So much love & wedding bells

Last month I had the privilege of attending one of, if not the most beautiful wedding I have ever been invited to and to top it all I wasn’t just there as a guest,  I was bridesmaid for one of longest standing best friend (and honorary big brother) John and his brilliantly extroverted husband Mike.

I can not even begin to explain the amount of love that we all shared that day.

Every detail was exquisite and every face wore a smile and yesterday I got to relive it all as John & Mike dropped me a line to say their very talented photographer Hannah May (having shot a couple of weddings myself I can tell you now how very jealous I am of her work) – had delivered their photos!

If I can share just one image with you that sums up this entire day for me it would be this, So much happiness and fun in one snapshot – from left to right there’s Leanne, Me, John Mike and Sophie, or the crazy friends, the smiling grooms and the perturbed cousin….

JohnMike-1192resize

 

…I’ll always be grateful I got to share this day with them!

Congratulations again Mr & Mr Burton-Fuller, I love you both very much!

When is a rational argument an irrational thing?

Irrational behaviors of individuals include taking offense or becoming angry about a situation that has not yet occurred, expressing emotions exaggeratedly (such as crying hysterically), maintaining unrealistic expectations, engaging in irresponsible conduct such as problem intoxication, disorganization, or extravagance, and falling victim to confidence tricks,

A rational argument becomes an irrational thing – when you are talking to an irrational person because no matter how many times you attempt to talk something through you’ll just talk your self in circles and you’re wasting your time.

When someone has decided their view of the world is the ONLY view of the world, however bizarre and inaccurate, when they are prepared to make bold brash statements that has huge fall out – and are so unwilling to even attempt to meet you half way then to keep trying is irrational.

 

So – this hurts more than a just a little bit.

My son didn’t have a security blanket when he was younger. No scrap of blanket that we couldn’t wrangle from his grip, or a teddy we had to magic away in the night to wash and dry lest he realise it had disappeared, so I’ve never *really* understood the seeming emotional turmoil these youngsters went through when they favourite blankie was gone…..Until now.

In the last week my world has been turned upside down and my security blanket hasn’t just been taken away for a wash, it’s been stolen. Yanked from my grip with me kicking and screaming and I am completely and utterly devastated. My family – the most important thing in the world to me have been cut in two by just one person via a simple text message and it feels as though things can never be the same again.

I’m bereft with no solution in sight and the person who is the ONLY person who can move towards fixing this, is also the person who is is responsible for breaking it in the first place, and they’re so willingly oblivious to not only the pain they’ve caused me but the ramifications of their actions to us all they’re completely unprepared to even try and face what they’ve done.

I’m heartbroken over what all this could mean.

 

 

Working For Podnosh. But, What is it you do?

The other day I was asked where I worked – Podnosh I replied….which resulted in a  quizzical look and the follow up, “Huh – What do you do?”

This isn’t a unique response – I get it often when I respond to the “Where do you work?” question.  Podnosh – it just  doesn’t resonate with people as much as If I worked for a big retailer and so people can’t make the usual assumptions that they would if I replied “Sainsburys”.

So what is Podnosh – what do we do?

The simple answer would be “We teach people to use the internet”. It’s accurate, technically – but it down playing everything we stand for – and everything else we do.

We work towards making things better.  We do this  by teaching people to use digital skills and online tools to improve things for themselves, be this by building relationships,  teaching better communication skills or improving access to services –  and we’ll work with anyone. Individuals, big structured organisations or small community groups, and anything in between – anywhere that our support will help make a difference.

We’ve worked alongside individual community volunteers, business managers and staff, cabinet members, councillors and MP’s – and we work even better when we can bring these people together in the same room to learn together and improve their togetherness.

In the past we’ve worked with local authorities to improve perceptions of safety in neighbourhoods, and to improve access to information that will shape cities, with schools to help with online bullying issuesbrought people together to forge stronger communities and with councillors to open up the civic conversation to entire communities.

And that’s not even half of it – we’ve supported groups saving heritage building and Women’s groups reach a wider audience. We’ve worked with young people to make them feel part of a community and with scientists who just want to make the world a better place and so much more.

We’re also so very close to finishing developing an app that will really allow us to help people to tell the stories of how they are improving things for the people they work with too – the Podnosh Impact Assessment App. One of our clients Gateway have been using for a while – and we’ve already seen it make a difference in the way they are able to tell the stories of the people they support and the impact they have to their lives.

Making things better

Our company values are Think, Make A Difference and Give A Fuck and we work with those values in mind whatever we do.

Think: Can we help? Are these the right people to be working with? are we the right people for the job?

Make a difference: Will something be improved by our inclusion.

Give A Fuck: care – want to deliver the best we can – for ourselves and the people we work with.

So where do I work?  Podnosh.

What do I do? I think, I make a difference, I give a fuck! – and I’m really proud of that!

Heavy hearted

Yesterday we had a death in the family, and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel. I shed a few tears last night and again while writing this but I can’t explain why. Was I crying for myself, for his children or for what might have been.

Richard Kelly, was my godfather, my dad’s best friend, ex husband of my cousin and father of 2.

