Friday 6 July 2012

"That's very nearly an armful!"

This evening I went to SICA on one of my (approximately) thrice-yearly blood donation sessions. I've been giving blood for about 20 years now after my wife persuaded me to start.

At the beginning I suppose I was like many people who don't register as blood donors because they think it will hurt (hardly at all really), or it will take too much time (it doesn't), or whatever. Having got over my initial reticence (helped by going with my wife the first time) I have to say I have never regretted it.

The actual process of giving the blood, from the time the needle goes in to them taking it out again, takes very little time (typically about four minutes for me). Add in the pre-donation screening checks, and the drink and biscuit afterwards and it shouldn't take more than about 30-40 minutes overall. These days it is even more streamlined as you can pre-book an appointment for a time that suits you. They're pretty good at seeing you within about 5 minutes of your booked time, so the days of waiting an hour or more seem to be long gone.

Blood donation is one of those examples of society doing what it can do so well: people getting together for a common good with no regard for reward or remuneration. Knowing that my blood will help an operation go smoothly, or that it might even save a life during an emergency transfusion, is all the motivation needed to keep going. Sometimes the biscuits are pretty good too!

If you haven't given blood before, or you used to but let it lapse, let me encourage you to start. If you simply want someone to go with you for moral support the first time then let me know. To find out more about the excellent work of the National Blood Service or to enquire about becoming a donor, have a look at their web site here. With the expected increase in demand due to this month's olympic games, they're looking to boost blood stocks, so now is an excellent time to begin.

Oh, and now they're at least one further pint short: owing to some EU regulation I was asked to wait another four months before donating. You see, last week an ENT consultant at the Freeman used a layringoscope to have a look at my vocal cords (hoarse voice, occupational hazard apparently). And because some EU countries don't sterilise their laryngoscopes properly, even though the UK does do it properly, I am still not allowed to give blood until any risk of infection has passed.

So, get down there and start giving. I'll be popping down again some time in November or December.

Thursday 5 July 2012

Masters Old and New

Last Sunday we went with our two youngest children to St Peters and St Andrews churches in Bywell to view the 2012 Bywell Arts Festival. I should first declare an interest: both children had put an entry into the olympic-themed competition for their respective age groups. Our youngest was chuffed to find he had won and proudly carried home his prize of a watercolour set. We were really impressed with the range of artwork on display and felt there was something to suit most tastes.

What with the jubilee celebrations and the olympic torch relay our local communities have been finding all sorts of opportunities to bring everyone together. Mickley's scarecrow competition even made the national news (including a shout-out from Steve Wright on his BBC Radio 2 programme).

It has been really great seeing people of all ages joining in and contributing to all of the festivities.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Balsam Bashing

At the weekend I spent a really enjoyable couple of hours with my youngest son when we attended the "Balsam Bash" down at Guessburn in Stocksfield. The event was organised for local children by two local people (Rachel Rees and Ruth Forster) in conjunction with the Tyne Rivers Trust. Around fifteen children showed up on a suprisingly warm and sunny day and they were treated to a morning of mini beast hunting, bark rubbing, 'kick sampling' in the burn and finished with the grande finale, a balsam bash.

Himalayan Balsam, according to the leaflet provided on the day, is "an invasive non-native species which has colonised our river banks suppressing our native flora". The idea of the 'bash' is to locate the balsam growing around the river, uproot it, and stamp on it (the bash) to ensure its demise.
What the event managed to do was combine entertainment with education. My son loved kicking over stones in the burn to dislodge river fauna which were collected in nets and emptied into water-filled boxes for analysis (and later returned to the river, of course).

The children had great fun learning about the variety of wildlife living in our local river system. The balsam bash itself was not just fun and educational (for the adults too!) but was also a service to our local environment. In addition, the event allowed me to walk along a part of the burn I had not seen before and confirmed to me just how lovely our locality is.

My son returned home very happy and very wet and will jump at the chance to do something like this again. My thanks to Rachel, Ruth and the Tyne Rivers Trust for giving us something so fun to do last Saturday.

If you want to learn more about the excellent work of the Tyne Rivers Trust, please do check out their web site and find out how you can get involved.