Saturday, 14 October 2017




LEARNING TO LIVE WITHOUT EMPATHY


As an aspiring journalist, I usually concentrate on news when writing a blog. However this time I'm not. I want to explain a bit about myself and why I am in trouble. 

Most people see the world exactly as it is. They take someone at face value, see the surface and have no idea about who that person is other then via their behaviour and body language. They can watch a news story and face it with practical eyes. If a major news story happens where a lot of people are hurt, they can be saddened and shocked, as would anyone, but then they can carry on with their own lives without thinking too much about it. It's just another news story. 

They can spend time in a crowd and not be bothered by it. They can see only what their eyes tell them. And they can experience stuff when it happens and not know what may happen later. 

This is not me. I am described accurately as an empath. I see the world differently from other people. I am also an HSP, but that is something else and is related, but is a discussion for another time. Right now, we are talking about being an empath. Here are a few examples to help you understand what I am. It's not something I can turn on or off. It's a part of me just as your eyesight is a part of you.

 If I meet someone I know instantly if they are trustworthy or not. Because I will be able to pick up on the energy the are projecting my way. If I feel any bad vibes from them, I walk away. When I went to college as soon as I met my tutor, she projected such bad energy that she gave me the creeps. She didn't even have to open her mouth. I knew she was trouble. I should have walked away right there and then, but I needed to get my education. As it turned out I was right and thanks to her, my education collapsed. 

At the other end of the spectrum: Five years ago I met my friend Bill Neely for the first time. He was exactly the opposite to the tutor. He was open and generous with his emotions and was hiding nothing except his own private thoughts. I felt nothing but good vibes from him. I knew the instant I met him that I could trust him 100%. I know I still can. We have been friends ever since and I consider it a privilege.



Then there are people who are half and half. They seem nice, but something is hidden underneath. I don't mean secrets exactly, as everyone is entitled to their privacy, but more that there is a side to them that they don't want you to see, even though they are acting friendly enough. These are the people to be most wary of: they are not necessarily bad people, but as they are hiding something, they are not to be instantly trusted. These are the ones that you learn to trust over time. Of course, they could be an empath and they are putting up a wall for their own protection. This is vital to our survial, in a world full of emotion otherwise we would absorb them like a sponge and they would overwhelm us to the point of insanity.



Take news events. One of the strongest memories I have of my empathy was on 9/11. At about 1pm (8am New York) I set off to go to my afternoon shift in the Cinema. Something was bothering me. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew something was out of place. The atmosphere felt just weird. I tried to shut it out but it was too much.  I arrived at work at 2.10 (9.10 am in New York) just after plane 175 hit the south tower of the World Trade Centre. I hadn't seen this, but I knew something was wrong and it was a very serious. As I walked in, my friend said,"Come upstairs and see this!". I know what he was going to show me before I even got there. A disaster, an unimaginable one. As soon as I saw the images on TV, everything clicked into place. And you can imagine how I felt for the  rest of the day as a person who is an emotional magnet.

Everytime there is an attack anywhere I feel the pain and the confusion of what is happening. And I can't shut it out. Sometimes it can be awful. but I just have to erect the wall and hope it holds up. That why empaths and HSP's tend to not watch the news because they can't handle the upsetting images or cope with the tsunami of emotions that go with it, both their own and from the people involved. The other one that affected my senses quite badly was the Boston Marathon. 

Let's move onto some fun stuff, when being an empath can be fun. 

Trying to plan a surprise for an empath is virtually impossible, because they know you are up to something. Don has virtually given up trying to surprise me with presents, because I know I'm getting it. Now he just asks me what I want instead.

There are times being in a crowd is wonderful. For instance, I love going to the London Marathon, because everyone is happy. All I get are amazing lovely vibes from feeling the happiness of people all sharing the same joy of helping charity and running with others. The only pain I feel is - as the last time - if my friends are struggling because of injury. Other than that though, it's just happiness and joy. The London Marathon in 2013 was even more emotionally charged as we were supporting the people of Boston. It felt incredible.

So why am I in trouble? Well, basically and simply, my empathy - for whatever reason - has suddenly switched off. A friend who lives near me suggested that my emotions have become so overwhelmed, that they have shut off as a form of self protection, a more permanent wall, shall we say. Which makes absolutely perfect sense.

