Tag Archives: cycling

June Evening Talk – Letter’s from a Long Road with Julian Sayarer

On 4 June record breaking cyclist Julian Sayarer will be joining us to talk about his remarkable journey that took him around the world with just his notebook and letters for company. Here he gives us a taste of what we can expect.

It would be hard to argue that my twenties were defined by riding bicycles and writing, with the two things eventually combining to form what probably became my preferred means of travelling the world.

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Aged 20, I finished my final politics exam of a first year at Sussex University, rode to Portsmouth and there met a friend for the Channel ferry and then the ride to Lisbon. The next year I rode to Istanbul through Eastern Europe. The following year to Istanbul along the Adriatic and through the Balkans. The following year I rode home to London through the Ukraine, and the year after that – in 2009 – I rode 18,049 miles around world in 169 days, breaking a world record in protest of the means by which it had the previous year been set by an alpha-male in cahoots with big finance. I didn’t like the inaccessible and foreboding depiction of travelling the world by bicycle, and I felt that the ideal of cycling towards an empty horizon had always been an experience too special to sell to a bank for its marketing campaigns.

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The slow pace of modern publishing bears a good deal of the responsibility for why I am talking about this experience in 2015 and a year after the release of Life Cycles. I always wanted this book to constitute snapshots of the world – its people and its politics – at the start of the twenty-first century, rather than be only an account of what it is to ride a bicycle a long way. As much as the waiting often felt far too long, I came to enjoy the reflection that the passing of time allows.

Words and writing have always been a good companion on the road, especially so in remote and foreign places. Surrealism can help make light of dehydration in a desert or sleep deprivation in a long night of riding. Amongst foreign languages, a written self can become conversation; the appearance of thoughts upon a page a frame of reference when otherwise alone. Some descents – of 30 effortless miles out of a mountain – I feel compelled to try and write and record, whilst others happen in moments that make all words feel cumbersome. When cycling around the world, I sent text messages to an obscure, new programme called Twitter, which in-turn displayed them on a website, and eventually went on to become quite successful.

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The bicycle remains altogether quite timeless in a changing world; the endeavours to chronicle those trips – in books, in letters, sometimes in tweets – is an ongoing journey mixed with challenges and rewards, always throwing new light on travel writing, letters, and forms of communication both obvious and hidden.

The event will take place on 4 June 19.00-20.00 at The Phoenix Centre, Phoenix Place, London, WC1X 0DL

To book tickets please visit www.lifecycles.eventbrite.co.uk or telephone 020 7239 2570.

You can buy Life Cycles online or in all good bookshops.

 

Royal Mail’s Paralympics Hero

Much has been written about how Paralympians have overcome adversity to achieve sporting success. It is also notable that many Paralympians compete in more than one discipline. Team GB’s first London 2012 Paralympics Gold Medal winner Sarah Storey has overcame her disability to win multiple medals in several sports. The same is true with Royal Mail’s Paralympics hero Ian Hayden.

Royal Mail's Gold Medal Winner stamp issued today commemorating Sarah Storey's gold medal win in the Cycling: Track Women's C5 Pursuit.

Royal Mail’s Gold Medal Winner stamp issued today commemorating Sarah Storey’s gold medal win in the Cycling: Track Women’s C5 Pursuit.

Ian Hayden joined the Army in 1970 but suffered injuries to his back, legs and shoulders after being attacked on guard duty in 1974. While this ended his Army career, Ian Hayden was obviously not a man to rest on his laurels – within two years he had started a business and formed the charity All About Ability. He also became active in a variety of sports after leaving the Army, including horse riding, cycling, golf and athletics.

After being asked to open the new disabled entrance to a local Post Office, Ian became an Equal Opportunities Officer and Employment Consultant at Royal Mail Oxford.

Royal Mail’s staff magazine Courier reported in January 1992 that Ian Hayden had been selected for the Barcelona Paralympics. He had previously won two Gold Medals and one Silver Medal at the Seoul Paralympics in 1988, and was also the World Record holder in javelin, discus and shot in the standing position.

