The one where I don’t give up my oyster card…

So it’s fair to say that’s it’s been a rough couple of weeks for the UK. And I have to say that I’m so thankful to live in a country with decent gun control laws.

“Terrorism” has been something I’ve been aware of all my life. We were dealing with it long before September 11th 2001 before a certain American made it purely to be synonymous with “Islam”. Some of my earliest memories are of the Lockerbie bombing on the news and being evacuated from shopping centres because of IRA bomb threats. My friends who grew up in Northern Ireland have even more memories of what “terrorism” meant. Bombs and checkpoints were just part of daily life there for a long time.

I saw on social media before news officially broke that something had happened in Manchester. My friend posted a warning telling everyone to stay out the city centre because something bad had happened, and wanted to let people know he was safe. Later I found out that I knew two people who were at the Manchester Arena that night, both taking their daughters to their first Ariana Grande concert. My friend, a proud Mancunian, got emotional telling me of being woken up to hear the news knowing that it was totally chance that her nieces weren’t there that night.

And last night I saw the news about London Bridge and Borough Market.

I’ve seen the news headlines in the USA as a certain “president” uses this news as some kind of fuel for his fascist like ideas and hate. Republicans and NRA enthusiasts telling us how if Muslims didn’t live here we wouldn’t have terrorism, or that everyone would be alive if we were armed. Thankfully, we came together as a country after a mentally ill man went into a primary school to massacre a bunch of innocent school children with a gun. We don’t get to go into shops to buy guns here. Otherwise there would likely be far more victims when people go on a rampage of violence like this.

I’ve also seen comments like “London is reeling” or “Britain is bleeding“. I think…No we’re not. Right now as I type, most people are settling down to watch a live concert organised by Ariana Grande in Manchester.

I mean, I can’t speak for everyone who shares this bunch of islands as their home. We’re more than mildly ticked off. You might see a few of us using some cuss words. Apologies, but…some circumstances I think allow for strong language. But this morning, my pals in London were still posting their Sunday brunch pictures on instagram. Everyone carried on as usual, while still thinking of those whose lives were forever changed last night. Sure, those of us who are teachers and youth workers are thinking about the ‘unexpected emergency incident’ element of our risk assessments when planning trips to concerts and city centres a bit more than usual. But as my Mum and I are always saying “one of us could get runover by a bus tomorrow” (she used to say “Don’t say that!” to me but now she replies with something like “well, exactly.“).

In 3 weeks I’ll be boarding a train to London Kings Cross. Just as my Nana did many times in the last years of the war to go visit her family. My Nana was born and bred in London until she married her Scottish husband during the war and moved up here. She told me of how the sirens would go off and the train would have to stop in a tunnel as bombs were dropped on the city. Of patrolling the streets of West London during the Blackout. Of going out to the dancing.

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My Nana (we shared a middle name). She was 84 in this photo I took of her in Christmas 2003. 

And folks, my Nana was a WORRIER. This was the woman who freaked out if I didn’t arrive home from school 5 minutes after the bell went. Who was convinced if I got my ears pierced my lobes would get infected. Who told her eldest daughter (in her 40s at the time) to be careful crossing the road to the corner shop to get the paper and a pint of milk. She died before I got my tattoo, but I’m pretty sure that if she’d known about it, she would be fretting that ink on my skin would most likely lead to me being a future member of a prison chain gang or something.

I don’t know if it’s because part of my family grew up in London, but it always feels like a second home to me. My friends who live there always tell me how everyone is rude and doesn’t speak to each other. I never have that experience when I visit. I’m always catching the eye of someone riding the tube sharing a look about something we see that amuses us. In 2013 me and Miss Sweetroot were having a giggle about some of the station names on the Northern Line, and I caught the suited up Londoner smirking as he overheard our conversation about how “Goodge Street sounds like a place filled with bogies” (when I caught his eye, he of course went back to staring straight ahead, but I know our chat cheered you up dude). When I was there before Christmas, I got stopped several times to be asked about the green Hulk bear I was carrying in a box for my godson. London is so used to ‘security threats’ that most of the time when you hear an announcement about it on the tube, everyone just sighs, grunts and goes back to reading their papers/books/kindles/phones while we wait for the tube train to start moving again. And you bet your ass when things do happen, Londoners band together. That’s why you had cabbies yelling warnings to pedestrians near Borough Market and doctors and nurses running out of hospitals across Westminster Bridge. It’s why we have pictures from the 1940s of people drinking cups of tea sitting on piles of rubble that was once a building they called home. And it’s why not a single Brit is surprised to see a picture of someone running away still carrying their pint of lager without spilling a drop…because London prices people. He paid £6 for that pint, and no ‘terrorist’ was going to keep him from it.