I am now seeing the world the same way as everyone else does. Unfortunately, I don't know how to work like that because I've never had to.

I can't live this way. I am trying to, but it is very hard not having the survial instinct that has served me so well in the past. To use an example of my friend Bill: you have to work out whether it is safe to go another hundred yards up a road. I wouldn't have to try and work it out. I would know. Except at the moment I'm as clueless as everyone else.

Bill once described it as 'emotional intelligence', which is a delightful and accurate description. But now I don't have it, does that mean I'm suddenly emotionally stupid? Well, no....and yes. No, because I still feel emotion. However, there is only mine rather than everyone else's. But yes, because my empathy is a part of me, so it's more accurate to say I'm emotionally blind. I can't sense danger the way I used to or anyone being in a room before I even walk in and the most dangerous thing is I can't tell a person's true motives.

Trying to live without my emotional intelligence is terrifying, confusing and worse of all intolerable. I am hoping it is just temporary. Because if this is going to be for good, it will be horrible and take a lot of adjustment.

I can only hope and pray that it returns ASAP. Until then, I will have to live the best I can. Wish me luck, eh?

  








Thursday, 3 August 2017




THE JOURNALISM JOB HUNT



Since 2013, I have been (with little success) trying to get a paid job in journalism. Regular readers and tweeters will know the reason for this, the inspiration of Bill Neely and Kate Adie.

 I decided that having a better education, specifically related to journalism would be a good idea. So I started planning for this, which is when I had my first of many setbacks. Apparently, I had no recent exam results, so I needed an access degree first. This was only told to me after I had visited a load of Universities, instead of being told of this upfront when I applied for the very first one. 

No problem I thought. Persistence is the key and is also one of the main talents of being a journalist. Just keep on going. So I applied for the access course and ended up in Plymouth. One of the prettiest places I have ever been. Unfortunately I came back up North as a complete failure after circumstances that were not of my making forced me to leave. Again I kept going. 

As soon as I got back up North, not to be deterred, I applied for every broadcast journalist apprenticeship/internship I could find. I didn't get accepted for one of them. 

I remembered that there were journalists (Jon Snow, Martin Bell and Bill Neely to name a few) who didn't have degree in journalism, or in Jon Snow's case, a degree in anything. At all. So, I didn't worry about the degree, but I had to do something. 

Alastair Stewart, whom I greatly admire, once said, "If you really want to be a journalist, prove it to me!" Well, if  I was given a chance to prove it I would do. I have the passion and the persistence, but I need someone to give me a break too. 

I also recall someone (can't remember who) saying, "If you have contacts use them". I discounted that immediately. To use someone you know in the business, especially if you are friends is just wrong. How are they ever to trust you if you make them believe you are just their friend to get a job? They can't. I would never treat my friend this way and he knows it. I asked him once (possibly twice) and he refused for his own perfectly good reasons. As far as I was concerned that was the end of it. I don't expect it. I value his friendship more than I value having a job.  

So, next step, apply for as many local journalism organisations I could. Again, nothing.  

And to add to this already bizarre and sometimes irritating situation, I met a young man yesterday on a shopping trip who had a journalism degree and still could not get a paid job, so he is spending his summer chugging and is switching professions in September to teacher training instead, as he is too frustrated to go down the journalism route any longer. One of the most interesting things he said was that while doing the degree he learned absolutely nothing and probably would have been in the same boat whether had taken a degree or not. 

So, do you need any education to be in journalism. Well, it's hard to say. It would appear the answer is no, but it looks like experience is a thing. But as with all jobs, it's the catch 22 of getting the job to get experience, but needing experience to get the job. I am struggling to get anywhere, and as a last resort I am now falling back on education. I don't know if this will come about or whether it will  work out if it does.

There is one thing I can say though. No matter how many times I get rejected or things fall apart I have lived by one of the most basic rules of journalism: I've kept trying, kept sticking to it and kept pushing on. And I will keep doing it.

