Mark Gillett

Come back frequently……

Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Morocco Magic, Mohamad, and Chez Max

leave a comment »


I have visited Morocco many times in the last 10 years and each time it brings beautiful surprises, more great people, peace and shere awesomeness.

My latest trip was no different except the madness of my previous trip was exchanged for some more leisurely and exploring activities. I booked a car through Carrental Ltd who were so pleasant to deal with unlike those detestable mass booking sites. Ghizlane was actually a human being who dealt with me on the phone and greeted me at the airport with the car.

Arriving felt so warm. Obviously the weather was but the feel of Morocco and the hospitality is so comforting. After the usual queues at the customs and the officers deciding its time to chat with a colleague in the next booth, I got through to the arrivals lounge in about 45 minutes. The smell of North African and Middle Eastern countries is unique and it always takes me back to my first visits in the early 80’s to Abu Dhabi. Morocco is not different. The only infuriating bit is the way these countries are portrayed in the media or by ignorant beings who rarely step out of their little worlds even when travelling to them. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by markgillett

November 6, 2015 at 1:43 pm

British Tennis – A Sorry State

with 3 comments

As the first Grand Slam of the year is about toImage 2 start, my mind turns a little towards the sport I have been associated with for 45 years of my life. I played until I was 42, coached and ran my own school until 7 years ago and through a series of events I dropped tennis out of my life. I’d had enough and it was time to follow directions and passions that had always been running alongside but but were now more important.

After around 3 years of no tennis I began to play during time spent in LA and it was pure pleasure. Sun, nice courts everywhere and availability to everyone of every level. And it was for me that I played. This was when I really started thinking about tennis and the state of the game in the UK.

For the last 3 or 4 summers in England I played a few times with my teenage daughter at the local courts which again was fairly easy. I had tried to speak to my local Club in Haslemere but to use their courts I had to join, which to play only a few times through the summer was pointless. So we played on the courts next to the club which were the same quality and for public use. But this was not always so easy either. On a number of occasions we would go down and the club had taken these over for their junior tennis. This is simply not right. Open your doors and operate in an open way or close them and stay private. And DON’T take public time. Cake and eat it comes to mind.

More recently I have found the bug again to play more. I have even tooled up with new rackets. I have hit a few times over the last months and Image 3my desire is really back. I am getting better, the feet are moving again and overall I am so happy to be playing this great sport. But the bit that really hinders my return to the game on my terms is our system.

Firstly I approached my old club Woking and they agreed to allow me to play there without joining as I wasn’t sure how for how long I would continue. Not long after this agreement, they returned with a call saying that it was not possible on this basis as it would set a precedent they were not comfortable with being a members only club.

What I would like to point out is that over the 20 years I have known this club, they have received funding for 4 acrylic courts, further funding/support for two porous acrylic courts. 8 courts with floodlighting also supported with grants and free loans from the LTA and further funds for the club house. Much of this funding was a direct result of the programme I owned there. This is not unique to Woking but happens at many of the 2500 clubs around the UK who then close their doors to the public. Ouch, thats a lot of funds given out to private members clubs.

Given that I can no longer play there unless I find £465 to join I decided to phone around. I know most of the local facilities and have managed to find the Guildford Tennis Academy where I can book without being a member. In the process, I found numerous clubs I knew of all with good funded facilities but none that would allow play without joining.

I am a player so I knew where to start but what about those who do not play and just wish to find a court and play; to give it a go and maybe book some lessons or join a group? For me its relatively easy but still I had trouble. Whilst I was in LA, over about 4 days I found 5 or six first class facilities I could book freely. Either with another coach, a list of players I found on a board and through an online site. It was so easy. France is the same and finding somewhere to play is not a problem. In fact most of Europe is like this.

John MacEnroeI am not in LA now, I am here. And I am loving tennis again but the system is not fit for the job. Currently there are around 2500 members clubs that the system works with. The LTA have lots of information on how to play and get started but this is relatively useless if you just want to pay and play.. If we are to start finding players we have to make the sport more available.

I do not think that a club should be forced to open its doors, however, I do believe that if a club receives any support whatsoever from the governing body (LTA), they should then be contractually bound to open its doors for at least its off peak times. In general people will take a punt and book a court for £8-15 and if its in a nice facility they will certainly enjoy the experience. Public courts can be an attraction also and really should receive the lions share of the money that comes form Wimbledon each year. This way tennis becomes affordable and easy to play. Then we start to see progress. Clubs that don’t “play ball” should receive nothing, and I can assure you many would be closed down. Forcing them to open up to public bookings would allow so many empty courts to be filled and clubs to boost their revenues. I suppose it will get up the nose of some of those lofty wankers who wish to remain members only but then they should not accept or be offered funding or interest free loans. And with these loans they are very often not paid and written off.

