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NEWSLETTER: March 2005

Here we all are again … you on one side, me on the other and the Newsletter stretching out between us liked a felled Amazonian rainforest.


Although it doesn’t seem like six months since the last epic, I’m afraid it is. They say that as you get older, time seems to move faster. If that’s the case, one of us is positively ancient … and it’s not me.

 

 



First of all, we thought you might like to know what’s been happening since the last Newsletter, especially in view of the fact that we made no secret of the fact that we were facing a less than certain future.

I’m pleased to be able to say that we had an absolutely stunning response to the Newsletter – and by stunning, I MEAN “stunning”. We had several substantial donations, a couple of people suggested charitable trusts we could approach for funding and – most significantly – we were deluged with hundreds of small donations, from people who invariably said they wished they could give more.
They came not only from those who always seem to manage to find something to send us but also from people we’d never received donations from before – some of whom weren’t even on our mailing list. We also received generous donations from a couple of charitable trusts, one of which has supported us faithfully for several years. We have a cheeky notion that this is partially because we simply intrigue them - they want us to stay afloat just to see what we get up to next.

The net result is that, although we are by no means out of the woods, we are – as at the end of February – in a very much healthier financial position than at the same time last year. This is good news for two reasons. One is simply that it’s a relief to have arrested the inexorable downhill slide. The other is that our end of year accounts are going to show that we are clawing our way back to a stable position, which will make it that much more straightforward to apply for funding. When would-be funders see a worsening deficit they ask themselves, quite rightly, if they should be throwing money into what looks like a black hole. We had to explain, again and again, what had caused our problems and what we were doing about them, and to some it must have sounded like “protesting too much”. THIS year, we have figures that clearly show we’re digging ourselves out of the hole – and they need no explaining.

I hope, by the way, that we thanked all those who asked for an acknowledgment of their donation – if we didn’t, I’m afraid it’s down to shingles. Mine. I went down with it at the beginning of October and I didn’t basically resurface in fully-functioning mode until the beginning of November, just in time to start panicking about the Christmas Fair … (of which, more anon).

In the last Newsletter, I explained our new approach to client payments. If you remember (and/or were taking notes), we had decided to grit our teeth and tell people that the cost of a one hour treatment was £45.00 – unless they really, truly couldn’t afford that, in which case we would ask them to pay us what they felt they COULD afford. We were a little afraid that this approach would frighten off those who couldn’t afford to pay – the very people who are often most in need of our help. Happily, that hasn’t happened. Many people are, indeed, paying us the full £45.00. Many others have increased what they previously paid. Most reassuringly, however, we probably have as many – if not more – clients who cannot pay than at any time in our history. Somehow, we managed to pull off an extraordinary balancing act, and we’re not entirely sure how we did it.

What we DO know, however, is that all those £5.00 and £10.00 donations which arrived in response to the Newsletter … and continue to come in every week … are the bedrock of the Centre. A substantial proportion of those who cannot pay for their treatment are seriously ill and at the end of their emotional and financial tethers. It is the people who “wish they could send us more” – people who themselves have very little money to spare – who ensure that we never to turn away the truly desperate. I’m sure Gretchen and I are not alone in finding that astonishing and, in the very best sense of the word, humbling. Thank you.

Public Health: It occurred to us recently when we were having a “what on earth can we say in the Newsletter?” session over lunch that we spend a large chunk of each Newsletter telling you about our financial and administrative situation (the fundraising events, the vicissitudes of dealing with men (and a few women) in suits, etc) and seldom if ever talk much about what we actually DO here … you know – what Gretchen does when she isn’t poring over columns of figures and getting grease and soup all over my nice clean spreadsheets. We therefore thought it would make a nice change if we reprinted the concluding paragraphs from the research paper that was published in “Public Health” magazine in January of this year:

"These findings suggest that healing was associated with measurable improvements in the clinical features of a wide range of ailments and in general well-being in a substantial population of subjects who received the treatment either as a sole modality or as an adjunct to standard healthcare. Prospective, randomised, controlled trials are required in order to provide objective evidence of these benefits. Long-term evaluative studies, to investigate whether or not healing facilitates sustained alleviation of those symptoms identified by subjects as of prime importance to their well-being, are also merited."

