There is something quite terrifying about the experience I have just had. I went back to work this week!
What a seismic change of circumstances. We have spent so much time together as a crew and then suddenly we have had to come back to reality. I think that all of us have changed in some way but it's safe to say that the world we return to seems very much the same. We spent the last week fulfilling some media commitments - including the Alan Titchmarsh show, Sky News Sunrise and BBC Radio 5 Live Breakfast - and I think that it has been very important for all of us to meet up again and begin to take it all in. It's also been quite refreshing to see people with their clothes on at last.
If I ever have to see "Carlos the Tackle" in his full naked glory again it will be too soon! As I think back to our arrival in Barbados it is hard to believe that it actually happened.
Seeing Cliff Richard waiting for us on the dock spraying the champagne was such an amazing gesture and quite surreal. Cliff's kind effort didn't stop one of our more amusing supporters asking on Twitter "Haven't they suffered enough?" The injured guys are doing ok, though Neil is obviously having difficulties walking on his prosthetics having not used them for so long and having had some muscle wastage. He's getting there though.
When we landed on the dock there were so many people to meet us, but meeting our friends and family was simply amazing. Families have been central to our campaign and I think that their endurance in this event was more impressive than ours ever was. I know how stressful it is when you leave loved ones behind on operations and I think that this kind of experience was again what they faced with the row. My employers, McKinney Rogers, not only sponsored the trip but are also based in Barbados and I couldn't thank them enough for everything that they had done.
It's a unique situation when you can spend 2 weeks R and R living at your Chief Executive's house, but that's exactly what Ed and my family did. The support in Barbados was simply fantastic, it felt like a Royal visit and everywhere we went the donations, drinks and food rolled in. I think that I put on about 1.5 stone in the first week. Now that was quite enjoyable!
We had days and nights of hospitality all over the island. A highlight was a dinner at an amazing house on the West Coast, where Ian Woosnam greeted us at the door, Cilla Black chatted to us and Sir Cliff sang six songs. The night before Russ Abbott had done a 20 minute comic turn for us. It was like some bizarre, wonderful 80s reunion at times! Random acts of kindness went on and on. We met holiday-makers, schoolchildren, residents, entrepreneurs, locals and many others who did so much for the campaign and for us.
We are just writing our first hundred thank you letters today. All of the crew and their families had such a great time in Barbados and it would not have been possible without a huge support effort from the community of the island. My personal highlight was undoubtedly when we met the team from the Barbados Council Disabled, led by the wonderful Roseanna Tudor. Roseanna assured us that they had not been stalking us, simply that they were doing "intensive research".
It was clear that they had followed our every move - it turns out Roseanna was one of our most active facebook fans - and it was humbling to see the positive impact that our story had had for them. When one of the team, Kerrie, spoke at our press conference it was hard not to feel overwhelmed by her message to other wounded or disabled people. We wanted to challenge what is possible in life whether wounded or not and it was clear that the message was out their disabled guys.
However, we are not at 'mission accomplished' quite yet as we still have some fundraising to do in order to hit our target. We've got a couple of dinners lined up and are also looking into doing some paid public speaking. So begins the next chapter! We have spent time looking through the many thousands of messages of support and congratulations from you, our supporters. It's simply overwhelming and we all thank you enormously for your support. It means so much.