Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Pop! Save the Children

Do you send a lot of eBay parcels? Does a lot of your eBay profit get eaten up with packaging costs? Do you wish you were greener?

I am currently trying to sell everything I own to make a bit of money for the McBaby's college fund, so every time I go to the supermarket, I make sure I help myself to some bubble wrap when I'm buying my fruit. The supermarkets just throw it into landfill and then spend money on more packaging.

This saves me a fortune and gives my conscience a hug too. I use the bubble wrap to help protect my eBay parcels. I noticed a while back that a relatively small roll of bubble wrap is a ridiculous £3.99 in the post office.

However, my bubble wrap collection has got out of hand and we had a house viewing that needed preparing for, so I asked today in the Save the Children shop if they needed bubble wrap. Their reaction was one of the most positive I've had in a while and the volunteer showed me the basket behind the till that had one sheet in it!

So my charity thing for today was to donate bubble wrap and a book. Can you help a charity shop/your pocket/the environment by repurposing some bubble wrap?

Monday, 17 December 2012


The company I currently work for (well I will until Wednesday!) used to generously support Barnardo's until cutbacks hit.

I am constantly aware that we have so much while others have so little, but on Saturday this was really brought home to me. The McBaby had a little party attended by other smalls and their parents. We didn't think anyone would bring a present, but everyone has been incredible and brought birthday and Christmas gifts galore - far more than he can play with!

So I've decided that I'm going to make a Christmas donation to Barnardo's on behalf on the little man. Hopefully he'll come to understand as he gets older that it is only by chance that he has been born into a family where we hope he will never go hungry. We're not at all rich in monetary standards, yet compared to many families across the world, we're truly blessed. We have shelter, warmth, music, laughter, food, drink, more drink, drink again, and love.

We had a lovely time on Saturday, and it is to my shame, but amusement that I have to admit that I saw an adult eating some of the baby snacks and I didn't say anything! We had music, singing and balloons aplenty as well as THREE birthday cakes. We'd like to say thank you to everyone who came to his party and wish you all a very Happy Christmas!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

First Newbury Scouts

As well as putting my 11-month-old onto the waiting list, I always boosted the First Newbury group's coffers by just under a fiver after buying most of the Christmas goodies at their fundraising coffee morning today.

I bought:

a little football for the boy

A packet of lovely Christmas cards

A Christmas serving plate

Some fairy lights

A board game

"Merry Christmas" bunting


and most importantly....a 10p whoopee cushion.

Charity shops in numbers - from Management Today

-9,000 charity shops in the UK

£974m total takings in 2011

-180,000 volunteers

-23 average number of volunteers per shop.

-55% of people used a charity shop last year

-£6.50 average transaction value

Also, living in Newbury I was pleased, but astonished to read this piece here on the town....

Monday, 3 December 2012

Christmas - "insert favourite Christmas song here"

We're into December, so it's now safe to talk about Christmas! I'm not going to lecture you on how it's the time of year to think about those less fortunate than yourself, but if, like me, you're drowning in stuff and people are asking what you'd like then here are some charity initatives that you might like to have a shufty at:

1. NSPCC's Letter from Santa

We sent one of these last year and it was very well received - make your young friends smile!

2. Operation Christmas CHild

All you have to do is fill a shoebox with some lovely things for children in countries all over the world.

3. Local to Newbury? How about the Children's toy appeal?

Simply donate a toy that's new but unwrapped.

4. A Kids Company Christmas

Netmums is helping the Kids COmpany to raise money for its "Merry Quidmas" campaign for children who will be alone on Christmas day.

Text KIDS GIFT to 70700 to make a £1 donation to help provide a gift for a vulnerable child.

Text costs £1 plus your standard operator charge. Kids Company receives the full £1 donation

5. Foodbanks

We all tend to buy more than we can eat at this time of year. Any extra will be gratefully received by a foodbank.

Happy Christmas everyone!!

Saturday, 24 November 2012


I made the McBaby cry for an hour and a half this morning. What fresh hell did I unleash on him today?

I paid for him to visit Father Christmas at Basildon Village Hall! It did not go well and in fact, all three of us came out the worse for wear! It was in aid of Barnardo's and Santa is returning to the village on Sunday, 16th December and will be riding his sleigh through the streets!

I thought it would be a nice touch to have the Santa pics sent to MrM, but we'll see what the results are like when they arrive at his office!!

Help kids beat cancer

Wouldn't normally mention this because it was simply a case of putting some change in a collection bucket, but is this a legitimate charity?

Please let me know if you've heard of it as I'm convinced there's something strange going on!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

The Leprosy Mission

Please can someone tell me why I buy fabric? I always think I'll make something fab, but the truth is, I can't sew and threading the sewing machine takes me well over an hour....

Yet somehow I couldn't resist the fabric on sale at this morning's jumble sale which was in aid of The Leprosy Mission

And for some reason I also bought a vintage 1950s nylon baby's Christening gown that is about five sizes too small for the McBaby (who, by the way, I don't think I will be Christening!).

And if I had waited a bit, I needn't have paid for it, as the McBaby wanted to play on the floor. While he was there, he stole a lady's handbag and was last seen speed-crawling towards the door.....

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Rowhill Pre-School fundraiser

Can I count this press release I wrote as my charidee thing of today?

SMC, the new Renault dealership in Aldershot, is getting behind the Christmas fundraising campaign held across the road by its neighbour Rowhill Pre-School

Tickets go on sale this week after the printing and lottery licence was paid for by SMC, freeing up every penny that comes in to go towards the fundraising total. The committee at Rowhill Pre-School hopes to raise about £650 to help with the day-to-day running costs.

1. Mike Jeffs from SMC Renault in Aldershot with the new Dacia Duster and Rowhill Pre-School staff members Jane Wright and Baz Ings and children.

The pre-school is selling raffle tickets priced at 25p each with some great prizes on offer, from high street vouchers to pantomime tickets and McDonalds party vouchers.