I don’t believe the solution is a difficult one but would take a concentrated effort and mean upsetting a few of those firmly entrenched in the establishment. The LTA has now got itself a new “head of state” so it would be nice to see them setting a few rules for funding that allow people access. Or just not fund. It would also be apt to go back historically and set rules with clubs that have in the past seen injections of cash. Why should these facilities then be only available to those who wish to be part of a private club or those who can afford it. The very people who believe they are doing so much for tennis are in fact hindering progress and limiting exposure of a great sport.

Image 1it will be interesting to see how we get on at the Australian Open over the next two weeks but other than Andy Murray we don’t have much there. And his success was outside the system too. As was Henmans’s.

All Images are copyright Mark Gillett.

Written by markgillett

January 17, 2015 at 5:26 pm

Are You An Athlete?

with 3 comments

Street Child Sierra Leone

Each year I provide media for a few races or events around the world. Some of them long and arduous some short and powerful and as the sporting leisure world, or more accurately the business of leisure pursuits, grows I find my self hearing the word athlete along with elite and high performance, being banded around so freely that I was beginning to feel I didn’t understand the definition anymore.. So! On my run today as it was buzzing around in my head I thought I would look it up when I got home and write my thoughts on what an athlete is….

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by markgillett

May 30, 2014 at 4:32 pm

Yukon Quest Reflections, “Wasting My Young Years”

with 9 comments

I took a flight this morning from Eagle Checkpoint to Dawson. I had been delayed a night and was quite eager to leave. Not for any good reason because Eagle was stunning and my time there very beautiful. The people, 100 in total, were all amazing too, putting on food and refreshments for the Mushers and the Quest officials. They also have their own musher in the Quest this year, the young Matt Hall.

Yukon Quest 2014The flight was carrying a vet, two drop dogs, a race marshall and myself. The plane was a tiny 4 seater with a little room for bags at the back of the plane. Gert, the pilot I met in 2009 when he took me up from an airstrip in Braeburn. About 5 minutes into the flight all the controls and electrics failed but strangely this did not phase me and he gently glided it down and my excursion was cut short.

This time the plane was fine and we took off towards Dawson with the river below us the plane rose above the turbulent winds smoothly. At this point my mind just cleared like a fog lifting. Not that I was stressed but there was this sudden clarity that led to a huge upsurge of emotion. So many things came into my mind as we crossed the beautiful landscape below. Winding rivers, mountains scattered with pine trees, sections of open water but mostly white where the snow lays peacefully on the pack ice.

My mind went to the incredible care shown to the dogs that had been dropped by their mushers. Nothing took priority over the dogs. Not us, not our bags, not even the pilot. Well maybe he did but he also looked after them like his own.

Yukon Quest 2014I was shooting out of the window brushing it clean of iced condensation every few minutes so I could see what I was doing. The soft rumble of the plane constantly singing in my ears. And suddenly, bang! Full on emotion for what I was experiencing. What my life has been about for pretty much most of my adult days. How lucky or privileged I have been to see and experience the world in such a way. I thought about how many people have told me they dream of visiting Alaska and yet here I am in a small plane flying over it. And for the rest of the time I am here I am travelling through it meeting some of the most amazing people. Then I thought of the mushers out there alone on the Quest and how their experiences must differ from mine. And how one day I might like to try. Maybe!

I hid my face in the glass of the window as tears ran down my face. I thought of my daughter back home, people I have become such good friends with here and around the world. Tom, who I travel here with. Heidi who I met here in 2009 and those who I have worked with before. Then Gabi in Cairo and the world I see there, so so different. There were so many things going through my head.

Yukon Quest 2014I took some more pictures and studied the barren but alive landscape and thought about how for most people, this sort of thing is just television. I then realised that this is the only place to take me somewhere close to what the desert does for me. It strips me right back to the real me. I Don’t have a mortgage or make huge amounts of money doing what I do but I do learn something new every day. I make enough for my daughter and me to live ok and for the adventures I experience through the work I do. I came to the conclusion that I live a really privileged life. I work extremely hard and often for little monetary reward but the rewards I receive in a real sense far outweigh everything else.

