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Little Things Mean Such A Lot #WATWB

watwic-bright-tuqblkThis story comes from my local newspaper. I like it because it illustrates how small acts of kindness add up to a great deal.

The link is to the relevant page of the newspaper and you will need Adobe to read it. The journalist responsible for the story is Lynda Kiernan.

She tells us about a grand mother who is an enthusiastic knitter. As well as fulfilling orders for knitwear for friends and relations she knits baby clothes which she delivers to the local maternity hospital. But her charity does not end there: she also fills shoe boxes with gifts to be distributed to children around the world. At the time of the article she already had 225 ready and wrapped for Christmas this year.

Have you got a good news story to share with the world? Here’s how to join in:

1. Keep your post to Below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blog, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Paste in an excerpt and tell us why it touched you. The Link is important, because it actually makes us look through news to find the positive ones to post.

3. No story is too big or small, as long as it Goes Beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

Place the WE ARE THE WORLD badge or banner on your Post and your Sidebar. Some of you have already done so, this is just a gentle reminder for the others.

5. Help us spread the word on social media. Feel free to tweet, share using the #WATWB hashtag to help us trend!

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#WATWB hosts this month: Eric Lahti, Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Sylvia Stein, and Peter Nena



Thanking my Lucky Stars

It might have been different if I’d not been on a first aid course a few days before. Then I might not have thought ‘stroke‘ when my right foot and my right hand both started acting strangely. I had a good look in the mirror and my face looked okay. My speech wasn’t slurred.

That was Saturday night. Our wedding anniversary was coming up on Tuesday and we’d booked a short break away. I’m a volunteer on the Strides for Life programme the Irish Cancer Society devised for recovering patients. That means a 30 or 40 minute walk on Monday morning. I did find it surprisingly difficult keeping up with the patients but my foot seemed to be behaving itself. Driving to our holiday destination 150 km. away was a different story. My right foot kept drifting off to the right. And then I had to sign the register and fill in my name, date of birth, address, phone number and vehicle registration. I struggled to form the letters.

Tuesday I decided to phone our local doctors’ surgery to get an appointment for Friday morning. By Tuesday night, with storm Ali making any idea of sight-seeing hopeless, we decided to cut our holiday short. Back home Wednesday afternoon I rang the surgery to see if my appointment could be brought forward. At 3pm I was explaining my symptoms to the doctor. He spent 20 minutes trying out various tests, after which he decided that a CT scan might provide some answers.


“The best way to get it done straight away is to go to A&E. Go there first thing in the morning, before they get too busy, and give them this letter.”

I’m seen quite quickly and, after triage, I’m taken to a cubicle and hooked up to a heart monitor. Two different doctors carry out the same battery of tests before I’m taken to radiology for a chest x-ray and the CT scan. Another doctor comes and repeats the same tests. He tells me the CT had not showed anything significant. The consultant will be round soon to discuss my case with me. By lunch time I’m told he wants to do an MRI. This has to be booked in another hospital. It is too late to organise today.

The best way to get ahead of the long waiting list is for him to admit me so that I am an in-patient. I might get an appointment for Friday but it could be after the weekend.

That’s how I ended up in hospital in a five-bed ward with 4 very sick people, feeling a complete fraud. I’m given a meal in the afternoon and a snack in the evening. Because I’m a new admission and have not pre-ordered a meal I’m given a fry up: two sausages, a rasher, black and white pudding, toast and butter. I tell one of the nurses that I smell a conspiracy: the medical profession is always telling us such fare is bad for us and yet here they are feeding it to me!

There is a nurse allocated to our small ward full time. All 4 of the other patients are seriously ill. One in particular, Michael, needs constant supervision and one or other of the nurses is sat by his bed most of the day and night.

Friday morning I get seen on the consultant’s round. We discuss my symptoms and do the tests again. He spots my arthritic fingers and calls for more blood tests. He says he will put me on aspirin to thin my blood plus something to counter its effect on my innards. And, as an extra precaution, statins for my cholesterol.

One of his team returns shortly afterwards to take the bloods. I have a cannula in my right arm where they took bloods yesterday and which has been left in for the MRI team to inject dye. She can’t use that – something to do with the blood being contaminated with whatever is injected via the cannula. “But nothing has been injected yet,” I protest. To no avail; I have to offer up my left arm.

Then a physiotherapist arrives to do another assessment. In the afternoon I am told my appointment with the MRI team is at 10:30 Monday morning. So I’m here for the weekend, occupying a bed in our supposedly overstretched hospital system, getting 4 meals a day and constant attention, when I could be at home. All in order to by-pass an appointments system that means, as the consultant put it to me Friday morning: “If we send you home you would wait so long it might be too late.”