We know what happens here, and we know how effective it is – but when we see it in black and white, published for all the world to see … it’s a bit … well, scary. It makes us feel like grown-ups.

Right – back to the money-grubbing …

Upcoming fundraising events:

Quiz Night: Bridge Inn, Santon Bridge. Friday, April 8th. 7.30pm for 8.00pm. The dapper Mister Anthony Payne, Chief Inquisitor and all-round Good Egg will be presiding, as always, assisted by me - his beautiful, young, and entirely-too-clever-for-her-own-good score-keeper. (Well, one out of three ain't bad.)
Many thanks to John and Lesley who have once more donated the room (and one of these days, I'm going to have the chance to thank one or both of them face-to-face …).


We had a riotously good evening last time around, didn't break anything and were all more or less still talking to each other as we staggered out into the cold night air. (The memory of The Owlies' last minute gallop up the inside on the final straight still rankles in many quarters, however … and there are Old Scores to be Settled.). We hope that we can round up as least a many teams again - and perhaps some more. The rules are very simple. Teams can be anything from a lone clever-clogs to as many as you can seat comfortably around a six foot table without offending delicate sensibilities. (Bear in mind though that the more people there are on a team, the greater the likelihood of a Public Order Offence taking place.) The entry fee is £2.00 per person, which includes half-time refreshments. Said refreshments do NOT include anything alcoholic. If you really, truly think that numbing a few grey cells is going to help you … you use your own money. Fair enough?


You'll find an entry form included with this Newsletter. We'll happily accept teams on the night, but if you could let us know if you intend bringing the British Expeditionary Force along, I'd appreciate it, because I need to know how many peanuts to buy.

Egremont Car Boot Sale:   Market Hall, Egremont. Sunday, July 17th. 9.00am to midday. Gretchen always says that this event comes into the "money for old rope" category. The reason for that extraordinarily inaccurate pronouncement is that she isn't the one who humps the junk in and out of innumerable cars, mans the stalls, sells the raffle tickets or makes mountains and mountains and mountains of sandwiches and filled rolls. This gripe (apart from making me feel a lot better) is leading up to a plea for help. We're always a bit short-handed at the car boot … so any offers of help - either on the stalls or baking for the cake stall, or making sandwiches - would be received with pathetic and grovelling gratitude.

Sponsored Cycle Ride: Following on from his extraordinary assault on the Lakeland Passes (which raised over £1,000 for the Centre) Joe Kendall is at it again. This time he is tackling 75 miles around the north-western Lake District starting and ending at the Wheatsheaf Inn near Embleton. He assures me it's much easier than his "Three Passes" route. I think this is a definition of the word "easier" of which I was previously unaware.

He has earmarked the first Sunday in September as The Day. I know it's a long way ahead, but there won't (quite) be another Newsletter before then - so I've included a section on the enclosed form for sponsorship, if you think it's really a good idea to encourage him … (it IS, it IS …).

Silent Auction and Open Day: Our biggest fundraiser of 2005 (we hope) and the first major event to be hosted at The Chase.

Since we moved to more accessible premises, the amount of jumble coming through our doors has increased appreciably … and some of it is pretty classy merchandise, too. Whilst we "cherry-pick" most of the best bits to sell on eBay, it occurred to us that a lot of it would also be suitable for a Silent Auction. We held a successful one a few years back at The Stanley Arms at Calderbridge and we thought it would be fun to have one of our very own at the Chase.

After much "umming" and "ahhing" (and the judicious use of a pin) we have chosen Saturday, October the 1st as the great day. Although there WILL be another Newsletter before then, it will only be about a fortnight beforehand, and a little prior warning never goes amiss. At the moment, the plan is to combine the Silent Auction (that's the sort of auction where bids are put on slips of paper and placed in a box for each item …) with an Open Day. There will be raffles, a tombola, a cake stall … all the usual attractions … plus live music from Fiona Butcher who was such a success at Christmas Fair last year.

