Seriously, however, if you think you could help and comfort anyone with a baby born too soon then visit the Bliss website for more details on volunteering. Any time or help you can offer is gratefully received, and the commitment is only what you can handle.
Friday’s award was a bigger deal than expected. I honestly thought it would be – at most! – 50 people and my name being read out alongside lots of others.
I was glad to I had a shave that morning and looked at least vaguely respectable because it was actually closer to 300 people in the fantastic new(-ish) City Hall building, where Millie, Amber and I had reserved seats right at the very front and were made to feel very welcome by all the lovely people from BLISS.
There fascinating speeches from people who’d done far more than I ever could for BLISS, and whose experiences were far more traumatic. Millie was born at 26 weeks but there were children and grown-ups born at an astonishing 23 weeks – the absolute outer limit of survivability for premature babies!
Professional photographers were snapping pictures the whole time and the whole thing was jolly well organised. Or, at least, it seemed to be – I’ve never been to a proper awards ceremony before (unless you count being backstage at the BRITS in the 1990s!)
When the chief executive of BLISS read out my name and contribution I had planned to take Millie up onstage with me, but Millie lost her nerve at the last second and I went up alone. My speech was very short and not particularly inspired – I didn’t write anything down, reasoning that a speech “no more than two minutes maximum” would be hard to forget.
Of course, once onstage everything clever I thought of saying vanished from my head like water down a plughole and I simply said something about Millie being the reason I was there and what a surprising honour receiving this award had been. I shook hands with the chief exec, took my unexpectedly large glass award and certificate, smiled for the cameras and ran back to my seat!
Amber was given the big family camera to film and take pictures of everything, not least so the Lovely Melanie could see it later. She got some great pictures of City Hall, of the speakers, of the stage, the audience, the other award recipients, the ceiling, the floor, the posters, the view out the window – everything, in fact, except me.
There’s not one single photograph or video of me.
I got rather cross about this when I later found out. Bad photos, blurred photos, wonky photos, fingers over the lens, all of this would be understandable; but not one single solitary photograph of me at all?
Afterwards there was a reception at the top of City Hall, which offers some of the best views of London outside of the Millennium Wheel or the Shard. There was also free food, drink and face painting. But by far the most interesting part was getting to speak to other helpline volunteers, like myself, medical professionals and some of the BLISS staff.
I have very little actual contact with BLISS these days, mostly it’s logistical stuff about the helpline, to be honest. Getting to chat with other volunteers was very interesting, because I find working on the helpline quite nerve-wracking – picking up the phone not having a clue who the person on the other end might be, but having a duty to help them to the best of your ability, which is based on experiences from almost a decade ago now.
Another interesting fact was that I’m the only man who works on the helpline, which was a proper surprise. I didn’t think my work on the helpline was particularly award-worthy, but it’s obviously more unusual than I realised.
It was nice to meet so many people grateful for that help, too; in fact, with hindsight, that means more to me than the award – just meeting so many people who said “thank you”.
When working on the helpline it doesn’t feel like a big deal – I’m usually sat at home just watching TV with my mobile next to me – but it is a big deal for everyone who calls. Talking afterwards made me realise that all over again.
And one mum, who had been thinking of joining the ranks of BLISS helpline volunteers, decided to take the plunge and do it after we spoke for a few minutes. That alone made the whole day worthwhile. 🙂
Thank you to Millie and Amber, too, who were exceptionally well-behaved throughout the entire afternoon. It wasn’t always the most interesting day out for them (Amber had a massive benny before we left, shouting about how she didn’t want to go), but they were polite, friendly, quiet (when quiet was expected) and didn’t argue once.
When we left they both gave Angie, the lovely lady from BLISS who looked after us, a big hug, which left me smiling all the way home (until I discovered the lack of pictures on the camera…)
Er, I don’t actually have anything to say here. The girls are away in Hatfield for half-term and it’s been blissfully quiet and easy, as usual when they’re away.
Without wishing to sound like a drama queen, there are also work-related things rumbling away in the background that are taking up a lot of my time. I hope to explain more of that when the time is right, which – fingers crossed – will be soon.
I’ve never seen two small people so excited about Halloween.