The draw will take place at the school on 7th December.

Keith Wheeler, sales director at SMC Renault, said: “As the school is such a close neighbour, we were delighted to help them out with their Christmas draw and wish them the best of luck in reaching their total.”

More information is available at


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Stroke Care/St John's Church

The Thursday coffee morning was postponed owing to the elections for the regional police commissioner, so was on today instead.

The McBaby and I had a quick gander but fortunately came away with nothing more than two pieces of Victoria Sponge and a scone that he broke to pieces, bits that I am still finding about his person. We didn't buy the magazine rack that I liked, we didn't buy the "Barefoot in the Park" DVD, we didn't buy the campervan teapot or the baby Formula One car!

I then left the McBaby for a rare half hour alone with his dad for story time and picked up this book at the church sale while dithering over a milk jug that I liked.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Kindness Challenge day 9

Oh my goodness, I have fallen way behind with this!

Today's challenge was to write a letter to someone who has made a difference in your life

And it's now obvious why I've fallen behind - I'm thanking the same people repeatedly in all of these challenges. So time to think out of the box and thank someone new.

I'm going to write to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall as he's inspired me to live a more self-sufficient life. I love his programmes and could (and have) watched them all day. In fact, last week, I put in an offer on a house in my hometown of Sherborne which isn't a million miles from River Cottage.

I think his influence has definitely been a factor in the way I think now - I'm not at all materialistic and love nothing more than to potter around an allotment!

Thank you Hugh!

Have you ever been positively impacted by someone in your life before?

I’m sure you have. All of us have. Perhaps it was a mentor in our previous company. Perhaps it was an ex-colleague. Perhaps it was a particular teacher or professor from our alma mater. Perhaps it was our mom, our dad, our sibling, or our grandparent. Perhaps it was a dear friend. Or it could well be a distant acquaintance who said something that shook up our world and made us see life with a different lens ever since.

Our life is a culmination of different experiences and interactions with other people. Our ethos is essentially a result of the interactions we have with other people and the world (as I’ve shared in my childhood stories article). As such, it’s not surprising that people in our lives can have such a big impact in the way we think, the things we do, and the words we say.

As part of the 14-Day Kindness Challenge, I think it is important to celebrate the people who have ushered in positive messages in our lives.

Sometimes, these people may well not be aware of the impact they are making to others, and letting them know about the difference they have made in your life as well as your appreciation for it is a great way to pay it forward to them. It tells them that they are doing something right and they should continue to do what they have been doing. It tells them that the things they did to you and/or said to you really did make a difference. It tells them that they matter to someone and they have a more important part to play in this world than they might have thought.

So let’s get moving now, shall we?

Your Task: Write a Letter to Someone Who Has Made a Difference in Your Life

Step 1: Identify the person you want to write the letter to

Who is someone who has made a difference in your life before?

Step 2: Write the letter

Write a letter to him/her. This can be a physical or an electronic letter. In the letter, include:
1.Why you are writing this letter to him/her.
2.Specific things which he/she did that really made a difference in your life.
3.Your appreciation for him/her.
4.If you guys haven’t been in touch for a while, perhaps give an update on how you are doing at the moment. I’m sure the person would want to know how you are doing!

If you want, you can start off the letter by telling him/her that you are participating in this 14-Day Kindness Challenge initiative (share the link too he/she can learn more about it—it’s at, and Day 9 is about writing a letter to someone who made a difference in your life. This may make it easier to set the tone of the letter and “break the ice”, so to speak.

Step 3: Send the letter!

After you are done, send the letter to him/her, be it electronically or by snail mail!

For some of you, the person who made a difference in your life might be someone who has fallen out of your social circle. I say, write the letter anyway, and find a way to get the letter to him/her.

For example, the person I’m planning to write the letter to is my ex-mentor in my previous company, and we are not in touch anymore. (He is literally in China now for a work assignment.) However, I recall being connected with him on Linkedin, so I’ll probably send the letter to him via Linkedin.

If it’s a teacher from your alma mater, you can always get in touch with your school to ask them about the teacher, and check how you can contact him/her. Even if he/she is retired, you can ask the staff how you can get in touch—there will always be breadcrumbs to follow.

*Fortunately for MrM, this offer was rejected!

Tommy's and Oxfam

I've been reading a lot about "lagom" recently which is a Swedish word that seems to sum up the way I've been striving to live of late.

"Lagom" has no direct equivalent in English, but translates as having "enough". I've been decluttering like crazy for the last few months, to the point that visitors have remarked upon the house looking bigger and more spacious.

Today saw another three items fly out; a beautiful red, black and white skirt that I put into the Oxfam collection bin. The reason I got rid of it is that it has reflective bits of mirror on there that catch the light. Beautiful. Except with an inquisitive baby in the house, they tend to catch in his throat too!

Into the bank I also put a gorgeous winter coat that someone else can hopefully make use of, and a pair of dark blue curtains. Good luck Oxfam!

Then, I bought a new ink cartridge for my printer which of course meant recycling time for the old one. Apparently the money raised from recycling this goes to Tommy's

PS. If you're a blogger, please check out this page on the Tommy website for BLOGGERS!!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Cold Ash swap shop

How friendly were all of the volunteers at the Cold Ash swap shop? Being greeted and smiled at really made the event which I stupidly took the McBaby to on Saturday morning.

The idea is like freecycle, you brings things you no longer need and you take anything that catches your eye. In fact, I believe you can even take things without bringing something to swap!

So I took in a beautiful Japanese kettle, some pretty artificial flowers, some toys and books. Despite many people asking, I didn't swap the McBaby (in fact, he started shouting and we had to leave quite quickly), but not before I'd picked up some books!

A brilliant idea - many thanks Cold Ashians!!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Changing faces

Paid to get into a table top sale at Compton in aid of Changing Faces but unusually for me, I didn't buy anything!