We have a couple of requests in respect of the Auction. Firstly if you have anything you think might be suitable for it, wheel it in our direction. We'll consider anything. As examples, we already have a brand new portable TV, a spectacularly ugly Victorian Staffordshire ewer that someone will love, an elegant Viners silver (plated) coffee service, two sets of Dartington glasses, a smelly, flea-bitten, three-legged dog who's pushed his luck too far once too often … (Note to the literal-minded and to Ben - the aforementioned smelly, flea-bitten, three-legged dog: that is a JOKE. Thank you.) Anything and everything is grist to our mill … and, of course, what doesn't go into the auction will end up either on eBay or a white elephant stall, so nothing is wasted.

The other "ask" is - of course - for help. This one is likely to be a bit labour intensive - with all the sale items to be watched, the stalls to man, the tea and coffee to serve and the money to wrest from peoples' nerveless grasps. On top of that - the eternal cry … we'll need cakes for the baked goods stall.

I've included the Auction on the enclosed volunteer form. Please let me know if you think you will be able to help … I know it's a long way ahead, and I won't hold you to your word, I'd just like some idea of how well-staffed (or otherwise) we're likely to be.

Christmas Fair: This will be a very short paragraph because, put simply, there ISN'T a Christmas Fair as such this year. It's kept us in touch with far-flung friends and - in addition - been a nice little earner for us over the years, but it's insanely hard work and we feel that - at least for the moment - we'll try a slightly different tack. Our logic runs as follows: Why fill many cars and vans with our worldly possessions, cart them all to Cockermouth, along with a bucket-load of too- good-for-this-world volunteers, spend several hours setting everything up on Friday evening and Saturday morning, and then reverse the whole process on Saturday evening and cart everything back to Ravenglass? Why not just stay in Ravenglass in the first place? We appreciate that we won't get anything like the amount of passing custom … but the pay-off will be the number of (paid and unpaid) man-hours of labour that will be saved. We believe that if I spent the time concentrating on selling on eBay instead, we'd make more money with considerably less hassle. Since we started selling on eBay, we've cleared about £1,200.00 - and that was without really applying ourselves. Imagine what we could do if we tried ...

So, this year, we are holding the Christmas Bash (I'll think of a more elegant term in due course) on Saturday, November the 26th at Muncaster Chase. Many more details in the September Newsletter of course, but for now - just note it in your diaries.

Before we leave the subject of fundraising completely, please spare a thought for poor Doug Cook and the Fundraiser-that-Never-Was. Last year Doug - the owner of a lovely garden at Embleton, near Cockermouth - offered to open his garden to the public in the spring to raise money for the Centre. In February, when we were sorting out the dates for the coming year, I contacted Doug and asked him what date he would like for his Open Garden. Back came the mournful reply: "I have no garden to open." The January storm had done dreadful things to his pride and joy, not least of which were demolishing his beloved damson and felling a tree into the pond and puncturing the liner. We're looking at dates in 2006.

Any other business:

Website: If you haven't dropped in on the website recently, do mosey on over and take a look. I'm continually tweaking it in response to comments and events. Since it originally went on-line, we've added more photographs, for one thing. (Specifically photographs of the staff - because people thought that would-be clients might like to see the inhabitants. We felt that this MIGHT be a two-edged sword, but finally gave in after we found some dead-glam photos about 10 years out of date.)

The accommodations listing is now up-to-date (I think …) except for the addition of photographs to tart them up a bit - which I will do in that mythical "spare moment". Really. I will.

Still on the subject of the accommodation listings, another addition to is a very kind and generous offer by Barbara and Dick Wright of Gosforth Pottery who have two letting properties in the village. They have volunteered to donate 10% of the fees for all bookings made through our website. Thank you to them both.

The site has been up and running now for 7 months and has had - in internet parlance - over 5,000 "hits". It's an interesting occupation over a cup of coffee to take a look at the statistics program that's running in the background of the site to see who has been looking you up. (The statistics program and the hit counter are not visible to the public, I hasten to add … only to me.) Particularly entertaining are the "search engine" listings which tell you what people were looking for when they found you. Imagine how surprised the searcher was when they typed in "roman road eskdale" and ended up staring at Gretchen's beaming physiognomy. (In case you were wondering how that came about - we mention in the website that the fell lane which runs up the side of the Chase is the old Roman road from Ravenglass to Hardknott in Eskdale.)

