Thursday, 31 March 2011

Thursday, 31st March - Oxfam

I met a friend for lunch, so on my way there bought a guide book for another friend who is travelling to Trindad from Oxfam in Marlborough. I just love the range of shops in Marlborough, together with its beautiful wide high street which makes shopping delightful - I promise to return here again and again until I've properly exhausted all of the charity shop options here!

Wednesday, 30th March - Marie Curie

I had a meeting today, so broke up my journey home with a quick visit to this pub which interestingly is right next door to Enid Blyton's former home in the village of Bourne End. I had a quick coffee and dropped all of my coins into the collection box for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Monday, 28th March - Sue Ryder

Another Sue Ryder shop today, this time in Thatcham, where the lady gratifyingly said thank you for my bagful of books and clothes...

Many people believe that once you have a life-changing illness, there's little left.
We don't.
At Sue Ryder, we believe that life's a journey. And on that journey people can face huge challenges. We provide expert and compassionate support for people living through life changing-illness.

Our services include specialist palliative, homecare and long-term care for people living with cancer, multiple sclerosis, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, motor neurone disease, stroke, brain injury and other life-changing illnesses.

We provide compassionate care for people with palliative, long-term and end of life needs.
We do this in three ways:

•health and social care at home
•specialist palliative and end of life care in 6 hospices
•neurological and complex care in 7 residential centres
We work closely with health and social care professionals to offer care that's tailored to each person's needs.

And how do we do this?

We talk to each person individually to find out what they need and help them to live their lives. We also strive to look after their mental and physical wellbeing, and provide support for their carers, friends and families.

Pooh-sticks update!

Congratulations to Saffron Sollitt, age 9, who is the 2011 World Pooh Sticks Champion!

This in today's Guardian!

It may have been a sunny spring day, just like yesterday, when Winnie the Pooh first came to the bridge in Ashdown Forest, tripped over something and saw his fir cone fly out of his paw and into the river, thus inventing the game called Poohsticks. If so, it was appropriate, because yesterday produced exactly the right conditions for the resumption of the World Poohsticks Championships, postponed last year because of flooding, which were held once again on a bridge over the Thames at Little Wittenham in Oxfordshire. The championship is 28 years old now, and brings as many as 2,000 spectators and competitors to Little Wittenham to drop sticks into the river – throwing is strictly forbidden – with teams making the pilgrimage from as far away as Australia and the USA. Yet it's a fair bet, too, that yesterday's fine weather, by enticing families and the young of heart out of their homes and on to bridges all over Britain, also helped give birth to thousands of spontaneous games of Poohsticks, thus ensuring the good health of the game for fresh generations to come. The best thing of all about Poohsticks is that it can only be played in the open air and that, unlike almost every other child's game these days, it is completely free. Another joy is that it can be played from almost any bridge anywhere, even though special veneration will always rightly be reserved for the timber Posingford Bridge, near Tunbridge Wells, where Pooh first won 36 and lost 28 of his invention before he went home for tea.

And tweets from the lovely organisers!

"Bad luck :-( are you coming back to try again in 2012? What colour stick did you have?"
"ah... yellow (it was the colour of the stick that came 3rd in the final) - thank you for the blog post :-) "

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Sunday, 27th March - RNLI

The clocks went forward an hour today and this nearly scuppered my plan to become World Pooh Sticks Champion! I long to be World Champion at SOMETHING and what better than Pooh Sticks, the game invented by Winnie the Pooh in AA Milne's The House at Pooh Corner?

The annual event is held at Days Lock near Long Wittenham, which is a beautiful spot in Oxfordshire, and with brilliant sunshine, MrM and I were in fine voice as we approached the site, even though we were running late. Fortunately, they didn't start without us. We paid for two entries, all in aid of the RNLI (Royal National Lifeboats Institution) and proceeded to the "Keeper of the Sticks". We were divided into entries of six and were given a different colour stick each.

This was my stick.