This charity looks brilliant, and their website is very informative. Seriously, though, what sort of person thinks it's ok to judge people on their appearance? I've never ever judged someone by a disfigurement or the way they look - I choose my friends on what's on the inside, but these tips for people who don't want to cause offence are useful. WHile I don't have a disfigurement, I do look unusual and get the same old questions ALL THE TIME.

I am mixed race and usually get asked where I'm from. When I reply "Leicester", people usually assume I haven't understood the question and say, "but where are you FROM?" My heart goes out to anyone who has to deal with it on the scale mentioned on this website....

Meeting someone with an unusual appearance for the first time?

Find out how to behave to avoid unintentionally hurting people's feelings.

Don’t know where to look?
Look them in the eye, just as you would anyone else. Or, if it’s hard, look at the bridge of the nose, it has the same effect.

Worried you might be staring?
It’s ok to be interested in someone’s face, in fact it’s normal. But imagine what it feels like to be stared at every day. Just be sure you’re not too interested.

Don’t know what to say?
Say ‘hello.’ Talk about the weather, what’s happening in the news – engage in normal conversation.

Express interest in something about them, for example, ‘You’re my first customer today, what can I get you?’

Don’t make ‘what happened to you?’ be the first question you ask – wait until you know someone better or they bring it up in the conversation.

If you are still curious, ask ‘do you mind if I ask what happened?’ – but be prepared for the fact that they may not want to answer.

Don’t know what to do?
Shake hands, if appropriate. Nod your head in acknowledgement.

Facing Changes

"Don't let the way I look affect the way you see me. I've got loads of interesting features, my face is just one of them."

Friday, 9 November 2012


A chocolate cake, two children's books, a cheese scone and a MONKEY! All for Mencap. I did NOT buy the Dorothy the Dinosaur toy - this level of restraint is not natural for me!

WHile I'm on the subject of Mencap I completely forgot that I was lucky enough to be invited up to the Link-Up Project a couple of weeks ago where I found out more about this work skills project for people with learning difficulties. If you need help with non-food mail shots, light assembly, packaging and shrink wrapping, particularly with Christmas coming up, then please consider this non-profit making project!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Kindness Challenge Day 8: Pick Up Litter

OK, gloves on for this one - a litter pick!

I did a litter pick in our town the same week that I found out I was pregnant, so I have very happy memories of collecting dog poo, coke cans, discarded takeaway boxes and even a garden bench someone had thrown into the river! Although it's disgusting - not only picking up rubbish, but the fact that people think it's ok to just dump it all, it was immensely satisfying. There's a tremendous amount of rubbish in this town - no one is proud of living here and it's near two main roads so people think it's ok to throw their rubbish out of their car windows! SO that's why I only collecting a carrier bag's worth today - otherwise I'd still be out there next year.

I collected lots of rubbish, but I have to admit that I picked up something quite scary and decided to leave it there. It looked like a child's toy gun, so I thought I am not putting my fingerprints on that and getting arrested!

Anyway, there's a patch of land near the town centre that is looking much better today!!
Your Task: Day 8: Pick Up Litter

Pick up litter that you see today! It can be litter you see in the trains (I recall the London Tube and New York subway would have tons of litter), on the pavement, at the food court, litter that missed the trash cans and are strewn around bins, or litter around the bus stop. As long as it’s trash that has been misplaced, pick it up and put it in its rightful place—the trash can.

If there are recycle bins in your country, all the better—discard them in the appropriate recycle bin.

Pick up as much litter as you can manage. (There’s no need to make it your day’s purpose to comb your entire neighborhood of litter—otherwise you might not have time to do other things in your life!) Do as much as you can, within the day, within your capacity.

The point of this task is to get all of us working in creating a cosy home for all of us in this world. After all, the world is our home. Trying to define home as only the space we live in every night only serves to segregate and not unite us. Recognize that our home extends beyond just those physical walls and every ground we walk on, every neighborhood we walk in, every district we step into, etc. should be considered our home, too.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

KindnessChallenge Day 7: Make a Donation

Make a donation!Rubs hands together! This is what I spent all of 2011 doing!

I have £70 to last until pay day, so it was with some relief that I read that it needn't be a cash donation. It was with more relief that just minutes later I noticed a post on facebook from a lovely mums and babies group, asking for donations!

Hello lovely Daybreak-ers!

We are looking for donations for our bric-a-brac stall at our Christmas Fayre on 5th December. If you have any unwanted books, toys, children's clothes, etc, laying around we would be very grateful to take them off your hands:-) Anita Hatton is happy to store the items until we need them, so please feel free to bring them in during the coming weeks.

Thanks so much and see you tomorrow xxx

That meant we could pick up some goodies from around the house; a few books, that Winnie the Pooh picture that never went up on the wall, those felt toys that were too old for the McBaby and head straight out!

Do you make donations toward worthy causes?

I’ve never been big on donations, to be honest. A big reason is because I never know what the organizations will do with the money. Recent exposés of charitable organizations (from National Kidney Foundation, to Ren Ci (a charity hospital), to City Harvest, to others) that misuse funds haven’t exactly helped with that perception.

I always feel that if I want to help others (which I do), I might as well just do it directly through my actions and where I devote my time to, rather than through donations, because the money can well be lost in administrative fees, bureaucracy, maintenance of systems and processes, and unoptimized ways of doing things, rather directly to the people whom I’m really trying to help. I’ve long heard about non-profits and their ineffective methods of running their organizations.

However, earlier this week, I interviewed a cancer survivor who has directly benefited from the outputs of cancer research (and the cancer research has been made possible precisely because of donations from public). It made me realize that there is indeed a place for donation and charitable causes in our world, and these donation drives do directly impact the people we are trying to help (and perhaps ourselves too someday if we are ever caught in the same predicament).

(I’m doing a write-up on National Cancer Center Singapore and inspiring cancer survivors (whom I interviewed earlier this week), which you can read about later today when I publish it.)

Today’s kindness task is to make a donation—any donation of any kind, of any amount. Let’s get started!

