Bullying, the Bullies and I.

I hope Paul doesn’t mind me reblogging this. It struck a chord with me too. I’ve been there. Looking back I must hold my hand up and say I’ve been both the bully and the one being bullied. I wasn’t a horrible child but for a time in primary school I was quite nasty to a girl who was my friend. I’m not sure if she even remembers it, but I do. I was quite horrible to her and I’ve never apologised for it. Karma got me though when I hit high school – same school as Paul went to funnily enough. I was bullied because I was fat, I wore glasses and I was in the bright kid classes. Not a great combination. I never told anybody and the way it stopped for me was that when one lad kicked me square between the legs (expecting me to cry) I turned and told them if he wanted me to cry he’d have a long wait. Then I’m sure I politely told him to go away. He never bothered me again after that.

Paul McDougall's Blog

Two things happened recently that have made me think about life and more specifically my own life, all 35 years of it. I found out that I am going to be a Father and I watched Ben Smith accept the Helen Rollason award on BBC’s Sports personality of the year for raising awareness of bullying of young people. I can still feel the lump in my throat when I think about it.

One of course was a far more life changing thing to happen than the other but both gave me a glaring reminder into my past.

When I was 4 I moved to Stirling from Glasgow. Not on my own, obviously, but that is another story in itself that I will touch on in my next blog.

I’ve always known and have always thought that I was different, what that ‘different’ is I do not know and have never been…

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World Book Night 2016

Happy World Book Night to all.

World Book Night is an event that takes place each year on 23 April in the UK and Ireland. It first started on 5 March 2011 and but in 2012 it was moved to the date it now takes place on as it coincides with World Book and Copyright day. It’s a day that is aimed at encouraging young people and adults to read for pleasure and each year volunteers give away books in their local communities. I have had the privilege of having been chosen to be a book giver for the last 5 years. The first year the book I was given was The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and I think I was given about 36 copies of this to give away. This was a task and a half to give away that many books. The second year I was given A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombric – this was the year I turned down being a giver as i didn’t think enough people would be interested in taking a history book. I have since also been chosen to give away Theodore Boon by John Grisham and last year Dead Man Talking by Roddy Doyle both of which went down a storm with the people I was giving them to. By the time of giving out the John Grisham book the number of books for an individual giver to give away had dropped to a more manageable number of 16 books. They also became quick reads which makes it easier to encourage people to read them. A large novel can be frightening to somebody who struggles to read or it can look like a lot of work to somebody who hasn’t read for years.

My World Book Night Event took place yesterday in the Community Hub of my local campus and we had a fantastic turnout. We had 16 books to give away and I packaged them up in small gift bags. As you can see from the picture the book I gave away was Too Good to be True by Ann Cleeves. Many people that came along recognised the fact that Ann Cleeves’ stories were now televised on both BBC – Shetland series and ITV – Vera and this was a brilliant conversation starter about the book. 13083220_10153966220146131_785911577021474021_nA brilliant afternoon was had by all who attended and it was amazing to see so many people come together over their love of books. We had amazing discussions about books and I had brought along a small collection of the types of books I read. One person who had been in the Community Hub for another reason had stayed around to chat about the books and ended up borrowing one of my books I had brought along as she was already a reader. Many of the people that attended were just starting to read again, some were people who had struggled to read in the past and some were just people who already loved to read but had come along to find out what World Book Night actually was and to share their love of reading and why it was important to them. Over cakes and coffee we chatted about books, about books that had been made into movies or TV series for nearly 3 hours. The mixed company of readers and non-readers made for great conversation and it was a great opportunity to share something that many of us take for granted.I certainly think the variety of cakes and biscuits helped the conversation as well though.

After writing this out I suddenly realised that I’ve been book giver for World Book Night since it began. This was a shock to me since I didn’t realise it had only been running for such a short time. I’ve been a reader of books since I was a young child and I’ve always been lucky enough to own books. Even as a child I remember going to jumble sales with my Mum and coming home with books. In my youth The Famous Five, Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys and the Narnia books are a few titles that I can remember reading. I think I always had a book in my hand. As I got older my taste in books didn’t change much. I still enjoy detective stories, fantasy/sci-fi but I did progress to horror stories and vampire novels. I do have favourite authors but I am open to new suggestions. I’ve walked the streets of many places all over the world in my mind while reading. I’ve never been out of the UK but in my head I can picture the places I’ve read about in my books. I’m an avid Anne Rice fan and in my mind I’ve walked the streets of New Orleans with Lestat and his crew and hopefully in 3 years time I will be doing it for real. I hope to see the places that I have read about in Anne’s wonderful series of books The Vampire Chronicles.

