Posted by: barbaraneill | May 9, 2015

A broken voting system

Ballot-box-generic

I’m sure most people who know me will already be aware that I am a member, and staunch supporter, of the Green Party, and I believe that, in a democratic country, a government should represent the majority of people who live in that country.

The situation we are in, following the general election 2015, is that we have in government a party that fewer than half of the people in the UK actually want. Whichever way you look at it, this system cannot pretend to be fair. I have only heard one argument in favour of the current, ‘first past the post’ voting system and that is that we are currently represented locally, and that would be lost if we were to adopt proportional representation as our voting system. That particular argument doesn’t wash with me on two counts. Firstly, there is no reason why we couldn’t be represented locally under a system of proportional representation and secondly, we do not have genuine local representation under the current ‘first past the post’ system.

As an example, I live only two miles away from Maidstone town centre. We are served by Maidstone Borough Council. We have a Maidstone postcode. We have a Maidstone prefix for our landline telephone number. We even have a Park & Ride bus service into Maidstone town centre that, somewhat ironically, we can easily reach by walking. (In fact, my youngest son always walks into town but he’s younger and fitter than I am!). So, as we regard ourselves, quite reasonably, as residents of Maidstone, it may come as some surprise to learn that we had to vote for parliamentary candidates in Faversham, which is twenty-one miles away! I have been to Faversham a few times in the past, but I have never regarded myself as a resident of Faversham, or even a resident of the Faversham outskirts and, unless I decide to actually move there, that’s not going to change.

I was present at the Maidstone count on Thursday night, (which was located, incidentally, within walking distance of my home), with my friends and colleagues in the Maidstone Green Party. It was a strange situation for me because the other members of the Maidstone Green Party had actually voted for Hannah Patton, the candidate we were there to support. With the bizarre boundaries that we have in place, I had been unable to vote for her but instead had to vote for Tim Valentine, in Faversham. I must make it absolutely clear that I have nothing against Tim who is, as it happens, a thoroughly decent bloke and, had I lived in Faversham, I would have been proud and delighted to be able to vote for him. My gripe is that he cannot be expected to represent the interests of those of us who live in Maidstone. In fact, the boundary of ‘Faversham and Mid-Kent’ even covers parts of Chatham, as well as other areas that must be close to thirty miles away from Faversham! I know that Tim made a stalwart effort to contact people in those areas that are way outside the region that can, under any other circumstances, be described as Faversham. Frankly, he had his work cut out and I’ve no doubt that he, together with the residents of Faversham, would much prefer to have a realistic boundary in place. I couldn’t blame them if they are outraged at the thought of those of us who rarely even visit Faversham having a say in issues that affect them, and them only. A cynic might suggest that bizarre boundaries such as ours have been put in place to manipulate votes, but surely that couldn’t happen in a civilised, democratic society, could it?! Perhaps we should question at what point we cease to be a civilised, democratic society.

Having destroyed the only argument I have heard against proportional representation, (‘representation’ being the operative word), I can also conclude that, should the system be implemented, it would put a stop to tactical voting. As far as I’m concerned, the practice of voting for a political party, other than the one we truly want to see in power, simply to prevent another party from ‘winning’, is an inevitable symptom of a system that is broken beyond repair. If we wish to continue to see ourselves as a democratic society, we must implement a drastic change from the current system, and proportional representation seems, to me, to be the only fair way of doing it.

I am now finding it rather ironic that those in favour of what I regard as the polar opposite of the Green Party; namely UKIP, would also benefit from a system of proportional representation. So, we currently have a system that is so badly broken it can even unite UKIP and the Green Party! Who’d have thought it?! Surely, it MUST be time for change.

If you agree, please sign the petition
https://secure.avaaz.org/en/uk_electoral_reform_locb/?cxGwebb

Posted by: barbaraneill | March 20, 2015

The power of limiting beliefs

The Power of Limiting Beliefs

As a hypnotherapist, I fully understand and appreciate the power of the mind particularly, to coin a phrase, ‘mind over matter’. In my work, I rely on the power of my clients’ minds to effect positive changes in their lives. As an adult who happens to have dyspraxia, which was undiagnosed until well into adulthood, I also appreciate the importance of positive thinking if those of us who have the condition wish to function, happily, in society.