Ian Hayden with his medals from the Seoul Paralympics and other championships, with Royal Mail managing director Bill Cockburn. (Courier, January 1992)

Ian Hayden with his medals from the Seoul Paralympics and other championships, with Royal Mail managing director Bill Cockburn. (Courier, January 1992)

Later that year, in the July issue of Courier, it was reported that Ian had been forced to switch from competing in the standing position to competing from a wheelchair. But this proved not to be a problem, as he then went on to break three new records at the national championships, and to break two of them again in international competition.

At the Barcelona Olympics itself Ian Hayden won two Silver Medals, despite injuring his arm whilst getting out of the bath at the Olympic village. The October 1992 issue of Courier reported that this injury caused Ian a great deal of pain, as apart from his physical disabilities Ian was also a haemophilic. Reporter Graham Harvey wrote that Ian “ignored the pain to take silver in the shot and javelin”. Ian himself said of his experience at Barcelona “I was beginning to bleed pretty badly after competing so I had no choice but to withdraw from the discus”, the implication being that had he been able to compete he may have medalled in that event too.

Ian Hayden with his two Barcelona Paralympics Silver Medals, which he won despite an arm injury. (Courier, October 1992)

Ian Hayden with his two Barcelona Paralympics Silver Medals, which he won despite an arm injury. (Courier, October 1992)

Ian Hayden had hoped to go to the 1996 Atlanta Paralympics but injured his back during qualifying. However, in 1995 he completed a sponsored ride from John O Grots to Lands End on a hand-powered bicycle, which raised £100,000 for the British Paralympics Association, so he still managed to contribute to British Paralympics success in Atlanta.

Ian Hayden (front left) with fellow Paralympian Tanni Grey (later Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson), receiving a cheque for £200,000 from postman Brian Burnham (top left) on TV-am in 1992. Also pictured is TV-am presenter Katharyn Holloway. The money was raised for the British Paralympic Team by Royal Mail employees. At this time Royal Mail was the only sponsor of both the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association. (Courier, September 1992)

Ian Hayden (front left) with fellow Paralympian Tanni Grey (later Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson), receiving a cheque for £200,000 from postman Brian Burnham (top left) on TV-am in 1992. Also pictured is TV-am presenter Katharyn Holloway. The money was raised for the British Paralympic Team by Royal Mail employees. At this time Royal Mail was the only sponsor of both the British Olympic Association and the British Paralympic Association. (Courier, September 1992)

Ian Hayden died aged 64 in 2011, and his obituary appeared in the Oxford Times. The obituary notes that Ian was awarded the MBE in 1994 for services to equal opportunities. His family reflected that “Ian led an amazing life.”

Stamps featuring all Great Britain’s Paralympics gold medal winners will be issued within 24 hours of victory. Visit your Post Office today to buy the stamps, or buy online at www.royalmail.com/goldmedalstamps.

The Royal Mail Archive in London holds back issues of Post Office and Royal Mail staff magazines, which are an invaluable resource for family historians and researchers. Find out more at www.postalheritage.org.uk/genealogy.

Welcome to the London 2012 Paralympic Games

Royal Mail have today issued a second special London 2012 mini-sheet of four stamps to coincide with the opening of the London 2012 Paralympic Games this evening. This means that Royal Mail has become the first postal administration whose country is hosting the Games to issue a set of stamps to celebrate the start of the Paralympics.

Welcome to the London 2012 Paralympic Games miniature sheet

Welcome to the London 2012 Paralympic Games miniature sheet

Around 4,200 athletes from 160 countries will participate in the London 2012 Paralympic Games with 471 medal events on the programme, spread across 20 sports.

Like the first mini-sheet to be issued for the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the Paralympic sheet also features a quartet of sports.

This sees Powerlifting, Athletics, Wheelchair Basketball and Cycling ‘merged’ with five iconic London landmarks: St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge, the Olympic Stadium, the Palace of Westminster and the London Eye.

Once again, to bring out the very best of these striking composite images, Royal Mail is using one of its widest formats for the mini-sheet, which contains two 1st class stamps and two £1.28 stamps.

The two 1st Class stamps feature an athlete wearing running blades heading towards the Olympic Stadium, and a Wheelchair Basketball player ‘aiming’ a ball towards the Palace of Westminster.