We then queued up and then were directed to the bridge for the action! Our stick colour corresponded to a spot on the bridge where we dropped the stick before running to the other side to see whose stick would appear first!

And the winner of our heat was MrM! I ran over to shake his hand and congratulate him on qualifying for the next round, but as the family we'd been competing against contained such a cute and smiley baby called Henry (not my nephew!), MrM donated his ticket to the baby - what a sweetie!

The event was organised by the Rotary Club of Oxford Spires and their charity for the year was RNLI. Judging by the number of people there today, hopefully they raised lots of money for this great charity that saves lives at sea.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Friday, 25th March - Oxfam

I was back in my hometown today, Sherborne in Dorset, which is a beautiful town with a fabulous selection of independent shops that I spent my lunch hour visiting. Equally, it has fantastic charity shops; Tenovus (the woman in here was so lovely and friendly), St Margaret's Hospice and Joseph Weld Hospice, to name but three. However, I went back to Oxfam (forgetting the little spat that Oxfam and I had in January) and spent £10 on books. It was almost as if an older version of me had been into the shop just before me and dropped off a selecion of books that I'd want to read; Angela Carter novels, women's management books and a book called "The End of Poverty" that I'd wanted to read since I saw the film "The End of Poverty?" (note that the film has a question mark while the book title doesn't) that the director of TJN that I mentioned a few posts back appeared in.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Wednesday, 23rd March - Newbury MS Society

I'm not sure how this happened, but I appear to have taken on the role of newsletter editor of the Newbury MS Society's newsletter as the current volunteer is stepping down!

Unless it's a joke?!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Tuesday, 22nd March - Marie Curie Cancer Care

I don't think MrM has time to read my blog, so maybe it was the back of the wardrobe falling out that alerted him to the need of a clearout. He stacked up a pile of clothes that he said I could take to the charity shop, and I took half of these and put them with a bag of books that I don't think I will read again. (Far from the madding crowd? Took me far too long the first time - won't be reading that again!).

The other half of MrM's shirts have been safely stowed as I know that we'll need them as I manage to ruin an average of a shirt a month via a combination of inattention while ironing, not separating the washing thoroughly enough or leaning them to dry on things that stain.

So after I spent the morning at the National Motorcycle Museum for the Electric Vehicle Showcase today, I popped into Solihull and found a Marie Cancer Care shop to donate to, with the lady behind the counter seeming very happy about the bag of goodies.

Marie Curie Cancer Care started in 1948, when a generous soul donated their engagement ring, raising £4,000.

The charity now provides specialist homes for the care of cancer patients and looks after patients at home. They also educate the public on the symptoms and treatment of cancer.

Putting patients and families first
Our vision
Everyone with cancer and other illnesses will have the high quality care and support they need at the end of their life in the place of their choice.

Our core value
We put patients and families first.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Monday, 21st March - Tax Justice Network

Today's charity is Tax Justice Network, an organisation that was set up to encourage rich people and businesses to pay their fair share of taxes, thereby lessening the tax burden on poorer people like me who work, work, work!

I made a donation via paypal today after looking around for a charity for today! I was originally drawn to this organisation as the founder is a massive inspiration and a highly energetic force for good who restored our faith in humanity - and you don't often hear that said about people's landlords! Proving the adage that "charity begins at home", when MrM got made redundant, he came round and knocked lots of money off our rent. He and his family are the only landlords we're still in touch with, and even came to our wedding last year!

The Tax Justice Network is led by economists, tax and financial professionals, accountants, lawyers, academics and writers and fights against tax havens and the avoidance of tax which leads to: "inequality and poverty, corroding democracy, distorting markets, undermining financial and other regulation and curbing economic growth, accelerating capital flight from poor countries, and promoting corruption and crime around the world."

The figures involved are eye watering and the current deficit could be filled overnight if high net worth individuals and companies paid their tax.