Of course, as a hypnotherapist and as an adult who has dyspraxia, I am aware of the power of the mind when used to positive effect. However, our minds and beliefs are not restricted to working in a positive way. There’s no discrimination between ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ where our minds are concerned and beliefs, in particular, can wreak havoc when focused on the negative, making them powerful.

Recently, I’ve been giving a good deal of thought to the power that limiting beliefs can have over our lives. I have noticed, particularly, that this can happen all too easily with regard to dyspraxia and, unfortunately, limiting beliefs can also impact negatively within hypnotherapy.

To be honest, I could probably write a book about the power of limiting beliefs so please bear in mind that this short article is really just the tip of the iceberg. Firstly, I’m going to deal with the issue of limiting beliefs with regard to dyspraxia.

The power of limiting beliefs in Dyspraxia

I was fortunate to have grown up knowing absolutely nothing about dyspraxia and, for that, I’m grateful. That’s not to say my childhood was problem-free; quite the opposite, in fact. My schooldays, in particular, were extremely difficult, as I faced trial after trial, all day, every day, thanks to the fact that nearly everything on the curriculum appeared to have been designed to make life as difficult as possible for a child who has dyspraxia. In spite of that, I’m still thankful that I didn’t know about dyspraxia in those days. Actually, no-one did; certainly not my teachers, who were baffled by the fact that I was ‘bright’ but still struggled with nearly everything I was expected to do. The reason I’m thankful is because there were no limitations placed on me, by teachers, parents, psychologists or anyone else, because I’m dyspraxic. There were no allowances made for me because I’m dyspraxic and, while there were certainly times when I would have appreciated that, it meant that I, like everyone else, was encouraged to believe that I could aspire to be anything I wanted; to do anything I wanted.

It saddens me when I hear well-meaning people exclaim that their son, daughter, niece, nephew etc. will never be able to drive, for example, because he or she is dyspraxic, or that he or she will never be able to play sports because he or she is dyspraxic, along with a myriad of limited beliefs about dyspraxia, because the truth is, they probably won’t. That’s because if we hear something presented to us as fact often enough, we start to believe it. It frustrates me when, after explaining that I have been driving for more than thirty years without a single point or endorsement on my licence, I’m told that their son, daughter etc. must be more severely dyspraxic than I am, in that case. (As a matter of fact, my diagnosis states that I am “severely dyspraxic”). Those who believe it’s impossible for a dyspraxic person to learn to drive, play sports, play a musical instrument etc. etc. are so entrenched in their limiting belief that they have to find a ‘reason’ to justify it, hence, “If you can do that, you can’t be as severely dyspraxic as…”. In fact, anyone who has dyspraxia can learn and accomplish anything they want to. It will probably take longer than it would for their neuro-typical peers, and it’s likely to be more difficult, but it certainly isn’t impossible.

This is the message that my dear friend, and fellow dyspraxic, Matthew Munson, and I work hard to get across, in our roles as The Two Dyspraxics (T2D).
http://www.thetwodyspraxics.com

The power of limiting beliefs in Hypnotherapy

I am in the unusual situation of having been brought up by a hypnotherapist; my father, Bob Neill. He was practising hypnotherapy before I was even born, (and I celebrated my 60th birthday recently), albeit it in a small way at that time because generally speaking people weren’t open or forward thinking enough to accept hypnotherapy to the extent that it is accepted today. So Dad was something of a trailblazer, and I’m very proud of him for that.