So I’ll go to London. My Mum might worry a little bit, though logic will tell her that I could just as easily go into our city centre and be caught up in something there. I’ll likely be on the tube, riding the escalator singing the “London Underground” song in my head. I will be that annoying Scottish lass who totally ignores the proper London etiquette and smiles at strangers, tries to engage them in conversation and thanks TfL staff. But don’t worry Londoners: I won’t do what really annoys you… I’ll have my oyster card ready BEFORE I get to the ticket barriers. 😉

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In all seriousness…let’s remember that acts of evil, acts of hate, acts of violence have been happening since humans roamed the earth trying to exert their power over other humans. It is heinous. It is awful. And we must raise our children to understand these power dynamics, to recognise their privilege and how they should not use it to continue the oppression of others. We must raise our children to love.

To everyone who has been affected by events led by people trying to divide us and kill the good in this world. I’m thinking of you.

I’m also going to keep calm and carry on.

Because it’s exactly what they don’t want me to do.

Adam Hills is an Aussie, but a lot of us Edinburgers have loved him since he first came to perform at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe a couple of decades ago. I pretty much see his and his wife’s shows every year they are here. What he said on his show, The Last Leg I think really does reflect the sentiment of most Brits I know. (Just a heads up, there is a swear word that rhymes with ‘buck’ in his rant if you are offended by curse words).

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Much love,

The Chatty Brunette Koala who intends to keep using her Transport for London Oyster Card x

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Quote of the Week: Good Turns

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Sorry I’ve not blogged all week. I got sick with a yucky cold, and it was also Thinking Day this week. Thinking Day would have been enough, but we also had a last-minute planned celebration for one of the Guides who had achieved the highest honour you can as Guide – The Baden Powell Challenge Award. I’ve also been working out how to navigate a time of enforced change our organisation is putting my Rangers through. It’s been stressful, upsetting but also strangely encouraging. It’s rubbish to see the girls feeling unvalued, ignored and uncared for. On the flip side, I’ve had girls who have left my unit coming back hearing from those still here what’s been going on getting in touch and telling me what Girlguiding, and particularly Rangers has meant to them.

I’ve now been back volunteering with Girlguiding working with young women aging from 10 years to 21 years old for 6 years. I’ve now had the chance to watch these girls grow into adults and what Olave says is true. And what a privilege to see. There are girls that I tore my hair out over wondering if they’d ever see their own value, the change that a smile or a small act of kindness can bring. We persevered. We tried to set an example. And now I know that it really is worth it, because I have watched so many of them grow into kind, compassionate young adults who are willing to stand up for what is right, and show such kindness to people.

One of my role models who lives in the North East of Scotland, she often tells me on facebook that she can tell when girls are Brownies or Guides because of their attitude. She is always sending me words of encouragement and telling me about Girlguiding members she meets in her own community and how it makes her think of me and my fellow leaders. I love that. I really do.

And even though at the start of this week I all I wanted to do was curl up with a hot water bottle and hug a box of kleenex, I’m so glad that instead I was being the paparazzi Guide leader as the girls played pass the parcel and admired the congratulations cake (and consumed it). Because I realised that actually…it does all make a difference.

 

Quote of the Week: You will get hurt, but..

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I love this quote from John Green’s novel The Fault In Our Stars. Because it is so very true. We are always going to get hurt. There is just no escaping it.

Us humans, we aren’t perfect. We get tired. We get grumpy. We second guess and we misunderstand. But there is such a huge difference from being hurt by someone who doesn’t mean to have hurt you, to someone who does it intentionally or just simply doesn’t care enough about you.

