Remember

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A voice from the past cried “Give peace a chance”
He paid our price now he’s free at last
Imagine, we called him a dreamer!
How many times must good men die?
How many tears will the children cry?
‘Til they suffer no more sadness
Stop the madness,
Oh, stop the madness.

The hush of the crowd as the horse rode by
A black lace veil hid the tears from her eyes
And we all wept in silence
How many times must good men die?
How many times will the children cry?
‘Til they suffer no more sadness
Oh, stop the madness
Oh, stop all the madness.
(from ‘Fall Of The Peacemakers’ written by Dave Hlubek)

Have a look at the names on this list below. You should, I hope, recognise the names.

Saffie Rose Roussos, aged 8
Nell Jones, aged 14
Sorrell Leczkowski, aged 14
Eilidh MacLeod, aged 14
Olivia Campbell, aged 15
Megan Hurley, aged 15
Chloe Rutherford, aged 17
Georgina Callander, aged 18
Liam Curry, aged 19
Courtney Boyle, aged 19
John Atkinson, aged 20
Martyn Hett, aged 29
Kelly Brewster, aged 32
Philip Tron, aged 32
Angelika Klis, aged 39
Marcin Klis, aged 42
Elaine McIver, aged 43
Alison Howe, aged 45
Michelle Kiss, aged 45
Lisa Lees, aged 47
Wendy Fawell, aged 50
Jane Tweddle-Taylor, aged 51

Remember the names on this list.

This list is important. This is the list you should remember from the tragic events of last Monday at the Manchester Arena. This list is the names of the 22 individuals murdered by a coward. Murdered while having a night out in Manchester watching live music. Murdered by a coward who felt he had the right to end the lives of 22 people, maim and seriously injure countless others, and inflict mental injuries on who knows how many other individuals who witnessed the carnage.

What you should not remember from the tragic events in Manchester last week is the murderer’s name. You should not remember the name of his father, his mother, his brother. You should not remember where he was born, where he grew up. You should not remember where he went to school, what his exam results were, or where he went on holiday. You should not give any credence to what his political thoughts were, where his allegiances may lie, who he believed in, what he read, what he watched, his internet history, his emails or his Facebook page. The murdering coward needs to become a faceless, nameless, non-person. Forgotten. A footnote in history.

What you should remember is the spirit shown by the people of the North West of England last Monday night and into the dark hours of Tuesday morning as the true horror of what had happened began to emerge.

Hospital staff going into work regardless of whether they had been called in or not.
Emergency services racing to the scene not knowing if they could be other dangers lurking in either plain sight or the shadows.
Taxi companies telling their drivers to just ‘take people to where they need to go, no charge’.
People opening their homes to complete strangers caught up in the events of last Monday night.
Hotels offering shelter to anyone who needed it.

So many acts of kindness in the face of overwhelming adversity.

These are the things to remember from last Monday night.

So many selfless acts on a night no-one will ever forget. But will anyone remember the right things?

No, they won’t.

Without using Google or any other form of internet search, can you name the two 10-year-old girls murdered in Soham in 2002 by Ian Huntley?

Can you name a single victim of Fred and Rosemary West? How about Harold Shipman? Peter Sutcliffe? Levi Bellfield? Steve Wright?

Here is another list:-

Victoria Elizabeth Clydesdale, aged 5
Emma Elizabeth Crozier, aged 5
Melissa Helen Currie, aged 5
Charlotte Louise Dunn, aged 5
Kevin Allan Hasell, aged 5
Ross William Irvine, aged 5
David Charles Kerr, aged 5
Mhairi Isabel MacBeath, aged 5
Gwen Mayor, aged 45 (teacher)
Brett McKinnon, aged 6)
Abigail Joanne McLennan, aged 5
Emily Morton, aged 5
Sophie Jane Lockwood North, aged 5
John Petrie, aged 5
Joanna Caroline Ross, aged 5
Hannah Louise Scott, aged 5
Megan Turner, aged 5

All were murdered on 13th March 1996 at Dunblane Primary School. You are more likely to remember the name Thomas Hamilton than any of the 17 names on this list. Thomas Hamilton killed these 17 people before taking the cowards route and killing himself.