It also took me back to a few months ago when I considered selling a couple of older cameras that I no longer use. I keep everything in my loft and was having a clear out a few things. I told Emily I might sell them and she responded with “why?” I didn’t really have an answer as they aren’t worth much but what I didn’t realise is that they are to her.. She then followed with “but they are you, dad”. That really sealed it and they are still in my loft. My work and travel along with the stories I live for are important to her and maybe one day will be to her children and its these very personal stories of others that I love to hear or discover. Yukon Quest 2014

The Yukon Quest is full of stories, that date back to its beginnings in 1983. The land it covers holds stories from as far back as 14000BC and more recently since the Europeans came in the Goldrush years from 1890. I am always overwhelmed when I visit the North and I love being here. I hope I will continue to find enough to keep bringing me back.

Tom found a very apt piece of music for our first video, but more than that he then edited it sublimely. Don’t waste yours.

Written by markgillett

February 6, 2014 at 4:50 am

Yukon Quest 2014 (or #yq2014 for those who speak in hash tags…)

with 6 comments

It finally got underway this morning with an on-time start of 11am. Snow was trucked in for the street start which was moved from the river last minute for safety reasons.. What an exercise! And the efficiency and organisation of this race is just incredible.

Once the mushers left by noon we hopped off and edited a few shots and then drove to Pleasant Valley Stores in Two Rivers – Such great names! – and we are now at the checkpoint editing, writing and uploading more stuff… You can find us on my Facebook, The Yukon Quest Official Facebook or probably just about anywhere to do with dogs on the internet.. Just search or hash tag search #yq2014

Here is a small gallery of shots from our arrival in Fairbanks.

Written by markgillett

February 2, 2014 at 4:16 am

The Yukon Quest

with 4 comments

I have never seen the moon as in I did in Yukon

I have never seen the moon as in I did in Yukon

I find myself back in the Yukon having said I would probably miss this year. Its now the 5th year I’ve ventured and more and more the North seems to suck me back into the wilderness and beauty that it exudes.

The team this year is myself, Tom Barber and Heidi McGuire. Tom has been with me the last three trips I’ve made and Heidi I met in 2009 on the YAU. I can’t imagine better people to work with and combined with the OTC team and Yukon Quest team, I am really looking forward to the next two weeks of trail, fun, tiredness and usual battles to get the job done.

Yukon Quest 2012, Day3

The Thinking Musher

Already the curveballs have started and the main one has been the weather. The heaviest snow the Yukon has seen for years has all but been discarded by the spring like temperatures of the last week or so. The roads are near clear and the trail is very different. But this does not hold the Quest back. In fact it probably enhances it. Teams will have to be at their best to win this year. Now that the temperatures have fallen again, there will be ice, and possibly overflow. All great stuff for the thinking musher!

Its these conditions or changing conditions that make this such a great race. Like some of the desert stuff I cover, it can be very unpredictable, very demanding and a great challenge. If it were the same each year, how easy that would be to calculate? How boring would it be to follow? The North will always have its say whatever.

We drive up to Fairbanks tomorrow and a few nights of functions before the action start and then we set off back to Whitehorse. We will be posting videos and images along the route and your participation is vital. Comments, posts, opinions (not to strong of course) and questions on Facebook and Twitter.

Yukon Quest

My favourite

Give us your thoughts on who you want to win, or if you don’t mind.. Our stories will be unique as they always are as the trail will, Im sure, give us plenty to talk about.  Can Hugh Neff do it again or will Allen Moore pip him to the post. Or will we have a new winner this year? Will Normand be the darling of the race? Or will that go back to Brent Sass again.. Is it Brent’s year to hold that trophy?

Well, by the 10th Feb we should know the answers to those questions so here’s to the Yukon Quest 2014. Im toasting with a glass of red in the High Country Inn, Whitehorse!

See you on the trail

Marathon Des Sables Time

with one comment

MDS Dunes

The Desert – Somewhere to Enjoy

I am sure there are many of you out there starting to get a little nervous about your last 12 weeks before the start of your MDS. I know exactly where you are at so just keep believing and training up to departure. Remember that tapering is no use, gathering calories does not work, go light, pack light and take the food you need. You have everything else to succeed and no reason to fail. You have water, shelter and food. The rest is in your head! Here is a little piece just published.. Good luck!!


Written by markgillett

January 2, 2014 at 3:05 pm