write just one chapter? Let’s write a whole book! So that is exactly what I have started to do. Through the technology of Apple and the assistance of some very knowledgeable family members my first book is well on its way to being complete. Working my way through this list has took me on such a journey I felt it deserved a book all to itself. Whilst the first chapter aptly named ’17 Hill Top Walk’ (the house that brought my brothers and me together as a family) the rest of the book discusses the reason behind the list and how it came about. Each chapter documents each task in more detail showing all the preparation up until its completion, extra pictures and all the messages, comments and tweets I received afterwards. The beauty of an e-book is that you can make it as interactive as you wish including video footage, music and links directing you straight to the blog in question. My vision of the book is to make it into a modern scrapbook with notes and doodles showing how ideas came together. I cannot wait to present it to you through iTunes. It is a working process but below is a sneak preview of the front cover. The book will not only be dedicated to Oliver- the reason behind it all- but to YOU. All of you that have took the time to read each task and give me the encouragement I needed when times got tough.
Working progress of the front cover by Adam Collins

 I cannot thank you all enough, and I think it is only fair that I prove to you that finishing the list doesn’t mean I will now live a life of boredom. Everything I try to encourage in others I will continue to do so myself and to prove it I had set up another blog - www.lifeafterthelist.blogspot.com. Whilst there will be no set tasks or deadline I will continue to write about the achievements and special moments throughout my life...and I have to admit- I think I would of missed blogging a little bit too! I will post the pictures of my trips to Paris and New York and most importantly my 23rd birthday (just 2 days away!) You will also be able to hear about when the book is published. I am not the best writer in the world but if Katie Price can have a bestseller Im willing to give it my best shot!
If you would like any messages or comments published in the book please get in touch at grace.collins@live.co.uk or ‘like’ the facebook page 23 things to do before 23, alternatively you can tweet @thegracecollins


Thank you so much for reading as always,

Grace xx

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Task 9: Defeated by Download

When I envisioned going to my first festival I pictured myself at V -but when I was offered guest tickets for Download I couldn't refuse. Whilst its no secret that my taste is music is 'varied' I like to think I can appreciate a good band and everyone was so jealous when I told them I was going. Although I had barely heard of any of the bands I was lucky enough to know one- No Americana, my friends band that you should ALL start to follow now as they're going to be huge! Just remember who told you about them ;-)

http://www.downloadfestival.co.uk/line-up/artist/no_americana

Make sure you visit their website http://www.noamericana.com/ and you can follow them on twitter #noamericana

Its safe to say that I had done no preparation for a festival AT ALL and with the whole week up until Saturday being filled with rain I thought it was about time I got some wellies. So the night before I frantically made a visit to my nearest shopping centre and text round all my friends for the possibility of some size 5 wellies. Luckily my friends Emily and Eve own more practical shoes than me and came up with the goods!

On Saturday morning I woke up and peered my head round the blind to see NO RAIN! I could not of been thankful. I heard horror stories of disastrous festivals where people are covered head to toe in mud and although I'm not a girlie girl I didn't fancy that at all. My brother was kind enough to give my friend Emily and I a lift and we began the long walk to the stages. Once we were allowed in we soon realised the need for waterproofs and wellies, the mud was thick and it was a work out in itself just getting through it. We went to the Pepsi max stage first and saw some bands we really enjoyed including personal favourite 'The YoYo's'. Even though it wasn't our usual scene we were really enjoying ourselves and even braced the toilets which slowly got more and more unhygienic throughout the day. Luckily Emily- who is a self confessed OCD- had her hand sanitiser out at every opportunity and practically a whole toilet roll in her bag (at least one of us was prepared!)

It wouldnt be a festival without mud

After a meat feast pizza which had very questionable 'meat' we made our way to the main stage and in true festival style got right in the thick of it to watch Tenacious D- who were amazing! Emily and I both knew who they were which was a first and even though we could barely see and saw more boobs on the screen than Jack Black it was all going well till we got covered in what we hope was water (were taking the fact it was cold as a good sign). After that incident we decided to stand a bit further way for Biffy Clyro and that is when the aches and pains started to kick in. I longed for a cup of tea but knew I had to 'man-up' and stick around to see Metallica. We decided donuts were the answer- which I'm pleased to say were alot more enjoyable than the pizza- even at £5! They seemed to do the trick and we were ready to watch a piece of history. Ive never seen such crowds and the atmosphere was amazing.

Proof I was actually there!


I am so so pleased that I had the opportunity to go and spend the day with my favourite people. I always think its good to do something out your comfort zone and I know I will be going back next year...a bit more prepared! Thank you so much to Emily for surviving the experience- I know it wasn't easy for you, but I think you got your own back making me go on that ride! Ha ha! Last but not least thank you to Sue for arranging the tickets and making it possible for me to go :-)

The ride Emily made me go on!



Thank you to everyone for reading, and make sure you check out No Americana!

Grace xx

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Task 1 & 19: J'adore New York!

