Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Two fantastic W4W fundraising events, by Margaret Graham

This month has been even more hectic than usual. I have been finishing a novel for Random House, plus all sorts of nice things, so apologies for lateness. We have a real treat for you this time and will fill you in on our new competition next time, which will include a post from Elizabeth Buchan, the bestselling author who has just launched another book. I swear that woman has a portrait  in the attic as she never looks any older! Can't wait to read about her new novel. For now though we have a double treat:

We are delighted to tell you that to A.C. Hatter chose Words for the Wounded as her designated charity when she launched her acclaimed debut novel, Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost

Set in Mousehole, in a timeslip setting, we follow Callum Fox, a wildly fiesty and funny boy, who feels cast adrift whilst staying at his grandparents' house for the summer holiday.

Grandpa has always been grumpy, exceedingly so. Through numerous adventures Callum unearths the reason why, literally and figuratively, with the help of the Mousehole Ghost. In doing so, he heals the long standing pain Grandpa has suffered since his own childhood.

Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost is aimed at 9-12 year olds and part of the novel is seen through the eyes of the Mousehole ghost, and that action takes place during the 2nd World War, a time that schools are discussing right now.  Amanda Hatter is a gifted author. Fay Weldon says of an earlier flash fiction winning entry:.. ...thoughtful, moving and simply written, seizes an idea and carries it through. It puts a shape upon ordinary human  experience and makes it un-ordinary which is what the best writing does... 

This is exactly what Amanda Hatter achieves with Callum Fox and the Mousehole Ghost.  It is that rare beast; a well written, warm, empathetic character-led story with a flowing plot. What's not to like? Buy it, enjoy it. It is available from all good bookshops, Amazon and direct from   where you can also find out more about Amanda and Callum Fox.

Amanda Hatter and her son Cameron busy at the signing table.
The launch was held at The Beech House in Beaconsfield. The Beech House was the height of generosity and donated £1 for every hot drink sold. Such was the popularity of Amanda's novel, that together they raised £202 for the wounded troops.
The Beech House on the day of the launch

It was a very happy morning, with many well-wishers, friends, and those drawn by good press reviews. It rapidly became a party, not just a launch, as we  sipped coffee and queued for signed copies. Amanda Hatter leaves for Cornwall any  minute now, for a whistle stop publicity tour, so yet more books will fly out of the shops.

I wore the newly designed Words for the Wounded T shirt to join in the celebrations. Many asked for more information about us so I was able to spread the word.

Margaret and Pat. Thanks to Jenny Kaye photography for the use of this photo
I was delighted to meet up with a friend Pat Heath, also an author, with whom I had stood outside the gates to Ascot races the previous Saturday to raise funds for Breast Cancer CareJo's Cervical Cancer TrustOvarian Cancer Action  What a fun day that was, despite Rosie, my cockerpoo, eating my comfortable sandals the day before!

The Beech House serves excellent food, and its cappuccino is excellent. The staff could not have been more efficient and pleasant. I made a note to return for a meal.

The good news is that Amanda Hatter will be posting a blog for us in which she tells us more about
The Beech House. Visit and enjoy. The food is wonderful
her writing journey.  When? Soon. I say again, that Words for the Wounded is enormously grateful to her, and to The Beech House.

Now we move onto the glamour girls of the skies! The Grannies Skydive

The grannies' skydive in May was the most thrilling day and I won't whinge yet again about being unable to do it because of an old thingy that my doc ferreted out of the records. Forbidden I was. Haven't been forbidden since I was 13! I have to thank all my friends, and students who sponsored me nonetheless. They transferred their encouragement to my cheerleading efforts, which the 'grands' choreographed, and which scared the pants off me far more than exiting a plane would have done.

However my other lovelies did W4W proud, and I'm so grateful to Annie Dore, my youngest daughter, who took my place and is now known as Grannie Annie.

Here it is, the actual skydive, in the grannies' own words and just so you know, we raised over £2000 in sponsorship so a million thanks to everyone who supported us:

Penny getting briefed, and Annie being told to smile, give the thumbs up and curve her back.
It's as well women can multi-task.
'Just a little favour, Annie,' my mum, said. Yeah, right. So it seemed I was to jump out of a plane and worse, no high heels, and even worse, I was now Grannie Annie. So I joined Family Graham at Skydivelondon on the most perfect day imaginable, if, of course, you weren't clambering into plane, only to drop out of it at a great height later. But I am, of course, joking. I was really pleased to be able to help Words for the Wounded and had skydived before and knew I'd enjoy it. Penny and I were in the same plane and we had a great time, she's such good fun. We were strapped to blokes who took great care of us. Mum had opted to be filmed for youtube, so I inherited that. It's hard to smile into a camera while you're flying up to the required height and your stomach is doing somersaults. But out of the plane I went and it really is the most amazingly wonderful feeling.
cheerleaders - go team go
The views were spectacular and it was really quiet, until we were a mile high, and then we heard the W4W cheerleaders loud and strong. They were scary and mum was out of step!