Maybe one day, I may get the break I've been looking for! I keep going and keep trying. Because:




Wednesday, 28 June 2017





THE POSSIBLE END OF AN AL JAZE-ERA


Ah, Al Jazeera. I honestly never believed when I first started watching this amazing TV channel, that I would spend most of the next five years defending it, rather than just watching it. I don't regret doing it. It's just not what I thought would happen. It started with the jailing of the Al Jazeera four: Abdullah el-shami from Al Jazeera Arabic and the three people from Al Jazeera English: Peter Greste, Baher Mohammed and Mohammed Fahmy. Then there were their collegues who got charged in absentia, including Sue Turton. Now, I'm standing up for them again, after unreasonable demands from the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and Egypt to have them shut down.

Do I want to see Al Jazeera shut down? Well, yes..........and definitely NO.

We'll start with yes.

The spat between Egypt and Qatar is no secret. Unfortunately Al Jazeera were willing to endanger their journalists to put the point across. When the AJ Staff were in Egypt, the then bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, asked Al Jazeera time and time again if they  were legally working in Egypt. Did they have the right press passes, etc. He was told to butt out, under the pretence of, "It's all under control, Fahmy. You just do your job as Bureau Chief, and let us worry about the rest of it". Except it wasn't all under control. The company knew damn well that they were there illegally and the AJ staff got well and truly dropped in it.

In fact, Qatar were probably thrilled when the AJ four got jailed because it gave them more ammunition to criticise Egypt. The longer they were in jail, the more publicity Al Jazeera got. And when the company began the 'zipped lips' campaign, everyone began to hear of Al Jazeera, which is exactly what Qatar were after. The unfortunate thing was, millions of people were sucked in by this, assuming that they were fighting for press freedom. Yes, we were, but underneath, it was all posturing to help Qatar stab a finger at Egypt, and by following our conscience and shouting for free speech, we became actors in this shameful piece of political theatre. That's not to say I didn't believe in what I was standing for - the release of the journalists and press freedom. Of course I did. I still do, otherwise I would not even be writing this. I support those journalists even more now, knowing as I do that they were basically used as pawns.

Any company who manipulates the good conscience of people in such a major way or is so cavalier about the safety of their reporters is a disgrace to journalism and quite honestly should be shut down. But this would again be punishing the fine journalists who work there because of two opposing governments acting like five year olds in a playground.

Which leads me on to the reason why Al Jazeera should carry on broadcasting and should not be shut down under any circumstances.

Many people in the Middle East have no voice. If they speak out they are silenced, or - as the AJ Staff have discovered - jailed, and sometimes even tortured and killed for saying what they believe. Al Jazeera gives a voice to the voiceless, speaks truth to power where no-one else can and their coverage is  second to none. They have some of the most experienced and impressive journalists in the world (take a bow Kamahl Santamaria!). When the Arab Spring was taking place across the Middle East, they covered it excellently and were the voice to many of the protesters and many of the other people in the region affected by it. Al Jazeera does exactly what it is supposed to do: Shines a light and gives people a voice. It's also about speaking truth to power, which via programmes like Inside Story, it does incredibly well.

Their programmes are of the highest quality and the highest professionalism. Their history documentaries are amazing. For instance, I never knew anything about the Sykes/Picot agreement until I saw the history programme Al Jazeera made about it.

To shut down Al Jazeera English would not only be a big mistake but would also be very sad. In Egypt, the station is already banned, Al Jazeera America has also gone. Let's not see the same fate happen to the brilliant Al Jazeera English. Let's stand for up for these guys and show Saudi Arabia how amazing our collective voices really can be. I want to shout one last thing: I STAND WITH AL JAZEERA!!







"Our job as journalists is to speak truth to power, shine a light in the dark places, be a witness to history and sometimes speak up for those who have no voice" ~ Bill Neely

Thursday, 15 June 2017





MAY MAY OR MAY MAY NOT



Oh dear, oh, dear! Theresa May, what has she done? Well, put simply, she cocked up!

In a recent piece, my hero Bill Neely described this monumental disaster-fest as, "From hero to zero". This to be honest, is stretching the truth just a tad. She was never a hero to me or I suspect to anyone else who has suffered under her policies.

This all started in June last year, when the country decided, by a perfectly democratic vote, to leave the European Union. Most people (except possibly Nigel Farage) thought it was an atrocious idea. To clarify this, the result was 52 - 48. Incredibly close. Which proved that there were many sensible people who thought Brexit was the dumbest idea imaginable! As the journalists stood on their designated spot outside Parliament, a protest was taking place on the road running alongside it. Two days later, the journo's spot became swamped with protesters.