I’ll leave you with a little quote from Maya Angelou. Reading is good whether you are encouraging an adult or a child.

Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him.

–Maya Angelou


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Walking for Fun

For some of us walking is probably the only exercise we do. I know the kind of walking I do is not proper exercise but for me I walk because I have to. I don’t drive so walking is my way of getting around the local neighbourhood. If I need to get somewhere I often use public transport.

There are local walking groups in my area and I did join one in the past but I felt they walked a bit too fast for me. Most people had been going for a while and were reasonably fit so their pace was a bit faster than mine. I know I shouldn’t have but I gave up going. Recently a couple of us who attend a local community group decided that we would like to go see some Edible Borders that the local council had planted in the Town Centre area. This was the start of a small informal walking group.

Our first walk was set for 17/09/15 to see the Edible Borders. We met up at the local Community Hub, had a coffee then got ready to set off. What started off as 2 of us going for a walk ended up as 4.  We had our destination in mind but how we got there was a different matter. On this day the weather was nice so we decided to walk along the pathways of the Back Walk area of Stirling. What would normally be a short 20 minute walk took us nearly 90 minutes. This was not because we were slow, but because we stopped to admire the views, to point out areas we played in as children. We spoke about the plantlife that was growing in the area and it was great that one of the people there was quite knowledgeable about plants. We stopped to take pictures of random things and sites that caught our eye. We stopped to discuss the history of the area. We stopped for a seat and a drink of water. We admired the carvings we saw as we walked along. The local council has recently had chainsaw carving done from the trees that needed thinned back or ones that had to be removed for other reasons. If you fancy having a look at the carvings check out this lovely video Wood Carvings, Back Walk, Stirling

We did eventually make it to the Edible Borders. For those wondering what these are then here’s a brief description. At various points around our little city, the local council has planted vegetables in beside the plants. This year there seems to be 2 places in the city centre that have had vegetables planted in beside the floral displays. One area has green cabbages, leeks, strawberries, celeriac, runner beans and ruby chard growing in beside the flowers. The other one has leeks, runner beans, courgettes/marrows, red cabbage and brussel sprouts. You would never know that the lovely display you are looking at can be picked and eaten. We attracted a little bit of attention from people passing when we pulled up a couple of leeks from the border. We had to stop and explain to people that we were not pulling up the plants. Most people we spoke to were amazed and had never noticed that there were vegetables growing among the plants.

The strawberries were delicious. Some of the group went home with a nice selection of freshly picked vegetable. Reporting back they all said that the stuff they made from the vegetable they picked was delicious.

I’ve Googled to try find some online information on the current Edible Borders but can’t seem to find anything. As we’ve been told they were planted by Forth Environment Link and they are a brilliant idea. They seem to have been very well used and it was great to see people using them. We used to take the veg back to the local community hub and make soup with it. The soup was given to the users of the Hub.

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Brave the Shave – done and dusted

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Well I did it! I was not ‘brave’ enough to go totally bald but I did go from hair that was just below my shoulders to a number 3 and 4. I also didn’t go totally grey like I expected, parts of my hair it seems are still dark. Now who would have thought that?

My Brave the Shave day took place in the local Community Campus. My hair was shaved by one of the wonderful students who attends the college within the Campus. I only found out yesterday that it was actually done as an assessment for him. So woohoo for one day I was a hairdressing model!

I was expecting a few people to come along, but I was very surprised when there were over 30 people there. As the area where I got my hair shaved is a Community base some of the people there were not actually there to see me get my hair shaved. One of the guys there was using the computers and it seems when he went home and he told his wife that some crazy lady had gotten her hair shaved at the Hub that day.

It was a great day and we managed to raise over £100. This was an amazing amount to raise and when added to my total it took it to just over £400. I am still waiting on some money being collected and when that is paid into my Brave the Shave account the total should be over £500. I can only say once again Thank You to everybody who donated and to everybody who helped me make my Shave day a wonderful success.

This blog is a little late in being updated due to the fact that I actually thought I had posted this already. It’s now 4 weeks since my Shave date and my hair has grown a little bit. We did try and dye it pink but it didn’t take to the grey, so I’m still little, old grey haired me.

