As the world slowly starts to open again, have you thought about your bag?

20AlderBag181211Matt Austin

Alder is a new British brand offering luxury leather bags, designed by Sarah McGill, a former flight attendant who wanted to offer the seemingly unobtainable – a laptop bag that is protective, comfortable to carry and that looks stylish.

Despite launching just last year on International Women’s Day, 2019, Alder has already won a loyal fanbase thanks to a range of bags that uniquely strike a balance between utility and elegance.

Sarah’s previous career working as air crew for an international airline meant she travelled extensively and was familiar with the world of international travel, luggage and bags.  However, extensive research has been key to Sarah’s success and the Alder range is the result of lots of listening to what customers really want. She jokes that she used to run up to commuters at train stations to ask them about their laptop bags and to get an insight into what people wanted. She involves her social media followers in every step of the process and uses this feedback to help her design her range. The product is then handmade by fourth-generation artisan leather workers in Somerset.

Sarah has designed the collection so that women can feel comfortable wearing the bags to work on the train, in the boardroom and socially after work, knowing that it never looks out of place. The range is renowned for its luxury finish and sleek, minimal look and special touches to ensure the bags are as adaptable and flexible as possible. For example, Sarah has designed a strong integral strap that converts it seamlessly between a shoulder bag, cross-body bag and rucksack. Wide straps distribute the weight evenly and having the option to vary the ways you can wear the bag helps to reduce stress on the back and shoulders.

Sarah has given careful consideration to details such as secure pockets and to a quilted lining that offers protection for a laptop and wires. Each bag has a large internal zipped pocket for personal items, a clip on which to hang keys and a slip pocket for a phone.  It also has a concealed zipped pocket that is accessible to the owner from the outside of the bag for easy access to train tickets or travel purse.

Sarah added: “Alder is aimed at the professional woman that wants to remain stylish and feminine in their work environment but also want something practical for their daily commute or work travel.

“As jobs become more transitory and less office-based, more and more women are carrying their laptop, tablet and other electronic devices with them frequently. There’s a real need for a lightweight, hands-free laptop bag that doesn’t compromise on style, yet is practical and hard-wearing. Alder bags are luxurious and don’t look corporate and functional.

“An Alder bag is very much an investment, artisan piece that quietly exudes quality and will improve with age due to the luxury leather that is used to make it.”

Each Alder item comes with a lifetime guarantee and the range includes a leather laptop sleeve, a credit card travel wallet and keyrings in the same colours and make a thoughtful gift for someone special or an investment piece for yourself.

Sarah is in the final sampling phase of a laptop tote, with a planned launch date of August 2020.

The gorgeously tactile new tote is called the Christie and comes in four colours. It is made of ethically-sourced leather, hardware from the UK and stunning attention to detail means that essentials such as a laptop and all other work items are protected by a quilted lining.

She adds: “My latest design is a tote bag that I am naming ‘The Christie’ after my friend Ruth Christie who travels extensively with work.  She said that other women seem to ‘glide’ through airports with one hand free whereas she is bogged down with pulling a trolley bag in one hand and holding a heavy laptop bag in the other hand.

“I have designed a tote based on Ruth’s comments and lots of research. ‘The Christie’ is a large tote with a protective built-in slip pocket to protect tech plus a detachable strap at the back that means that the tote can be secured to a trolley bag.  There are wide leather straps for comfort and made in the softest leather, allowing the owner to ‘glide’ confidently and smartly through the airport with one hand free for tickets or coffee.”

Sarah adds: “I am looking forward to the challenge of being recognised worldwide as a respected British brand that is renowned for its quality, innovation and style.”

How to get the most out of your walks while we stay at home for Covid 19

IMG_20200408_183033With restrictions on going outdoors for the time being, a walk is a precious commodity. Dr William Bird gives his advice on how to get the most out of your outdoor time.

Currently, the government advice is that you can go for a walk or a run for one form of exercise – a walk, run or cycle – per day. This must be alone or with members of your household. Remember not to touch anything such as gates or fences and to wash your hands when you come back.