The 1st class stamps: an athlete wearing running blades with the Olympic Stadium, and a Wheelchair Basketball player with the Palace of Westminster.

The 1st class stamps: an athlete wearing running blades with the Olympic Stadium, and a Wheelchair Basketball player with the Palace of Westminster.

The £1.28 stamps show a Paralympic powerlifter with a view of St Paul’s Cathedral and the Millennium Bridge, together with a cyclist on his specially adapted bike heading towards London’s iconic Ferris wheel the London Eye.

The £1.28 stamps: a powerlifter with St Paul's Cathedral, and a cyclist with the London Eye.

The £1.28 stamps: a powerlifter with St Paul’s Cathedral, and a cyclist with the London Eye.

Further Paralympics stamps will be issued to mark the achievements of all of Team GB’s Gold Medal Winners, as they were for the Olympic Games. Similarly, all Gold Medal-winning Paralympians will also be honoured with a Gold Post Box in their hometown.

The new London 2012 Paralympic Games stamps and stamp products are available at most Post Office branches, online at www.royalmail.com/bethefirst and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 08457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB.

Visit our website to see stamps and stamp artwork from the 1948 London Olympic Games.

The first British Olympic gold medal winner on stamps

The victories of Helen Glover and Heather Stanning in the Women’s Pairs Rowing, and Bradley Wiggins in the Cycling: Road Men’s Time Trial yesterday has not only earned them Great Britain’s first gold medals of the London 2012 Olympic Games, but will see them appear on stamps issued today. This makes Glover, Stanning and Wiggins the second, third and fourth British Olympians (we think!) to appear on a British stamp, and amongst the few living people to ever appear on a British stamp.

Gold Medal Winner stamp featuring Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, Rowing Women's Pairs

Gold Medal Winner stamp featuring Helen Glover and Heather Stanning, Rowing Women’s Pairs

Gold Medal Winner stamp featuring Bradley Wiggins, Cycling: Road Men's Time Trial.

Gold Medal Winner stamp featuring Bradley Wiggins, Cycling: Road Men’s Time Trial.

Until relatively recently it was Royal Mail’s policy not to issue stamps featuring living people, with members of the Royal family being the only exception to the rule. But in the past decade or so we have seen many British sporting victories commemorated on stamps, including England’s victory at the 2005 Ashes cricket series.

The first British Olympian to appear on a stamp was Mark Phillips, a member of the three day event team which won a gold medal at the 1972 Munich Olympics. In 1973 Mark Phillips married a fellow horse-riding champion, Princess Anne, who later represented Great Britain at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

The wedding of Princess Anne and Mark Phillips, then a Captain in the 1st Queen’s Dragoon Guards, took place at Westminster Abbey on 14th November 1973. These stamps, based on a photograph by royal photographer Lord Lichfield, were issued to celebrate the event, which was watched on television by around 100 million people worldwide.

Royal Wedding Stamps, 14 November 1973 - Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.

Royal Wedding Stamps, 14 November 1973 – Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips.

Mark Phillips later competed as part of the British Three-Day Event team at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, winning a silver medal. The couple’s daughter Zara Phillips was part of the British Eventing team which won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games on Tuesday – the medal was even presented to her by her mother.

As to why we think Glover, Stanning and Wiggins are the second, third and fourth British Olympians to appear on a British stamp, our Curator of Philately points out that there have been “too many crowd scenes of youngsters who may have grown up to do something” on British stamps for us to be sure. If you have any information on this please let us know by leaving a comment.

Stamps featuring all Great Britain’s gold medal winners will be issued within 24 hours of victory. Visit your Post Office today to buy the Heather Glover and Heather Stanning, and Bradley Wiggins stamps, or buy online at www.royalmail.com/goldmedalstamps.

Welcome to the London 2012 Olympic Games!

To commemorate the opening of the London 2012 Olympic Games this evening Royal Mail are issuing a special mini-sheet of stamps.

Welcome to the London 2012 Olympic Games miniature sheet

Welcome to the London 2012 Olympic Games miniature sheet

The sheet of four stamps features a quartet of Olympic sports: Diving, Fencing, Athletics and Cycling ‘merged’ with four iconic London landmarks: Tate Modern, Tower Bridge, the Olympic Stadium and the London Eye.

