The Club That Wouldn't Die

 

 

The City in general and "bankers," in particular are enjoying an uncommonly bad press these days. Much of it is deserved but the blanket industry wide contempt displayed by it's critics is demonstrative only of their ignorance of the facts relating to the history of who the culprits are, and the political and regulatory culpability for the economic stresses that have resulted. Moreover, a failure to acknowledge the economic primacy of the City makes them fully paid up members of the Stupid Club for without it, like it or not, the British economy will lose it's engine room and the State will have far less money to squander than it presently enjoys.

I've been in the City long enough to have a good idea of the charitable giving that is a historic part of City life. It's not a new thing, it's not giving derived from guilt, it's simply always been an accepted, and expected, part of working in any one of the various strands of the City.

(Indeed, our own holidays4heroes is generously part funded by friends and clients in the Square Mile and one of the Livery Companies).

One such generous soul is my friend Ilyas Khan. In a tale that will resonate with any lover of football traditions, Ilyas has worked hard and donated generously over the years, (over £2m), to keep the football club of his home town out of administration. Step forward one of the 12 founding football league clubs, Accrington Stanley. 

The club is now debt free and Ilyas is working hard with his board to fund a new stadium for the club. To that end, the club is offering shares to supporters in affordable parcels to enfranchise and secure the fan base and in doing so, secure long term stability for the club. Other funding will come from sponsors and Ilyas himself. You can read more about the project, and Ilyas, here.

The real point about what is going on in Accrington is that over the past couple of generations the old mill and mining towns of Lancashire have come under real social and economic pressure. As they have lost the traditional industries which created the glue that held the fabric of the communities together, there hasn't been an awful lot to maintain the old cohesion that perhaps is exemplified when we remember the men of the Accrington Pals and their like. Actually, towns like Accrington have been hammered.

Rather than talking about it, Ilyas is doing something about it for nothing more than affection and respect for his home town. I take my hat off to him.

Plucky and hopeless cause or noble and romantic undertaking? Time will tell.

If you're an inveterate supporter of the game, a Lancashire boy with too much pocket money or indeed, someone who actually lives in Accrington and supports the game you might consider buying a £100 worth of shares. You can do so here. I have and I don't even like football and I've never been to Accrington so I'll put myself in the "romantic supporters of plucky and hopeful causes," category. After all, it worked for Kevin............

 

 

 

Delusional Dads

 

There is nothing quite like the summer prep school sports day for reminding Dad's that Father Time is a merciless sod with something of a sense of humour.

Indeed, many of us have stood quietly whistling the theme to Chariots of Fire under our breathe as we roll our shoulders in preparation for the Father's race, only to stop and stare open mouthed, with arched eyebrows as some underhand cove takes a pair of running spikes out of his bag. In fact at the Crumble Kids prep school they stopped the Fathers race some years ago because of the unsustainable injury rate; much to the relief it must be said, of some of the heavier footed Dads.

Other schools continue unabashed however with the injury toll quoted at the pub being something one might expect to have heard after the Third Battle of Ypres. Over at Amesbury School the Fathers & Sons annual cricket match has claimed another casualty. Friend and travelling companion, "The Leaping Salmon of the Line Out,"; he of the unbeaten Rugby School 1st XV of 1978, came a cropper this week when, in a valiant attempt to run his son out with "an explosive burst of speed," the only thing that exploded was his Achilles Tendon. Presently working from home after a short op, he'll be out for weeks.

One mother rather unfairly suggested that "these Dads egos are writing cheques their bodies can't keep."

I'm reminded too of another chum from the same school who played in the same fixture against his son a couple of years ago. Both were captains of their respective teams. Both too, were equally mortified when Dad bowled son out first ball. A fleeting moment of triumph was swiftly replaced with a lifetime of embarrassment and remorse. I don't think either of them will ever quite get over it but I'm looking forward to a reprise of the incident at the 21st or the next significant Wedding Anniversary party...... if there is one because the Mum's Union weren't too impressed with that one either.

