Wednesday, 29 October 2014



THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL



Which are the historical events that stand out your memory? For me there are many. But there is one I will never forget.

On Sunday 9 November 2014 it will be exactly 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall was part of the 907 mile long 'Iron Curtain" and was erected in 1961 to stop the mass emigration from the Communist countries in the Eastern Bloc. A lot of people found themselves on the wrong side of the barrier.

Over the years there were an estimated 10,000 people who tried escaping across the curtain and 5,000 of them paid for it with their lives. There were checkpoints, guards, minefields, machine guns, and the wall itself was reinforced concrete. The Communists were making sure that no-one got across the curtain; well not alive anyway.  

No-one believed the Berlin Wall would ever come down. But it did!

The metaphorical crack had already begun when Hungary decided to open its border with Austria a year earlier. It was at this point that the Iron Curtain no longer served the purpose for which it was originally built.

On the night no-one can forget, Gunter Schabowski - the unofficial spokesman for East Germany - said new rules applied about travelling to the West. He was asked when these rules applied. His answer was, "Immediately!".  The government tried to back-peddle on what he said, but it was too late. Thousands of people, from East and West seized on his remark and descended on the wall. The guards had no idea what to do. They could only stand by and watch in disbelief. Because they had no orders to shoot people they couldn't really do much. Some people went through the wall for a visit. Some, however, took the chance to leave for good in case the government changed their minds.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember people standing on the wall shouting about freedom, I remember people taking bits of the wall as souvenirs. I wish I could have seen it up close, but even on TV it was amazing. The political landscape of Europe was about to change forever. I remember watching people drive across the border with their families; their cars filled with all their belongings intent on never returning to the East.

It was the end of the wall, the curtain, and of the Eastern Bloc and one of the most important historical events ever. It was twenty-five years ago but I will never forget the images of that night and what it would mean - not just for the future of Germany, but for the whole of Europe.

Of course there are many other 'walls' around the world that are a lot harder to break down. Such as the peace walls of Northern Ireland.

The Berlin Wall hasn't disappeared altogether. There are parts of it on display all over the world reminding people of what the wall stood for: the cruel reality of division.

My hope is that one day all the walls of division throughout the world will go the same way as the Berlin Wall. For now, though - as we watch the progress of a democratic and unified Germany - lets remember that night and hope that nothing like the wall is ever built again.




















Tuesday, 14 October 2014




VOLUNTEERING  FOR CRY



I used to be very anti-charity. Not because I wasn't a caring person, far from it. Sometimes I am more compassionate than is possibly good for me. But like a lot of people I got fed up with different organisations sliding leaflets and letters through my letter box. Or worse "chuggers" stopping me in the street asking for my credit card details! The main thing was that I had no reason to support these causes. The only people I had ever given money to were Children of the Night (only twice) and the Salvation Army because of my religious up-bringing. But that's it.

That was about to change when in April of 2013 I was introduced to a charity that finally made sense to me. My friend Bill was running in the London Marathon for a charity called Cardiac Risk in the Young, more affectionately know as CRY. I decided I would go and cheer him on. I decided to find out about CRY and discovered that their aims made sense to me. Mainly because I had a heart murmur when I was about ten, and maybe still have. And a few years ago I saw a teenager collapse and die from a heart condition outside the cinema where I was working.

This decided me. I registered to Volunteer at the marathon in 2013, while cheering on my friend, whom I later found out was one of CRY's many patrons. I also did a sponsored silence for them.

I have been volunteering for them ever since. People often say, "Which charity do I support? There are so many!". My advice is: pick ONE charity that resonates with you, for whatever reason, and stick to it. Don't worry about the rest. No matter how much money you have; no matter how big a heart you have, you can't help everyone.

I've chosen mine and working for them is absolutely amazing and I love doing it. By volunteering, I have helped and supported others, made wonderful friends, raised money and more importantly, raised awareness.

By volunteering I hope I can help CRY to lower the statistic that twelve young people a week under the age of thirty-five die from an un-diagnosed heart condition.

Working for CRY  is very rewarding and I am incredibly pleased and proud to be volunteering on their behalf.






If you wish to learn about CRY and their aims, please visit: http://www.c-r-y.org.uk/