Tag Archives: charity

There Comes A Time

You bring them home when they’re new, and you spend some time getting to know one another. You treat them gently, speaking softly and calmly in their presence, carefully placing them into their comfortable, well-appointed cradles, and then you watch them flourish. They make you laugh, they make you cry, they make you think and feel and sometimes – quite regularly – they break your heart.

And then, there comes a time for letting go. For saying goodbye. For bidding them farewell as they move on to the next stage of their (hopefully) long and love-filled lives. Your life is richer for having had them, just for a short while, and you daydream about where they’re going to go, and who else is going to love them.

And you hope they don’t end up pulped, or in some random recycling bin.

Image: theguardian.com

Image: theguardian.com

What? Of course I was talking about books all along. Great Scott! What else could I possibly have meant by all that?

Anyway.

This weekend, we did something brave, my husband and I. We finally hauled the boxes of books we put away after The Great Book Cull of 2012 out of our shed, where they’ve been languishing in spider-infested darkness for all this time. We dragged them out into the light. We sorted through them (I saved three!) and then, with heavy hearts, we bid them farewell.

The only consolation we have is that – with any luck – these books will be going to good homes, and also earning us some major karma points into the bargain. For we wouldn’t just give away our preciouses to anyone, oh no. Our books, with any luck, will not only enter into a new phase of their life, where they’ll be loved and cherished by new hands and fresh eyes, but they’ll also help to raise money for charity.

Last year, when we attended the inaugural Hay Festival in Kells – which is returning this year, to our very great delight – we met a couple of fellas who hold a massive Book Fair in a town called Delvin, in the picturesque and wide-open-sky county of Westmeath, every year. They were great fun, and very knowledgeable about books, and delighted to talk about them to anyone who shared their enthusiasm. So, of course, my husband and I felt right at home.

‘Bring along your second-hand books to us,’ they said. ‘We’ll sell them at the Fair, and all the money raised goes to the local area, to fund community development and sports facilities and the like.’ So, we took a note and remembered to look them up. This past Saturday was the day when people with books to donate could make the trip to Delvin to drop off their offerings, and so that’s exactly what we did.

Image: business-opportunities.biz

Image: business-opportunities.biz

I thought I’d be okay, you know. I thought I’d cope with driving away and leaving our books there, by the side of the road (all right, so not really by the side of the road, but it adds to the desolation, so go with it), being pawed through by strangers, sorted into genre and age group, separated from their beloved box-mates… *sniff* It was harder than I thought. I may even have blinked back a few tears, but don’t tell anybody.

As we were leaving, one of the volunteers sorting through our donation found a copy of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (before you judge us for donating this book, let me just make it clear that when my husband and I merged our book collections, we had several duplicates, of which ‘LOTR’ was one. Okay? Calm down), and the joy on his face was unmistakeable. Then, I spotted someone else flipping excitedly through a book with a pale blue cover, and I thought – for a heart-stopping moment – that I’d donated my copy of ‘The Once And Future King’ by mistake.

Image: thewrittenwordreviews.wordpress.com

Image: thewrittenwordreviews.wordpress.com

I hadn’t, of course. But I came within a whisker of demanding that my husband pull over so that we could rescue our beautiful darlings, such was my panic.

Then, even if I had demanded we pull over, I’m quite sure my husband would have given me a Look, one of those where your eyebrows practically walk across your forehead on stilts, and told me to Get a Grip. He’s a little more realistic than me, and is well aware that this is what we risk happening to our house unless we find a few more book fairs to which we can donate:

Image: jamsidedown.com

Image: jamsidedown.com

And I know he’s entirely, one hundred percent, without a doubt correct.

But I’m going to be buying books until they nail the lid down over me, no matter what.

So, let’s hope we don’t end up swapping one shed-load of books for another – because, of course, we plan to attend the book sale in Delvin in a few weeks’ time. It’s all for charity, right? Right. We’re practically obliged to go.

And if some of our abandoned lovelies find their way home with us again, well – it’ll all have been a grand fine adventure for them, won’t it? Of course it will.

 

ISPCC Shield Campaign – Standing Up to Bullying

If you’ve been following me on Twitter over the past few weeks, doubtless you’ll have seen me making mention of the #ISPCCShield hashtag from time to time. In case you’ve been wondering what on earth that means, then wonder no more. Today is the ISPCC’s (the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children’s) National Day of Action against bullying, and the Shield is the logo they’ve chosen to symbolise their commitment to eradicating the scourge of bullying, once and for all.