To bring out the best of these striking composite images Royal Mail is using one of its widest formats for the mini-sheet which contains two 1st class stamps and two £1.28 stamps.

The two 1st Class stamps feature a fencer’s lunge meeting the walkway of Tower Bridge, while runners powering round the curve of a track, ‘run’ into the Olympic Stadium.

Welcome to the London 2012 Olympic Games - 1st class stamps

The £1.28 stamps show a diver’s arrow-like vertical descent mirroring Tate Modern’s imposing 325 foot chimney, while the London Eye’s iconic Ferris Wheel becomes the front wheel of an Olympic racing bike.

Welcome to the London 2012 Olympic Games - £1.28 stamps

Royal Mail have already issued a number of other London 2012 Olympic Games commemorative stamps, and it was recently announced that British Olympic and Paralympic gold medal winners will appear on stamps.

The new London 2012 stamps and stamp products are available at most Post Office branches, online at www.royalmail.com/bethefirst and from Royal Mail Tallents House (tel. 08457 641 641), 21 South Gyle Crescent, Edinburgh, EH12 9PB.

Visit our website to see stamps and stamp artwork from the 1948 London Olympic Games.

Post Office Olympians

by Richard Wade, Archives Assistant

The Post Office has always had many clubs and associations that its staff could get involved with, especially where sport was concerned. Most large offices had their own football, cricket or tennis teams, and Post Office staff have taken part in many other sporting championships besides.

Most of these sports had countrywide postal leagues such as the Courier Cup. There was also a Civil Service athletics championship in which postal workers often featured, and there were regional athletics competitions within the Post Office.

An article from Courier magazine (October 1968) about Post Office employees competing at the Mexico City Olympics.

An article from Courier magazine (October 1968) about Post Office employees competing at the Mexico City Olympics.

Given how seriously sport was taken it is perhaps unsurprising that there were more than a few people from the Post Office chosen to represent Great Britain in the Olympic Games. These athlete’s achievements were celebrated in the Post Office staff magazines, and by looking through these one can find out about a lot of the people that were chosen and their athletic achievements.

The following list should represent the large number and diversity of the Post Office’s Olympians. Only a very small handful of medals were gained by Post Office employees, but there were a lot of people who either took part or were shortlisted for the Games.

It is not always clear what happened to individual athletes, but if any information about their results is known it is included. If nothing is given then they certainly did not win any medals and in many cases may not have reached the final selection of athletes.

The period covered is from 1936 to 1988, excluding the war years when there were no Olympic Games. Before 1936, the staff magazines were in a different format and did not really celebrate the achievements of particular staff in the same way. Ending in 1988 gives a period of roughly 50 years which were studied and seemed a sensible place to stop as after this time; the Olympics really became dominated by professional athletes and the chances of anyone from the Post Office taking part would have been much smaller.

1936 – Berlin

  • Mr A. J. Norris from the Savings Bank department was chosen for the marathon. He had already won the Post Office’s polytechnic marathon several times.
  • From the Money Order department was Miss B. O. Crowe who was selected for the Women’s Gymnastic team.

1948 – London

  • This year had a poor showing, which was a shame considering these games were in London. The only person selected was Mr G. F. Ward for the 10m high board diving. He worked as a clerical officer in the Savings Bank department and already held the title for the Men’s High Diving Championship in England.

1952 – Helsinki

  • Mr K. A. Richmond, a Night Telephonist from London Telegraph Region Directory Enquiries, was selected for the Heavyweight Wrestling and took the bronze medal.

1956 – Melbourne and 1960 – Rome

There was nobody selected from the Post Office at all in 1956 or 1960, but these were the only two Olympic Games where this happened during the period I looked at.

1964 – Tokyo

The first of several Olympic Games where the Post Office was well represented:

  • Maureen Tranter, a telephonist at Wolverhampton, was shortlisted for the 220yd relay and went out to Tokyo, but in the end was not selected. At the age of 17 she was still young and had potential, as can be seen by her appearances in future games.
  • Ray Middleton from Golders Green Sub-District Office was selected for the 50km walk and finished 12th place out of 32.
  • Syvanus Blackman, a postman from Acton Sub-District Office, took part in the Light Heavyweight weightlifting and finished 10th place.
  • Kenneth Hill from the Postal and Telegraph Office in Liverpool reached the shortlist for the cycling team, but there are no further references to him, so presumably he was not chosen to go to Tokyo.

