Congratulations to Mike Grundy on his debut win in the UFC

Congratulations to Mike Grundy on his debut win in the UFC this weekend. I have personally trained with Mike (in days gone by) multiple times at both the Wigan & Leigh Wrestling gym in Wigan and at Team Kaobon gym in Liverpool.

Mike is a really humble guy who has dedicated his life to combat sports, including representing and medalling for Great Britain in the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

A super coach, terrific fighter and humble human being - we wish Mike all the best in the future.

Early last year, we got to speak to Mike for a few minutes via the Priory Podcast just before he was off to training., here is the YouTube link to the episode below:
- The Priory Podcast - Episode 11 featuring Mike Grundy



2019 is fast around the corner and it, for the most part, will provide 365 days of opportunity…
Thank The Universe would like to support you on your journey through 2019. We’re hoping to run a programme called; 100%’ers, which intends to give moral support, as well as a platform, for those who have plans and goals for 2019.

The purpose is clear – we want you to succeed! We want you to commit 100% to your plans and goals, and we want to provide the platform and exposure to help keep you motivated to do so.

We will provide an online profile of you and your goals with a dedicated page on our website and if you are comfortable in doing so, an audio podcast.

There is no catch – we simply want to help as many people as possible achieve their plans, goals and dreams.

However - we are not the experts – although we will help with anecdotal advice and motivation where required, the work load and heavy lifting still rests with you.

Each month, we will have a review of each 100%er’s achievements and progressions and subsequently award the month’s winner with some Thank The Universe swag.

There is no catch and no buy in, other than your readiness to commit to your goals and have a plan in place (so we can monitor progression). You don’t even need to have a public profile if you feel this would be too intrusive, but we’d prefer that this was the case.

If you feel ready to commit to something 100% and are willing to share it with us, please get in touch by going to and emailing us via the contacts page.

Let’s get 2019 kickstarted!

#staytrue #100%ers

Catch Wrestling - Keeping the spirit alive

Alex Scientific WRESTLING.png

In support of the re-launch of Scientific Wrestling’s website, I was asked to complete a few formal questions. As part of the official Scientific Wrestling accredited training staff, I was only too happy to take part and discuss my involvement with the Catch As Catch Can movement:

1) What drew you to CACC?
My first involvement of any kind, was the Billy Robinson training seminar DVD, W.A.R. A friend of mine and my assistant coach at our local MMA Training School, downloaded the DVD from a file sharing site - noting it had Josh Barnett on it. At the time, we knew nothing of Billy Robinson or the history of Catch Wrestling. The fact that Billy Robinson had a Lancashire accent drew me in, and I found the physical techniques so appealing too. The fact that the techniques actually promoted pain appealed to me even more as it added an extra dimension to the grappling we were teaching at the time which was heavily influenced by Judo and No-Gi grappling.

2) Why learn with Scientific Wrestling?
The interest that was peaked from the W.A.R DVD led me to research both Billy and Jake and as such led me to the previous Scientific Wrestling website where I got in touch with Jake about coming over to Salt Lake for one of the weekend training camps with Billy Robinson in 2009. It seemed like the perfect match to learn from Billy Robinson who was born, raised and learned how to wrestle in the North West of England and being from the working class north west myself.

3) Please describe your personal coaching style.
Not having coached for a number of years now due to other priority commitments, but at the time of teaching, I tended to primarily use the techniques that I’d learned under Billy and Jake. Mike Grundy, the British Commonwealth Games medalist and pro MMA fighter from WIGAN, was also a big influence on my teaching style, but more from a freestyle wrestling perspective.
It was always important for me to teach the transition from standing to ground. Using the techniques we’d learned in Judo, refined by Catch with the addition of pain holds became a staple of the classes I was teaching. The importance of high fitness levels was also top of the teaching agenda, coupled with stress innoculation from the grind of the pain and pressure holds.

4) What is your favorite memory with Billy Robinson
I have many great memories from having the privelage of training with Billy. I guess the first one is actually meeting him in person during my first trip to UTAH in 2009. Jake invited me down early to train with Harry Smith whilst he was in town, and I was basically used as a grappling dummy for Harry - which was absolutely fine - and in many ways I think it was Billy’s way of testing my physical endurance. I was also very proud when both Billy and Jake taught at the local gym I was coaching at at that time. To introduce Billy, who I considered a living legend, along with his techniques, to the younger generation of fighters and competitors was a real treat. And giving the them a glimpse of a tougher time, from when Billy had been taught and raised was really special.

