What’s the connection between Charles Dickens and this: Should have died in infancy. Didn’t. At the age of four had meningitis and went into a coma. Recovered. Had a stroke with complications that lasted a year. Survived. Major blood transfusions. Long term organ damage. Hours of chelation therapy five times a week to reduce iron overload from blood transfusions. Bruising, discoloration, pain, pain, pain…
Dickens is renowned for cataloging the suffering of the poor and downtrodden, but this is not the torment visited by his imagination on some poor character. It’s real suffering. It’s what happens when a young girl is born with sickle cell anaemia.
A young girl like Chantelle Msumbuga. She’s now a young woman – almost 16 years old. Last weekend she told me and some others about the succession of pain and setbacks she’s undergone in her short life. And she was so cheerful and beautiful as she told it. Her blog is here. She educated us about the condition and the very invasive and intensive treatment she received at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) for Children.
Liliane’s lovely buns – you have to bite through the head of Charles Dickens to taste them.
That’s why Charles Dickens fan Christopher West (who also lectures under the nom de plume Charles Dickens London) arranged a special Dickens Day to raise funds for GOSH – to mark the connection between writer and hospital during this year, the 200th anniversary of Dickens’s birth.
Liliane the beautiful cake maker from the Cote d’Ivoire
Oh – there’s another reason too. It’s not just Chantelle who medical staff at GOSH are helping. They also saved the life of Christopher’s granddaughter not so long ago. So, like Chantelle he’s also saying thank you for personal reasons.
Chantelle and Christopher were helped and supported by lots of other people too. People like the Kings College Chorus, schools, experts and Liliane. She’s from the Cote d’Ivoire, has beautfully accented French, beautiful buns (no not that! I do actually mean the buns in the picture) and is just beautiful.
Burning, looting, shooting, rioting, robbing – you can find pictures of all that happening in London and elsewhere in the UK on the TV news or elsewhere on the internet. No need for it here too.
Instead, I have a couple of stories of bravery and people trying to make things better amidst the violence. I’m sure there are many – but here are just a few.
Try not to be put off by the subtitles below…
The woman in this video is apparently on the streets of Hackney in London. The original police shooting and subsequent arson and rioting began in the Tottenham area. Hackney is one of the areas to which the trouble has spread.
There has been lots of condemnation of the violence from TV and radio studios and the pages of newspapers. This woman is out on the streets face-to-face with the people involved. So that’s brave Continue reading →
Sad bad times sometimes bring forth heroes. They’re the mitigating silver lining. They’re what we focus on to avoid staring too hard at the greater despair.
Kim Hunter & David Niven, A Matter of Life and Death 1946
But they can be hard to spot, these heroes. You don’t notice them beforehand. What do they look like? Not like my idea of a hero – handsome, twirly moustache, flying jacket, gentle eyes combined with slightly cruel mouth – sorry, I’m thinking of David Niven in A Matter of Life and Death.
So for these gloomy times, here are two lots of real heroes. They don’t look a bit like David Niven.
But not just any pigeon. He was the speediest RAF messenger pigeon during the Normandy landings.
The late (as in dead, not slow) Paddy has been in the news because he’s just been honoured with a fly past near his home. A fly past of pigeons. Loads of them. No doubt local car owners were delighted.
Paddy, courtesy of his medal, has Category Three Pigeon Status. (Category One: Airborne Vermin – includes nearly all other pigeons. Category Two: Stool Pigeons. Continue reading →
Blackwatertown - the blog & the book - are by Paul Waters. (So is The Obituarist.) I present a podcast & radio show called We'd Like A Word with Stevyn Colgan. It's about books, authors, publishers, readers, editors, agents, illustrators, poets, script writers & lyricists. The podcast is at https://anchor.fm/wed-like-a-word or wherever you get your podcasts. And the website is www.wedlikeaword.com or on social media @wedlikeaword
I also make other radio, TV & podcasts. Leave a comment or email me at paulwaters99 at hotmail.com Thanks for reading. Paul