Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Charlie's a shining example to the world

A pensive seven-year-old Charlie Simpson - pictured on his Unicef - JustGiving page. Wonderfully, today the donations he has inspired have reached £134,000 and continue to rise. Charlie for PM anyone?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Seven-year-old Charlie's Inspiration for Haiti's Children

One of the most heart-warming and thought-provoking stories of the week, with a major aah-factor, is that of Charlie Simpson. The articulate and totally charming Fulham seven-year-old was so deeply moved, when he saw television images of children in Haiti, that he determined to do what he could to improve their situation.

With his mother Leonora's help, a JustGiving page was set-up to raise funds, for those he had seen on the news, via a sponsored bike ride in his local park. Charlie hoped that his efforts would bring-in around £500, but by this evening - after the tiring five-mile ride with his dad - he has raised over £60,000 in promised donations.

You can watch Charlie's inspirational mid-event interview on the BBC, here.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Empowerment and fun for kids...

On a lighter note, today... I thought these T-shirts I spotted were fun. By FutureFreak at £9.99, they're available in sizes from new born until age 11. I'm slightly tempted to try the 11-year old size...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Face of Hope in Haiti

The tears flowed again last night, as I watched the late news from ITN. The reporter was with a team of Fire-fighters from LA, one of whom determinedly stated:"I'm going to keep on looking until someone tells me to stop."

Viewers then had the profoundly moving privilege to watch, as extraordinary Jeanette was rescued, after six days buried in rubble. Her husband was determined that she was still alive and rescuers were able to confirm the fact, then to persevere painstakingly, for several hours, to eventually bring her out - with little more than injured fingers. Her strength, power and gratitude were overwhelming. As excellent correspondent, Bill Neely, stated: "life was bursting from this woman's lungs". One could barely believe what she had been through, as she burst into joyous song, and expressed her deepest gratitude. You can view the powerful scenes of rescue below:

Further images that will long remain in my mind were of the beautiful children, who walked together hand-in-hand, and with beaming smiles, thanked the team who gave them just one small bottle of water, each. Quite extraordinary, remarkable and profoundly moving.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Hard to put into words...

I know that I'm far from alone in the way my thoughts have been dominated in recent days. Watching and listening to what has happened in Haiti is hard for the human soul to bear. Almost too tough to put into words; the situation is so dire, desperate and deep-rooted. At least, the heart - after having been wrenched - is warmed to see what the US and other countries are doing. How wonderful the team of British fire-fighters, who so painstakingly rescued amazing little two-and-a-half year-old, Meea. My deepest thoughts and thanks go out to them.

Hard to know what it is best to do to help. I guess we should all do what we can without being put-off, too greatly, by questioning whether a charitable donation or action will go precisely where we would wish (with extraneous factors getting in the way). My very small effort will consist of sorting my wardrobes, over the next few days. Then I'll deliver to my local branches of Oxfam; I know the recession has put them in greater need - even before this greatest time of crisis - and that will be likely to raise more funds than I could directly give currently.

Photo of Meea courtesy of ITN.co.uk

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snow Progress

One week on from my last (home) snow pic and the white stuff continues to fall. Witness my garden, first thing this morning. Pretty-ish, perhaps, but the country is at even more of a standstill, today.

Helpfully, the delightful (ahem) Right Honorable Lord Adonis (UK Secretary of State for Transport) has decreed that gritting must be halted (or at least reduced by half) and that side roads will not receive any grit or salt (they never have here!).

Makes sense, huh, to reserve supplies until we need them (ahem again, what constitutes needing them?) and why not strand people in their homes if they happen to live in a side, rather than main, road?!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baked Potatoes with the Feel-good Factor

The UK may be struggling to keep warm, and fully-functioning, in the current extended freeze but it's not just human inhabitants who are feeling the effects. In spite of their attractive brown fur coats, the 135-strong band of baboons - at Knowsley Safari Park in Merseyside - have lost their appetite for their habitual diet of cold fruit and veg (with a small amount of meat thrown in, every now and then, for good measure). So, the responsive staff decided to make good use of the hundredweight of potatoes they had been donated over the festive period.

As they're closed, due to the frozen inclement conditions, a practical decision was made to employ their comprehensive kitchen facilities and satisfy their most popular inmates, with an en-masse potato bake-in.

When it came to serving the piping-hot jacket potatoes, General Manager, David Ross, told me how impressively the baboons marched-out in an orderly, single-file manner, sensibly making a convenient path for their posse to follow. Wonderfully, the potatoes served a dual purpose - warming the recipient's hands as they held them and fuelling them comfortingly, as they consumed them. David went on to explain how, unusually, there was no squabbling or fighting for priority in the orderly food line - only good-natured, well-socialised behaviour.

