Evie

About 2 years ago, my stepdaughter Rachel was undergoing a series of tests and scans to find out what was causing the lump on the side of her skull. Thankfully we knew the lump was benign but we still needed to get to the bottom of what was causing the lump before she could start treatment.

We had to got to the RVI hospital at Newcastle to see the specialists there who were based on the children’s cancer ward. I can truly say that spending the best part of a day on the ward was probably the most humbling experience of my life. To see the children and their families and try and imagine what they must be going through. To see the staff who were so professional, friendly, positive. I’m not able to do justice to them and I’m going to stop struggling to find the words to describe my admiration.

We were blessed that day to meet Evie and her parents. Evie was a couple of years older than Rachel and had been diagnosed with brain cancer. After half an hour in Evie’s company I knew she was someone special. She had a wicked sense of humour, an infectious smile and laugh and an attitude that cancer wasn’t going to define who she was and it was never going to get her down. Her parents were also inspirational and didn’t allow anyone to show them any pity but did what they could to help my wife and I.

Evie and Rachel stuck up a great friendship. They compared treatments and medications, talked about which member of staff was the hottest and everything else that girls that age talk about. Whenever Rachel was feeling down Evie would lift her spirits and make her laugh again.

Evie was bravely fighting her own battles. A new type and a more traditional type of chemotherapy had failed to arrest the cancer and there was no treatments left on offer in the UK. It was suggested that a treatment that was available in Germany might work but it would cost £75k. Evie’s mission was born to raise the money.

Unfortunately there is no happy ending to report. Despite fighting so bravely Evie lost her battle last week before she was able to get to Germany. She was 20. Cancer is a bastard.

Despite being a lot older than Evie i can still learn from her approach to life and be inspired. Even if we live to be 100 we’re only on this planet for a relatively short period of time so make the most of it no matter what cards we’re dealt.

Dream big – Evie had a dream to meet Justin Bieber, and she did – twice. She helped people, she raised money, she leaves a legacy and a massive lasting impression on everyone she met and she met some important and famous people.

I hear people say, why do good people die and some arseholes get to live. Don’t waste time thinking about arseholes, fill your life with love, with laughter, with happiness, with singing and dancing. Be wicked, be courageous, be a friend.

Be like Evie x

Evie’s Mission

Power to the People

So on Saturday I got up at 4.30am to get a bus to take me to London for the Put it to the People march. Considering my Saturday’s normally consist of getting some jobs done and then relaxing on the sofa listening to my team get beat this was no small effort. I finally got home just after 10.30pm!

But the UK remaining in the EU is important to me. I hate what’s happened to the country over the last 3 years or so with the levels of hate crime rising and people from other countries treated with more suspicion and made to feel less welcome. We’re not this big country that can get by on it’s own. We’re stronger when we work in partnership with other countries. I want my children to be able to freely travel, work and study in other European countries. I know people who have already lost their jobs as a result of Brexit and I know people who’s vital supplies of medication have already been affected.

Saturday was a reminder of just how brilliant this country can be. I don’t know how many people were there but a million is probably an under estimate. There was people of all ages, all faiths, from all parts of the country. We didn’t come close to seeing any sign of trouble. Strangers came together and sang, dance made new friendships looked out for one another. It made me proud to be British again and that is not a feeling I have had in a very long time.

So what did it achieve? Only time will tell I suppose. Whilst that many people taking to the streets cannot be ignored I’m not naive enough to think that our PM is suddenly going to change her mind or her so called deal!

What I do know is that if things do go badly wrong I want to be able to look my children, friends, family, colleges in the eye and say “i tried to stop it”.

Find your Voice

I’ve got to admit it – I’m worried, and I’m not the type to get easily worried. I’m worried about what will happen to the UK at the end of March if we leave the EU. I’m worried about what kind of country we are becoming and what values we are attaching importance to. I worry about my kids future, what kind of world are we leaving for them and future generations, are they going to be able to get jobs, are they going to be able to get their own property (I bloody hope so)? I worry about the rise in knife crime and so many young lives being lost as a result. Then I worry about me – am I doing the best I can, have I reached my potential, could I be doing more?

It’s so easy for these thought and feelings to become overwhelming. I’ve been in that place where I think the answer is to block everything out, to switch off, to not care. It’s not a good place – and the thing is, I do care, I care deeply. I worry about the state of the country but I also get angry and motivated to do something about it. There are lots of causes that I’m passionate about and want to raise awareness of.

I’ve always found it difficult to give my opinion and to say what I want to say. I’m a classic introvert and that’s fine, I’m comfortable with who I am and I’m not going to change to fit someone else’s perception of how I should be. Social media has given me a voice and the confidence to say what I want to say and to give my opinion. If you follow me on Twitter (@jimbobity hint hint) I will give my opinion on a range of subjects and topics. At first I hated being challenged but now I have the confidence to know that there are other people who will agree with me and back me up. I don’t mind getting into a debate with people who disagree, you quickly find out who you can have a healthy discussion with and who is so entrenched in their views that there is no point wasting your time and energy. The confidence that I have developed through Facebook and Twitter gave me the belief and confidence to start my blog.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that I’m always right, I enjoy being presented with opposing points of view that challenge my point of view and I’m happy to admit when I’m wrong.