Task 19: Paris

Paris was definitely one of the tasks I have been most looking forward to and it seems perfect that it has been arranged for Saturday 16th June- the perfect birthday treat! I have always wanted to go back to Paris after I cycled there in 2008. Cycling to Paris was my first major charity event and my poor friend Sophie was roped into coming along with me. It was soon apparent after the first few hours on day 1 that we had not done nearly enough training and we were soon trailing the pack. After having a little cry at the side of a road in Croydon, we picked ourselves back up and continued on our journey. As we woke up on the second day in a very rainy Dieppe we were hit with overwhelming fear that we would never get to Paris. Thinking of all the people we could possibly let down we continued and by the end of day 2- cramp and potential pneumonia set in and we were not looking forward to day 3 at all- which just happened to be my 19th birthday. Fortunately the 3rd day had (some) sunshine and our spirits were lifted, age was on our side as we began to near the front of the pack and finally found some stamina! We reached our peak at the best time with day 4 being a shorter day as we made our way from Vernon to Paris. We woke up early with excitement and once again were lucky enough for sunshine. Our legs were ready to give in and covered in cuts and bruises but the end was now in sight. Cycling the last mile into Paris was magical, our 100 strong group filled Paris streets and everyone cheered as we rang our bells all the way. As soon as we reached the Eiffel tower we threw down our bikes and shared an emotional moment of celebration (and some well deserved Champagne). It was an experience I will never forget and one- at the earlier part in the challenge- I never thought I would achieve. I will always be so appreciative of my friend Sophie for agreeing (she had little choice) to complete this with me and it seems only fitting that we return together exactly 4 years later. I am sure this trip will be slightly different to our last and if anybody has any recommendations of places to visit on our 3 day visit please get in touch! Hopefully we can recreate the picture below...

June 2008- London to Paris cycle ride
Task 1: New York

As you can tell as soon as I made the my list the first task I wrote down was to go to New York. Ever since I went in June 2005 it has been my goal to return. It holds such amazing memories with my brother Oliver- whom this blog is inspired and dedicated to- and is such a beautiful city. Oliver went to New York in May 2005 after falling in love with the city on his previous holidays. He saved up all his money, sold his car and temporarily left his job to live the dream in the big apple. It was a very bold move to do all on his own. I am so so proud of him for what he achieved and when people ask me about Oliver its a story I always tell. He not only experienced the city as local, but he also allowed family and friends to share it with him and had a flurry of lodgers fly in and out throughout his stay. My cousin Charlotte and I were lucky enough to go out after I finished my GCSEs, the picture below is from the Empire State Building..

Myself and my cousin Charlotte

I will be returning to New York with my best friend Emily on the 19th October- what would of been Oliver's 30th Birthday. I cannot say how Oliver would of been celebrating if he was here but I am sure his love for the city that never sleeps would of continued to grow- who knows, I could of been going out there to celebrate with him? I am so excited to go again but I know when I am at the top of the Empire State Building again I will remember the last time I was there with fond memories and think about the amazing journey that has brought me here.

Postcard from Oliver to his Father Shaun June 2005- note the handwriting!
I would really appreciate if you could have a little look at Oliver's website www.oliverhewitt.co.uk you will be able to read all about his New York adventure and see more pictures. Once again, if you have any recommendations for places to visit it will be greatly appreciated. I want to make this a trip I will never forget.

That's another 2 tasks ticked off the list, keep reading over the next 10 days to see me finish the rest.

Thank you for reading,

Grace xx

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Task 5: If The Shoe Fits....


I challenge you to find any girl who wouldn’t want a pair of designer shoes-even a converted tomboy like me knows shoes can make or break an outfit! I thought that buying a pair of coveted Christian Louboutin's would be a well deserved treat after the more challenging tasks. The way I saw it you only live once and in regards to the £800 price tag- I can spend my money how I wish. However, as I completed more tasks and in turn learnt more lessons about life than I could imagine, my view started to change. Yes a pair of designer shoes would be lovely- but did I really need them? Quite frankly no. Could I genuinely afford to pay £800 on some shoes I would be too scared to wear? No again. I soon began to realise a pair of black studded stiletto's wouldn’t make my life any better, but one pair of shoes to somebody else could.

Quite wrongly, I have sometimes been quite dubious in donating money to charities in Africa, but as soon as I came across the charity Shoe4Africa I knew this was a cause more worthy of any pair of designer shoes I could buy.

When I found out that I could donate shoes to those who really need them I instantly knew I wanted to do this as part of my challenges. I have been lucky enough to be in contact with Toby Tanser the founder of Shoe4Africa who had this to say...

 "The world is pretty unfair. In the West we are lucky to live in a zone of excess and for most of us this has been the story of our lives. We grew up expecting to get an education, to have healthcare, and to be able to choose even what we wear.
But for a large part of the world this is not so, and it is all decided at your birth; before you get a chance to have a say. Imagine if every day begun with a 6-mile walk to a water hole to bring home a bucket of water, if instead of school you had to work the farm and watch the goats.
By sharing what we have in the West with those who do not have in the less fortunate parts of the world we can be active in change; and it is a nice thought to give something to some one who is not in a position to help themselves."
So on the 11th June 2012 I am going to organise a box(es) of old/new trainers and socks to Kenya for those who really need it. This is a great way for you to get involved too; any donations of old trainers would be hugely welcomed. I am happy to come and collect them from anywhere for you or you can post them, just get in touch with me at grace.collins@live.co.uk and get involved!