The MRI, when it happens is an interesting experience in itself. Certainly not for the faint-hearted or claustrophobics. Superficially like the CT in general appearance, it is larger and, whereas the CT takes just a couple of minutes, I’m in the MRI enclosure for at least 15. Throughout that time you are subjected to a strange sequence of loud noises. Tapping on a tin drum followed by loud buzzing like someone revving a high powered motor bike – 5 or 6 taps followed by the same number of revs. That sequence is repeated several times then you get the pneumatic drill for what seems like several minutes. A series of clicks and clunks is followed by a repetition of the above, not necessarily in the same order. What it all means, in terms of what the machine is actually doing, I have no idea.

All this takes place after I have been taken by taxi from my local hospital to one about 30 km away. Back to my bed some 2 1/2 hours after I left – just in time for lunch, in fact – I only have to wait a couple of hours before the consultant brings the verdict. I did, indeed, have a mini-stroke caused by a tiny clot forming in one of the capillaries in my brain. He says I will now be on aspirin for life, to keep my blood thin, with the pink pill to protect my stomach from the effects of the aspirin. I have my heart monitored over night and have to provide a blood sample before I eat anything tomorrow then I can go home.

I guess I owe our local cancer support centre, who organised the first aid course because I’m volunteering on that walking programme for their clients, and the man who delivered it, a debt of gratitude. I could quite easily have ignored those minor symptoms – indeed, I very nearly did and at times through this last weekend felt I was wasting valuable resources that could have been put to better use.

The moral of the story? Never ignore your body when it is trying to tell you something and, of course, learn the signals it sends and what they mean.

An Irish Heroine

Here’s something we don’t hear enough about. Ireland was neutral during World War II which it euphemistically called ‘The Emergency’. The Prime Minister at the time even astonished Allied leaders by sending his condolences to the German government on the death by suicide of Adolf Hitler. But many ordinary Irish people went beyond the call of duty in their humanitarian response to the suffering caused by fascism. Here David Lawlor tells us about a Cork woman whose efforts saved the lives of thousands of children.

via Ireland’s Holocaust heroine

Focusing on Mental Health #WATWB #DIL

This month I’m linking to two stories, both concerned with mental health.

watwic-bright-tuqblkThe first is about both an organisation and an event. Pieta House is an Irish charity dedicated to the understanding and prevention of suicidal thoughts. It provides counseling services for those experiencing suicidal thoughts and for people bereaved by suicide. It’s services are backed up by an extensive research programme aimed at establishing which services are most effective and how they might be improved.

In 2009 it began a series of annual walks that take place at dawn on the second Saturday in May. That first walk, over a 5km course, took place in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. The idea was that participants would raise funds for the oganisation whilst the progress from pre-dawn darkness into the light of day symbolises the journey from the darkness of suicidal thoughts to the light of understanding that the organisation hopes that both it and its clients undertake.

Dubbed Darkness Into Light (#DIL)*, walks will take place at 4:15am on May 12th this year at 180 venues across Ireland and in 10 other countries around the world. Last year 180,000 individuals took part. It is not too late to register and participate in the experience of walking from darkness into light at a venue near you if you live in Canada, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, South Africa, South Korea, New Zealand, Australia or, of course, Ireland.

000fc031-614Meanwhile, earlier this week an artwork was unveiled in Dublin. The work of Irish street artist Joe Caslin, it was intended to provide publicity for the national broadcaster’s series of programmes about youth mental health.

Have you got a good news story to share with the world? Here’s how to join in:

1. Keep your post to Below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blog, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Paste in an excerpt and tell us why it touched you. The Link is important, because it actually makes us look through news to find the positive ones to post.

3. No story is too big or small, as long as it Goes Beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

Place the WE ARE THE WORLD badge or banner on your Post and your Sidebar. Some of you have already done so, this is just a gentle reminder for the others.

5. Help us spread the word on social media. Feel free to tweet, share using the #WATWB hashtag to help us trend!


Powered by Linky Tools

Click here to enter your link and view this Linky Tools list…

*You might be struck, as I was, by the similarity between the walk title and the strap line of #WATWB.

Life Changing Events

A few days ago Stevie Turner posted on this subject, taking her cue from an earlier post by Colline Kook-Chun. It inspired me to think about some of the events that influenced the direction my life has taken.


