Do They Know it's Christmas?

The third day of December and not too early, I hope, to start sharing some Christmas music?

Later down the line we might have a few carols and other festive tunes, but today I want to mark a day in pop music history which is pretty significant.

Back in October 1984 BBC news broadcast a series of reports about a disastrous situation in Ethiopia in north east Africa. The legendary BBC broadcast journalist Michael Buerk reported on what he described as a “biblical famine”. 

The crisis had actually begun the previous year, in 1983, and would, sadly, affect many millions of some of the world's poorest people for another year. But the images, especially of starving children, touched the hearts and consciences of the world.

Remember, this was before satellite, social media and all the broadcast tools we have at our disposal nowadays, but Michael Buerk's report went 'viral' ... it was transmitted by more than 400 television stations worldwide and it is one of the most famous television reports in modern media history. 

And it resulted in the first ever 'celebrity fundraiser' ... the sort of fundraising events with which we are now very familiar. 

On Saturday July 13th 1985 a huge concert to raise money for the Ethiopian Famine Appeal  was held at Wembley Stadium in London in the UK (attended by about 72,000 people) and the John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia, USA (attended by 89,484 people). It featured some of the biggest pop and music stars of the day, it was broadcast around the world,  and it was the brainchild of pop supremoes Bob Geldof and Midge Ure.

It was called 'Live Aid' ... but before that there was 'Band Aid'.

After seeing Michael Buerk's reports, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure wrote a song which reflected the crisis unfolding in Ethiopia. They put together a supergroup consisting some of the most popular British and Irish musical acts at the time, to start to raise awareness of and raise funds for the victims of the 1983–1985 famine in Ethiopia

DO they know its ChristmasThe song - Do They Know It's Christmas? - was first recorded in a single day at Sarm West Studios in Notting Hill in London on November 25th 1984 and was released in the UK on this day - December 3rd  1984.

It entered the UK Singles Chart at Number One and stayed there for five weeks, which means it was the Christmas Number One of 1984. At the time it became the fastest selling single in UK chart history, selling a million copies in the first week and passing three million sales on the last day of 1984. It held this accolade until 1997 when it was overtaken by Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997", released in tribute to Princess Diana following her death.

The original version of Do They Know It's Christmas? has sold nearly 4 million copies in the UK. It has to date been re-released, featuring a whole new batch of pop stars, in 1989, 2004 and 2014. All the re-recordings were also charity records; the 1989 and 2004 versions also provided money for famine relief, while the 2014 which was released to mark the 30th anniversary of the original record, was used to raise funds for the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Do They Know It's Christmas? is a song we hear regularly on the radio especially at this time of year, but it's worth reminding ourselves of the reason it was created, the history of the song and the sentiment behind the concept.  At the time it was released it wasn't universally loved by the critics, but the public loved it, if only because the video showed some of their favourite stars. Down the years the song has been the subject of some criticism, and in these 'contemporary times' some people say it is has a 'colonial western-centric viewpoint', with 'condescending stereotypical descriptions of Africa', and poor people. As a result, down the years some of the lyrics have been changed.

Yes, the song is a product of its time, but that takes nothing away from the impact it has made on the world. So today I make no excuses for sharing with you that original song and video which so inspired us at the time.

This song really pricked the conscience of a generation, especially those of us who were young at the time. In the mid 1980's the UK was living in Thatcher Britain where the ethos was very much  'every man / woman for him or herself'' ... but Michael Buerk's reports, and the song and fundraising that followed, made us realise that WE are the fortunate ones. We have been blessed with so much and others have so little.

So today, as we did all those years ago, let's remember other people as we approach Christmas. 

And if people need someone to help them - either financially, emotionally or by sharing resources - let us be that Someone.


Keep Writing

I can't believe it but we're rapidly approaching the end of the year 2021. 

Yesterday we marked the start of December - just 30 days now until we turn the page into 2022!

It means, of course, that I have just 30 more days to go with this daily blog. Thanks to all of you who have stuck with me since January 1st, or have picked me up along the way.

I started writing 'One Day at a Time' at the start of 2021 really because I wanted just to set myself a writing task. At the time I still had a full time time job and although working as a producer and journalist for the BBC means that you do write a lot, and  every day, it's more reports and scripts rather than creative and 'fun' ... so I wanted to challenge myself to more creative writing.

Sometimes I've managed it, other times I've just shared good vibes and 'ramblings' and some of you have been kind enough to say you've enjoyed some of those thoughts. Thank  you.