5) Your website

Thank The Universe: VLOG #01 - 'Pressure'

Thanks for watching... This will hopefully be the first in a series of VLOGs from the Thank The Universe team (me). Following in the philosophy of the website and social media instagram; @thank.the.universe we decided to give the idea another platform via the VLOG. This particular clip is about the pressure that undoubtedly clouds the current generation into becoming people and personalities they are not, all because the outside influence of social media, reality TV and advertising would have us believe that it was so. The point is we must have the courage to say no and even do without... Ultimately the message is about staying true to yourself and enjoying the things you DO enjoy without succumbing to the unnecessary pressures. #staytrue Godspeed..

Approaching the centenary of the World War 1 Armistice


November 2018 sees the arrival of the 100th year since the signing of the Armistice of World War 1. To pay our respects to this monumental moment in time and to commemorate the absolute tragedy and astronomical disdain for the seriousness of consequences by those in power, we shall be posting occassional posts on our Instagram and Facebook social media pages.

The mainstream versions of World War 1 history hold the spot light firmly in the eyes of the German government of the time, and especially as the industrial and economic collapse of Germany after the Treaty of Versaille spawned the the rise of the National Socialist German Workers Party or NAZI Party. And as we know, the rest is history. But unfortunately, history, and certainly history so finely balanced on a political razors edge as was the political situation in Europe in the early 1900's, is not as cut and dried as what we're often led to believe.

So over the course of the next few months, we will be sharing some (hopefully) interesting tid-bits of facts around some of the main characters and incidents involved before, during and closely after the events of World War 1. The purpose of course, is to inspire interest, whether it inspires others to carry out their own esearch, debate the posts that are made or simply to shine a light on the usually dark corners of information. 

Cheers AC

Disneyland for the over 40's

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The only previous time I’d seen the Foo Fighters was when they closed the main stage at T in the Park in 2011. That year they released Wasting Light and truly had the momentum with them, featuring as headliners on various festivals that year including the BBC’s Big Weekend in Carlisle.

They performed for around 2 hours at T, playing basically a ‘best of’ set, which if I remember correctly featured a number of songs from Wasting Light.
Fast forward to 2018 and I was fortunate enough to have had a Foo Fighters ticket bought for me for one of their UK shows, of which there was only going to be 3 dates, so as expected they were sold out within minutes.

It’s fair to say that I’d not really followed up on the momentum of 2011 and my interest in the Foo Fighters waned slightly. Certainly I had not been waiting in anticipation for their follow up albums, Sonic Highways or Concrete and Gold. It’s difficult to say why really, as even now I consider Dave Grohl to be the epitome of cool and still have Everlong on every Playlist I create. Perhaps it was the introduction to other new bands or more appropriate music for me at that time as I remember 2011 and 2012 were particularly tough years for me for one reason or another, and as any music lover will tell you, quite often it is music of a particular band or artist that you attach yourself to, that gets you through these particularly tough times.

Come the day of the show I’d still not made my mind up as to whether I was going to go, even though I’d taken leave from work. Once I’d had a coffee and gotten my shit together I made the decision to go and quickly threw some clothes in a bag and booked a train ticket. The usual push and pull coastal train from Whitehaven to Carlisle was cancelled due to on-going strikes and a shuttle bus was provided instead. This was much to the annoyance of one gentlemen who surprisingly conveyed his opprobrium to the bus driver due to the journeys late start, stating “What time are we setting off like? We’ve got a connection to make you know…”

Arriving in Manchester, I’d booked myself into a Hostel in the Northern Quarter. Hostels for anyone that doesn’t know are a great way to meet people of like-minded or open minded opinions. Travelling to gigs solo is never a big deal for me as it is for others, but hostels do offer up the opportunity to meet and speak to people with similar interests.  In our 8 bed mixed dorm, there were 2 others travelling to see Foo Fighters; a 24 year old Biomedical Scientist from Dundee who was experiencing Manchester, hostel life and a solo gig for the first time in her life. The other was a Foo Fighters veteran of 10 shows, from Newcastle.

The previous weekend I’d been in Manchester for a more intimate gig at the Gorilla bar on Whitworth Street. The Bronx were playing in-between their appearances at Download Festival on Friday night and the Electric Ballroom in London on the Sunday. I feel like The Bronx set the standard for live shows for me now in terms of the passion and energy. After every show where I’ve seen them play the whole event has left me feeling euphoric - so the Foo Fighters would have a lot to live up to. Of course, it’s not a competition.

At the Ethiad Stadium, the place was rammed, estimated to be between 40 and 50,000 people in the stadium. My seat in the South stand gave a spectacular view of it all and I was sat next to a couple from Cockermouth, which wasn’t surprising as it seemed that half of Cumbria was at the gig if Facebook ‘check-ins’ were anything to go by. Although, wasn’t everyone at Knebworth in 1996 when Oasis famously played?