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Brave the Shave – getting closer

Ok well what started of as a little thing that I wanted to do for MacMillan Cancer Support has kinda grown slightly. I attend a session in the local community hub on a Friday and while we were all busy eating soup at one session we were discussing what I was planning on doing. The chat soon evolved from me taking part in Brave the Shave to how I could get it done there and we could make a day of it. Then came the offers of ‘I could make cakes’, ‘We will supply the tea and coffee’. Everybody got a wee bit excited about what we could do as a group. So now we are making an event of it. It’s a bit exciting and a bit scary but it’s gonna be fun if nothing else.

What I’m finding very strange at the moment is how people keep saying that shaving my hair off is a brave thing to do. Personally I don’t feel that what I am doing is a brave thing. Think it’s a bit stupid, a bit crazy but not brave. It’s hair it will grow back. To me what people who have cancer do is far braver than anything I could ever do. To live with cancer is brave, to get through each day is brave, to smile when you feel like crying is brave, to help others when you need the help yourself is brave, to cope with the pain and suffering and still have a smile on your face – now that to me is BRAVE.

So now do I feel brave? Not really, I feel a little bit crazy. I’ve never been really attached to my hair (sounds stupid I know). I have said in the past that I wished I was a guy then I could just shave it all off. Short hair drives me nuts, long hair drives me insane. At the moment my hair is tied up 99% of the time so it’s not like I’m going to miss it. Although I bet I do.

So my Brave the Shave – 4/9/15 is taking place on Friday 4 September. We will be having coffee, tea and cakes. My hair is being cut by somebody from the local college hairdressing campus for which I will probably be eternally grateful. I had visions of a friend with a set of clippers. We are also hoping to have some information on the work that MacMillan do. So come along and join us if you are near.

If you can’t join us then it’s  World’s Biggest Coffee Morning on 25 September 2015. Find your nearest one and join in or better still organise one yourself.

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Countdown to Brave the Shave – 27 days

Brave the Shave

Ok so far I’ve got a few people who’ve donated. It’s scary now since I’ve announced to all that I’m doing this. Some people think I’m crazy – they’re not far wrong. So far 17.569 people have signed up for Macmillan Cancer Support’s Brave the Shave so to me that makes for one hell of a lot of crazy people. Most people are supporting me in doing this, even if they think I’m crazy. I’ve had some strange things said to me since announcing I was doing this.

Have you asked work if you can do this? My last place would never have allowed you to take part!

I’d rather take place in a cycle or running event than lose my hair.

And the often said one – WHY! To which I then explain my reasons.

I am very lucky to be able to say that I am not doing this in memory of somebody. I am doing this in honor of 2 very brave and wonderful women who thanks to a quick diagnosis and treatment are still with us. Their lives have changed drastically but they are still alive. There is 1 other lady I am doing this to honor and it’s somebody I’ve never met but I have ‘known’ for many, many years thanks to the power of the internet. She has battled cancer for many years and is still with us and still fighting. She lives in the USA and is the most amazingly brave women I have ever had the privilege of knowing. So for these 3 brave ladies I am doing this.

The one thing I have noticed is how attached some women are to their hair. Yes before anyone corrects me and tells me it’s attached to them so yeah they would feel like this. The one thing I have to keep reminding people is that my hair WILL grow back. It will take time but it will come grow back, that’s what hair does. Some cancer patients will never have that luxury. My aunts will never get back what had to be removed due to Cancer.

I’m not doing a brave thing by getting my hair shaved. I’m doing my part for a charity that needs all the funds it can get to help people. So if you can donate feel free to donate as much or as little as you can afford. Donating online is really easy but if you don’t like doing things like that online, I have some traditional sponsorship forms that I can give to people.

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Braving the Shave

It’s been a long time since I posted on my blog. I never felt I had anything to write about that would interest other people.

My life has changed slightly since I last posted though. I am now working part time in my local Sainsburys. I also spent 6 weeks over Christmas 2014 working in the Amazon Warehouse in Dunfermline as a picker – that was an experience and half I will tell you. I have also moved house and acquired a new house guest, a little kitten who goes by the name of Loki.

This year I am doing my bit for charity and participating in the Macmillan event called Brave the Shave  I will be getting my hair shaved off in order to raise money for Macmillan.

I have provisionally booked my date for 31 August 2015 and I will be going short.

Brave the Shave

Brave the Shave

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