Can you help Eve find her donor family?

I’d like you to meet my old friend Eve. She’s awesome. We’ve known each other since our college days in the mid-1990s, when we were introduced by a mutual friend. We’ve had a lot of fun together over the years (usually involving loud music and much giggling!) and she has been a great support to me through some difficult times. Now it’s my turn to try and help her.

You see, for the last 26 years, Eve has only been alive thanks to one remarkable, selfless act on the part of a family of complete strangers. She had been seriously ill and needed a new heart and lungs – and, on 6th June 1988, a set of organs were found and transplanted, having been donated by the grieving family of a young boy who was tragically killed in an accident.

Twenty six years later, Eve is still with us, and, as a result of this family’s incredible generosity at such a terrible time, she’s lived a full and active life, as she describes on her blog:

I’ve been to university, I’ve travelled, I learned to drive, I have fallen in and out of love. I’ve had a career. I bought a house. I have a cat! None of this would have been possible without you, or without your lad.

Back in 1988, transplant patients in Britain were told very little about the person whose organs they had receieved and contact was not encouraged (things are, I believe, very different these days), but Eve would now very much like to say thank you to the unknown family who gave her another chance – despite having very little information to go on, as she writes:

‘Thank you’ is probably the biggest understatement of the century. You have no idea how ‘thank you’ really just does not cut it, until you have been there! However, I have wanted to write that letter for years, but I never really knew how to go about it, especially as so much time has passed. There aren’t just the emotional issues, but also practical things to consider; my donor family could have moved and the transplant co-ordinator may not be able to pass on the letter. What if my letter caused upset, instead of bringing comfort? The last thing I want to do is cause more distress to a family who made the ultimate gift-giving decision, but I know I have to do it. There is a mum and dad (maybe brothers or sisters) out there whose son is still here, 26 years later. With this in mind, I am attempting to make my gratitude known – maybe social media can help to make this happen.

And maybe it can. Which is where you come in. Can you help Eve say thank you to this amazing family? You’ll find all the information she knows about her donor family and the circumstances surrounding the transplant below. And due to the circumstances, there are a lot of ‘mights’ and ‘possiblys’ – but if anything at all strikes you as familiar or if you have any possible leads (or ideas for next steps), please get in touch.

  • The donor was a 10 year old boy from Reading in Berkshire, or the surrounding area.
  • He died as a result of a road accident of some kind.
  • He almost certainly died on Monday 6th June 1988, the day Eve received the transplant (organs are only usable for transplantation for a very brief period after the donor’s death).
  • The accident probably happened some time on Monday 6th June 1988 – due to the timing of Eve’s call into hospital (see her blog), it most likely happened in the afternoon and possibly on this young lad’s way home from school.
  • However, it is also entirely possible that the accident happened a week or so earlier and he spent the intervening time in hospital before passing away.

Does any of this sound familiar? Do you or did you live in the Reading area? Does this sound like someone you knew? Do you know who this young lad was? Do you or did you know his family? Do you know someone who does or might?

A few days after Eve’s transplant, a woman was interviewed about organ transplants and the need for donors for a TV news report on the subject because she had sadly lost her young son several days earlier. Certain aspects of this interview make Eve suspect that this might possibly have been her donor’s mum. Here’s a partial description of this lady (which may not be 100% accurate):

  • She was somewhere between 30 and 45 years old.
  • She had what looked like dark, possibly brown, hair.
  • Her hair appeared to be fairly short, possibly in a jaw-length bob or a pixie cut.
  • She had a slim face and possibly a slim figure.

Could this be you? Or someone you know? Were you interviewed on TV about the need for more organ donors in early June 1988? Do you know someone who was? This may or may not be a clue to the family’s identity, but it’s worth a try…

I’ll finish up with Eve’s own words explaining exactly why she wants to say thank you to this family for their life-giving act of generosity:

If you are reading this, please know that your decision was the right one. I have lived a good life, with many friends and family. I am loved and I do love.

I am eternally grateful to you and your family; it was down to you that my mum and dad did not lose me. It was because of your son that I have lived my life. It is because of your son that I am looking forward to my 40th birthday, next year. He has run with me for the last 26 years at a steady rate of 90bpm. He has drawn in air for me, 16 times per minute, hour by hour, day by day. Firemen, nurses and doctors save people all the time, he has saved me one beat at a time, one drawing in of a breath at a time, for the last 26 years. It is an understatement that I call him a hero.

So, if you know anything at all that might help Eve identify this family (or even think you might), please get in touch.

If you have any ideas or suggestions for next steps, please get in touch.

You can leave a comment here – I moderate all incoming comments (which means they do not automatically appear on a post and are only published if/when I decide to publish them), so if you have any information and want to post it without it appearing in the comments section here, please do so and I will ensure it is not published. You can also contact me via Twitter.

