Frankie Beverly and Maze once sang, ''joy and pain, are like sunshine...and rain." Very few occasions leave you feeling such a disarming mixture of content satisfaction, happiness and pride yet somewhere amongst the jubilation sits a pang of grief and guilt that is struggling to filter through. Maybe as the song would suggest, they go hand in hand?
My life is such that there is always quite a few things going on at once. Which parent doesn't? I design it this way but there are always the unforeseen circumstances that stop us in our tracks, make us pause in the organised chaos and force us to ask questions about ourselves, sometimes the answers are gratifying, sometimes it shines a light on the flaws we 'keep busy' to protect. Let's start with recent triumphs.
I'm becoming increasingly aware that I'm able to utilise the tools available to me to raise funds and awareness without any great difficulty. Twitter is a wonderful thing; used to the greater good it is a fundraising miracle, bringing like-minded individuals together for the good of a charity or cause. Well it seems my recent fundraising attempts have rubbed off on my two little boys who, at the age of eight and nine, had recently requested they put on their own event.
October's London Triathlon, November's Sri Lanka bike ride, privately funding Matthews Trike at Christmas, there is a wind of momentum behind my fundraising so to hear the children are looking to get in on the act was great. We discussed a disco for their school friends, which would of taken place at the end of January, but as fate would have it we were offered the ice rink at Van Hage Garden Centre in Ware, Hertfordshire so it made perfect sense to create Bob and Fred's Skate Night!
We only had a week until the actual event but with the help of Chris and Chloe from Van Hage we set about getting the information out on Twitter and getting leaflets printed to publicise the event. Slowly but surely the bookings were trickling in and we were really fortunate to get a sponsor In place as Stephen James BMW in Enfield kindly offered £1000 to park some Minis and Beemers around the venue on the night. We were off to a good start.
I knew a little celebrity endorsement would help the tickets go but as a lot of you might already know, trying to get a celeb to an event is like getting blood out of the proverbial stone. Well, that is of course unless you're one of my favourites from the TOWIE fraternity, Miss Lydia Bright, who brought along her extended family including her amazing mother Debbie who is someone I'm increasingly growing to love!
I tried many ex Dancing On Ice contestants but although they would have all loved to have skated many couldn't make It. I tried Pamela Anderson but she was too busy spending the huge fee ITV paid her to appear in one show, so I turned my attentions to those who knew all about raising money. In 2011 one man was part of a radio show that broadcasted for a record 52 consecutive hours raising 2.8 million for charity, of course he stepped up to the plate to attend, what a great man Comedy Dave Vitty is!
The boys had spread the word at school, at football and in the local area, giving flyers out everywhere we went, they were really getting into it now. We would have happily accepted to have filled half the overall capacity on the night with 230 people spread over two sessions but what happened from there on was nothing short of a miracle.
Anyone promoting anything dreams of a sudden influx of ticket sales in the last 24 hours leading up to their event, and that's exactly what happened here! Both sessions were full of skaters of all ages having a great time and the boys had so many of their school friends there: which proved what a fantastic job they had done of promoting the event at school!
Out of 464 potential places available, we sold 451 tickets - I just don't know where all the people came from! Exactly £4382.50 was raised on the night and people are still donating to the virginmoneygiving.com/jeffbrazier page, so the night was so much more of a success than all three of us could of hoped for.
It's really significant to me that the boys have opened their 'charity account'. The fact they chose Marie Curie who cared for their mum and Grief Encounter who have made their loss less painful indicates they understand what it means to give back and to pay gratitude. They learnt that raising funds requires effort and a strong motivation and they ultimately learnt that the pride and satisfaction felt in the knowledge that they raised THAT much money can only lead to more events, more gratitude and more proud moments for me to enjoy.
I found it all quite emotional as any parent sharing a success with their children would. On my way home from the skating I felt the tide of our achievement wash over and only then were my barriers breached and it was okay for me to start being upset about my friend passing away only days before. Let me tell you about Mary.
I was a foreman on a council regeneration project 11 years ago before I got my presenting break on Dirty Laundry for T4. I would be responsible for the tradesmen and materials and would have to visit each resident to ensure they were in, happy with the work and in some cases not being too abusive to my decorators or plumbers.
Now one resident from the whole of the Stockwell Gardens estate near Brixton stood out. Mary Jenks was in her late seventies, widowed and living alone. She loved us being there so she made it hard for us to leave, cups of tea, bacon sandwiches on tap, I very quickly fell in love with Mary.
She felt like a surrogate nan, I'd visit in my lunch hour, we'd chat about her late husband, she'd tell me about the good old days and her old sofa would somehow become my favourite place to take a nap. I didn't just do it once, I'd get half an hour every other day and for as old as this sofa was, it was the most comfortable thing you'd ever lay your head on.
The lovely Mary herself
The project finished, as did my building career, we left Mary with her bright green bathroom, I'd told her kiwi green was the worst colour she could have chosen but she insisted none the less and remained happy with it for years. I know this because I couldn't stay away from Mary. We had become real friends and whenever I found myself in the area I would stop for tea and a catch up especially so I could hear her say 'fishhooks' which was an amusing old fashioned substitute for unnecessary swear words.
The last time I saw Mary was just before Christmas, I was startled and scared by the deterioration of her health. She had heart problems but that was under control, It was her mind that was suffering, we had the same conversation over 10 times that afternoon, she had forgotten what she had said to me every five minutes and repeatedly told me the same stories. In her mind it was for the first time and I found it quite difficult.
Sadly three weeks later she was moved into a home and then a further three weeks later she passed away at the age of 86. I have asked myself why I didn't step up the visits when I knew she was getting frail. The truth is I was scared, I considered I might call and she might have no recollection of me; it's selfish really and I regret not being there more.
That said I was proud of my friendship with Mary, 53 years my senior, she always made me laugh and I'm pleased that my numerous visits over the years had brought her some pleasure.
I had a difficult day at work doing The Hub for This Morning, having to 'pretend I hadn't been told the bad news' meant I had to work very hard at looking normal when on the inside I was sad.
It's such a relief that we got the skate event done that same evening so I guess I was then free to just let it sink in.
Funnily enough it wasn't till I listened to the aforementioned song that the feelings came to the surface but I'm writing this in a cafe so in typical man fashion I'm just going to send it straight back down to my stomach. I'll listen to this later and probably have a good cry then. Not a sad song but it's now the theme for this week's highs and lows.
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