The ISPCC is a charity I hold very dear. They work tirelessly – and without any significant government funding – for the betterment of the lives of all children, no matter where they live or who they are or how much money their parents have. They run Childline (available on the phone at 1800 66 66 66, via text message (within Ireland) by texting ‘Talk’ to 50101, or on webchat via their website), 24 hours a day 365 days a year, and all staffed mainly by volunteers. They were recently involved in setting up Ireland’s Missing Children’s Helpline, designed to give help and support to parents when their child goes missing, and also to reach out to the missing child him/herself, giving them a non-judgmental way to contact home if they need to. The Helpline is also designed to help children considering running away, helping them find better options to deal with their problems.

Pretty amazing, I hope you’ll agree.

Almighty BOD (Brian O'Driscoll) thinks so, too. Image: businessandleadership.com

Almighty BOD (Brian O’Driscoll) thinks so, too.
Image: businessandleadership.com

In March 2012, the ISPCC launched the Shield Campaign for the first time. The Shield logo itself is simple: a person wears a Shield pin (available in selected retailers across Ireland, or from an army of volunteer sellers who’ll be braving the weather tomorrow all over the country) in order to display their commitment to eradicating bullying wherever they see it. The Shield shows that its wearer will act as a shield between a child and a bully, and that any child being bullied can turn to a Shield-wearer for help and support. Children and adults alike can wear it to show that they will not be a bystander, and they will not allow anyone to be bullied in their presence without standing up and saying something.

Importantly, the price of the Shield pin – €2 – goes directly to the ISPCC to help them fund their vital work. The charity sector in Ireland has taken a battering recently due to scandals at senior management in a small handful of charitable organisations, but it’s important to remember that not all charities should be judged the same way. Charities still need help and support, and the ISPCC is one I particularly love. It’s suffering due to lack of funds, and if it suffers then thousands of children will suffer, too.

Because of that, I’m volunteering to sell Shields today, and I’m writing this post to let anyone who happens to stumble across it know that the ISPCC can accept donations through their website (if you’re not living in Ireland, or you won’t be able to get out and about to buy a Shield); more importantly, I want to say that I’m a proud Shield-wearer, and that I fully support any effort to stamp out bullying, in all its forms.

Image: ispcc.ie

Image: ispcc.ie

Bullying isn’t just picking on a smaller child and using your fists to hurt them. It’s calling names, or spreading rumours, or attacking another person’s reputation, or making threats. It’s making insulting comments on Twitter and linking it to your victim’s @account. A scandal involving this very thing happened – among adults – as recently as this week, and among adults who are intelligent and talented and who should have known better, at that. It’s writing hurtful things on their Facebook wall. It’s sending them text messages designed to hurt or frighten them. It’s saying things like ‘if you don’t agree with me, then I’m going to hurt you’ – I am dumbfounded by how often I see things like this on Twitter, or Tumblr, or in social media in general. If you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face, why would you say it on a social media account?

Image: ispcc.ie

Image: ispcc.ie

Bullying is ganging up on someone and pulling them to shreds. It’s laughing at someone because you think they’re weak, or different, or weird. It’s setting yourself up as the arbiter of justice, and deciding that other people – for sometimes nonsensical reasons – don’t measure up to your standards. It’s not thinking about your actions. It’s using words carelessly, words like ‘loser’ or ‘fool’ or ‘idiot’ or worse; words which make someone else afraid.

It’s not something that people ‘just have to go through.’ It’s not something kids need to experience ‘in order to toughen them up.’ It’s not ‘just for the laugh.’ It’s not acceptable, from anyone or in any situation. It’s not acceptable from adults, or from children; in workplaces or in playgrounds; in real life or on the internet. The Shield Campaign is designed to draw attention to bullying and to bring it out into the light, where it can be dealt with properly.

If you’re a bully, the urge to hurt others can come from a deep place of pain within you. The ISPCC’s Shield Campaign is designed to help bullies, too – because, sometimes, bullies need more help than their victims do. It can come from a sense of disenfranchisement or powerlessness or because of a history of abuse that you’ve suffered in silence – or for a whole galaxy of reasons. One thing is definitely true: taking it out on another person may give you momentary relief, but it won’t solve your own problems. Worse than that, it might end up really hurting someone else.

Image: ispcc.ie

Image: ispcc.ie

If you happen to have €2 burning a hole in your pocket, and you’re looking for a good way to spend it, you could do worse than buying an ISPCC Shield today. If you feel like donating a small amount in order to help in a more long-term way, that would be wonderful too – or, if you’re not Irish, and your own country has a similar organisation to the ISPCC which you’d prefer to support, that would be awesome. But – most importantly – try always to stand up to bullying, no matter where you find it, and remember to treat every other person with the same respect you would show to someone you love.

And, finally, try to show good example to any young people in your life, and show them the way to treat others through your own actions.

Here endeth the lesson.

