Katie Carr is an expressive arts therapist, coach and educator and author of “Moderate Becoming Good Later”, the story of her brother Toby’s attempt to kayak in all areas of the Shipping Forecast. Toby sadly died before he finished his challenge, but as a result of the recordings, photos and extensive notes he collated during his adventure, Katie was able to write the book for him. Having completed the book, she is now finishing his adventure, kayaking the areas of the Shipping Forecast that Toby was unable to complete. Yet whilst Toby was a single man and expert kayaker, Katie is the mother of two small kids and a total novice which makes her challenge all the more impressive.
This is a powerful and personal conversation about life, loss and the power of adventures to help us navigate grief. Katie shares her motivation for undertaking the book and subsequent kayaking challenge, the challenges she encountered and the unexpected benefits she has experienced on the way.
Moderate Becoming Good Later is now available to buy on Amazon and other bookshops.
To find out more visit Instagram: @moderatebecominggoodlater
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NICKI: 00:00 Hello and welcome to the Everyday Adventure Podcast. My name is Nicki Bass and I will be bringing you thoughts, ideas, and stories from some incredible guests to hopefully inspire you to live more adventurously in your everyday lives.
00:23 So today it is my absolute pleasure to welcome Katie Carr to the show. Katie is the author of Moderate Becoming Good Later, which is the story of her brother Toby's attempt to kayak in all areas of the shipping forecast. Sadly, Toby died before completing his challenge, but having documented his adventures, Katie was able to pick up and complete the book for him. And now having finished the book, she's now aiming to finish his adventures herself. And Katie reached out to me with the most lovely email sort of saying really why what she was doing really fitted with the vision and the ethos of the Everyday Adventure podcast. And having had an initial conversation with her around what she was doing, I just blown away it was, I was so excited by the concept and the idea, I knew it would really resonate with you listening as well, and I really couldn't wait to share her story and hear it in her own words. So Katie, welcome to the show. It is such a pleasure to have you here.
KATIE: 01:24 Hi Nick. Thanks very much.
NICKI: 01:26 So I guess the first place to start really is just I guess the go back a bit and sort of hear a bit more about, obviously it's quite a difficult story that you are sharing in some ways, but also pretty uplifting in others. And I guess what motivated you to pick up with the story with what Toby was doing and had done and decide to complete it and turn it into your own adventure as well?
KATIE: 01:58 Yeah, I think I was always quite involved in his adventure. I mean, he shared a lot with me about it from the beginning and what I didn't know was how much he'd recorded about the adventure, how much he'd written down and photographed and recorded on sound recordings as well. And after his death, I was going through his stuff in his house and I just found all this stuff and it was so clear that he wanted his story to be told. And I just thought, well, I think I can do that. And it's kind of when someone dies, you think there's not a lot more you can do for that person. But actually in this case it turned out that there was something I could do and that was telling his story.
NICKI: 02:41 Yeah, it's so interesting, isn't it that feeling? Well, it's something you can do and that connection I guess in a way of what can I do now, I guess because it's quite an interesting challenge and I think what struck me when you first got in touch was just this idea of the shipping forecast and the uniqueness in a way of what he was setting out to do. And I just wondered, I suppose, and this is something we discussed, what the connection was with the shipping forecast for Toby for you, where did that come from? What was his motivation?
KATIE: 03:14 Well, we were lucky enough when we were kids to have a small boat. It wasn't our boat as kids, it was our family boat. It was a small catamaran. My dad used to call it a floating caravan, so it wasn't a yacht. In the case of daddy having a yacht, it was definitely a bit of more of a messy thing. And we used to go sailing on the east coast of England and one of the things that I remember about sailing was listening to the shipping forecast and we would listen to that on the boat. Most of my memories of listening to the shipping forecast on the boat are associated with having cold water thrown in my face or lightning kind of hearing thunder and lightning around the boat, the halyards rattling, that kind of thing. So it was definitely bracing on the east coast or certainly when we went and the shipping forecast became this kind of thing that we listened to as a family as we went through some pretty tough times.
04:13 Unfortunately, my mum became ill when I was 11 and Toby was only seven at the time, and she just became mentally ill from one day to the next, woke up and didn't remember her name. And then a little bit later on, both of my brothers were diagnosed with Franconia anaemia, which is a life-limiting disease. They were told at 12 that they would not live beyond 30. Both of them did live beyond 30, and that's thanks to the development of the medicine in franconian anaemia in recent years. But there was all this stuff going on and in the background there was this kind of constant, almost poetic nature of the shipping forecast that our dad always used to turn up even when we were at home in Rutland, which is about as far from the sea as you can get.