You can read all about the amazing things shoe4africa do at their website-

http://www.shoe4africa.org/

Please ensure you read the section 'how you can help' to see other ways you can make a difference. I speak so much in my blog about living your life once but it’s also really important to remember how much of a difference you can make to others too. We are all so lucky in the world we get to live in and sometimes we need to remember that.

I would really really really appreciate as I am now in the last 2 weeks of my challenge if you could share my blog in any way possible. I have worked so hard and learnt so much I want to share it with as many people as possible so please tell your friends and family/share it on facebook and twitter.

Thank you as always for continuing to read,

Grace Xx

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Task 19: Hells Angels


To all the people who do not see the appeal in motorbikes- I couldn’t agree more. They seem dangerous, hard-work and the leather suits look uncomfortable to say the least. Yet for some reason it made its way onto my list of 23 things to do. I always believe you shouldn’t knock something until you’ve tried it and with 200 million motorbikes in use worldwide there must be some attraction? right?! 


Since I started my list I have been lucky enough to meet my lovely boyfriend Stewart.  Even though I had no intention of meeting anyone whilst completing my list, as soon as I heard he has completed bungee jumps and loves motorbikes I knew he would have his uses- joking! J


When his Dad Malcolm offered to take me out on his Honda VFR- I jumped at the chance. I knew I would be in safe hands and with the beautiful weather of late it seemed the perfect opportunity. I will admit I was a little nervous beforehand, not helped by the stories people kept telling me! When I arrived at Malcolm’s and saw the bike sitting outside my stomach did a little flip. The bike looked bigger than I imagined but very impressive and as soon as I put my jacket and helmet on any nerves were overtook with excitement. As soon as I looked the part I thought I may as well embrace it and for the next 2 hours I was in biker mode.
Getting ready to go..

And were off..




It was soon time to go, I took my position on the bike and as we pulled away I kept running through my head all the ‘do’s’ and ‘dont’s’ I had been told. Even though it was loud I loved the fact that everyone looked when we went by and before I knew it I was actually enjoying it! No longer was I clinging onto Malcolm for dear life but able to take in all the beautiful villages we went through. I felt so relaxed and I just wanted to keep going and going. By far my favourite part was when we hit a straight piece of road and watching the speed reach 60..70..80mph. I also loved the fact that whenever you pass another motorbike they acknowledge each other; I even gave a cheeky nod myself. It may have been my first time on a bike but I can safely say it will not be a last!

Im a pro..


So to all the people who shared the same misconception as me I urge you to re-think and if you ever get the chance to go on a motorbike- DO IT, DO IT, DO IT- you never know you must just enjoy it as much as I did.


Thank you to Malcolm for helping me to complete another challenge and being the best driver I could ask for, anad thank you to Stewart for putting up with me talking about it ever since!


Please remember that I only have until June 13th to complete all my challenges so there will be lots of new blog posts coming soon! You can also donate any spare pennies you may have to help the amazing charity CRY at www.justgiving.com/23b423

Thank you very much reading,

Grace xx

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Task 4: Triathlon Torture

When I wrote 'run a charity race' on my list I envisioned myself doing the local fun run or perhaps a 10k at best. I think my friends would class me as competitive and when I was younger I would hate to lose at anything let alone sport. As I got older though I have come to realise its not all about winning- and as cliche as it sounds- its the taking part that counts. Whilst my competitive streak has come down a notch I still love a challenge. If theres is a choice I will always take the more difficult route- what's the point in doing things by halves? Whilst it is a great attitude to have, I regularly find myself in situations questioning why I am doing this (bungee jump anyone?)...and Sunday 13th May 2012 was no different....

...let me take you back to December when I started to look into which charity event to take part in. As I searched the Internet looking at fun run's nothing was appealing so I made the very big mistake in searching 'triathlon'. A list of events came up and I struggled to find anything that was before June but not too soon that I didn't have time to train. Then I spotted the Stratford 220 Triathlon taking place 13th May- Perfect! 5 months was plenty of time to train..or so I thought.

I was not particularly unhealthy but I hadn't done any regular exercise since school and I am partial to a weekend curry and few glasses of wine! I decided the perfect way to get back into shape was to begin a boot camp. There was one starting not far from work and some of my colleagues were interested in too, I started my first session and wondered what on earth I had let myself in for. I had no idea how unfit I was and getting stitch in the warm-up is never a good sign, but as the next 4 weeks continued each session got more comfortable and I was even able to go for a jog once I got home. My triathlon training had officially began! For those who are not familiar with triathlons they comprise of running, swimming and cycling. I was in the 'Fun, Female' category so I was completing a 200m swim, followed by a 14mile cycle and finally a 2mile run. That may sound easy to some but I challenge any of you to give it a go!

Whilst the training began well, regular run's and a weekly swim I would be lying if I said I didn't lose motivation about 2 months before the event. After a 2 week break from exercise I picked up a knee injury and each run felt harder than the previous. Morale was low and my ambition to be the best in my category was replaced by just wanting to complete it! I probably didn't take the event as serious as I should of since I didn't actually go on a bike until the week of the event (yes-really!). It is no excuse but with all the other tasks taking place I barely had time to sleep let alone anything else.