The above mentioned Fred West and Harold Shipman also took the suicide route and killed themselves in prison rather than pay for their murderous sprees. Good riddance some might say. Both received more column inches for taking their own lives than the lives of their victims.

It is time the media stopped giving excessive time and space to the perpetrators of these horrific crimes and concentrated on the victims. Make them the story. Too much time is spent discussing the cowards who carry out these atrocities.

I don’t care what the coward who carried out the Manchester Arena bomb attack was wearing when he put his wheelie bin out for collection, but the mass media showed the video over and over again. Show me a video of one of the victims performing in their Christmas pantomime, or taking part in their School Sports day.

More should be heard about Kelly Brewster, who shielded her 11-year-old niece from the blast. More should be said about Philip Tron, who was described as being able to light up the darkest room and lift your spirits with his infectious laugh. What about Georgina Callander, a bit of a Superfan who was in the second year of a health and social care course at Runshaw College.

Snapshots of the 22 victims can be read here.

Ariana Grande herself deserves to be spoken about at length. She has announced that she will return to Manchester to give a concert to raise money for the victims’ families and to visit survivors and fans. That will probably be the toughest gig of her young life. The torment she will be going through cannot be judged. Her decision to cancel the tour was the right one.

The events of last Monday in Manchester have, rightly so, been the main news story through the week since. But to me, they have been the wrong stories. Yes, the security forces around the world need to look at what happened, what they knew, and whether they could have prevented this and other attacks from the last couple of years. To the people of Paris, Nice, Berlin, Stockholm, London and now Manchester, remember the victims and their families and do not even whisper the names of those who have carried out the deed.

But remember also that cowardly attacks are taking place all over the world on an almost daily basis. Only yesterday, gunman opened fire on a convoy carrying Coptic Christians traveling from Maghagha in Egypt’s Minya Governorate. 28 people lost their lives.

It is time to remember the victims and not give credence to the twisted individuals and organisations that do not deserve their 10 seconds of infamy.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today… Aha-ah…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion, too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world… You…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

(John Winston Lennon, 1940-1980, shot in the back by a coward)

Happy Birthday Dad

Wednesday 25th May would have been my fathers 81st birthday.

His passing on 17th December last year devastated the entire family. Although we, as a family, had realised that he wouldn’t be here for much longer, the swiftness of his passing came as a shock to us all.

Now, 6 months on from that day, and a year almost to the day since we celebrated his 80th birthday on a glorious, warm, sunny day, we come to the first anniversary of his birth that he won’t be here for. For the first time that I can remember I won’t be able to give him a ring today and wish him a Happy Birthday.

I will raise a glass to you later today, to my father, my friend, my mentor, the man who would back me up in anything I chose to do no matter how daft it seemed at the time, whose unwavering belief in not only me, but all of, first his children and then grandchildren, whose knowledge, imagination, wit, and above all, personality, left it’s mark on everyone he met.

I will also think of my mum today. After over 50 years together she has found herself without her husband and soulmate. I speak to her regularly, and although she is finding it tough, there is a resilience there, the same she has shown throughout the last few years, years which have been hard on us all due to my fathers failing health.

On Saturday, there are 2 commemorations for my father, one taking place in Peasedown St John near Bath where my parents have lived for the last 28 years, and one in North Berwick.

In Peasedown St John, the bulk of my fathers ashes are being interred at the new Memorial Garden in the local cemetery. The gold lettering on the black granite plaque will read:-

Derek James Thomas Kennedy
25 05 1935 – 17 12 2015
In loving memory of a
Husband, Dad & Grandad
Always Remembered.

