As sometimes happens, motive and opportunity collided last night. As I’ve mentioned before, I want to travel around Northern Europe, particularly Scandinavia. I also like to do things for charity, so when Cystic Fibrosis wrote to my mum with details of their fundraising ideas, and included was a trek around Iceland, I thought things were coming together brilliantly.

However, things are never that simple, or so it seems. In order to do this charity trek, I would have to pay an entry fee of £299, and pledge to raise at least £2,800 for the charity.

I understand that they don’t want people going along for a cheap holiday. I also understand that obviously they need a reasonable amount of money for administrative costs (I guess they arrange campsites etc for you), but it seems a little extreme to charge £299 just to enter, and then expect you to raise nearly ten times that amount as a minimum. I have requested more information from them just in case I have missed something important.

The thing that I want to know is what happens if I pay my entrance fee, and then fail to meet the fundraising pledge? Suppose I only raise £1,500 – would they refund my fee and then open my space to someone else, who now has less time to raise the much-needed money? By doing so, they would lose out on the £1,800 I had secured them, and risk my replacement similarly being unable to meet the target. Or do they only want people who can guarantee to raise that sort of money?

I’ll be honest, I don’t think I could get that sort of money raised. I know this isn’t an accurate measure, but I only have about 170 Facebook friends. Add about a dozen relatives into the mix, and then a couple of dozen more co-workers who aren’t on Facebook, and even the most optimistic estimates would suggest that these 200-ish people would each need to sponsor me £14. Clearly, that’s if everyone sponsors me. I think when I did my 10k run last autumn, I had somewhere in the region of 40-50 people (at a generous estimate) sponsoring me. Given that I’m fishing in pretty much the same pool, that’s 1 in 4 people, meaning that in order to hit my target, I would need each of them to sponsor me about £60.

There are ways in which I could try to increase the proportion of people I know who will sponsor me. However, I am reluctant to pester people until they give in. I think charity should (quite literally) be something you do voluntarily, and because you want to, not because someone you know is twisting your arm and you don’t want to offend them by saying no. Too many charities try to bully you into giving through persistent requests either by post or clipboard-wielding people on your local high street. I don’t want to become like that, and I don’t want people to feel guilty for not giving – there are plenty of charities that I recognise as worthy causes that I don’t give to for one reason or another, be it a lack of ready cash, or the fact that I have charities I rank higher on my own list.

In the end, I think charities shoot themselves in the foot by demanding so much. It reduces the number of people who are able, and – more importantly – willing to give their time and money to the cause.


Distant Dreams

In my first post, I mentioned that I wanted to go travelling. When you flick through the images on the link, it’s easy to see why Japan is very high on my list of places to visit. There can be few other places in the world with such a distinctive style.

However, this remains quite a long way away, both geographically and financially at the moment. The cheapest flights out to Japan are over £500, and that’s before you even begin to think about accommodation and travel within the country itself.

A more reasonable destination at the moment is Germany, another country I really want to visit. This has little in common with Japan in terms of  style or culture, and yet I find the prospect of travelling around the cities and countryside just as appealing. Not only is it likely to be much more affordable (not least thanks to the European railcards that are available), but having studied German for my GCSEs, I have a reasonable grasp of the basics of the language. A little further study should make me able to carry out a few simple conversations with the locals.

In addition to Japan and Germany, I also wish to visit Italy and Scandinavia, in particular Rome and Tuscany, and Sweden respectively. Again, this is something of a random mix, but there is something which I can’t articulate about each place which attracts me.

As mentioned in the very first post, I want to make up for lost time and start doing the things I’ve always wanted to do, particularly travelling. I hope to make a start on this over the next twelve months or so, and with my dad living just over the border in Belgium, Germany is a realistic aim. Watch this space!

It’s A New Dawn, It’s A New Day, It’s A New Life For Me….