I am not going to lay Brexit at the feet of Theresa May, as David Cameron was in charge at the time. It was what happened afterwards. On the morning after the vote, he stood down claiming, "I do not think it would be right for me to be the Captain that steers our country to it's next destination".

We were left with several contenders to replace him. Boris Johnson had led the Brexit campaign, but when it came to leading the country afterwards, he lost support and had to back out. Eventually, after several more people backed out, the country was left with two choices. Two female bigots: Andrea Leadsom and Theresa May. Andrea Leadsom then also backed out. So Theresa May became PM of the UK, although, not exactly a hero. She said there wouldn't be an election until 2020, no chance of a second EU referendum and above all a strong and stable leadership.

Unfortunately, 'strong and stable' to her meant undermining the welfare system and crippling the emergency services by removing their funding, and talking about a repeal of the ban on fox hunting. Oh and then there's the 'dementia tax'......! She promised to do something about immigration. And then she promised to do something about terrorism saying, "Enough is enough", while simultaneously doing deals with Saudi Arabia. And, of course she sucked up to Donald Trump. After all this, she still believed she had the popular vote, which she did....to a point. So she decided to get devious. It was to be her undoing.

For a reason no one could understand, other than perhaps her delusion that she still had support, she then called a general election out of the blue. We call this a 'snap' election. Unfortunately, her campaign was absolutely terrible! She refused to do any interviews or take part in any debates. Not exactly the actions of a responsible leader. And let's not forget that she also refused to visit the families affected by the Grenfell disaster, even though the Queen did.

Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn finally convinced people he was worthy of the political Premiership. His campaign was amazing and did exactly what it was supposed to do - convince people.

It was clear pretty early on as the votes came in that David Davis, who persuaded Theresa May to call a snap election in the first place, had basically shot his colleague not just in the foot, but in the head.

The election results were close, not to mention an absolute disaster. Theresa May won, except technically she didn't, and Jeremy Corbyn lost, except he didn't.  Let me explain.

Theresa May did win, in the fact that she got the most votes. However, she didn't win because she didn't get the majority vote of 326 seats. Jeremy Corbyn didn't win, however, he did because he got a high score as people showed their disillusionment of May's government. Labour scored an unprecedented 262 seats.

However, as May had not won a majority, this meant a hung parliament. It resulted in her having to go into a coalition with another party. Unfortunately, she picked the DUP, a group of Northern Irish unionists.

There were several reasons why this was a bad idea. First there was the anti-abortion stance. Then there was the fact that they are in favour of bringing back the death penalty. Which century are they living in!? They are climate change deniers and believe creationism should be taught in schools. They also are anti-anything to do with LGBT+ rights, including same sex marriage. For goodness sake, the Republic of Ireland - a staunchly Catholic country have realised that gay marriage is okay! The DUP are literally living in the dark ages. They say they are for a 'soft' Brexit meaning they don't want a hard border with the Republic. However, as Theresa does want one they may get one whether they like it or not.

Which leads on to the discussion I wish we could avoid. The whole Northern Ireland thing. People who say this won't affect the peace agreement are a little na├»ve because it very well could. And this would be very, very sad. I have an Irish background, so when the Good Friday Agreement was signed I was so happy. I thought that my countries were getting their act together and learning to move on. Amazing.

And now here we are again possibly. Power sharing has already collapsed and here is Theresa May doing a deal with the DUP which, if nothing else is going to make Republicans like Sinn Fein very unhappy, as the UK are supposed to be impartial. How the hell is climbing into bed with the DUP impartial? Clearly it isn't. We have had nearly 20 years of relative peace, and what happens? Theresa May comes along and to all intents and purposes rips the Good Friday Agreement to shreds!

Nice going, PM. You have potentially given us a situation that could re-ignite the Troubles. So, I apologise now to all my fellow Northern Irish men and women for our leader being a complete idiot. We already have radical Islamic terrorism and now we will possibly have Irish terrorism too? Thanks for nothing, Theresa!

So, what's next? Well, someone mentioned a second election. Fine. If it means removing this awful coalition and Theresa May, then good. I'm all for it. Until then, we're stuck with it. It's not going to be fun.

I just hope that the Good Friday agreement stays in one piece. Thirty years of violence in the tortured province was thirty years too many. No more. Or as Theresa May would say: Enough is enough!








