It’s March Swimming Challenge Time – Get Those Speedo’s Out……

Out of the frying pan and into the fire!

No sooner is the Spinathon over, our bottoms are still glowing red, the wheels on the bikes are still steaming and the Compound’s Brufen consumption has gone through the roof – then it is March, (well tomorrow anyway).cartoon-swimmer-child-thumb8775022

We all know what March is – yeap, it is Swimming Challenge Month. The month where those Speedo’s come out of hiding, people decide how far they would like to swim in total over the month of March, get some sponsors, get wet and raise some money for Tommy’s.

Don’t forget – the Swimming Challenge is not just for people here in Saudi, anybody anywhere in the world can do this – just as long as there is a swimming pool!!! No excuses now folks….


It’s open to the kids as well – they choose how far they would like to swim, get their sponsorship and away they go.

You have the whole of March to do this, there are no set events – it is up to each individual person to set their target and go swimming.


The official Tommy’s Sponsor form can be found here – so let’s get swimming!

I am delighted to say that the Salwa Amateur Swimming Club have come on board with the March Swimming Challenge and are encouraging all their members to take part.

Click on this link to find a promotional video that Christina and I made last week, (among much hilarity and a lot of editing…..)

So, come on folks – get wet, get fit, have fun and raise money for Tommy’s……

Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

Donate at


Twizee Yi Allimni – That is Arabic, (Transliterated), For My Arse is Really Sore……….

As I sit here with the remnants of a box of Celebrations by my side I feel quite vindicated about eating them today – even if the process of lifting my arms to choose one and then unwrapping it is a little challenging!


Yeap, 12 of us shed blood, sweat, (lots of that), tears, (even more of those), and did it – yeap we all completed 24hrs each Spinning® as part of our Tommy’s fundraising campaign.

However, let’s not forget all those others who did anything from 1 hour onwards at all times of the day and night to also raise money as well as have the honour of sitting on a Spinning® bike in the company of the legend that is Tommo. Their achievements are equally as incredible – let’s face it not going to bed in the first place to be Spinning® is pretty hard core but getting out of bed in the wee small hours to actually go Spinning® deserves maximum respect……


Then of course there were the volunteers who held the fort both day and night who deserve a special mention. Yes, Spinning® for 24hrs is pretty daft when you think about it, getting out of bed in the middle of the night to come Spinning® is pretty heroic but getting out of bed in the middle of the night to come and watch us Spin, fill water bottles and generally keep an eye on us is beyond super human in my eyes. So, between the day crew and the night crew a very big thank you!


So, how did it go. Well the pictures pretty much tell their own story – especially Col’s hourly selfies – don’t think I need to say much more than that. I have created his own album on the EIOT Imgur page – click on the link above but be warned, small children and animals may get upset! Then of course there is Dave on all fours on the floor during one of his 5 minute breaks, I think his arse was on fire at that point. Tommo was uncharacteristically quiet which rarely happens and so is very disconcerting, himself had a funny turn and had to lie down on the grass outside before I told him to pull himself together, stop being a wuss and get back on his damned bike. Michelle had a major wobble at seven hours then burst through like a wrecking ball going through polystyrene, Tony’s knees will never be the same again and Wayne was happy because he could don his Wales rugby shirt and watch the match live on a bike.


It was Shohreh’s birthday yesterday and so, after midnight, every few minutes somebody walked in from somewhere with birthday cake and candles and there was another chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’, Mike just peddled away the hours and Rich chatted for 24hrs as did Malcolm. Me? Oh yes, me – well for some reason my bike was positioned closest to the supermarket exit, (pretty damned close as well I might add), so a nice pink bucket, (pink? me?), was hung from my handle bars and I was able to make life very hard for people to leave the supermarket with change in their hands without putting some in my bucket. As I am not backwards in coming forwards this was quite a successful ploy and quite a lot of donations were received that way……

Yeap, you will have guessed by now that these events are not your normal Spinning® session and I can safely say that this is the only time I will let things be hung from the bikes, food consumed on the bikes or any other activity be executed that either counts as a contraindication in the world of Spinning®, socially unacceptable, unhygienic or offensive in any way – well we are raising money for Charity after all. So, Friday night saw the bikes lose their pizza, bacon butty, ice cream, cornish pasty and egg sandwich virginities all in one – as well as having items such as rucksacks, sweaty sports kit, electrical cables and pots of vaseline either hanging from the handle bars on cradled in them. If those bikes could talk then they would be having a right gossip between themselves now and would probably be booking themselves into rehab as I write….