Assets held offshore, beyond the reach of effective taxation, are equal to about a third (a THIRD!!) of total global assets. Over half of all world trade passes through tax havens. Developing countries lose revenues far greater than annual aid flows. The funds held offshore by individuals is about $11.5 trillion – with a resulting annual loss of tax revenue on the income from these assets of about 250 billion dollars.

The Tax Justice Network promotes transparency in international finance and opposes secrecy. We support a level playing field on tax and we oppose loopholes and distortions in tax and regulation, and the abuses that flow from them. We promote tax compliance and we oppose tax evasion, tax avoidance, and all the mechanisms that enable owners and controllers of wealth to escape their responsibilities to the societies on which they and their wealth depend. Tax havens, or secrecy jurisdictions as we prefer to call them, lie at the centre of our concerns, and we oppose them.

Members have written a book called Treasure Islands that has much been in the news recently:
and the extremely readable blog here:

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Sunday, March 20th - Japan appeal

I'm listing lots of books, clothes and bits of furniture on eBay and donating a proportion of the selling price to the Japan appeal. Have quite a few watchers already, so hopefully most of it will sell.

We want to ensure that 100% of the donation makes it to the intended nonprofit to make the most of every relief donation.
All donations made to nonprofits involved in the eBay Giving Works campaign for Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief will be covered by eBay through April 10th. Listings created by this date that result in a donation will also have their MissionFish processing costs covered.

Saturday, 19th March - Teenage Cancer Trust

Very little effort on my part today, but a huge effort from a former colleague!! Mr M generously sponsored Gary who we both used to work with, who is participating in the Brighton marathon on 10th April in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust!

Gary was more famous for his drinking capabilities and his dry wit than for his sporting prowess, so we're very impressed at the challenge he's taken on, although I do recall he ran the Reading half marathon a few years back. He's also chosen a brilliant charity, the Teenage Cancer Trust which provides age specific cancer care for young people and their families. Good luck Gary!

Every day in the UK, six teenagers are diagnosed with cancer. At Teenage Cancer Trust, we understand that cancer doesn’t stop these teenagers being teenagers. We know that young people have a much better chance if they are treated by teenage cancers experts, in an environment tailored to their needs. So we have created specialist units that aren’t like ordinary cancer wards. Everything about them has been designed to give teenagers the very best chance of a positive outcome. And we want every young person with cancer in this country to have that chance.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Update from Berkshire MS Therapy Centre

Oooh, a lovely email!

Thank you very much for your donation which we have recently received from JustGiving. We are extremely grateful to you for thinking of our needs here at the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre.

Our aim is to help people with MS to maintain their mobility and independence as far as possible for as long as possible through the provision of a range of therapies including physiotherapy, oxygen therapy, chiropody and counselling. These treatments are aimed at managing the symptoms of the illness as well as dealing with the emotional difficulties that come with it.

The money you have donated will be put towards the provision of these treatments and therapies, therefore enabling local people with MS to live more positive and independent lives.

Thank you once again – we really appreciate your help!

Friday, 18th March - Comic Relief

We were at Silverstone today for the Formula Renault BARC media day, and were approached for some money by a group of very happy bikers who had biked up from near London and done a couple of laps of the Silverstone National circuit all in aid of Comic Relief.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Tuesday, 15th March - Red Cross Japan Appeal

A few days later and I still can't get my head around the scale of damage following the earthquake that hit the east coast of Japan last week. I lived in Tokyo for two years and found it to be one of the most fascinating and invigorating cities I've ever been to.

It's awful to see people in this wonderful country suffer in this way, so today's charity is the Red Cross.

The earthquake, measuring 9.0 on the Richter scale, triggered a tsunami which hit the east coast of Japan with 7-metre-high waves, leaving a trail of destruction.

More than 2,000 people have died in the disaster and some 2,000 are injured. The number of confirmed dead is expected to rise to around 10,000. The earthquake triggered fires and caused severe damage to buildings, leaving 1.2 million homes without electricity and 1.4 million without water.