For most of the seventies and eighties, Dad was the only hypnotherapist in Maidstone, Kent, where we lived, and was in increasing demand as hypnotherapy gained popularity, due in no small way to him and his reputation. In fact, his reputation spread to such an extent that one of his clients travelled all the way from the USA to England, specifically to see him. During the decades that he was practising, Dad developed his own technique. He always aimed for complete success in one session of hypnotherapy and, for the vast majority of his clients he achieved it, because no-one had told them it couldn’t be done. He readily accepted that some clients might need a second and, in very rare cases, even a third session. Because he saw hypnotherapy as a means to empower his clients, (as I do, my clients, I hasten to add), he would always leave the decision to them as to whether or not they felt they needed a second session.

As hypnotherapy has gained in popularity, there are many more hypnotherapists nowadays, (and a very wide variety of hypnotherapy training schools), and we can be spoilt for choice when choosing which one to visit. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are many different techniques and methods used so it’s unlikely that two hypnotherapists will work in exactly the same way. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the techniques employed by hypnotherapists vary widely from one to another. For example, because of my background, I was horrified when I first heard of hypnotherapists who wanted their clients to commit to a series of sessions in order to address one single issue. Regardless of the fact that probably all professions have their share of charlatans, I’m not suggesting, for a moment, that this is the case as far as my colleagues are concerned. In fact, I know several hypnotherapists who don’t aim for success in one session, whose integrity is certainly not in question. I have no doubt that they believe more than one session will be necessary because that is what they have been taught and, in consequence, they have limited beliefs about the power of hypnotherapy and its ability to be successful in a single session.

I asked a number of colleagues, recently, how many sessions they would expect a client to book in order to deal with one issue and the response was incredible. I suspect that particular debate will rumble on for some time to come. I was dismayed to find that those of us who expect success in one session appear to be in the minority. This is where the power of limiting beliefs comes in. Even complex issues can be simplified enough for the mind of a hypnotherapy client to deal with positively, in one session, and it doesn’t have to keep being reinforced; unless that client strongly believes that more than one session will be needed. So what happens, effectively is that the client has heard, be it on the grapevine, from other therapists or wherever, that success cannot be achieved in one session, and then goes on to believe that to be the case, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, the limiting belief would have to be tackled before the therapy itself could begin.

I was saddened very recently, when a client told me that he had been advised that he would need at least four to six sessions. There is no way in the world that any therapist could know that in advance of seeing the client. We are all individuals. Some individuals are so open to the power of their own minds that they ‘get’ how important it is to accept that they can make positive changes quickly and easily and, guess what; they’re the ones who do exactly that.

I have had to make a drastic decision in my hypnotherapy practice because of the power of limiting beliefs. There are now so many people who are being led to believe that they cannot achieve success in one session of hypnotherapy that I have had to make a small change to the way I work, without compromising my values. From now on, when a client comes to see me, at the end of the session of hypnotherapy depending on how they feel, they will have the option of paying for the one session, or booking up to two more sessions (at a reduced cost), if they really believe that more sessions will be needed. There is one thing about the way I work that will never change. I will always aim for complete success in one session, regardless of anyone else’s limiting beliefs.

For more information about hypnotherapy and/or dyspraxia:
http://www.bneill-hypnotherapy.com

Posted by: barbaraneill | July 4, 2014

Peeing standing up

I honestly never thought I’d live to see the day when I could pee standing up. I’m female, you see, and always have been. Now, I have in my possession, a little gadget that rewrites the rules when it comes to peeing.

I’m sure most of us must have heard of the ‘She-wee’ by now. It’s effectively a funnel that’s shaped to fit ‘lady parts’ and direct a flow of urine away from the body. I have to confess that when these items first appeared on the market, I was one of those doubting Thomas’s who couldn’t really see the advantage in such an item and I suppose I could have been accused of, well, taking the piss. It’s a different story, now, though.

My interest in these revolutionary funnels was sparked when I was making plans to go to a festival later in the summer. I would be camping for three nights and feasting my ears on live music. Brilliant! I wasn’t, however, looking forward to the much maligned experience of using festival toilets. I’ve done that countless times over the years and it’s never a pleasant experience, so I decided to make my own arrangements.

