Why are we doing this?

The idea began in the mind of one man.

Vince Hagedorn ordered the BMW i3, in secret, for his wife Carole as a gift. It fitted and exceeded the specifications Carole gave for when her Motability car had to be returned. The BMW i3 is fully-electric and offers an incomparable, almost silent driving experience, oh and it is also locally emission-free. BMW say that a fully charged battery gives the i3 a range of up to 100 miles, the interesting part is the range extender; a small, smooth-running combustion engine that runs on unleaded petrol. This acts as a generator, which maintains the charge of the battery so that the i3 can continue to drive electrically up to 186 miles with just one 9 litre tank of fuel. Don’t forget the acceleration of 0 to 62mph in 7.2 seconds!

The car was due to arrive for when Carole left hospital.

“Carole became a teacher after her PGCE at kings London and taught French and German in a number of schools rising to be head of department at Finchley VIth form college before our son Alex who is now 24 was born.

She always had excellent relations with her students and at her last school, King Edward VIth Chelmsford, hit that happy mixture of academic prowess mixed with a kindly and generous nature that made her a superstar teacher.  Plaudits have flooded in from her former charges.

In 2008 lightening struck out of a clear sky and she was faced with an industrial disease caused by inhaling asbestos during her teaching career. Not only had we never heard of Mesothelioma but neither of us could even pronounce it at first, despite her linguistic expertise.

With a prognosis of six to eighteen months things were initially bleak, but she carried on with commitments like the DofE expeditions for which she studied applied common sense and first aid. That she had become a lover of the great outdoors would come as a surprise to her contemporaries at Newnham according to her two college friends Naomi Segal and Jill Horton with whom she maintained regular contact and frequent meals out.

Inspired by Michael Lees, who lost his teacher wife Gina to Mesothelioma some years ago, Carole threw herself into fighting to have asbestos made safe in schools.  Her speech to NASUWT in 2009 was given a standing ovation and compelled the hesitant Executive to join with all other teaching and support staff unions in the JUAC. This is the only issue on which all the unions work together without limits and her continued contribution to this and the wider asbestos in schools campaign (AiS) was inspirational in the highest sense of the word.

In 2009 she was very fortunate in being given a place on a US trial which was a precursor of the current gene therapy techniques being used on other forms of cancer and involving deactivated viruses as a transport. The interferon reaction was stimulated so successfully that it was nearly enough to kill her, but she pulled through and after a period of recuperation went to a surgeon in Guy’s who performed a pleurectomy and decortication that left her in constant pain, adequately controlled by drugs, but removed the greater part of the tumour cells.

This time the recovery was very slow but through sheer life force and will power she recovered in 10 months to resume her bucket list, with me as accomplice. This involved trips to the USA west coast, Hawaii, las Vegas (for the shopping, though she played a mean hand at poker!),  the French Alps twice, the Carribean three times including Cuba, cruises to Casablanca, Turkey, St Petersburg, the Fjiords, then Ireland, Iceland and the Faroes, a cruise up the Nile and finally in April this year a three week tour of China, which she really loved.

She returned from China clutching a toy panda that stayed with her from there on. 

But things had started to change. On 20th April she came back from China with abdominal pains and following scans, hospital and hospice visits and the best efforts of her physicians she declined rapidly and succumbed to a heart attack on 20th June this year.

Tributes poured in from all over the world as she was well known for her TV, radio and conference speeches on the dangers of asbestos in schools and was in the 1% of sufferers who survived the diagnosis for five years.

She leaves me and our son Alex, her stepson Richard, stepdaughter Margaret, granddaughter Aletia and granddson James with the most vivid memories of her love, lively mind, sense of humour and dedication to travel. But to the many friends and relatives, students, oppressed union members, colleagues and fellow campaigners against the devastating failure to clear asbestos fibres from the air children and their teachers breathe she also leaves hope and the certainty that a good life, well lived never truly dies.” – Vince Hagedorn

Carole never knew of the gift that arrived a few days later.

Vince made the painful and difficult decision to keep the car in tribute to his wife and carry on the message of making asbestos safe in our schools.

The Great North Hum is a journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats in the BMW i3 electric car. We will be using the event to raise awareness and funds for Mesothelioma UK while simultaneously discovering whether the UK is ready for the electric car. This has never been attempted before, so far as we know, we don’t even know if it’s possible, but we’re going to try anyway. Will the range of the electric engine truly last 100 miles? Will the range extender take us further? There is of course only one way to find out.

On the 8th September 2014 Vince and I will begin our journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats. I am acting as navigator alongside him… we may be taking a few small detours, during our not so well planned trip, so as to not miss out on the beauty of the places we will be passing (just to make it that more difficult!). Oh and we won’t be using motorways either… because that would be boring.

I will be updating this blog along the way to record the high and lows, the hilarities, trials and tribulations, tears, exhaustion, determination and pure joy of undertaking such a worth while journey for a great cause. Please donate to our ‘just giving’ page by clicking here.

4 thoughts on “Why are we doing this?

  1. Vince, it was a pleasure talking to you last night.
    I hope the run goes ok – with German engineering behind you it should…
    We should catch up when you are back home again.
    Best wishes
    David Clarke

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Vince

    You may remember me from Bancrofts ; you were my form teacher for a couple of years and also my maths teacher. Carole was my first form teacher and also my French teacher for my first two years. By one of those strange coincidences in life, I was thinking of both of you just the other day as my own son, now aged 13, is at the same stage, which has brought many of my school memories back very clearly. As well as recalling how happy I was for almost all of my time at Bancrofts, my son’s experience makes me realise just how excellent was the teaching I received from both of you, with the expectation of rigorous standards, but always coupled with good humour and the personal touch. In fact, I have just got back from holiday in France and was reflecting on how well I was taught French; I used a reflexive construction and a future construction and can remember the exact day and the exact way in which Carole taught me. I hope she might have been proud of her pupil, if only for the lifelong pleasure I have taken in speaking French. (I am sorry I cannot say the same for mathematics). Carole was a brilliant teacher, able to deal with all levels of ability (and behaviour) with an exactly – judged touch. Some of the funniest episodes of my schooldays took place in her classroom (remind me to tell you the David Johnson story one day) and she had a superb rapport with her pupils, but never for a moment did she compromise her expectations of excellence or her discipline in the classroom. I was shattered to come back from holiday and read of her tragically early death and I offer you and your family my most sincere condolences. I wish you every success on the Great North Hum and will keep you and her memory in my thoughts in the weeks to come.

    With all good wishes,
    Mark Brafield (Bancrofts, 1973 – 1980).


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