The week of the event came and as I received my email detailing all the information the nerves really hit. I am terrible with nerves at the best of times but I really did not want to let anyone down or let the training I had managed to do be a waste. The day before the event I was informed that I should be 'carbo-loading' which basically involves eating as many carbohydrates as possible. This was music to my ears- finally some training I would be good at! It is fair to say that not only did I eat enough carbs to feed a family I took it as an excuse to eat anything in sight too. Before bed, I got all my kit ready, packed my rucksack and lay my tri-suit on the bottom of my bed- all that was left to do now was complete this bloody thing.

On the way there I listened to my ipod so I could 'get in the zone' but nothing could distract my nerves when we got nearer to Stratford leisure centre and I saw all the neon yellow signs saying 'WARNING- TRIATHLON TAKING PLACE'. We passed what must of been the 'Sprint Male' category as they completed the cycle and they all looked very tired. As we pulled into the car park all you could hear was whistles and people cheering- I genuinely felt I was taking part in the Olympics.



I signed in, had my number '829' wrote on my arm and leg and waited patiently for my start time. As the time drew closer I racked my cycle in its position and stripped down to the tri-suit (possibly the least flattering item you could ever wear). I made my way into the pool and had my safety brief. I have never been so nervous and could feel my heart pounding as each person in front of me took their place in the pool. We began at 15 second intervals and had to do six lengths before tackling the cycle. Before I knew it my number was called and I clung on to the edge of the pool. It was now or never, everything had come down to this and the next time I would stop would be when I finished. I was given the nod and off I went...






..I thought I was doing quite well until 2 people took over me. I tried to concentrate on my breathing as I knew swimming was not my strong point but after 5 lengths any technique went out the window and I frantically splashed my way to the end. Throwing my luminous orange swimming cap into the box I ran outside to start my cycle. I felt cold and like all the eyes were on me as I put my trainers, tshirt and helmet on. As I started to run to the 'mount point' I gave my family and friends one last wave and off I went onto the busy roads. I found the beginning of the cycle particularly difficult. The roads were busy, inclined and I had very little idea what gear to be in! Somehow I got into a rhythm and strangely miles 5-12 went very quickly. I remember shouting to myself at mile 13 to keep going as the tiredness really kicked in. The wind was against us the whole way and I could feel my injured knee creeping back in. The relief when I saw the leisure centre was incredible, and being met by my 'supporters' gave me much needed motivation for the final leg. I put my bike back in the rack and threw my helmet to the ground..




..The run was the part I had trained the most for and as I began the grassy route all I could think about was how heavy my legs were. I always remembered my Nan telling me that 2 miles was running to Aldridge and back from her house so I started to picture where I would be if I was running at home. Strangely enough it did work and when I reached the turn point of the run I knew the end was in sight. I kept listening for the tannoy so I knew I was nearly at the end, and as soon as I heard it I launched into a full on sprint. I dont know where the energy came from but my numb legs went as fast as they possibly could and as I turned the corner I saw the finish line. I had finally done it :-)




The finish seems a blur but I remember having a big hug from my Mum and being ongratulated by my friends. It was the most physically challenging event I have ever done but I knew Oliver would of loved that I had pushed myself to do it. I wish, like the bungee jump, I could say I would do it again but that was definitely my first and last triathlon! I hadn't quite finished best in my category but I beat the time I aimed for..and afterall it's the taking part that counts.

Big thank you to my family and friends for the continuous support over the last 5 months and for putting up with my constant whining!

I would like to take this opportunity to remind you there is less than a month and my list now looks like this...

1. Go to New York
2. Get a tattoo
3. Appear on a TV programme
4. Run a charity race
5. Buy a pair of designer shoes
6. Start a blog
7. Learn Welsh
8. Hold a tarantula (or one seriously massive spider!)
9. Go to a music festival
10. Bet £100 on red or black at the casino
11. Climb Snowdon
12. Watch the sunrise on new years day
13. Get a piercing- not ears!!
14. Go on a blind date

15. Volunteer for a day
16. Write the first chapter of my book
17. Go to Paris
18. Streak19. Ride a motorbike
20. Appear on the radio 
21. Go to Scotland22. Learn to do the splits
23. Do a bungee jump





Remember you can donate on line at www.justgiving.com/23b423

If you think you can help with any of the tasks left then please do not hesitate to contact me at grace.collins@live.co.uk

Thank you for reading and your continual support,

Grace xx

Friday, 11 May 2012

Task 21- Together With Hope

Earlier in the year I received an email from Oliver's dad Shaun. I remember at the time my blog was really gaining momentum yet I was still shocked as to what he was about to ask. Shaun has been a member of TCF- The Compassionate Friends (http://www.tcf.org.uk/) since Oliver passed away in March 2006. TCF is a charitable organisation of bereaved parents, siblings and grandparents dedicated to the support and care of other bereaved parents, siblings, and grandparents who have suffered the death of a child/children. They offer such fantastic support to those who are grieving an imaginable loss and I know Oliver's dad would not have coped without them- for that alone I will always be thankful.

