Sunday, December 15, 2013

A bit of a do

It's been one of those weeks where you hardly have time to breathe. My running schedule went out of the window completely and I had to snatch time when and where I could. I'm not complaining though as I hope all this activity surrounding dementia will finally amount to some action. Positive action, not just talk.

First there was an interview with Chat magazine on Monday, then there was a phone call on Tuesday morning from Alzheimer's Research UK (ARUK) asking if I could do some filming for Channel 5 TV News that afternoon. A group of scientists had written a letter to the G8 suggesting that eating a mediterranean diet was the best way to ward off dementia. As my diet is healthy and I have the connection with dementia they were interested in my story.

Simon Ridley from ARUK was already heading off into London to do a live interview whilst a film crew was heading my way to film me at home. I was literally heading out of the door for a run when the phone call came in and so I had to abandon it to prepare for the interview.

Jess and Sam arrived 1.5 hours later and we had to act quickly as the piece was due on air at 5pm. Sam knew exactly what he wanted - shots of me in the kitchen preparing vegetables. He raided the fridge for healthy looking vegetables (green and red peppers) together with nuts, garlic and olive oil. He had me grating carrots, chopping tomatoes and pouring olive oil over everything.


There was some vegetable soup on the hob from lunchtime and so he had me stirring and tasting it.

Then Jess asked me some questions about mum's dementia and why I believe that a healthy diet is important.

Sam decided he wanted to be all arty and do something he hadn't done before - stick the camera in our larder cupboard and have me walk towards it, select something and then walk away.

There was much hilarity as they removed things to make room for the camera!

Jess stood out of view and I walked towards the cupboard then she handed me a carrot and a pepper which I took and then walked away.

Then it was time for them to upload their shots so that someone back at the studios could edit them ready to go on air.

We watched the News and out of all the footage they took there were a couple of shots of me chopping tomatoes and about 40 seconds of me saying why I think healthy eating is important. I can't complain though as at least there was something, unlike poor Simon who didn't get interviewed in the end so had a wasted journey into London!

Then amidst the excitement of the G8 on Wednesday we had another exciting event; the BBC Sussex and Surrey 'Community Champions' awards. I'd been nominated in the 'fund-raising' category and was one of 4 finalists so Mike and I headed off to the South Lodge Hotel for the ceremony in that evening. In the morning I did 2 interviews with BBC Radio Sussex; one about the G8 and the other about the award.

There had been much consternation within the Redhead camp about what to wear as it was a "cocktail" reception rather than a sit-down meal. A full-on party frock, of which I have a few, didn't seem appropriate and I couldn't find just the right blouse to go with my posh evening trousers and so last weekend Mike insisted we head off to Brighton to find something (well I could hardly refuse an offer like that now could I?!).

Here's a sneaky peak -

It's got gold sparkly lurex threads in the cream bits and the black flowers are a lovely raised fabric (oh my!)

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Now I spend 90% of my life looking as if I've been dragged through a hedge backwards, with my hands/nails encrusted with soil from gardening and smelling ever-so-slightly of horse or sweat from running, so getting myself looking presentable takes a while.

As I hadn't been doing much with my left hand because of my injured thumb, my nails weren't looking too bad so I decided to apply some nail polish. That was when I discovered just how shaky my hands are these days. I managed to apply it well enough on my left hand but on the other hand, well, it just didn't look very good at all and there was more around my nails than on them! I applied it nice and early to give it a chance to dry thoroughly but within 2 hours I'd managed to chip the tip on one nail and somehow got a deep groove on another (I think that was when one of the horses threw her head up when I was undoing her halter).

I also decided I wanted to put glamourous waves into my hair rather than my usual frizzy mop and so I rummaged around and found some curling tongs that I haven't used for about 20 years. My idea was doomed from the start as there really is a knack to using them and I'd clearly lost it, if indeed I'd ever had it, which resulted in this - 


So my plan of glamourous waves cascading down became a battle of wills between me and the tongs. The other thing was that even though I'd sprayed my hair with "firm hold" stuff which was supposed to keep my curls nice and bouncy, they drooped and I got more and more frustrated with the whole procedure. I also decided I was going to look fat in my frock.