A bucket in the tent seemed a bit of a crude option, but I actually considered it, albeit briefly. Nowadays, it’s possible to buy buckets that are shaped like toilets and have a toilet seat, (complete with lid). Although this may seem like a more civilised option it is still a bucket with a lid, whichever way you look at it.

With the ‘bucket’ idea all but dismissed, my attention turned to alternatives and I was amazed to discover that it’s possible to buy bags, (such as Bog in a Bag), that contain a gel that absorbs urine and neutralises odour; is thoroughly hygienic and can be disposed of in a rubbish bin. Eureka! These bags, together with the aforementioned ‘She-wee’ could revolutionise my festival experience!

Conducting my research on the Internet, I discovered that that there are now several alternatives to the She-wee. I decided on a Whiz Freedom, as it is more pliable, is claimed to be completely leak-proof and happens to be purple. I love purple! No more long queues for the loos, with an unpleasant, smelly toilet at the end of it. No more traipsing across the campsite in the wee (sorry!) small hours. Whiz Freedom would, indeed, be as liberating as its name suggests.

In the early days of the She-wee, I failed to be grabbed by the joys of being able to pee standing up but, now that I can see a very positive use for this little device, I have actually gone ahead and invested in one.

My juvenile side can’t help hoping my female friends will follow my lead. Then we could all discover that previously forbidden joy of seeing who can pee highest up the wall!

Posted by: barbaraneill | July 3, 2014

Dyspraxia and Knitting 2

photo 6

Well, arguably against the odds, the back of the jumper is finished and the wool has been cast off. I can’t believe it only took a week to get that far. I was hoping to get the jumper finished by Christmas… 2015! It looks as though I may hit that target, with time to spare!

Before I get started ‘casting on’ for the front of the jumper, I can’t help being a little bit amused at how the few remaining stitches in the middle of the back are being secured. They’re held in place by a nappy pin; one of MY nappy pins, from when I was a baby. At last, a use for it after all these years. ;-)

 

Posted by: barbaraneill | June 30, 2014

Dyspraxia and Knitting

Knitting; Day 1

Knitting; Day 1

 

 

 

 

Knitting; Day 2

Knitting; Day 2

Knitting; Day 3

Knitting; Day 3

Knitting; Day 4

Knitting; Day 4

Knitting; Day 5

Knitting; Day 5

As I’ve said before, I’ve ever considered myself a ‘natural’ when it comes to knitting. Dyspraxia doesn’t help, of course. My fine motor skills, as a dyspraxic person, are as expected; not brilliant. However, I do like a challenge now and again and, in spite of my earlier misgivings, I have made progress with my knitting project that I can hardly believe.

After only five days, I have something that is beginning to look more like a jumper than just a few rows of knitting on a needle. Because I have chosen stripes of different colours, it has helped to spur me on; looking forward to the next colour-change, which has, undoubtedly aided progress. Tying the ‘new’ colour onto the existing one is, I’m finding, very challenging as it’s quite reminiscent of that old dyspraxia favourite, ‘tying shoelaces’.

However, I won’t focus on that. I shall, instead, revel in the progress I’ve made, so far, and keep my sights on the next stage in the process. Time to go now. I have some knitting to do.

Posted by: barbaraneill | June 30, 2014

Writers’ Prompts – Blurb 1

NTW audio cover

Writer;s block; it’s something everyone has heard about and it can be so frustrating when it happens. Maybe you have a deadline to meet but the words just aren’t flowing.

I have been blessed with dyspraxia and, although it has its associated difficulties, I use the word, “blessed” because creativity tends to be a by-product of dyspraxia and, for that reason, I am rarely short of ideas. That includes ideas for projects, including writing projects. I have lots of ideas for stories but, realistically, I will never be able to write all of them. That’s why I’ve decided to publish, here, in my blog, some of those ideas. Please help yourself to any story ideas triggered by these ‘blogs’ for stories that have yet to be written. You may be the very writer that the blurb has been waiting for!