The Foo Fighters kicked off the night with All My Life, a tremendous opener and a song that would make it onto any gym workout playlist. I guess that is what is good about the Foo Fighters, the fact that they produced up tempo aggressive and edgy rock songs. What did get my goat though was the fact that they drifted off into a slight melody halfway through the song. I was always under the impression that there was a certain formula for a live set list. The opener was always expected to be a fast paced aggressive song played from A- B in order to stamp the intention of the show for the night. Instead I found the meandering melody / call-respond section, a break down in the momentum.
There can be no doubt that Dave Grohl has written some entirely epic rock songs. The Foo Fighters set list for this show was testament to that, but too many times these powerfully energetic rock songs had their sharp edges blunted by pitting the set list with what I thought was far too many melody meandering, call and respond sessions and overly extended band member introductions.

What I realised was that the crowd was full of over 40’s. And of course I am over 40. But it seemed like this was Mecca for the over 40’s. This was Disneyland for the over 40’s in the crowd. Every comical face pulled by Dave Grohl, every time he raspberry’d down the microphone, he was greeted by an almost embarrassing round of sycophantic style appreciation and applause. It was almost cringe-worthy. I remember thinking that there would be no way he’d get away with this in a more intimate and younger environment. Perhaps that;s the beauty of charging so much for an attendance ticket.

At one point during a crown call and respond session – I was blown away by the volume of the crowd during their respond part. Only to have this thought utterly dashed by the on stage introduction of backing singers! I couldn’t believe it! I’d let the fact slide that they’d introduced a keyboard player as part of the group, but now they had introduced a part choir in 3 lady backing singers. It was becoming more and more like a U2 concert.

I must say, in order to give this article a balanced view, that the musicianship and dedication to provide people with their money’s worth was second to none - it had to be at ~£70 per ticket. It was also pointed out to me that Dave Grohl is slowly losing his voice and that he has been told by medics that he should no longer carry out his trademark screams. I for one could not tell that his voice was going and certainly wouldn’t have noticed if I had not been told. And for this, I think he needs a pat on the back. My two favourite Foo Fighters songs were played at the back end of the set list. Both songs, Best of You and Everlong were two important songs to me during the tough times of 2011 and 2012 as I described earlier. The passion in Dave Grohl’s voice in Best of You gives a relatively basic song an extra dimension and always gives me goose bumps. Everlong simply speaks for itself and like The Cult’s She Sells Sanctuary, will simply go down in music history as one of those perfect songs applicable to any generation.

I may be a harsh critic. And I certainly do not wish to be inimical in my review of the Manchester show, as there is obviously a considerable market for the Foo Fighters and objectively, they deliver what is expected. It is just a far cry from the sweaty, mosh pit filled academy sized halls I prefer where I feel bands and the audiences are still sharp and maintain their sharp edge.

But I guess that is what is so beautiful about music. Like the world, it takes all kinds to make it go round.

Review of the week

Whatever happened to the threat of Ebola? Wasn’t it supposed to have consumed half the British population by now? Every week or every month there seems to be a new scare tactic reported by ALL the television news channels and daily rags… Since the two Korean countries have now shook hands and actually spoken to each other, America, albeit potentially briefly, has turned its bully boy tactics towards Iran (again). What gives with the American foreign policy? Do as I say don’t do as I do springs to mind, as the good old U S and A flexes its junk food fed muscles. Never-mind about Israel having nuclear weapons eh, they need them don’t they? This shit better not fuck up my trip in October you c*nts.

Scotland has introduced new policies to try and tackle the increasing alcohol abuse problem they seem to have, by raising costs to a minimum retail price and banning certain promotions. This seems to have caused all kinds of uproar, as it seen as targeting those on lesser financial incomes. I can see this going one of two ways;
a) it’ll promote a healthier lifestyle and deter the public from binge drinking, or
b) People are extremely resourceful and like most things, the black market will find a way to produce cheap (and more dangerous) alcoholic drinks that aren’t regulated by any policies or standards…
Anyway, if Scotland thinks it has a drink problem, it should take a look at Uganda (think Idi Amin). Those crazy bastards have the highest alcoholic dependency rate in the world. They drink some schwifty home-made brew called Wariga which is made from bananas but often turns people blind if they have too much of it. Much like masturbation then.

It has been another chaotic week on the public service transport. With the camper van now sold and the aging Mercedes giving up the ghost, I’m heavily reliant on buses and trains and the occasional taxi to get me where I need to be. One thing I notice in the PST is that there is no decorum. The typical Britishness of waiting in line completely disappears at a bus stop. You could be the first at the bus stop, soaked to skin waiting for your bus, but if a crowd of people come, you can forget about being first on sunshine. People don’t give a Frenchmans fuck if you’re soaked to the skin or if you have been waiting 5 to 10 minutes longer than the rest. It is a free for all!
You also quite often see some crazy people on the bus service. Mainly on the journey home, which I can only presume, means that crazy people don’t get out of bed until after seven thirty on week days.

