Atlantic row for the global stem cell register

Training at Burnham-on-Crouch
I’m taking on the challenge of a lifetime next month – rowing across the Atlantic Ocean in a bid to raise awareness of stem cell research, a field of science that might have helped the young daughter of a friend win her battle against blood cancer.

Three of us – small company investor Martin Beaumont, software industry executive Hamish Miller and I – make up Team Margot Atlantic Rowers, one of 30 crews in this year’s Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, a 3,000 mile (5,000 km) race across the ocean starting in La Gomera on the Canary Islands on December 12 and ending in Antigua around 40 days later.

Although I was a mainstay of the GB kayaking team back in the late 1980s my rowing experience is more limited – a season or so at Bryanston School 35 years ago and rather more sessions on the ergometer at my local gym in the past 12 months. My motivation for braving 20+ meter waves and storm-force winds – not to mention six weeks of dubious sanitation – is the fate of Margot Martini, the two-year-old daughter of friends, who succumbed to blood cancer when her parents were unable to find a matching stem cell donor in time to save her.

We don’t want your money. What we’d love is for people to become aware of what the Stem Cell Register is, to click through and consider signing up. It’s easy, it’s safe, it can save lives and help families in terrible predicaments all over the world. You can find out more on the team website at Continue reading

The Uxbridge connection

The last time I met the sitting MP for Uxbridge was in 1988 while a politics student at nearby Brunel University. Michael Shersby, the then Parliamentary representative for our local constituency, generously hosted Brunel’s annual Government Society dinner at the House of Commons, and arranged an array of guest speakers.

One year, we were fortunate to have the Speaker, the then Bernard (later Lord) Weatherill, who came to talk about democracy and the importance of being actively involved.

On another occasion, sharing the evening with the local Conservative Association, we were slightly less impressed by Minister of Education Angela Rumbold. Possibly labouring under the misapprehension that we were the University’s Conservative Students Group, she decided to lecture us about how the Tories were ‘good for education’. Continue reading

When ghost writers go off piste

acting-t-thank-the-academy-logo-cafe-pressAnd the winner is…….

“I’d like to thank the Academy. I’d like to thank my agent, obviously. I’d like to thank the director, the producer, the girl who made the tea and her lovely assistant who made the really great bacon sandwiches which I ate with lashings of Acme Tomato Ketchup. I’d also like to thank the PR guy who wrote this speech and added that bit about the ketchup because Acme said they’d pay me ten big ones to mention them. Continue reading

Switzerland’s immigration worries

Last year in Geneva I was approached by a political activitist and asked to put my name to a petition. I politely declined – and my reply elicited a shocking response.

I should explain, Swiss democracy works in a quirky way. Initiatives that attract more than 100,000 signatures (all are checked to ensure they’re bona fide Swiss voters) can be used to demand an amendment to the Federal Constitution. Continue reading