So, as middle aged Dad's are arriving in Accident & Emergency faster than the DIY rush on a Bank Holiday, ("the saw had a mind of it's own nurse,"), we look once more to the kids to show us the way.

One such is Elliot Glover, 14 years old and who is close to completing Lands End to John O'Groats by bike. He's done it at a fair old lick and is doing so in support of a great cause, Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research. Regular readers will be used to me pushing our "House," charity, holidays4heroes, and we're immensely grateful for the continued support. Elliot's efforts though deserve recognition and his fundraising could do with a wee boost. If you can spare a tenner, here's the link.

Holidays4heroes Update!

An update for holidays4heroes, our pet charity project here, is way overdue; so here's a quick update.

We now have a total of five vehicles at the resort in Spain which have been donated / bought second hand or borrowed indefinitely from kind donors. The disabled friendly transport is a great boost and we no longer lose people at, or in transit from, the airport and families have a great deal more flexibility than they would otherwise enjoy during their stay. We also have a full set of stores, from wheelchairs to pushchairs and bikes and equipment for the disabled.

The current project is this little number, a three and a half litre boat which is kitted out for waterskiing, fishing and generally getting burnt to a crisp in the Med. It’s on loan, provided we repair it, and that’s being done by some lads in green who are giving up their time. We hope to have it in Spain soon. 

So, Le Torre is currently littered with soldiers with broken bodies and broken minds, widows, parents of lads killed and families who have fallen on hard times.

 

Kindly, the community in Le Torre are fitting out some of the pools with hoists for our guests.

Thank you to those who continue to support us. 

 

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Holidays4heroes - Update

 

It's been a wee while since I posted an update about Holidays4heroes. I thought you might like one in this, a month of reflection.

Holidays

About 100 families have been whisked away to Spain since April, others have been to Gibraltar, France, Portugal, Turkey, Cyprus and the US. Either widows, the injured, traumatised or quite simply those who are on their uppers, we've flooded destinations with Servicemen past and present, the youngest being 20 the oldest being 91

Other have been to locations within the UK, from respite care in the Lakes to adventure holidays in Scotland.

Currently we are running two locations in Spain, one being Le Torre although there are now no flights there until April, when we hope the route will be reopened by a number of operators. We've become established there and its been a tiresome exercise to move from Le Torre and recce other places. The other is a resort just outside Alicante, but in no way is it permanent, its just not the same as Le Torre!

Welfare

Homeless, hungry, broke, separated, imprisoned and robbed; we've had them all. Illness, disease, stranded.... the limits of the problems that ex serviceman and serving men can get themselves into is as vast and varied as the areas on the planet they populate.

Its very, very rare we have to turn a case away, but when that's happened its usually as a result of not having the resources of the other more grown up types of organisation (SSAFA, Combat Stress, RBL, ABF) which are better equipped to deal with intermediate and long term solutions.

We've dealt with well over 100 cases in the last six months.

In our minds, one of the best parts of this organisation is the very quick reaction time. We can lift a bloke off the streets in ten minutes flat, no red tape, no committees, no grand board meeting, just a quick check on service number etc and its dealt with in an instant.

Its allowed us to put food on the tables for families of men who, (and this is an ongoing problem), simply cannot admit that they need help.

How we spend your money

We've bought cars and people carriers in Spain, insured them, maintained them and run them. We've rented villas, (peoples goodwill can only stretch so far, and we've have that many to Spain this year I am considering approaching the resort and asking for a NAAFI bar!). We've payed for flights, train tickets, given spending money where needed, funded passports, payed rental bonds and maintained Ian (the Hols4heroes rep) in Spain.

Accounts are being audited but we've raised around £150k this year, and if you look at how far thats stretched, we have done well.

Thanks

We are grateful to all who donate. No funds are spent on administration and we are particularly grateful to those who have contributed large sums, who have introduced new donors and those who have made personal sacrifice on our behalf. Of note is the kind and substantial donation from the Charitable Committee of the Merchant Taylor's Company and their kind offer of advice and support over the coming year.