It was in the email from Shaun that he mentioned how a member of the 2012 TCF Scottish Forum organising committee had discussed my blog and its suitability to be of topic for their keynote speech, and if I would be interesting in speaking for them at their upcoming forum in May. I remember initially being extremely flattered at such request and perhaps my overwhelming emotions blurred what this actually involved. Shaun made it very clear that he did not expect me to agree but all I could think was- how could I say no? It seemed almost like fate that this would be the reason to bring me to Scotland and complete task 21 of my list. Before I knew it I had clicked 'send' and confirmed my acceptance. Within a few days I received an email from a member of the committee discussing what was involved and the nerves really started to kick in. I had never done ANYTHING like this before, I was one of those children at school who would avoid any eye contact with the teacher to ensure I did not have to read out loud and just the thought of speaking to such audience sent a shiver down my spine. I knew this was very important and being a subject so close to my heart I wanted it to be perfect. I enrolled the help of my friend Eve- who has completed many presentations and public speaking as part of her studies. We met up at our local cafe and discussed our plan of action. Just hearing some kind of reassurance that all would be fine helped calm my nerves- if only momentarily. I decided not to tell too many people about the speech to ensure there was no extra pressure on me and 'attempted' to push the speech to the back of mind for a few weeks as there was more tasks coming up to be completed.

I think I had underestimated how long a speech has to be to last for 30 minutes but I was surprised how quickly the words flowed once I began writing. I split the speech into two main sections- losing Oliver and coping with the loss. The more I wrote the more emotional I felt and it certainly wasn't easy to have to write such personal feelings. I have also struggled with discussing my emotions let alone laying them bare for 85 people to listen to.

The time passed so quickly and it is fair to say I wasn't as prepared as I would of liked with a few weeks to the day. Eve and I arranged a meeting and I showed her my first draft. It didn't bode well that I wasn't willing to present it out loud to her and forced her to read it. We worked through the feedback and I spent the following night making amendments. I really wanted the speech to be as honest as possible but still positive and easy to relate to. I found it really difficult to actually read it out loud, my friends would be the first to say I am not easily embarrassed but this was far from my comfort zone! I shouldn't admit this but the first time I read it out loud to someone was 4 days before I was due to be in Scotland! I had practised so often in my room but it is very different actually projecting what I was saying. There was many a sleepless night leading up to the event and knowing this would be the biggest achievement of my life was the only thought keeping me going.

It was not until I was setting my alarm for 4:50am that the harsh reality this was real hit. I was surprisingly calm on the way to Stirling and as I ran over my notes I was confident that I knew my speech well. I was looking forward to meeting Caroline and Elaine from the committee who I had spoke to regularly and they welcomed Eve and I with open arms. In fact everyone I met could not have tried harder to put me an ease. I would love to say they succeeded but when I saw the room I would be compleing my speech in- my heart sank. It was HUGE (well to me at least). I saw the beautiful quilts made by families who had lost loved ones with their own designs and all the amazing poems on the walls. Not only was this such an important weekend to me but it was even more important to those who came along to gain comfort. I desperately didn't want to let down the committee who had given me this opportunity and everyone who would be listening.



After a pep talk from my Mother and Eve playing 'eye of the tiger' to me, I felt back in the zone. If I was going to do this the way I wanted to, I had to do it with confidence. We had a wonderful dinner that evening but decided to take advantage of an early night. Whilst I was not happy with such an early alarm call it did help with ensuring I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow! I stirred at 5:30am and it only took a couple of seconds to realise the morning was here. My speech was scheduled for 9:30am so after lying in bed tossing and turning I got up and started getting ready. Presentation is key of course so I put on my new dress and minimal make up to avoid mascara streaks down my face! I barely ate a crumb at breakfast and nerves really got the better of me. I went outside to get some fresh air and then made my way to the room. I put my picture of Oliver on the podium and heard the echo from the microphone. I took one last chance to listen to Miley Cyrus- The Climb which turned out to be an alternative motivational song to my usual taste. As people poured into the room and took their seats I also took mine on the front row. Elaine stepped up to the microphone introducing everyone to me and my stomach had that horrible feeling which felt like all the exams I have ever sat combined with my driving test! I stepped up to the podium and looked up at all the people staring back at me. I felt like they could hear my heart beat echoing round the room...took a deep breath..one last glance at my picture of Oliver and began to talk...

..during the speech I began to relax and even spoke about more than what I had planned. I felt such acceptance and reassurance from everyone there and whilst I didn't intend to make people cry it did make me realise that my words had touched people in the personal way I had hoped. As I closed the speech incorporating Oliver's favourite phrase ' Quality' I was hit with a wave of relief which also began a release of tears. I felt Elaine's comforting arms around me and turned to see the room full of applause. It was hand on heart the most amazing and inspirational achievement of my life. I was so proud to talk about Oliver and also what his legacy has pushed me to do. Meaning that I also completed a task was just an added bonus.

The tears soon stopped when I was presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and gifts from a very handsome gentleman in a kilt..now this was what I call Scottish tradition!



I have contemplated whether to publish my speech on here but really feel it is something so personal to me and those in the room that day. I hope you can all appreciate that, however I am more than happy to send a copy to anyone who feels it may help them with a similar loss, and I can be emailed on grace.collins@live.co.uk.