Talking of pizza, I would just like to publicly thank everybody for their generosity in providing supplies throughout the whole event – it was quite overwhelming. There was Westy who appeared on Friday evening, disappeared into the supermarket and then reappeared with ice creams for everybody. Then later the pizza delivery guy arrived with 4 maximum size pizzas – all courtesy of Westy again. Then there was all the birthday cake – mainly for Shohreh’s birthday but also from Mrs G who had enjoyed the delights of her daughter’s 8th birthday party and then brought in birthday cake for us all. Then there was Hannah’s banana loaf, Mrs C’s liquid cooler that contained something which we cannot mention, (Voldemort stylee), and then the biggest surprise of all. At the final whistle, after 24hrs on a Spinning bike Mrs B sprung up in front of us all individually with foil wrapped pressies – yeap, there was illicit, contraband pork product in a bap wrapped lovingly in foil – one for each of the 24hr bods – awesome!


I apologise right now and unreservedly if anybody brought anything to us and I have forgotten to mention – my brain is still recovering from the trauma of the last 48 hours, but believe me your contributions were incredibly appreciated!

As we were peddling through Friday night, we were delighted to see so many people come and visit us at various points during their evenings out. The Royal Naval Association were having a cheese and ‘grape juice’ evening and not only were they extremely generous with their donations and raffle tickets sales but they were also very generous in their visits throughout the night in various stages of drinking their ‘grape juice’. One chap turned up in a bit of a dishevelled state, only to return in better order at the end of the 24hrs to be quite taken aback when we said he had visited the previous evening and we recounted the conversations – now children that is what too much grape juice does to you, be warned.


Now, talking of folks turning up after too much grape juice. I need to be very careful how I phrase this next piece – but it was very, very entertaining. A little bit of background information first though. Our small man was very keen to be part of the action for the full 24hrs and he was on fine form, he charmed everybody, was helpful, entertaining and generally a good egg. We offered him the option of going on a sleepover to his buddy’s house but no – he wanted to be part of the action. So, he packed his bag, blow up mattress, duvet, sheet, pillow, toothbrush and Justin Beaver, (please refer to for a full explanation of Justin Beaver), and along he came for the duration.

So, around about 9pm the small man sorted his bedding area out, blew up his air bed, Jess helped him with his sheet, out came the duvet, pillow and Justin and he begrudgingly brushed his teeth. Under the circumstances, (i.e. we all stunk and were not going to Spin in pyjamas), we allowed him the exciting prospect of being allowed to sleep in his clothes. He was happy and at about 10pm he took himself off to his little bedding area near the cashiers office and slipped into the land of nod. There he stayed all night – apart from one brief interlude when he decided to sleepwalk to play with the diablo for around 23.56 seconds before returning to bed.

One final piece of background information to remember is for those people reading this blog who are not here in Saudi. Please can these people remember that life here is completely unlike life anywhere else in the world and especially the UK. Circumstances are completely different here, people live and work in a completely different way and no matter how hard you fight it to a certain extent everybody has to adjust the way they live in order to survive. One such way is education. The compound has its own school, a satellite of the main British school in town and as a result many of the teachers and staff live on the compound. Some are here in their own right as teachers, some are here as dependents of their husbands and they happen to be teachers so have got employment as teachers at the school. Whatever way you look at it they are here and unlike teachers in the UK who live a considerable distance from school and evaporate into the ether when they go home, the school staff here are regularly seen socially out of school hours.

OK, there is the background, here is the story. At some point in the wee small hours among the many visitors was a teacher from the school. A teacher who is very, very well known to our small man. In fact at the moment this teacher is probably the teacher who spends most time of all with him and who knows him best of all and is most current with him. Anyway, this teacher had clearly been out socialising and while not completely the worst for wear had completely had a few glasses of grape juice. Firstly the teacher came over to say hi to me and starred wide eyed at me – clearly I was the more compos mentis at this point which is saying something after 12+ hours on a Spinning® bike. Then the teacher wandered off to say hi to some of the others. However, in order to get to the others there were two things in the way – a sleeping small man who she knows well and a Beaver called Justin. Now, under normal circumstances you would expect a certain amount of surprise from a teacher who finds a pupil asleep in the supermarket cuddling a small beaver, (don’t start), but no, this is Saudi Arabia on a Friday night with 17 people on Spinning® bikes singing Delilah. Instead the teacher simply steps over the small man as if it is a completely normal, every day occurrence, comments on how cute he looks, (cute?, in the clothes he had been wearing all day, covered in chocolate and cuddling Justin – thats not what I would call it…..?) and starts to stare with wide eyes at the other people Spinning…….

Now that was a surreal experience if ever there was one….

I hasten to add that when he woke up next morning and was told of the visit he was mortified and will no doubt be very quiet at school today.

So, physically – what is the state of play? Well, remarkably well actually. Shohreh and Mike have gone off golfing which is a good sign – it means they can actually move. Several of the others are at work. Himself and I went out for a celebratory breakfast and are now beached on the sofa.