We hadn’t spoken in years.

In 1985 when my Dad died, I didn’t just lose a father I lost an entire family. For reasons known only to them they chose to turn their backs on 2 little girls without a father. In my opinion some were just selfish, some were young with young families of their own and other priorities, others were too young to make the decision for themselves and took their lead from the adults.

I’ve never written about it much before because while of course my history has helped shape who I am today, it does not define me. I hold no bitterness or malice towards my family in fact when I got married last year some of my Dad’s side were there in the evening to celebrate with us, including Richard’s ex wife and daughter, because as an adult I have formed connections with them.

But, while Richard wasn’t there at the wedding or for milestones before, his presence was always a constant in my life. He was always in the background. He knew my entire family on both sides and and has always been a familiar name. Many, particularly the funny stories of my Dad start with his involvement. His children often spoke of him, and photos regularly appeared on facebook. In my early teens when I decided to try and connect with my paternal family, it was Richard I contacted and through him that I met my one aunt and a whole lot of other extended family members, we fell out of touch again, because as a teen I had other priorities and then life got in the way.

As an adult we reconnected briefly and made plans to meet once again but that fell through. Unfortunately it was while I was at a particularly low point myself andI thought that was because he didn’t care and didn’t really want to know. I made a decision to stop trying  but as time went on I always secretly thought that one day we’d meet. But one day never came, and now it never will. I regret not trying now, and I understand us not meeting wasn’t because of him, or me, but because of circumstance, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

So who I am I crying for? The missed opportunities? Another connection to the Dad I barely knew disappearing? or through empathy for the terrible loss I know his children, family and friends are experiencing. Maybe it’s for all of these things, but through my tears I’ve made the decision to stop “not trying” –  there’s a whole lot of other people out there I need to try harder with and I don’t want there to be another time where the day can never come.

An ode to the AA man.

Interesting Christmas eve, eve for the Clarke household that meant we very nearly didn’t get our Christmas Turkey!

But Thanks to the AA man, our knight in Hi-Vis armour Christmas was saved…..

T’was the night before, the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

But out on the road the for the AA did they wait, because the exhaust it went clunk and on the road it did grate…

Then in the rain and the dark with orange lights all flashing,
The AA man in his yellow van came dashing.

He jacked up the car and fitted a temporary clip. So to the supermarket Steph and James could nip.

Around Asda they went to get their Christmas Dinner Because on that cold wet night that AA man was their winner!

How’s it go….God bless us everyone

One Night On The Streets…. my experience of the #P3BigSleepOut

This a cross post from my other blog but it’s an experience I though worth sharing here too…

As I was getting ready to go out Friday night, sitting on the edge of my bed pulling on a second pair of socks – it struck me how perverse the situation I was about to put myself in really was. Warm in my house, stocking up on snacks and drinks. James and I were about to spend the night sleeping rough on the streets of Wolverhampton to raise money and awareness for P3Charity.

P3 charity and social enterprise. It started in Wolverhampton and now works nationally with the homeless. They run hostels and help people from all walks of life promoting independent living and supporting some of the most vulnerable and at risk people in our towns and cities – And those homeless that we were supporting Friday night, and that they support daily don’t have a second pair of socks to pull on, they don’t have the advantage of wondering if they would be warm enough in the 2 t-shirts and hoodie I was already wearing – they have to just get on with it and so I know my night sleeping “rough” was in luxury compared to some.

 8pm – Getting going

Arriving at their hostel in Thornley Street at around 8pm we were greeting by an already amassed group of about 45 other charity workers volunteers, residents and ex residents of the hostel readying themselves for the night ahead. After a welcome from the Mayor, and a cup of tea, old duvets and cardboard were distributed and we headed towards the civic centre, and St Peters Square which was to be our base for the night. Everyone was in good spirits as we looked to prepare our beds. Those that had taken part the previous year staked their claim to their spots and we found a bit of floor just under the overhang of the civic centre…. shelter of sorts.

We're all set. #P3BigSleepOut #charity #homeless #BigSleepOut www.justgiving.com/jamesandsteph

A layer of cardboard (or camping mat for those that had them), a folded duvet and a sleeping bag made up the majority of the beds. Others opted to stay in camping chairs – or as one volunteer did – and air bed (cheat!!!). And we got down to the business of being homeless for the night. The first couple of hours were fun as we got to know the people around us random dancing broke out in the form of an Irish Jig and people dared not use the port-a-loo for fear of being of spun.

 Time drags on

People were in good spirits but as it crept passed midnight and everyone started to settle down reality started to creep in… I was there safe in the knowledge that my car was only 5 minutes down the road, that a hot shower and a comfy bed was waiting for me once this was over… but for the estimated 231 people who look for shelter every night in Wolverhampton, they don’t have that security.

P3 have 21 beds in their local hostel, and 5 No Second Night Out supported “emergency” beds, but that still leaves over 200 people each night out in the cold with nothing but their own thoughts for company. It was midnight and I only had 6 more hours to pass but the reality for some is this is their daily routine, and when you’ve nothing but time stretched before you, time with nothing to look forward to and nothing to think about other than where your next meal will come from, will I be safe this evening where will I go in the morning it is little wonder that some turn to the oblivion of drink or drugs to get them through it….