(Incidentally, in case you’re wondering what I’ve been up to, writing-wise, lately, well… I’ll have more to say about than on Monday. Stay tuned!)

Image: wodumedia.org

Image: wodumedia.org

Woman Power

So, I’m alive. I’m awake. I’m functional, even. I’m a little bit late with the blog post, but what’s that between friends? I hope you’ll forgive me.

If you can't forgive me, then maybe you'll forgive this cute kitten in a bonnet. Image: fourms.catholic.com

If you can’t forgive me, then maybe you’ll forgive this cute kitten in a bonnet.
Image: fourms.catholic.com

Yesterday was a hard day. Doing a 10K walk is not necessarily difficult in itself – I’ve often done long walks before – but the extra complicating factor in yesterday’s Mini Marathon was the heat. Yesterday felt like one of the hottest days I’ve ever lived through, even though I’m sure it wasn’t. But if you take a hot, dry, bright day and add upwards of 40,000 people all in close proximity to one another, it’s going to feel ten times hotter than it really is. There was a lot of perspiration going on. So much for the old maxim that ‘horses sweat, men perspire, and women only glow’: this woman right here sweated litres yesterday. Sorry for the gross image, but it has to be done!

It feels great to have completed the Mini Marathon, and I’m very glad I did it (with a lot of encouragement from my lovely mother-in-law), but I must admit that the build-up to it was nerve-wracking. I wondered if I’d be able to do it, and I worried about letting people (and myself) down if I failed. I worried that I wouldn’t be physically or mentally able for it – walking for pleasure, which I do every day, is a different thing from walking in a sporting event like this one, despite the fact that the participants weren’t in competition with one another – and I feared I wouldn’t be up to the task.

But I was. I did it! I have a lovely shiny medal now to be proud of, and my father-in-law and brother-in-law were kind enough to take high-resolution, sharp-focus photographs of me as I came away from the finish line so I’ll have those to admire in perpetuity, too. The cameras looked big enough to be capable of taking photographs of deep space, so I’m sure they captured every open pore and strand of sweaty hair, not to mention the lobster-red of my face. Thanks, guys!

Something which struck me yesterday was the amount of women who walked and/or ran the Mini Marathon in memory of someone else, and in honour of someone they loved. People wore images on their t-shirts, lovely photographs of lost children or friends or parents, sometimes with a note of their age and what had claimed their life but sometimes not. I found myself very moved by some of these memorials, especially those in memory of babies who hadn’t managed to survive being born too prematurely. I was awed by the strength of these women, the mental and physical power it took to undertake something as strenuous as yesterday’s event while also carrying the weight of memory and loss. I’m sure they were taking part in order to raise some money for all the excellent charities and causes out there, and I hope they managed to raise as much as they wanted to. Nowadays, there’s not a lot of extra coinage sloshing around, and things like this – really worthy things like this – are suffering.

Anyway.

Women are amazing. So are men, of course, but today I want to celebrate women and how strong and fantastic they are. I’m very proud to be one, and I’m proud to know so many wonderful women and to have taken part in an event so full of strong and capable women yesterday. I’m glad to live where I live, and I’m glad to live at this time in human history, where my life is important and my personal sovereignty is respected and my opinion is listened to and my vote is counted. I’m proud of the women who’ve come before me, and I hope I’ll leave the world in as good a state for the women who come after me.

Image: envisionus.com

Image: envisionus.com

Happy Tuesday!

Marathon Monday

Morning, all.

Today is a Bank Holiday in lovely Ireland, and I’m just popping in to say that I’m off doing this:

'Hello, Mum!' Image: irishheart.ie

‘Hello, Mum!’
Image: irishheart.ie

As a result, I won’t be able to do a proper blog today.

The Flora Women’s Mini Marathon, for that is the event being depicted above, is a wonderful endeavour; upwards of 50,000 women take part every year, raising plenty of money for charity and also testing their stamina, resolve and determination.

I’m just hoping I survive it.

It’s my first time to try it, and I’m definitely a walker, not a runner. I’m not doing it for sponsorship this year, just in case I make a mess of the whole thing and end up collapsing in a heap halfway through. If this year doesn’t turn out to be a fiasco, then next year I’ll do it again and earn all the money for all the charities, like a huge fundraising android.

Anyway, I must be off. My trainers are laced, my heart-rate is up, my muscles are warmed, and my water bottle runneth over. And, if you never hear from me again, you’ll know what happened. Send word to my folks and tell ’em I love ’em, won’t you?

Wish me luck!

Shall We Do a Book Review?

It’s Saturday, and it’s a wonderfully sunny day, and I’m feeling mellow. It’s the perfect day to write about some of the books I’ve read recently, I think. I haven’t managed to read as many as I’d like, but every word read is better than nothing, of course.