Thursday, 1 June 2017






THE HELL OF HEATHROW



On the morning of 27 May, complete chaos ensued after a computer system failure at Heathrow airport. This affected primarily British Airways (BA), who, let's be honest, have not been doing themselves any favours over the last year or so. There are three instances that spring immediately to mind.

1) A mouse was running around a plane, which a lot of people found quite humourous and were making jokes about it, which is good, but when it comes down to it, rodents should not be loose on aircraft.

2) A man went on one of their flights and suffered severe bites from the seat he was in. It was apparently covered in bed bugs. 

3) A prominent NBC journalist lost his luggage on a trip back from the Rio Olympics and had to wait at least a week to get it back. When he asked BA where his luggage was he was told to talk to a different airline he also flew with.

4) At the time of writing this, another prominent journalist was flying to New York and ended up landing in Boston. He said he wasn't too worried and it wasn't BA's fault, but it doesn't change the fact that he didn't land where he was supposed to.

Which leads us back to the situation on 27 May. I went to the airport and went into Terminal 3. What I saw amounted  to a refugee camp. People were on the floor with camping mats and blankets. Which is at least something. The people in terminal 5 where I went an hour later didn't even get that. I arrived at about 9pm. A lot of them had been there since 9am the same day. Twelve hours 

I interviewed two girls who were trying to get to Miami and had been at the airport since 6am. They asked if they could get on an American Airlines flight instead only to be told this wasn't possible. At 10.40. they were told they wouldn't be going anywhere. They asked BA staff for more information, but no-one would tell them anything. They again asked American Airlines for help and were refused. They had to queue to get their luggage back. Some people didn't even get their bags back. They were given no food, water, or anything else. They were told to try and find their own hotels, some of whom were charging £2,000 a night! They tried for a third time to get American Airlines to help them and were told, according to these two lovely people, that BA had actually told American Airlines not to help any of their BA customers! And they only just got blankets (at 10pm!). They said, "We are never, ever flying with BA EVER AGAIN!"

Then I met a young person trying to get to Kuwait with her friend. She arrived at 5pm to find out her flight to Kuwait was also cancelled. She managed to rebook a flight okay, but it didn't go until the following morning. Her only option was to get a hotel miles away from the airport where they would be cheaper.

There are lots of stories like this. The people in terminal 3 at least got camping mats and fluffy blankets, not that it was any consolation. I tried to get a statement from staff but they (not surprisingly) refused to comment.

I interviewed a man heading back to France. He said, after this, that he is never coming back to the UK. He said it was too expensive and his experience with BA has put him off completely.

This whole thing has been a complete and utter shambles. And BA should be ashamed of themselves. A computer system failure is no excuse for this appalling cock up.

My husband Don worked for a company whose business relies solely on computers. They would have regular contingency tests to ensure that if the main network went down there were always back-ups. And if something did fail, it would be a minor issue, easily corrected.

BA and airlines in general really need to have a contingency in place for major computer failures, so this kind of nonsense can never ever happen again. Of course, they would probably complain about how much it would be to instigate this. but compared to the compensation they are going to have to pay out from this incident, it's a very small price to pay.

The price of air fares is already ridiculous, which is putting a lot of people off travelling to start with, so they can certainly do without the hassle of being screwed over by a simple computer glitch.

I'm afraid BA are going to be dealing with the aftermath of this for quite a while. When all it would have taken would be a regular contingency to prevent this in the first place. Ridiculous.

I know one thing: I, along with I suspect most of the people sleeping at Heathrow, will no longer be flying with British Airways. As one passenger simply said to me: "NEVER AGAIN".





  




Tuesday, 30 May 2017




LOVE FOR THE LOST


On Monday 22 May the City of Manchester (one of my favourite cities in the world), was turned upside down when suicide bomber Salman Abedi went to the Manchester MEN Arena (not the MCCC. That's the other one, just to be clear) and detonated a IED which killed 22 people and badly injured 116.

It was an act of cruel and cowardly terror and by all accounts a scene of absolute horror.

The immediate reaction was what you probably expect: Anger, sadness, a desire to see something done about these cowardly acts that keep happening and of course we had our loud mouth idiots and Islamaphobes who really should have left things unsaid.

