Thursday, April 2, 2009

I went back to the Pete Goss Page

I read this wonderful explanation for bringing his teenage son on a trip from Cornwall, UK to Australia. This is to the point and quite proper without the bad language I would use:

I would like to use an image from the website, but it would not be fair. Go to
Pete Goss's site to view it.

Taking my son on this trip has often prompted questions that skirt around risk and it's a hard one to answer. The question makes for a good sound bite whereas the answer when considered from a broader perspective goes far deeper than the project. The first point to make though is that I take any life as seriously as the next so a complete stranger would get the same sense of responsibility as a family member. With the lack of emotional ties it would be a bit more dispassionate perhaps but none the less considered on the same footing.

With birth comes the gift of a period of time known as your life and what ones does within that period is the sole responsibility of the individual. No child is 'yours' as a parent for you have but the privilege of being custodian of a short but very formative period of that person's life. Up until they are able and willing to take it into their own hands and do with it what they will. It's a wonderful privilege but as a new parent you quickly realise that the word 'responsibility' has just taken on a new depth and breadth of complexity than you had ever thought possible. Parenting has too many variables and different cultural outcomes to be a science; every child is different and that is where judgment comes into it and for all the advice that judgment is yours and yours alone.

To me the job of a parent is to prepare your child as best as you can for the big outside world and to open their eyes as to what a wonderful place it is, to understand and value what a hug really means, to care, to put others before yourself and above all to enjoy. There are two routes to education; the University of Knowledge and the University of Life, and in modern society one can't help but feel that the University of Life is being overlooked in the quest for paper certificates. As important as they are it should not be forgotten that they are by definition quite narrow. Despite being programmed into the formative years the reality is they can be taken at anytime in life. The University of Life on the other hand cannot be programmed and throws up once in a lifetime lessons at the most inconvenient of times. If you fall back on the convenience of legitimate excuses and don't grab them they are gone forever.

We have taken Eliot out of school for six months on the view that the lessons of life from the unique nature of this trip will far outweigh what he will miss in a classroom. This, I must confess is also based on the fact that like me he is not particularly academic and spends all day waiting for the last bell. Our hope is that from this experience he will be able to look at the bigger picture of his life and realise that the University of Knowledge does have great value and that he will start to take it more seriously. I wish I had but of course that's up to him and him alone for as we all know you can take a horse to water but you can't make it drink. As ever it all comes back to individual responsibility.

One of the things I wanted for Eliot out of this voyage was to get out there and live it rather than watch others doing it on an electronic box in the corner of the room. Although he is the lad on board he has had to take responsibility for his watch through the thick and thin of the trip from being tired to seasick. You can't do half a job out here, it is either done, and up to standard, or it isn't; there is no well done for 'seventy percent'. It's a case of get back up here and do it again and again until it is done properly. That's the real world and I wonder if this is being lost in our modern society of blame, litigation and mediocrity.

When you talk about risk on this trip it is a narrow and easily answered question. I have a policy of never going into the southern ocean unless I have had the boat built for the job and know every nut and bolt that has gone into it and I know and trust the people who have put them in. Spirit of Mystery is a tried and tested design built by an amazing team under Chris Rees. We set out on a training curve that culminated in Cape Town. It was there that we made the final and measured decision to take on the last and most testing leg to Melbourne. As Tracey says: "there are lot of street corners in modern society that pose far more corrosive risks and influences than that which will be found in the southern ocean." Eliot has the best safety equipment and his father and uncles around him for this journey and has thoroughly enjoyed the experience. His participation is completely voluntary in that at all times he has had the opportunity to drop out if he found it was not for him. You don't know until you try but try you must.

So I don't see it as a huge risk. I see it as a gift, a very special gift that as a parent I feel privileged to be able to both give and participate with him. It has made us closer and if you go back to the bigger picture of parental responsibility and the complexity of the modern world that kids have to face, the greater risk would have been not to take him. Might it have been Eliot's leg, of course not; for a start a fourteen year olds arms are just not strong enough for the tiller when it's really rough but beyond that there is no way we would have put him on deck at that time. His job was to support us from below.

It is this view, sometimes seen as eccentric that draws me to Cornwall Playing for Success for it is a programme that uses the University of Life to impart the University of Knowledge. The kids love it, it has immense impact and it has been a privilege to be able to offer this project as a fulcrum for learning through the programme. As I have said about all my projects: "if at the end of all this we have encouraged one youngster to go that extra mile then it will have been worthwhile." I think we have.

My life has been a very unorthodox one, and I wish my father was on the same wavelength as me, and that we could have been doing the boating thing in Northern California.

Pete Goss ROCKS!!!!

Note: I just reread this a few minutes after posting.

I think boating can greatly assist family cohesiveness and it would have been fun if we could have even had access to 16 foot fishing boats. (Even though we couldn't afford such extravagances!

Sorry we don't have kids to share adventures with.

But you can tell the Goss family will have plenty of memories to bind them with each other, and this will last a lifetime.

I am really wishing I could take off, again.

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