Within three months of the start of 2021 I found myself in different circumstances ... I left my job ... and I am pleased to say that as well as this daily blog, my writing has upped its game. I've picked up some PR and event management work and since April I've been writing for  'RURAL' - Jersey's Country Life Magazine. I'm now actually Assistant Editor and it's a joy because it means I get out and about to talk to people, as well as writing and getting involved in proof reading, and distribution.

I've also just completed working on a manuscript for a new book which I'm writing with a friend of mine, Debbie Duncan ... who's a great writer! We first worked on a book together which was published back in 2014. 'Life Lines: Two Friends Sharing Laughter, Challenges and Cupcakes' ... it's a fun twist on being a Christian and a woman 'of a certain age'.

Our latest book is all about Kindness ... it's being published by the same publisher who we worked with before, Authentic Media, and it'll be out sometime in 2022. It's exciting.

So this year, which started out with me feeling that I needed to up my writing, has turned into a bit of a writing fest!

To write well, one needs to practice, and even when I'm done with this blog, I'm determined to keep the habit of writing every day.

A writer is a writerThere are loads of quotes about writing, from famous writers and ... not so famous.

But this is one which inspires me.

This is wisdom from the award-winning modern writerA Junot Diaz, who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

He's also  creative writing professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), so he knows what he's talking about. 

I might never be world famous, or pick up any prizes, or be read by millions of people across the globe, I might not be the best writer on the planet, but I love to write. I love to weave words, I love putting together sentences. 

So ... I'll just keep writing anyway!

And if you are inspired to pick up a pen, or put fingers to keyboard and do the same, I invite you to join me.



Welcome December

And so we enter the final month of the year.

It's December 1st!

Just another 31 days of this old 2021 before we turn the page onto a new year. But, before that we have the Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Christmas! Exciting!

Just 31 more days of this blog! I could wax lyrical about that but I'll keep that for another day. 

Meanwhile, all I want to do today is to wish you all a brilliant month.

Although the year is waning, there is still plenty of time for opportunities, dreams and love. So let's enjoy every single moment of the rest of this year. Let's be encouraged to fill the time with hope and positive thinking.

Happy December!

Welcome December


Saint Andrew's Day

It's the final day of November and it's St Andrew's Day!

St Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland so today is also a celebration of that country and all things Scottish!

But you may not know that St Andrew is also the patron saint of Romania, Greece, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Cyprus, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, San Andres Island (Colombia), Saint Andrew (Barbados) and Tenerife (Spain).

But who was Saint AndrewWell, according to Christian tradition and the New Testament of the Bible, he was an apostle of Jesus Christ, the brother of Simon Peter - Saint Peter.  In the Orthodox Christian tradition he is known as 'The First-Called'.

It's thought Andrew was born between 5 and 10 AD in Bethsaida, in Galilee. He and Peter were fishermen, and in the Gospel of Matthew and in the Gospel of Mark we read that Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, where he saw Simon and Andrew fishing, and called them to discipleship... they were the first to become disciples of Jesus and "fishers of men". 

As one of the 12 disciples of Jesus he was among the small group that helped to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the days after Jesus' death and resurrection. Andrew is said to have been martyred by crucifixion at the city of Patras (Patræ) in Achaea, in  the year AD 60.  Early texts describe Andrew as being bound, not nailed, to a Latin cross - the kind on which Jesus is said to have been crucified. However, a tradition developed that Andrew had been crucified on a crux decussata, an X-shaped cross, or "saltire", which is now known as a "Saint Andrew's Cross". 

Andrew never set foot in Scotland yet in 1320 he was named as the country's patron saint.

So how did that happen? 

Well, one story goes like this.

Saltire crossIn the 9th century, King Angus of the Picts (Scotland) was facing a larger army of Saxons (English) at a place called Athelstaneford in what is now East Lothian in Scotland.

The night before the battle he was overwhelmed by a blinding light and then, during the night, he had a dream. The message Angus was given was that he would see a Cross in the sky and he would conquer his enemies in its name. 

The following morning King Angus looked into the rising sun and saw the Saltire Cross - that symbol of St Andrew - in its blinding light. He and his men were filled with great confidence and they were victorious. From that time Saint Andrew and his Saltire Cross were adopted as the national symbol for an emerging Scotland. It is now the flag of Scotland.

However, mythology claims that the link between St Andrew and Scotland goes back further than that.

One story says that Scottish people are descended from an ancient population called the Scythians, who lived on the Black Sea (now in Romania and Bulgaria), who St Andrew converted to Christianity.