We’ve been advised not to use the car for non-essential travel, so start your walk from home. If you see anyone else on your walk, remember that you need to stay 2m away.

There are two different kinds of walks, so try to perhaps include both varieties when you head out. There’s a brisk walk where the goal is to get slightly out of breath and to raise the heart rate.  Then there’s a walk with a steadier pace where you’re trying to take a moment to reflect, enjoy nature and being outside; this kind of walk is good for your mental health.

Tips:

  1. Have a look at a map to plot a route around your house. Even if you’re familiar with your area, there can be places that you just don’t tend to visit.
  2. Take the opportunity to notice how the removal of congestion, traffic and noise has really had a positive impact on nature.
  3. Listen for bird song while you’re walking.  The warmer weather means that you’ll soon start hearing the distinctive sounds of birds that are returning for the summer, such as the Willow Warbler and the Chiff Chaff.
  4. Look at the seasonal changes – pick a tree or a bush or two out on your walk and visit it every day to watch it change.
  5. Take photos of nature so that you can enjoy them at home
  6. Really look at the clouds now there are no airline tracks
  7. When we’re busy with work, we don’t take the time to notice the details around the places where we live. Take a moment to notice new landmarks around your home.

Dr Bird set up Intelligent Health to deliver the Beat the Street physical activity game with the aim of getting communities active together. With the outbreak of the Covid-19 virus, the company has turned its attention to encouraging everyone to do what they can to stay healthy and to increase your body’s immune system. For the next few weeks, #BeatTheStreet will become #BeatTheBug!

You’ll be able to sign up for newsletters packed with hints, tips and advice on how you and your family can stay fit, get active, reduce stress and have fun at home. There will be regular Beat the Bug advice and Q&A sessions with Dr Bird who works on the NHS frontline, and is a renowned expert in physical activity and an adviser to the World Health Organisation and Public Health England.

Dr Bird adds: “Walking is free and available to most people. During this Coronavirus outbreak, some of us are wondering what you can do to help. The answer is that the more we strengthen our immune systems, the better equipped you are to be able to fight it off without being admitted to hospital.

“We recommend going outside and walking or running for 19 minutes, and then exercising indoors for 11 minutes.  No matter what your ability or level of fitness, you can get more active, whether that’s remaining seated and lifting tins of baked beans, or going out for a walk. When you walk, you are activating your natural killer cells and these will help fight the virus.”

Driving Miss Daisy opens its doors in Didcot

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A trusted transportation and companion service that offers driver assistance and a wide range of other help, has opened a new shopfront on Wantage Road in Didcot.

The South Oxfordshire franchise of Driving Miss Daisy was launched in December 2019 by husband-and-wife team Zororo Mubaya and Terence Kavuru to assist anyone of any age who needs a hand when their family isn’t available to help.

The couple have lived in Didcot since 2005 and wanted to provide a service giving peace of mind to those with older family members.  The company offers assistance of all kinds ranging from help with shopping trips to support at family events or even just spending a couple of hours chatting or playing board games with someone who might spend a lot of time alone.

The team is DBS-checked, first-aid trained and Dementia Friends, plus their drivers hold a Private Hire Licence so can help with day trips to perhaps a garden centre or to the seaside, or even airport runs for people with mobility issues.

The team can also help people get to appointments and will wait with the patient before bringing them home. They can even help collect children from school and take them to after school activities if working parents are unable to make it in time for school pick-up. A fully-licensed wheelchair accessible vehicle is available.

Terence and Zororo have two sons and a varied background ranging from sound engineering to health and social care recruitment.

Zororo added: “With our experience we wanted to take our transferable skills and experiences with working with supported living and social care clients who have a need for the transport and companionship that Driving Miss Daisy can offer.

“Driving Miss Daisy is often described as ‘family when family can’t be there’. When times are busy and people sometimes live a long way from their elderly relatives, we want to be able to provide peace of mind.

“We are really enjoying doing this so far – every day has been different, and we have the pleasure of helping and chatting to people from all walks of life.”