 

 

Holidays4heroes; Welsh 3000's

I know there are great demands placed on everyone and we all feel a bit of charity fatigue now and then. I've been hit three times myself this week, from one bloke who is walking from Brighton to Charterhouse with some mates dressed as the Village People, (which says more than I ever could about Charterhouse), to another nutter who is doing the Etape and then our very own loon who is off again and doing 14 peaks over 3000 ft in Wales this weekend.

Just to remind you, we’re not a big outfit by any stretch of the imagination and every penny in is spent almost immediately.

To give you an updated flavour of activities, which focus on getting the wounded and their families away for respite breaks from rehab, and quick reaction welfare, the last month has been extremely busy. 17 single men and married men with families away in the last two weeks alone.

Right now, we have 3 cases in need of some immediate funding / help.

These are examples of how we provide "Quick Reaction Welfare," until the bigger, (but slower), agencies can take over;

Scots Div lad, 33 yrs old, two children and wife, he is massively affected by PTSD and other injuries after duties of recent times. He desperately needs to be taken under the wing of Combat Stress for treatment, but this means being away from his family, (Mother is on sick leave from work because of a serious illness). The children have not been to school because they don’t have the money for school meals. We’ve stepped in and provided some Tesco vouchers, credit for the electricity, gas, petrol and got his car back on the road. He is a humble and decent man who deserves support.

They spent three days at home last week without gas or electricity because they had no money...... That changes now!

2. Widow and three children desperately need some down time after the inquest from the death of her husband affected her rather more than expected. Help us get her away on a much needed break.

3. Terminally ill ex soldier, struggling to get by and obviously wants to spend time with his family before the inevitable. We’ll help make the time remaining with his family as memorable and pleasant as possible, starting by getting them away on a holiday.

So, with your help, Le Torre will soon be full of broken, damaged or head f***ed squaddies, past and present. (Incidentally, yesterday a company donated 20 apartments for 10 weeks in 2011 which is a blinder for us.)

Your money is spent directly; we have no full time staff and no admin costs.

"Spare a Shekel for a blind man," Life of Brian

 

I spoke with a friend the other day who suffers from severe PTSD and he told me a quiet story.

"I was in town yesterday and saw a Salvation Army guy collecting money on the street. Suddenly, I was back in the middle of Lockerbie and I could smell the AvGas all around me. I started shaking. The Sally Anne were great there; handing out sandwiches, tea, cigarettes and so on. I started talking to him, he was a Scotsman too and believe it or not, he was there at Lockerbie. It's an awfy small world............... I've had the flashbacks all night though and I'm still shaking.."

With holidays4heroes we've helped my chum out with a few small issues; mostly where he's been abandoned by the benefits system at the behest of petty bureaucrats and left with only a few pounds a week to live on. We also have eight families in Spain this week and another ten going out next week. All either with a Dad who has been wounded in action or sadly bereaved. We also have some single soldiers going who are also in recuperation from their wounds. We have some good stories to tell though and I'll have a full update next week.

In the meantime, the boys at Wellington College in the Field Gun teams will be running tomorrow in aid of our little charitable efforts.

If you were minded to throw a tenner our way you could do so here. The boys have so far raised £600, it would be nice if we could make it to a thousand - that should get 2 families or 4 single soldiers out for some respite from rehab. As you know, we have no admin costs and holiday properties are kindly donated.

Grateful thanks.

 

 

 

 

Another Bad Day At The Office


 

A lifetime ago, in the days when I still had a waist, I did a few tours in NI. One of my abiding memories of tours there were the occasional incidents when "Felix," the EOD guys, would rock up and tackle suspect devices, large and small. Their nonchalant, easy approach belied their calculated professional attitude to their craft. Brave men all. They call it the "Long Walk." Even now I reflect that it takes an extraordinary collision of DNA to create men who knowingly go in search of devices explicitly designed to wound, maim and kill. They save many lives.

It was also a fact that after many years of conflict in NI soldiers would be murdered or badly wounded by the terrorist with barely a murmur at home, save for their families and local communities. I hope we never become anesthetised and indifferent in the same way to our boys returning in such numbers from the present conflict in Afghanistan. It's with that in mind that I'd like to share with you the tale of one such man, a high threat operator who was grievously wounded but has returned and is well on the way to recovery. There is a human story behind every single news headline.