1968 – Mexico City

This seems to have been a good year for the Post Office with four people going out to represent Britain. Unfortunately, they did not bring any medals back with them, although several personal bests were achieved.

  • Maureen Tranter tried again, this time for the 200m sprint and the sprint relay. She got a personal best time of 23.5 seconds in the 200m sprint, bit it wasn’t enough for a medal.
  • Syvanus Blackman also entered in the weightlifting for a second time.
  • Mike Bull was the son of John Bull, who was a Belfast telephonist. Mike was entered for the pole vault. He managed 16’5″, a British record, but still one foot short of the winner and not enough for a medal.
  • Robin Baskerville, the son of Sid Baskerville (an Information Officer at Royal Mail Headquarters) was entered for high board diving and took part in the heats, but failed to qualify for the final.
An article about Post Office employees competing at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics from Courier magazine, October 1968.

An article about Post Office employees competing at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics from Courier magazine, October 1968.

1972- Munich

  • Maureen Tranter went out for the third time, this time in the 4 x 400m relay.
  • Phil Griffiths, a technician from Stoke on Trent, was a participant in the cycling.
  • Alan Almond, a technical officer, was a participant in the coxed fours.
  • Brian Brinkley, who was the son of Corinne Brinkley (a cleaner at the Head Post Office) entered in the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle swimming. He competed in the heats, but did not reach the final. Interestingly, he went on to win bronze with three others in the 4x200m relay and reached the final for the 200m butterfly in the 1976 Olympics, but this does not appear in the magazine. Maybe he had left the Post Office in between.
  • Nick Nearchou, a senior mechanic in the London Postal Region, entered for weightlifting.
  • This is more of a sideline, but a notable achievement all the same so deserves a mention: the Olympics for the handicapped at this time took place every two years in Brussels. In this year, Jim Gladman, a night telephonist from Torquay, gained silver in the table tennis, a bronze in the shot put and came fourth in the discus.

1976- Montreal

  • Mary Stewart, a clerical officer, entered in the 1500m.
  • Phil Griffiths entered again in the cycling with Trevor Gadd, both of them technicians. Trevor finished 12th place in the men’s individual pursuit.
  • Peter Weston did not take part himself in the Olympics but did manage the archery team that represented Great Britain. He was a Technical Officer at London Telecoms West. The highest place reached by any of the archery team that year was 21st.

1980- Moscow

  • There was a possible Olympic hopeful in Steve Cronshaw, but it wasn’t clear whether he went to the Olympics, just that he was a strong contender to be selected.

1984- Los Angeles

  • Dennis Jackson and Benny Graham were both hopefuls for the 50km Road Walking, but again, but neither of them made the final selection.
  • Arthur Spencer, a Doncaster Sub-Post Office Assistant, finished 28th place in the free pistol shooting.

1988- Seoul

  • Mike Jones, who was a Security Driver at the Redhill Mechanised Letter Office, represented us in the hammer throw, but he did not make it through to the final.
  • In the Paralympics of that year however, Ian Hayden won gold in the javelin and discus and took silver in the shot put. He was an equal opportunities officer at Royal Mail Oxford.

As can be seen, although very few medals were brought back, the Post Office had quite a strong presence in the Olympic Games and considering they were competing against the world’s best, they did pretty well. In all the years researched, bar two, there was somebody representing the Post Office and in some cases there were several. There can not be many employers with that sort of a record.

As has been written at the beginning, this is only the tip of the iceberg as far as Post Office sport goes. There were also many national, international and regional competitions that Post Office employees took part in and the Post Office’s own sports leagues, all of which are reported on in the staff magazines, copies of which can be found here at the British Postal Museum and Archive.

For more information on other sporting heroes of the Post Office, including Albert ‘Tiny’ Sangwine who represented England at the 1924 Paris Olympics, please see the BPMA’s online exhibition Playing for the Cup.