There was a young man I interviewed who said that just trying to solve one terrorist attack is not good enough, we need to take a look at the bigger picture. I completely agree. However, a lot of people have been saying that in our aim to stop horrors such as at the MEN Arena and the shooting at the Bataclan, we should be specially targeting Islam and the Muslim population. This is, of course, completely ridiculous.  A terrorist is a terrorist regardless of his background or nationality.

Of course, this is what some people want to happen. But from the very beginning of this incident, the people of Manchester showed everyone what should happen.

People opened their doors to give stranded people a bed for the night when the transport system was brought to a complete standstill. Taxi drivers (some of whom were the Muslims people say should be targeted) gave free rides to anyone who was stuck. The Holiday Inn hotel opened its doors and effectively became a lost childrens' centre. People on the internet retweeted the faces of lost children to say either "find this person" or an alert to say "they have been found". And a homeless man treated the injured, scared witless children who were coming out of the Arena. And all that was just the beginning of the kindness.

I went to Manchester the day after. And I met amazing people. The friendly police, the Muslims (yes, the people who are being vilified for no reason) showing such immense kindness by talking to people and giving them reassurance that they condemned this cowardly attack as much as everyone else. In Albert Square, different charities and associations were giving out free snacks and drinks. And people were going around with signs saying, "Love for Manchester" and "free hugs". I sure as hell needed a free hug. I went to St Peter's Square where there was a modest but beautiful memorial. And I went to the police cordon where I spoke to a nice policeman and told him what a good job he was doing. I thought all this was all pretty wonderful.

Loving and helpful people of Manchester

Solidarity for Manchester


Then on Thursday I returned, this time to St Ann's Square. The sight there was even more amazing! There were more flowers in one place then I'd ever seen in my life. Along with lots of balloons, teddy bears and messages of sympathy.  And there were chalk messages written all over paving slabs. I even wrote one myself. It was the most amazing outpouring of grief, love, compassion and kindness. It was everywhere. I walked around and saw it wherever I went. I walked into the Cathedral, said my prayers for the 22 people who died, lit a tealight, signed a book of condolence and made a donation. My way of showing my love to the victims and their families.

St Ann's Square - a memorial to the lost

I did all this, but it didn't change how I felt. Angry. Very angry. Upset as hell that anyone had such cruelty in his heart that he could murder innocent people enjoying themselves, just because he had taken the words of Mohamed (PBUH) that are so beautifully written, (I know. I've read the Q'uran) and turned it into some twisted ideology that makes no sense whatsoever.

Angry with MI5, who were allegedly told in January (yes, JANUARY!!) that an attack was going to happen and did absolutely nothing about it.

Angry at the government for putting military on the streets to support the police who couldn't cope because Theresa May cut their funding in the first place.

Angry because I saw (and as an empath, felt) these people suffering and could do nothing to ease their pain. I just felt really angry at the whole horrible situation.

We can (and should) keep laying the flowers, singing the songs, saying the prayers, but it's not solving the main issue here that we need to stop terrorism. But targeting the Muslim community is not the way it should be done. In fact we shouldn't be targeting any one, except the terrorists. We need to take terrorism as it is and deal with it. Terrorism - not Islam.

I am no longer angry, as anger really doesn't change anything. What we need to do is find a proper constructive way to stop terrorism and soon.

My love and condolences to the people of Manchester.

My message for the lost












Tuesday, 25 April 2017







HOW TO BE A MARATHON SUPPORTER


There is something mad but amazing about all marathons. But London is probably the best one in the world. It's even better when you are there to support a friend and a charity that you love. Hence where this story begins. I must explain up front that my blog is from a supporter and spectator's view - not a runner's. Not likely. This is my typical day at a London Marathon.

My story starts in 2013. That Marathon was very special to me for more reasons than I can count. It was my first experience of any Marathon. It was my first time volunteering for ANY charity; it was certainly my first time volunteering for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY). It was the year of the Boston Marathon Bombing, so the atmosphere was even better as not only were we cheering our own runners, but we were cheering in solidarity for the people of Boston, who had suffered such cruelty, just for trying to help their fellow man. It was also the year I first met CRY's patron and soon to be my dearest friend Bill Neely. He was already running his fourth (eek!) marathon. I couldn't have began in a better way.