I discovered some other fascinating baboon facts along the way... they're by far the most popular animal group at the Safari Experience, as David Ross explains:"they never let anyone down". Their behaviour can be "vandalistic" but they live in social, family groups, for between 20-30 years. The 135-strong band includes six - even more adorable - babies.

Photo courtesy of Knowsley Safari Park

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Rooftop dreaming

Looking through my photos - as you do - I decided to make myself envious, with another setting, when I found this lovely roof-top view from my month's study in Citta di Castello. Vi piace?

snow is falling...

More weather news from the UK... Plus ça change and all that, but it is the bleakest mid-winter since the early 1960s. Not the most beautiful (or deeply snowiest) view, perhaps, but the snow continues to fall - even in London - this was the way it looked earlier this morning from one of my windows...

Endless debate on radio, TV and in all news journals, as to why the UK ceases to function in any weather that veers remotely from the 'norm'. Trains delayed by over an hour (or cancelled altogether), schools and airports closed, 'normal' life at a standstill...

True, it may warrant debate as to whether the UK should invest in costly snow ploughs, if conditions only require it once in a blue moon. But this has pretty much been the status quo for the past month. Curiously, New Year's Eve did feature a blue moon...

Go on, make me envious by telling me what it's like where you are...

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cold weather friends

Well, yes, it's boring-already, this super-frozen, below-average temperature winter we're 'enjoying', here in the UK. Bah! But no point in wallowing in the gloom - not all the time, anyway - so I thought I'd let you into the secrets of some of my helpful companions.

I first discovered the wonders of French homeopathic remedy L52, (a small brown bottle of tincture made by Lehning and sold in French - and some Italian - pharmacies, for about €6.50) a few years back. If you're surrounded by sniffers and coughers, it's advisable to inhale a few drops sprinkled onto a clean hanky or tissue, at regular intervals - to stop their germs invading you. I often use it when I'm flying (on a 'plane, in case you're wondering...) Alternately, if I sense that I'm already succumbing, or have succumbed, to a 'flu-type infection or bad cold, I'll try halting the progress of the bug by taking 40 drops - as soon as possible - in about 15mls water. Then I'll reduce the dose to 20-25 drops, every few hours.

My Christmas spice tea (see earlier post) contains two perfect cold weather bug-fighting partners (ginger and cinnamon) however, for a ready-blend, there are decent ginger-spice, or ginger and lemon, teas available from health food stores and some supermarkets.

Ginger and black pepper essential oils are brilliantly warming, so I'll sometimes sprinkle just a couple of drops into a warm bath. They need to be used super-sparingly, though, as they're very potent and can cause skin irritation on broken or very sensitive skin. (If you're in any doubt about using essential oils - for instance when you're pregnant or if you have epilepsy - you should contact a registered aromatherapist, prior to purchase).

I'm also a big fan of a Chinese herbal tincture - astragalus - which can prove an ally and bolster immune defences against rampant seasonal infections. In the UK, I tend to buy it from Neals Yard Remedies. Periodically - when I feel I need it - I'll take 10-20 drops in a little water, a few times a day. (Especially when I can't get supplies of L52).

If I'm out and rushing-about, I'll try to ensure I have a small pack of antiseptic wipes in my handbag; when I use crowded public transport or, if I'm in a busy shop, I'll use one when required...

I love wearing lots of (fine) layers, too; earlier this winter, I found some well-priced relatively-stylish examples at Japanese high street favourite, Uniqlo.

When my hair starts to protest against the chill (other than the obvious idea of wearing a cute/warm beanie hat) I'll use an ionic dryer, or styler, and a good styling product to keep pesky static fly-aways to a minimum.

I try to keep central heating down (excessive use is not so great for the skin, hair or bank balance) although I will use it to stop me freezing completely(!)

When I have the time, I'll chill-out and warm-up by creating delicious home-made soups. One of my favourite stand-by stalwarts comes from Atari-Ya - a Japanese ingredient and sushi store - perfect portion-sized sachets of miso with seaweed. They enhance the flavour of a broth or hearty soup wonderfully, without the need for (lots of) salt. I just ran-out, today, of some excellent packet soup (not a phrase I though I'd ever utter) that I brought in Catania. Knorr Pasta Fagioli, a super-hearty (and surprisingly additive-free) bean, tomato and (micro)pasta soup. Of course, it's possible to make your own from scratch, when time is on your side, (red onion, tinned tomatoes, borlotti beans, tiny pasta shapes, chili flakes, thyme and olive oil will do the trick, deliciously).

Not to forget the at-home slipper booties and that fuddy-duddy, old-faithful hot-water bottle...

Disclaimer: Although I used to edit a complementary health magazine, please note that I'm telling you about my favourite cold weather 'allies', not prescribing them specifically for you. If in any doubt about whether they're right for your needs, you should always consult a health professional prior to purchase or use.

PS The photo shows a favourite riverside walk, wonderful in the winter sunshine, by Richmond Bridge.