The Japanese Red Cross has been working on the ground since the disaster began, mobilising 85 teams, made up of more than 700 doctors, nurses and support staff, to provide first aid and healthcare and assess the damage and needs of the communities affected.

More than 500,000 people have been evacuated and are being housed in temporary centres set up in schools and public buildings where the Red Cross is distributing thousands of blankets.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Sunday, 13th March - Living Paintings Trust

Since Friday I've been suffering from a constant stabbing pain in my left eye by being too vigorous with taking out my contact lens. While I can (just about) put up with the pain, it's the not knowing if it will get better that is frightening. I don't know where to turn or what to do about it. Mr M wants to take me to the Minor Injuries Unit but last time I went there, it had closed and I was referred to Westcall who told me not to "try to access healthcare services in West Berkshire". The reason? My GP is in another county. When I moved to West Berkshire I registered with a doctor here as I had a lump on my breast and bizarrely a verruca at the same time. The doctor's assessment, without looking at either of these symptoms, was "you can't get breast cancer in your 20s and there's no point in my burning off the verruca as they're not infectious." So that's why my GP remains in Dorset and why I'm less than cheerful about paying so much tax for a hospital that I can't access!!

The reason for this moan is so I can insert a cliche here about how important sight, and indeed, health is. I opted for the Living Paintings Trust as my charity of today and have sent them a donation through the post, using my right eye to write the cheque! (much more satisfying than via paypal or credit card!).

The Living Paintings Trust is a local charity based in Kingsclere, just outside Newbury and provides free tactile books and packs, bringing the visual world to life for blind and partially sighted people. They make special raised versions of pictures that come to life when they're felt and also create sound recordings which tell the pictures’ stories while directing the fingertips across the raised image.

Living Paintings was formed in 1989 by Alison Oldland MBE, formerly a lecturer in Art History. Alison would say that the story of how Living Paintings came about was a ‘typical Oldland family story’ i.e. a tale of the unexpected. Alison wanted another family dog but not one that was going to chew her furniture. As a result the family ‘adopted’ a rejected trainee guide dog, Emma, and from the day she arrived in the house it was clear why this dopey, soppy, blonde had not made the grade! She remained, very happily with the family for many years until her timely departure to doggy heaven.

To say “thank you”, Alison decided to give a series of lectures in her beloved History of Art to raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind. To the first came Tony Castleton, then Head of Appeals for Guide Dogs. He was blind. Projecting images of great masters onto a screen and knowing that a member of the audience could not see these glorious works of art, Alison took great care in describing what was being looked at. So successful was she that Tony asked her to record descriptions of other works of art for him to enjoy at home, in his own time. The seed for an incredible idea was sown.

Realising that there was a possibility of sharing her great love of art with people who could not actually see, Alison was inspired to do more. Little did she know that this would lead her to setting up a national, award winning charity and that to achieve this she would have to educate the sighted establishment in what could be achieved with the right approach and effort. She really was about to break new ground.

No one had ever before thought of helping blind and partially sighted people engage with and enjoy pictures let alone great works of art. Twenty years ago, it was deemed to be extraordinary if not slightly mad. Perhaps the cries of ‘why on earth would a blind person want to know about pictures’ added extra fuel to Alison’s fire, in fact it certainly did!

Next came the idea of adding to the audio description a relief image of what is being ‘looked’ at. This would add another layer of information through touch. After a numerous attempts that were tried, tested and improved upon over and again – success!

Developing a concept that challenged established thinking meant that Alison needed to turn directly to the people she wanted to help and so she formed a new family (as if 5 children was not enough!) of blind and partially sighted friends. They helped with all the testing and working out how best to deliver this new concept. In hindsight, Living Paintings can thank its lucky stars for this as right from its founding the ethos has been to listen to, HEAR, and react to our beneficiaries. In the early days those people were what gave Alison the determination to keep going despite the many obstacles and today it is much the same though the obstacles have become positive challenges.