In the context of the story here, one person is worrying about causing the pain of loss. Loving people, caring for people comes at a cost. I know that I love hard…and easily. The cost of that is that I physically hurt when I see others in pain. And I get upset when I feel like I’m not trusted. It’s also meant that I’ve always cared about people more than money. Something that has probably cost me a steady income. I’m discovering that the people who hold power don’t like people like me who care more about treating employees well, people like humans of equal value instead of how much money I can make from people or how unquestioningly subordinate I will be.

It’s also why as I’ve gotten older, I don’t make the huge effort to keep reaching out to people in my life who have continually let me down, spoken friendship without really being genuine about it. It’s not that I lock the door to them…it’s that I don’t continually extend my invitation anymore. I spent so much of my early twenties making efforts that got thrown back in my face, or experiencing “FOMO” (except that it wasn’t so much fear but reality – seeing that yes, I was missing out…the joys of watching all your family or all your friends doing something that they invited everyone else to but you).

It hurt.

And I kept letting it happen again and again, until one day I just decided no more. Rather than trying to maintain relationships with people who didn’t really want to have one with me, I focused on the people in my life who did. And I became a lot happier and content as a result.

I recommend following John’s characters wisdom. 🙂

Quote of the Week: Friends don’t silence or oppress you…

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At the start of Black History Month, it feels only right that I quote from one of the great wise women who walks this earth, writes so eloquently and speaks such wisdom.

I walked through the door after being at the dentist the other day and my Mum saw me and was like “What’s wrong? Was it really bad? Did it hurt?” it wasn’t my mouth that was hurting. I was saddened by things popping up on my phone. A man, a prominent voice in the Scottish evangelical church landscape who believes that women are not of equal value to men. The sadness that I’ve watched two incredible young people go through teenagehood, become passionate for Jesus and be brainwashed by such teaching and become more excluding rather than welcoming. More superior rather than supportive. And another young adult who has been brainwashed by evangelical Christians who believe that Trump is some kind of messenger from God and that by locking our doors to people in need (despite the bible teaching us that we should do the complete opposite) it’s about loving our family, rather than fear and hate of strangers.

I made a decision last week to stop attending church because I realised that church seemed to demand my silence. It seemed to be denying my friends. After my friends (and my Mum I’ve since found out) were appalled at the way three other friends – all male, all “Christian” – spoke down to me about a subject they knew little about and I knew much about, and how they talked about some controversial issues with very strong and hateful language, I realised that I had not been affected by their speech. Why? Because I had become so accustomed to it during the years that I ran a pregnancy crisis centre. Over the last couple of years I have felt lost because I have not understood how this life of mine could be part of some plan God has for me (people in church often talk about ‘the plans God has for us’, usually taking a bible verse from the book of Jeremiah out of context in the process). The last two years have taken me out of a bubble and into the world, opening my eyes and heart to so many different people. These friends have not held me silent, and they’ve not denied my right to grow. They’ve been patient with my ignorance, they’ve helped me learn so much more about experiences I’ve never personally gone through. However, for many of them, when they’ve walked into a church community – they have been silenced and denied. Because of this, they believe God hates them.

I love community. I really miss being part of a community that studies the teaching, prays together, lives collectively, welcomes in strangers, learns to get along despite many differences. Knowing that inclusive church does exist,  I hope that some day soon I’ll find one in my city.

Quote of the Week: The Power of Books and their Readers

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Some terrible things are happening this week. I, and many others around the world, have watched some pretty incredible things being said on social media by two very racist, bigoted men residing in the USA. I won’t name them, because you may know who they are, and I fear that giving them more attention is the opposite of what is needed. But when someone says that a man like John Lewis is “all talk and no action” or that “all Rosa Parks did was refuse to sit at the back of the bus” it’s pretty mind boggling for those of us who…like…read. And know a little history.

The sad thing is these men are using their keyboards on their devices to try and rewrite history with their propaganda. I wonder what books they read as children and adults. Did they read at all?

For sure the people I come across in everyday life who are very narrow minded seem to be into censoring what they and others consume in terms of art. It can’t have the wrong language. It features people who look like them. Who live in the same (or a similar) country as them. It enforces a particular belief system. They consider anything that portrays anything else dangerous.

