• Raising funds for life-changing projects
  • supporting disadvantaged and disabled children.
Arctic Rugby Challenge
Wooden Spoon

Raised

300,000

Target

£300,000

or Text DMAC59 £5 to 70070
This pioneering expedition will raise £300,000 for Wooden Spoon, the children’s charity of rugby, which funds life-changing projects across the UK and Ireland to support disadvantaged and disabled children.

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The Challenge

This April, 14 brave men will trek 100 miles to the Magnetic North Pole to break a Guinness World Record by playing rugby on the northern most part of the world. This pioneering expedition seeks to raise in excess of £300,000 for Wooden Spoon, the children’s charity of rugby. The challenge will be led by the world class maritime polar adventurer, Jock Wishart who will be joined by former Rugby Union Internationals, Tim Stimpson (England and Leicester Tigers), Ollie Phillips (England 7s and Gloucester winger) and former England and British Lions player Lee Mears.

LMAX Exchange, the FCA regulated MTF for FX, is sponsoring the Arctic Rugby Challenge, David Mercer, CEO of LMAX Exchange commented: “This challenge is a once in a lifetime opportunity to embark on a challenging expedition with Jock whilst raising money to help make a difference to the lives of disadvantaged children and young people. The financial services industry has endured some stormy headlines in recent years, but hopefully initiatives like this one show that we can also be a force for some good in the world. I am excited by these challenges, and pleased that LMAX Exchange is able to play a role in making this happen.”

Trek Route

The team, led by Jock will set out from Resolute Bay, Canada in the middle of April 2015 to trek up to 100 miles to one of the furthest places north on the planet, the certified position of the Magnetic North Pole in just 7 days. Challengers are likely to encounter bitter winds and may have to overcome possible problems of open water and be aware of the very real danger of polar bears. Once the teams arrive at their final destination they will play the northernmost rugby match in history, captained by rugby legends, Tim and Ollie.

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Blog

For the record…..…

July 29, 2015
by David Mercer

Boring deep into my soul from behind those expressionless dark vacant eyes Dexter asks “So Merce, how many other world records do you have?” I stare back for only a second feeling like the naughty boy caught red handed with 10 Marlboro by the teacher. I search for an exit – emmm…. But there it is, 5 of us crammed in a 3 man tent, -35C outside and 400kms from any other human life-form. Can I blag it?  Would the purple Ronny allergy to painkillers work…. What about the 52 pint Guinness evening…… Maybe the man with biggest aversion to the cold and tents being stuck here with our resident slayer could get in there somewhere? Oh how I wished I’d joined the big fellas on their Big Mac for a dollar competition back in ’88 …. Us Halfbacks managed a meagre three whilst the units ploughed their way to double figures….. Yikes……. I’m a failure I have to admit. 44 years and not a hot dog eating balloon popping ice diving record to my name…… “None, Dex……, you?” “None David…….” What the #@&% …… Why ask? Why stare …… Why put me through this whole minute’s fear of ostracism…… Go on …. Ask me now Dex……. ? Hooha…. We’ve only gone and done it…… Officially the Most Northerly game of rugby ever … 78 degrees North…. Yup …. The Magnetic North Pole. Of course you can go to the geographic at 90 degrees and beat us…. Good luck with that…….. I’ll even raise a glass to you from the fireside. For now….. Thank you to everyone who supported us ……. Together we made a difference to those less fortunate ….. And No, don’t call me if you’re considering the 90 degree trek! I’m officially retired 23 years after my last rugby retirement – it’s for the good of the game, believe me! Thanks again folks. Over and out.

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Well done – what’s next?…

May 1, 2015
by David Mercer

Well done – what’s next? The South Pole? Do you want to row the Atlantic? Hold on folks – let’s not forget I am a desk monkey softie – self confessed and fully embraced. I like hotels that ask you what type of pillow you want. Over here it’s hard and cold or rock hard and icy cold? I like to turn left and sit by the window – over here it’s behind or beside the cargo? I like pilots to stroll down the aisle not have two of them hold hands to push the accelerator as you lift through the clouds. “Maybe I reply”. Really …. I heard myself say it …… What a wassock ! A rugby match at the equator – walk there obviously – an invitation to a new race rowing the Mediterranean. I accept. NO David – manicures, pedicures and Clinique moisturiser …. That’s your style…. Remember …. 44 years on this planet and now you think you can walk on water like the old fella with a beard – I know I’ve got a beard but I can’t remember ever turning water into wine without the use of a MasterCard ! Did you know – we walked 100,000 steps on water …… For 99,500 of those I hoped his pal from the burning bush turned up and split the Arctic Ocean but you forget. Steve Redgrave – “if anyone ever sees me in a boat again they have my permission to shoot me”…. He rowed in the Olympics 4 years later. Well, you have my permission to confiscate my hair gel! Post event deflation they call it. What’s next? Are you ready has transitioned into what’s next? Next should be sun drenched beaches and piña colados And $30 for a club sandwich but no, I feel drawn to the extreme. In the midst of any mountain you tell yourself you’ll never do it again but 3 days on all you remember is the euphoria, the natural high that no substance could possibly take you to. 3 days ago on the Noice peninsula with a frozen moustache, searching for air in my lungs, quadriceps longing for just a 1000 squats on a Sunday, hamstrings tweaking like a Stradivarius I told myself never again. But there it is – the achievement….. You’re only down here once. I’ll have a seat with the cargo, a room with no view, bathroom outside, shower in a frozen wet wipe pack and boil in the bag gloop please! Bring it on ……. Who needs hair gel anyway!