The other day, I read ‘The London Eye Mystery’ by the wonderful, and much missed, Siobhan Dowd. Her early death in 2007 truly robbed the world of children’s literature of one of its most talented writers. I’ve read and loved her other books (‘A Swift Pure Cry’ and ‘Bog Child’), and also ‘A Monster Calls’, written by Patrick Ness, based on an idea which Ms. Dowd had developed just before her death. I bought this latter book in hardback the second it was published, because I couldn’t possibly expect myself to wait for the paperback, and I’m so glad I made that decision. As well as being an amazing piece of writing, the book itself is a work of art.I thoroughly recommend all of Siobhan Dowd’s books, and perhaps I’ll come back to talk about them all in a future blog post.

Image: trappedbymonsters.com

Image: trappedbymonsters.com

‘The London Eye Mystery’ was a wonderful piece of storytelling. It introduces us to Ted and his sister Kat, who live in London with their parents. Kat is older than Ted, and tends to be bossy and sarcastic (as older sisters are – I am one, so I know!), but underneath all that she cares deeply about her brother and when he needs her, she’s behind him all the way. Ted, a young boy obsessed with the weather, who wants to be a meteorologist when he grows up and who listens to the shipping forecast on the radio at night when he can’t sleep, is a deeply engaging character. He is compulsive, he has rituals and routines, he thinks extremely logically, he (touchingly) describes how he can’t read facial expressions and how he struggles to understand body language and non-direct speech, and throughout he mentions his ‘syndrome’ without ever telling us exactly what it is. Of course, we don’t need to know exactly what it is; Ted is Ted, and I loved him just as he is. The family is depicted realistically, with all the stresses and strains that come with modern living; they love one another and are closely united, but their home is not always tranquil. The London in which they live is no idealised wonderland, either – the author shows us, in a clear but age-appropriate way, the issues of poverty, drug abuse, mental illness and crime that blight any big city, and in fact these themes have a central (if, perhaps, oblique) role to play in the book.

The story begins with Ted and Kat’s aunt Gloria, and her son Salim, coming to stay with the family for a few days before they emigrate to New York for Aunt Gloria’s work. Salim, who has grown up in Manchester and who has a fascination with tall buildings, has never ridden on the London Eye before, and so the family decide to bring him there to give him that opportunity. All the way through the trip to the Eye, Ted notices things that he thinks are strange, including the frequency of the phone calls Salim receives, and the secrecy with which he conducts his conversations, but he’s not sure what it all means. While the children are in the queue to buy tickets for the London Eye, they’re approached by a man who offers them one free ticket, and they decide Salim should have it. So, at just after 11.30 a.m. Salim boards the London Eye – but he doesn’t get off when the ride is over.

Using photographs, deduction and Ted’s brilliantly logical thinking, the children try to work out what happened to Salim. Ted comes up with eight (later, nine) theories, which they systematically work through, discounting them one at a time after experimentation has shown them to be false. Ted quotes Sherlock Holmes at one point: if, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth; using this logic, he eventually works out what must have happened. The author skilfully throws us a few ‘red herrings’, and even near the end when it seems as though the mystery has been unravelled, it takes Ted and another inspired leap of logic to finally bring the story to a close. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale, despite the fact that I’d worked out where Salim was before it was unveiled. Despite this, I would never have worked out how he managed to go up the London Eye and not come down again – Ted left me in the shade on that score! The means Ted uses to find his cousin, the insights into his thinking process, the descriptions of the family and their interactions – particularly between Gloria and her sister Faith, who is the mother of Kat and Ted – and the growing sense of desperation as time keeps ticking by without Salim being found, mean this is a tense, tightly plotted, dynamic and exciting story with a deep emotional heart. So, it’s just like all of Dowd’s work, really. If you’ve never read Siobhan Dowd, I think you really should. Not only are the stories excellent, but the royalties from sales go towards the Siobhan Dowd Trust, which she set up in the months before her death to aid literacy among underprivileged children. What could be more meaningful than that?

So, typically, I’ve gone on so long that I have no room left to talk about the other books I’ve recently read: ‘Wildwood’ (Colin Meloy, ill. Carson Ellis), ‘Crewel’ (Gennifer Albin), ‘Level 2’ (Lenore Appelhans), ‘The Wormwood Gate’ (Katherine Farmar), and the one I’m currently reading, ‘Robopocalypse’ (Daniel H. Wilson). Thoughts on those will have to wait for another blog post!

Have a great Saturday.

The wonderful Siobhan Dowd. Image: randomhouse.com

The wonderful Siobhan Dowd.
Image: randomhouse.com