Eve also moderates comments over at her blog, so you can leave a message there too if you have any information. You can find her on Twitter here.

Any information you provide here will be strictly confidential and only passed on to Eve.

Please note that no individuals will be approached unless they give their permission. Eve is very aware that even after 26 years this must still be a sensitive issue for those involved, and the family will not be bothered should they prefer not to be in contact.

Please feel free to reblog this post or tweet about it or share it on other social media – and help Eve say thank you.

Watch out… squirrels about!

Watch out... squirrels about!

Out for a pleasant walk by the Thames in the sunshine last Sunday, I turned a corner to find this gang of cheeky rodents – in fact, this lot weren’t the only grey squirrels in sight. Tempted by the remains of picnics and ice creams (as well as the seeds and buds of the many mature trees in the area), squirrels were bounding round everywhere I looked. As I walked through the shady green grounds of York House in Twickenham with my camera in my hand, they seemed to be edging ever closer to me, circling me as I strolled – their fear of humans almost non-existent after so many years of posing for photographs and being cute for scraps of food. It almost felt as if I were in the opening scenes of some weird, squirrelly horror movie, so I quickly pocketed my camera and left, breathing a sigh of relief…

I think I’ll stick with ducks in the future!

Quotes of the Day: Maya Angelou on being yourself – and respecting yourself

Here are a few words of wisdom from the pen of a very wise woman:

If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.

Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option.

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

The writer of these words, Maya Angelou, who has died at the age of 86, was most certainly an amazing person (and, incidentally, she was quite right about “trying to be normal” – there’s no such thing…). Best known as a writer, academic, award-winning poet* and civil rights activist who worked with both Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X, she was, at various times and amongst other things, also a successful actress, singer and dancer. Described by her family as “a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace”, Maya Angelou was certainly a woman who lived her life with passion, compassion, humour and not a little style. She will be missed.

* Two of my personal favourites from among her many poems can be found here and here.

Election Propaganda: The European Edition

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these! Over the years it has become a bit of a tradition on Another Kind Of Mind that, whenever an election rolls round, I take great delight in poking, prodding and generally pulling apart the ‘Election Communication’ leaflets (read: abject propaganda) which the various parties stuff through your letterbox in a vain attempt to win your vote. Most people just chuck these leaflets into the recycling without even bothering to look at them – but I read and analyse (more like laugh at) these political communications so you don’t have to…

So far, I have been bombarded with half a tree’s worth of rubbish from the Labour Party, a rather shouty leaflet from the Tories which made me feel slightly ill, and some vaguely odd (and almost semi-literate) offerings from several tiny and relatively new political parties that I had, I must confess, not previously heard of. I have had nothing at all from the Liberal Democrats (big surprise!) or from the Greens (perhaps they are saving on paper to offset all the leaflets Labour have sent out?).

Of all these glaring omissions, I am most disappointed that I haven’t been favoured with any UKIP propaganda this time round (shame, I always enjoy being rude about them), especially since one of their local election candidates in the ward next door to mine produced some campaign leaflets which were so spectacularly weird that they got him deselected by the local branch of the party* –  but despite this sad and sorry loss to my rant, we will carry on regardless with what I do have.

First up, and simply because they sent me so much crap, is Labour. Although they all promise rather desperately to “act to deal with David Cameron’s cost-of-living crisis”, these leaflets feature the usual digs at the Tories and UKIP (“Don’t be taken in by the other parties…”), and some of it manages to be both prescriptive and patronising at the same time too – which certainly puts me off (“This is what your ballot will look like. Put a cross in the box next to Labour” Um, thanks but no thanks, Ed).

One point in Labour’s favour is that they are the only party who have actually sent me information about their candidates for the local elections (everything else I’ve had from everyone else has been specifically about the European vote), but that doesn’t let them off the hook, I’m afraid. Sorry, Labour supporters, but I still don’t trust them – taking the word ‘New’ off the front of the party name and pretending your leader wasn’t actually in the Blair cabinet isn’t really enough for me…

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Poor Old Camden Market…

It’s quite odd what strikes an emotional chord sometimes. I surprised myself last night by being genuinely upset to hear that there has been a large fire at the Stables Market in Camden, north London. It seems the fire broke out at about 8pm yesterday evening in the roof voids at the Chalk Farm Road end of the market, and the flames and smoke were soon visible for miles around – which resulted in hundreds of people being evacuated from the surrounding area. According to the BBC, ten fire engines and more than 70 firefighters were sent in to tackle it (which suggests it was a pretty big fire), eventually getting the blaze under control several hours later. Considering that yesterday was a beautiful, hot early summer day in London, the area around the market must have been very busy even at that late hour. It is quite amazing that no-one, it seems, was hurt in the incident. However, I suspect that many livelihoods and many memories have been destroyed by this blaze.