The weekend continued to be filled with meeting such truly amazing people. Hearing other peoples stories were so touching and I cannot thank everyone who attended in making me so welcome. I am not exaggerating when I say it is one of the most inspirational things I have ever done.

Unfortunately after lunch it was time to depart as Eve and I were moving on to Edinburgh to experience more of Scotland. We immediately fell in love with such a friendly city filled with beautiful buildings- and a very nice Topshop! Saturday mainly involved catching up on much needed sleep and then getting ready for a lovely meal at a Indian tapas restaurant with a glass of wine- or two :-) (I did deserve a treat after all)

The next day we took our hangovers to Edinburgh Castle where we met journalist student Sarah Turnbull. Sarah had been in contact previously to interview me for her dissertation. It was amazing that this was off the back of my feature in Company magazine. It was so lovely to meet her and discuss the tasks and also my speech the day before. I wish Sarah all the best and thank you for taking a lovely picture..



I had the time of my life this weekend and returning back to work on Tuesday was definitely not easy but I was so excited to tell everyone how well it had gone. Receiving emails with such positive feedback has been the icing on the cake and I cannot thank everyone at TCF enough. Thank you to all the committee for giving me this opportunity. Thank you to everyone who attended for taking the time to listening to me and your openness in sharing your stories.You have no idea how much it meant to me. Thank you to David- my man in the kilt, and finally thank you to Eve for taking every step of the journey with me. You were an invaluable support and I could not of done it without you.

As always I love hearing from you, please leave a comment or email me.

You can also donate at www.justgiving.com/23b423

Thank you for reading, Grace xx

PS.To Lucy- It was a pleasure to meet you and hope the date went well!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Task 18..All Will Be Revealed..

It is fair to say that second to the piercing the streak has gained the most curiosity. When I first mentioned the idea of a nice warm beach with just me and a mate I didn't think it would be too hard to do, but apparently that was a bit too easy for some people. It soon became clear there are 'rules' to a streak..

1. It had to be outside
2. It had to be a sporting event
3. There had to be more than 1 person there

It wasn't until one night in my local pub that my 2 friends Lucy and Tori came up with the idea of doing the streak at one of the local football teams games- Stonnall FC. I have worked on and off in The Old Swan in Stonnall since the age of 16 when I got my first job as a waitress. It is your typical village pub where everybody knows everyone but I wouldn't change it for the world. I would count most of the customers as friends and they have always been so supportive of all my charity tasks. Even atthe moment they have a CRY bucket on the bar collecting everyone change.

Even though the idea of doing a streak in front of people I know was daunting the more I thought about the more I came round to the idea. They would all know why I was doing it and it ticked all the right boxes for the 'rules of a streak'. I thought it was only fair that the 2 ladies who thought of the idea be in on it and it just happened that Lucy's dad is secretary so she was able to find out the dates of the games. Time was against us as there wasn't too many games left of the season so when a home game on Tuesday 17th April came up I knew it was now or never. Tori was kind enough to offer her house as the location and we had a very long facebook message going on making arrangements!

Contrary to what some may say I do see myself as a sophisticated and shy lady *ahem!* so I had to protect my modesty somehow. We had the idea of painting on a football kit so it kept with the theme of the event and kept whatever dignity I had left. After hours of Internet searching I finally found the perfect product to do the job 'liquid latex'. It does what it says on the tin and is literally a body paint that drys like a latex/rubber skin. I ordered a bottle of blue and black as I was reassured this would be the team's colour and all that was left to do was wait for the big day!

I awoke on the Tuesday morning in a particularly bad mood, it was cold and grey outside and the liquid latex still hadn't arrived!  I hated not knowing whether it was actually going to go ahead or not and the idea of streaking in torrential rain or even worst HAIL did not appeal in the slightest. It appeared the odds were against us as 5pm came and still no sign on the paint...and it was still raining! I reached my Mothers house (where the paint was due to be delivered) and felt a wave of relief. Even though I had to think of a new idea now least I didn't have to get naked that night or risk pneumonia...then I saw a brown package sitting on the doorstep. I knew straight away what it was and my heart sank. There was no going back now, I text the girls and it was all systems go. I rushed home grabbed an old dressing gown, towels, football socks, trainers and little else. When I reached Tori's house at 6pm there was no time to waste as kick off was 6:30pm. Anxiety began to take over but I knew I was in safe hands when the girls started drawing designs of the kit and how best to cover my nipples?! It was never going to be a comfortable position but I stripped off and the girls began painting away. They were taking it very seriously as they drew panels on my sides to slim my silhouette and even had hairdryers on me to dry the paint for touch-ups. Conversation soon turned to the route of the streak and a strategy was devised for how to get me to the alley way to hide behind a tree and Lucy would be waiting at the other side of the pitch with a dressing gown. It was as comical as it sounds! We made the finishing touches to my 'kit' and was on way to the playing fields, it wasn't till I actually got there and heard the shouting of the players that I started to actually consider what I was doing. It was going to be humiliating- what if I fell over? what if they saw my cellulite? and worst of all- what if someone rugby tackled me to the ground??