NICKI: 04:59 Yeah, it's really interesting. I mean, haven't listened to the shipping forecast very often. It has to be said, I'm not a sailor by any description, but there is something very sort of, I guess rhythmic and comforting in a way, and I know that's something that the other people have described, and I suppose that's that connection. So why did Toby then decide to pick up with that idea of the shipping forecast and take it forward into a challenge?
KATIE: 05:28 Yeah, so Toby was looking for a challenge, I guess he'd been kayaking for about five years. He was looking for a challenge and didn't really settle on one in particular until our brother Marcus died and he died in 2017. He died of mouth cancer as a result of this Franconia anaemia, which both of them shared. And I think for all of us, that was quite a big thing as you would expect, and for Toby especially, it became a reason for him to go out there and do his challenge. I never spoke to him about him seeing his end of life or anything like that. I don't even know if he really thought about that, but subconsciously I think there was an element of if I'm going to do something, I should do it now and that this might be a way of overcoming this grief and loss that is inevitable when you lose a close family member.
NICKI: 06:23 Yeah, no, I think like he said is I suppose it's that thing of what's the motivation for starting to take something on and that propels you forward in this. And I guess, and just thinking about that sort of picking up from, I mean I can imagine, like you said, on one hand there was the connection and the sense that you could pick up with his story and share that with the world, but I can imagine that in doing so, there were probably some challenges along the way for you two, and I just wondered as you sort of embarked on this adventure, on the writing adventure, I suppose, what were some of the things that you know, I guess you came across or that you sort of had to navigate in doing that?
KATIE: 07:10 Yeah, I did something which is typical of me, which is sort of going right, I'm going to do this and then telling people I'm going to do it and then going, oh my God, how am I going to do this? I started opening up some of his notebooks and by the time I got onto it, I'd cleared out his house, had done a whole load of stuff before I started getting on with the book and I got them out of this box, I'd put them in and they all smelt of him, and I could feel his voice coming off the page in his s scrolly handwriting. I mean, he'd probably get me into trouble if I'd said scrolly actually. But his beautifully written stuff, he was very good at spelling, actually I didn't never know that until I found his notes. But anyway, it's a bit of an aside, so it was quite challenging emotionally, particularly in the beginning it became more so when I started listening to the sound recordings, just listening to his voice, it felt like he was there at times.
08:11 He has some sound recordings where he's on some faraway beaches and describing what's there and what he's feeling, and it's really beautiful and it just kind of felt like being on the phone with him and then the sound recording comes to an end and I'd realise, oh yeah, he's still not here and quite often be in tears at my desk. Just kind of thinking between this reality of him not being here and what I was imagining or the way I needed to put myself into his position and imagine him being here and that contrast between the two as I went through writing the book, that was pretty hard as well as just keeping the motivation for it because it's a massive undertaking and by the end of it, I just felt like I want to get outside. I've been writing about nature and how beautiful it is and how great it is to challenge yourself and get outside and I'm stuck in here writing and writing and editing and writing, and so
NICKI: 09:14 That's so interesting, isn't it? Because I can imagine it, I mean, it's a hard enough of a challenge writing up something that you've done yourself in a way, and that if you were documenting your own adventures, but to document that for somebody else, and I guess using their voice, but also your voice and even I can only imagine so much harder when that person's no longer there.
KATIE: 09:41 There were quite a few things that were difficult with that. I mean, first of all, deciding what was important and what wasn't, because he just wrote his notes at the end of the day in his tent, and I didn't really have an easy way of going, well, that was really important for him and that bit, that was just something he saw. And so I had to make my own decisions on that. And then also later on when I was trying to tell the story properly, I had to give up on this idea that I would tell the story in the same way that Toby would've done. I think that we just can't do that. The only way I could do that was by thinking, okay, is this something Toby would've said yes or no? Yes. Okay, do I like it? It goes in because otherwise I was finding that I would limit myself too much and I wasn't allowing myself to be free enough to be able to create properly because I was worried about whether he would've said that. And I think it's a case of keeping my own agenda out of it and trying to think of things from his point of view, putting myself into that and then allowing me myself to go, look, there's no way I can make it as he would've done it. Let's just try and get as close as possible.