In Scotland, and many countries with Scottish connections, Saint Andrew's Day - November 30th - is marked with a celebration of Scottish culture, and with traditional Scottish food and music. In Scotland the day is also seen as the start of a season of Scottish winter festivals encompassing Saint Andrew's Day, Hogmanay (New Year) and Burns Night - the annual celebration of the poet Robert Burns on January 25th. 

St AndrewIn the church - in many denominations - St Andrew's Day is a feast day, with special services. 

And one of the prayers to be read today in the Church of England will recognise St Andrew's role as one of the first disciples of Jesus, and his example to us all.

Almighty God, who didst give such grace unto thy holy Apostle Saint Andrew, that he readily obeyed the calling of thy Son Jesus Christ, and followed him without delay: Grant unto us all, that we, being called by thy holy word, may forthwith give up ourselves obediently to fulfil thy holy commandments; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. 



It's Not What ....

How are you this Monday?

It's November and here in the northern hemisphere winter appears to be upon us. In Jersey, it's been a wild and raw weekend. Storm Arwen hit the British Isles bringing gale force winds and, in some areas, devastation in its wake. And parts of the UK have snow already!

It's easy at times like this just to want to hunker down, stay indoors, hibernate. This time of year can make you feel less optimistic, less hopeful. I know that's the case for me anyway. What is it about the cold and dark mornings that makes you feel less than 'get up and go'?

But there is light in the darkness.

We're now in the season of Advent, the month-long run up to Christmas, which is a lovely time for us to look forward with anticipation and to raise our spirit and to change our mindset. To see life differently.

The theme for the first week of Advent (which began yesterday) is HOPE.

So if you need a little hope and encouragement to start your week ... here's something that might help.

Have a great day everyone!

It's not what you do

The Candle of Hope

Today we mark the start of Advent - the month long preparation for Christmas.

I can't believe we're almost at the end of year ... but here we are.

What a year 2021 has been! We started out at the height of the global COVID-19 pandemic ... we were in another lockdown, having already experienced nine months of restrictions. Christmas last year was a bit of a washout ... we couldn't gather in numbers, churches were shut and shops pretty much closed. Back in January coronavirus numbers were still very high, there were many many sick people and, sadly, many people were dying.

In January this year there was a little hope on the horizon. We were just beginning to see a glimmer of light with the news that the first COVID-19 vaccines were beginning to be rolled out, certainly in the British Isles. And here in Jersey those first vaccines were being delivered by the end of January.

Today, at the end of November and as we step into Advent, many of us (in developed nations at least) have either been privileged to be vaccinated or at least have the option to be vaccinated and although Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is still around and people are still contracting the virus, the widespread roll out of the vaccine means that, at the moment, fewer people are getting sick and deaths appear to be lower than at the height of the pandemic. Let's pray that continues!

So today, on the first Sunday of Advent, it's appropriate to talk about hope!

Each year during this season running up to Christmas and the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, many churches and individuals use candles to mark this holy time. The Advent wreath is often used as well  ... and this usually includes four candles which are lit on the four Sundays in Advent. Sometimes there's a final fifth candle which is placed in the middle of the wreath, and which is lit on Christmas morning (Dec 25).

Did you know that in some religious traditions, each of the Advent candles represent something different?

And the first candle - the one we will light today on this first Sunday of Advent - symbolises HOPE.

It's called the "Prophet’s Candle" and links Christmas today  to the prophets of the Old Testament, who foretold the coming of the Messiah, the one to be sent from God who would save the world. Christians believe that person is Jesus Christ and yet many centuries before his birth in Bethlehem at the time of the Roman Empire, the prophet Isaiah told of the birth. In Chapter 9 (v 6) in the book of the Bible named for him we read this:

First Sunday in AdventFor unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The Old Testament prophets, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival and often the first candle in Advent is purple which symbolizes royalty, repentance, and fasting. 

This Christmas hope is still in the air. Hope that humankind will come through this dreadful pandemic. Hope that people will be drawn together through adversity. 

And from the Christian perspective ... Hope that people will recognise Jesus this Christmastime, as he comes once again to our world, to bring everlasting peace and joy and to make life beautiful and full of promise and love.


Laugh Out Loud

Every now and again on a Saturday morning I find myself slumped in front of the TV with the remote control, not particularly thinking about what I'm watching.

News? So exhausting and depressing!

Food shows? So many cooking shows with lots of so called celebrities chatting inanely about nothing ... boring! Too many of those and they're all the same.

No, I want a bit of escapism on a weekend ... sit coms and even cartoons.

Now call me childish ( I don't care actually) but SpongeBob SquarePants makes me laugh out loud. It's so silly, yet positive and uplifting.