2 of the strangest things I’ve witnessed either waiting for the bus home from work or actually being on the bus home were unfortunately both carried out by women. Sorry ladies. Although to be fair in one instance one lady did have assistance by an equally insane bloke. The crazy thing about it is, they don’t even realise they are crazy.
The first tale came on one of the earlier return buses, which always happen to be chock full of people. So much so it was standing room only. A women got on who, to be fair, didn’t look like a full shilling. She had her arm in a cast, a bottle of pop in her pocket and was carrying a (probably top of the range and on tick) Ipad with her good arm. She propped herself up with her back against the hand luggage rail near the front of the bus with-out securing herself in any way. So this lady decided to start watching her Ipad. She rested the Ipad between the crease of her elbow of her broken hand and then struggled to put her ear phones into her ears all whilst maintaining her balance as the bus was driving and changing gears in its jerky fashion. Then she decided to open her bottle of pop. She took the bottle out of her trouser pocket and proceeded to open the top her teeth and her good hand. Fairly impressive so fair. Who says women can’t multi task?
However, she started to get cocky at that point, and not realising that juggling 3 chainsaws was enough, she went for the fourth. She decided to stroke another passenger’s pet dog. Rookie mistake love… The bus driver subsequently slammed on his brakes and old Vishnu takes a slow motion tumble onto her backside… There wasn’t a hint of embarrassment… And rather unfortunately the bottle of pop didn’t spill a drop….

The second incident happened as I sat waiting for the number 30. Another bus pulled up, I can’t remember where it was going, but there was a young lady hot stepping it towards the bus. She was carrying what I can only presume was her kids tea for the evening. It was a McDonalds’. She had her arms full anyway. But as she proceeded to pay her way on the bus, she too was guilty of juggling too many items and subsequently dropped her kids' chocolate milkshake all over the floor of the bus… Again I didn’t see much reserve or embarrassment on the girls face. What seemed to be one of local smack heads did decide to help her though in the most enthusiastic of ways. He contributed by trying to sweep the chocolate milkshake from the bus into the pavement with his foot. The bus driver was just sat there, almost seemed like he was refusing to move until the mess was cleaned up. The local smack head was determined to make it spic and span but it wasn’t helping, until the girl kindly gave him her hoody to use to mop up the mess… The guy was insistent and to be fair, managed to clean the mess up with her hoody.  Once he’d got it mostly mopped up, he was well happy with himself. The girl then asked for her chocolate milkshake soaked hoodie back…

For more exciting adventures, be sure to tune in next week…

The NAZI Connection to Islamic Terrorism


In this months episode of The Priory Podcast, we talk to Chuck Morse, author of the book The NAZI Connection to Islamic Terrorism. As the title suggests, the book tackles a pretty fragile and explosive topic. Unlike the majority of books written about the horrors of World War II, this books arrives at a different station and exposes the often overlooked connection between NAZISM and fundamentalist Islam. You could ask yourself, why on earth would National Socialists, those so infamoulsy associated with creating the 'pure race', want to be bed-fellows with people of Islamic faith, which were for so long considered nothing more than mere nomadic tribes, or bedouin. We will assess this this question amongst others and delve deep into near history to try to configure exactly what role each side had to play out and exactly how guilty the other lesser known antagonists such as the British Empire were at the time for stirring the hornets nest of the middle east citin the Arab Revolt and subsequently with the Sykes-Picot agreement.
As students of history may already be aware, history is rarely as black and white as so often depicted by documentaries or the standard lay-person narrative... This book exposes a depth of valuable information, which by itself leaves a few questions unanswered, but which ultimately begs for further research to be done, which is what I will both be preparing for and asking Chuck on the podcast.

The NAZI Connection to Islamic Terrorism is a great book, and a measure of this is the fact that I finished it in the first place and also the fact that it made me want to branch off and research further into some of the sub topics addressed in the book.

The podcast is expected to be published mid May.


A Very Gallant Gentleman


As sure as snow melts off a dyke, the aging demographic of yesteryears generation will cast a judgmental eye over the present generation's social, political and moral standings, which will be quite often judged as falling below the acceptable plimsoll line of standards and behaviour. Arcing back to the good old days will always be filled with nostalgia and feelings of a better more moralistic time. In times when you could simply sort a heated dispute with bare fists followed by a handshake. Times when it was safe to leave your doors unlocked because everybody knew and respected each other. Times when kids played outdoors and had to be either called in by mum yelling at the back door or trudging off home at sunset. 

There can be no doubt that society has changed and is always in a constant state of flux, whether the influence is deliberate or natural. Although it is impossible to quantify if the changes inflicted or the change rate between the levels of behaviour, from what used to be such a stoically expected bench mark to what has now been deemed acceptable, has had a positive or negative influence on society as a whole. 