What follows are extracts in his own words, posted on a services website and I quote with his permission.

"My life changed on the 15th Nov 2009. I was serving with the C-IED TF as a high threat operator. On the day in question I deployed to PB sanford with my team, a RESA and a REST. After landing and being briefed by the commander at the PB it was ascertained that a device had been found on a track. A LN had information to indicate that there were a further 5 devices on the track.

We patrolled down to the track and established an ICP at a safe distance from the first device. I completed my RSP quickly. Me the RESA and REST TC formulated a search plan for the track - it was straight forward as the track was only wide enough for one person so the lead searcher went ahead with me 2nd and everybody else snaking behind. Richie declared a find and I moved forward to take a free look, as I approached Richie, I noticed some ground sign and discovered a second device. I wasn't happy with everyone being snaked out along the track and wanted an ICP set up. 

I selected a field that gave good protection from both devices, but was close enough for me to work. The REST as always completed a search of the ICP and nothing was found. The TC - Cpl Loren Marlton-Thomas, walked into the searched ICP and promptly sank. I laughed at him (the situation was very schoolboyish), he said "I'm really stuck" I went forward to help him, by pulling his arms, as i put my right foot forward - there was a loud bang followed by a high pitched ringing. Everything slowed down. 

I remember being conscious and rolling through the air. My eyes instictivly shut, I knew I had lost my legs and didn't want to see the horrors of my injuries. I landed with an awful thud, momentarily knocking the wind out of me. 

I could hear voices, focused on remaining conscious, I was repeatedly shouting "I'm still here". At this point I must have blacked out, as I don't recall receiving any medical care. The next thing I remember is being carried on a poncho and someone shotuing my name, I responded with "I'm still here". The poncho (and my arse) bounced off the ground. A torrent of abuse ensued from me. It didn't hurt, but for some strange reason I felt the need to gob off. The last thing I remember is being lifted onto the MERT, someone held my head, saying "we've got you", IIfelt safe and drifted into unconsciousness."

He goes on to describe the next phase in another post,

"I woke up on ward S4, in Selly Oak hospital, five weeks later, having spent those five weeks in ITU. I had five vacuum dressings on me, each attached to a vacuum pump. There was a dressing on each stump, hands and one on the perinium (the blast went up my arse). Being sky high on morphine I felt very out of it. My dad was with me, he looked strained, at this point I didn't realise the extent of my injuries or the time I had spent in ITU. Trying to piece everything together has taken months and it still isn't 100%, I guess it never will be.

I will try and lay things down in a chronological order. I'll start by going back to the immediate aftermath of the blast, much of this information is from a variety of people:

A medic and a member of the team based at PB Sandford were approximately 30m away and therefore unaffected by the blast. Both had experienced a contact IED situation previously, the medic was straight on me and apparently I had a CAT on each limb (or remains thereof!). I don't remember any of this and felt no pain. I was then carried up the hill to PB Sandford - I weighed 105kg, without kit, the gradient upto Sandford is very steep, nor can you go straight up as defensive razor wire prevents this. In short this was a man test.

At Sandford, I and the other injured guys were moved into an APC (Danbat). As the APC started to move a Dane was climbing out of a hatch and fell on me, my No2 informs me I bellowed like no man before. Fortunately I remember nothing of this. I was taken to the HLS where the MERT took me the short distance to Bastion. The medical staff went to work on me, my injuries were described as the worst they had seen on an individual. When my No2 saw me I looked like a mummy with a head stuck on, he also said it was heart wrenching to see.

A C17 air hospital brought me back to the UK on the 16th November 2009. At one point I encountered complications and it looked like the C17 may have had to return to Bastion. Due to the skill of those people on the air hospital, I recovered sufficiently to proceed to Birmingham.

When I arrived at Selly Oak I was rushed into theatre. My wife saw me briefly as I passed her, the sheet was upto my neck and didn't reveal my injuries."

and then he lists his injuries,

"10%-20%.