  1. My father’s death in action in 1943. Had he survived the war, who knows what my life would have been like? I would probably have been brought up as a Londoner, since both parents were from there. I certainly would not have gone, at age 10¾ to a boarding school established for boys who had lost one or both parents. The school still exists, although the majority of pupils these days pay expensive fees. I shall be back there later this year celebrating 60 years since I left. Thanks to modern technology, many of my contemporaries communicate regularly with each other despite being scattered in different parts of the world.
  2. Meeting my wife in the summer of 1961. I was 19, she 16. I proposed in the early hours of December 27th, as I walked her home from the Boxing Night dance. We kept our engagement secret until her 17th birthday in June 1962 and were married in September 1963.
  3. Discovering, in the spring of 1965 as we moved into our first new house, that she was pregnant. We had not planned to start a family quite so soon but our son brought a new phase in our lives as a family unit and, as you will discover below, led to us coming to live in Ireland.
  4. Joining the staff at the Engineering HQ of a large corporation in the summer of 1968. That took me to South Africa and eventually to East Lincolnshire. Altogether I worked for over 18 years for that corporation and the pension I paid into now provides about 1/3rd of my annual income. It also led to:
  5. Being elected to Humberside County Council in May 1985. I was one of 4 Liberals elected that year. The other two parties had 35 and 36 members so we held the ‘balance of power’, able to veto any proposal from either of the other parties. I like to think we used this power wisely. It was certainly extremely time consuming because, in order to do the job, we had to be represented on every committee, sub-committee and working party.

    The Humber Bridge. Image via Scunthorpe Telegraph

    My employer was extraordinarily generous with allowing me time off to do this, but after a year and a half I was offered the choice: cut down on your council activities or take redundancy. The redundancy offer was generous and I accepted, having visions of a new career as a writer and politician. After working, unpaid, for the party in the run-up to the 1987 General Election I needed to find some alternative source of income which takes us to:

  6. Our shop. We decided that, since Freda had worked all of her life in shops, latterly as manager of a charity shop, we should set up our own shop. I would look after the administration whilst she worked ‘front of house’. I researched the market and decided that Cleeethorpes could benefit from having a quality glass, china and giftware outlet. A unit was available in a building belonging to a kitchen design specialist who had his show-room upstairs. This seemed like an excellent fit. I talked to potential suppliers, put together a business plan and everything looked promising until the building went on sale. The owner’s plan to increase his income by creating and letting units had not worked out. Any thought that the new owner might still be interested in having us as a tenant was dashed when planning permission to open a fast food outlet was applied for.

    The next premises we looked at meant a complete change of plan. It was a moderately successful food retailer. The owner, a chef, prepared a range of chilled ready-meals in a kitchen at the back which he sold in the shop, alongside the usual deli-type goods and speciality foods. His recipes had been so successful that he had taken a small factory unit in Grimsby and wanted someone to take on the retail business, with him continuing to supply the popular ready meals. We opened in September and did great business in the run up to Christmas. Then the chef lost a big contract and had to close the unit so we lost our main supplier. We struggled on for the next few months but the risk involved in food retailing is enormous and we just could not compete with the supermarkets who were starting to develop their own deli counters and chilled ready meals.

    I got a part-time job writing business profiles for a regional business magazine but in the May 1989 election I lost my council seat and returned to my original career as an Engineer.

  7. Our son’s marriage in 1993. His wife is Irish and in due course they moved to Dublin with their daughter. So, when considering retirement options in 2006, moving to Ireland to be near them was a ‘no brainer’. More than eleven years on we are still here, enjoying life in a small Irish country town where we have met many new friends, some through the writing group to which I belong, and some through the support centre for people touched by cancer where we both volunteer.

At the end of Stevie’s post are two questions, originally posed by Colline. Here they are, with my answers:

  1. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s… a Ryanair jet bringing home the owner of the Grand National winning horse and offering free drinks to all the passengers
  2. What music do you like: Jazz, Folk, Rock, Blues, Broadway/West End Musical scores.

Thanks, Colline and Stevie, for the inspiration. I wonder how many of my followers will be tempted to follow suit?

Things we Oldies Need to Talk About

The older I get the more I worry about the afflictions that come with old age. What would happen if one of us was diagnosed with Alzheimers? Or cancer? Or suffered a disabling (but not fatal) stroke?

Periodically one or other of my UK pension providers need to reassure themselves that I am still alive and eligible to continue to receive my pension. They have different methods. One sent me €10 I had to collect from my local post office showing proof of ID. Another sent out a form that required the signature of a solicitor or GP. I took it to my GP and used the opportunity to share some health concerns with her.

She submitted me to the test described in the first of the blogs I’m sharing today. I came through with flying colours. A set of half a dozen blood tests did, however, reveal something. Nothing too serious I hasten to add – a deficiency of vitamin B12. It seems this is not uncommon in older people and is caused by the inability of the stomach lining to produce a factor that enables the body to metabolise B12. The treatment is straight forward – weekly injections for five weeks, then a booster every 3 months.


Jill Stoking – follow the first of my two links to read how she is facing Alzheimers

As I say, nothing too serious. But this week I came across two accounts of people facing much more worrying conditions, one of them a well known journalist whose work I have admired for a long time, the other a lady who shared her experience on Lucinda E Clarke’s blog yesterday. What both are advocating is the importance of talking about these subjects that are too often treated as taboo matters.