The judgment of whether these political and societal changes are positive or negative is of course both objective and subjective, and more appropriately should be left as topic of discussion to those who are far more experienced or researched in the development of social and political sciences and moral acceptability, to discuss.  

From a personal perspective, I have my own views on the current state of affairs and about how liberal society has become in only the second decade of the 3rd millennium CE. I do believe that it is important for people to be more relaxed and accepting of people and situations that aren't so black and white in life, but I often think that the boundaries have been stretched too far in what I think has become a heavily disposable society. What are the catalysts for these changes? There are many factors that contribute to the change in social acceptability, including advancements in technology, consumer marketing, health care, a general liberalization of attitudes, pace of work and lifestyle environments, the invention of social media amongst others. 
The internet and social media has made it OK to communicate without the prompt of personal interaction and social cues. It has encouraged obnoxious social behaviour which would be so awfully unacceptable in times where disputes were held face to face and settled more often than not, with a bit of physical retribution. The advent of 'reality TV Shows' has also given sections of society something that I would consider to be a repugnant disposable attitude towards life. It seems that the negative effects of social media and trash television, is slowly sucking the questioning attitude out of the next generation. It gives those unaware of what history was and what it stands for a false impression that being a famous person is more important than being a good person. The road to super stardom and fame is no longer hard work and dedication, but fast tracked via social media and carrying out increasingly stupid acts of Jackass style stunts or plunging to decadent style depths of self-exposure for the whole world to see... It seems far more important these days for people to be popular with perfect teeth, than honest with scars. And of course this is only one aspect of the multi-disciplinary reasons for what I believe is a social and political decline. The simple fact lies in that in today’s' society, there is a distinct lack of proper gentlemanly conduct and self-sacrifice.

A Very Gallant Gentleman

Of course my scathing single minded view could simply be explained away by two amazingly blunt points:

  1. Life goes on and change is an inevitable and natural occurrence. Those who are adaptable to change survive. Those who aren't, do not.

  2. I'm an angry middle aged nobody from nowhere, angry at the opportunity afforded to the undeserving generations, angry at my own failures, and forgetful of what it was like to be young.

But grant me the grace to take you back to a snapshot in time. A snapshot within the vast Great British history that may help me convince you that society has been in a better state. What do I mean by better? To me it means a simpler time, a more respectful time, a harsher time, a tougher time and pretty much a no non-sense time and certainly a more honourable time. Sure, at no point in history, as far as we know, has there ever been a state of complete utopia, which I accept and understand. Each epoch has fallen foul to its particular black spots and dark times and the good old days are no exception. To me, there is however something much more romantic and earthly about the way life was conducted in the first half of the twentieth century. It seemed to be filled with many more Ladies and Gentleman with honest and pure intentions. Tough, stoical no non sense people with an abundance of respect for each and all during what the modern generation of millenials would look back on as a simply prosaic time to live, with no cell phones or iPads required for immediate distraction and attention. 

A very gallant gentleman is an examination of what I believe is the perfect example of an early twentieth century Edwardian gentleman in Lawrence 'Titus' Oates. His rise to prominence came unfortunately after his death in 1912 as part of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's second and fateful expedition to Antarctica during the 'race for the South Pole'. 

This examination is inspired by the book, "I am just going outside - Captain Oates, an Antarctic Tragedy" by Michael Smith, which also provides the majority of the facts and details associated with the second of Scott's Antarctic expeditions, valued in this article. The book exquisitely conveys the hardships endured by not just the men, but also the animals, but more importantly it details how the iron will of the characters, specifically Oates, was so evident and appeared to be the natural disposition - something that I believe is so desperately lacking in today’s' society.

"I am just going outside and maybe some time" - a quote from Lawrence Oates noted in Scott's journal, uttered as the harsh effects of the Antarctic weather took their toll on his physical, mental and spiritual being. These were the last words spoken by a man whose spirit was so broken and ground down by the toils of the Antarctic endeavours, that he sacrificed himself in order that his contemporaries could continue on their journey without the hindrance of a practically lame companion, in order for them to faster reach salvation. 
Arguments could be voiced that this unsung hero of Captain Robert Falcon Scott's fatal expedition was in fact a spoiled upper class mummy's boy, but rather conversely, his upper class family inheritance inspired an attitude that was so reserved and stoical, but yet which so much sought adventure.  


Antarctica, the name, derives from the Greek work arktos, meaning bear. The name was given to the North Pole, or Arctic region due to the visibility of two star constellations in the northern night sky: Ursa Major (Great Bear) and Ursa Minor (Little Bear). ANTarctica, is therefore the opposite of Arctic. The continent was allegedly discovered in 1820, initially by a Russian fleet captained by the superbly named Admiral Fabian Gottlieb Thaddeus von Bellingshausen. Although neither von Bellinghausen nor his crew actually set foot on the ice that honour was left to English born American sealer, Captain John Davis, when he set foot on the ice, also in 1820 albeit 10 months after von Bellinghausen had allegedly first discovered the continent. 

