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Week 10 – One man food bank:

Week 9 – My real life hero:

Week 8 – Flying the nest:

Week 7 – Annual Report:

Week 6 – The Haircut:

Week 5 – A new bed:

Week 4 – A last meal in Newcastle:

Week 3 – Shoe Challenge: This is probably the hardest of all the challenges on my list.  It’s not that I’m not a kind person.  It’s not that I don’t do things for others.  I’m sure anyone who knows me would say I’m always happy to help others.  But the problem is when I set this challenge I decided the kind deeds had to be unasked for and that is difficult.  I regularly receive requests from my sons to give them a lift, my daughter-in-law often asks to borrow my car and friends and colleagues often ask me to do things for them.  And if I’m honest I rarely say no but these are all things that people have asked me to do which isn’t what this was about.  So yes I am finding this really hard but I did manage to find something.

This week I held a competition to win the vouchers kindly donated by Mambo Wine and Dine but I was worried that only people who lived in or around South Shields would enter and I wanted to raise as much money as possible.  So that was when I decided my unasked for kind deed would be to offer to buy the vouchers at face value off anyone who entered the competition who genuinely couldn’t use them.

To avoid any legal problems surrounding gambling the competition had to be based on skill.  So I decided the question would be to guess how many pairs of shoes I owned.  You can find out more about it here.  I received quite a few entries and raised £45 – three times the value of the vouchers.  The winner was Sophie Mills who guessed 58 pairs, just four more than I owned at the time.  Sophie lives in Morpeth and I didn’t think she would be able to use the vouchers so as promised I said she could have the money for the vouchers instead.  And I was right Sophie said she wouldn’t be able to use the vouchers before the deadline of 5 September and was pleased that I had offered the option of a cash alternative.  But Sophie is a very generous person and told me to keep the vouchers and add the money to what I had raised for the Charlie Cookson Foundation and that’s just what I did.  Yet again one kind deed brought another and I got to enjoy another cocktail at Mambo Wine and Dine

Cocktail time

Week 2: I always knew this would be a difficult week but would never have believed my kind deed for the week would involve spending a sordid night with my ex.

It all started early on Thursday 13 August when my son, Joel Hamilton, was due to get his A Level results.  Now Joe doesn’t always do things the easy way, in fact if there is a hard way to do things he will always take that route.  Don’t get me wrong.  Joe is bright young man and I am extremely proud of him but sometimes he lives in a fantasy world.   And more often than not his father (my ex-husband Alex Hamilton) not only encourages in his fantasy life but builds up his unrealistic expectations.

When Joe took his exams he was full of confidence.  He had an offer from Lancaster University to study politics and was convinced he wouldn’t only get the grades he needed but would do better and would be able to chose a different university if he wanted to.  Alex was talking about Bristol, Reading and at one point even Oxford or Cambridge. None of which would be the best place for Joe even if he did get the grades.

Of course as time moved on Joe’s confidence began to waiver and by the night before the results he was fairly convinced he would have failed everything and didn’t know what he would do.  So being the ‘sensible’ mother I am, we spend most of the night looking at universities he could apply to if he needed to go through clearing.

On Thursday morning I picked Joe and Alex up at 7am.  I say 7am but by the time Alex was ready it was quite a bit later.  Joe was in jeans and a t-shirt and me in a summer dress (it was one of those rare days in North East England when the sun actually shone) but Alex had decided he needed to make an impression so he was dressed to the nines in a suit, complete with waistcoat.  We were only going to Newcastle Sixth Form College so I dread to think what he would wear if Joe had actually gone to Oxford or Cambridge.

By this time I think I was more nervous than Joe who just seemed like he wanted to get it over and done with.  I asked him what he thought he was going to get and he said he wasn’t sure.  In an attempt to rein in his father’s expectations I said I had a feeling there may be a D in amongst the results but not to worry.  Joe was ok with that.  Alex wasn’t and told Joe that h would be ashamed of him if he did.  I promptly changed the topic.

We arrived at the college and headed straight through to pick up the results.  As soon as he opened them I could see he hadn’t got the results he was hoping for and panic was setting in.  I took the results off him and you know what.  They weren’t that bad.  He didn’t get what he needed to get into Lancaster but he definitely had options through clearing.  And that is where the fun begins.