The Didcot branch opened for business on Christmas Day 2019 when Zororo took a stroke patient from Abingdon Community Hospital to her house for Christmas. She then spent four hours with family then was back in time for medication round. The business has been growing steadily since then and the couple felt the time was right to have a high street presence so people can come and in and get to know them.

Terence said: “It’s a people business and so we want our customers to know that they come in and have a chat and a cup of tea. Trust and reliability are completely integral to what we do, so we want people to know that we are here, and approachable. We’re so much more than just a blue van!”

Prices vary and quotes are available by contacting 07308 475489 or www.drivingmissdaisy.co.uk or www.facebook.co.uk/drivingmissdaisydidcot

An official launch is set to take place later this year.

Driving Miss Daisy changes lives. We believe that helping people to remain mobile, encouraging social interaction and providing companionship is at the very heart of living life to the full. Driving Miss Daisy empowers the least mobile of society to live more independent lives through the provision of our services. At Driving Miss Daisy we are police-checked, trained first-aiders and dementia friends. We work with all ages from school children through to the most senior of citizens, so whatever your requirements please call us on 07308 475489 and give our services a try. We fulfil daily trips to the doctors, hospitals, school runs, dentists, and shops, and we love to take day trips further afield. So if you fancy a trip to the theatre with friends, or an afternoon tea at a garden centre or National Trust property, we are here for you!

 

 

Happy 90th birthday to Tintin!

“Billions of blistering blue barnacles!”

Quoting Tintin’s friend Captain Haddock, small son starts running when he sees the angular frontage of Musee Hergé. After taking the train to a small town outside Brussels, and walking through a grey shopping centre, Tintin’s profile, peering into the distance is a welcome sight, whether you’re a fan or not.

With his enduring energy, distinctive quiff and exuberance, it’s hard to believe that comic strip hero Tintin first appeared in 1919, captivating children from several generations. The 90th anniversary of his first appearance as a comic strip in Le Petit Vingtieme seemed like a good excuse to take my Tintin obsessed son to the spiritual home of everything Georges Remi, Tintin’s creator.

The building is quite a sight, with high ceilings and angular colourful walls, complete with poured concrete floors and feels like a fitting tribute to Herge’s massive creative output.

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The first room shows his early life and his early illustrations which give a flavour of what was to come, leading into another room on Herge’s advertising work, before you descend a floor and find yourself immersed in the world of Tintin.

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There’s lots to see, and small son wasn’t sure where to start. There’s plenty of pictures, early drafts and facts about the creator and his most famous work, including info on the characters -not just his beloved dog Snowy (known as Milou in the original) and constant friends Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus plus ne’er do well ‘twins’ Thompson and Thomson, but also the wealth of background characters that appear in the 24 books.

We had incredible fun having a picture taken in the midst of a Tintin scene, and there are interactive elements, plus models of the shark submarine from Red Rackham’s Treasure and a rocket model, used as the inspiration for Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon.

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Although small son was eyeing up a 5,000 Euro Tintin model in the gift shop, we managed not to spend anything in here. It’s still worth a browse as is the on-site café. We both danced back to the train to Brussels eager to re-read the books.

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We stayed at the Hilton Bruxelles City, just north of the centre after a painless Eurostar journey from London. Travelling around Brussels is affordable and easy, with efficient trams, trains and buses, reasonably clear signage and plenty of helpful English speakers around. We stayed overnight before taking the train on a Sunday to the small town of Louvain-la Nouvelle, not to be confused with Louvain (Leuven). We’re grateful to Sally Murray Travel Counsellors for doing all the bookings for us!

Musee Herge is giving a day of free entry on Sunday, 6th January, but admission is usually 12 Euros for adults. Closed Mondays.

Sledge Hammer

My favourite-ever comedy series is 30 years old this year. Buried away late at night on ITV when it aired in the UK, Sledge Hammer was a hugely underrated cop show that ran for two series in the 1980s. With the title character played by the charismatic and hilarious David Rasche, it sent up Dirty Harry and featured a variety of huge names ranging from Davy Jones from the Monkees to Brion James and Adam Ant.