In North Berwick, I will be scattering a small portion of his ashes. I have invited a few very close friends, and after a lunch in one of the local pubs, we’ll be heading to the mouth of the harbour, where not only the ashes but also a ‘Message In A Bottle’ will be released. The message contains the a fragment of a poem (shown below), and a link to some web pages further detailing my fathers life (which can be found here.)

There are 2 small portions of ashes remaining. Some years ago, my father signed up for a memorial tree in Leicestershire, and one set will be going there. The final set will be heading to Wales, where my father was evacuated to during WW2. Even now, he continues to travel the world!

Life will never be the same for us. A big hole appeared last December that can never be filled.

Happy Birthday dad. I miss the calls, the comedy, the wisdom. Thank you for everything you gave me, and everything you mean to me.

 

 

Brief were my days among you, and briefer still the words I have spoken.
But should my voice fade in your ears, and my love vanish in your memory, then I will come again,
And with a richer heart and lips more yielding to the spirit will I speak.
Yea, I shall return with the tide,
And though death may hide me, and the greater silence enfold me, yet again will I seek your understanding.

Taken from ‘The Prophet’ by Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), the full version of which can be found here – this snippet is from the final section, ‘The Farewell’.

It was as easy as falling off a bridge!

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Now that the sand has settled, and I have my feet back, I have had a little time to reflect on the challenge I set myself a few Saturdays ago.

I called it ‘Out Of The Comfort Zone‘, and that is exactly what I did. A little over 2 weeks ago I abseiled 165 feet from the Forth Bridge. No mean feat when you are scared of heights!!

BUT…. what was it like? Actually, nowhere near as bad as I was expecting.

First of all, I was delighted to have so many friends there in support, so thank you to (in no particular order) Fiona, Pamie & Andy, Steve Kerr, Bill Thomas, Gordon Fleming, Innes Chalmers (with 2 young children), Brian Sims, Kenny Graham and Drew Sutherland for being there on the day, and for making it such a great day.

We arrived just after 2pm, and there was a group just coming down from the bridge.

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Some general milling about ensued until we had all gathered at The Hawes Inn. As half past 3 came around and it was my time to go. Heading into the pub (no drinky poos just yet!), I was guided to a back room to confirm my registration, hand over sponsor money I had to hand (more of that shortly), and be led up the garden path – literally!!

Got my t-shirt, and then in the beer garden I was kitted out in a natty harness, hard hat and a pair of gloves. The group I was with, about 8 or so, were then led out of the back of the garden, and to the bottom of the steps leading to the bridge.

A quick safety check (was I dressed correctly?), and then up onto the bridge itself, and move out towards the point of the abseil, heading out across the beer garden (now some 50 feet below), and onwards across the road and to the area above the first pillar over the beach. I had taken a small camera up with me, with the intention of taking a few snaps of the Firth of Forth from that height. That idea vanished pretty quickly! I wasn’t quaking in my boots, but just wanted to have 2 hands on railings!

I was introduced to my dispatcher Steve (dispatcher? maybe a slightly better title would seem nicer!), who checked my harness, and added a second one around my shoulders for good measure (fat b***ard!!). He asked if I wanted to go ‘over the top’ or through the railings to the outside of the bridge – I chose the latter.

Once Steve had attached the safety rope, locked it off, and explained the equipment, I stepped through the railing, and was now holding on, on the outside of the railing, 165 feet off the ground. Even at this point, I felt fine. Steve was calm and relaxed, talking me through everything, answering my own questions. He, and all the others on and around the bridge that weekend, were volunteers, although they all had, in his words, ‘certificates coming out of my arse’ to allow him to do this.

So, here I am, hanging off the bridge. Feeling fine. I can feel the tension in the safety rope, and am happy it isn’t slipping or moving. Steve attaches the abseil rope, again explaining how it works and how it is connected. I had done some climbing and abseiling many years ago, prior to coming off the ladder which has caused me so many fears and terrors, so had an idea of what I was looking at.

