Rob Wheeler
Business Development Director, FSB

November 12, 2020 | Sarah Blackburn

Settle down, grab a drink and take a read of the most interesting conversation we had with Rob…

“Worst Ski Guide Ever….”
I was very fortunate to go skiing from an early age. My best friend, when we were ten (10) was Barry Condon, an Irish fella, well, his family were mad Skiers. His Dad was a Dentist and there were obviously a lot of people with bad teeth where I lived because the guy was minted. Anyway, long story short, that started my love of Skiing when they got me into it.

Over the years I became pretty good, not good enough to ski powder properly but good enough to win a slalom event on a pisted slope. Being shorty and stumpy does help sometimes, low centre of gravity and all that…..

Most of my friends were farmers (I went to a boarding school in Devon, so not surprising…), after failing the interview to get in to Cirencester to do a degree in Estate Management. When asked the infamous question what do you think Estate Management involves Mr Wheeler, I answered errr… Managing the Estate….” that was the end of that. Anyway there is no money in Farming…I should add I feel deeply for them at the moment and if I won the lottery tomorrow, you would find me on a beef farm in West Sussex with two heavy horses called Bill and Ben…yes, I have it all planned out.

So I was at a loose end, in my Gap year I had spent sometime in Val D’Isere, mainly working on a building site, but I loved the Alps and wanted to go back. I went to an interview in Kensington with Mark Warner and managed not to fxck it up this time, next up was a Ski test at Hillingdon Dry Ski Slope with Konrad Bartelski (no pressure, he is just one of the best skiers we have ever produced). Anyway, I was not good enough, fxxxck it I thought, I was good enough to be on the reserve list.

Anyway, in February of that Ski Season in 1991 (God, I am old), a Scottish bloke who got the job ahead of me, got offered an even better one and left Mark Warner, I was in. One problem, the job was in Meribel, part of the “Trois Vallees”, only one of the biggest ski areas on the planet. Everybody else had gone out in November to get orientated on the area. I was straight in at the deep end.

I spent the next three months getting all of my tourists lost. Two highlights, taking a group of children (all under the age of 11) down an un-pisted black slope and getting them all home safely, they loved it, (their parents weren’t so sure..) and ski guiding an adult football team for a week and getting them terribly lost. When they left, they held the piste map in the back window of the coach and pointed it at it for me, the piss taking buggers).

“Soldier, Sailor, Tinker , Tailor….”
I was a late bloomer, otherwise I would have gone into the Navy, I would have had to pass the Admiralty Interview Board but I believe I have the smarts now ( not then….).

I love sailing, my Dad did too and we were lucky enough to have a few different boats (not all at the same time obviously). Some of my happiest times were spent on summers in Dartmouth with my mum and dad (gone but not forgotten), my brother and two sisters in the late seventies and early eighties messing around in Salcombe and Dartmouth pretending we were pirates, catching mackerel on The Skerries Bank and sleeping in the sunshine in the cockpit with my head on my mum’s lap as we gently rolled into port.

In my late teens and early twenties I used to race in Cowes week on the Isle of Wight. The best I got to, was crewing on a Sigma 38, on the foredeck and jibing the spinnaker….good times.

If I won the lottery I would also go back, get better at sailing and compete in the Vendee Globe (in my dreams…). My heart goes out to Alex Thompson… go again brother in four years time, we are with you x

I had a Brain Hemorrhage a few years ago now, nearly three now to be precise. I suppose I am not surprised, I have always sailed close to the wind, please forgive the pun, given my love of sailing and I am an Aquarius : )

I was staying at a small hotel in London, near the Royal Opera House. There is only one or two people on duty there at night, luckily the night manager found me fitting, got me in the recovery position and called the ambulance. I owe him a debt of gratitude.

I woke up in Guys St Thomas’s with a drip in my arm. The duty doctor came round and when I asked if I would be there long , she said “at least six months”.

Well, that was not happening, once she had gone, I took the drip out of my arm and buggered off. First of all, I thought I would escape by going down the stairs not in the lift (just like the movies I thought) I spent at least the next half an hour shuffling around the basement of the hospital. I had found my jeans but still had my hospital gown on my top half, some Police asked me where I was going as I walked towards Waterloo but I fed them some BS and they let me go on my way.

My wife, Josie and Kaths (my sister-in-law, she is a massive part of my family) met me at Woking station, Kaths drove my car home. They knew I was not right, I was pale and very quiet. We were having some building work done at the time, so we were staying at my mum’s. When we got there, I promptly had another fit and was soon transported to Roya Surrey Hospital where I was fixed, Royal Surrey worked under the guidance of St. Georges in London, who specialize in head injuries. I can’t thank them enough.

On the route to recovery, I temporarily lost part of my long term memory, that was hard, as when I got it back I had to relive my Dad passing away all over again.

I suppose the take away is life is fragile, don’t be too hard on yourself, value each day and your loved ones.