Ever since going to South Africa, I have become overwhelmed with the frustration of the single stories. I’m fed up that when I walk into a book shop all I find in the picture book section is white blonde/brunette children from traditional families. I know that other stories exist, but you have to go off the beaten track to find them. The same goes for the other sections of bookstores. The majority of the books on my shelves are written by caucasian westerners from English speaking countries. I have a book by an Iraqi woman, a book by a Black South African, books by a Nigerian woman, a book by an Asian-Australian and a couple of books by Scandinavians. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the books that I have, it’s just that they lack diversity and a true reflection of all the stories to be heard in the world. How can I possibly start to understand other cultures unless I either travel and spend time with strangers who are native to that land or read about the stories of their experiences?

And so I’m challenging myself to find and read books written by women and men of varying cultures, ethnicities, religions and sexual orientations. I hope that over time our cinemas, libraries, bookshops, museums, theatres, art galleries start to reflect all the stories of the world. All the history.

Because I agree with Nina. From there we learn compassion. We start to gain understanding. And from there we see things said by bigots, bullies and fascists and recognise their propaganda for what it is. And we get angry. We love. And we take action to make this world a better, more peaceful, complex place.

Quote of the Week: The Jar of Happiness

I am a woman who naturally finds the negative. I’m always finding what could be better, critiquing everything and get frustrated when things don’t go as well as they “should”. Add that to my predisposition for anxiety and depression (which I think runs in my family) and you’ve got a recipe for a very critical, grumpy, pessimistic person.

However, these past few months I’ve been following Miss Val’s blog. Valorie Kondos Field is a ballet dancer who for the last 25+ years has been coaching the UCLA Women’s Gymnastics team. She is someone I’ve admired and respected from a distance for a very long time, and I love that she is now using social media to share her thoughts and  wisdom. Last year she shared with British gymnast and UCLA Bruin, Danusia Francis about her revelation just after she was diagnosed with breast cancer and going through treatment, and it really challenged me. She talked about the privilege of ‘getting to’ over ‘having to’. More recently she shared on her blog a conversation about gratitude between herself and two other people at UCLA – and I was challenged even more.

And so…

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…after reading back my annual ‘So long [insert year]‘ post on facebook and being thoroughly depressed by it, and realising it’s been like that every year for a while I decided I needed to have a change in attitude. I saw a facebook meme about keeping notes of all the good things that happen. The prayer request jar from surf camp was lying on my bedroom floor – it had held all the fairy lights I use for the prayer space at surf camp and I’d taken them out to stick up on my bookcases since there was no room for my tree. I decided that I can buy a new jar for surf camp, and this is now going to be my jar of happiness. A place where I keep note of the little (and big) things that happen each day that make me happy or encouraged or help me in some way. Basically anything that I’m thankful for.

Come to think of it, really I should be calling it my ‘Jar of Gratitude‘.

I was using post-it notes but they are a bit annoying as they stick to the side of the jar, so when I was buying inserts for my filofax I went on search for a memo block. I found one, but I realised the loose paper would end up EVERYWHERE in my messy room. A lovely shop associate went to the stock room and searched for someone that would hold the memo block so that wouldn’t happen – and came back with the one pictured next to the jar. Happy days (and yes, that went into my jar. Yay for lovely helpful shop assistants).

Like happiness, gratitude is not a limited resource, and I think we can make a choice to be grateful instead of focusing on what we haven’t received or had happen to us. To be honest, in a year where fascism is rising and being labelled as simply ‘alt- right wing’ I think we’re going to need to put as much goodness and kindness into the world as we can to combat  it!

I hope it’s going to be nice to look back on at the end of the year too.

Quote of the Week: Walking with friends

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It’s fair to say that 2016 wasn’t the best year. In fact there were some very dark times, and I think the fact that I had trudged through 2015 and gone into 2016 with a little hope that what had been rubbish in 2015 would be rectified in 2016 made it slightly difficult to swallow.

But then…friends.