 1am – and so the bell tolls

The noise from the pubs and clubs kept drifting over disturbing those trying to sleep. People walked through , talking to us- and admittedly they were probably more confused by finding nearly 50 people in a doorway in sleeping bags than they would have been by one so were more open to chat and as the night wore on I became more and more aware of the chiming of St Peters clock – every 15 minutes and somewhere in the distance there is an argument and sirens….

The local police popped by a few time throughout the night, they were aware we were there and they came by to check everything was alright. At one point two PCSO’s came over while a trio of lads leaving the city a little worse for wear wandered through – they were jovial and put some money in the collection bucket the officer was holding and one of the residents joked – “you stopped me from doing that the other day officer!” – and that joke highlighted another question for me- we were there as an organised group, would the police have come to check in if I were a solo – really homeless – sleeper and if not who would? And if they did stumble across me out alone would they check if I was ok or would they just have moved me on?

 3am – Get a fucking Job!

I was still at 3am awake when a pissed man wondered the opposite side of the square. He stopped as he notices us and starts screaming abuse. Apparently it was people like us that was everything that was wrong with society (…the irony) and that we should all “GET FUCKING JOBS”.

He shouted and argued at us but with himself for a few minutes – offering to fight us all if we wanted to go over to him – big brave man wasn’t brave enough to come over and find out what we were all actually doing there and unsurprisingly no one took him up on the offer and eventually he left.

We’d all ignored him, mumbling between ourselves what an idiot he was, safety in numbers had kept us secure but I felt genuinely aggrieved and I could tell others did too. I was scared for the people he may encounter who were alone. What would he do with his aggressiveness when stumbling across an individual alone, cold, hungry and tired? Where do they go to sleep safely when there are odious people like him walking the streets?

The bigotry this one person displayed was awful and it highlighted the stigma that follows homelessness everywhere – that somehow it is a lifestyle choice to be out on the streets. What people fail to realise is that there is cracks we could all fall down anywhere. Most of the population is only one pay packet away from financial hardship and it only takes one slip, one bad decision, one wrong turn and you too could find yourself in need of the support charities like P3 provide.

I was almost there once myself, through no fault of my own – 10+ years ago and only by the grace of god did I have the support of my family and a floor I could sleep on that kept a roof over my, and my sons head.

To contrast the shouty man though others who came across us stopped to find out what we were doing, some left donations and others insisted on shaking the hand of everyone involved restoring some of my faith in the good of the masses.

 4:30am – Here comes the rain

From 4pm I managed to start to doze, on and off, with my sleeping bag pulled up right over my head to keep the breeze off my face, waking every time the clock chimed.

Cold surprisingly wasn’t too much of an issue, I remember thinking how lucky we were with the weather – for an October night it was surprisingly mild just a bit of drizzle early on but around 4:30am a rain shower hit. It came down suddenly and there was mad scramble to get under the hang over from those in the open – the wind blew spray into where we were laying and I was again wide awake.

I spent the next hour lying, listening to the murmur of conversation of those around me, to the bars emptying their bottle bins with a clatter and an argument between a group of women somewhere in the city that by the time it reached me sounded like a gaggle of geese squabbling.

 5.30am Packing up

At 5:30am the last of our visitors appeared, an obviously drunk young lady with a story of a fight with her boyfriend who had walked miles into town and just wanted somewhere to sit for 5 minutes and promised not to call the police on us if we let her rest on the end of one of the sleeping bags.

It took us a minute to get her to understand that we weren’t really homeless and we were there for charity but we let her sit for a while, a broken night sleep further disturbed and the group started to stir and pack up for the short walk back to the hostel and breakfast…..

Nearly 6am and we're starting to pack up, and so ends our night sleeping rough. #P3BigSleepOut

 Sleeping rough so others don’t have to

In 21st century Britain the fact that in a supposed first world country we still have so many people eking out an existence on the streets is heart breaking. There are many reasons as to why people end up homeless but it is charities like P3 that break the cycle that keeps them there. They work hard to ensure that the most social excluded are given the support they need, be it in their hostels or through their outreach workers, to live their lives to their full potential. One day you may find yourself in a position that you need the support and help of an organisation like P3 and this is why I chose to take part Friday night, raising just a little bit of money for and hopefully a bit of awareness of those people who need the support NOW.

I spent a night sleeping rough in the hope that now and in the future others wont have to and I would be grateful if you could do your bit by supporting P3 and other homeless charities in the work they do. Groups and organisations like these are always after volunteers who are able to give a bit of their time, or you can find other ways of helping through practical and financial donations (you can still sponsor James and me if you like).

 Streetlink

Finally if you spot someone sleeping rough, don’t be a dick screaming abuse like the idiot we encountered, call Streetlink on 0300 500 0914 and give as much information as you can – this support line will connect rough sleepers to local services hopefully getting them the advice and support that they need.