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One small step for man…

April 30, 2015
by David Mercer

One small step for man …… One more painful step for a ‘not so tough’ man of the Arctic. 100,000 steps …… A tight Achilles here, a tweaking hamstring there, lower back, upper back, lactic in the calves. Man up for goodness sakes – it’s a walk. It’s a hard walk tho. On the final day with 12.8 miles to do I swear we counted every step. A barren white digestive biscuit crunchy landscape ….. Walking on the moon…… Every step closer …. Appreciate this you tell yourself …. No one ahead …. For a second you transport yourself to the mind of Neil Armstrong in 1969….. A virginal footstep in pure lunar like expanse. I love it – I hate it – lets just get there – the isolation, the beautiful solitude …. The sheer bloody monotony……. Wow! followed by – mindlessness like 500 lines in detention ( I may have done that once or twice – my first ever published essay – ‘if I were a daffodil’ – thanks TTD). You can choose to live it and love it or hide from it and hate it. On balance I chose the former – who else trod this exact step – maybe no-one before, maybe no-one behind. Where else can I do that? But the low spots are there – no great contrast in undulation, no monolithic rock formation, no outbreak of colour – just White – pure white – clean…… A sea frozen in time …. Allow yourself to be transported to a frothing, swirling, angry sea….. Whirlpools and breakers ….. STOP right there…..a freeze frame……. With no fast forward button…… Another step ……. Wade through this icy matrix ……. Another step closer……

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Nothing can prepare you…

April 29, 2015
by David Mercer

It stings – this harsh unrelenting wind makes the lightest feathery flake feel like needles inserted relentlessly into your skin……. I wrote that before we took off for the trek as the start of a blog on the go…. Having now lived it….. I can tell you It doesn’t and nothing can prepare you …… The snow is your friend, it’s chum, the cold, is your jilted lover ….. This cold destroys men …. All men….  maybe even women too…. 1 minute outside; skin exposed and first you can’t feel anything and then it hurts like hell. You’re trying to erect a tent with two lumps of strangely solid but useless corpses of blancmange at the end of your wrists. ‘Serious’ announces … “Come on guys – we need to get warm and get the stoves on” Duh…. Like we don’t feckin know that Steve…. Well that’s in my head …. In truth the words ‘Yes Steve’ inexplicably leave my normally disobedient lips. What’s happening to me! Mercer Acquiescence…. Surely not! ‘Cmon boyz’ ….. Look at my step shouts the ever ebullient Gary Gung Ho…. He loves a workout does our Captain Birdseye. Useless at sticking a tent up but if ever you need a presidential entrance to the worst room in town …. Call Gazza! Limp, lifeless…. Useless …. Yes Ranulph… I can see how you chopped them off….. It hurts…… Not the snow….. This never before experienced, chilled to the soul, cold……. You know how you beat it? … You don’t …. It wins every time but you fight, You fight until you somehow squeeze two blancmanges into solids and get one tent pole in then another and half an hour or 12 poles later you have some semblance of refuge….. If you haven’t done a Ranulph that is….. Yup …… It hurts

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LIVE Arctic Sat Update #7 – Game day!…

April 28, 2015
by David Mercer

Transcript:
David Mercer: Checking in, at around mid-day arctic time, we’ve just arrived at the LMAX Exchange arctic stadium, we’ve set up camp. We’ve now have to make the runway, layout flat bin bags so the plane can land. We’re all having pre-match fuel on-board, bit of carb loading, the guys are just starting to get into game mode, keep their mind’s eye what they’re going to do out there today on the park. It looks like a very hard park, very white park, we all looking forward to it, and let the game commence, let the best team win. I’m very doubtful that team Stimpson, have got much chance today, (bit out of condition!) but team Ollie is pumped, primed and ready to go. We’ve got bright blue skies, so we’re very hopeful of the spectator plane arriving along with our posts and stuff that we need to mark out the pitch, that’ll all have to be done in an hour and half, so it’s going to be a bit like groundsmen on speed, let’s get it on!!

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LIVE Arctic Challenge Sat Phone Update #6…

April 28, 2015
by David Mercer

Transcript:
Steven Henry: Hi this is Steven Henry.. doing the LMAX Blog for the Arctic Rugby Challenge. We are at the magnetic North Pole. (Background cheers) We made it. We’re all alive – none dead! We worked our Black Magic got away with no casualties! We’re in the tent with 2 rugby legends (and a couple of other geezers) Tim Stimpson and Ollie Phillips. We’ve all had an amazing day. The scenery is spectacular. All enjoyed it. Didn’t want it to end… Tim – tell us about your day… Tim Stimpson: Summing up the elation of the group, I got to say on behalf of Wooden Spoon – a massive thank you to LMAX – it’s been a rocky road if you like for a year and a half, but finally to get here, eleven guys, put a year and a half’s work and fundraising into this, and they slaved away. But we’ve been blessed with fantastic weather on most of the days. Yesterday was incredibly difficult. But today was y’know – you have to see the videos to really understand, but basically in the wilderness with the sun on our backs, walking till we found the magnetic North Pole. As one we crossed the line and then celebrated. Massive relief that we could get here, and then tomorrow obviously we’ve got another challenge of breaking the world record for everybody, and playing the most northerly ever game of rugby. So thanks to everyone at LMAX for all the work you do supporting us and disadvantaged kids, we really appreciate it. It’s been a fantastic trip and we’re determined to work with you in the future. So I’ll pass you over to Ollie Phillips who’ll sum up the views of the younger generation!! Ollie Phillips: Yeah thanks Tim. This is the ever so youthful Ollie Phillips here. Single yeah – and ready to mingle as they say! It’s clear to see that LMAX, with a CEO like David Mercer, are very charitable indeed. Because anyone that can look after him and manage him is clearly very giving! So thank you to you guys – just echoing what Tim says form the fact that without LMAX we wouldn’t be here, and without LMAX we wouldn’t be currently sitting and joking around on top of the world. Life is all about creating great memories and Wooden Spoon does that for disadvantaged children, and LMAX is playing an instrumental role in allowing that to happen. So thank you ever so much to you guys. As always it’s a laugh a minute on this tour. There’s been ups and downs as always, but we’ve finally crossed over that North Pole and now be gearing up to set a world record tomorrow – it’s a fantastic feeling inside the tent… I think the euphoria has spilled over for certain. And there’s been a wager already accepted by a certain individual who will remain nameless in the party – but there is in the future going to be an LMAX branded backside kicking around as he’s agreed to have LMAX tattooed, in order to raise money for the charity, on his bottom. It’s all varied, the ups and downs, the yo-yos of this roller coaster ride that is the Arctic Rugby Challenge – but what is clear is that we’ve come out stronger and a fantastic group, friends for life, I genuinely mean that – it’s been a brilliant experience. And it carries on tomorrow with us doing something that nobody has ever done in the history of mankind, and that is to play rugby at the North Pole. That is an incredible feeling, that we’re going to be first people to do that and LMAX is going to be a lead part of that. So I think it’s only fitting that it’s summed up by your CEO, the one and only, David Mercer. David Mercer: Thanks boys – and just to be clear – it’s not my backside!!! I think these 2 legends have done their bit and looked after me for 2 weeks but you’ve got to hand me back… <transmission ends>

