Mississipi Million

The Great River Rowed

Early reflections 2, a bumpy landing….

Early reflections 2, a bumpy landing….

Posted by on Nov 17, 2014

London, November 14th.

Of course, everyone tells you to expect a certain sense of deflation on return from these extended projects or expeditions. But of course very few people have actually been on these extended projects, so in fact have very little understanding of the sense of emptiness when the routine and, most importantly, the purpose has been removed from your life. Abruptly and with little ceremony.  So I found myself back in London, utterly delighted to see Julie, but with a house full of builders, cold, windswept weather and a remarkably poignant degree of what I can only describe as “flat”.

I spent ten days after my return essentially secluded at home, with an almost zero interest in engaging with anyone other than close friends. I avoided emails (or at least, responding to emails), answering telephone calls and texts, and generally hunkering down. I realised that there are several black tie dinners coming up, which felt very peculiar, as these events are in winter, whereas for me it still feels like late summer (unless I look out of the window, or make the basic error of watching the BBC weather forecast). I was, essentially, hibernating.

After a couple of days, when the weather relented and it was a calm, bright, autumnal day, I found myself over at The Skiff Club. Sad but true. I took out a very old single skiff and some equally venerable oars and set off.  Being mid-week, there were no other crafts on the water and a blessed lack of commercial traffic (a day later, on the water again, I saw a Thames tug with a single barge. I laughed so hard I had to stop rowing). The paddle up to Hampton Court was beautiful, peaceful and astonishingly short by comparison to the daily long haul of the Mississippi. I found the trip hugely comforting (other than my backside, which definitely grumbled) and ludicrously easy. Before the project, a round trip to Hampton Court – about 10 miles – seemed a long outing. Now it seems like a warm up.

So I had four or five sessions on the water before the weather changed back to blustery and wet, and then went to the gym a couple of times instead.

I ate my fill of broccoli, cabbage, spinach and anything else green. I ate endless amounts of clementines, apples and kiwi fruit. I drank green tea. My body was extremely grateful and if it could have written a charming thank you note, I am sure it would. But my ability to “process” the scale of the Mississippi project and what we have achieved, still eludes me. When describing the journey to friends, I find it feels like a dream and I find it hard to believe we actually did it. There is no question that it will take time too properly understand it.

On a very happy note, donations continue to come in from all quarters – participants continue to raise funds, organisations begin to match funding and gift aid starts to add to the total. I am now convinced we will make it to the million dollar target we set and I look forward to making an announcement to that effect. When I do, it will be  a source of huge satisfaction to the team, but it should also be  a source of great satisfaction to every donor, big or small, that has helped get us to this mammoth total. Glasses will be raised for sure in the UK, and also in the US, Canada, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and all other countries where the donor diaspora live. Wonderful.

Over the next few weeks, as life slowly readjusts to normality, I will try to write some more reflections. Some kind of book is a real possibility, which will give me the ability to recount some matters which were not suitable for the blog, as well as the ability to explore some matters in far greater depth. The Mississippi, the people and the experiences have left deep impressions on me and I feel it important to at least try to record these.

What do you think?


  1. Started watching after I noticed Paddy was taking part and was hooked. Very interesting and instructive as my Geography is hopeless (had to choose between Geography and history at School). I was watching both your blog and Paddy’s and copied photos to keep a record. You might imagine our delight when we discovered our son was taking part for a couple of days. Usually very busy these happening are often learnt after the event. He was surprised when I gave him a copy of a photo from the blog. Our small Grandchildren now enjoy the map of the Mississippi on the back of their T shirts. I would have enjoyed the enormous effort you put in for a Charity I believe in, it was icing on the cake when Matthew was able to do a little towards it. Am sure you will get the Million, it will be worth every stroke. Shirley Brittin.

  2. I think I know exactly how you feel… As must the rest of the team! Yet it is an amazing achievement both on a personal level and on a less personal one for right to play and those kids who will benefit from the enormous generosity of each and every one who have donated and keep doing so, small or big!

    I think it’s time to plan another expedition!


  3. No rowing by our house now as the river is frozen! Pretty soon we’ll be able to ski or snowmobile on it!!!

  4. Book? Yes please.

  5. Get that book written Mr Pritchard. Then do a film. Mel Gibson says he’s available. Mammoth achievement.

  6. Have just spoken to Patrick he told us that the target had been reached. Absolutely brilliant. Jamie is just getting over “withdrawal” symptoms …… ie., not having blogs to read, tracker to follow and pictures to look at. Well done everyone.

  7. 1) I look forward to today’s light lunch at St. John’s (Coitates – 12/12/14).

    2) Ridley Scott tells me he’s got just the SFX you might need for the parting of the Mississippi waves … for the film … of that book … of the challenge/journey …
    and he says he can let you have the secret for – about a million. I’m guessing you’ll have that sort of amount knocking about somewhere. What a happy coincidence!

    Good to have you back John, et al.


  8. Fairhope Avenue (AL): Top Tips Before You Go (with …

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