A BRAVE dad is sailing around the British Isles raising money for charity with his parrot for company.
Paul Hardaker, from Liverpool, is on the final leg of his journey back to the River Mersey after setting off in May this year to raise £25,000 from Crohn’s and Colitis UK.
And he spent last week in Girvan for an unscheduled stop to rest up after falling ill before his final push for home.
Paul has suffered from Crohn’s disease for 20 years now, and after his construction company fell into administration last year, he felt it was the right to for him to do something to raise money and awareness about the illness.
He explained: “I was working on a construction site in 2001 when I felt a sharp pain in the right-hand part of my abdomen. I went to my doctor who straight away said it looks like appendicitis and admitted me to hospital.
“I was operated on the next day and, when I came round, I was informed that I had Crohn’s disease. I had never heard of Crohn’s disease.
“I have been diagnosed with Crohn’s for about ten years now and I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones, as up until now I have had only a few stays in hospital due to ‘flare ups’.
“I take medication two-to-three times a day for the rest of my life and eat as sensibly as I can. But there are many children and adults suffering horrendously with this disease. It is still a very grey area and, hopefully, all the money which I raise will help raise awareness of Crohn’s and Colitis.”
The condition is an inflammatory disease of the intestine that may affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract from mouth to anus, causing a wide variety of symptoms.
Remarkably, Paul only took up sailing eight years ago and admits it was a nervy experience at first.
He said: “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would learn to sail, but a friend of mine needed a favour and, at the time, I was lucky enough to help him out and buy his boat from him.
“The year was 2003 and after my first couple of ventures and a few very uncomfortable sleepovers on the boat, I realised that I needed something bigger than Yo-Yo, a boat I could actually stand up in.
“Out of the blue, while walking at Liverpool Marina, I came across Zuma, a Jeanneau Fantasia, which I fell for and immediately placed an offer of sale.
After weeks of negotiations, we agreed on a price that suited us both. I couldn’t have asked to buy it off a better person as the backup and continuous support was always there, and believe me, I needed it.
“I have never had the opportunity to undertake a long cruise, due to work commitments, but due to the economic climate, I unfortunately lost my business, resulting in some extra time on my hands. Therefore, the occasion arose to embark on my dream voyage, sailing around Great Britain. The rest is history.”
Keeping him company on his travels is his pet parrot, Finlay, who certainly keeps him on his toes. Paul said: “I’ve always had a keen interest in keeping animals, from a well-developed marine aquarium to successfully breeding Iguanas. Finlay was a moment of impulse.
“When I got home from the pet shop with a few months of supplies, I set up the cage, sat back and wondered what had I just done as Finlay was biting, screaming and generally behaving like a tantrum toddler.
“I needed a new perspective as I realised I had just adopted a two year old.
“That was October 2009 and I wouldn’t change him for the world. He drives me nuts but makes me scream with laughter as well. It is like having a small child again.”
His journey has taken the avid Liverpool FC supporter anti-clockwise around the UK, a choice he has regretted slightly. He explained: “I’ve went the more difficult way, the wind has been against me since I’ve headed for home.
“Everyone else I’ve met has done it clockwise and they’ve finished now.
“I’m ready for home, sitting with the remote control and just flicking through channels.”
To donate to Paul’s cause please visit www.justgiving.com/paul-hardaker.