To be honest nothing is ‘agony’ and progress has been made from yesterday. The aches and pains are pretty generalised in most places and on the whole manageable. But yesterday, now that was a different matter. The common painful factor for us all was our bottoms – yeap our rear ends. By the end of the Spinathon the group of 12 people who had been known each other in varying degrees from acquaintances to good mates were now on terms where talking ‘bottoms’ was completely the norm and everybody was reasonably well acquainted with the other’s bottom issues, (verbally, not actually I hasten to add – well as far as I know anyway). By half way through the Spinathon everybody was grimacing when they either went from sitting to standing or vice versa.

There actually comes a point at these events where your bottom goes numb and you cannot actually feel it anymore. Unfortunately it does not last forever and in due course the pain comes back again, but while it lasts it is bliss.

Yeap, we all had padded shorts and or seat covers and Rich even took to tapping towels and jumpers onto his seat, (usually another one every hour or so, by 20hrs I think he had had to put the seat height down to its absolute minimum as there was no much material on the seat he was about a foot higher up than when he started), but very little helped and we all, (including the folks who were doing less than 24hrs), suffered.


Yeap, this is pretty much accurate……..

Now, let’s not forget one important point. We all took part in this crazy Spinathon for one reason – to make money for Tommy’s, not to trash our backsides, stay awake all night or laugh at the rather merry folks who came to visit. Yeap, it was all about Tommy’s.

So, the photos. I have uploaded all the ones I have got so far onto Imgur and they can be found here – Salwa Spinathon. There will be lots of other photos being uploaded as I get them, so keep an eye on the link.

Actually, as an aside I ought to mention that we did try to link up with Tommy’s Head Office in London during the Spinathon but alas the joys of the Saudi internet let us down and the link was not great. However the thought was there and a massive thanks goes out to the Tommy’s crew.

At the moment it is far too early to say how much money has been raised and to be honest we will never have an exact figure of how much money the Spinathon alone will raise. But, we can have a good guess. So far, we are already into thousands of pounds. With the sponsorship money so far, plus raffle tickets, plus donations, plus what is so far in the Virgin Money account, (which includes the half marathon, cake sale, pancakes etc, etc ,etc), the total at the moment around £8500. However, there is stacks and stacks of money still out there that is waiting to come in.

Ahah…..but there is more….we have not finished yet. March 1 sees the launch of the Swimming Challenge month – I will post more details about this in a separate post later.

Then of course there is April which is Running Challenge month.

But that’s not all – there are still lots and lots of activities going on, the Weight Loss Sweepstake, MODSAP Social Event, the Moon Walk, Mrs Mmmmm’s Welsh Cakes, The Nursery Crazy Hair Day…..etc, etc, etc…..the list goes on.

Oh yes, I forgot, there’s Tommo doing The Brighton Marathon and himself and I are doing The London Marathon – slipped my mind…..

Right – need to sort the photos out in the gallery

Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

Donate at



We All Survived – And To Prove It We Are Here…..?????

Hurrah!! We survived – a whole host of aches and pains among the team – but we made it!

Just going out for a celebratory breakfast with himself and then will be working on the photo album and a full and detailed blog with all the gory details.

Advance warning – probably best not to read the blog later either immediately before or after your Sunday roast, could put you off your roast pork…..


Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

Donate at


Meeting Myself Coming Back & Other Euphemisms That Mean I Am A Bit Busy…..

Please would you do me a favour? Yes, you sat there with a nice glass of white wine and a bacon butty, next time the legend that is Tommo suggests we do another Spinathon just remind me of how manic everything is today. Even more so if he dares to suggest it and I take it upon myself to fly back from the UK 3 days before and then back to the UK again 3 days after…..


No, only joking – I work best when I am busy and under pressure so I am in my element today and even more so because we are making stacks of money for Tommy’s!

So, what has today brought thus far – bearing in mind at the time of writing this first tranche it is still only 1129.

Well, I ought to point out that today I am walking a tad gingerly. Last night I went for my final pre-Spinathon run. Mrs G was unavailable for fartlek last night and so I donned my kit and went for a run on my tod. No problem and nothing new there.

Regular readers will know how bored I get running round and round the compound and even the excitement of making pretty pictures on my MapMyRun report by running through the inner roads of the compound has worn off.  There are not enough variants of roads to create a decent Darth Vader or Minion.

New readers may be pleased to know that the monotony of running around the compound is the reason behind the blog name – I really do know every inch of tarnac – as well as every dog poo bin, recycling point, tree and bit of perimeter wall.

So last night off I trotted with the thought that the Spinathon was only 2 days away. I galloped around the compound and then with the prospect of more beige walls I went home, grabbed my training skipping rope and headed outside.

I should have realised something was wrong after a few minutes when my left calf went ‘ping’. But no I stretched it out and carried on. Next my right calf went ‘ping’. A few more stretches and another attempt – the left calf had decided that there is strength in numbers and had joined forces with the one on the right. Oh dear!