Tori and I hid behind the tree as Lucy got into place and gave us the nod. I wanted nervously but there was no way I was budging. My chest felt tight- most probably due to the latex that was drying faster by the second- and the pitch started to look bigger and bigger. The ball got kicked out towards us and I saw the goalie come running over. I knew this was my chance and I shouted at him to not kick the ball. He seemed a little startled that a girl in a pink dressing gown was hiding behind a tree and still puzzled answered 'What?!' I took a deep breath and replied 'Dont kick the ball back because I am about to streak!'..the goalie was still bemused but before he could answer back I threw my dressing gown to the floor and ran as fast as my legs would carry me (whilst holding my stomach in, pushing my boobs out and attempting to control my jiggly bum- of course). It seemed liked the longest thirty seconds of my life. I have never heard 23 blokes (including the ref) so quiet. At first I don't think anybody quite realised I had no clothes on until someone politely informed everyone it looked cold outside (cringe!). I finally reached Lucy at the other end and she threw the dressing gown over me. I was greeted with a cheer from the teams and spectators and could breathe a sigh of relief it was over. I felt guilty that I had potentially ruined there game but they were all good sports and I am pleased to announce Stonnall won the game too!

I know what you are all thinking- great story but where are the pictures? Before you look I apologise for any potential nightmares and to my family- I hope you can forgive me one day!

Reassuring??

Painted up

ok so maybe i did have knickers on!

Ready to go

And shes off....

He obviously wasn't too impressed!

Safely at the other end

Stonnall ended up playing in orange- doh!

BIG BIG BIG thank you to Lucy and Tori for being the best helpers/arrangers/painters/friends ever and making the experience as easy as possible! Also, thank you to both teams for allowing me to stop the game for a few minutes! I think I can easily say the hardest part of the task was getting the paint off- it took over an hour and I am still finding it on my body!

If you think what I did was worth of a few pennies then you can donate at www.justgiving.com/23b423 or alternatively spread the word of my blog on facebook and twitter. You can follow me @thegracecollins and I love your emails grace.collins@live.co.uk

Another task due to be completed in 2 weeks!! xx

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Task 23: Dont look down..

Since my bungee jump was booked a few weeks ago, people have kindly been telling me horror stories of what could happen to me- most commonly my eyes popping out or more recently the bungee snapping and falling into crocodile infested water- so I think I could be forgiven for pushing this task to the back of mind? After weeks of ignorance the 7th April was upon me and I was on my way to the West Midlands water ski centre. Although I have been labelled as a bit of an adrenaline junkie in the past I am always struck with horrific nerves. Even before going on a date (perhaps since one of my first tasks- the blind date) or going somewhere I have never been before my tummy will be doing somersaults. As we made our way round the bends of the road I suddenly spotted the crane in the distance...oh ****! Excuse my language but seeing what you are about to throw yourself off is enough to make anybody swear. The location wasn't quite as glamorous as I had hoped and the field full of caravans did nothing to calm my nerves. However as I approached the site it all seemed very organised and professional and I started to feel at ease. As I stood at the bottom of the crane I thought about how 160ft couldn't be that high right? WRONG- just as I began to calm down a girl had jumped and made the biggest shriek I have ever heard.

As I signed in and got in the queue to be harnessed more of my family and friends began to arrive. It was lovely to have them there but it also made it impossible to back out now. The queue went down quickly and it wasn't until I had my feet strapped up that the nerves really kicked. I felt my knees shaking and drops of rain was hitting my face making my teeth chatter together. Not even the bloke in front of me who decided to do it in just his boxers could distract my thoughts away from what I was about to do. There was only one girl left between me and my jump and as we was a similar build she would be a good one to watch...that was until she did the most ungraceful jump I have ever seen. She seemed to fall like a rag doll and just like the earlier girl she screamed her heart out. As she slowly got brought back to the ground I saw all eyes turn to me. I cannot fault the team there as they did everything possible to reassure me, introducing themselves, trying to make me laugh..which all worked well until we started to go up in the air and got higher and higher and higher. Suddenly 160 ft was a LONG way up and the cheers from the spectators got quieter and quieter. Dan opened the gate and I shuffled to the ledge, I promised myself I would not look down so I stared across the eerily still lake in front of me. This was it, mind over matter... "1, 2, 3..bungee!!!!" Dan said....I didn't budge. My heart was racing and as he said it again "1,2,3 bungee!!" on that one I pushed out as far as possible and felt the rush of air on my face. The wind howled in my ears as I plummeted further down and then suddenly sprang back up. The relief was incredible and the only way I could describe the feeling is going on oblivion at alton towers- minus the roller coaster. It felt incredible and unlike the skydive I would happily do another one..perhaps even bigger? Ask me again in 6 months when the novelty has wore off!


Just so you don't all think I am lying below are a few of the pictures...Enjoy!




Nervously waiting


About to go up!


Moment of truth



Gone

 
Most amazing experience ever

..although it may not show by the face

Safely back down to earth

If you enjoyed reading my hell and think it is worth a few pennies then please feel free to donate at.. www.justgiving.com/23b423

Many Thanks xx

Monday, 26 March 2012

Task 11...6 Years On And Still Mountains To Climb

I have always believed the phrase 'time is a healer' is a cliche, but this weekend I actually understood the true meaning. The 23rd March marked the 6 year anniversary of my brother Oliver (the inspiration of my blog) passing away. Anniversaries are always difficult no matter how many years has gone by and no matter who has been lost. This year was different to the anniversaries before as I wasn't going to be spending it at home. This year I was going to Wales- my second home after (reluctantly) spending many weekends and summer holidays there from the age of 6. I am pleased to say I have grown to love Cymru and it is the only place I truly relax. However this weekend was going to be anything but relaxing as I had arranged to complete another task off the list.