These were the chances of my survival, given on my arrival at Selly Oak. Fortunately, for me, the doctors continued to do their best even with these low odds. 

If I had been a dog a vet would have put me out of my misery.

I have been described as the most seriously injured person that the doctors have managed to save. My injuries included:

Amputation of both legs above the knee (left very high).
Amputation of both thumbs
Loss of little finger - left hand
Loss of 2nd & 3rd phalange on ring finger - left hand
Loss of 3rd phalange on middle & index fingers - left hand
Extensive skin grafts to approx 80% on the palm of the left hand.
broken ulna - left arm
Extensive scarring and grafts on left forearm
Nerve damage to the ring and middle finger (I have no feeling in them) - right hand.
Skin grafts to the right palm and a large area on the right forearm.
Open book fracture of the pelvis and a break on the right hand side. This required me to wear a large metal frame (x-fix) for 12 weeks, limiting any mobility.
Break of the right femur (lucky bastard me, I lose my legs and the bit that is left, I break!). This resulted in an extension to the x-fix going down (the remains of) my right leg.
There are other injuries, but I think you get the picture.

I was also on a ventilator for much of the 5 weeks in ITU resulting in a tracheostomy."

This guy doesn't do things by halves does he?

His very young daughter wrote a poem about Dad,

"My Dad 

My Dad may not have legs…. 
My Dad may not have thumbs…. 
My Dad may be in a wheelchair…. 
He’s still my Dad, I still love him. 

My Dad can still love me…. 
My Dad can still talk to me when I am sad…. 
My Dad can still play with my little brother…. 
I know that because he’s strong. 

I love my Dad. He is a Hero "

In an email he said, "I'm lucky, my wife is an absolute diamond and my kids are good, kind and caring."

I'd hate to see what his idea of bad luck is; frankly, I'm lost for words but very humbled. 

Lets not forget these men.

Holidays4heroes

Drag Race

Regular readers will be aware that we try to support holidays4heroes here; a small but very worthy outfit that sends those wounded in action for breaks from rehab, the families of those killed in action for breaks and importantly, provides quick reaction welfare help for current and ex servicemen until the major agencies can take over.

Holidays4heroes has recently acquired a Spanish registered left hand drive vehicle. The intention is to use this for servicemen and their families on holiday there. It has wheelchair access and will be left at the airport for new arrivals to take over.

There's just one drawback, (and no it's paid for). It's in Blackpool.

Two stalwart colleagues then have stepped forward when everyone else hid, and volunteered to drive it the 1,711 miles from Blackpool to Murcia. That will obviously involve some cost but our brave boys have come up with a bit of a scheme. They're going to do it in drag.

I've been promised updates and photographs along the way which I will of course be sharing. I expect hits to either plummet or soar - there is no in between here with two 15 stone ex squaddies dressed as Mae West doing their hardest not to get either arrested or molested.

If you would care to sacrifice your Friday night beer money, (or Vin Rouge money if you're in Haslemere), and chip in for some fuel please do so here, no amount is too small - buy a gallon and support our Party Princess's

Paypal: Info@holidays4heroes.org

or, email hofj@mentalcrumble.com for bank details

How could you possibly say no to this?

Blair; Shameless

In the post, "A Tale of Two Men," I compared that shameless Tony Blair with another man who, sent to war as a Territorial, returned badly wounded and without compensation. Yet, he has devoted his energy to setting up a charity to help others with life changing injuries in his situation and their carers. What indeed did you do in the war Mr Blair?

It's interesting now therefore, that the Attack Dogs of the press are setting about Blair and beginning to dismantle any pretence of good works since he left office. When even the Guardian is joining in, you know it's not just angry middle aged men in Haslemere that feel deep distaste at the exploitation of his office for personal gain when we have so many young lives wrecked at his behest.

In fact, the Guardian is even launching a competition with a prize for anyone "who can shine the brightest light on those financial structures."