So into the house I hobbled to be greeted by some hilarity from himself. 3×90 sec of planking, stretches and Nurofen later I flopped down in a heap.

That is the reason why I was hobbling today – but more of that later.

Much of this morning was spent with much hilarity recording a short promotional video with the Salwa Swimming Club who are joining forces with the Tommy’s Fundraising campaign to promote the forthcoming March Swimming Challenge. Mrs VDW and I seem to form a great improvisation team and the video is going to take some editing…….good luck on that one Mrs VDW! I will mainly be busy on a Spinning® bike while you do that…..

So, my trip out, off compound today was to see the dude who is the orthopaedic consultant for a check up on my foot. Regular readers will know that he comes as a professional pair with his Indian side-kick nurse and together they are a bit like Morecambe and Wise. I like them.


So, I had managed to get to the hospital early and as his side-kick and I get on well I was very quickly ushered into the office next door to wait to be shown into the man himself.

That wait was also very quick and the nurse quickly called me forward – a mere 15 minutes early for my appointment.

However, this is where it all started to go wrong. Just as I was about to walk over the office threshold I was unceremoniously pushed out of the way by a local chap, in full thobe etc, brandishing a piece of paper and speaking in a very animated fashion in Arabic.

Side-kick nurse rolled her eyes and I nonchalantly asked her if he was staff or patient to which she again rolled her eyes and said patient but not one of theirs and he had just wondered in.

The conversation between the dude Consultant and the waif and stray who had just wondered in got very animated indeed in Arabic, with arms being flung about and what I can only assume were expletives in Arabic. After a few minutes the local guy stormed out past me.

I was a little concerned at this point that I may suffer the aftermath of this meeting with the dude Consultant, but as I hobbled into his office, (I refer you to my calf strains of last night…). I was met by a completely relaxed Consultant – smiling and joking – as if he had just had coffee with his oldest friend. No need for concern there. He did however look at the hobbling expat in front of him over his glasses, take a breath to ask why I was hobbling and then clearly thought better of it – he knows me too well already….wise man that Doc!


The consultation itself took roughly 15 seconds, with a smile and request to make another appointment 2 weeks before the marathon  to pump the foot full of numbing juice again.

The side-kick nurse was somewhat surprised when I appeared back so quickly – so much so that she almost fell off her chair, but hey ho, appointment made and off I went – leaving the hospital before my actual appointment time, result!

This is where life started to get interesting. I decided that as I was so far ahead of schedule and more importantly before everything ground to a halt for prayers, to call in at the big hardware type store for some tennis balls for the Spinathon, (that’s another story).

As I walked down to the sports section I spotted a local guy apparently testing out the dumbbells. I didn’t think much about it. I wondered off, to return about a minute later to see him ‘testing’ the dumbbells with the other arm, gazing lovingly at his flexing biceps.

At this point I did start to wonder what he was doing.

I browsed down another aisle to come back to the sports section to now find the guy doing bar raises on one of the plinths….

By this point I wanted to come back to see what he was doing next….

Quads bench….

The guys was working out on the equipment that was for sale – in full view of the check outs. Not that anybody was bothered.

By the time I went to the tills he was doing squats with the weight lifting bar…..I am surprised he didn’t go to the water filter area of the store to get a drink of water……


But hold on, it got better. As I was standing at the female only check out, (I had gone to the male one by accident and got told off), watching in bewilderment the guy doing his full workout, I realised that the queue had not moved for sometime. I looked round to see the cashier and who I assume was her supervisor having an intense conversation about the portable card reader – having a card from the customer in front of me.

Then suddenly the apparent supervisor grabbed a chair, climbed up, (bear in mind she was wearing of course her abaya and niqab, it was reminiscent of the post ‘Dart Vader On A Surfboard’ – 16/01/2016 – which people are still talking about ), and pointed the card reader to the heavens. A few moments passed as she waved it around, I assume in the hope of getting a signal, before stepping down again and clearly being frustrated at not having any success. This happened twice more as I found myself in the slightly surreal situation of on one side of me a local guy enjoying a full weights work out in the sports department of the DIY store and on the other side of me the supervisor balancing perilously on a chair with arm outstretched to try to get a signal on the card reader.

On attempt number three there was success and the machine spewed out a receipt. The customer legged it out of the store.

It was with some trepidation that I handed over my card – the last thing I wanted was to be responsible for an accident at work that resulted in broken limbs just because I wanted to buy some tennis balls.  Yes, the same process was followed, supervisor climbing onto the chair and waving the reader around hopefully in the air. However, a signal was picked up immediately, much to my relief, my receipts were handed over and I was able to leave – without anybody suffering any injuries or mishaps.

Right, Spinathon kicks off tomorrow, the timetable has turned to chaos, (positive chaos I hasten to add), best I go get myself sorted out. If you are on the compound this weekend, come and say hi, hurl some abuse at Tommo, be nice to me, feed himself and humour everybody else. All visitors are more than welcome and let’s face it you will not be able to avoid us as we are taking over the area outside the supermarket for 24hrs.

