Julia Hughes - writing thrilling adventures - time after time after time.
Some time ago this man came into my life. He gave hope where there was none, then replaced hope with confidence. Since then he has helped numerous parents whose children have special needs. Now he asks for my help. Frankly, what he proposes leaves me speechless. So I'm going to let him explain in his own words:
"I NEED YOUR HELP...
Most people reading this will know that I am a solicitor specialising in representing parents of children with special educational needs and disabilities and am quite good at what I do (I am rated as joint no.1 in the UK in Education Law by the leading legal directories).
However, I am also a 45 year old man, married with three children (aged 14, 12 and 11) and for the past seven years have been a disabled person with a rare, progressive and degenerative neurological condition known as Cerebellar Ataxia which affects my speech, eyesight and balance and co-ordination and which now requires me to use a wheelchair to get around.
I always like to say to anyone who meets me for the first time that my disability does not affect my life expectancy, my cognition or my sense of humour! In fact, I think that it has actually given me a unique perspective which I consider it fortunate to be able to have - to see everything in the way that it really is and to appreciate all of the things that many other people take for granted. In fact, I only set up my own firm just over six years ago after being diagnosed although I have been practicing in Education, Disability and Public law for over 15 years now. Ironic isn't it what has happened to me considering what I do?
So what has this got to do with you and why do I need your help ?
At the end of the year, in November, Norwood, a charity supporting children with disabilities and helping families in need is again organising one of its famous bike rides in Israel to raise money. It is 380 km over 5 days and is quite challenging. I have always wanted to do something like this but, in recent years, have had to come to terms with the fact that it will now not be possible because of my condition. But the doctors in charge of my medical care advised me early on that whatever I wanted to do in life I should try to do earlier rather than later so I am trying to cram the rest of my life into a few years.
I am worse now than I was this time last year but am better now than I will be in another year's time. With the rate of my deterioration I have realised that if I do not do a bike ride now I may never have the opportunity to do something like this again. So, with the help of friends, I am planning to do the ride in a specially modified recumbent trike. I am going to do as much by myself as I can but, when I am unable to do any more, I am going to be physically connected to the rear wheel of another bike in front of me and we will ride in tandem.
It is unlikely that I will ever be able to do this again and therefore I want to maximise what I can raise for Norwood. If you have a minute, I hope that you will be able to help me/Norwood by sponsoring me and making a donation. You can sponsor me by going to http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/DouglasSilas. Please help me make a difference both to my life and to other people's lives. "
For some reason Douglas always feels the need to remind me that he is a married man!:) Seriously though, he is my hero. Not only for what he managed to pull off for my son (a miracle - or at least the best chance of an independant life) but also for the tireless work he and his team carry out to ensure that children with special needs have the very best legal advice, so that their parents have the very best chance of obtaining funding for essential support and an appropriate education. Please don't take my word for this. Go visit Douglas's website - a wealth of free information.
Again Douglas is being totally unselfish. Anyone who cycles will know he has a mountain to climb - 380 km in five days - hardly a spin around Hyde Park. Again it is all about supporting children with special needs. Douglas wants to raise £50,000. I know money's tight all round, but if you support any good cause over the next couple of months, please consider helping this very special man achieve his goal.
Once again, Douglas's sponsership page is here: Douglas Silas Sponsership page.
My mother warned me and warned me about talking to strangers. I can't help myself. For stranger read 'interesting unknown entity with a story to tell.' Some call it curiosity, some call it being nosey. Last month I blogged about how a chance encounter with an elderly couple moved me to reproduce Kipling's poem 'The Power of the Dog'. Many of you empathised with this having known the unquestioning love and loyalty only a dog can give. Today I met another couple who were bravely manning a charity stall at Denham car boot. There amongst all the tat and unwanted family heirlooms, they stood their ground with their brave little stall and though by the time I came across them others were packing up to go home and although they were clearly exhausted, they answered my questions cheerfully and with enthusiasm. They told me they came from North London, but their accent spoke of somewhere much further north. Their charity is called 'All Dogs Matter' click here to visit their site.
Their aim is rehousing unwanted dogs and with this in mind run a 'foster' scheme. If you have a moment, please visit their site. If you have any time or money to spare, please consider donating either. From a quick look around this site they are doing sterling work not only with dogs but also potential owners while at the same time educating children to become responsible dog owners.
I think I know now why mum told me not to talk to strangers. They can make you feel totally humbled.
To date "A Ripple in Time" has received only positive feedback - at least in its present edition. In the early days bursting with pride I invited comments and some very kind very patient readers opened my eyes and sent me scuttling back to the re-editing desk. We all recognise constructive criticism helps us grow and of course what we take on board from helpful well meaning advice is up to us. When the majority of your test readers report that a paragraph or character does nothing for them, it's probably time for a major rethink - although this is entirely your decision and depends on how mainstream an audience you want - some authors thrive on cult readership and may decide their book is perfect in their opinion and that's really all that matters. Most of us would be wise though to consider our work carefully from another's point of view, which is why each new review is eagerly persued as soon as it's posted by the person we're really writing for: The reader. Our reader. My reader.
So although your heart may sink when you notice the average star rating on your 'product page' at Amazon has gone down this is your call to be brave and honest. Hopefully the reviewer has been generous enough to explain why they've given a three or even two star posting. If you're really lucky they might be kind enough to offer a sticking plaster along the lines of 'this is just my opinion' or 'others might disagree'. So swallow your medicine like a big boy then go and browse the best sellers' ratings and cheer yourself up by noting that even the greats can't please everyone.
To read an extract from "A Ripple in Time" Click here & yes if you're moved to comment I'd welcome your thoughts and opinions!
Sometimes when you're too close to an object you have difficulty seeing it properly. This is why holidays exist. You're plucked from your little comfort zone and thrown into a totally foreign way of life. One where tea drinking is not high on the list of essentials. I know. Shock horror. But it gives you the chance to put your daily routine into perspective.
Apologies now if you haven't had the chance to take a break from your busy life for the last - oh I dunno know - ten years. That's exactly when I took my last holiday. I'm determined that hell or high water, it won't be another ten years before my next.
Whether swimming in the warm relaxing med sea, or sipping sangria on the sidewalk and watching the sunset, it occured to me that the world hadn't come to an abrupt halt just because Julia Hughes wasn't running the show. In fact, I probably missed work a lot more than work missed me. In truth, some things probably went smoother as a result of my non-interference.
So I've made a small promise to myself. Not to be such an absolute egoist or control freak. To accept that work is always there and always needs to be done but there comes a point in the day when the shop should be shut.
Is it too much to put aside a couple of hours in a day to do something completely non-essential, maybe something completely different, and definitely something fun?
Try it for yourself today. No excuses. Remember: Non-essential. Different. Fun.
Wren Prenderson; "A Ripple in Time" best hero.
"The Griffin Cryer" best Urban Fantasy. Thank you to the hard working judges and everyone who voted at the eFestival of Words, organised by Julie Dawson, of Bards & Sages.
A Raucous Time, A Ripple in Time, and The Griffin Cryer. Thank you to Julie and her hard working panel of judges and reviewers.
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