Camden is a part of this city that I know very well, and the markets there have long been an essential place to visit if you were ever an alternative kid in London – it certainly was an important and formative place for me. When I was growing up, Camden Market was one of only a few places in London where you could actually get such hard-to-find alternative essentials as black nail polish, extreme metal band t-shirts, bootleg albums of highly dubious origin, proper flared trousers, hair dye in colours never to be found in nature, glow-under-UV-light hoodies, stash tins with wonky-looking cannabis leaves painted on them and the kind of pungent Indian incense that sets smoke alarms off in ten seconds flat – amongst a vast plethora of other random things that you never knew existed, let alone that you wanted!

There was always a definite hippy kind of vibe about the place, almost as soon as you walked out of the tube station. Admittedly though, to actually get from the tube station to the Lock Market and the Stables Market you’d have to run the gauntlet of dodgy-looking geezers offering you something herbal that was allegedly weed, ageing punks with dogs on strings drinking Special Brew and shouting at people (the punks, not the dogs!), and, of course, the odd confused tourist standing in the middle of the pavement intently studying an upside down A-Z – but that was all part of the Camden Experience in the early 1990s.

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May Update

Hello everyone, I hope you’re enjoying the sunshine!

Now that I’ve finally moved into my new flat and have got most of the important unpacking and furniture stuff sorted out (as well as the ridiculous amounts of bureaucracy and paperwork which always go along with changing your address!), I am sure you will be glad to hear that I can now finally get back to Another Kind Of Mind a bit more seriously.

I’ve got all sorts of bits and pieces coming up for you, including the latest edition of my long-running Election Propaganda series which will be posted to coincide with this week’s European and local elections (although sadly I have not yet received anything through the post from UKIP, so I will be unable to be rude about them this time!).

I have also updated the Top 50 Albums Lists blog with the final part of my 1970s list, a few geeky stats, and some news about a brand new set of lists which will be coming up this summer. And if you’d like to submit your 1970s Top 50 to be included in the now semi-legendary List of Lists, you can still get in touch with me!

If you’re interested in photography, you might want to head over to my Flickr page, which I have recently updated with lots of new London street art images and some photos I took in the spring sunshine during a recent exploration of a rather lovely and historically interesting local cemetery (watch out for another picture I took that day in a post I’m planning for the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One in August…).

You can (still) find Another Kind Of Mind over at Tumblr too, plus I’m also on Twitter (a lot!) and Goodreads (should you be curious about what I’ve been reading recently…) – please feel free to follow me at any or all of these sites!

Don’t touch that dial, folks….

claire x

Quote of the Day: Melody Maker explains why rock ‘n’ roll will never work…

Once upon a time, there were four weekly music papers in the UK. These were Sounds, Record Mirror (both of which folded in the early 1990s), the New Musical Express (still published and better known as the NME) and the grandaddy of them all,  Melody Maker, which originally dated back to the mid 1920s and finally gave up the ghost in 2000. Affectionately known as ‘inkies’ because they were once published on the kind of newsprint that covered your fingers in black ink as you turned the pages, these publications were a hugely important part of the lives of generations of British music fans and introduced many a music-mad teenager to the latest, greatest hot new thing. But they didn’t always get it right…

Melody Maker, in particular, began life as a paper aimed squarely at jazz and dance band musicians, and as such they stubbornly and snobbishly ignored the growth of a new kind of popular music that began to emerge in the 1950s – the ‘cheap and nasty’ threat of rock ‘n’ roll. If they did mention it, it was to dismiss it as a pointless and distasteful fad that they desperately hoped would never catch on, as reviewer and broadcaster Steve Race wrote in May 1956:

Viewed as a social phenomenon, the current craze for Rock-and-Roll material is one of the most terrifying things ever to have happened to popular music. [...] Musically speaking, of course, the whole thing is laughable. [...] The Rock-and-Roll technique, instrumentally and vocally, is the antithesis of all that jazz has been striving for over the years – in other words, good taste and musical integrity. [...] It is a monstrous threat, both to the moral acceptance and artistic emancipation of jazz. Let us oppose it to the end.

The irony in this, of course, is that these are exactly the kind of negative things that were said about jazz in its early days too (and worse – a great deal of the criticism aimed at the jazz of the 1920s and 1930s had a distinctly and often openly racist tone to it). Even more ironically, a direct line can be drawn from the British ‘Trad’ jazz scene of the 1950s to the rhythm and blues-based rock scene of the early- to mid-1960s that gave us the likes of the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds via the ‘Skiffle’ craze of the late 50s (which was where the Beatles started out….).