NICKI: 10:54 Yeah, no, I mean it sounds like an incredible process in lots of ways. And I mean you've mentioned there some of the benefits that you experienced from that process and from taking on this challenge and writing the book, and I was just wondering, were there any sort of anything that's occurred or any benefits that came out of it that you completely hadn't anticipated when you started and have sort of, I suppose grown as a result of it?
KATIE: 11:26 Yeah, I mean when I think about it, it's been spending an extra year with Toby and spending a year with him when he was at his very best. So unfortunately, when you die of cancer, most of the time it's a horrible decline and for relatives, you are left with this image of someone who isn't the whole person. They were not the whole person that you knew. However, if you go back and you get to spend time looking at these notes and really digging into what exactly did he do every day, kind of doing a bit of detective work there, I was able to be with him again at the best time in his life and that I hope is a gift that I can give to everybody. He was friends with him and even those that read the book that didn't know him, this isn't a book about terrible loss and depression and I don't know it. It's a book that does deal with some of those issues but deals with them in a way which is like, let's celebrate life. Let's get out there and do what we can to make the most of it within the limits that we have, within the limits we have health-wise or whatever else.
NICKI: 12:39 I mean that such a beautiful way of thinking about it as well of that you are getting to, I love what you said about getting to spend time with them when they were in a way at their best, when he was enjoying what he was doing and doing something really incredible as well by the sounds of it. And that has a dual or a multiple sense in the way that you are sharing that with others too. And I know it's also opened up a further adventure for you. I slightly alluded to it at the beginning, but I want to hear it from you and share what, what's next, what are the next steps in this? Cause I know by all means that the book isn't the end of this.
KATIE: 13:24 Yeah, well, it's funny because the book was going to be the end of it, but by the end of writing the book, I decided that Toby had left an unfinished adventure as well as an unfinished book and why not try and finish that adventure? And this for me is somewhat of a challenge because Toby was sea kayaking when he started doing this adventure. He had about seven years of sea kayaking under his belt. He'd got a lot of qualifications from British canoeing. He was a leader he'd, he'd done really well with it and was quite competent. I, on the other hand, had never been in a sea kayak. Actually the closest I got to one was carrying his down to the slipway at Christmas just before he died. He went out in his kayak just under a we over a week before he died, and we'd sort of carried that down for him and that was the closest I'd got to it.
14:21 I hadn't even touched it before then and didn't then touch it until it was March this year when I took it out to take it up to Bristol and to launch it in the London area of the shipping forecast. Toby had done 16 areas of the shipping forecast and he'd for the actual book, and he'd been in a few more of them as well because he'd been training for so long, but obviously there's quite a few that were still left. And in order to finish those, I kind of needed to think whether it was possible to do it in a sea kayak. I spoke to my aunt about this who's a big sea and is mentioned in the book, Nikki. She wasn't sort of like, yeah, go and do it. She was a bit like, are you sure you want to do it? I love it.
15:13 Are you sure? Yeah, really. She was very encouraging because she's one of those people that's never been unknown to encourage someone to get outside and or get in a kayak, but at the same time it wasn't like, yeah, just do it. Which I think is also a good thing because it is something that you need to take seriously. Any sport, I think you can just start, and that is obviously how you get things moving, but you need to do it with a certain amount of realism and this idea that, okay, I'm going to have to learn how to do this. It's learning a new skill and I'm going to be rubbish at the beginning, which is what I'm finding at the moment that, I mean, I'm not completely rubbish, but it's something relatively new to me and I'm also ending up going out with people in these different shipping forecast areas who are very good at it because I've deliberately asked them because they're very good at it to come with me to help me, and I'm there sort of the remedial kayaker, sort of having to be left behind a little bit and everybody's having to look after me, which is also a challenge for me because I'm not used to being in that position.