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LIVE Arctic Challenge Sat Phone Update #5…

April 28, 2015
by David Mercer

Transcript:
Good evening LMAX! It’s 6:30pm local time, on Monday the 22 April, we’ve just made the Magnetic North Pole. All safe and sound, we’re all in one place. We’re now making camp before 11 tired bodies settle down for the evening. We’ll call again later, when we’re all together. One last thing… Yeeehaaa!

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Mrs McGuire…

April 28, 2015
by David Mercer

Achilles pulsating, lower back burning, lungs on fire, not another step…. Ok, another step. Why does Touchy walk so slowly…..the tip of my ski banging into the back of his barreling pulk…. 2 days of this….. 2 days of resisting the urge to overtake, utter some expletive filled diatribe at him or even offer one quick short elbow to the Adam’s apple. What is the trip doing to me. Tired …. Mentally….. Tired physically …….  Sick of chicken frickasee – what even is that in the real world? I’ll tell you what it is out here – gloop ….. What’s that you demand …. How it sounds …. Gloop gloop gloop….. A stomach churning with gloop….. I’d go back 30 years and relish every mouthful of Mrs McGuire’s haute semolina cuisine….. Kids, eat your murky greens. You know the best bit – you can’t quit; if you quit you die…. Honestly, truly ….. There’s no number 57 coming by in 15 minutes or even 15 hours ! No friendly local on a skidoo….. One more step …. Shift your ar*e Touchy. The gloop awaits.  

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LIVE Arctic Challenge Sat Phone Update #4…

April 27, 2015
by David Mercer

Transcript:
David Mercer: Good evening LMAX, it’s David Mercer, I’m alongside Ollie Philipps, it’s day 12. It’s been a pretty brutal day, so I thought we’d change it up a wee bit, we’ll have a rapid fire session with team captain Ollie Philipps, so here we go. Let’s start. Ollie, on a scale of 1-10, with 1 obviously being pretty awful, and 10 being brilliant, how did you rate today’s trek? Ollie Philipps: Probably about 4, it was pretty brutal, the fact I was acting the rear gunner, I was meant to be looking out for polar bears which have been just non-existent from the moment we arrived here, meant my pace was pretty chequered all way, possibly even a 3. It was sluggish, it was hard work, the wind was in my face, and I was lugging up an hill and constantly waiting left, right and centre for everyone, it was a nightmare – 3. David Mercer: In terms of effort today, how would you rate that, 1 being none 10 being a lot? Ollie Philipps: I would say 8, because it was relentless, we were going up a hill and then the terrain was changing to start with, so there was snow, ice and gravel and then mud – then it went, as we turned the corner, freezing cold wind blew into my face which drove me insane because my beard froze to it. Then we got to the top of one summit and were told we were going to see the flat sea, but as we got to the top of the summit we saw about 7 other hills ahead, it shattered all morale. So, I would say 8, obviously there was some more left in the tank and if I really needed to dig in, I probably could have dug in more, but it was pretty tough. David Mercer: Right, now, Ollie, from 1 – 10, this tent, how do you rate it? Ollie Philipps: Overall, it’s top draw, we kicking nice tents, the bounce is brilliant, we get on well, we’ve got a good combination. The combination normally works that ‘Dexter’ aka Steve Henry comes in and cooks and cleans for everyone, Ollie Philipps does all the hard grunt, gets tent prepared, sorts the bags and David Mercer has a fag, that’s normally how it works. However, today I would probably rank us at around a 5 maybe a 4, because the cog wheels were working incredibly well, it was well oiled mechanics as usual, Dexter and Ollie working seamlessly, however David Mercer this time blew a gasket and we lost a cog, unfortunately it flipped out, he swore eff and blinded for about 2 minutes, occasionally at Dexter if he tried to get involved, and then thankfully because we’re at the North Pole and it’s freezing, he cooled down pretty quick. Now we’re back and he’s stroking my bald patch, so we’re alright now, we’ve all kissed and made up. But today, I’d say the tent performance was kicking around 4 – 5. David Mercer: In terms of your tent mates, overall, not today, how do you rate, Steven ‘Dexter’ Henry? Ollie Philipps: Well, I mean, he turns up and he was the silent assassin, and a misunderstood character, and then we realised that what he’s into is just really slaying bodies and dismembering them. Once everyone got to terms with that and dealt with it, and accepted it, we grew to love him, now he’s a living legend. The man sleeps relentlessly, but he’s a phenomenal cook in the kitchen. And then you’ve got, David Mercer, who bowls up with more ‘front’ than Brighton, does very little but says very much, but he’s marmite, you either love him or hate him, I actually don’t like marmite, but I love David Mercer, so go figure? David Mercer: I didn’t pay him to say that!! But he’s got a cheek!! Ollie Phillipps. Ollie Phillipps has got a cheek – he says that Dexter sleeps a lot! We’re talking about Rip Van Winkle here. He sleeps an hour longer than the rest of us… <Transmission ends>

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LIVE Arctic Challenge Sat Phone Update #3…

