Marriage With The Volume Turned Up

Beverley Turner on life in Chiswick with husband James Cracknell


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Life hasn’t been easy for the past few years for Beverley Turner and her husband, double Olympic rowing medallist James Cracknell, who live in Chiswick with their three children.

They appeared to have an idyllic life. She had a successful television career and he was one of the country's most famous athletes. But on July 20, 2010, James had his skull smashed by the wing-mirror of a petrol tanker in Arizona as he was trying to cross the US from East to West in sixteen days. He received severe brain damages, his frontal lobes were crushed and it was touch and go for a while whether he would survive.

James made a remarkable recovery but when he returned home, Beverley discovered he was not the man she married. The brain damage had created a range of health problems, from epilepsy to mood swings and memory loss. The couple have now written ‘ Touching Distance’, their account of the way in which Jame's accident has impacted on their relationship and family life. It has been described as " bleak, inspiring, hilarious and recklessly honest."

Despite the ups and downs of the past two years Beverley says they are very happy in Chiswick, where she has lived since arriving to London thirteen years ago, initially sharing a flat with her sister in Grove Park.

As a mother of three young children, she has a hectic few weeks ahead in the run-up to Christmas. There is the publicity tour and interviews for 'Touching Distance', combined with writing articles for a national newspaper, organising a trip up north to see parents and friends and end-of-term activities for son Croyde (10). The couple also have two little girls, Kiki (3) and Trixie (1).

“Part of the reason for writing the book was to help others in similar situations. I hope it will be a bit of a handbook for families of people who have had similar accidents. I know doctors and nurses have already recommended it and we’re getting about 30 letters or emails every day from people who are at home caring for brain-injured family members.”

“I just want people to know that they’re not alone whatever their situation. If the book can help others not to feel isolated, then that’s fantastic”, she says.

Life in Chiswick mainly revolves around family life. They like to bike along the river to school when the weather is good, with Beverley stopping off at the Strand Cafe for a coffee on the way home. There are lots of family walks in Chiswick House and Gardens and she likes to jog along the river, visit the pubs on Strand on the Green, and meet friends in her favourite restaurants along the High Road.

“I’m hugely excited about the new Maggie and Rose venture which is going to be brilliant for parents of young children like ourselves. But I like Chiswick just as much now that I’m a mum as when I was a single girl. There’s plenty for everyone here. We often just get onto the A4 and drive somewhere nice like Henley. But if we need to get into town, if the traffic's not too bad we can get into the city in twenty minutes or so.

“ Like everyone we have that conversation about whether we should move to the country but I don’t see myself leaving Chiswick - I think I need the stimulation of being near London and yet kid myself that I live in the country because it does have that rural feeling."

Beverley says she likes the friendliness of people in the shops along the High Road and the fact that she has found like-minded friends, women who are parents and also trying to keep their careers going, "working hard but also playing hard", as she describes it.

“ I love places like Fat Boys for breakfast or even a curry in the evenings. And I’ve just discovered the sushi at Chisou. If I have a meeting I pop into High Road House which is also a good spot for a drink late at night as well."

At the moment life is so busy she says her husband and herself are like ships passing in the night. He is currently recording a programme on cycling with BBC Five Live. The couple are committed to safe cycling and are advocates of cyclists wearing helmets, particularly children.

"Over 80% of accidents involving child cyclists don’t involve cars- the children either fall off the bike or bang into a lamp post. It's so easy to damage their skulls. As for adults, it's amazing how many well-educated, intelligent people you see on bikes not wearing a helmet."

Though James has made an amazing recovery, Beverley says they have had to cope with a different life .Brain damage sometimes leads to personality changes including moodiness, memory loss and anger.

“ He has good days and bad days. We try to keep stress levels down. When he’s in good form you see the original James and if not, we get what I call James Cracknell Mark Two. He’ll lose things or be forgetful and then he gets frustrated.

“We’re very lucky in that he has made a remarkable recovery but he still needs help. He is on medication for his epilepsy, and sees a neurologist for annual check-ups but he copes really well and he hasn’t spent one day lying on the sofa feeling sorry for himself.

“I tell people it’s like any marriage, but with the volume turned up."

People who have read 'Touching Distance' have told her its been “inspiring” and have commented on their honesty in not glossing over the pressure the accident has placed on their relationship, she says,

“ It’s not a sports book, there’s not a lot about sport. There’s as much in the book dealing with how he’s coped post accident as there is about his life in sport. One thing that really helped James was going to the Hogarth gym, it was a big part of his recovery to keep his exercise up and have some space to himself."

James is now vice president of Headway, the Brain Injury association and the couple are involved in the Bicycle Helmet Initiative Trust.

Beverley also praises which she reads to find out what’s going on in her locality.

“ It’s a brilliant local resource. I use it for everything from finding a local tradesmen, to what’s going on every day life."

Beverley started her broadcasting career as a sports presenter for basketball, Formula One and Tour de France coverage. She was once a champion swimmer and holds a first class degree in English. She has co-presented a morning programme on Five Live with Eamonn Holmes, worked on travel and food programmes, modelled, and written a book about the industry behind Formula One racing.

Family has taken priority recently as James has been recovering from his accident but she is now ready to place the focus firmly back on her career. Writing immediately comes to her mind.

" I had a meeting arranged with a publisher the same week that James had his accident to discuss a novel I had finished. So my plan is to revive that in the New Year as I've lost two years, but I'm, conscious that I've written this 100,000 word book which is gathering dust."

With a working title of ' Lying Beside You', she describes it as "a novel about marriage and honesty, and middle-class angst".

Touching Distance by James Cracknell and Beverley Turner is published by Century in hardback and ebook priced £18.99 .

James and Beverley will be at Waterstones, Chiswick, at 5.30-6.30 pm Friday, 7th December to sign copies of the book and meet fans.


December 1, 2012

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