There have been some typically radical challenges to this mainstream version of history with the cartographically precise Piri Reis and Oronteus Finnaus maps drawn up from millennia before the date of 1820. These maps dare to suggest that at some point in late antiquity, someone has had the capability to travel to or view Antarctica and map out the topography and coastlines and estuaries very accurately, either prior to the on-set of the ice on the continent, which is thought to have happened around 11,000 years ago, or with specialist equipment similar to Ground Penetrating Radar, which is the technique employed by Geophysicists in modern times. These ancient maps also defied scientific and geographic logic and capability of the time they were produced (~1500's) due to their longitudinally accurate depictions of South America and Africa. Longitude is the measurement of the Meridian geographic coordinates of the globe and were traditionally said to have been un-measurable to scientists and explorers alike until the invention of a precise enough chronograph around ~1761.

The Antarctic held explorers in fascination and wonder. 90 degrees south, the most southern tip of the world had never been attained - it was the last continent on earth to be explored, and the most brutally unforgiving. 
Captain Robert Falcon Scott was cut from a similar cloth to Oates, who author Michael Smith had this to say:
"Lawrence Oates was a product of his time. Born in 1880, he was raised during the era of British supremacy in the world. A quarter of the world’s population were part of the greatest Empire the world had ever seen. It was also a time when many people, especially the public schoolboys like Oates, were brought up to believe that “character” was more important than a wider knowledge-based education".

Britain at the time controlled a quarter of the earth's population and any gentlemen born and bred into opulent lifestyles during this period generally thought they had a divine right to be the first to or the best. Scott, a Royal Navy Officer, had previously attempted the feat between 1901-1904 during the Discovery expedition, named after the ship used to sail there and included Ernest Shackleton, who returned to the pole another two times in his life time, almost losing his life during the process. The first Scott expedition was not without a fatality as George Vince slipped into a crevice during a reportedly horrendous blizzard. There seemed to be very little experience to draw from during this first expedition. It should have been the learning foundation for the Terra Nova expedition in 1910.

Scott and his crew on this occasion managed to reach 82° 17’, still some 530 miles from 90° South. 
Although it was Shackleton who was to gain the furthest ground on the Antarctic continent during his Nimrod expedition between 1907 and 1909, as he again failed to reach 90° South, but did attain 88° 23’, just 97 miles from the pole. The furthest any human had gotten in recorded history. Shackleton had set the bar. 

Oates, during the early twentieth century, had spent his time at locations around the world with the British Army. In 1899, Britain was about to try and flex its military muscle in South Africa against the Afrikaners (the Dutch settlers in South Africa of the 2 South African republic states Republic of Transvaal and the Orange Free State, that despised the presence of foreigners).

Oates, chomping at the bit for adventure and a life away from the mundane - finally got his wish in 1901 and at just 20 years old was stationed with the 6th Innerskilling Dragoons leading a patrol of men into action against a group of Boer guerrillas near the town of Aberdeen. 

Under considerably overwhelming odds, Oates' patrol suffered an ambush which had them stuck in a Mexican stand-off under sweltering South African sun and slowly running out of ammunition, but his calmness under fire was immeasurable. Reportedly, Oates rebuffed multiple opportunities to surrender by responding to the Boers' Captain Fouche's note with terms of surrender, by simply stating "we came here to fight, not surrender". Oates suffered a gunshot wound that broke his left femur bone during the skirmish, which of course he played down with typical understatement and stoicism, but which left him with a permanent limp that would play a factor in his eventual decline in potentially even harsher an environment in years to come.

Oates then spent a number of years stationed in Ireland, Egypt and India, where he honed his Cavalry Officer skills, which would be one of the strings on his bow that would catch Captain Scott's attention when he was building his team for the second expedition. 

Race for the Pole

Oates applied in writing to be part of Scott's expedition to the South Pole and was chosen out of over 8000 applicants. His resume was attractive, especially as a cavalry officer and his experience managing horses, which were to be used as the primary beasts of burden during the journey to the pole. That wasn't the only attraction however; Oates' declaration to submit a donation of around £1000 (£47k in todays’ money) also held sway for Scott. The fact that Scott needed extra financial contributions for the expedition was maybe (with the benefit of hindsight) a glimpse into the potential gaps in his preparatory plans. 
For Oates, what could inspire excitement and adventure more than the escape from the prosaic lifestyle, than being part of the first ever group of people to reach the South Pole? 

Without making this article a simple remedial regurgitated version of Michael Smiths' fantastic book, I am going to bullet point some of the more fantastic examples of how times of how the extreme hardships the team experienced in the harshest of environments were dealt with during the "race for the pole". 
As Michael Smith says about the attraction and fascination of this particular group of gentlemen, “I am particularly drawn to the remarkable human qualities of these men – they were all men from this era – who endured so much for so little in personal rewards. The courage, self-sacrifice and endurance is beyond belief".