April 26, 2015
by David Mercer

Transcript:
Ollie Philipps: This is Ollie Philipps and David Mercer on April 25th, day 11 of the Arctic Rugby Challenge, day 2 of our trek, David has asked me to take the reins of his phone, we’ve currently settled down at 10:30pm in our tent, some music going on which is quite nice actually, a bit of a difference from the usual rigmarole that we’ve gotten used to. Today was definitely different to yesterday, I think everyone’s exuberant and enthusiasm from yesterday, was overcome by a little bit of frustration, some tempers have flared up a little bit today, as fatigue has started to set in, it’s going to be an interesting couple of days coming up next. Tomorrow’s meant to be one of the most gruelling that we’re going to have on this trek so far, and we’re trying to cover the same 12 miles that we did today yet the terrain is going to be a lot more challenging, I’m looking forward to seeing how the group responds to that. Generally overall, the group is responding well, everyone’s obviously tired and a few bumps and bruises and a bit of stiffness but morale is still high which is always a positive. There’s been a clash already, as I mentioned, with our leader and one of the challengers, that was resolved, again it’s just a little bit of an insight into some of the difficulties that could crop up, and as fatigue sets in and as people become more irritable and the day to day monotony of the trek. This is a huge, vast open space, magical to look at but can become extremely repetitive and quite mundane after a while because nothing changes and the cold is so biting, the moment you stop and pause to look at things, you do get pretty cold and you do start to freeze over. The challenge is still there, we still have got to get to the pole, we’re not even half way yet, and once we get there we have to set a world record, so we got to stay together, and tomorrow will be the acid test for that, I will pass you over to David now who’s going to add his thoughts and emotions on today and we’ll speak to you tomorrow. David Mercer: Thanks mate – repeating the same thing as we did yesterday takes it’s toll on your body, as Ollie said, it’s a monotonous landscape, it’s an amazing landscape as he said, it really is a frozen sea. Amazing when you look at it, you sort of look at breakers, you look at whirlpools, you looking at the squawls you normally see in the sea, frozen to ice and we walk over it. Also, they remind you of different places at times, you look at it and you picture, like Ollie said it’s like Emperor Darwam. You look at it and you see heads and you see faces, but really it’s just waves frozen. Stunning. Today we crossed our first pressure ridge, I didn’t know what it was before, but basically it’s a wall of ice which is a wall of pressure that has forced the waves up – actually it was a bit tricky to get across that today! We got to do the same all over tomorrow, we’ll sleep well tonight, and we’ve got a few more days of this, that’s about it really. Our tent is a happy tent, it’s a happy camp, we’ll check in again tomorrow, thanks very much, over and out from tent LMAX. Bye bye.

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LIVE Arctic Challenge Sat Phone Update #2…

April 25, 2015
by David Mercer

Transcript:
David Mercer: Good evening from the LMAX arctic tent. It’s 10pm, it’s been a long, hard day. 5 stages, of an hour and half, trekking across what was ultimately a flat sea but it’s also a very undulating sea, you really have got frozen waves, small icy mountains you have to manoeuvre on skis, on foot – stopped every hour and a half for 10 minutes, covered 11.4 nautical miles, we have some very tired people in the tent. None more so than yours truly. Must confess, the 5th leg was difficult, and guess what? We get to do it all over again tomorrow. The alarm is set at 6:30 am, we set off at 9am and trek trek trek. But the good news is, we’ll have made a serious dent in the trek by tomorrow night, now I hand you over to my team captain, the one, the only, ‘Gary Gung Ho’, otherwise known as, Ollie Philipps, for his take on today. Ollie Phillips: Yes, hello one and all back in Shepherd’s Bush, you’ll be pleased to hear your delightful CEO has made it through another day. As usual he rebelled against any sort of unity or authority today and took it up on himself to do whatever he wanted to do in terms of the trek, so he was often 200m in front of everybody, so he could get to puff on that little magic flute of his. Only for it to come and bite him in the backside at the end, as he mentioned, because the fifth leg – round 5, was well and truly a knock out for him, he was stomping around all over the place, he got stroppy with some members of the team, and we had to carry him all the way to the camp site, but in true Mercer style, he’s back on good form, he cooked dinner for the other two of us in the tent this evening, that is a first I think for all sorts, granted it’s boil in the bag. But baby steps, and you have to start somewhere. But in general, the mood is still good, everyone is buoyed that we’ve done 20% if you like, of the overall challenge so far of getting to the pole. The landscape over here is beautiful and breathtaking, yet immensely challenging at the same time, it’s like a lunar landscape. And whilst you look up and marvel at it, you realise just how difficult and challenging it is to manoeuvre and get through. But we keep going, we keep plodding on, we’re all well stocked and well re-fueled, tomorrow is another day and we hope for some more favourable weather so that it doesn’t make it even more complicated, otherwise there’s a good chance we may lose Mercer and his ‘dummy’ aka ‘the magic flute’ for another one. It’s great to have everyone here, especially Mr Mercer, because he’s become a good mate of mine, he’s a ‘tent buddy’, and obviously when it comes to game day, I’m expecting great things from him, as he’s been talking it up for the last 10 days! And telling me how he could have played Ireland 21’s, if it wasn’t for Johnny Sexton and Ronan O’Gara, he probably could have played international rugby, but he’s always good for these big shouts anyway, here he is, I’ll put him back on, because I know he always likes to have the last word – so here he is, Mr. Mercer. David Mercer: I’m chuckling please accept a lot of artistic license from our resident tent comedian, Mr Oliver Philipps! This is David Mercer, checking out, on this fine and bright, ten o’clock at night in the arctic. Night, night.

