Can you remember a moment when you were a child when you realised that being grown up perhaps wasn’t as straightforward as you were led to believe?
1984. Summer. Ireland. East Galway. It was a scorcher. I was in my third year of the music addiction that I haven’t yet beaten three decades later. I’d discovered the affordable crack of the 7”. I started with the happy commercial sugar of Captain Sensible’s Happy Talk and moved to the very sophisticated weirdness of Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) by Scritti Politti. I loved my 7” records.
So much so that I had ‘borrowed’ (nicked) the portable record player from my gran. It was compact and orange, ran on batteries and was criminally underused. I had to have it. I had to have it to play Searchin’ (I Gotta Find A Man) by Hazell Dean and High Energy by Evelyn Thomas. Outside. By the turf shed. By the tractors.
That same summer, my uncle Paddy and his wife Maureen were visiting from ‘England’. They visited regularly. They had a dog called Brandy and they smoked a lot. Adults.
They were different. They had different accents. English accents. And they spent their time with the other adults, my parents talking about about adult things. They eventually brought a little girl with them, their daughter Carmel…
Carmel is all grown up now and I don’t see enough of her. This popped up on my Facebook timeline and it floored me.
‘Welcome….I am doing a trek to Machu Picchu in October to raise money for Concern. I want to stress that I am paying my own way so all money raised is going straight to this great charity!
Why Concern? For anyone who doesn’t already know — I have had a literally devastating decade; losing my Mum in 2008; then my Dad in 2011; my aunt (who was like my second mum) in 2013; and finally (I hope) my aunt (who was like my third mum) earlier this year. All to the big (and terrible) C. You would think, therefore, that I would be raising money for a charity related to that. In a way,I am, but please forgive this convoluted story as to why I have chosen Concern Worldwide — a charity which helps people throughout the world who are in extreme poverty.
Four loved ones and four different cancers. Often, I felt like I was the only thing they had in common but there was one other thing which always lurked — the effect cancer (or more likely it’s treatment) has on a person’s appetite. It seems trivial to most of us, and something a few of us carrying a few extra pounds even wish for, but for people going through radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy, not feeling like or being able to eat it is quite simply deadly. I have coerced, argued with, begged and practically forced each one of my sick and dying family to eat something — anything. I even used to spike my mum’s Rice Krispies every morning with a high calorie drink that dissolved into the milk — hoping that this addition to the solitary teaspoon she struggled to consume might help. I remember walking around shops seeking out the highest fat and most calorific products to try and tempt them. And sometimes it worked. Despite this, I lost them all anyway. After we lost my mum, my dad always said that while cancer is devastating; imagine living in a place where you physically could not get food (never mind not wanting it or for whatever reason being able to eat it) — but to actually not have anything to eat and have no way to get any. I am not an expert on cancer, so while I can search the shops for tempting foods and donate my time and money to cancer related charities in the hope of finding a cure; a cure does exist for hunger. And this is the cure I want to help bring to people who need it throughout the world.
So I am asking for your help to raise money for Concern. I am doing a trek to Machu Picchu in Peru in October 2015 with Concern. I need to raise over £2,000 which will all go directly to Concern as I am paying all of my own costs.
I’m a little in awe of my cousin. So much loss and still she wants to give back. At a time when everyone would forgive her for wanting to just take, she’s off to Peru at her own expense to raise money for others.
I’m proud of her.
One interaction between my uncle, who shared my birthday, has stayed with me. Just a casual thing from him back in that hot summer in 1984 — how can he have known his words would stay with me for over three decades? That I would take them with me to London, where he lived and I now live?
I didn’t know. I was 11.
“When you realise that the volume button goes down as well as up…”
So, uncle Paddy, and cousin Carmel, I’ll remember your words and keep the music cranked up for as long as I can.
Sponsor Carmel here. Even small amounts add up. Thank you.