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UPDATE: The 2014 Diagram Prize

At the end of last month, I wrote my annual post about the Diagram Prize – which is probably the oddest, and certainly my favourite, literary prize of the year. The winner of the 2014 Prize was announced yesterday after a public vote, with top spot going to the very weirdly-titled (and possibly a little pointless?) How To Poo On A Date: The Lovers’ Guide To Toilet Etiquette by Mats & Enzo.

In a statement, the publishers of How To Poo On A Date drily commented:

We are very happy and honoured that the public thought our book worthy of first place in this much sought-after prize; we’d have been disappointed to be number two.

Oh dear

RIP Tony Benn

Some people are born to be troublemakers – in the best possible sense of that word. The veteran Labour politican Tony Benn, who died yesterday at the age of 88, was certainly one such. The kind of trouble he made was the kind of trouble many more of us should make in this life: he was prepared to stand up and say what needed to be said, usually in no uncertain terms, and often much to the discomfort of the government of the day (and even his own party, at times).

While reading the many tributes that have been made to this principled man in the immediate aftermath of his death, I was reminded of the role he played in paying tribute to someone else, another determined and impassioned individual who stood up for what they believed in – the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, who is remembered by an unusual memorial plaque in the House of Commons (see text below). I first encountered the story of this once secret plaque and Benn’s part in it from the MP and ex-Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, who told it at a Climate Rush event commemorating the suffragettes in 2010, and it has intrigued me ever since:

IN LOVING MEMORY OF

EMILY WILDING DAVISON

IN THIS BROOM CUPBOARD EMILY WILDING DAVISON HID HERSELF, ILLEGALLY, DURING THE NIGHT OF THE 1911 CENSUS.

SHE WAS A BRAVE SUFFRAGETTE CAMPAIGNING FOR VOTES FOR WOMEN AT A TIME WHEN PARLIAMENT DENIED THEM THAT RIGHT.

IN THIS WAY SHE WAS ABLE TO RECORD HER ADDRESS, ON THE NIGHT OF THE CENSUS, AS BEING “THE HOUSE OF COMMONS”, THUS MAKING HER CLAIM TO THE SAME POLITICAL RIGHTS AS MEN.

EMILY WILDING DAVISON DIED IN JUNE 1913 FROM INJURIES SUSTAINED WHEN SHE THREW HERSELF UNDER THE KING’S HORSE AT THE DERBY TO DRAW PUBLIC ATTENTION TO THE INJUSTICE SUFFERED BY WOMEN.

BY SUCH MEANS WAS DEMOCRACY WON FOR THE PEOPLE OF BRITAIN.

Notice placed here by Tony Benn MP.

“I must tell you, Mr Speaker, that I am going to put a plaque in the House. I shall have it made myself and screwed on the door of the broom cupboard in the Crypt.”

It’s a great story, but it’s more than that. It says a great deal about the kind of person Tony Benn was. A tenacious and principled man who was happy to speak his mind, as the very fact that he was so determined to commemorate this event (even secretly) – and that he considered it to be important enough to memorialise – shows. Like many from across the political spectrum, I have long admired the principled stance he maintained all the way through his political life – and this memorial to Emily Wilding Davison is but one example of the way his democratic and socialist principles were so important to him.

I never met the man himself, but I saw and heard him speak at countless rallies and he was always fascinating. I suspect we might not always have agreed on everything had we ever met, but, quite frankly, that really doesn’t matter. The accounts I have read over the last twenty four hours from those who did meet him all point to a man who was fascinated by people and who would always find time to speak to those who buttonholed him – and, unlike most modern politicians, who would really listen to and absorb what he was being told, whether he agreed or not.

Tony Benn was the kind of politician you just don’t see any more. Writing in The Guardian yesterday, Gary Younge points out exactly what it was that made Benn the kind of politican we should see more of:

He advocated for the weak against the strong, the poor against the rich and labour against capital. He believed that we were more effective as human beings when we worked together collectively than when we worked against each other as individuals. Such principles have long been threatened with extinction in British politics. Benn did a great deal to keep them alive.

And it’s now our job to continue to keep these principles alive in the face of the current political climate…

Quote of the Day: Julian Cope on being on Top Of The Pops

Sorting through a large file of newspaper clippings this afternoon, I came across this 2008 article from The Times on the subject of the legendary and late-lamented British music TV show, Top Of The Pops. The article quotes Julian Cope on the subject of his 1981 appearance on the show with Teardrop Explodes. If you know anything about Cope and his eccentric working methods, you’ll soon realise that this was no ordinary TOTP performance – in fact, he had dropped some acid beforehand, which probably wasn’t particularly sensible under the circumstances, since:

The piano started melting and I was wading up to my thighs in it by the chorus.

I dread to think how much mess that made….

Just say no to melting pianos, kids.