‘Now, bend your knees, ease back, and take your hands off the railing and grab the rope.’ Easier said than done. I take my left hand off the railing, touch the rope, then back to the railing. Breathe. Deep breath. Same with the right hand. Back to the railing. Couple of calm words from Steve. I can feel the tension in the safety and abseil rope, and Steve assures me it will hold. Another go. Nearly got both hands off the railing!!

Right. Come on. Still not actually feeling any specific fear at this point, which suprised me, and it was at this point that I realised that. It was all good. I could feel the ropes. My dispatcher had confirmed all was good. Come on Neil. Be a man. I looked at Steve, asked him if he was ready, he confirmed he was, and I went for it. Both hands. On the rope.

Leaning back, feet still on the bridge, easing myself down. Came to a point where I had to move my feet. I dropped them onto the girder below my starting point. This was just about it. A point of no return. I eased myself down a little further, looked at Steve – and said ‘Thank you!!’. No kicking off, I just pulled my feet off the girder, and was now swinging below the Forth Bridge, held up by 2 bits of string.

‘Look left for your photo!’ says Steve!

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Official photo taken moments after letting go of the bridge.

I started to ease myself down, and found a good rhythm early, and dropped very easily, pretty much in one go. All the while I was looking straight ahead of me, watching the sky, clouds, tree tops coming into view, then the top of the pub, the road comes into view, and then a voice advising to put my feet down as I was close to the ground.

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On the way down, courtesy of Gordon Fleming

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From the other side, courtesy of Steve Kerr

I eased my speed, and located terra firma under my feet. Relief that I had done it, and was down in one piece. 20 seconds and it was all over.

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Down!! Courtesy of Gordon Fleming

That was it. Unhooked, I walked away from the landing site and out of the beach to find everyone waiting for me. It was odd. I hadn’t felt nervous (even when trying to let go of the bridge and grab the rope), and at no point had I felt genuinely scared, as I had expected I might. I felt elation, and also breathless. Not through the exercise, but through the experience. It took a while to get that breath back again!

We headed off along the path to a grassy knoll, broke open the picnic, and in the warmth of a summer Saturday, watched more people come down the ropes while having a drink and food. I went back a little later to collect my picture (above), certificate (below) – my paper mementoes of a step Out Of The Comfort Zone.

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Front of the certificate

Further beers (and some decent food) were consumed in the Hawes Inn, before we headed back in Edinburgh, for a final beer in The Guilford. Got home somewhere just after 1:00 am. Tired. Elated!

To those who came along and supported – my thanks for helping make my day.

To the staff of the Hawes Inn – thank you for being the hub, and then for the decent beer and food as the night wore on.

To Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (www.chss.org.uk) staff and the many volunteers on the day – thank you for getting me up there, and more importantly, getting me down again!

And finally. To the 46 online sponsors, and to the 22 people who signed the sponsor form – my heartfelt gratitude to you all. When I signed up for this, I hoped to raise £200. I hoped it would be more, but there are other things going on in the world.

The final sponsor figure is £880.66. With Gift Aid included, the total I have raised is an astonishing

cash

I cannot thank you all enough.

And no, I won’t be doing it again!!!

My flabber is totally and completely gasted!!

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Astonished, amazed, and my flabber is totally and completely gasted!!!

I have received a £10 donation today (anonymously according to the Charity page but I do know who it is from) for my Charity Abseil next Saturday (20th June) which has taken me

over £500 total sponsorship!!!

To say I am stunned is an understatement. My initial target was £200, which covered the minimum requirement plus some extra. I thought I would struggle to make that.

I cannot thank all of those who have sponsored me for this enough – I guess that over £500 means I have no way of ducking out now (not that I have considered it for a second!!). 

For anyone thinking of coming over to South Queensferry to join the fun, we are getting the train from Haymarket station to Dalmeney at 13:42, and I’ll be near the Hawes Inn in South Queensferry from about 14:00 onwards.