So, come and see us, bring your wallets and come and have some fun.


Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

Donate at


Ooohhhh Exciting – Time To Get Guessing……


And the good news just keeps on coming.

This is open to everybody – wherever you are in the world, not just here in Saudi!

You will remember me nattering on about the weight loss sweepstake a few weeks ago – you know the one where I suggested you have a guess at how much weight I have lost between starting training at the end of September 15 and the end of The London Marathon?

Well, you may also recall that I said at that time we did not have a prize.

Well, we do now.

Thanks to the ultimate generosity of Shane Sandeman and The Cyber Hut we now have either a 10″ iPad or a 10″ Samsung Tablet! Shane will be confirming this in the very near future – but it is one or the other.

I am overwhelmed with the generosity – thank you so much to Shane and The Cyber Hut!

So, best I get on with redesigning the posters!

So, just to recap – the sweepstake is to guess how much weight I have lost in all this mad capped training between the end of September and the end of The London Marathon.

I hasten to add that I will NOT be offended by any guesses – it is all for raising money for Tommy’s after all.

Whatever the final weight is will I know be guessed by more than one person – in this case all the names of the people with the correct guess will be put into a hat and the winner drawn out at random.

So, the cost per entry is 5SR or £1, or whatever the equivalent is in your currency.

For those people here on Salwa it is easy to enter, just give me a shout, pay your money and make your guess. For those people wanting take part, drop me an email, (, let me know your guess and then go to and pay your money, (feel free to have as many goes as you like – just remember to pay for each go!) Once I see the money arrive in the Virgin Money account your entry will be registered!

So let’s go……

So, I think that covers it for now……don’t forget I won’t be offended!



Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

Donate at




I Am Here – Just A Tad Busy With A Spinathon……..


Greetings from the land of sand!

Yeap, I made it back in one piece – despite yet another skirmish with BA. It now looks like the relationship with BA is in a terminal state and will almost certainly see no more bookings with ‘The World’s Most Arrogant Airline’

However, Spinathon mania has taken over and my every waking moment seems to be spent on things related to Spinning®.

Anyway, apologies and all that stuff but I am struggling to find time to blow my nose at the moment and so no blog for today.

However, normal service will be resumed in due course and of course with plentiful and abundant updates from the 24hrs of fun and frolics from Friday morning!

Now, where did I put that padded seat……..?



Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

Donate at


Why We Are Doing What We Are Doing – A Recap – Inspirational Annie, A Real Life Story Of Love And Determination

Well today today I am in the hands of BA, (not necessarily a good thing..), as I head back to The Land Of Sand weighed down with Tommy’s t-shirts, Creme Eggs, Frazzles and Prawn Cocktail crisps – oh yes, with the prospect of a 24hr Spinathon next weekend. So there is pretty much no chance to write a new blog today.

So, what better than a recap on one of the reasons why we are doing what we are doing…..

Sometimes it is all well and good writing a humorous blog that keeps people entertained in the hope that at the end of all the craziness and challenges people will be inspired to put their hands in their pockets and donate to Tommy’s.

Our primary reason for doing this is well known, to channel our grief on behalf of our good friends who recently lost their little sunflower at 6 months gestation.

However, everywhere we look there are other families that have been affected by stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage.

Below is such a case. I am proud to call the McFadden family friends and truly inspirational. They live on our compound here in Riyadh and Annie, (as well as Michael, Cherie and Paul I hasten to add), is a regular face across the compound, at events and generally being a fantastic 8 – almost 9 year old.

Below is the widely available text of a national magazine article from Australia, published sometime ago which details Annie’s journey.

Cherie has today forwarded me the incredible photos which I have inserted in the text.

I hasten to add that I am publishing this on the Every Inch Of Tarmac Blog with Cherie and Paul’s full approval.

For Dear Life

BORN at just 23 weeks, Annie McFadden survived – partially blind, after months of traumatic surgery. But where should doctors draw the line between supporting life and letting go?

Cherie McFadden was just under six months pregnant and sitting at her desk in a high-rise office above Perth when she felt her body lurch suddenly into the early stages of labour.

It was January 2007, and within an hour the 33-year-old was sitting on a bus heading to King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women, crying and fearful, as her husband Paul drove madly down from RAAF Base Pearce on the city’s northern outskirts, where he worked as a pilot.

The couple can still recall every detail of that grim afternoon in the hospital’s maternity ward, in particular the grave face of the obstetrician who advised them that a 22-week-old foetus was almost certain to die outside the womb.

Its skin was so fragile that it could tear like wet paper; its lungs would struggle to process oxygen; its brain and other organs were still not fully formed. In theory, such a baby could be artificially resuscitated, the doctor said, but death or severe disability was almost inevitable.