The cartoon is about a character called SpongeBobSquarePants ... an optimistic yellow sea sponge who lives with his friends underwater, in the fictional submarine city of Bikini Bottom. He lives in a submerged pineapple and his one great ambition in life is to obtain a boat-driving license from Mrs. Puff's Boating School, but he never succeeds.

SpongeBob's favourite things to do include "jellyfishing", catching jellyfish with a net in a manner similar to butterfly catching, and blowing soap bubbles into elaborate shapes. His pet is called Gary - he's a sea snail with a pink shell and a blue body who meows like a cat. His best friend lives two houses away -  Patrick Star, a dim-witted yet friendly pink starfish who resides under a rock.

It's all completely bonkers, and of course, pitched just right for the younger viewer. 

SpongeBobSquarePants is an award winning cartoon series which has captivated the imagination of kids since 1999 - several generations of kids have grown up with him and while they are enjoying the colour and silliness they are also learning about marine life and what happens under the sea. What I didn't realise until I started investigating is that SpongeBob's creator - Stephen Hillenburg - was not just an animator but also a marine science educator and teacher.

He was passionate about the marine environment and as well as two Emmy Awards and six Annie Awards for SpongeBob SquarePants, and the Television Animation Award from the American National Cartoonists Society, Hillenburg was also honoured with an accolade from the U.S. environmental advocacy group Heal the Bay for his efforts on highlighting marine life awareness.

Sadly, in 2017, Stephen Hillenburg was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He worked on SpongeBob for as long as possible, but sadly died on November 26th 2018 at the age of 57.

So today, in his honour, I share this SpongeBob thought with you. Spongebob laughter

We can all learn from simple things - like a kid's cartoon. For children, life can seem so simple. We adults sometimes just over-complicate things!

That's why, every now and then, I like to sit and drink my Saturday coffee and eat my toast and Marmite (yes, I like Marmite) with a cheery fun-filled SpongeBob and his buddy Patrick, and all the other friends living in Bikini Bottom ... too many to mention here, but if you want to switch them on sometime you'll soon get to know them.

I know some of you will think I'm mad and say 'she's losing it in her old age' ... but, as I said before, I really don't care.

Life can be so depressing and sometimes we just need to step away and into a brighter world and trying smiling and laughing a bit more. 

So today, let's be happy. Laugh for no reason whatsoever.

Let's all be More SpongeBob!






Always Believe in Yourself

Are you full of self- belief? 

Or are you someone who doubts your own ability? 

I'm a bit of a mix really. I go through times when I feel so optimistic, positive and confident. And then, days I wake up feeling so uncertain. Those are usually times - like right now - when I'm just tired and finding it hard to focus.

It's when I have moments like this that I try to remember all the things I've done in my life to make myself realise that I can cope with most things that are thrown at me ... I've proved it in the past... but sometimes it doesn't make the challenge any easier. 

I think I am, by and large, a 'glass half full' sort of person, but I do need to encourage myself and remind myself from time to time to just Believe in Myself.

Here's a great image and saying which helps me to do that!

If you're having a wobbly moment or ten, hope this helps you!

Happy Friday everyone! 

Believe in yourself

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today in the USA is Thanksgiving!

It's the annual holiday, celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November, which goes back to the earliest days of the country that became the United States of America.

Back in 1621, a year after the Pilgrim Fathers (and Mothers) landed at Plymouth Colony on America's north east coast - in the present day state of  Massachusetts - those early settlers held a harvest feast and religious service to celebrate a successful first growing season at the Plymouth Plantation. A year before they had been in dire straits after the journey on the Mayflower ship which brought them from England to a life in the New World where they hoped to be able to live peacefully and to worship as they wished, as English Protestant Puritans.  The journey and first months in the new country had seen disease and many deaths but there was still reason to celebrate a year into their new adventure.

What started out as sporadic autumn harvest or early winter feasts accompanied by religious observances, down the years became incorporated into the American way of life and a civil tradition which today is called 'Thanksgiving'.  Today also marks the beginning of the fall-winter holiday season, which includes Christmas and the New Year and it's a  day for celebrations including festivals and parades, fun, food, family and friends. 

Although, of course, we all know it's good to give thanks EVERY DAY, I do love the idea of one day being set aside where we can think about everything we've been given and say 'thank you'. A day set aside to be grateful and feel appreciation, to thank each other and to thank the Almighty for all his goodness to us, if we're that way inclined.

So today, let's reflect on all the things we have for which we could or should give thanks.

The people who are precious to us - family, friends - our homes and work, the comforts we experience, the love in our lives, the places we live in - the sea and ocean, the beaches and the fresh air. These gifts are on my Thanksgiving List.