Returning from grandma and granddad’s yesterday, they came running through the door, slowing briefly to take their shoes off and kiss me, before zooming off to see all of the Halloween decorations the Lovely Melanie had put up the night before.
Trick-or-treat outfits were decided way back in June (Devil and Ghost) and Millie’s last words before I left for work this morning were “I can’t wait to go trick-or-treating tonight!”
The Lovely Melanie has cooked spooky cakes and biscuits and they’re all going to a Halloween-themed birthday party in the village this afternoon (that of Abigail – five-year-old daughter of the other Bexley Carters, from just round the corner).
I’m taking them trick-or-treating tonight and carved a pumpkin yesterday; I was working from home and, since I’m serving out my notice at Expedia, had a very “coasty” day so was able to take my time. Here’s the result.
Trick-or-treating is going to be fun – I’ll be simultaneously working on the BLISS helpline, so if tonight you encounter a frightful ghoul offering calming words of sympathy and advice…that’s probably me!
Found myself spontaneously breaking into a grin as I walked to work this morning – it has, sadly, been a while since that last happened.
But it’s progress, and progress helped significantly by a visit to my GP last night to discuss what’s been happening to me of late.
The headlines on that front are the anti-depressants he prescribed me, as expected.
The backstory is that, well, two things really.
One. He was a really good GP – a credit to the NHS. We chatted about why I’d been so down and how I’d been trying to help myself. He was polite, attentive and sympathetic, didn’t rush me and made the decision to go with a small dose of anti-depressants only after being pretty sure that they seemed an appropriate response in this case.
Two. I haven’t started taking the anti-depressants yet but already feel a weight lifted off my shoulders because action is being taken. Before this I was floundering, unsure what to do, where to look for a solution, and – worse still – aware that this problem was being left unaddressed and was likely to get worse.
I love solving problems – am seldom happier or more creative than when struggling to get to grips with a question or figuring out the best way to reach a goal.
It mostly doesn’t matter what the goal is, so long as I’m interested in the method and care about the outcome. In fact it’s noticeable that my favourite jobs in the past – the ones where I’ve both enjoyed myself and done some good work – have been those where the company did something that (IMHO) was worthwhile, and where I felt responsible for a part of that something. Which is also why I currently volunteer for BLISS and used to teach at a Saturday School in Peckham – to help people.
Where was I? Ah, yes – my own personal problems.
Simply beginning to address the problem of my own emotional state has given me a big lift. Knowing that there’s something that can be done about it, that I now have a plan – that I’m not powerless – has already helped bring that unexpected smile to my face this morning. 🙂
This morning feels like a small turning point, as though the fightback has begun.
And even though the “Battle of Trev’s Death” is (like the War on Terror) a war that cannot be won, it’s also a battle that I can’t afford to lose.
Four hours at work and idealistic thoughts of “a small turning point” have faded, I’m afraid. Faded but not gone completely – I am still trying very very very hard to stay calm. But I assume that’s what the anti-depressants will help with…
In the meantime: deep breaths, cup of tea, remember that this too will pass, etc.
The Lovely Melanie has tried to cheer me up a bit by pointing out that this morning was the last morning for six weeks that I had to single-handedly get two children up, fed, dressed, washed and to school or nursery, before heaving my own palpitating, sweating self into work.
Because from tomorrow (Thursday) the Lovely Melanie is home, so there’s no nursery for Amber; and next week is the start of the school holidays, the bit of the year when all the manic pressure slackens off a bit. I may have to get Amber to nursery and then myself to work some days, but that’s as difficult as it’s going to get.
Last year we were panicking how to manage all the childcare over the holidays, but this year…we’ve done it before. We know it can be done. 🙂
And from Saturday the girls are away with my parents, which means the Lovely Melanie and I can go out in the evenings together. On Sunday, we can even lie in bed reading the papers till midday – just like we used to! – then knock up a Full English followed, if we feel like it, by a non-Disney DVD accompanied by some really nice chocolate…
Aagh, the decadence of it all!
(a nice, responsible post about how fast a year has gone by and how grown-up Millie now is may follow in due course…it depends how, ahem, busy I am this weekend)