MY memories of Old Silhillians are not good – picture a Christmas Eve some 30 years ago, the maul has turned and as I detach to get on the right side, an Old Sils forward comes crashing in, breaking my nose in the process. Such are the joys of rugby.
A retired ENT surgeon on the touchline said it was pointless going to A&E on Christmas Eve, gave my nose a tweak to straighten it, and sent me on my way.
Fast forward then to last Saturday evening, and I’m back at the Old Sils at the behest of Angela Cloke to walk on broken glass in aid of the Meningitis Trust.
It’s part of an evening of fundraising for the charity with over 40 brave souls volunteering to walk across burning hot embers – including 77-year-old former mayor councillor Alan Martin – with a mere dozen brave enough – or foolish enough depending on your view – to tackle the glass.
And it is real glass, broken bottles by the look of it, as our trainer Tony takes us out to examine the sharp end of the exercise before taking us in for some training to survive the task without shedding any blood.
Meningitis is pretty nasty stuff – known as a ‘brain bug’ it’s a killer, and if you manage to survive six out of 10 victims will suffer side effects including deafness, blindness, and possibly loss of limbs. Angela’s own son Samuel suffered from it when he was a baby: “It took him nine months to recover, and he suffered from mood swings and still has bad migraines,” she said.
Since then the Chadwick End mother-of-three supported by her husband Jon, has devoted a fair chunk of her life to raising money to combat the condition, and touring clubs and societies, anywhere where people are prepared to listen about the dangers posed by Meningitis.
Her advice to mums is simple: “I always say, trust your instinct – if you have any suspicions, do what you think is right.”
Back at the glass walk, and training over, it’s out to two strips of tarpaulin filled with about 12 foot of broken glass.
The Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Ian Courts has arrived and offers a few words of encouragement as, one after another and shoes off, we set off across the glass.
The key is to walk slowly, breathe deeply, and feel with your feet – Tony our trainer had said most people chose to walk on fire, because with glass the only outcome imaginable was bad – on the contrary it proved to be the most amazing, and satisfying experience.
Task accomplished, it was off for a well-earned pint, and a chat with Coun Martin before he tackled the fire walk.
“I first met Angela when I was Mayor,” he said. “I went along to one of her coffee mornings, and I told her I’d had Meningitis when I was 18.
“She’s previously done both the fire walk and the glass walk, and I thought, well if she can do it, so can I.”
The glass cleared away, two tracks of firewood were laid and duly set alight. As night fell the atmosphere started to grow electric, with the dancing flames glowing as a storm started to roll in from the south.
Just as the rain was starting, out came the firewalkers and, forming two queues, it was unbelievable as, one after another, they strode out along the burning hot embers to finish with a whoop of triumph and a punch of the air.
It was a magical end to what had been a truly extraordinary evening.
Angela Cloke is a remarkable woman and her fund raising efforts will be continuing.
If you want to put your name down for the next event, want to book her for a talk on Meningitis, or want to find out more about the condition, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01564 784505.