If you’ve never been involved in clearing let me tell  you it’s awful!!!  It’s hell on earth. Soul destroying.  And that’s just being held in a queue not what they say to you when you get through.  Joe had a list of five universities we had looked at the night before and by 11 o’clock he had unconditional offers from the top two on his list – Hull and Chester.  But here’s the problem.  You only get until 5pm the next day to make a decision and in that time he needed to visit both universities if he was to make an informed decision.  So he made an appointment at Chester at 9am and one at Hull at 1pm the following day.

Alex offered to take him as I had to go to Blackpool for a UNISON meeting.  But getting to Chester from South Shields for 9am would involve leaving at about 5 o’clock in the morning and it would be a very long day.  And that’s when the idea hit me.  And to say I spoke before thinking is the understatement of the year.

I heard the words coming out of my mouth before the idea was fully formed.  ‘Why don’t you both come to Blackpool and stay in my room’. Now you might be thinking that’s not too bad an idea but I forgot to mention a couple of things:

  • Alex and I can be civil but we don’t always see eye to eye
  • We got divorced because, in my words, ‘he’s a lying, cheating git (or in legal terms serial adultery)
  • He exaggerates to impress people
  • I am Chair of UNISON’s National Disabled Members Committee, all of whom would be in the same hotel

Of course they jumped at the chance.  The only thing that made me feel better was the knowledge I had a family room booked.

        My room at the Hilton

So I set off to Blackpool with my good friend Cath McGuiness with Joe and Alex set to follow later in the day.  The closer I go to the hotel the more anxious I became.  How would I manage to stay calm for an entire evening?  How could I sleep in a room with a man that I don’t trust when I’m awake?  How was I going to get through the night?

And then the answer came to me! Just one word!!  Prosecco!!! All I needed to do was drink a large amount of prosecco with some good friends who would see the funny side.  And that’s what I did.

I invited everyone who had already arrived at the hotel to join me in my room for a glass of prosseco to celebrate my birthday the previous week and Joe’s exam results.  So that’s why when Alex and Joe arrived they found me, Pete, Louise, Craig and Cath ever so slightly tipsy with Maggie and Savannah enjoying a glass of lemonade.  And Joe showed he truly is my son by making sure his Dad had brought a bottle of prosseco with him as a thank you.

You might be thinking that this wasn’t so bad after all.  That it wasn’t that sordid.  Well I guess you’re half right but as still makes up stories (in this case involving Eddie Grant’s Electric Avenue), his feet still smell really bad and he snores!!!  So I didn’t sleep but it absolutely was worth it for Joe who will be off to Hull University to study Politics in September.

Week 1- It’s on me: The first week started with my Birthday on 5 August and I decided that was the perfect time for a random kind deed.  I was going out for a meal with family and friends and decided that the perfect thing to do after all the effort everyone had put in to making my birthday special was to pay for the meal.  Mambo Wine and Dine in South Shields has been one of my favourite places to go for a drink since it opened but I’d never had a meal there so wasn’t sure what to expect but I have to say the meal was fantastic.

Mambo cocktails

                 Mambo cocktails

As I hadn’t told anyone I was planning on paying everyone happily ordered whatever they wanted with choices ranging from pasta and pizza to steak and lobster.  We also had a bottle of my favourite Prosecco as well as cocktails and other drinks so when the bill arrived I have to say I was a little nervous about what I had planned but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised (I think £25 a head including drinks was very reasonable).  So as everyone started to get out their money I told them to put it away as I was paying. From the reaction I got you would think I’d just said we should all run off without paying the bill at all.  It took me a good 10 minutes to persuade everyone that I should pay and they only agreed when in the end I suggested they all give the money they would have spent to the charity I will be supporting (to be announced in the next few days) so that will be a good start towards the £5,000 I want to raise.  Then when I was telling the waiter why I was paying on my Birthday he asked if they could help.  Of course I said yes and he came back a few minutes later with some vouchers to be used in the bar or restaurant for me to raffle for charity.  My first kind deed brought a smile to everyone’s face, raised money for charity and made meet feel very good.  The saying One Good Turn Deserves Another was never more appropriate.

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