Saturday, 3 October 2009


Thursday, 1 October 2009


Now why, you're wondering, in the first place would we be at the Bangla Deshi Centre and who, in the second place, is we?

We, is me and Andrea. Why, is we was asking for money.  Let me explain...

There's a government funded local group called Back on the Map which is a quango with the aim of improving life in the Sunderland areas of Hendon and the East End. It does a lot of very good work, part of which involves promoting the area. One a year they allocate relatively small sums of money to groups which provide some form of service to the area which is where we come in.

Animal Krackers is well known in the area and a lot of rescued animals come from here such as Lulu the kitten. This year we put in a request for £1800 which would provide 5 places at Ferryfarm Kennels for a year and stray/unwanted dogs from Hendon would be guaranteed a place. One such dog can be seen sitting on my knee in the photo below about an hour after it was taken away to its new fosterer. The dog is a Jack Russell, a ratter by instinct and likely to chase small animals. It proved to be terrified of cats as I discovered when I had to drag it past one of my cats which was sitting just inside the front gate.

The format of the meeting is that each individual group gives a maximum 5-minute presentation. Each group is fit into one of 4 categories -Health & Fitness, the elderly, ethnic, and 'small sums' (our category). A varied amount of money is allocated to each category and is voted on by 50 volunteer judges from the area. However, as I've just found out from Susan a few minutes ago, the voting is overall and not in each separate category so it's possible that none of the groups in a particular category could be voted any money. This is obviously not a good idea and clearly I'm writing from hindsight as I found out some disturbing information after writing the following two paragraphs.

And it's held at the Bangla Deshi Centre which, despite the name, is open to all and is a very active centre.

Usually Susan and  Andrea we do it but Susan had to be at a meeting about her mother and I was the obvious replacement being articulate, confident  and charming. You do recognise that description of me, don't you? One slight problem, until the day before, Andrea was away for the week. Susan dictated an introduction which I typed and modified. I then wrote my piece about Lulu and Grace and brought it all together in the conclusion. Andrea emailed a piece a couple of days before which I then edited, cut, rewrote, etc until the whole thing pretty much worked. Given the 5-minute limit, I was still doing minor revisions an hour before we were due to arrive.

Held in a large hall arranged into the audience in groups of tables with up to six at a table, and the supplicants arrayed on either side of a wide table along one wall. With over 20 groups and allowing for technical hitches this would, I thought, take a long time. As it turned out, only one group overran and no-one minded as it was to support a group of prepubescent would-be cheerleaders who, while their young female presenter was excellent, were pretty terrible but all the more charming for it. Quite a few presentations were over in a minute or less and we were on last.

We had brought three display boards packed with photos of Hendon animals we'd rescued and put it in front of the table. Holding the microphone close and wearing my Animal Krackers t-shirt, I gave the introduction about why we were asking for money and what we did. I passed the mic to Andrea who then cited examples of Hendon dogs we'd rescued referencing the relevant photos. Back to me for brief stories of Grace and Lulu and I then wrapped it up by explaining that if we got the money for the dogs if would have a knock-on effect in that we would not be placed, by limited funds, into having to choose whether to provide either veterinary care or a kennel place, in effect, condemning an animal to an uncertain future. I may have imagined it but I thought we got a substantial applause when we finished.

Strange thing is, despite being shy in a social situation where I'm not on familiar territory or with people I know, I have no problems at all about talking to a large group, concerns that I might fluff lines or lose my place, yes, but I don't feel nervous at all. It would also seem that this is not a delusion on my part as several people mentioned how confidently I came over.  Andrea and I agreed that if we didn't get the money it would be because the judges had other priorities rather than any weaknesses in our presentation or content.

We then networked the various tables for about three quarters of an hour until lunch arrived, ate lunch, and, deciding we'd done all we could, left.

In a nutshell: we got the money we asked for.

However, Back on the Map shot themselves in the foot. Because it wasn't voted on by category, none of the groups in the ethnic section got anything and the organisation is in turmoil and accusations of racism are flying around. Susan even offered to donate £500 of the money we'd been given to one of the ethnic groups but we weren't allowed. I feel sorry for BOTM because they are a worthy organisation but they've screwed up big time and I hope they can this mess sorted. It's rather soured our win as I do feel the ethnic groups haven't had a fair shake.

And that's it, no real wrap up, just life, man.

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