The McFaddens knew their baby was a girl, and they had already decided to name her Annie.

Now they listened as the doctor explained how their first child would be delivered, would be laid on Cherie’s chest, would make several gasping attempts at breathing, and would die.

But that seeming inevitability never happened, because for the next week Cherie McFadden lay in a hospital bed fighting her body’s urge to give birth while her husband spent hours at home, hunched over his computer as he downloaded hundreds of pages of medical literature on premature birth.

In the course of that research Paul McFadden made a crucial discovery: in a few days’ time his wife’s pregnancy would enter an uncertain area of medical controversy known among neonatologists as the “Grey Zone”.

The Grey Zone is a term coined to describe the three-week span in an unborn baby’s life, between 23 and 25 weeks’ gestation, when survival outside the womb is possible but outcomes are terribly uncertain.

Fifty per cent of the babies born at this gestation will die, and those who live can often be afflicted cerebral palsy, intellectual disability or blindness. Some doctors refuse to resuscitate such fragile infants. But the McFaddens happened to be in the Australian hospital which had the most aggressive policy of supporting “23-weekers” if their parents requested it.

At 3am on January 23, only a few hours after Cherie’s pregnancy officially entered its 23rd week, the McFaddens made that request.

Annie McFadden was about the size of her father’s hand when she was delivered, weighing only 570 grams. “She looked like a baby bird that wouldn’t live,” remembers Paul. “Completely purple, almost black. Totally limp, way beyond anything you think could survive.”


The pediatrician pressed a stethoscope to this tiny creature’s chest and announced, “She’s got a heartbeat”, then inserted a plastic breathing tube down her throat.

Within minutes the McFaddens’ daughter was laid on a steel intensive care warmer and connected by a tangle of tubes and wires to banks of computerised life-support systems. A ventilator delivered oxygen in carefully calibrated doses through her mouth; a catheter was inserted into the umbilical vein in her abdomen, and another pushed through to an artery near her heart to measure blood pressure; a tube was inserted in her stomach to drain off air pushed in by the ventilator, and a sensor attached to her foot measured oxygen saturation in her blood.

Rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she was hooked up to a drip which fed glucose, amino acids and nutrients through a third catheter in her arm. It would be a month before Cherie McFadden was allowed to touch her.


With machines regulating her breathing, temperature, body fluids and nutrition levels, Annie spent the first two weeks hovering near death as she nearly succumbed to the shock of life outside the womb and a septic blood infection that required multiple transfusions.

Three weeks after delivery her bowel ruptured from a necrotising infection and she was transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital for Children, where surgeons cut open her abdomen from hip to hip and spent five hours mending and removing sections of her lower intestines which were barely wider than spaghetti. A faulty valve near her lungs caused wild gyrations in her blood oxygen levels, and at 30 weeks she developed a lung infection so dire it required the administration of four antibiotics.

In the second month following her birth she nearly died twice – first when a ventilation tube shifted in her airway, and shortly afterwards from severe pneumonia. Antibiotics kept her alive, and steroids were given to promote her lung development.

At 38 weeks severe gastroenteritis nearly killed her, and a week later the retina in her right eye began detaching. For four weeks she underwent a series of operations in which eye surgeons attempted to reattach the retina by burning blood vessels around it with a laser, injecting a gas bubble into the centre of the eyeball, applying microdroplets of dry-ice and finally wrapping the entire eyeball with an elasticised “scleral buckle”.

The surgery saved 20 per cent of her vision in the eye, but two weeks later the entire retina in the other eye detached.

It wasn’t until June 27, five months after her birth, that the McFaddens were finally allowed to bring their baby home.

Since then the couple have had a son, Michael, whose birth last November was perfectly normal.

On a recent winter evening the family’s home in Perth’s southern suburbs is a hive of post-dinner activity as baby Michael is put to bed and Annie runs energetically around the lounge room in her pyjamas. Only at a second glance do you notice that Annie still does not speak, and that the story books littering the floor are written in Braille.

Yes, this is Annie....

Yes, this is Annie….

The McFaddens have thus become one of hundreds of families whose premature baby has miraculously survived, only to be significantly disabled. It’s an outcome that has led them to contemplate some big questions about the nature of life and the limits of medical intervention.

“The bad news doesn’t stop when you come home,” admits Paul. “One of the doctors we consulted compared it to the waves hitting the coast – it just keeps on coming. It might be five years before you discover whether your child is developmentally delayed.”

But as he looks at his daughter, his voice softens. “Whatever outcome Annie has, for her it will be normal. None of us are judged by what we don’t have. I don’t have Einstein’s intellect or Carl Lewis’s speed. Who makes the decision about what quality of life is acceptable?”

Read the full story in The Weekend Australian Magazine –

So, there you have it. A truly inspiring and moving true story of a gorgeous little girl who we see perhaps not every day but certainly on a very, very regular basis.