I have had it confirmed that I register that I am there around 15:30, and from there should be able to get up onto the bridge and begin my abseil within about 45 minutes. Apparently there is a commentator who introduces everyone as they make their way along the bridge!

So, bring yourself, a couple of cans or bottles of whatever makes you happy, perhaps some snacks, and after I come down, please join me for a little party along the road. I look forward to seeing some of you on the day 🙂

Thank you all once again, I am truly humbled….

Panorama of the Forth Bridge

Panorama of the Forth Bridge

Further details are available here

Is that a bridge I see before me?

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Thank you so much to those who have pitched in already and sponsored me for this. Over half of my target raised in a couple of days!! Brilliant!!

Still a bit to go to reach my target of £200 – £1.21 per foot that I’ll be abseiling on 20th June. With a bit of luck it’ll be a day like today – glorious sunshine and some decent temperature which will allow a beach party afterwards. I for one am going to need a beer or 2 afterwards 🙂

Between now and then, the excellent work carried out by CHSS continues, and can only continue with help from people like me, and so ultimately from people like you! Please visit their website to get full details of what they do, and how we can all help – http://www.chss.org.uk/us/

You can sponsor me here.

Thanks again, catch you all soon, and hopefully see some of you under a bridge in June.

abseil

Out Of The Comfort Zone – an abseil for charity

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We all have our comfort zone. No matter what we are doing – work, home, out and about – we have places, people and situations that we feel comfortable, relaxed and happy in.

So, how far are you prepared to step out of the comfort zone you have set yourself? Well, I am about to step right out of mine.

On Saturday 20th June, I am going to abseil (freefall style, like the SAS, only much, much slower!) from the iconic Forth Rail Bridge to the sandy beach 165ft below!

bridge(You can donate here – just click on the Give Now button at the top)

To say this is outside of my comfort zone is an understatement – about 165ft outside my comfort zone.

Back in 1985, I was working in a nightclub in Bath, which was being renovated. At some point during this renovation, I fell off a ladder, some 25 ft up into a roof space, to the ground. No real damage (couple of decent bruises was about the extent of the physical damage) but the mental scars have never really healed. Put simply, since that day some 30 years ago, I struggle with heights. I jokingly tell people I suffer vertigo on a deep pile carpet, and that actually isn’t far from the truth!

Am I bonkers? Yes.

Have I thought this through? Actually, yes.

Can I do it? Yes!

(I sound like a car finance advert!!)

The main question I guess you are thinking is why?

I have managed to reach 49 years of age with no major illness or health problems, despite, for a number of years, a fairly unhealthy lifestyle (the recently diagnosed type 2 diabetes aside).

However, I am a realist. The 25 odd years that I was a smoker, heavy drinker, and ate poor food (takeaway phone numbers on speed dial!!) will have taken their toll, and together with a family history of heart issues, I am reaching an age where I need to know I will get the treatment I need when I need it, and that my better half will get the support she requires when she needs it.

My target is £200. A £1 donation from each of my Facebook friends alone will considerably beat that. Please give what you can, and think of me throwing myself off a bridge in June! Oh, and if you are in the area, why not come along and cheer me down – I’ll let you know what time I am due to drop, and I guarantee I will be heading to the local for a brew or two afterwards!!

Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland’s mission is to improve the quality of life for people in Scotland affected by chest, heart and stroke illness, through medical research, influencing public policy, advice and information and support in the community.

Please visit http://www.chss.org.uk/us/ for more information.

Thank you for taking the time to visit my everydayhero page.

Donating through everydayhero is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with everydayhero they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

Changeover time!

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February already. How did that happen??

Right then, let’s have a clear out, this place is a mess. It really is all over the bloody place isn’t it!

Basically, going to ditch the whole lot, reset everything, and relaunch.

As well has this here WordPress place, going to make changes to my other online places – my Flickr page, Instagram (maybe even start using it!!), and anywhere else my name crops up. Need to tidy myself up!!

Come back soon for a (hopefully) better place. See you soon!