**Update - got a nice email this morning:
Thank you for donation - it is very much appreciated.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Saturday, 12th March - Pang, Kennet and Lambourn Countryside Project (part of FWAG -Farming and Wildlife Action Group)

Today's 'charity a day' was a volunteer event organised by the Pang, Kennet and Lambourn Valleys countryside project to clean up the River Lambourn. As I was running a bit late, I was in the second group that was sent over in the direction of Shaw House, so a lovely part of the town - or it would be if it weren't strewn with rubbish. I spent two hours there and I alone managed to fill up two bin bags of rubbish from the town stretch of the river Lambourn and the banks and there were about 20 of us who managed to fill two skips that awaited.

Amazing what you find.....

Armed with gloves, a black bin bag and a litter picker, it's incredibly satisfying and the area looked amazing afterwards. Every now and again though, you find a bit of rubbish so mind-boggling that you wonder who it is that leaves this stuff here. Between us, we found lots of fireworks, empty cans (how long is it since they sold Cherry coke for pete's sake?), newspapers, a shoe!, gloves, traffic cones and of course the obligatory bags of dog poo that people have cleaned up but then thrown into the grass.

Helped by lovely weather and nice like-minded people, it's a great way to get outside and get some exercise, but I was feeling quite unwell and thought I'd better get back into bed after elevenses.

Funnily enough, Lucy Mangan's Guardian column captured up how I felt so brilliantly that I had to do a double take as I thought I'd written it!

So I could have been productive, but the group as a whole did a fabulous clean-up job! The river looks wonderful, let's hope it stays that way for a while....

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Thursday, 10th March - Barnardo's

En route to a meeting, I quickly swung by Gerrards Cross, the richest town per capita in the UK! I dropped off a bag of more cookery books and clothes to Barnardo's. While I was there, I had a bit of an argument with myself. I spotted a suit jacket in my size that was substantially smarter than the one I was wearing, priced at £8.99. The argument in my head was about whether or not to buy this jacket, and you'll be pleased to hear that I won!

At the beginning of the year I said I wouldn't buy new clothes until 2012. But this isn't new, and investing in a smart suit is an investment in your career according to the back of a book on personal development for women that I saw in the library last week. So I did buy it, hopefully helping Barnardo's in their work of supporting vulnerable children and young people in the UK.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Wednesday, 9th March - Tommy's

Had to dash into town to get some black ink for my printer and noted that WHSmith had helpfully included a recycling envelope for the empty cartridge. I've posted this off and it's going to help Tommy's - a baby charity. To be honest, I'd not heard of this charity, but having a look at the website has been a real eye-opener.

Tommy's funds research into pregnancy problems and provides information to parents
At Tommy’s we believe it is unacceptable that one in four women will lose a baby during pregnancy and birth.

When a pregnancy fails or a baby dies, the families affected can be devastated and often have a desperate need to know why. Frustrated at the lack of research that meant they could rarely answer this question, two obstetricians working in the maternity unit at St Thomas' Hospital in London were inspired to start fundraising for more research into pregnancy problems.

Soon, their cause was taken up by others and a charity affectionately known as 'Tommy's' (after St Thomas' Hospital) was born.
That was 1992. Today, we lead the way in maternal and fetal research in the UK. To give every baby the best chance of being born healthy, we work to fund medical research into the causes of premature birth, stillbirth and miscarriage.

We fund three research centres in the UK, including St Thomas' in London, St Mary’s in Manchester and the recently established Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, which focus their research efforts on different issues relating to pregnancy.

We also feel it's important to raise awareness of the facts and to provide free, accurate and up-to-date information for medical professionals and parents-to-be.

This includes a dedicated telephone midwife service, a comprehensive website and free books and leaflets dedicated to promoting health in pregnancy and pre-pregnancy.

We are supported by people who want to do something about the lack of research and information around pregnancy issues like miscarriage, stillbirth and premature birth.

