Given that this is my first Blog, I thought I'd break with tradition. Instead of moaning about my own problems - as I normally do - I thought I might allow a few others onto the stage. There are too many out there of whom I think nothing about until guilt has taken a stranglehold, so I just want to advertise the presence of one or two to the world before I slip back into the old routine and start whinging, "Oh woe is me..."
Donna Louise lived in the same Cul-de-Sac as we Hamiltons during my childhood. I knew her well - though not as well as my brother as she thought he was fantastic (but I out that down to their being closer in age than any charisma he might have possessed). She was a bright, sparkly kid with kiss-curl blonde hair who I don't ever remember seeing crying once - even when I was sitting at the top of the slide in her back garden, playing with my grubby Luke Skywalker before losing my grip and falling into her. She was the street's pixie and she made everyone smile.
You can tell by the way I'm using past-tense that Donna is no longer with us.
Donna had chronic cystic fibrosis (as if there is any other sort) and died when she was just 16. By this time, I had moved away and I am shamed to say that I didn't go to her funeral as I found out the horrible news much too late.
From the very beginning, Donna had needed round-the-clock care, something made even more intolerable for her amazing parents as they had to travel miles for the nearest children's hospice. My brother and I would often be asked to leave the room while her mum or dad treated her, but Donna was insistent that we remained, not wanting her illness to stop her from living a normal life. Her mother would be rubbing her back and chest, trying to break up just some of the rubbish in her lungs to help her breathing and Donna would be laughing and joking (and acting all coy whenever my brother spoke) as her breath was stolen from her by the most violent of coughs. And when the treatment was over, she'd be up, watching the neighbours play badminton in the back garden or going back and forth on the swing or admiring the street's boys playing football in the road. She was just another, normal kid - only she had an illness that was always going to kill her. And it did.
Since then, a trust was set up in Donna's name to raise money for children with decreased life expectancy so they don't have to undergo hateful trips to far-flung hospitals or don't have to miss out on things healthy kids take for granted. Not just cystic fibrosis, but all cruel illnesses. It has a few patrons (Robbie Williams and Nick Hancock, given that Donna and I are two of Stoke's better legacies) and has raised hundreds of thousands - but as is always the case with these things, they need more. I'm not saying you should donate; I just ask that you take a moment to look at the website and make your mind up for yourself. Because that's exactly what Donna did. She might have had an illness that wanted to dictate her life but she refused to let it; deciding for herself how she wanted to live.
Soldiers know there is a possibility of their going into battle when they joined, but the least they could have expected is right and proper treatment if they become injured - physically or mentally. And don't forget the families. What about the poor bastards at home, opening the door to find that high-ranked officer standing in their doorway with a black notice? Do they deserve to suffer because the politicians prefer to keep the funds needed for equipment and rehabilitation for their duck-houses and moats?
British soldiers are peacemakers, not warmongers and whatever your beliefs over what is going on in the Middle East, the individual fighting on behalf of their country does not deserve to be abandoned if they can no longer stand on the front line. They are there at their government's request, not their own. And if the worst ever happens - which, unfortunately it will - then they should not be made to feel as though they are simply a piece of discarded rubbish. They are proud people and we should be proud of them. And if the penny-pinching bastards in Whitehall don't want to help them, then thank fuck for Help the Heroes - and not just these people, but all charities fighting to give recovering soldiers and mourning families the best life possible.
My granddad (mother's father) died of lung cancer the month before I was born, and I once thought I had testicular cancer (the lump was twisted veins, in case you're wondering). Cancer affects everyone in this country, one way or another and so we have to deal with it. Burying our head in the sands and hoping it will never happen to us (while eating a kebab, smoking a pipe and sucking our mobile phones) isn't going to work.
It amazes me how much money is spent on research into the fucking obvious when we still haven't got a bonified cure for all cancers.
I'm a dog person. Full stop. I don't mind cats - I certainly wouldn't be cruel to one - but I love dogs. I've always had a dog. They're the best for companionship and warmth and - even though cleaning up their shit after them isn't the most pleasurable of experiences - they provide excellent exercise.
Any fuckwit who is cruel to a dog or baits a dog or thinks that the best way to deal with a boisterous dog is to kick it should be thrown into the deepest part of the Atlantic and left to drown.
I hate hearing about dog attacks on humans: kids killed by savage dogs etc. As horrid as this thing is for the families involved - and I really do mean it is fucking vile - what it does is set the media off on a track that is so narrow-minded that a knat would struggle to make its way through the corridors. If a dog is savage, question its treatment. Don't label it and its brethren with the 'killer dog' tag and miss the wider picture.
It's a little bit coarse, but thank fuck for the Dogs' Trust.
Okay. That's it for now. There are others (AIDS; NSPCC; hope for bald men) but these mean a lot to me and I wanted to get them out there. I know most of you will have heard of most of these charities, but I hope that some of you might now remember Donna Louise.
And to those who know me: don't worry. I'll be moaning and bitching and whinging very soon...