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Hammer’s nihilistic nature was counterbalanced by his high-kicking partner Dori Doreau and his highly-stressed boss Captain Trunk. Each episode of Sledge Hammer sent up a different film, ranging from The Colour of Money, to Robocop, to Casablanca, to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

Unbelievably, it was devised and written by a 16-year-old and a team of writers, many of whom went onto write for the Simpsons, explaining the high joke count. The first season ends when Sledge Hammer accidentally blows up the city with a nuclear bomb: “this is shaping up to be a really bad day”, when writers were unsure that a second series would be commissioned. It was eventually, and was pitched as taking place five years before   – even though there were hundreds of deliberate continuity errors which meant that wasn’t possible. (Including Hammer and Doreau meeting for the first time in the first series.)

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Here’s a list of my favourite Sledge Hammer episodes, so that 30 (THIRTY!) years later, you can enjoy it as much as I do. It was hard to narrow it down, but “Trust me, I know what I’m doing”.

  1. Under the hammer (pilot)We’re first introduced to Sledge when the mayor’s daughter has been kidnapped (or according to the news bulletin ‘could be really good at hiding’) and he needs the right man to find her. The mayor turns on the TV and sees this interview take place after a robbery:“I was in the grocery store when two thugs entered and threatened the owner with shotguns. I drew my Magnum and killed them both. Then I bought some eggs, some milk and some of those little cocktail weenies.”Interviewer: “Inspector Hammer, was what you did in the store absolutely necessary?” 

    “Oh yes, I had no groceries at all”.

    And that’s just two minutes into the first episode! It’s followed by Hammer dealing with a sniper by bazookaing an entire building, an interrogation scene where Sledge draws out information in a blindfolded knife-throwing scenario (other techniques include playing the saxophone at an informant and the use of a Voodoo doll), as well as a genius scene where Hammer makes a suspect beat himself up to avoid any accusations of police brutality.

 

 

2.Dori Day afternoon” (season 1, episode 5) Not two minutes into the episode, Hammer beeps his horn aggressively and Doreau suggests meditation might help with his violent issues. Then, a man threatens to jump from a 10th storey window ledge but Hammer shoots at his feet, forcing him to fall back into the building. Problem solved, but only one bullet left. Unfortunately, Hammer and Doreau then end up in the middle of a TWO-man bank heist while Captain Trunk’s sympathies lie with the robbers. It turns out the motivation for the robbery is to get enough funds for an operation for the robber’s 16-year-old sister.

Hammer: “That’s too bad about your sister”

Robber: “I know. I didn’t think her nose was that big”.

3. All Shook Up (season 1, episode 7) One of my favourite episodes ever. Fifteen Elvis impersonators have been murdered leading Sledge no alternative but to enter the contest himself.  There’s a brilliant scene where Sledge eats his lunch in the morgue and just check out this chalk outline of the one of the murder victims…

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Quotes:

  1. Hammer: “In all my years of being a cop, I will never understand how people time and time again can do something like this.”

    Doreau: “It’s true. The taking of a human life is just deplorable.”

    Hammer: “Not that. Drawing the chalk outlines around the bodies. It’s a RIDICULOUS way to make a living.”

     

    ———-

    Sledge Hammer: “Where am I in this line-up?”

    Dori: “You follow a guy from Dallas and precede somebody from Miami.”

    Sledge Hammer: Between Dallas and Miami… what a terrible place for me to be!

    4. Magnum Farce (season 1, episode 9)

    As much fun as Sledge Hammer is to watch, it must have been an absolute has to be involved in the filming. In this episode, the three main characters are given the opportunity to accuse each other of “bad acting” as they must lead the vigilantes to believe that Sledge wants to join them.

    With it being the 1980s, there is the chance to make some original “Ms” jokes, plus a charades scene in a sauna that comes to mind every time I visit one.

    Quotes:

    Vigilante: “What do you think about the death penalty?”

    Sledge: “It’s too lenient”

    ———

    Vigilante: “The reason we’re here is to invite you to join a clandestine group whose members share the singular purpose of righting wrongs through force and aggression.”