Your Task: Make a Donation

When people see the word “donation”, money comes to mind immediately.

While you can donate in the form of money, today’s task ISN’T limited to just monetary donation. Here are just some examples of donation:
•Donation to the homeless or beggars on the street
•Donation to a charitable cause
•Donation to an entity or organization (e.g., school)
•Donation to a disaster fund (e.g., Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy)
•Blood donation
•In-kind donation (such as supplies, clothes, textbooks, products, services, etc.)

I know some people will probably skip this task because they don’t want to part with their money. That’s fine. Just do what you feel is comfortable. Ultimately I can’t force participants to follow the tasks; I can only assign the tasks, do the write-ups, publish them on a timely basis, and live true to the tasks myself in my life as I try to spread kindness to others.

If you’re not comfortable with parting with your money, perhaps consider the other forms of donation I’ve listed above. Blood donation (which I went for last week; will share results in tomorrow’s, Day 8′s, post). In-kind donation such as old clothes and old books. Donation of something you don’t want anymore which you know your friend wants (don’t just shove your unwanted goods to others; that’s just recklessly discarding something from one place to another).

Even when it comes to monetary donation, you don’t have to go crazy and donate like thousands (though if you have the capacity to do that, go ahead and do so!). A dollar is a donation. Two dollars is a donation as well. Same for five dollars, or ten dollars. I’m sure most of you spend more than this on your lifestyle, be it places you wine and dine, your monthly cellular bill, your apartment rental, things you buy, electronic equipment, etc. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to request that you donate an amount that’s merely a split fraction of the amount you usually spend on entertainment and life.

Myself, I plan to donate to National Cancer Center Singapore after interviewing a cancer survivor on Monday and realizing that the donating to cancer research does make a difference. I’ll be sharing more about NCCS and the interviews I did in a post later today. Stay tuned.

KindnessChallenge Day 6: Talk to Someone You Don’t Normally Talk To

I think I mentioned the wonderful and multi-talented lady who I used to befriend within the local branch of the Alzheimer's Society. I remember being at her wake and talking to an elderly man who it turned out lived a few doors away from me.

I remember him rolling his eyes at a comment I made about the lady and thinking 'hmmm' until I quickly realised he wasn't bored - he was fainting! "Please don't die at a funeral," I thought, calling an ambulance while checking he was ok. He went a funny colour but in front of a crowd of concerned funeral-goers, he proved to be ok, although when the paramedics arrived, they took him away in the ambulance.

I went to check on him the next day, and he was much better. Although he then started complaining that because I'd called an ambulance, when the hospital discharged him, he'd had to start off on the 30 mile walk home, before (and here, he pointed at me) and I quote "another coloured person gave me a lift home".

Since then, I've not bothered speaking to him. But it's occurred to me that he is probably quite lonely. He's always alone and lives in a house where the lights are turned off everytime I go by, and in fact when I went to see if he was OK, he was sitting in the dark.

Perhaps when you're on your own a lot, you lose the art of conversation? So mindful of this challenge yesterday, I made a real effort to chat to him when I saw him. He chatted for ages about Wagner and the Ring Cycle and I was pleased to just listen. He did seem cheered and happy to chat.

So the moral of the story is that instead of giving up on people, I'll be there to listen. Thanks again Celestine!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Kindness Challenge Day 5: Give a Genuine Compliment to at Least 3 People

Today's challenge was to compliment three people. How interesting that all three of mine (and the other two that I dithered about) were all women!

1. I went to view a house today and I complimented the owner on her beautiful furniture and well-thought out layout.

She seemed pleased but might have felt that I was just buttering her up. Although thinking about it, if you like a house and want to buy it, you usually criticise it, so her reaction overall was probably one of confusion!

2. There's a lovely lady in the post office who is always so welcoming and friendly, despite my constant parcel sending. I told her how she makes my day.

She seemed pleased with this!

3. Nursery nurse

There's one nurse at the McBaby's nursery who the boy seems to gravitate to. I told her she was wonderful for being so kind and patient.

She seemed happy to hear this!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Cold Ash Parish Greening Group - Swap Shop (Sat 10th Nov 10am-12pm)

Freecycle is a great concept for saving things from going to landfill. However, its users are not all of a green mindset, some seem to think it's there just to meet their whims.

Things that have annoyed me in the last couple of days (yes, last couple of days!):

1. The woman who responded to my offer with "Can you diliver (sic)? I don't drive. Get back to me asap."

2. Another woman who asked for the same item. Thinking her name sounded familiar it turned out she had asked for something else I was offering and never shown up. I sarcastically asked her if she wanted the first item again, and she replied "yes".

3. Someone asking if anyone was offering a four-poster bed! Why not ask if someone has a spare five-bedroomed house they're not using?

So praise and thanks be to the good people of Cold Ash! They're organising a swap shop where you take your unwanted belongings and take whatever you want from other people's good stuff! Brilliant!

The last one was awesome - I disposed of a year's worth of Auto Express magazines, some books, DVDs and other things and came away with some baby things and a lovely shelf that is in our kitchen and I can admire from here!

So the next one is here:

We will be holding our next SWAP SHOP at the Acland Hall, Hermitage Road, Cold Ash, RG18 9JH on Saturday 10th November, from 10:00 am until 12:00 mid-day. This follows on from our 2 previous very successful events – at the last one over 1 ton of items were taken away for re-use!

Now is the time to start putting aside those items that you no longer use, but which could be useful to somebody else. And it’s the chance to have a good clear-out! Items can include toys, books, CDs, DVDs, garden equipment, tools & DIY materials, household items and furnishing, games, electric appliances etc. They must be small and light enough to be easily carried by one person.

Feel free to take things along, or turn up and rescue a few items. I was amazed at the quantity and quality of item available.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Day 4 - Kindness Challenge: Sign Up for Volunteer Work (On Top of Whatever You Have Been Doing)

Today's challenge is to sign up for volunteer work - lovely!