There’s nothing like going through dark times to find out who your true friends are. Friends who love you just as you are, who accept you in your circumstances no matter what they are. Friends who you haven’t seen in a couple of years who will come running round to clean a trashed flat when you post on facebook a cry for help. Friends who have their own stuff going on but accept you as a surf camp leader despite the fact you’ve been lying on the floor of a bathroom for 24 hours and less than prepared for your responsibilities. Friends who are in town for a short period of time and will take you running to their hotel room after work so you can at the very least watch the Great British Bake Off together in your pyjamas while eating homemade brownies before heading home to bed because you have to work the next morning. Friends who will text and what’s app and engage on social media when lack of finance and time off work mean you can’t afford to travel to visit during months and years of separation. Friends who will accept leaving on a road trip to a wedding at 11 p.m. because you need to work a late shift in order to get the weekend off to go in the first place.

They are worth more than  their weight in rubies, diamonds, emeralds (and any other precious expensive jewels). And I’d rather be going through rubbish times knowing they are by my side, than having a comfy life without them.

Because I know that in the times where life is great, all I want to do is share that moment. I remember being in Australia seeing a beautiful sunset and wishing a particular friend was there to witness it. I remember wandering the streets of Paris alone and wishing I had someone to experience it with. I love going to the cinema with a friend so we can discuss the film we’ve just seen after – whether it’s one we love, one we hate, or one that we disagree on!

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And when it’s cold and your face is being stung with hail on the first day of a new year, there’s no better people to do it with than with friends. Even when you’ve spent so much of the day in your pyjamas, you end up literally walking in the dark because January days are short in Scotland!

 

Flashback Friday: Quote of the Week 5

Originally posted January 31st 2013

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There is a wonderful movement of people who share their stories. Stories of second chances, deep inward battles and triumph over difficult circumstances. The idea is that by going first, it will encourage others to be able to say ‘Me too‘.

So often we think that we are the only one with a particular thought, experiencing a certain emotion or in a circumstance none of our close-knit friends or relatives could really understand what it is like to go through.

There is such power in sharing our stories honestly.

And even more encouragement when someone responds with ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one

In 2009, I went to South Africa for two weeks. The battle to get there was so exhausting that I didn’t really have time to think too much about what it would be like, and to be honest I had very little idea of what to expect. On arrival though, one thing made me very uncomfortable and that was the idea that somehow all us ‘privileged’ folks from the UK (and other countries) were there to help the ‘poor black people’. I kept my mouth shut about it, and was sincerely glad for the wisdom of our hosts at the Seed of Hope who made sure that was not going to be the case as young people from the township  and our two teams mixed up to make 3 super teams doing the DIY in the two local schools and running a holiday club in the township. We were just extra hands so the workload could be achieved in a short space of time and there were much more of us to give hugs, carry little ones and be climbed all over! 🙂 I knew though that it wasn’t the same for all the other teams…

One day my roommate came back from her project in a bad mood. I think I was probably lying on my bed feeling like death warmed up when she arrived back. And after about 10 minutes she began to express her anger about the attitudes of white British folks feeling sorry for the ‘poor black people’ that apparently needed their help. And with that came her frustration of people brandishing the continent of Africa with mass generalisations, all the charities that think they help but actually perpetuate a culture of helplessness and so on. I was relieved I wasn’t the only one feeling the way – ‘Me too’!

After that we had daily conversations after our project, we prayed together and were very thankful to be in a room with each other. Our conversations carried on long after we left the country that we felt great affection for.

And then there is blogging. I have established several friendships when I first shared my story of unplanned pregnancy and abortion. Quietly woman after woman (and a few guys) e-mailed or tweeted me privately to say ‘Me too’. Other fellow aliens on Planet Christian have come out to say ‘me too’. We’ve bonded over cupcake baking, being women, loving American TV Dramas, musicals, Australian soap characters, anger at the messed up world we live in, uniting in the face of bullies in whatever form they take…

Many people blog to share sage wisdom and knowledge. Perhaps to promote the work they do. I started blogging to try and make sense of everything I was feeling and experiencing in that moment of writing. It was only when strangers starting coming alongside me and leaving comments of encouragement or understanding that it began to grow into other things and though the comments aren’t so many these days, I would just miss my online friends if I stopped! In some ways they are more authentic that the ‘in real life’ friendships I hold with others.

Do you agree? When do you think friendship is born?

Original Comments: 

  1. Doctor Idgie

    in the last month, two of my close friends have lost family members (a brother to suicide and a father to a horrible illness) – and I’ve been so grateful that when I was having a tough time, they were there for me, and that set the tone for a friendship that enables them to trust me with their feelings now.