    Sledge: “Oh, I’m already a registered Republican”

    —-

    Hammer: “Captain Trunk, can you please tell Ms Swimsuit here just exactly how you managed to untangle the web of assorted clues that led you to this house?”

    Trunk: “I live next door. I heard all the shooting and I ran over here to see what was going on.”

    5. Miss of the Spider Woman (season 1, episode 11)

    A myopic assassin accidentally poisons Hammer with snake venom, giving rise to lots of jokes about lifetime guarantees and a fight scene with a snake.

    Quotes:

    Doreau: “Hammer, the poison wasn’t for you!”
    Hammer: “Oh this is great. Now when I die, my neighbour’s life will flash in front of my eyes.”

    —-

    Hammer (on being presented with the antidote): “How can I ever thank you?”

    Trunk: “Don’t drink it”

    —-

    Doctor: “I’m sorry but you are going to die.”

    Hammer smashes up the office, stopping only to salute the flag. Then sits down: “are you sure”?

    6. Comrade Hammer (season 1, episode 20)

    North by North West meets From Russia with Love in this tribute to Alfred Hitchcock which sees Hammer and Doreau accompany a Russian defector on a cross-country train journey. There are some fantastically-executed set pieces such as Hammer and the Russian professor trying to eat and sleep while handcuffed together and some great visual jokes about the fellow passengers on their way to a twins convention.

    Quotes:

    The two Russians practise pretending to be waiters:

    “How many in your party?”
    “There are 30 million in Communist party!”

    ———-
    Sledge ruins a game of chess by playing draughts with the pieces and suggests that the pair do target practice instead

    Professor: “If you don’t mind, Inspector, I’m too nervous to play”

    Hammer: “Red Square!”

    ————–

    “It’s too stuffy in here, I must get some air.” Stands up and knocks his head on the bunk bed, making it collapse with Hammer inside it.

    Muffled voice: “You’re right, it is stuffy in here.”

    7. Jagged Sledge (season 1, episode 21)

    Inevitably perhaps, Sledge finds himself in court for murder. What could be 30 minutes of courtroom clichés is a hilarious mash up of misbehaving jurors, indoor golf and Hammer interviewing himself thanks to a tape recorder, plus the victim’s son giving his job title as: “surviving son and professional playboy.”

    Quotes:

    TV journalist: “Do you think Inspector Hammer is guilty?”

    Man: “Yes, I do!”

    Doreau: “Who was that?”

    Trunk: “Hammer’s attorney”

     

    8. Big Nazi on campus (season 2, episode 2)

    There’s a murder at “Generic University- where education is a bargain” – a precursor to the writers’ trademark use of signs outside educational establishments in The Simpsons. Hammer automatically suspects the victim’s boyfriend because he is a footballer, but Doreau uses actual police tactics and solves the case.

    Quotes

    Hammer: “You’re under arrest for murder”

    Teddy: “Oh yeah, who did I kill?”

    Hammer: “Janet Parker”

    Teddy: “Oh my God, Janet’s dead?”
    Hammer: “Well if you murdered her, of course she’s dead.”

    ————————-

    Sledge Hammer: “Every breath you take, every move you make… I’ll be watching you. That’s police talk.”

    ————–

    Trunk: “Tell me the status of the co-ed murder case.”
    Hammer: “Well, the victim is still dead”

    ————-

    9. If I had a little hammer (season 1, episode 10)

    Twelve newborns have disappeared from the maternity hospital leading Trunk to suspect a baby-stealing ring. He wants Hammer well away from this case but Hammer is full of empathy. “I too have suffered a sense of loss like everyone else. I lost my luggage once and I was cut up about it for weeks.” The trail leads Hammer and Doreau through a car wash with informant Shy Eddie (who also stars in a brilliant of-its-time scene in “They shoot hammers, don’t they” where he passes information to Sledge via a bank of telephones in a hotel lobby) to pose as a wealthy childless couple.

    Quotes:

    Hammer: “I’m in homicide. I deal with scumsuckers, not thumbsuckers!”

    ————

    Hammer “What was the baby’s name?