I try to do as much as I can for charity but tend to donate as and when to ensure I cover a wide variety of causes. However, one charity that's close to my heart is the Alzheimer's Society and I try to do things for the local branch, particularly letting the local media know what's going on.

I also used to be a befriender. I visited an amazing lady who sadly died a couple of years ago. I then was matched up with another lady who moved away temporarily to be in a home and loved it so much she's still there!

The befriending side of things has lapsed, so tomorrow (Monday), I shall contact the local branch and offer to visit someone again.

And then I thought, you know what, I'm passionate about the environment, why don't I set up my own environmental charity. So I am going to start campaigning about plastic bag use. I am trying to start a twitter identity (er, not easy!) and then will start an awareness campaign. I have even gathered together all of my bags for life and will be giving them away to people who pledge to take them shopping with them.

Thanks Celes for kick starting my volunteeering - just what I needed!

Me "helping" at a local Alzheimer's event

Do you do volunteer work?

Volunteer work is one of the best ways to expose yourself to a new medium of helping other people. There are tons of volunteer work out there, from assisting the elderly at the old folks’ home, working with delinquent kids, being a mentor to kids at orphanages, helping out at animal shelters, beach cleanups, and so on.

Volunteer work doesn’t have to be some grandiose act. As long as you are offering a part of yourself pro bono to the world (be it in terms of skills, knowledge, time, effort, or money), you are in fact volunteering.

For example, someone who spends his/her time mentoring kids for free in his/her alma mater out of his/her kindness can be considered as doing volunteer work. Someone who helps to curate and moderate the discussions in an online forum (without charge, out of his/her desire to help) and to ensure the discussions are of quality standard can be considered as doing some form of volunteer work too.

I often regard everything I’m doing now as a form of volunteer work—I write articles, record podcasts/web lectures and constantly brainstorm of new initiatives to help others grow, without tying money to them or expecting payback. I’ve just found a way to make my work pay for my bills, which allows me to give myself freely to others, so that they don’t need to pay to benefit from what I have to offer.

Today, your task is to sign up for volunteer work!

Your Task: Sign Up for Volunteer Work (On Top of Whatever You Have Been Doing)
1.Think of a volunteer work to sign up for.
•It can be volunteer work which you have thought of doing but have never done before. It can be volunteer work which you have done before but somehow stopped doing after a while.
•It doesn’t matter if you are currently doing volunteer work already or you have done volunteer work before—this task still applies to you. Even if you are currently doing some volunteer work, think of a new volunteer work to sign up for. Please do not say that this task doesn’t apply to you just because you are currently volunteering or because you just volunteered yesterday or last week or last month. That’s just a cop-out reason! The 14-Day Kindness Challenge has never been about going from an “unkind” person to a “kind” person—it’s about challenging our boundaries to be kinder. I’m hereby challenging you to push your boundaries and think about how you can expand your propensity for kindness!
2.Then, look for an organization where you can volunteer your help, be it for an ongoing basis, a certain duration (once a week? once every two weeks?), or at the very least, one or two days. Google it, check with friends, visit local community websites… Go sign yourself up RIGHT NOW, TODAY. Your day of volunteer doesn’t have to be today or tomorrow, just that you should sign up or initiate some form of registration or inquiry to register BY TODAY. No procrastination allowed! (Coincidentally, my KISS92 Segment tomorrow is about procrastination!)

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Kindness CHallenge day 3 - tHank you!

Today's CHallenge is to write tHree tHank you notes. In tHe days wHen my "H" button used to work, (ie until tHis morning), I was an aVid writer of tHank you letters and someone remarked just a Couple of days ago tHat I am tHe only person He knows wHo says "please" and "THank you"!

So my tHree people are going to be:

1. My dad - I sHall write to Him by Hand! I want to say tHank you for His Constant support, kindness and inspiration. If tHere's someone wHo Could teaCH a tHing or two about kindness, it's Him.

2. My loVely Husband. I will also write to Him by Hand, altHougH it was our wedding anniVersary tHis week, and I told Him How muCH I appreCiate Him and loVe Him.

3. I am going to send a message Via soCial media to Martin Lewis from MoneysaVing expert wHo is a wonderful person wHo Has Helped so many people.

And a bonus one - I am going to send a message to Celestine Via soCial media to tHank Her for tHis CHallenge.

And bonus two: tHe person wHo Can fix my "H" and "V" buttons!!

Have you ever written thank you notes to others?

In every run of Be a Better Me in 30 Days, we would work on showing appreciation on Day 15, by way of writing thank you notes. It’s an incredible task every time the participants do it, for the thank you notes would elicit the most gentle and heartfelt of responses from others out of all the other tasks in the program.

Thank-you notes are a powerful way to express your love and gratitude for others. I think that there is no better thing than to openly express gratitude to someone whom you feel grateful for.

This is why I often express gratitude openly on PE, as well as on my Facebook page. I would often thank all of you angels for being in my life; at the same time I receive daily messages of love, support, and encouragement from all of you. The pursuit of my work is independent of whether I receive these words of appreciation, yet they undoubtedly fuel me in my journey and growth, because it touches me to know that you guys care.

Today, your task is to express your appreciation to others.

Your Task: Write 3 Thank-You Notes to 3 People You Appreciate
1. Identify 3 people you appreciate. It could be for something that each of them have done for you or said to you at one point or another. It could be for something major or something small.
2.Write thank-you notes to each of the 3 people.
•These thank-you notes can be written in any format—e-mail, thank-you cards, handwritten letters, SMS, social media sites, and so on.
•Try to go for the medium that can best convey your intent and sincerity with the message though; I tend to think a sudden SMS with a few words saying, “Hey, thank you for what you did for me yesterday” is a lot less sincere and impactful as a nice, long, handwritten letter on paper, put nicely in an envelope and passed in person.
3.After you are done, share your results in the comments section. Fill everyone in on who you picked, why, how you chose to express your appreciation, and their responses when they received the thank-you notes (where applicable).