16:28 I'm not used to asking for help. I'm used to just getting on and doing things. So I think it's probably quite a therapeutic task for me to do. But yeah, my idea now is to finish the shipping forecast and for me, there are 10 areas to be done. One of them is Lundy, which Toby started and I've completed, although we could define what completion is because Toby just wanted to see Kayak in all of the areas of the shipping forecast. Now in some of those areas such as Fitzroy, he kayaked the entire coast, so he kayaked all the way from Santander to Porto and wow, that's over 700 kilometres. I'm obviously not going to do anything like that in other areas. He went out for a few different day trips and it was kind of a combination of expedition kayaking and shorter kayaking, shorter day trips or whatever. I'm going to be doing this mostly in day trips, although hopefully I'm going to work up to some things that are a little bit more like expeditions, and he's basically left me all of the cold and wet areas,
17:38 so that's so generous. Yeah, knew he knew what he was doing,
17:40 Didn't he? Yeah, he did. I know he was very much looking forward to kayaking an Ireland and Scotland, but he didn't manage to do that. And so this summer I'll be taking my kids and the car and the kayak, the kayak's actually already in Ireland. I took it over last weekend, so it's in storage in Dublin waiting for its next adventure, and we are going to be driving around Ireland and launching the kayak in different areas of the shipping forecast, and hopefully my partner will put up with that for the three weeks we're going to be doing it.
NICKI: 18:16 Oh, I dunno. It sounds like you've earned a little bit of time in the water yourself after all of this. I mean, I think what's so interesting is like you mentioned, you know, are doing this around work, around having young children, juggling all of the things that, and like you said, learning a new skill at the same time and just one of these, it would be a challenge in itself, I think. I love the point you made about being a bit rubbish at it, knowing I suppose I'm coming from my own personal place of doing quite a lot of things that I'm quite a bit rubbish at, but that's part, in some ways, that's part of the joy of it, that actually going into something, feeling what I can do this on, I've got a lot to learn, but also the pressure is not there necessarily to be showing your skills in something. It's about I guess what you are learning alongside that.
KATIE: 19:15 And I mean for me it's been quite lucky actually because when I think about it, I committed to this before having been in a kayak, so it's
NICKI: 19:25 Always the best way I find just commits to something before you actually know what the hell
KATIE: 19:29 You're doing. Well, this is what I've always done. I'm always one of those jump in the swimming pool and then figure it out later type thing. And I've discovered it's actually a really nice thing to do, which is lucky because if it wasn't, and if I didn't enjoy it, then it would be a gruelling two years of trying to get this done, a very different
NICKI: 19:49 Experience.
KATIE: 19:52 So that's good, that's helping me. And yeah, I think it's is, it's a very good idea for us to put ourselves in a position where we are not an expert, where we are not even good at something and we just have to go, yeah, I'm learning, I'm starting again. I'm doing something new. I think that helps us to be more empathetic towards a lot of different people, maybe our own children, also students if we teach or anybody else really that might just feel like, oh, I'm a bit rubbish at this. I don't feel very confident, and it does in a way help me to take away some of that self demanding nature of I've got to be really good at this. You're like, well, you can't be really good at it. You are the rubbishes one here, and that's just how it is. It's not going to change and
NICKI: 20:40 It's okay. Yeah, no, and I think it's something I think I've banged on about this at length in other podcasts, but I think it is something that we actively avoid as adults because it is about that, particularly if we are people who to both be competent and perceived as competent at things and feeling like that, that's part of our identity. Then actually a loss of adulthood I think is putting to one side the things that we might not have displayed quite so much competence in or we don't know whether we can do and focusing on our expertise, but how refreshing it can be to just go what this is, I'm new to this and like you said, how that can help us to be empathetic with others too. And I guess again, sort of leads on to my next question really, which is if someone's listening to this and they think either kayaking sounds amazing or this idea of getting started with a new skill or starting a new adventure is really enticing, but I just don't know where to start mean. Given your experience I guess across this whole sort of process and journey, what I mean, what's the one piece of advice you would give them?
KATIE: 21:57 I would say just start.
NICKI: 22:01 I know as you've displayed so happily,
KATIE: 22:04 Yeah, just start. There's a way of figuring it out. When I started looking at this at Toby's trip, the bit that was left and thinking how on earth can I do this? How can I get the kayak up here? How can I put a kayak on a hay car? How can I get a kayak over to Ireland? How can I get people to help me to learn to kayak? All of that. You just start looking into it, break it down into smaller bits. But I think the first thing is just thinking what do I want to do? That's a challenge in itself. What do I want to do? And let's just start, and if it helps to tell people I'm going to do this, then do that as well. Tell people you're going to do it and then just go and do it bit by bit pushing and bushing and bushing until you get there because things like the book, the book didn't just happen from one day to the next. It was the same as kayaking, it's just sort of starting and moving forward bit by bit. And it was absolutely rubbish in the beginning because I was just writing down what Toby had written in his books and not giving it any shape at all. But you can just keep on going, keep trying, keep moving forward. So just start and then make it better as you go along.