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LIVE Arctic Challenge Sat Phone Update #1…

April 24, 2015
by David Mercer

Transcript:
Good morning LMAX! This is our first night from near the North Pole, we are 400 miles from the nearest form of habitation, we’re 100 miles from the North Pole, the first night in the ice, it’s all going well, there’s currently 6 of us pinned in one tent, it’s been an emotional day. To the questions of what does this mean to me, and what does it mean to LMAX Exchange, the answer is ‘hell of a lot’, it’s the end of 18 months of preparation, we’re here now, the hard work is ahead of us but we’re safe, we’re well, it’s been an emotional day, we were giving the go at 11am, we finally departed at 4pm, tents are up, we’re fed, we’re watered, now I’ll hand you over to a couple of celebs and other challengers. Hello, it’s Tim Stimpson, just to let you know it’s now 9:30pm, it’s minus 30,  it looks like a lunar landscape with  snow being blown across. The feeling at the camp is of elation, we’re all really relieved to be here, it was frustrating down at the airport, I didn’t think we were going to get away, but Jock Wishart worked a little magic to persuade them, but unfortunately we did lose one of our guys because we were too heavy.  I’ll pass you over to Ollie Philipps to explain…

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Fear…

April 24, 2015
by David Mercer

 If you’re going through hell keep going. Anticipation, excitement and …….yes some fear……. are the mix of emotions this morning as we finally ready ourselves for the off. Despite our modern day metrosexuality we’ve resorted to type and there’s not much talk of the the 4 letter F word. Happy to share moisturiser, discuss manicures and young rod’s preferred hair dye but fear… Hell no. Gung ho Gary’s the whole team unite. But it’s there….. Some go quiet, some pack, re-pack, sleep with their kit, pack and re-pack, some just eat and eat … And eat ….. Seriously where does Rod put it. Sammy the sports star at Bigfoot proportions I can understand but Rod – seriously! There’s chat about polar bears, gallows humour and our lack of guards, trip wires and the fact that about 1 1/2 out of 11 can load and shoot within 20 seconds of having Percy Polar paw at your outer tent! Captains Courageous and Birdseye are convinced they’ll leap on Percy … Bish bosh job done….. Me ….. I just know it’ll be over quick. The bone brittling toe-numbing cold, the icy wind chilling the core of your soul – that’s more feared for me than a bear who’d rather eat a juicy, nurtured plump seal than any of our sinewy British and Irish carb infused gristle. We just don’t know – you can’t fear what you don’t know they say – but that’s exactly what I fear. The unknown. Control freaks don’t like the unknown …… It would appear I may have some control freak traits then – mercer loved ones recoil in shock at this new found theory  ….. ;-) ! But when the unknown becomes the known – that’s what life is about, that’s why we’re here. Experiencing and learning and knowing  – making a tiny baby chimp sized dent in the universe; wouldn’t that be something. One more thing within your control – that’s the goal. Fear it, live it, face it – if we lose, we lose but we gave it the motley crew collective tonne and a half. See you in a week – It’s exciting to be fearful. Ps – rod’s still eating and daycare is still packing….. Me, I’m moisturising!

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Final quiet reflection…

April 23, 2015
by David Mercer

  13:05 everything we need to get us to our goal is packed and loaded. All that is left is heart and what we stand up in. A weird quiet descends but the fear has subsided. Now we need to do this thing. The shallow fickle modern day bride that is social media and video snippets caught an off guard Mercer. Yes I was emotional – a tear welled – the relief of departure, the release of months of training, the support and kind wishes bringing with them an obligation to succeed.  I cannot promise success – I can promise not to quit – I can promise to give it my inner soul and beyond.  The waiting, the endless waiting…. This a marathon start line that moves, changes direction along with the method. A last minute change of tent – weight regulations –  so another unknown to deal with – as my new friend John Wayne aka Jock Houston says ‘you can complain in the dark or light a candle’. The candle burns bright and now we’ll see whether this old dog has the fight. We’re gone.

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Serious…

April 23, 2015
by David Mercer

“I’d be doing exactly what I’m feckin doing now Steve. Shivering like a pasty Irish flame in the gale, trying to do my wind-suit up, de-mist my goggles and not freeze my knackers off” My slightly sharp retort to Serious Steve in answer to his 8am snarly ‘What would you be doing if the snow was falling heavily and it was -50?” Steve is our new trek leader following the premature demise of wee Jock who has been laid up with a bad case of twisted sock!  I jest – he actually has an infected foot from dancing on the tables in Dumfries! Steve is Serious – yes the capital S was deliberate. Proper hardcore hard man of the Mountain and it would appear the Arctic. The Eiger, South Pole, K2, the Sahara … You name it Serious has done it! Just the man for the job although I suspect he hasn’t come across a ‘back of the bus’ group like us in his decades of being a Poldark style tough guy! He particularly struggles with accents from our Scottish contingent and responds with an upturned nose as if he’s just walked into a student house loo after a big Saturday night and responds with a ‘What?’ and then a  sharp serious ‘No’ ; move on you speech impaired halfwit is the general takeaway. He particularly enjoyed being smacked on the head with a loosely thrown pass from one of our esteemed sporting legends who shall remain nameless – his surname starts with S (and finishes with timpson) The whole thing is gettin serious just now. Plane recce missions, sorting meals for the trek – well meal is not the right word really – gooey sludgey ricey fuel in a bag with a label suggesting a flavour that is normally far removed from reality. The mousse requires a bowl and a whisk – not helpful when our cook set consists of ….. A spork! Pulk packing, brew bag sorting, fuel bottle filling, heart racing, mind jumping, bladder clenching Serious. Wee Jock – he’s still here – wounded but not out is studiously peering at meteorological charts assessing whether the low pressure is moving for or against us – or specifically the recce pilot –  Serious weather, Serious decisions. Tomorrow the day when Serious Stevie glares that icy blue glare and says ‘Let’s Go’….. It’s Serious – and strangely that’s what this eclectic motley crew are waiting for – trained for – let’s get it on – Seriously!

