Do you ever really get to know somebody?
When Geoff Pike first advertised Tai Chi classes in Alsager the interest was very encouraging. In no time at all a number of classes were being set up in the local library and the Girl Guides’ Hall. Such was the success, when the warmer weather rolled in some classes were moved to the playing fields at the leisure centre. It was a pleasure to be instructed in the exercise art by somebody who became a legend in such a short time. A legend for being gentle, patient, considerate and most of all, inclusive.
When the Haywood Foundation, a charity based at the Haywood Hospital, a specialist arthritis and associated conditions NHS hospital became aware of a BMJ article extolling the potential benefits of Tai Chi they sort the services of a qualified Tai Chi instructor. Step forward Geoff Pike.
I introduced Geoff to the Foundation’s Chair and Vice-Chair one Thursday afternoon to discuss the possibilities of classes being offered to arthritis sufferers as part of their exercise programmes. Geoff had roared into the car park astride his powerful motorbike having travelled from Anglesey where he had been instructing seamanship. The Foundation’s senior officers were soon “sold” on the idea and Geoff’s credentials were impressive. It wasn’t long before classes were planned, the medical staff advised of the dates and times of sessions so that they could introduce their patients to the programmes. Classes at the hospital filled up very quickly and a waiting list was generated. No matter which condition the patients were suffering from, their mobility and balance issues and level of confidence to take on a new challenge, Geoff put everyone at ease. Every session began with Geoff checking on everyone’s general feelings and health condition; a chair was placed near the participants for safety reasons, the gentle background music was switched on and away we went.
Week after week, month after month the sessions attracted a loyal following, all of whom fed back that the benefits they received from the sessions were amazing.
It was during the sessions, warm up and warm down exercises that we got to know more about Geoff as a person.
- an accomplished skier – enjoying the sport and instructing too;
- a yachtsman of some prowess – again as a crewman and instructor;
- an IT teacher at a local boys’ school – self-taught in the technologies that were becoming vital;
- a health and safety and first aid expert and trainer.
- a serving solder in HM armed forces.
The list can be added to I am sure but these jobs and hobbies and expertise were those which we came to learn about during the few short months that Geoff was our instructor, and without doubt, friend.
It’s very difficult to think that when this horrendous pandemic has passed and we are able to return to some semblance of normality the Tai Chi sessions that were so looked forward to in Alsager and the Haywood Hospital (and far and wide for sure) won’t have Geoff at the helm encouraging us to,
“bend slightly at the knee, tongue up on the roof of your mouth, breath gentle through your nose and sink down with your hands facing down and wrists slightly flexed”.
I might have forgotten the exact wording that Geoff uttered but there is one thing I shall never forget, Mr Geoff Pike, a gentle man and gentleman.