So next time I am whinging about aching legs or being saddle sore, I will just look at the pictures of Annie, or even the real thing if she happens to be around, and will promptly shut up.

Can you do the same and help us raise as much money as possible for Tommy’s?

If you are not sure, then for those of you here in Riyadh and on our compound. next time you see a bubbly, laughing, smiling little girl by the name of Annie carrying a cane, please let that help you make your mind up.

Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

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Asda Agony & Frazzles Frenzy………

Well as I jumped out of bed at the crack of sparrow farts this morning I happened to glance out of the window to see rain and plenty of it. Not just any rain, oh no – Cumbrian rain, the type of rain that you feel your hair being plastered onto your head just by looking at it through the window.


Part of me told myself to toughen up and get out into it, then the other part said ‘go to the gym….’

Later on I knew I did right by listening to the voice telling me to go to the gym when I went outside and was just about blown  onto my bottom by the horizontal rain and gale force wind.


However, as the gym didn’t open till 0700 I was able to have an extra hour in bed with my new ‘Runner’s World’ magazine.

Among all the veritable delights and nougets of information was an sticker about a couple who between them have lost about 12 stone in weight by healthy eating and running and it has transformed their lives. I thoroughly recommend checking out their story, it is truly remarkable. They have their own blog and the address is

So, apart from finding a great new contact, what else has today thrown at me?

Well firstly a great gym session this morning – even threw the planking in for good measure! Well happy!

The rest of the day has been spent doing the obligatory shopping ready to head back to the land of sand. Regular readers will know the importance of this ritual under normal circumstances but a matter of days before the 24hr Spinathon it is even more vital, this visit’s returning suitcases contain about 80 Tommy’s t-shirts…….


So, off I went to the metropolis that is Asda. I have to say that I don’t often shop at Asda and I now see why. It was pandemonium in there, topped off by a 30minute wait at the tills.

I say, that is just not on…..

To add insult to injury I almost had to grab another trolley and start again! My trolley was stocked up with Frazzles, Cheese & Onion crisps and dishwasher cleaner as I started to investigate the confectionary aisle as per Mrs G’s shopping list for a small person’s goody bags at a birthday party.

Anyway, as I perused the mind boggling amounts of different Haribo delicacies I failed to notice the elderly lady take hold of my savoury snack laden trolley and wander off with it.

As I turned to place all the party treats into the trolley, I was more than a little taken back to find that my trolley had been replaced with another one containing quite a lot of kit-kats, one crutch, a large bottle of whisky, a warm winter coat and a tube of dentu-fix.

Looking around there was no sign of the frazzles wagon – not even a stray bacon flavoured snack that had escaped in the abduction.


Still laden down with the party goodies I started my search and walked to the end of the aisle where I immediately saw my trolley being steered by a lady of more mature years. In hot pursuit I caught her up and explained the mistake. Very apologetically she handed the trolley over, I loaded the party treats in and then returned to her the clotted cream fudge that she had loaded on top of the frazzles collective before she scuttled off to collect her own trolley.

Now yes, it was an honest mistake but my question is this. If she could move so quickly that she was out of sight by the time I missed the trolley and with the speed she scuttled off to get her lost trolley – what the heck was she doing with one, single crutch in her own shopping trolley?????? Was it just for show?? Who knows……..

Right, the daughter is installed back into school, the frazzles are packed and the party treats have been photographed & submitted to Mrs G who has approved the purchase so will be heading over to the land of sand soon. Best I drink some vino, eat some pork and settle down with Runner’s World……


Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

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Look What’s Arrived – Excited Muchly!!! ?????

Well there were no nasty surprises after last night’s post, immigration did not suddenly get all confused, we were not stopped, (not that there was any reason for us to be stopped, but hey ho this is Saudi that we are talking about and the effects of any immigration confusion can result in just about anything happening), my finger nails are intact and I have no logged emergency calls to the Embassy.  We got on the big BA translocator machine and pitched up at Heathrow before heading ‘up north’.

Yes, I am allowed to use this - I am a true northerner and proud of it!

Yes, I am allowed to use this – I am a true northerner and proud of it!


There was a very interesting moment at Heathrow though, as we waited to board the smaller and stinkier translocator machine, (and this really was the case, I fell asleep on the Tarmac at Heathrow and woke up as we taxied to the stand ‘up north’. I just hope I didn’t snore, dribble or rest my head on the shoulder of the bloke to my right, no good asking the daughter, she was glued to her iPad with nosie reducing headphones).  Yeap there was a lady who was very much the worse for wear who was chatting loudly to anybody who would listen that this was her exit only flight after 18 years in Saudi and was heading ‘up north’ to go home for good – I assume that she had been on our Riyadh – London flight and worked her way through the drinks trolley.