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Stop! Listen! Wait a minute – uptown funk…

April 21, 2015
by David Mercer

Visions of a herd (is it a herd?) of white bears heading our way, mouths snarling, teeth sharpened, eyes piercing , deliberate powerful stomps delivered from enormous pain inducing paws. Intent on one thing the wee wildie beasties of the North head menacingly towards our neatly packed but woefully battle ineffective home for the week . 11 brave arctic challengers slain efficiently and clinically in their tents! No North Pole, no fond farewells, no more naked gym, no more close to the bone rugby banter and childish toilet humour. What a way to go! Hold on, that may not be a herd… In fact it may not be a bear…. No, no it’s a symphonic harmony from Young Rod and John Wayne…. Perfectly timed for high and low peaks and troughs. Blow by blow, snore by snore there’s no herd or pack with the heart to take on this Scottish squall. Gawd help Danny Dry – the cheese in their muffin reduced to sleeping not just with earplugs but spare tent bags stuffed in each lug hole. The biggest threat to our sanity is not the cold, the monotony, the local wildlife – it’s the Arctic twin turbo Celtic tractor in tent 2 ! Sweet dreams!

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A motley crew…

April 19, 2015
by David Mercer

After a pleasant stay in Iqaluit – ok, more later when there’s no chance we’ll be back – the motley crew finally boarded the plane North. I say plane but in reality it’s like a ford transit with wings. I’m not sure the ample Corinne had ever experienced a rugby style naked half hour on  Arctic’s finest courier! Yes folks, it really did happen after Young rod and Captain Courageous thought making a mild spillage on yours truly into a fully formed log floo would be funny. No, no chaps – it really was – when we were eleven! The trek is on – the tents are set, the skis await, the culinary tour of the Arctic transitions seamlessly to the main event. Can this motley crew make it? You decide after meeting the eejits currently sitting with shirts off on a chartered jet when it’s -50 outside! Captain Courageous: put simply “any polar bear jokes at night and you’ll be asked to leave …. Actually you’ll just be shot” Loves a bit of Lycra in the gentleman department. Captain Birdseye: most likely not to be heard saying ‘I need my happy pills’… You name it he’s in it….. 100 miles an hour. Currently being devoured by the blue eyes of Corrine as he flexes – put it away skip! Loves a tight t-shirt. Dexter: Play nicely – that’s all. Fits in perfectly with Iqaluit locals. Loves a bone saw. Ricky Rock star: Concentrating on finishing his autobiography – he’s coloured in three pages so far! Loves Joey from Essex. John Wayne – The quiet man: Beware the mischievous silent types – twinned with a tree and loves a banana. Wee Larry leader : “Ranulph Fiennnes is a puuuuuusy”. Takes an entourage everywhere and loves his Julie. Sammy sports star: Talented but fragile – a bit like his skidoo which in true Sammy style left on a stretcher. Searching for his bigfoot brother, making do with John Wayne in the meantime. Loves the craic. Young Rod: out on day release – pranks are strictly 1990 vintage. Found his Maggie May with all her handbags and glad-rags . Loves a sanitised blog ;-) Daddy daycare: Specialises in SWOT analysis of everything from morning coffee to post erection (rugby posts people!) keeps the boys in step and loves an itinerary. Danny Dry: You could strike matches on his humour. Strictly Klinsmann esque footballing injuries – torn hamstring or twisted sock they’re all the same to Danny. Loves Daddy daycare. Mummy Arctic. Looks after her boys. With a needle and thread or making the bed, as tough as the come – the Arctic’s no chore – she’s back for more. Loves an ageing adventurer who is certainly not a puuuuuuusy. Touchy: just a very tactile man in odd places; stands out in a crowd where he does his best work- loves a decent sweat up! And then there’s Me – every tour has to have one! So that’s it folks – the boys are officially off the tour and on to hardmen of the Arctic challenges – well apart from Dexter who’s on a reconnaissance mission! Play nicely …..

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Day 1&2: LIVE Arctic Blog…

April 18, 2015
by David Mercer

April 1985 or 2015… I should be at school but I’m not – I’m here in the Wimpy sharing a portion of chips and a Brown Derby with my fellow skiver! It seemed fun for the first hour but then the chips had disappeared and the ice cream had melted into a brown gooey sludge atop of a flaccid undercooked doughnut. That my friends is our unscheduled stop en route to Resolute – did I just rhyme that?! If only i’d intended it….. So anyway – Iqualuit – the people have been very welcoming, the weather friendly, the skidoo dodgems were hairy fun, the craic was fierce BUT we actually want to be in Geography class at 4pm – not eating a brown Derby 1000 miles from the point of our trip. We make the most of it – and yes today was a blast but all of us crave for the sky high pinball trip aboard a 10 seat twin otter (apparently it really is a plane!) to the promised land of what they call ‘The North’ in these parts. Two little words – one massive meaning. Sunday is the day with a small advance party demain (yup things got so weird round here I even wheeled out my infantile French today) when finally we WILL start the trek prep. The weather forecast looks fine so fingers crossed we’ll have no more hooky inspired brown derbies to endure and it’ll be double history followed by double maths for the next 2 weeks come Sunday! Be careful what you wish for but we know why we’re here …..

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Emotions…

April 15, 2015
by David Mercer

   High emotions this morning. The final day and the first step of 200,000 to play a game of rugby. That feeling in your stomach – butterflies encapsulates all: – sickness – some fear  – a little excitement – sadness at leaving loved ones Have you packed everything? Yes david – 2 of everything neither of which you will use! What about moisturiser – did I really think that? No house key – you might lose that but passport, credit cards, phones, kindles are fine – go figure; I guess it’d take up too much room! Chargers for everything – not least the solar monkey – cos obviously all we’re gonna think about is charging electronics!  Do some work – why? They’ll cope and for 2 weeks you can’t do anything – takes my mind off it. Off what – the thing I’ve waited for, worked for and dreamt of for 18 months or maybe twenty years. So focus on the challenge right? Then you get the emotions again – no friends but they’re all friends….. Are you up for it David? Well why wouldn’t I be – why can’t I do this – I can do this – I will do this….. The chimp appears…… Tents, cold, boredom, fear…… P*ss off chimp – I am doing this thing. Just arriving to the Airport to meet my band of brothers – we’re all we’ve got for two weeks. They too might have emotions …. Or is it only me…… Do some emails david…… Two weeks without an email – now i remember why I’m doing this ……. Emotions …… Yes, that’s how we know we’re living.