I don't much care about the opaque and complex tax efficient financial structures. I don't even care about how many millions of pounds Mr Blair has or will earn. I care that he appears to have absolved himself of his moral responsibility to give something back. Here is one example that has crossed our desk this week,

50 yr old ex infanteer with major PTSD issues after being involved in a rather famous incident in NI. Served 16 years, whole life is in a mess but one thing that needs addressing immediately is his bedding and mattress. He's completely incontinent, a direct result of his illness. Been too embarrassed to mention it to anyone.

If you want to help Mr Blair you can contact me at hofj@mentalcrumble.com and I'll tell everyone you did the right thing or no one, just as you wish.

Prisoner of War

Regular readers will have quickly identified that there are recurrent themes in my posts.  Two of the most common are the incompetence of petty officialdom, and the after effects of active service on those who return. We attempt to address some of these issues with our little charity, holidays4heroes which many of you generously support.

It's unsurprising then, given that petty officialdom has spread through the country like a bad virus that these two themes should come together now and again in one post. Some make me irritated, some upset........ this one just makes me bloody angry and we're going to fix it.

A former soldier who served in NI, the first Gulf War and was one of the unfortunate group sent to clear up after Lockerbie has had his share of bad luck.

He contracted TB four years ago which was undiagnosed for a year. In that time he lost 40% of his lung capacity and now has the lungs of an 80 year old. He was in receipt of a disability living allowance but that has been taken away from him, "he can cook a meal and walk more than 5 metres"

He goes on to say,  "I used the Mobility allowance to get me to Tescos and back. Now I'm a prisoner in my home unless a friend is free to drive me.  It was also used for my heating, now I get inside a sleeping bag in my chair. " What in the screaming fvck is he supposed to do..... get two teenagers on a YOP scheme to knock up an iron-lung in remedial metalwork?

Just for fun and giggles he has been diagnosed as suffering from severe PTSD and to really make it a full house he was burgled two weeks ago. Yep, I'm pretty pissed off about it too.

Just to give you a wee bit of perspective, just a few years after Lockerbie, most of the emergency services who attended retired on disability pensions and I have no issue with that. It was a traumatic event of some magnitude for those present. The soldiers were sent away from their families to Belize afterwards, no doubt some bright spark thought that keeping them busy was the right idea.

With the help of the specialist agencies out there we will absolutely fix this and if I can track down the jobsworth responsible for making this guy a prisoner in his home I will and I'll let as many people know about it as I can.

The important thing for you though, is simply to be aware that these cases exist, that it's not acceptable and to be supportive. We have many more thousands coming down the pipeline.. we sent them and we have a collective duty of care to do the right thing.

hols4heroes; Spring Cash Call

 

Some of you will be familiar with Holidays4heroes. Many of you have supported the quiet work done by our small unpaid team.  We send those wounded in action and their families for breaks to offer respite from rehabilitation. We also send the families of men killed in action to give the remaining parent and children time and space to help overcome their grief. Accommadation incidentally, is donated by kind friends.

Many veterans also benefit from the "Quick Reaction", welfare we engage in to provided a short term bridge until the larger agencies can get involved. These cases are many and varied. If you think some of these are too extreme to be real, believe me; they are real. Here are some examples of what's arrived through the door this week:

A family with an injured father, disabled child and mother in cancer recovery have been referred by a welfare officer. They need to travel in April to fit in with treatments etc.

A case from another charity, Forgotten Heroes; a chap who was a prisoner of war in Japan, clearly we won't be sending him to the Far East but he is looking for some down time after a series of quite harsh blows.

Finally one to make you cry. A man we helped in January when he was homeless, getting a property etc...... He had lost his mum, daughter, and wife all in a three week period, was then was made homeless, lost his job and broke his back and both legs.

He's just been given the fantastic news that he has mouth cancer and it's rapidly spreading to his neck and lymph things....... giving him not long as he hasn't the energy or will power to fight it.

He is a shell and broken....... help us help him out?

Those of you who are familiar to our merry band will know that we have no cash balance; it's money in / money out and no admin costs. Unfortunately, we're running on fumes and need some of the "money in," thing to clear the current batch of cases.

Any help, and I mean any....... is gratefully received.

Donate by Paypal here

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