    Parent: “We hadn’t actually chosen a name before he was stolen.”

    Hammer: “How about Rob?”

    ————

    Hammer: “Any distinguishing scars or tattoos? Did your baby have any enemies?”

    ———–

    Adoption agency owner: “I wouldn’t leave Lizzy Borden with you two!”
    Hammer: “Good! I ordered a boy!”

 

10. Colour of Hammer (season 1, episode 16)

Yes, I inserted the “u” back into “colour”. Hammer’s hero, a hardline judge uncharacteristically lets a criminal go free before being murdered himself. The trail leads Hammer to a game of pool with a hustler set to a great 80s soundtrack before the obligatory fight scene.

Quotes:

Hustler: “I’ll cool my shots! I’ll take your arm off next!”

Hammer: “You do and you’ll pay for the jacket!”


Interviewer Brianne Brian: “Where do you stand on the electric chair?”

Judge Jackson: “Right next to the switch.”

————-

Plus:

There were many that didn’t quite make the list; the scene in ‘Icebreaker’ where Hammer tries to save the Bishop of Costa Pobre from an assassin, but it turns into a WWF scene; the scene in ‘Over my dead bodyguard’ where a woozy Hammer tries to save Trunk for the fourth time from a drugs gang in the hospital; and ‘Witless’ (no prizes for guessing which film this is meant to be) where Hammer hilariously escapes various assassination attempts and ends up hiding with a “Many note” father and daughter. There’s a shower scene that makes me roar with laughter every time I see it, a scene where Sledge Hammer sends up the movie cliche where a woman cleans a man’s wound. There’s also Sledge Hammer doing sarcasm:

Trunk: “I understand you’re a marked man. Word on the street is there’s already been an attempt on your life.”

Hammer: “Ooh, colour me frightened. Did they succeed?”

 

So happy birthday Sledge Hammer! Whether you were a fan or have never heard of this series, have a look and please let me know what you think!

 

Things we learned from LO’s birthday party

Birthday parties at local leisure centres for the under eights are a popular choice and I’d say that in recent weeks, we’ve spent a lot more time sweating on the soft play than perspiring in the gym.

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At about £8 a head per child, it’s a painless way to ensure that your child gets a great birthday with a bit of soft play, a bouncy castle and a prepared meal. Everyone knows the score, everyone knows where the venue is and you can arrive unflustered before heading off home happy in the knowledge that you don’t need to clean up.

Why then did MrM and I take it upon ourselves to hire an empty hall and sort out the games, the music, the food, the decoration and everything else ourselves?

Who knows? Not sure we’ll do it again though, but if we do, here are some of the things we learned.

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  1. If you haven’t got any invitations in the house, then an old road atlas will do the job instead. Simply tear the pages out that represent seaside towns and turn it into a pirate-map themed invitation.

Note: you will need to then make sure the party is pirate-themed.

2. Don’t blow up balloons in advance.

When you open your car, 20 balloons will escape and will then head off in 20 different directions. Some people don’t like finding a crazed woman in their garden ranting about being unable to reach a balloon that’s trapped in the pergola. It’s then quite difficult to carry 16 of the remaining balloons into the church hall in any sort of dignified fashion.

2. Blow up the balloons in advance.

MrM bought a massive pirate-themed balloon which he blew up with a helium canister.  Distracted by my ranting on the scarcity of helium in the world, we then watched helplessly as the balloon then rose straight up to the ceiling, almost literally showing us how our cash had gone up in smoke.

3. Make sure you know how to turn the fire alarm off.

Our first guests arrived at the party to hear the hideous wail of the fire alarm sounding and echoing around the village green while MrM  and I floundered about looking for the key for the fire system and pathetically wafted the steam out of the kitchen.

There was no fire though. I’d taken LO to the toilet when the alarm started sounding and thought it was our doings in there that had set it off, before emerging to find that the urn that MrM had borrowed from work to make teas and coffees for the parents hadn’t stopped boiling and had made the kitchen resemble a set Top of the Pops from the 1970s.