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Ready?…

April 11, 2015
by David Mercer

 Are you ready? The question asked most of me in the last two weeks.  What’s ready I wonder? The normal trite response is ‘born ready’ but that’s nonsense cos if you take it literally we’d skip nursery and toilet training and go straight to running the country. Actually on thinking about it has anyone checked Dave’s bio! So ready …… Physically ready? …. Yes – well as much as this fat skinny 40 something can muster- i’d have been more ready at 22 but it is what it is. Mentally ready ….. If anyone (other than our esteemed leader Jock) says Yes they’re kidding themselves. I’m not sure you can be: – is it different breathing at -30 – how’s that Arctic wind treating you – how do you feel when you walked 10 hours and gone nowhere – how’s that dehydrated food – how’s your 1 meal a day going down  – how you and your tent mates gonna get on, on Day 4 or 14 – how’s that lack of sleep – how’s that morning icy condensation feel dropping from the inside of the tent – how do you like wandering out to the loo with spade in hand – how’s that monotonous, expansive landscape looking 1 week in – will you get big and shout if a polar bear approaches or will you freeze and pray So mentally ……… We’ll find out very soon. That’s probably why we do it – actually it’s definitely why I do it. World records and Poles – they’re not enough – raising money for charity – well we could do that anyway…. The unknown ….. The fear…… That mental challenge…… That’s what get’s me up – and the truth is I don’t know if I’m ready and I don’t know if I’m up to it but I do know that whatever I have inside will take a good hard look and come out fighting……

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Charity and Ego…

April 9, 2015
by David Mercer

   Act 2:  No I’m not reading your blog you vain egomaniac! Emm… “It just describes the trek, it’s for charity’ I retorted somewhat deflatedly to my fine cheeked high heeled still unimpressed industry cohort. I guess there’s no chance of you sticking a tenner in the charity tin then I thought. Act 1: “Everyone goes to the North Pole these days”. “Big freakin deal” she continued – this militant pub stranger. You financial types are all the same – selfish and self centered. “You can have a wristband for £2″ I offered before I retreated not so gracefully in the face of flared nostrils, sprays of a frothing mouth and the fire and brimstone of a North Carolina preacher. Chorus: “I think the trek is the easy part, raising for a good cause is the hard part” challenger 1 “It’s a tough gig this fundraising” challenger 12 “Charity isn’t what it used to be” challenger 7 “Our approach has been wrong” challenger 14 “The PR coverage has been fantastic” the PR people “Do we have any PR” everyone else ! “You should have asked me” Jeremy Guscott ( artistic licence – sorry Jezza – still marvelling at the Lions drop goal!) Personally, I blame that bloke who walked a marathon under water, Eddie Izzard for running a million marathons in an afternoon, Stephen the Facebook bloke who died having touched all our hearts, Children in need and Jonathan Sexton – ok the last one just because he coulda kicked it in his sleep and never again in my lifetime will we have a chance to beat the All Blacks! I digress, yeah – I fear we’re all charity’d out. I get that and there’s no such thing as a bad charity. But this one – it matters folks and back to Act 2 I can assure you it’s got nothing to do with ego – if it were we’d just write the biggest cheque,   wish everyone good luck and get back to being a much loved city boy! (I live in hope….) Pay day is coming and we’ll be suffering – enjoying the challenge but suffering all the same – so if you have a spare quid think about the disadvantaged youngsters the fantastic WoodenSpoon charity tries to help. Our egos are aligned – if you’ve read this I’m happy – you’ve now heard of the Wooden Spoon and maybe just maybe together we can make a small dent in the issues these kids face. Not what you thought you’d get from a generally light hearted blog of an egomaniac I guess!  The link is below and I thank you in advance: https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/lmaxexchange

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50 shades of cable tie…

April 7, 2015
by David Mercer

 Duct tape – check, cable ties – check, batteries – check, eye mask – check ….. Ok let’s not go on….. Either it’s an elaborate ruse and we’re going to a strange land inhabited by that Christian fella from 57 shades of beige or we really are 8 days away from heading to the North Pole. If I’m honest I have no idea what the tape and cable ties are for which was slightly bothersome when faced with choices – what length of cable tie sir? Emmmm….. There’s moe than one length? I’ll have the long ones please, oh yeah and the short ones and maybe some of the medium ones. About the duct tape sir, do you want the free handcuffs with that? Ok…. I made the last bit up! Clingfilm – damn, I forgot the clingfilm – what is that for? Well, this one I know. Our daily bathe will consist of three wet wipes wrapped in clingfilm in careful batches so that you don’t have a wet wipe block which I guess wouldn’t be that helpful.  Three in a tent and three wet wipes a day — mmmm I can hear you all thinking how desirable ‘home’ is gonna be for 2 weeks. Don’t come too close is all I can say – despite what the marketeers say about the wonders of ‘no stink’ merino wool base layers!  So yes, final preparations are under way – and the excitement is matched by abject fear! Fear of the unknown, fear of failure and most of all fear that I haven’t got the right cable ties!

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JFR…

March 27, 2015
by David Mercer

“JFR Merce” What? Just feckin run! Team bonding thanks to my ex British and Irish Lions teammate Tom “The Tank” Shanklin. I sensed he hadn’t quite lost his competitive spirit when I spilled the first few passes received after only a 23 year rugby playing hiatus! “That’s three Merce, no more – no mistakes”. You can sense my confidence was sky high now! As a reminder this was a charity touch rugby event – a gentle social game – someone forgot to tell world cup winning legend Mike Catt – sheer abject fear on yours truly’s face as he launched toward me! (see pic above) Lovely guy but I’d rather be in the stands if he gets serious! Visions of shimmies, sidesteps and hat-tricks went out the window after about 2 minutes as I realised why I’d given up all that time ago. It got better tho – my mate and ex England scrum half, Shaun Perry advised “Merce, just get out of the way and defend”. Good old Barry Davies, ex Wales and Ospreys said “mate – where do you want it cos you couldn’t catch a cold”. Tough school this one. It’s ok I thought – I’ll retire to the bar into the comfort of my Arctic buddies and sure enough there was Paul “Jordy” Jordan. He was very supportive – “mate, you were as much of a liability out there as you will be on this trek”. Thanks pal. You’re all heart. It was good fun tho – and 2 days later I can almost walk. I’ll always remember Shanks sage advice in the event that I meet some of the indigenous wildlife at the Pole – what should one do if one were to meet Percy the Polar Bear? That’s simple – Just Feckin Run! 18 days to go!