Blurb 1 – Andrew’s Secret

Marion is delighted when Andrew, the mysterious and captivating man she has been dating for the past few weeks, invites her to join him on a weekend away. A stark contrast to Marion’s controlling ex-husband, Andrew showers her with gifts, flowers and undivided attention.

Envisaging luxurious spas and four-poster beds, Marion can’t wait to see the surprise venue that Andrew has arranged for them, but is stunned when he parks his car outside a disused block of flats. The surrounding area is deserted and Marion begins to fear for her safety. Andrew, on the other hand, has a gleam in his eye and a horrifying secret in the boot of his car.

There is an even easier way to combat not only writer’s block, but also procrastination, keeping to deadlines and other problems experienced by writers, and it can be done, easily, in less than half an hour! All you have to do is download and listen to The Neill Technique for Writers mp3, available for a limited time only at just $16.75 (approximately £10). The Neill Technique has helped aspiring writers and established authors alike, and is suitable for novelists, article writers, web authors, songwriters etc. Check it out now!

http://barbaraneill-bottle.webs.com/theneilltechnique.htm

 

Posted by: barbaraneill | June 25, 2014

Knitting – Day one

Oh my God! What have I done? It all seemed so straightforward when I was looking at knitting patterns and choosing the colours of the wool. There’s a really nice, long knitted jacket thingy and, on the same pattern, a jumper. My Mum, an avid knitter for as long as I can remember, until a carpal tunnel op curtailed her knitting escapades, has very kindly offered to knit said jacket thingy while I, in a moment of madness, agreed to knit the jumper.

Snag number one; I have only ever knitted baby clothes. A proper, full-size adult’s jumper is a massive step into the unknown, and it’s scary. Way back in my primary school days, I was supposed to be knitting a pair of mittens, during craft lessons I think it was. In fact, I used to take the knitting home and my Mum, bless her heart, would knit a few rows so I could take it back to school having shown a modicum of progress. Yes; I know it’s cheating but the thought of actually knitting those mittens myself, was more than I could cope with. The colour of those mittens has burned itself into my memory like a branding iron, but such was the pain associated with their production, I don’t remember ever having worn them.

When son number one was on the way, I discovered something that was very nearly an obsession for knitting. I blame the hormones. I knitted like a thing possessed; countless little baby-sized jumpers, bootees, hats. When my son arrived, he had more knitted baby clothes than he could ever have worn… but that was a long time ago. It’s a very different story now.

I was still enthusiastic while I was choosing the wool, deciding what size needles to use and so on. Then came the crunch. I had to actually start knitting. To my amazement, I could remember how to do the first part of stocking stitch; a row of plain stitches. I wonder if I can remember how to do perl. I’m about to find out.Image

Posted by: barbaraneill | May 16, 2014

Dyspraxia, Hypersensitivity, Lollipops and Forks

When I was a child I loved ice lollies. In that respect, at least, I was no different from most other children. However, instead of just taking off the wrapper, discarding it and devouring the lolly, I would remove the wrapper, fold it carefully and wrap it round the lolly stick because I couldn’t bear the feel of the wooden stick. It would set my teeth on edge to touch it.

I rarely eat ice lollies nowadays but, if I did, I would still cover the stick with the wrapper because I still don’t like the feel of the wooden stick. I think I’ve learned a little more tolerance over the years but, in spite of that, I still suffer with low tolerance of certain textures. Occasionally, I’ll enjoy a bag of chips from a fish and chip shop and, because I like to keep my hands clean, I’ll happily use one of the small wooden chip forks, normally available from a dispenser on the counter. I can tolerate the feel of the chip fork in my hand and I can remove the chip, easily, with my mouth but I wasn’t aware of the avoidance strategy I was using until a couple of days ago.