Maximum respect to her though. It got me thinking, what will I be like when we finally leave the Land of Sand? Not that we will have done 18 years I hasten to add – by then we will both be ready for Zimmer frames, returning  with gusto all the chaos and angst that the kids have provided and generally being a pain in the rear end to them. Slight exaggeration as I hope by then to be spending my life walking in The Lake District with two black labs in tow, eating pub lunches, tending the vegetable patch and making homemade soup. The rebellious days as a pensioner will come later – brace yourself world.  But you get the general gist.


Will I celebrate with a massive bender? Some people do, I have known people who on their exit only flights splash out and go first class – apparently the hostesses on BA are quite sympathetic and let you loose behind the first class bar all the way back – messy, very messy. Knowing me I would inadvertently book my exit only flight on Saudiair and the only thing I would be mixing then would be dates with orange juice – not quite what I would have in mind……..

I have to admit that we have no idea how long we will be in Riyadh for or how we would mark our actual departure. Oh well, no point thinking about it, we have no plans…..

So, the daughter and I have arrived ‘up north’ – it is damned cold here. However, it is fab, I love it.

The good news of today is that our back log of post has caught up with me and among the general rubbish from the bank and other paper wasting mail there was this!


Well  the excitement of this is mind blowing, I cannot put it into words – my bedtime reading for the next few weeks. Getting magazines in Saudi is always an issue. Censored is too strong a word for magazines, but if you have a subscription and get a magazine regularly sent out then you will be fine with Gardener’s World or Classic FM magazines but anything else is likely to be sent back. So any magazine that appears with a woman wearing a stripy short skirt and another one with a woman running in tight fitting leggings may just send the Saudi system into a panicking and spiralling decline….. Men’s Health are the type of magazines that regularly get confiscated as are anything with scantily dressed people in.

However, bringing magazines in is not usually a problem unless you flaunt it, so trips home usually include bulk buying of magazines. So tomorrow, off I will go to WH Smith to stock up.

However, I will not need to stock up on Runner’s World or Marathon News – they are here!!!!!!!! I am very, very excited!

So, not only am I really rather animated by the arrival of two magazines, (let’s forget about all the junk mail for now), but I have wine and pork on hand as well – and oh yes, the prospect of  24hrs on a Spinning ® bike next weekend, but let’s not think about that….


So, tomorrow sees yet more magazine reading, shopping, get the daughter ready for school (!) and of course the obligatory wine drinking…….


Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

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Spinning Daughter, No Excuses & Sailing Through Immigration…….Phew!

Well, we made it. Despite my worst fears and sleepless nights the daughter got through immigration unhindered. My heart did miss a beat when the immigration guy looked at her quizzically and exclaimed ‘name?’. The daughter in return looked completely unfazed and muttered the required information. All was well. So I was not arrested for child trafficking or kidnap and emergency assistance from the Embassy is not required. Neither is a good divorce lawyer – yet! The daughter and I have not seecumbed to the aftermath of Paddy’s quite meteoric blunder and subsequent chaos. Epic sense of relief.image

Flying days are always a little odd – more so when it is the BA flight at a very odd time of night. You sort of spend the day in limbo. The longer you live out here the more blasé you get about it and to be honest on a few occasions today I have had to remind myself that actually we are flying tonight and actually I really ought to get myself sorted and put some clean undies in a case.

So what has today brought? Well an immense sense of pride for a start. The daughter decided that as she is not going to be at home for the Spinathon, she would do a four hour sponsored Spin herself today and get some sponsorship for it to help the Tommy’s Campaign and Yeap, true to her word she did it.

Yeap, there was considerable moaning but nevertheless she did it – a very proud Mummy moment!

That said we have had to have a serious pre-return to school ‘chat’, mainly about her phone bill, (yeap that one is still bubbling away in the background) and her unilaterally declared sport avoidance policy at school.

I am optimistic that we have got through to her on both counts and that an amendment to the policy has been made, (i.e. sort yourself out and get to the pre-school sports clubs). Just in case an email has been pinged off to the PE Dept at school as well as Matron, the Housemistress, the Form Teacher and anybody else who will listen saying that she is only excused sport if a limb is missing or her head has fallen off.

As for the phone bill – compromise has been reached which is dependent on sport! ‘Nuff said…….

Anyway, the relief of making it through immigration with my fingernails intact is palpable and so I am going to kick back and enjoy the delights of King Khalid International Airport and the delightful and diverse people watching options it offers. Then we will get onto the big BA translocator machine and be delivered to Heathrow for bacon and vino for breakfast – no excuses are needed for booze at the crack of sparrow farts when you live in Riyadh, (and have had a right Royal immigration pfaff this week) – before getting into a slightly smaller and stinkier BA ttranslocator machine to head off ‘up north’


I will check in with an update on events tomorrow, until then sleep tight!


Don’t forget to donate, this is all about raising money for Tommy’s

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