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Whoosh, crunch…

March 16, 2015
by David Mercer

Men in onesies, girls in need of a decent meal, an eclectic group of bearded men in Bobble hats warbling “Take me to Church” – No, not 1am Sunday morning in the latest hyped up version of the funky cold medina London club but instead 11am Saturday on the roof terrace of what was once the Daily Mail building but now resident to uber trendy New York emigrant Equinox fitness club. 3 hours they said, as a team they said – spin-a-thon they said….. I’m doing the full 3 hours she said, you? I nearly passed out right there as the lactic acid built up after a good, oh 5 minutes! Let’s see I said figuring I’d flake at some stage like my trainer did first thing this morning which is always immediately uplifting and then dispiriting as you realise you’ll have to make up for it later. I must confess Debbie, the young fitness goddess to my right, with the engaging smile and encouraging fist pumps and high fives did make the experience more bearable. Now trust me this was no time for flirtation – an old grey haired fella in shorts that are way too short (yes, I’ve been told but hey I like to run and I’ve never quite worked out how you don’t chafe with the cool stateside knee length silkies) with a propensity to sweat profusely is not a great look – imagine the horror of our resident goddess when they ask us to change shirts for the last hour. I peel off, breathe in, exposing translucent Irish flab for the merest second before the Charity T-shirt is stickily in place! I’m sure Debbie looked away as I changed which I thought was very decent of her but I bet she wouldn’t if I’d been the muscly geezer in the onesie. The boredom is the killer…… a monotonous whoosh, crunch – a different whoosh crunch but there’s definitely a whoosh and crunch in there – maybe the crunch is just my lower vertebrae questioning why the hell I’m doing this. The eighth day of a North Pole trek or hour three of the spinathon. Either way you just have to deal with it – pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever. Job Done. One month yesterday – Departure to Ottawa then a succession of ever smaller flights before our trek to the Pole commences. Can’t wait……. Actually I can wait plenty! https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/lmaxexchange

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Time to share an Arctic secret…

March 3, 2015
by David Mercer

Howling wind, eerie darkness broken only by the constant engine misfire nasal whistle of my currently despised tent companion. How the hell can you sleep in this environment – so we walked for 10 hours with enough fuel for 5, it’s currently minus 20 degrees but can’t you feel that stony cold rock in your back? How can your head be comfortable, doesn’t the oppressive monotonous inner lining of this decrepid old tent depress you? Don’t you wonder why the hell you came here, do you realise there’s 6 days to go, don’t you need to pee? And why oh why are you snoring, you haven’t had a glass of a red for weeks, I mean for goodness sake if the air isn’t pure here and your nasal passages are too blocked now then you might as well call it a day and do us all a favour. The boredom is horrendous, Jeremy Clarkson – you’re ruining my life – I thought I liked you, a witty weekly read in the back of the Sunday times. Beautifully politically incorrect on Top Gear but this book – why did you bother? Your brain is obviously addled with years of local spirts from far flung lands because you’ve written it all before you damned fool. I mean how was I to know this book , my only escapist companion on this ill-thought trip was a collection of your best stories already published. And whilst I’m at it, Springsteen can you write some new music because after 4 days and ten albums I am sick of your Jungleland by the river lazy days drone – and don’t anyone ever think of playing a Rocky theme to me ever again…. Triffic, it’s only 2am and I’ve not been sleeping for 5 hours and it’s still pitch black outside – does the sun never rise around here – anyone fancy a game of cards? I hate tents! Just as well I’m not going to be camping in one for 2 weeks on a trek to the North Pole. No-one with mild claustrophobia, an inability to sleep more than 2 hours at a time and a fidgety mind with an attention span of a 100 microseconds would even dream of attempting that, would they….. https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/lmaxexchange

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I promise to suffer…

January 8, 2015
by David Mercer

And I’d love your help. On April 15th I’m starting a 10 day trek to the Magnetic North Pole from Resolute, Canada along with 13 other intrepid challengers aiming to raise £300,000 for disadvantaged children supported by the Wooden Spoon charity. https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/lmaxexchange It will be cold, it will be difficult but not as difficult as life is for some of the youngsters we’re trying to help. 100 miles over 10 days in temperatures down to -50°C. When we’re there we are going to try and set a record by playing the world’s most Northern game of rugby which could be interesting seeing as I’m up against a British Lion and the last time I laced up was 21 years ago! If you’d like to come and watch the match I have 2 seats available on a plane for a suitable donation. Likewise if you want your brand to be at the North Pole – only a few hundred people have ever been there – I’m happy to sport your logo. Any donation of any size will be very welcome. Come on the world of FX – let’s show there’s more good than bad in our challenged industry. https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/lmaxexchange For more information about a fantastic charity: https://www.woodenspoon.org.uk/

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Events

Best of british business vs best of british rugby

Future Fifty - Touch Rugby Tournament

Wednesday 25th March 2015 saw the UK’s Best of British Business go head to head with the Best of British Rugby in a truly unique touch rugby tournament.

The tournament celebrated the countdown to the Wooden Spoon Arctic Rugby Challenge (supported by LMAX Exchange), a 100 mile trek to the Magnetic North Pole to break a Guinness World Record and play a game of rugby there, all in support of disadvantaged and disabled children across the UK & Ireland.

Thanks to everyone who took part and made the event special - view the image gallery

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