Kindness challenge - day 2

Yesterday's challenge was to give up your seat for someone, which was impossible as I didn't use any transport at all.

My only saving grace is that I usually do this anyway!

ANother failure....this isn't going too well so far!!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Kindness CHallenge - day 2

Day 2 and it's "give a hug to everyone you see" which in this town is liable to get you stabbed. I stuck to people who share my surname, which I do anyway, but I did shake hands with two elderly men that I like to chat in town on a Thursday.

So a bit of a failure. I promise to do better tomorrow!

Who did you hug today?


How did you feel when hugging them?


For those who pushed yourself further and tried to hug as many people as possible… how many people did you end up hugging??

Oh dear, none.

Newbury University of the 3rd Age

I've a couple more years before I qualify to join the U3A but I'm already a fan.

The U3A is for retired people who want to continue learning and they run courses on every conceivable subject.

Today's fundraiser was for the Newbury branch and I came away with the books below (for a total of 50p) and some gingerbread men for my nephew. Which he won't get to eat because I tested them all for him.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Melksham and Lacock

How can I never have visited Melksham before? It's lovely!

I was here yesterday after a meeting in Trowbridge and before a meeting in Swindon so it made a good stop off point, and I took the opportunity to donate a bag of dresses, cookery books and saucepans to the Sue Ryder shop here.

Then, time for cake! And where better to go than somewhere where my cake eating would benefit the commmunity - Munching for Melksham, if you will.

Then onwards, but not before stopping off at the beautiful village of Lacock and the Abbey there, both preserved by the National Trust. And if it looks familiar, it could be its resemblance to a certain boarding school attended by Harry Potter.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

National Trust -Upton House

Another flying visit in between meetings; this time I stopped off at Upton House

This is the country home (not main home) of Walter Samuel, 2nd Viscount Bearstead who made his fortune from Shell.

(not my favourite company - have a look here for details), but anyway, a fascinating look into life in the 1930s. There's something so intriguing about poking about a bedroom or bathroom that is exactly how it would have been 80 years ago - far more so than looking at dusty paintings.

I also just about had time to run across the lawn and pretend that I was playing croquet in my own stately pile, before doing the house tour at a ridiculous pace, and checking out the second hand bookshop which is housed in what used to be the kitchen pantry.

Sophie's Stars

Better late than never! I've finally got around to donating after hearing the story of Sophie..

I've just sponsored Sophie's Stars. You can help them raise money for Southampton Hospital Charity, Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance Trust too by donating at

Breast Cancer Care

I've written a release about one of the dealers I do PR for as they're very generously giving £10 to charity for every customer who comes to the dealership on Friday dressed in pink!

Original release is here:

Lowestoft Renault dealer Mitchells is going pink on Friday, 26th October for a good cause, giving customers a special incentive to drop into the Long Road dealership.

Staff will be dressing in pink to show their support for Breast Cancer Care’s “Pink Fridays” initiative which is a month-long campaign through October to raise funds for breast cancer sufferers.

As proud supporters of Breast Cancer Care, the dealership will also be offering pink cakes and holding a raffle on the day. What’s more, for each customer that visits the dealership dressed in pink, Mitchells will donate an additional £10 to the cause.

Dealer Principal Matthew Huke-Jenner said: “We’re tickled pink to be able to support the “Pink Friday” event. Please come and support us on the day, and if you can dress in pink, then even better!"

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Miriam Dean Fund

Cake, jumble, tombola? It must be Thursday!

I met all of our favourite people, including the highly-enviable Vicki who is my mothering guru. She has three beautiful children who are great fun and well-behaved. She never seems stressed, yet floats from activity to activity with no effort or drama. Compare with me - just one child; he and I are usually covered in cake, snot and other bits of dirt. I am late, harried, stressed and tired. HOW DO YOU DO IT, VICKI!!

Anyway, today's cake and tombola was in aid of the MIriam Dean Fund - a charity that helps the world's poorest people by such intriguingly named projects such as "The community cooker project" in Africa; the Rowswanic, and the "Loaves and fishes" network. As I eat cake and then go and meet friends for coffee on a Thursday, I often gaze at these pictures of amazing people going to India, Africa and so on, doing great, practical things and it always makes me think that I am wasting my life in rainy Newbury.

I have wanderlust. Are there any projects that could do with a useless person like me? And can I take the McBaby?

Saturday, 13 October 2012


Always happy to have cake for a good cause....

At the car wash...

My dirty car made £5 for the MS Trust as the local fire station was holding a car wash fundraiser!

This provided a lot of amusement for the McBaby as the car was hosed down and cleaned, and also for the firefighters - one of them knocked on the window and asked "Is this the first time you've washed this car?"


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

National Trust - Dyrham Park

I was on the road again yesterday - a trip to Bristol, then Basingstoke before heading home to find the traffic from this morning's horrendous rush hour had not yet subsidied!

I was heading back from Bristol and needed a toilet stop and a tea. Now why stop at anonymous, expensive motorway services, when you can (if you are a member), go to a National Trust property?

So bye bye Welcome Break, helllloooooo Dyrham Park -a beautiful mansion near Bath built around 1690 for William Blathwayt who was Secretary at War and Secretary of State to William III. Little did he know that a few centuries later that I would be storming in, using the loo and running down the hill through the incredibly beautiful parkland, like Maria from the Sound of Music to see the house, get the bus back and be on my way. I was there for 17 minutes and fortunately for my laughable financial situation, didn't get that tea!

Cancer Research UK - SHINE

I was asked to write this press release and am about to send it to the charity press, but thought -I'll put it here first!


Cancer Research UK recently received a helping hand for its annual Shine night-time walking event from Renault when the manufacturer lent the event a fleet of vehicles.

The Shine events are walking half-marathon and marathon events that are held at night time around the streets of London and Manchester. More than 10,000 participants took part in this year’s event, raising an estimated £2m for cancer charities.

Renault lent a fleet of three minibuses, two Trafic vans and four Mégane Hatch to assist with the smooth running of the event and as support vehicles for anyone who injured themselves while taking part.