We believe every parent has the right to a healthy pregnancy and baby. Our target is to halve the number of babies that die during pregnancy or birth by 2030.

To hear that one in four pregnancies ends in miscarriage is a terrible statistic, but perversely has made me feel a lot better today. I'd been feeling like a total failure and had even convinced myself that this had happened to me because it was the world's way of telling me that I would make a bad parent. And who can you talk to about it? With many, many of my friends having babies recently, I've been told almost daily that "life is pointless without children", "my life was so empty before" etc etc etc! On one occasion, one of my "friends" asked if we were "going to bother celebrating Christmas" as there were just two of us "and there is no magic in the house without children"! And this is from people whose children I've just spent thousands of pounds on (baby presents, Christening gifts, child tax credits, child benefit and 13 years' education. I am joking, but you see my point!)

So today's charity could not have appeared in front of my at a better time, even if the only person I've really helped today was me!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Tuesday, 8th March - Alzheimer's Society

Everyone knows what day it is today, so my charity contribution shall be appropriately themed.

International Women's Day - what?! No, not that high brow. I was referring to Pancake Day!! I was asked if I could flip for the Alzheimer's Society in the pancake races taking place at lunchtime in Newbury's Market Place today. (I think she just stopped short of calling me a 'tosser'.) Sadly, I was only asked yesterday so had no time to put together a bunny costume to fit in with the rest of the team! However, I did go down there in my lunch hour to offer my support and to watch the subsequent 'pancake catching competition' where pancakes were thrown from the top of St Nicolas Church tower.

At first I thought it was God dispensing pancakes from the top of the spire, but it was the Soroptimists, who organised the event. And then for a charity donation of £5, pancakes for lunch! (Not the same ones, apparently).

I am going to continue the theme of the Alzheimer's Society today and will visit the old lady that I befriend after work.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Saturday, 5th March - West Berkshire Foster Parenting Association

Ah boot sale season is upon us! After a much-needed clear out, I paid for a table in aid of the above charity that supports foster carers across the district. As ever, it's never the items that you think will sell that are successful and why do I always buy things when I should be selling?!

Friday, 4th March - Ace Space

Bit of a cheat again but back to Ace Space (Arts, Community, Enterprise - a community hall) tonight for Unplugged Night WITH DISCO LIGHTS!!

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Wednesday, 2nd March - Comic Relief

Jon Richardson is THE comedian of the moment. I saw him about two years ago at the Hellfire Comedy Club and could not believe my ears - a massive career awaits! I love the clip above as he makes such a great point about 4x4s!

Anyway, Jon Richardson, along with Dara O'Briain and Jack Whitehall are performing a gig on a plane at 35,000ft in aid of Comic Relief.

For your chance to win a seat on the funniest flight in history, you can enter and donate to Comic Relief in two ways - online or by text.

Donate Now
Enter and donate £3 by texting "FLY 1" to 70300.*

The flight will last for two and a half hours and the comedians will take it in turns to entertain passengers with individual sets.The plane will fly over the UK before returning to Heathrow.

So for the very first time, as I am the world's worst texter, I donated £3 and have entered the competition!

Comedy fans who want to witness the spectacle first hand can enter to win one of 75 pairs of tickets by texting* ‘Fly1’ to 70300, or entering at Text entry to the draw costs 50p, plus your standard network rate. A £3 donation will be deducted unless you choose to opt out (conditions apply).

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Tuesday, 1st March - Cancer Research UK

Well, we're in March, so I've "marched" down to the Race for Life site to enter this year's 5K event in Newbury in aid of Cancer Research UK!

Today I paid the £14.99 entry fee and will start training - eek!

We're gathering more girls than ever before to take part in Race for Life and help beat cancer. And thanks to our friends at Tesco, 2011 promises to be our biggest, brightest and most inspiring year yet.

Whether you walk, jog or run, join the girls this year. Enter your local 5k or 10k Race for Life today and invite your family and friends to enter too.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

The Race for Life team