I know not everyone may feel blessed, but I hope we all have something which we may give thanks for today - even if it's just the life we have, the air we breathe and the sight of the sky and the sun.

Happy thanksgiving poemI love this poem by the American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson - it sums up this spirit of appreciation.

It's just so simple. It's not about 'stuff', or things we've acquired, or great success.

It's just the world we are blessed to inhabit, the natural world and the dawn of every new day, and the love of family and friends. 

Simple Thanks! 

And we don't have to live in the USA or be Americans to be thankful.

That saying ...

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends.

Have a wonderful day!!



Black Beauty

I'm thinking a lot about writing at the moment - I'm in the final stages of writing my next book, with my friend Debbie Duncan, on the subject of Kindness. I think I've told you that before.

And as a result I've been thinking about some of the books that have influenced me and that captured my imagination so much that it made me want to write.

One of the those is a brilliant book called Black Beauty ... by an amazing author - Anna Sewell!

And it was on this day - November 24th - in the year 1877 that the book was published. 

If you've never read it ... spoiler alert ... it's the story of a horse, told from the animal's perspective.  It's as if the horse is talking to us about his life, starting in the idyllic countryside as a carefree foal playing in the fields with his mother and other horsey friends, and then, being sold on and sold on and having all sorts of experiences - hardships as well as kindnesses - before, as he grows older and less attractive and less useful to human owners, eventually ending up as a cab horse in London. 

I remember reading that part of the book especially - the terrible treatment of the horses, but also the horrible lives of the cab drivers. I remember actually shedding a tear when Beauty recognises his friend from years ago in happier times - Ginger - and then seeing her broken body being hauled away to the knackers yard ... as the toil of being a cab horse catches up with her. And I remember crying again when Beauty is finally recognised and taken back for a happy retirement in the countryside.

'Black Beauty was actually Anna Sewell's only book ... amazing! She was obviously a beautiful writer and a true observer of life .. how else might she have written the descriptions, especially of the cruelty to animals in mid-Victorian England?

I read Black Beauty first as a child, and it's always been considered as a children's novel, but I've learned that Miss Sewell did not write it for children. She is quoted as saying that her purpose in writing the novel was "to induce kindness, sympathy, and an understanding treatment of horses". She'd apparently read an essay on animals by Horace Bushnell (1802–1876) entitled "Essay on Animals" and that obviously deeply affected her.

Her story stirred the conscience of a nation who began to recognise the plight of working animals ... in fact Miss Sewell is said to have been instrumental in the abolition of the cruel practice of using the checkrein (or "bearing rein"). This was a strap which was used to keep the horses head high which fashionable people loved ... it was a trend ... but unfortunately it really damaged the horse's neck. Oh, and Black Beauty also mentioned the use of blinkers on horses, suggesting that this could cause accidents at night because it interfered with "the full use of" a horse's ability to "see much better in the dark than men can."

Black Beauty: His Grooms and Companions, the Autobiography of a Horse (to give the book it's full title) was actually written in the final years of Miss Sewell's life. She had been ill and an invalid since she was sick at the age of 14, and she never married. She was originally from Norfolk, in Eastern England, one of my favourite places on earth ... I lived there for quite a few years. Anna moved and lived in a few different places (including Bath  in Western England ... another of my favourite places ... I went to university there) but eventually returned to Norfolk.

By the time she was completing Black Beauty she was living in Old Catton, a village north of Norwich ... I have friends who live there! She spent about six years perfecting the book during which time her health really declined. I've learned that she was often so weak that she was confined to bed, writing became a challenge and in the final years Anna dictated her story to her mother or wrote on bits of paper when she had the energy, which her mother than transcribed.

And, in fact, Anna Sewell died just five months after the publication of Black Beauty, but fortunately it was an immediate success so she did live to see how well her book was accepted. With fifty million copies sold, Black Beauty is one of the best-selling books of all time, but I'm so pleased that she knew how much she was appreciated.

While its theme of of animal welfare is paramount in the book, Black Beauty also teaches how to treat people with kindness, sympathy, and respect. And that has to inspire us all, surely?

I could have presented you with lots of different Anna Sewell quotes today - there are lots to choose from - but this one really captured my imagination, as her book did so many years ago. Knowing how she suffered in her life and yet was still able to write such a wonderful story is just so inspirational. She used her time well and wisely, even though she was so ill! 

Anna Sewell gave a great gift to the world and left a wonderful legacy. And she was a wise woman.

And she inspires me today to make sure I don't waste time on ... nothingness ... or bother, worry, anxiety.

To make the most of every moment!

Anna Sewell quote