Annual Trivia Quizzes: There is a distinct possibility that even by the time this Newsletter goes out the Winner/s of the two Annual Trivia Quizzes will not have been contacted or announced. Many apologies - but I'm afraid we've been rather overtaken by circumstances - storms, power cuts, illness, end of year paperwork … . Specifically, however, we've been overtaken by the fact that the Centre Manager (ie: ME) has foolishly broken her foot and is now hobbling around pathetically in a knee-to-toe cast. Not surprisingly, it's made life a bit awkward (to put it mildly) and slowed me down to a near crawl. So … if you've been waiting to hear from me for any reason and haven't … have a little patience, please - I'll get there in the end.

The Long and Winding Road: Originally destined to see the light of day in the early Spring, the book of collected Newsletters has also fallen foul of the Curse of the Fractured Metatarsal (yeah, yeah, yeah … me and David Beckham … ha ha). If you've pre-ordered a copy, please bear with me. It WILL make its appearance in due course - and trust me - it'll be worth waiting for. For those of you whose attention it may have escaped in the last Newsletter, we've collected together the complete set of Centre Newsletters from 1993 to 2003, covering - rather tidily - the "Knott End" years, and will be publishing them in bound form with a connecting narrative from Yours Truly. Reading through them recently, I was struck by what a vivid little vignette of an extraordinary decade they provide. Peopled by a cast of characters who could have stepped straight out of one of Charles Dickens' more outré efforts they chronicle the highs, the lows, the fundraisers, the landmarks on the way … All of this and my reminiscent ramblings as well, all for £5.00 including postage and packing. How can you resist? If you decide that you can't resist … you can pre-order a copy on the enclosed form.

WAYS YOU CAN HELP US:

Donations - The most obvious way, of course, is to make a donation - however large or small. We've gone all high-tech, so you can donate in one of several ways … by cash, cheque, credit card, PayPal, Nochex, standing order … If you'd like to make a donation by any other means than cash or cheque, we're producing a dinky little leaflet to explain how to do it … just tick the box on the form and we'll send one out to you.

Friends: Become a Friend of the Centre. Your only reward, apart from a warm fuzzy feeling, will be receiving the Friends' Newsletter six times a year keeping you completely up-to-date on our doings. If you're getting withdrawal symptoms because we've cut our main Centre Newsletter down to two a year, then this is the answer. The Friends Newsletter doesn't come under quite the same degree of editorial control as the Centre Newsletter for the simple reason that I hardly ever show it to Gretchen before it goes out … so you can never be absolutely certain that I won't say something completely outrageous in a fit of pique.

WANTS: So when were we NOT on the want?

Jumble: Yes, we still want jumble - anything you have going … pots, plates, ornaments, bric-a-brac, unwanted presents, old jewellery, sewing and craft materials, unconsidered trifles … we'll take them all. The best will be siphoned off into eBay and the Silent Auction, the rest will end up in our Butler's Pantry (which is a sort of glorified bazaar where the odd little gem can be picked up for a song) or on the white elephant stall at our various events.

Books: Always very welcome. We have our own permanent book sale at the Centre which ticks over nicely, thank you very much … and books are also a popular item on the internet. Particularly good sellers are those dinky little books produced by The Dalesman over the years … you know the ones - about farm implements, vernacular buildings, bygone days, drystone walling … but anything at all will be grabbed with both hands in an unseemly manner.

Just room for a quick - but heartfelt - special "thank you" to the Sellafield Charity Snowball who have kept this Newsletter going for years and years with their generous and regular donations. THIS year, they're buying me a much-needed new computer, which, of course, doubly endears them to me.

That's about it for this time around. The next Newsletter (bodily injury, bubonic plague and Acts of Gods permitting) will be out in early September. Any startling developments will be reported on our website and in the Friends' Newsletter. Any really, REALLY startling news will be on Radio Cumbria and in the local press. Any truly astounding, eye-popping news will probably make it to The Sun.

By the way … if you don't have the stamina to cope with the Newsletter and would like to come off our mailing list, you'll find a box to tick on the enclosed form. Please feel free to tick it. We won't take it personally - at least not so you'd notice and not for long.

MKB/14.3.05

 

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