I mentioned that social media has given me a voice and the confidence to make it heard but it has also given me the confidence to break out of the social media bubble and to start to campaign for different politicians and causes. I am a trustee for a fantastic local charity JpcCommunityFarm. This came about through getting in touch with the people behind the charity through social media first and sharing my passion, knowledge and experience. I would never have had the confidence to do this face to face or in a group. I would immediately believe that there would be someone who would be better than me.

For the past 4 weeks I have given up a couple of hours on a Saturday morning to speak to people in local towns about Brexit and to try and get support for a second referendum. It’s been interesting and there are some people who are not afraid to voice their opinion but on the whole there has been lots of good discussions and it’s good to be with like minded people. In a couple of weeks I’m planning to go to London to march alongside many other people who believe strongly in remaining in the EU. It’s something that feels scary and exciting at the same time – I’ll let you know how it goes!

Has social media led to you getting more involved with particular causes and groups? Let me know x

Change Your Vision

For today’s blog I want you to come back in time with me – cue dream like music and wavy filters!

I want you to picture yourself in primary school between the ages of about 5-8. I have to go back a lot further in time than most of you!                                                          

Now – think of your friends. How did you choose your closest friends? Was it based on where they lived, what clothes they wore – the colour of their skin? Or was it based on how they behaved towards you and others?

If somebody joined your class who was from another country or another culture, how did you react? With fear, with suspicion, with judgement? Or with curiosity, with a load of questions that you wanted to ask, with excitement, with a desire to get to know this new person and be the first to include them in your group.

Did somebody in your class have a disability? Were they in a wheelchair, or struggle with communication? What happened? Were they left to get on with it or did you look for ways to include them? Did you adapt so you could fit in with their world? Did you get excited by learning a new way to communicate?

If somebody in your class was hungry and didn’t have their dinner how did you react? Just leave them, or did you look at your lunchbox and realise that you had more than enough and could spare something? Then did you tell someone that your classmate did not have any food with them?

If one of your best friends was feeling sad what did you do? Did you tell them to get over it, or did you try and make them feel better and if they were still feeling sad did you go and tell someone so you could get some more help so your friend started to feel better?

Ok by now I’m sure you know where I’m going with this. Seriously, what happens to us as we leave our childhood? Why do we turn to suspicion, why do we start to judge people based on anything other than how they behave towards us. Why do we look for reasons to exclude rather than include. Why do we stop questioning and just accept? What happens to compassion?

I have my own theory. As children we put our trust in authority, in grown-ups. We believe that people with knowledge and power tell us the truth and have our best interests. Our lives become harder and more stressful. The papers will come up with reasons why our lives aren’t perfect, the politicians will tell us it’s nothing to do with them, it’s always the other lot. We’re conditioned to become fearful, to be suspicious, to look for evidence to reinforce views that we’ve been fed. We’re told to look after No1.

But wouldn’t it be great to start seeing the world through the eyes of a young child again? To question, to use our eyes and our ears to see the world around us. We’re coming up to Christmas, one of the most magical times for most children. Let’s embrace that joy and wonder. Find your compassion x

Now for some Good News

Last week 2 news stories caught my attention, that were just…sickening. I’m struggling to truly put into words the emotions that were stirred by the events.

I’m not going to share any pictures or links to the events, I don’t want to give the perpetrators any notoriety.

So very briefly, on Monday a video was share which showed people burning an effigy of the Grenfell Tower with cut outs of people trapped inside their flats. Then on Friday I watched a news report which showed how a school for people with learning disabilities had been vandalised. The criminals had destroyed toys, the minibuses, graffitied offensive language across the playground – you get the picture.

Your moral compass is seriously off point if you carried out these crimes or thought them funny, especially to target a place where vulnerable children feel safe, secure and happy.

The world is struggling, hate crime is on the rise – especially towards disabled people, racists are more bold and confident to spread their disgusting ideologies, our democracy is under threat from foreign interference and in Britain it looks like we’re are about to voluntarily distance ourselves from our neighbours and make ourselves poorer.

It’s more important than ever to remind ourselves that the world is actually an amazing place and that we are amazing. The two stories I mentioned, 99.999% of people will have found it sickening (no scientific evidence to back this up so don’t quote me)! People were asking, “what can I do to help the school and the children”?As it turned out, a group of volunteers had already come together to repair the damage. When tragedies like Grenfell occur or terrorists attack our way of life people come together, people support each other, the vast majority of us turn to love and compassion not hate or ignorance. We are reminded just how heroic our emergency services are.

It’s so easy to find bad news, we are conditioned to live in fear. Fear sells newspapers, fear sells full stop. If we live in fear we are more likely to spend money on things that we don’t necessarily need but will make us feel a bit better about ourselves and the world.

Good news is harder to find, but it’s there, all around us. Every day millions of people will do something kind. Communities will come together, people will give up their time to help others, a stranger will have done something today to save somebody’s life – and they might not even realise it. You are amazing, always remember that. Never let fear or hate win. Share good news, carry out random acts of kindness, make somebody smile.

As I started with bad news stories, it’s only fair that I redress that and share some stories of kindness and positivity. But first, I want to share a clip that always make me smile and cheers me up!

Guy Goma Interview

Now for the good news;

Acts of Kindness

and some more!

Let’s keep this going. Feel free to share your good news stories, your random acts of kindness.

Spread the love! x