Mike came into the room in the midst of my fat/hair trauma and tried to make me feel better by saying that I looked lovely, bless him, but nothing was going to convince me that the whole evening was going to be a complete disaster! 

The hotel was quite a long drive away, right over the whole of East Sussex into West Sussex, and as the event started at 7pm and involved roads that would be full of commuter traffic we decided to head off earlier and have a meal there first. Mike got dressed beforehand but I travelled in my jeans so I could get changed after we'd eaten.

Pretty lights on Christmas trees welcomed us
Beautiful fireplace in the Bar

A very modern chandelier
A welcome pot of tea
Soon it was time to get ready so I headed off to the toilets to get changed and check my make-up. In the end I was reasonably happy with how I looked and I got into character in readiness for the evening. I actually loved my frock, even though I'd been worried that it was above my knees and I looked fat, and got loads of nice comments about it.

"Strike a pose" said Mike; and so I did!
There was a brief gathering upstairs where there was wine or elderflower fizz before we headed into the Wordsworth suite to find our table. Each table was hosted by a presenter or researcher from either BBC Radio Sussex or Surrey and I was delighted to be on a table with Sarah Gorrell who I've spoken to on many occasions over the years.

The booklet on the right listed all the nominees within each category and gave a brief resume of what they'd done. When I looked at all the people on our table and read about what they've achieved I felt humble to be amongst them. 

I was especially thrilled to meet Sarah Gordy who is an actress and has appeared on TV in episodes of 'Holby City' and 'Upstairs Downstairs'. She also happens to have Downs Syndrome and is doing an amazing job of breaking down preconceptions about the condition and showing that you do not need to limited by the constraints imposed on you by others. I was so pleased when she won the category for 'contribution to the arts'.

Mike pointed out that there were 14 categories and the fund-raiser category was 6th on the list and so we didn't have long to wait. Before the winner in each category was announced they showed a photo of them and gave a brief resume of why they had been shortlisted. Mike held my hand as we listened and when I heard what the others had done I knew that there was no way I was going to win.

Then someone was opening an envelope and reading out a name and the name was "Susie Hewer" but my brain wasn't taking it in. Then Mike was squeezing my hand and hugging me and saying "well done love; it's you, you've won!" As I stood up he added "just go carefully and try not to trip over anything" how well he knows me!

The event was going out live on the radio and so after the presentation I did a short interview with James Cannon. Mike said he was hoping that I managed to get through the bit when I spoke about my reasons for doing it because I sometimes get teary when I talk about what happened to mum. No tears this time, although I did get a lump in my throat towards the end.

Then I had to head off for another photo and short interview to be aired the next day.

With Sarah Gorrell and the trophy
Group shot of the winners - Sarah Gordy is 3rd along to my left when looking at the photo
Lots of people came over afterwards and said "well done" and many people came to tell me that they had a relative or friend who has Alzheimer's or dementia.

As we left the hotel there was a brass band playing Christmas tunes which was a nice touch. They must have been very cold sitting out there as it was below zero when we left at 10:45pm.

The journey home was rather arduous as we encountered freezing fog for most of the way but we slept well that night!

The next day Sara David, Editor of BBC Sussex issued this statement about why I'd won the award (which was incredibly kind of her and made me feel rather embarrassed as so many other people do amazing things):

"Susie is an incredible and inspirational woman who raises money to help and support a cause close to her heart. Susie has demonstrated commitment to fundraising over a long period of time in a number of varied and creative ways. Susie is also a real voice helping to increase awareness of dementia and helping others understand the condition. Susie is a real community hero".

Naturally, ARUK wanted to issue a press release including a statement from me. Here's what I said:

"I was thrilled to be nominated for a Community Hero award and to be one of the 4 finalists was brilliant. The whole event was wonderful and I met some truly inspirational people who have done amazing things for others and I felt humbled by their stories. I never dreamt that I would win and when my name was read out as the winner it took a few moments for it to sink in! I am delighted that the need for research into dementia is now receiving more attention but I am painfully aware that it is still vastly under-funded and so I shall continue to don my running shoes in 2014, defeating dementia, in my own way, one step at a time." 

Although the trophy sits in my office at home it really belongs to everyone who is trying to make a difference in the world of dementia. Together we will make a difference.

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