The journey to 90° South, was somewhere in the region of 1,800 mile round trip. The majority of which for Scott's team would be carried out on foot. Man-Hauling sleds of supplies (800lb pulled by 4 men) whilst strapped into harnesses and enduring temperatures as low as -40°C. 

Preparatory expeditions were undertaken in order to set up supply depots at set distances along the route. This in itself proved treacherous as one particular group found them isolated on sea ice which then proceeded to break away from the main land and float off into the Antarctic sea. Stranded with horses and supplies, the men then began to jump from one floating piece of sea ice to another in order to save themselves, all whilst behind hounded by a group of Orca Whales. Unfortunately the horses did not make it and either slipped into the icy waters or were left stranded to suffer their own fate. 

The Terra Nova expedition's rivals during the race for the pole were Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen's crew aboard the Fram. Amundsen was an experienced explorer who had taken time out to live and experience life with the Inuit’s of the Arctic in order to gather much needed skills and experience in dealing with the harsh freezing temperatures. This experience proved vital in his preparation. At home in Norway, it is said that Amundsen would use any opportunities available to inoculate himself against the cold, including leaving his house windows open during the Norwegian winter to let the cold air sweep through his home. 
The experience of Amundsen proved vital in the race to the pole. His knowledge and use of better equipment, warmer materials such as wolf and moose skin, the more efficient use of skis and sled dogs versus Scott's use of traditional Siberian ponies, of which Oates described as subpar crocks. 

Although it was never officially declared as a 'race for the pole', Amundsen's purpose was solely to reach the pole before anybody else. Scott's journey was also to undertake geographical and scientific studies of the land and the environment. Even so, the old British pride was still at sake and Oates is quoted as saying "bloody Norskies coming down south is a bit of shock" "I only hope they don't get there first. It will make us look pretty foolish after all the noise we have made". 

All the noise of course was the euphoria that surrounded the expedition. The fact that the weight of expectation of the British Empire was laid on the shoulders of these men, was something that they all had to live up to. 

Amundsen had the advantage; travelling 'light' compared to the cumbersome troupe of Scott, using much more appropriate equipment and experience and having one purpose of reaching the pole first. These factors alone would have been enough to favour Amundsen's expedition, but he also had another advantage in that his trek started in the Bay of Whales, on the opposite side to Scott's expedition, and as such had a 60 mile head start on Scott before a bat was struck.
Inevitably, Amundsens' crew reached 90° South in December 1911. 5 weeks before Scott and his team.
Scott's team on the opposite side of the Ross Ice Barrier had endured some unthinkable conditions. The original 8 man team was due to split up at a set point in order for 1 four man team to head back to camp and for those lucky enough to be chosen and be (potentially) part of the first ever team to reach the South Pole, would continue onwards. Scott for some reason changed his mind and decided to take 5 men towards the pole. It is thought that this decision only hindered the teams’ chances in this already brutal environment. 
In January 1912, Scott's 5 man expedition made it to 90° South. Frost bite gnawing at their feet, hands and facial extremities. Undernourished, frozen to the bone and now with shattered dreams as they came across Amundsen's tent, proudly flying the Norwegian flag. 

Now imagine having to deal with the disappointment of coming second, all whilst the realisation that the march 'home' is some 900 miles of brutal weather conditions and horrendous food rations. But even close to death, these 5 men continued with their injuries and ailments without complaint. The immeasurable amount of pride in themselves, their achievements and their country spurred them on to progress as far as they could, without the slightest submission to pain, or blame or being of fragile mind. 

The lead up to and the conditions of the deaths of these 5 hardy men must have been devastatingly brutal. Although none of the men made it back alive, the spirit of the expedition lives on through their journal entries and scientific recordings of the journey. 

Oates' frost bitten feet were now so swollen and painful, each morning it took him an hour and a half to put on his footwear. He was still stoically pulling the sleds without a hint of any discomfort or request for pity. His hands became the next to suffer. So much so, he could no longer use them to either help himself or the other others. 
On 17th March 1912, 120 miles from the safety of Hut Point, in the shelter of the tent, Oates' took matters into his own frost bitten hands and made the decision to relieve his comrades of his burdensome troubles. 
Uttering the now famous line, "I'm going outside and maybe sometime", Oates' left the relative safety of the tent and crawled outside into the oncoming blizzard where temperatures were said to have delved to -42°C. His body has never been found. 

In Scott's journal, found later by a search and rescue team, stated: 
"He did not - would not - give up hope until the very end. He was a brave soul. This was the end. He slept through the night before last, hoping not to wake; but he woke up in the morning - yesterday. It was blowing a blizzard. He said "I am just going outside and maybe some time". He went out into the blizzard and we have not seen him since". "It was the act of a brave man and an English gentleman". 