Brian Goddard from Cancer Research UK said: “The Shine event is unusual as participants can choose which cancer charities they want their money to be allocated to.

“It all went extremely well and we can’t thank Renault enough with their help for the London leg. It was wonderful to be able to transport staff, volunteers and participants around in comfort and style, and additionally, the loan of the vehicles saved us thousands of pounds in car hire fees, meaning that all money raised goes directly to where it’s needed most.”


1. Brian Goddard from Cancer Research UK at the beginning of the Shine event, pictured with the fleet of Renault vehicles.

For more info, please contact @magatha28 or @grovewoodpr

Saturday, 6 October 2012

St Michael's Hospice, Basingstoke

A drink for me, a biscuit for the McBaby, at the coffee morning at the Kingsclere Club held in aid of St MIchael's Hospice

We also bought the groceries below

before a lady sat down with a box at our table, saying she'd won it on the tombola.

"Are you not bursting to know what it is?" I asked as both the McBaby and I stared at it.

She wasn't as nosey as us, but opened it for us and it turned out to be a lovely set of brand new mugs. That made me decide to have a go, but before I could do so, another lady sitting at our table said she wanted to win something for the McBaby, and came back a couple of minutes later with a brand new oversized cup and saucer.

"Your son is just so lovely and smiley, I wanted to get him something", she said.

How touching - a complete stranger buying something for the little boy. Thank you!

National Trust - Lanhydrock

Whether you describe it as "brave" or "foolish", I took the McBaby and the McNephew to Lanhydrock yesterday.

If I thought running round after a lively 9 month old was exhausting, little did I know how tiring it would be to take his McCousin too, so we started with the adventure playground to try to wear them out.

After walking from the car park pushing a pushchair with one hand and trying to hold hands with McNephew who wanted to collect logs to throw for his dog, we finally arrived at the entrance and the offer of a buggy ride to the National Trust property itself was too good to miss. McNephew is a transport expert, so loved the buggy ride and the vintage fire engine and other vehicles at the end of it.

The boys got a reasonably-priced book each in the fabulous second hand bookshop and then a children's meal in the cafe, before we got the buggy back to the main gate again. There's simply no way we could have gone into the house - if we were in fact allowed, but we hope to return!

The Wigglys book for McBaby

McNephew about to run after another stick again - a miracle that he stood still for this pic:

Lanhydrock is a beautiful Victorian estate near Bodmin and was owned by the Robartes family.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Lorraine Pascale - TACT

Beautiful, talented, interesting. A model who eats lots of chocolate...don't you just hate Lorraine Pascale?

Only kidding! I don't hate her at all, I think she's awesome and what I wouldn't give to go round to her house for tea and cake!

The reason I mention this is that I happened to catch her on Woman's Hour on Radio 4 this morning, and far from being quite privileged, (don't know why I thought that), she came from a difficult background with time in foster care. She mentioned that she does a lot of work for this charity and since I'd not heard of them, I thought they were worth looking up.

Keep doing what you're doing Lorraine. I wish there were more inspirational women like you.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Mobile phones, Chippenham and of course, cake...

I was in the interesting town of Chippenham for work this week and noticed that many of the shops here are charity shops which, while not a good sign for the economy, makes me very happy!

I had a good look around and while tempted by many things came away empty handed but open mouthed. That's because while in the shop below, one of the volunteers pushed past me so violently that one of my head very nearly went through a glass display case. I came out straight away bemused. And then bemusement gave way to an uncontrollable fit of the giggles!

After that, I stuck to the relative "safety" of the Thursday coffee morning, after swinging by Orange to recycle a phone for charity. I had a bag of medical books from the 1930s for one of the regulars at the jumble sale today and also a donation for the sale which was in aid of Leckhampstead WI.

However trying to hand over these items was not easy. MrT joked about the weight of the books. Then the lady manning (does that sound right? Can you "man" a stall if you're a lady) the stall gave me a highly suspicious look when I tried to hand over my good things, including new clothes with tags, make up sets and a lovely brand new clutch bag, asking me why I was donating and that she couldn't pay me for them.

I then won a couple of prizes on the tombola, but since I already have tonnes of soap, hundreds of notelets and a box full to bursting with Christmas decorations, I said they could re-use them. They thought this was highly irritating. "We've already thrown the tickets away".

So I tried to hand the prizes to the bric-a-brac stall. Cue more harrumphing.

"I'll buy a cake!" I thought -that won't cause any problems. Wrong!

When I asked what flavour two of the cakes were, they told me to go to the other side of the room and ask a lady over there. I chose one thinking it was either chocolate or coffee.

"The chocolate one?" I was asked.

"Oh I thought you didn't know what flavour it was," I said, getting irritable.

"I thought you were asking about the orange cake," she said.

More uncontrollable giggling!


Monday, 24 September 2012

Alzheimer's Society again!

Good morning!
As I hunted high and low for my cheque book this morning so I could make a donation to the Alzheimer's Society. It doesn't seem right to ask for sponsorship for that lovely (and short) walk that we did around the lakes on Saturday!

So I've decided that I will use my eBay sales this week and any money that rolls in from my current listings can go to the Alzheimer's Society. I've got a baby's cot listed, a fantastic red 70s dress and now this lovely vintage children's book from 1964 - This is London by M Sasek.

Wish me luck!

PS. If you were a cheque book, where would you be hiding?

Open morning!

Cricketts Estate Agents are proudly offering for sale this attractive two bedroom character property with a vast rear garden. Dating back to Victorian times, there are a number of striking features that help create that homely feel that we are all looking for.

The property has been tastefully modernised in places with lovely wooden flooring stretching throughout the ground floor, along with fully refitted kitchen. A beautiful exposed brick fire place will be found in the dining room with a closed chimney breast in the lounge which could potentially be opened up again. There is plenty of natural light flooding through the house, due to its well thought out design.