NICKI: 23:17 Wonderful. And I know the book's due to be published shortly, and so I just wondered if you wanted to share a bit more information about where people can get hold of it, where people can find out more about you, about your adventures coming up as well, and your completion of the shipping forecast. Where can they go?
KATIE: 23:36 Well, they can get the book in any good bookshop and online as well. That will be out on the 8th of June. You can follow me on Instagram on moderate Becoming Good later on Twitter at Kayak Forecast. And you can find my website, which is www.katieandeastcar.com. And that's Anise with two Ns and a C. And yeah, you'll track me down that way. Brilliant. And I'll be happy to be in contact with people.
NICKI: 24:07 Amazing. And we'll pop all of those details in the show notes so people can find you really easily and follow your adventures coming up as well. Katie, it's been such a pleasure speaking to you. Thank you so much for so generously sharing your story and I guess everything that comes with that too. And yeah, can't wait to read the book too. I'm so excited.
KATIE: 24:27 Well, thank you so much for having me on the show. It's been brilliant.
NICKI: 24:30 Oh, it's been a pleasure. Take care. And you good luck as well. Good luck. Goodbye.
KATIE: 24:33 Thanks, bye.
NICKI: 24:36 So I really hope you enjoyed that episode with Katie. There were so many different themes and threads throughout our conversation that I would've loved to explore further. I think one of the things I've talked about previously on the podcast, but I don't think I've touched on for a while, and one of the themes that came through just in terms of how she committed herself and how she took on both the challenges of writing the book, but also of completing Toby's journey was this point about accountability, about sharing what she was going to do before she'd even figured out a way of how to do it. And it's certainly something that I've spoken to with previous guests on this idea that when we create some form of accountability for ourselves by putting it out there, because often that can be the scariest thing to do with whenever we try anything new is telling other people.
25:36 It's the sort of anticipation of questioning or judgement or what are people going to think or is this me? All of these things sort of creep into our head when we are about to embark on something new and that can stop us from taking something on and stop us from sharing it and getting the help we need. But it can also be a real driver when we do share because then we're like, well, I've told everyone I've got to do it, I'm going to do it. And now I sort of have to find a way to do it, particularly when those who are holding us to account for want of a better phrase, have our backs too are people who are genuinely supportive and willing us on. And certainly I find that if I put something out there, then it feels more real and sometimes can start feeling more achievable too, or maybe it can feel a bit scary, but it certainly helps to sort of consolidate an idea I think.
26:44 And I suppose it links to this idea of which I, I've certainly touched on before about this idea of perfection or how we have to know all of the stuff or have a perfect plan worked out or we have to have a perfect idea of something before it's sort of ready to launch rather than we can have the idea and put it out there and then try and figure it out from there. I'd really love to know your thoughts on this because I don't think it's an easy conundrum to solve as to what stage we tell people about what we are thinking of doing. And also I think different people will experience that as helpful or unhelpful. I know if you are naturally more private or maybe more introverted, actually that can feel like a really big thing to share it with others. And maybe there's a bit of actually not just wanting to protect ourselves but wanting to protect the idea as well, of the purity of the idea or of the adventure that we've got in our heads that sometimes once it's out there can feel like it's taken on other people's projections too.
27:53 Whereas for others, actually the first thing that they'll do is tell other people, I've had this amazing idea. And that's a really important part of how they experience adventures too. So yeah, whichever way you do it, I'd love to know whether you find accountability or sharing your ideas with other people helpful, less helpful if there's a stage that you find it really works for you. So please do get in touch and share. You can find me as always, I'm on Instagram resilience work. You can get in touch via my website resilience work.co.uk. Or I should have mentioned, I'm also on Everyday Adventure Pod on Instagram too, the website resilience work.co.uk. You can find me LinkedIn, Nikki Bass or yes, please do reach out. I'd love to know what you're thinking, how you experienced this episode two, otherwise I will be back soon. We are getting through season three.
28:47 Gosh, I can't believe this. We are in the latter stages. I always commit to roundabout 10 episodes per season. So it may be slightly more sl, maybe slightly less, but around about 10. So we are definitely, as we head towards the summer holidays coming towards the end of season six, I still have some fantastic conversations to share with you. So I can't wait to share those. And I'll be popping in another solo episode as well just before we finish too. But in the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful week, weekend whenever you are listening to this, you enjoy some everyday adventures of your own and I'll hopefully catch up with you soon. Take care. Bye.