Supporting CRY at the 2013 London Marathon

And now here we are five years later, me on my fifth year of volunteering and Bill on his eighth incredible run. So, how do you spectate at a marathon? Well, go nuts is my advice.

The first obstacle is getting to your chosen spot. As we are CRY volunteers, we are allocated mile 18 and mile 23. The transport is horrendous and you have to be very quick to get around. If you are not used to it, it can be very frustrating, but once you get used to it, it's easy to work out the best and quickest way to get around. One thing we have always done is to avoid mile 8. It's the worse place to go. It's horrible. I only did it once - never again. Most smart people try to work out which are the quiet spots. We've done it many times, so we have mastered the transport hassle.

Mile 18 - one of the CRY cheer points
Once you get to your chosen spot, the easy bit begins. Everyone who runs a marathon is amazing so cheer on every single one of them whether you know them or not. Make all the noise you can. Don't hold back. Be loud; be proud. These brave people deserve it! We shake rattles, scream, wave pompoms, bang things together and we don't worry about looking silly. It's part of the fun. We just let go and enjoy! This time I had help cheering Bill on by a rather delightful little boy, who had the right idea from the very beginning. Noah cheered on everyone, and he even borrowed my pom-pom and plastic hand clapper. His enthusiasm was unrelenting. He asked my friends name. I said, "Bill, but we always shout "Neely"!" He shouted Neely for the next hour even before Bill had arrived, when Bill arrived, and an hour after he had gone! He was wonderful and so was his brother Kaya.

Noah cheers on the runners with some help from Pikachu

And that's the other thing: it's a good time to make friends. Sometimes, they will only be friends for that day and you may never see them again. Or sometimes they will become friends who you will know for a long time. Noah's Dad is half-Japanese. So he was quite impressed when I shouted, "Ganbarimasu (do your best)!" at a passing Japanese runner. We exchanged email addresses and I will be passing on the photos I took. 

That's the easy bit. Now comes the harder bit. Spotting the runner you're supporting and, in my case, trying to catch them on camera, video etc, is very difficult. Downloading the tracker app only helps you in so far as you will know when they are likely to turn up on the street you are on. Actually, there is a slight delay on it, so you have to switch on the camera five minutes earlier to make sure you get them. This time Don managed to time it perfectly, while I tried to do it and messed it up completely. My little camera was attached to the left side of my glasses, which is fine except I waved with my left arm, so covered the camera while waving. Oops. But Don got this brilliant shot. Bravo Don!

CRY Patron Bill Neely at mile 18 

After your runner has passed by, you can get back on the horrendously crowded transport system to go to the meet and greet in Horse Guards Parade and The Mall. There you have to wait for and somehow find your runner as they finish. There are posts with letters on to make it easier, so for instance Granner (my name) begins with an 'G', so Don would wait at the 'G' post. Also some charities have their own separate meet and greet points.

As we were not family in the literal sense, we headed to our next destination. Here I can only speak for CRY as I have no clue what other charities do. CRY puts on facilities for the returning runners. The runners get a well-earned round of applause when they arrive, they get a massage and are also able to take a shower. And this year they got a souvenir medal. It is also where family and friends can wait for their runners. Which is where we come in. We headed for the hotel and were met by the very welcoming CRY staff and volunteers. We were offered food, drink and relaxation. It was wonderful. We sat and chilled, and gave a round of applause to every single runner who came back, because they are all incredibly awesome!

The amazing CRY gang

I walked back upstairs because I was restless and saw a bus arrive, as CRY always transports its runners back from the meet and greet. Bill arrived and I was able to present him with his medal. After we had spent some time with the lovely volunteers and Bill, he headed home and we headed elsewhere to do other stuff.

I love the marathon, the atmosphere, the fun, the support of everyone and the pride of helping a charity you love. I have become a part of something so amazing and I have made some wonderful friends. So my advice to you is try just once to do a marathon, or if like me you are a coward, then go and support your favourite charity and the people who run in these things because they are so wonderful and very, very brave.

I want to be doing this every year for a long time to come! And maybe, just maybe, one day I may be brave enough to give it a try. Lastly, I wish to say thank you to CRY, and say well done to every single marathon runner. The London Marathon - the best event in the world.

Marathons are AWESOME!

Bill celebrating a (3 hour 11 minutes!) eighth marathon