    Aside from that, the first time I met someone with my personal ‘big issue’, it was like a lightening bolt – she was a few years ahead of me, and seemed to be ok, and it gave me faith that one day I would be too.

     
  2. Rebecca

    Have you thought about being a motivational speaker? You’re so good at these type of posts. I found myself saying ‘me too’ throughout this!

Can one pen change the world?

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One of the things that keeps getting to me about Hamilton is how much his writing is what gave him a better life. Writing drew attention him and led to people sponsoring him to go to university in New York. Writing is what gave him a job. Writing is what he did help to start the USA being an independent country.

Can one child, one teacher, one book and one pen really change the world?

Certainly there are differences that can be made.

And I’m realising more and more that I’m always feeling the need to read and write.

But does it make any difference when I pick up my pen (or laptop) to write?

I really am not sure.

What do you think? 

Do our pens change the world?

 

On friends, blogging and organ donation…

IMGP0634Over the years, I’ve been blessed to make a ton of friends through the wonders of social media. I started blogging when I moved to Edinburgh – I’ve always kept journals and been pretty open about my life, and in the year 2007 I moved 5 times. I left a ton of friends behind in Aberdeen, and communicating that year wasn’t made particularly easy when I was moving so much. I was also applying for jobs I bit like I am now and working where I could get shifts in an old job I’d held as a student.

Cyberspace became my constant. My place to write and try to make sense of the world. The place where I found people who were using cyberspace to do the same thing I was. Writing their thoughts, their experiences and hoping that just maybe, someone out there would understand.

There are a fair number of friendships I have made over this strange ungeographied place and one of them is Holly. She was all the way over in New Zealand.  We worried about Holly when the Christchurch earthquake took place until we heard she was ok. Despite the distance, together we helped our other friend, Rebecca start Airmail Christmas after one of Becca’s patients died of cancer after telling her what her Christmas wish would be. And one day, Holly messaged us to tell us she was moving to the UK. Becca and I were so excited for the chance to finally meet our friend in person (as Becca and I had met up a few times ‘in real life’ by this point). In August 2013 I finally got to make Holly my ‘in real life’ friend. We went to Edinburgh Castle together, and a few months later she was one of three blog-turned-in-real-life friends who travelled up from England to help me throw a party for my 30th birthday. Holly, Becca and our other blog-turned-IRL-friend, Ruth blew up balloons and spacehoppers, helped wrap pass the parcel gifts, made chocolate crispie treats…and didn’t bat an eyelid at the chaos of the next day.

They read my posts sharing about the documentary about another blogger, Eva called 65_RedRoses and advocating for organ donation. I guess all three of us have used our blogs to advocate for more awareness about health issue ourselves and our friends have experienced.

This weekend, Holly is in hospital. She’s still been tweeting away to me and Becca (and others). The pesky kidney disease that she’s been having a battle with is trying to take down our friend. I may have been using a few angry face emojis in reaction to this. I hate that Holly is having to go through this. Unfortunately it’s not in any of our control. We do know that  our awesome friend is going to need a kidney transplant at some point.

I hate it when my friends are going through crummy times, and there’s nothing I can do to change it. So I’m doing the only thing I know – I’m writing about it. And once again I’m using this little blog platform of mine once again to promote awareness about organ donation.

Organ donation is voluntary – and in the UK, even if you’ve signed up to the NHS organ donor register, your next of kin still can deny permission for hospitals to allow you to donate your organs at your time of death. (Rebecca years ago agreed to come and tackle my Mum if she denies permission for my organs to be donated. My older brother Mark also took note as well, but I’m not convinced he’ll remember. Sorry Mark).

If you’re not sure if you are on the register it is easy to find out – call the NHS Blood and Transplant service on 0300 123 23 23 and you can check, and even amend your details. And if you haven’t registered you can do so by going to the Organ Donation Scotland website or download the form, print it off, complete and post it to the NHS Blood and Transplant service.

I don’t know how organ donation works in other countries, but I urge you to find out, and feel free to share details in the comments. I would love love love if we could raise more awareness about the need for organ donors. There’s a charity I’ve supported for many years called ‘Live Life Then Give Life‘. That’s exactly what I’d like to do.

I hope you might be up for that too.