Oliver, David, Me, Adam...enjoying an ice cream in Wales


I am lucky enough to have a truly amazing group of friends. The 10 of us have stuck together through tears, giggles, heartbreak and many many hangovers, since meeting at school and I wouldn't be where I am today without them. We couldn't be more different yet more similar at the same time and I am proud to introduce them to you-

Emily A- has been been my best friend for as long as I can remember and I dread to think how many phone bills we have rung up over the years. There will never be enough hours in the day for all our talking as there is no-one in the world that knows my better than 'our Em'.

Alison- is the best housemate anyone could ask for. Since I met her in Junior school as the girl with the bright blue fleece who stopped laughing our friendship has grown and she would do anything for anybody.

Alice- is one of a kind- partial to a cocktail (or six) and the ability to talk the ear off anybody..there is never a boring moment with Alice around.

Sophie- our very own style icon. My partner in crime when it comes to Saturdays nights in wearing pj's, eating curry and drinking wine discussing the highs (and many lows) of the male kind.

Laura- honoured to be her bridesmaid in October and one of my oldest friends. She takes laid back to a whole new level but we wouldn't want her any other way.

Emily B- my fellow gambler and one of the nicest people you could meet. In stark comparison to Laura, Emily is miss organised and the mother hen on our girlie weekends.

Eve- we will always share a special bond, and whilst we would both wish it was through different circumstances I know I can always turn to Eve for a cup of tea and a chat about life.

Amy- brings the glamour to the group. Never to be seen without heels and a designer bag she never fails to turn heads but we will always know her as the girl who can barely handle her bacardi breezer
;-)

Christina- there are no words to describe Christina, she is one of a kind but has a heart of gold- hence the reason she knows everybody..and I mean everybody...your neighbour's, Brother's, Son's, Auntie will probably be related to Christina somehow.

So there you have my friends and the lucky girls who were persuaded to complete a task with me. When I first suggested they all do the bungee jump with me I was met with a series of 'No's' (I cant repeat what some of them said back) so when the idea of Snowdon came up they were all happy to get involved...and relieved my second choice wasn't the streak!

I decided to choose my brothers anniversary as I felt the climb really did symbolise the last 6 years- uphill without an end in sight..a struggle..hurdles in the way..but helping you each step are the people that care for you most.

We woke at 6am- from the noise of Eve putting on the kettle (she really does love tea) and slowly all began to get ready. I would like to say that we were all dressing for sensibility and comfort but with 8 girls there was always going to be discussion on style. There are not many people that can pull off thermals, walking boots and an over sized pair of ear muffs but we did a pretty good job...

Laura, Em A, Alice, Alison, Me, Emily, Eve, Sophie

I think it is fair to say we had all underestimated the next 2 and a half hours. Even though we had 2 guides in the shape of Jerry (an old friend of the family) and his friend Ron, my description of 'its just a dirt track' couldn't of been further from the truth. As we began our trek at approx 8:20am we were met with an extremely challenging start. Not knowing where to put each foot next I genuinely began to get concerned that we weren't going to make it. As the suns rays got stronger and more layers came off the novelty of such an experience had positivity decreasing by the minute.

Still smiling at the first break...and a lot less clothes
The girls did little to reassure me they were enjoying the experience, when I asked them if they all hated me...no one replied. However, they remained in good spirits and after an hour and a half of climbing we all took on the most challenging part- pure uphill agony- and all took on our own pace. A new wave of motivation of took over and I really wanted to reach the top first and have a quiet moment at the place my Brother had enjoyed many years before. 2 hours and 10 minutes from when we started and I was at the top of Snowdon. It was a truly beautiful sight and worth every ounce of sweat and muscle pain. In the next 20 minutes the rest of the Snowdon 8 (unfortunately 2 of the girls couldn't make it) joined me at the top and I am so proud of each and every one of them. I am sure as much as it hurt they will all agree it was an experience we would never forget.

proudly ticking Task 11 off my list
The relief of reaching the top was soon replaced with fear as we realised that we had to get back down again- equally as challenging. There was a few slips along the way but we did get to see some amazing views. The weather could not have been perfect and the sun literally shone down on us all day...




I want to thank Jerry and Rob whom we could never of done this without them, my Parents and Shaun & Paul for supporting us at the beginning and end....and bringing along the champagne. But most of all I want to thank my friends who were willing to help me complete this and also raise some money for C-R-Y. They know I am not one for saying how I feel but I love you all. They made a weekend that could of been so difficult into one that celebrated Oliver's life- thank you, thank you, thank you xx



If you would like to sponsor us for what we achieved or if you have enjoyed any of my other tasks please visit- www.justgiving.com/23b423

Please keep reading to hear about me completing all my other tasks and remember you can come along and watch me complete my bungee jump on Saturday April 7th at the address provided on my previous blog task- taking the plunge.

Many thanks for your continuous support,

Grace xx