It seemed to take ages before we came to earth, but it was a soft landing and something I wouldn't have missed for the world. 

Jan Speedie, up where the air is clear.

Go for it Grannie Jan, said the grandkids. The daughters' were encouraging but wouldn't do it themselves but then they are not OAPs or as Margaret Graham's 'grands' call us, Old Ancient People. Neither have they been friends with Margaret since they were nine. Marg and I were partners in crime throughout school and forever after, therefore why would we ever stop being such partners.

How  did the skydive come about you might ask? Was it when we were queueing for our pensions, or planning our trip to New York or was it when we were propping up a bar, again? Well, you're not far off. The W4W committee were having an executive lunch (paid for by ourselves, I hasten to add. We never take anything from the charity) at our favourite pub in London,The Wellington or the Wellie as we know it. We were to discuss how to raise more money for W4W - wing walking was out but skydiving was in, so plans were made for 3rd May. The day proved to be perfect except that Marg was earthbound, and I have to say there was more than a glimmer of a tantrum brewing, so disappointed was she. Nice to have Annie along though.

The skydive was an amazing experience, especially being strapped to a young RAF officer. There is a method to our madness. I will skate over actually leaping from the plane. There are no words that can possible explain the sheer terror of the moment, the sense that actually, you must have gone totally mad to have even thought of such a thing but then there is a complete feeling of freedom, the world is below and you are just floating. Would I do it again ... yes - I had fun and we raised lots for money to help our wounded troops.
Jan slipping into her Tom Cruise Top Gun swagger.
We think she'll never be the same again - so fired up is she.
Great stuff. Lots of fun coming up, then.

White water rafting next year, so Marg can join in, or we'll never hear the end of it. Cheerleading didn't hack it, apparently.

Here comes Penny Deacon:
Penny and Annie, up to no good.

‘Does my bum look big in this?’ Yes. It emphatically did. A scarlet  onesie tightened at various strategic points by a harness which makes you walk (waddle? strut?) like (in a cartoon sort of way) Tom Cruise in Top Gun does not flatter the middle aged female figure. Still, it was all in a good cause – Words for the Wounded raises money for the rehabilitation of wounded service personnel – and worrying about my backside was better than worrying about the fact that I was about to clamber into a tiny plane, ascend to 10,000 feet, and then jump out.
It all started months ago when Margaret Graham (who could persuade a prawn to jump on the barbie) said what a good idea it would be to do something special to boost our charity funds in the centenary year of World War I. For ‘special’, read ‘insane’.  Jan or was it Margaret, they sort of blend into a whole lot of naughtiness, came up with skydiving. I, of course, am angelic, so of course I agreed. After all, it was a long time away and I could always get food poisoning or an anti-social disease and sadly drop out. Then people sponsored me and I realised that the only dropping out ahead of me involved that child-sized plane. And the tomato-red onesie.
I thought the weather would save me. Wind. Cloud. No: a still, frosty morning with the sky the clearest blue imaginable. ‘Perfect conditions’ the burly guy who was going to be my tandem partner (not much partnership involved: it was more that I was his baggage) told me. I smiled weakly. And pulled on the leather cap which completed the outfit. It’s never going to catch on as a fashion item. Although one of the other jumpers, Annie, had the temerity to go on looking gorgeous while wearing hers.
Going up wasn’t bad, even though I was by this time strapped tightly on the lap of Burly Guy. Views were great and I smiled and nodded when instructions were shouted at me (it was noisy in the plane and the hat didn’t help) and hoped at least one of us knew what to do. Meanwhile the woman who was filming us had a camera pointing at me and encouraged me to smile or make thumbs up gestures. Weakly, I did so.
Then, before I could articulate the No! I’ve changed my mind scream that was trying to get out, I was dangling out of the plane door at which my buddy was sitting. Then he somersaulted forwards.
It’s not just in space where no one can hear you scream. In freefall the words are whipped away before you can hear them yourself. There’s just the sound of the wind. And then the man who is now your hero pulls the cord and everything stops (a bit abruptly – you’re heading down at terminal velocity and suddenly your harness jerks you upwards again). The world is suddenly silent and clear and there is absolutely no sense of falling, no wind, no fear, just the exhilaration of having a bird’s-eye view of the countryside and all the time you need to look around and wave and simply enjoy a completely new environment.
We did a few manoeuvres (you’re given something to pull and the illusion you have control) but I was mostly absorbed in storing memories. And then I realised the ground was arriving and we landed, not gracefully but safely. Thanks, Burly Guy. 
Penny with Burley Guy. She did cling very tightly, and has no shame!!

It had been a quite extraordinary ten minutes. Would I do it again? Not sure. Am I glad I did it? You bet. And THANK YOU to all my friends who sponsored me so generously. It was worth it for the fund-raising alone. The experience was a bonus.White-water rafting next year? You couldn’t stop me - I've joined the naughties.

Words for the Wounded look forward to meeting you next month, with Elizabeth Buchan. Have a great summer. Fingers crossed for the weather.