Quite by chance, I happened to bump into none other than my dear friend and colleague, Matthew Munson, who is also the other half of The Two Dyspraxics, (look us up on Facebook and/or YouTube if you haven’t encountered us before). We were at the same conference. It was lunchtime and the only hot food available consisted, mainly, of noodles. That, in itself, could be a tall order for dyspraxics but both Matthew and I have developed coping strategies for eating, especially in public, (see www.bneill-hypnotherapy.com for more details of my coping strategy). The actual ‘eating’ of the noodles wasn’t a huge problem but the only cutlery available consisted of wooden chopsticks or wooden forks. I used to eat Chinese food with chopsticks but that was a long time ago and I’m bound to be a bit rusty by now, so I opted for the wooden fork. The noodles tasted very nice, and holding the fork in my hand wasn’t too bad but the feel of the wooden fork in my mouth was almost unbearable.

I have to say that, because it’s very unusual for me to use wooden cutlery, my reaction came as quite a surprise. It just goes to show that regardless of how long we have been living with dyspraxia, (in my case, nearly sixty years), there’s always something new, and interesting, to discover. As a result of this latest discovery I will, of course, develop a hypnotherapy programme to help.

Details of Barbara’s new book; “Dyspraxia and Hypnotherapy” can be found here: http://www.barbara-neill.co.uk

Posted by: barbaraneill | February 18, 2014

It don’t make no sense!

No; I haven’t forgotten how to use grammar. I’m quoting; well, almost.

This morning, I went into one of those small, local branches of Tesco, (one of those that replaced independent retailers, but that’s another story). I just wanted a bottle of water and a snack and I noticed that both of the items I wanted formed part of the ‘meal deal.’ I wasn’t totally sure what constituted a meal deal but, when I noticed some small bags of prepared fruit, I assumed that they would probably be included as well. I searched, in vain for a poster, or sign, that would confirm exactly what I could buy as part of the meal deal but, becoming increasingly frustrated at the lack of such information, I eventually decided to ask at the checkout.

“Could you please tell me exactly what constitutes a meal deal?” I asked the young woman at the checkout. “Everything with a red sticker” she responded, at least trying to be helpful. “Yes; I know that,” I replied, “but I wondered if you have a poster or something that shows exactly which items you can have, to make up the meal deal.” I was astounded by her next reply; “We did have one but we took it down.” “Really? You took it down?” By way of explanation, she offered, “It didn’t make no sense to some people.”

To be honest, the fact that it was taken down at all didn’t make no sense to me!

Posted by: barbaraneill | January 1, 2014

Why I don’t give to charity and what I do instead

I consider myself altruistic and like to help where I can, when help is needed. Recently, though, I have changed the way I do so. I have stopped supporting charities for a number of reasons and have chosen, instead, to use direct action, either by taking direct action, myself, or by supporting those who do.

What could be wrong with supporting charities? It has to be a good thing, surely. I, like many, used to think so. In fact, years ago, I worked for a charity, myself, and they provided a much-needed service that supported carers. I have no doubts that the vast majority of people who are involved with charities are decent, well-intentioned individuals. However, the move away from being localised and ‘hands-on’ and adopting a more corporate, and business-like approach has, as far as I’m concerned, brought with it a number of potential problems.

I don’t like receiving raffle tickets, (to sell), through the post, without my having requested them, nor do I appreciate being sent unsolicited ‘gifts’ of pens, stickers and other nick-nacks, in exchange for a donation. I’m not keen on the idea of people being signed up to make regular donations to a charity, via direct debit, on their own doorsteps. The people who sign them up generally don’t work directly for the charity concerned but for an independent organisation. Usually, they work on a commission only basis so they are, effectively, sales people; not that there’s anything wrong with that, per se, but I suspect that it is generally assumed that those sales people are supporters of the charity concerned, when that may not necessarily be the case.

I have read disturbing accounts of cures having been discovered for diseases, only to be suppressed by those whose incomes would be threatened, should such a cure become widely available to sufferers. Just imagine, for a moment, if all diseases were to be cured and there was no illness. There is no doubt that pharmaceutical companies are huge, thriving businesses and I have to ask myself whether it is really in their interests to cure those who are afflicted. Of course, the inevitable conclusion is that it is not. It wouldn’t just be the pharmaceutical companies whose livelihood would be threatened, however. Hospital equipment manufacturers, staff who operate the equipment, doctors, nurses and so on, would all be adversely affected. When incidents of a particular disease are increasing, regardless of the amount of time and other resources being spent on apparent prevention and cures, one has to ask why.