For me, Oates' life and how he dealt with the inevitability of his death, is something that is missing from the character of the majority of the population in todays’ society. His selfless act of self-sacrifice carried out in order so that his comrades would have at least a small chance of survival is something that we can all learn from. And yes, the society in Edwardian England was not perfect, as Michael Smith points out: "I seem to recall that at least 20% of the UK population were still living in desperate poverty in the final decades of the 19th century and a third of the recruits for the army during the Boer War were rejected on health grounds – despite the incredible wealth of the Empire which was concentrated in the hands of a few.". But the attitude of the population of the time is something that seems to have been more resolute even in these harsher times.

Michael Smith -

“I have always been interested in history, which was my best subject at school. I developed a particular interest in exploration in general but was increasingly drawn to the history of Polar exploration – Arctic and Antarctic - and to this day remain fascinated by the amazing stories.   

I have written nine books and contributed items to several others. Combined sales of my books have exceeded 250,000 copies. My biography of Lawrence Oates (I Am Just Going Outside – Captain Oates) was my second book. 

I have also appeared in numerous TV and radio programmes and written contributed to many TV and radio documentaries. I have written extensively in newspapers, specialist magazines and websites. In addition, I am a frequent public speaker and have lectured at many prestigious venues including:  The Queen’s Gallery Buckingham Palace, Royal Geographical Society, National Maritime Museum, National Museum of Ireland, National Library of Ireland, Princess Grace Memorial Library Monaco, Queen’s University Belfast, the Royal Scottish Geographical Society and Scott Polar Research Institute Cambridge. I have also appeared at many literary festivals and am a regular speaker to local history societies, U3A groups, Women’s’ Institutes, Townswomen’s’ Guild, Odd fellow Societies and schools. 

Michael’s books can be found on Amazon or his own website above. "I am just going outside" is a fantastic book and highly recommend it if you have an interest in the fatal expedition of the Terra Nova and more specifically the biography of Lawrence 'Titus' Oates. 


Vanquish Guest Design Artist - Jack Beighley

Here's a bit of a Q&A with Vanquish guest design artist, Jack Beighley. I originally asked Jack to get involved with the Shiled Maiden design in 2017 and his artistic style matched what I was looking for to represent the Vanquish philosophy and since then he's commissioned a number of rather cool prints...

- How long have you been creating art?
I have been making art for as long as I can remember, my family says I started when I was five years old, but I have only taken it seriously since I was in high school, probably 5 or 6 years ago.

- Tell me a bit about your art style
I like to think of my art as versatile, the subject matter I try to interpret are usually rooted in Punk rock, mythology, and movies. I prefer working in graphite and ink, and mess with watercolor and acrylic paint whenever I can. Shape and structure are the most important part of my art, making sure the foundation is strong before laying down details with sharp hatching or pointillism combined with techniques I’ve seen by watching tattooists work, like whip shading and line sculpting.

- Who your Influences are / were
A majority of my current influences are tattoo artists. Bruno Santos, Eddie Stacey, Fredao Oliveira, Isnard Barbosa, Rob Borbas, Paul Booth, Brandon Herrera, Miguel Camarillo… The list goes on. As an artist, I think that consuming art is one of the most important and enjoyable things I do. As for more personal influences, the artists I work with at Bodystain Tattoo are incredible, and I have learned a lot from all of them. I also took lessons from a family friend named Jim Atwood as a kid, and he is to thank for everything I’ve ever produced.

- What are your hopes for the short term and plans for the long term?
Currently I am working towards starting a tattoo apprenticeship! It is an incredibly exciting, but equally as busy experience. After going through the apprenticeship and becoming a tattoo artist, I have no idea what the future holds long term, but I’m looking forward to it.

- What is your favourite piece that you have created?
That’s a tough one. More recently I have been looking at an artist named Jack Mosher, and used his work as reference to do a pretty gnarly snake. I also did a pin up drinking whiskey on a couch that I had a lot of fun with. The process, not the product, is my favorite part of any piece of art. As long as I am having fun with an idea I am happy to be working on anything. I’m currently doing an Illustration of a Tie Fighter with an eyeball as a cockpit, and its been fun as hell to work on.

- Thanks for your time Jack, it's been good working together and its always good to catch up. Are there any websites, social media or sponsors you want to give a shout out to?
The only social media I keep really up to date is my Instagram, @jackb_illustration. If anyone wants to contact me by Email they can at And check out my friends work at Bodystain Tattoo! Thats @bodystaintattoo on Instagram, and Bodystain Tattoo on facebook. They have a sweet skull emblem, made by yours truly, as the profile photo. It’s only got one eye, you can’t miss it. Thanks!

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