MrM located two people who looked after the hall who both came and calmly told us that the fire brigade were not on their way and that the key was on top of the fire alarm. It had been obscured by a leaflet on how to turn the fire alarm off.

4. Don’t cut up your only bed sheet to use as a costume.

It’s all very well going all Blue Peter in the name of creativity but we ended up with neither a sheet or a costume.  The costume we got from the supermarket served him very well but won’t work too well as a bed sheet.

5. Pin the tail on the donkey/pirate

a. Ensure the patches are adhesive.

b. Ensure that the blindfold is not see-through otherwise your game will be over in seconds.

 

 

6. Don’t overplan

We (and by ‘we’, I mean MrM) prepared lots of games and songs, but as it was a pirate party, we were delighted to see the children use their ingenuity to make their own “walk the plank” game using the chairs from the hall.

7. Pass the parcel

a. In my day, the winner was the person who opened the last layer. These days, every layer must contain a prize. Who knew?

b. Choose your music carefully.

Not sure why we chose the Pogues to be the accompanying music, but I’ll never forget the faces of the other parents as the parcel stopped on “cheap lousy faggot” and “happy Christmas your arse”.

8. Don’t put the birthday cake in reach of a small child.  They can and will eat all of the icing.

Happy birthday little man!

 

 

Interview with Sarah Gardner from ATE Ghana #inspiringwomen

West Berkshire and beyond plays host to some truly inspirational women. Today we speak to one of them; Sarah Gardner who set up a charity called ATE Ghana.

“I can’t believe that this is what I do now,” says a former Winchcombe Primary school teacher about the charity she set up to support a community in rural Ghana.

Sarah Gardner, aged 31, was placed in Lawra three years ago as part of an 12-month pacement with VSO. Initially her brief was to work in the local education authority there supporting 96 primary schools but it quickly became apparent that her help was needed in other ways.

Left more or less alone in the middle of nowhere with a wonky bicycle, Sarah had to adapt quickly. Setbacks included 40 degree temperatures, isolation, no one wanting to work with her, and a severe bout of malaria that put her into a hospital. Unconscious for 48 hours, then unable to move her hands, she found herself in a hospital with no running water or a toilet.

However, the intrepid Sarah was undeterred and after a three-year-old child died on her doorstep from malaria, decided that she had to do something to help tackle the poverty.  Unsure of what to do, a meeting with an HIV support group revealed that local people were very clear that they did not want handouts, but needed help to set up their own businesses. Action Through Enterprise Ghana was born.

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Since then, the charity has grown with three separate aims; providing school meals to a total of 650 children in the area, helping local people set up entreprises and providing support to families with children with learning or physical disabilities.

ATE Ghana works with schools and PTAs to provide locally-sourced ingredients for school meals. Children are better able to learn when they have had a nutritious meal and so the children are supplied with a filling maize-based dish called Banku.

Sarah’s answer to coping with the difficulties of life in Ghana was to adopt a puppy called Shilea for whom she had to exchange a chicken. Shilea offered real protection from the snakes and scorpions that can be found in the country and provided companionship during the most difficult times.  Shilea still lives in her Ghana HQ and having been born the week that Sarah arrived in Ghana, is a constant reminder of how successful the charity has become.

This year, the charity has achieved its aim of raising £150,000. Next year’s target is £250,000, which will enable ATE Ghana to feed more than 650 children and to launch the feeding programme into two more schools. Nearly 50 businesses have started with the charity’s help and Sarah is proud that the vast majority survive and make a profit after a year.

The charity is funded purely with donations, and Sarah is keen to talk at events, business groups and even in people’s homes, armed with her projector.

She said: “I just want to tell people the information. People are so nice – if you provide them with honesty, clarity and the facts, they really talk to us and are inspired to give. The generosity of local people is phenomenal and we’re always so grateful for any support; for people in Ghana, these donations are truly life-changing.

“It’s amazing what you can do when you are on the right path.”

ATE Ghana’s next fundraising event is a Santa’s grotto in Ramsbury.

For more information or to make a donation, visit  www.ateghana.org or www.facebook.com/ATEGhana.