I have reached this conclusion as a result of having researched the case of Dr. Stanislav Burzynski. I would recommend watching the films that have been made about his story and decide whether he has, indeed, found a cure for cancer or, as his adversaries would have us believe, that he is nothing more than a conman.

In the past, I have heard of charities whose head offices are extravagantly furnished and, of course, that’s unacceptable when the money could be better spent helping their beneficiaries. At the same time, I wouldn’t expect charity workers to endure
unnecessarily harsh working conditions but fully accept that a reasonable balance needs to be found and maintained.

Recently, I heard some worrying news about Comic Relief and the way their business is conducted. I, along with many others, I’m sure, have always been impressed by the claims that “every penny donated goes to help those in need.” That, of course is as it should be, but there are inevitable running costs and the money to cover them has to come from somewhere. Apparently, money that is donated doesn’t immediately go to the beneficiaries but is invested for a period of time, in order to raise the funds needed to administrate the charity. According to reports I have read, it seems that Comic Relief have chosen to invest in companies that produce or promote alcohol, tobacco and arms. While these pursuits are, no doubt, very lucrative, they are in direct conflict with some of the aims of Comic Relief; to help people who are adversely affected by alcohol, tobacco and war.

Suffice to say that I have lost confidence in those charities that are being run in the ways I have described and I particularly abhor the fact that so many people who are willing to help are, unwittingly, supporting practices that they would not agree with.

On the other side of the coin, I have also encountered, recently, people who have directly supported charitable projects by volunteering, whether it be by travelling abroad or by being directly involved in projects within the UK. Often, there are financial implications for volunteers, who may need to raise funds for air fares, living expenses etc. while they are volunteering their services, and I am happy to help with fundraising when I am in a position to do so.

As it becomes increasingly difficult for people to maintain the most basic of living conditions; food and shelter, food banks are becoming prevalent in the UK and, although it is disgraceful that they should be necessary in this day and age, the numbers of people relying on them is increasing. For most of us, a few tins or packets of food would not be missed and donating to food banks can make the difference between life and death for those people who are less fortunate.

Another form of direct action to ease the suffering of others has captured the hearts of thousands of people within the UK. I am one of many who believe that homelessness in the twenty first century is totally unacceptable, and yet it is a growing problem. I was disgusted when I heard homeless people described as, “what we step over when we are leaving the opera”; a quote attributed to an MP who is, after all, supposed to be representing the people of the UK. I have also often heard that there is ‘no point’ in giving money to the homeless because they’ll only spend it on alcohol or drugs. That may, or may not be true but there is nothing to stop any of us approaching a homeless person on the street and asking if they would like something to eat or drink and, assuming they do, buying a sandwich, a bag of chips or a coffee for them. They are people and deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity.

The Rucksack Project is something I heard about, recently, and it is heart-warming to see that so many people have been touched by it. The idea is to fill a rucksack with essential items for someone who is homeless. These could include thermal underwear, jumpers, hats, gloves, scarves, bottles of water, packets of food, waterproof clothing, toiletries etc. I was lucky enough to find “emergency blankets”, otherwise known as survival blankets, on sale for £4.99 (and, at the time, were part of a buy one, get one free offer). These blankets consist of a large sheet of foil-like material that can conserve heat and mean the difference between life and death for someone who is living on the streets in harsh weather conditions. The rucksacks are taken to distribution centres all over the country, and given to people who are homeless and living on the streets.

The response to the appeal for help with the rucksack project was overwhelming, with thousands of people getting involved, and epitomised the fact that, in spite of the difficulties so many of us are facing in these times of austerity, there is still a basic desire to offer help to those who need it and that direct action is the way to do it.

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