Here is the article about Alzheimers and here is George Monbiot’s piece from the Guardian newspaper about his Prostate cancer.

The Beast from the East, February 1979.


Image free download from pixaby – “no attribution required”

It had been cold all week up to now. A brutal North Easterly wind scoured the coast in sub-zero temperatures under leaden skies. I was working in Grimsby, awaiting the board’s approval of my permanent posting, still travelling back to Coventry at the weekends. That Thursday morning, St. Valentine’s Day 1979, was no different to any other that week: still bitterly cold as I left the guest house at 8am for the twenty minute drive to work. As I crossed over the traffic lights where Grimsby Road, Cleethorpes, transforms itself into Cleethorpes Road, Grimsby, I felt the wind rock the car and saw the first flurries of snow caught in the headlights’ glow.

By the time I reached the next set of lights, at the junction with Freeman Street and Fishdock Road, the traffic seemed to be at a standstill, nothing moving when the lights changed. The snow was still fine and light, though driven by that bitter wind. There was now a light dusting of white powder on the road being picked up and swirled around by the wind, mingling with the steam from vehicle exhaust pipes.

Eventually the traffic in front of me began to move forward slowly. I switched into the right-hand lane by the derelict Alexandra Theatre, ready to turn right onto the swing bridge. As I made the turn into the wind, the snow began to plaster the windscreen and I turned on the wipers. Beyond the swing bridge, the road climbs briefly. It was here that I discovered the cause of the hold up. Heavy vehicles were struggling to negotiate the incline, their rear wheels spinning, causing them to snake slowly forwards.

Beyond the dock estate the road to the plant runs parallel to the coast, about half a mile inland. That half mile consists of a flat cultivated field – or it did then. The field is separated from the road by a low hedge and a ditch. Here I was to learn the meaning of the expression ‘white out’. The road, the sky, the field, were all white. Snow flakes swirled around the car. The only guide I had, as I covered the mile or so of straight road to the plant entrance, was the red glow from the rear lights of the car in front of me. Its driver, like me, an employee arriving later than usual to work that morning.

My morning routine, having arrived in the office, was to take a walk around the various projects for which I had responsibility. This necessitated a quarter mile walk outside. I donned waterproof over-trousers, wellingtons and a hooded waterproof, carrying the hard hat and goggles I would be obliged to wear inside the plant. Snow stung my face and I turned my head to the side so that the hood took the brunt of the storm’s blast. Where the internal factory road turned a corner between two buildings set at an angle to each other, snow was piling into a huge drift.

By noon I was back in the office, nursing a mug of hot tea. In the meeting room all eight of us Engineers were gathered around the conference table to hear the Chief Engineer explain that the road leading to the plant was completely blocked, the narrow channel between low hedges creating the perfect repository for every flake of snow the wind scoured from the farmer’s field. Nothing could get in or out of the plant. No deliveries, no collections.

Of greater importance was the fact that a change of shifts was due at 3pm. The road needed to be open, both to enable the employees due to arrive to do so, and to ensure those leaving were able to do so safely.

Bucket Loader

The plant generated its own steam and electrical power by means of a bank of nine boiler and generator sets, 4 coal powered, 5 oil fired. The company employed two large bucket loaders to move coal around the yard. It was agreed that one of these would be deployed to clear the road. The cars belonging to incoming employees would be held at the entrance to the road, then led in, in convoy, behind the bucket loader. The loader would then lead the vehicles containing departing workers away from the plant. This process would be repeated as often as necessary to complete the change-over.

With this operation completed, the day staff, officially due to leave at 5pm., would be led out. Finally, those of us who would normally leave at 5:30 would be led out. We were left in no doubt that this operation would take some considerable time and that we would likely be here until well after six.

There are 3 other plants, further North along the Humber Bank. Two produce Titanium Dioxide and the other, fertiliser. I learned the following day that staff at one of those had been unable to leave their plant and remained there over-night.

I had hoped that, by Friday afternoon, the roads out of Grimsby would have been cleared. They were not. So I had to spend an extra night in the Cleethorpes boarding house, journeying to Coventry on Saturday morning. By my return on Monday morning most of the snow had cleared, just the drifts under the hedges remaining.

Gang Show

And here is an odd thing. Four weeks later, on Friday 15th March, there was another heavy snow storm that prevented me travelling to Coventry until Saturday morning. That was a bigger blow, personally, than February’s winter blast had been. My son, Ian, was a scout and was in the Gang Show company. Their show was playing Saturday night in the Coventry Theatre. I had to be there. More than that, the plan was that I would drive to Hereford on Saturday morning to collect my mother and her husband so that they could see her grandson’s performance. That part of the plan had to be abandoned, but I did get to see the show.