Special place in my heart for Mark Johansen swimming the channel today
This is a magical weekend for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, the Disney Trip, the Heroes of Hamelin, the Southend Bikeathon, the Great North Run and I attended the Derbyshire Branch's 50th Anniversary celebrations last night. But I must admit my day today is consumed by the courage and altogether awesomeness of Mark Johansen, who set off to swim the English Channel this morning at 6am, he had already done 2 miles in the first hour, only another 20 miles after that!
I met Mark at the premier of the Calendar Girls film in Leicester Square in 2003. I think it was his first public date with Lindsay Nicholson, Editor of Good Housekeeping, and I was lucky enough to sit next to him at the celebration dinner.
Mark is a gentle giant, a man of great humour and many passions, not least angling-in fact as he crosses the channel I'm slightly anxious there aren't distant relatives of his many catches waiting to get their revenge! But his greatest passions are his lovely wife - he married Lindsay not very long afterwards- and his step daugher Hope. It is for them and his lovely friend Shelley that Mark is undertaking one of the greatest human endurance challenges on earth right now.
Lindsay's first husband John tragically died from leukaemia and with unimaginable cruelty her daughter Ellie died from leukaemia aged just 9 years. Shelley tragically died from chronic myeloid leukaemia when she was just 51 in 2004. Mark's courage mirrors the courage of these two lovely familiies.
Mark has already raised an incredible £15,000 with support from Alastair Campbell and his family- Lindsay's husband John was Alastair's best friend- the Blair family and his wonderful employers Prickett & Ellis, as well as very many generous friends and family members too numerous to mention and perhaps even more touchingly people Mark doesn't know who are inspired and so grateful for his incredible effort.
Mark could have as much as another 6 hours to swim, even though he's already been in the water for an unimaginable 8 hours , with enemy jelly fish and a guardian porpoise at his side. If you'd like to be part of this incredible effort, please sponsor him , as Pricket & Ellis say, it's an ice bucket challenge to beat all ice bucket challenges. You can also follow his progress on the totally addictive tracking site, he is on the boat "Optimism".
Our belief is that life is a gift to be used wisely and lived fiercely, Mark, today you are the king of wise and fierce and we love you for it. Thank you