Since my application to join Kent Police was terminated, I have been doing a lot of thinking. For the last two-and-a-half years, my life has been in limbo as I waited (mostly in vain) for news, and hopefully a start date. For most of my waiting time, I have been working part-time, and not undertaking any commitments that could potentially be affected by the Police contacting me with the eight-weeks’ notice period they assured me I would get. Now, I’ve been freed to do whatever I want to do (or should that be, whatever I can afford to do?) as soon as I want to and also make plans for the medium and long term.

Therefore, I’ve been taking stock of where I am right now. (Before I go much further, please forgive the slightly New Age air to some of these sentences; I’m not turning into a hippie, I promise!) I’m evaluating every aspect of my existence, deciding what I’m happy with and what I’m not, and then making a plan for those areas which I feel need improving.

To start with, I am looking for a new job. I’ve been stacking shelves for three years now since I left university, and this really isn’t where I saw myself as I closed in on the age of 25. The people I work with are great, and if, when I find a new job, my new colleagues are half as nice I will consider myself very lucky. However, that isn’t enough. The work is mind-numbingly repetitive, and the promotion prospects are limited and not particularly appealing. Finally, work is currently about a hundred miles away from Emma. The main criteria for any new position are: (in no particular order) better paid, better prospects, more intellectual stimulation and closer to Emma.

Secondly, I need to have a clear-up. A rolling stone gathers no moss, so goes the saying. Unfortunately, my static situation has led to me gathering a lot of moss. I have lots of paper everywhere, most of it either recyclable, reusable, or entirely unnecessary. Then I have things like half-used pens, cans of shaving foam and gadgets I’ve never employed for their intended purpose. Added to all that are piles of logo t-shirts that are a relic of my teenage and university years, many of which are half a size too small and, I feel, I am too old for. I should be wearing grown-up things like shirts. With collars! Everything needs a thorough, unsentimental and ruthless sort out. This will even extend to uninstalling applications I don’t use from my laptop, and deleting files I haven’t opened for months.

Then, I need to do more to occupy my free time. Many of my school friends are scattered around the country, and I see very little of them as a result. However, I can’t claim to see much more of those left in and around Folkestone. This really should change. I also want to be more productive outside of work. As much as I enjoy it, perhaps Football Manager isn’t the best way to spend my weekends. I’ve picked up my paintbrushes in recent weeks, and produced two paintings I’m quite proud of, and I would like to do more. At the moment, I am restricting myself to copying images downloaded from the internet (not that sort of image!) using a limited palette, but I want to expand my scope in the months and years to come. On top of that, I harbour vague dreams of writing something more relevant and less personal than the occasional blog entry. Perhaps an insightful, socially aware graphic novel would kill two birds with one stone?

I would also like to do something that I feel develops me in some way. To that end, I have signed up to a taster course in Japanese. I am considering refreshing and improving my German too, both of which are linked to another aspect of my mini-reinvention. I want to go travelling. Not in the predictable “look-at-me,-I-spent-six-months-travelling-round-Thailand,-Singapore,-Australia-and-New-Zealand-getting-drunk-with-loads-of-other-British-backpackers” way, but I genuinely want to go to another country and spend a couple of weeks, maybe longer visiting areas I’ve heard about and learning about the country as a whole: soaking up the atmosphere, doing things I wouldn’t otherwise do, seeing things I wouldn’t otherwise see and generally experiencing another culture, even if it isn’t all that far removed from my own.

Finally, combining the last two points, I want to get fitter, and stay fitter. Last October, I ran 10k for Cancer Research. I trained fairly hard for about six weeks to get fit enough to complete the course, and then, once it was over, I gave up. I found excuse after excuse. The weather wasn’t very nice; I was too tired; I had other plans. A couple of days of lax behaviour turned into a week, a week into a month, and now, ten months later, I must confess I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I’ve been out running since I crossed the finish line.

Over the coming weeks, I will attempt to capture an impression of myself as I am now, in August 2010, so that I can clearly measure my progress over the coming months and years. These snapshots will be anything from my favourite activities, books, music and films, to aims and plans, so that I can publicly tick things off my list and perhaps obtain a greater sense of achievement from doing so.