Everyone’s a winner baby

Everyone’s a winner baby

I’m a winner! I know, me! Well, not just me. The game that I write, Guardians of Ancora, produced by Scripture Union, won two gongs at the recent Premier Digital Awards. I wasn’t there, so I missed out on the leek and potato soup and the glamorous ceremony. In my head, the opening was like the start of the Tony Awards, but I’m not sure the stage was big enough for that.

Anyway, it’s not often you get recognition for the work that you do, and it’s certainly not every day that someone gives a project you’re involved in an award, so you’ll excuse me if I bang on about it. Sometimes, you work and you work and you work and it still feels like you haven’t achieved anything. The pressure and pace of workflow often means that you move on to the next thing before the previous task is even complete.

This constant momentum can be strangely dissatisfying. It can feel like you haven’t achieved anything. Nothing is celebrated and you don’t give yourself any time to reflect. You might think that this is a by-product of being a freelancer – there’s no one with whom you can mark achievements and rewarding yourself with something seems a bit daft (and it’s quite hard to hi-five yourself). But while I was working for Scripture Union, I had the same nagging feeling that my efforts hadn’t resulted in much.

This career treadmill causes us to forget much of what we’ve achieved. We push on with the nagging fear that we’re not getting any younger. I’m pushing 40 and there’s a sight panic that I haven’t done enough. Quick! Swim with dolphins! See the Grand Canyon! Write a novel! Lunge wildly at the Pope! We see the achievements of other people, younger people, and we compare ourselves with them.

But, it’s all a lie. It’s simply not true. And it’s not true because:

• You’re not someone else. You’re you.
• You’re not your job.
• You’ve changed the world just by living in it.

Simply by saying hello to your neighbour, by opening a door for someone, by being generous when you could have been angry, you’ve achieved something amazing. So, look at your work life, your family life, your friends, what you do in your spare time, and celebrate all your victories. And cut yourself some slack too – not everything you do needs to be a landmark event. You might not get an award, but you can give yourself a pat on the back. And maybe a cake. Actually, definitely a cake.


Picture by James Burden.

A tale of two hospices

A tale of two hospices

When you think about the word ‘hospice’, what images come to mind? A grey place where people go to die? A place of sadness, illness and overcooked cabbage? You wouldn’t be alone – these are certainly some of the things that I conjured up in the past.

But I want to tell you about a hospice. Well, two, actually. Children’s hospices. They are places where children and young people with life-limiting conditions go to be cared for and yes, perhaps to die. However, they aren’t drab, they aren’t depressing or oppressive and there isn’t even a whiff of overcooked cabbage.

Christopher’s in Guildford and Shooting Star House in Hampton together make up Shooting Star Chase. These two amazing places serve families across south-west London and Surrey, helping to manage the care for children and young people with life-limiting conditions, and their families. I provide editorial support to the charity (and even voice-over work) – I’ve just finished doing some editorial work on their supporter magazine and my head is full of the tough, but inspiring work that Shooting Star Chase puts in to make the lives of the families they work with immeasurably better.

They don’t only manage and care for the medical needs of children and young people, but their emotional and psychological needs too. Nurses and carers get to know a child’s likes and dislikes, their habits and comforts, as well as their medication and therapeutic requirements. Chefs, maintenance staff and volunteers strive to create an atmosphere of support, relaxation and fun. Social workers, care managers and support staff work hard to make sure children and young people get the best care possible.

I was lucky enough to visit Shooting Star House about a year ago, to see for myself the fantastic facilities, meet one or two of the care staff and even have a fine cup of tea from the creative kitchens. It was a privilege to see everything in action and a help to my editorial work for the charity, to have seen the facilities within which the stories are all set.

I’m writing this partly because my mind is buzzing with the stories of children, young people and families well cared for, but also because their story, and the stories of children’s hospices around the country, needs to be heard more widely. Financially, Shooting Star Chase only gets a tenth of what it needs from government funding, and so has to raise the remaining 90% itself. And when your care bill tops £10 million each year, that’s a big ask.

So, if you live in south-west London or Surrey, why not find out how you can support these two fine establishments? And if not, is there a children’s hospice near you that can make use of your time or money? That places like Shooting Star House and Christopher’s have to rely of charitable support is discomforting, but the work they put in to make the lives of children, young people and their families immeasurably better is worth every penny.