Its location close to Newbury town centre and the train station mean that is perfect for those who like the convenience of living within walking distance of the major local amenities. Not only that but the property is situated just a stone’s throw from Newbury Racecourse where a number of diverse events happen throughout the year.

Cricketts are having an open day event on Saturday 29th September between 10am and 2pm, by appointment only. Please call Cricketts on 01635 43333 to arrange a viewing slot and avoid disappointment.

News alert!

It's all about confidence! That fabulous dress that I bought at the Day Centre fundraiser doesn't quite look right on me. I think I'm too wide and lumbering. I need to stand up straight and let the dress sing as it really is RED! Much brighter and more vivid than pictured here.

I've put it on eBay at just 99p because I want someone more ladylike and elegant to wear it!

In other news, the West Berkshire Alzheimer's Society Memory Walk attracted nearer to 70 walkers and has already raised £1,500. I must, must, must send my donation in this week!

Have a great week and check out my dress if you need a lift from this horrible, dreary day!

West Berkshire Community Hospital League of Friends

I dragged the McBaby and MrM to the boot sale this morning, telling them that I'd heard the weather was going to be fabulous. It wasn't. They sheltered in the car and I braved the elbows and rain.

I got these clothes for the McBaby and then a rubbish bin which is identical to the one I'd like to replace in the bathroom. I am very proud of myself for not buying a 1970s coffee pot set or a cup and saucer from Japan.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Memory Walk!

Right, we're ready!

The warm-up

The organiser:

The starter (as the mayor who was supposed to cut the ribbon appeared and then disappeared).

And we're off......

All in all, there were 58 of us and we had a very enjoyable walk around the lakes at the Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre! All in aid of a very good cause, brought home to me in spades when I spoke to a lady that I'd met yesterday at the Princess Anne memorial unveiling but of course, she only had a very vague recollection of it.

Fairclose Day Centre

I didn't even know this was on today, but happened to be walking past on my way into town to get the Guardian. What could be more tempting than a sign saying "jumble sale and cakes"?

And this was the haul:

-one heritage Britain jigsaw for my honorary grandma (aged 96!)

-one fabulous 70s red dress

-one blue and white 60s dress

-one 80s dress that I shall make into bunting*

-one dress that I was going to make into bunting but will wear if it fits.

-one coffee cake for friends coming round tomorrow. The more THEY eat, the less for me, and the more likely that dress will fit.

-12 unused vintage teatowels including two from Blackpool and one from my home county of Dorset.

-another notebook. As if I have enough thoughts to fill all of these!

All in aid of old people in the town so I am more than happy with all of these, even though, believe it or not I had my eye on more stuff (two rubbish bins for the bedroom and tea sets of beautiful china) but the lady on the stall was getting a bit fed up of me!

On top of that, we bought a strip of raffle tickets, but I think we rendered ourselves ineligible to win because the McBaby ate them. This prompted a lovely volunteer to tell me, after she'd finished laughing at me, that her son had eaten a copy of the Singapore Times many years ago. When she changed his nappy, she discovered a scrap of paper in there with the word "sin" on it!!

*or beg someone else to! The sewing machine seems to be broken and I don't think the McBaby will let me do it by hand!

Monday, 17 September 2012


I dropped my mum to the airport last night. Always emotional, and yesterday even more so because we were short of time and as it happened, petrol.

The petrol gauge was pointing below the last red line, and the traffic was building. Stop and miss the flight or keep going and run out and hold up lots of impatient travellers?

(I should point out that I had filled the tank the morning before we set off), but that MrM and I had to swap cars at the last minute!)

Anyway, my mum made her flight, I made it to the petrol station, but then a woman steadfastly refused for five minutes to let me into her lane to get into the entrance of said petrol station, so I had to do ANOTHER circuit of the airport loop, this time dripping with sweat...

I got home and found a note from my mum saying that she does not intend to return to the UK any time soon and to take all of her things to the charity shop.

So...Scope...take a bow. I took a load of mum's clothes, a funky red handbag and some brand new baby clothes, with tags into their Newbury branch this morning. My mum's clothes are of much higher quality than anyone else I know, so hopefully that should raise a few quid for this brilliant disability charity.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


"It's Thursday so you must have just been to the weekly coffee morning - what did you get, what did you get?" I hear you cry.

I'm just being brought a cup of tea and a scone (thank you mum) and will not keep you waiting a moment longer. Today was in aid of Cherubs, the playgroup on Tuesdays that the McBaby and I went to a couple of times before the summer.

I handed over some good stuff when we arrived; a funky green children's lampshade, a brand new bright red nappy bag, a cushion I bought in India that I loved until the McBaby kept picking sequins and what-have-you from the top and eating them, and some other, less-perilous items.

The stuff was great today - brilliant for children and all for £4 (excluding my numerous attempts on the tombola - fortunately my mum won something; a Shallow Grave DVD!). I got some wellies for the McBaby, a potty (not long until we use that), A Thomas the Tank engine plate for McCousin, two pirate coat hooks for the McBaby's bedroom, some swimming nappies (I haven't bought any yet!), a photoframe that I've been instructed to furnish with photo of McBaby and McCousin for McGrandma to take home, some handwash and a children's book.

All that and a catch-up with three lovely mums, plus cake. Which reminds me that one of the aforementioned lovely mums made a cake for today's sale and somehow managed to drop it out of the window while icing it!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Duchess of Kent House Charity

This morning's jumble sale was a fundraiser for the Duchess of Kent House hospice in Reading so I was delighted to hand over a bag of clothes (including a suit jacket which is weird timing as I've just gone back to work after maternity leave this week), books and my mum's massive money box shaped like a 2p coin!

In fact, two ladies tried to wrest this item from my hands, yet neither of them wanted to pay the very reasonable £1 for it, although I think the volunteer did point out it was for charity and did prise a hard-won quid from one of them!

I, of course, exhibited my usual lack of self control and paid £1 for six disparate books; 5 on management and one on Oscar Wilde!