I think the direction of my life is about to change for ever. Yesterday was the funeral of my beloved daughter Rebekah who died suddenly two and a half weeks ago. Rebekah's life had always been filled with medical problems, she was two and a half years old when she was diagnosed to be suffering from chronic renal failure. She had two unsuccessful transplants before a successful operation changed her life. That transplanted kidney came to the end of its life quite recently and she was on dialysis. She did not take to dialysis and her body simply gave up.
I had Rebekah in my life for thirty-four years and wondered how I would cope with the rest of my own life without her. I will be sixty-seven years old in November, my family has a reputation for longevity so it is possible I may have another thirty-four years to face without her.
No, I will not have her in a physical way but things have moved to a place where I am going to have Beck with me constantly. Gone are the days of being a retired teacher and an amateur author, some very busy days, weeks, months and years are stretching ahead of me. My life is about to change. I am presented with a challenge which I can make as big as I wish. Do you have a few moments I can share this with you ?
When Rebekah was a small child and in hospital in London my family would never have managed to cope with life if it had not been for Ronal McDonald House. That original Ronald McDonald House at Guys Hospital was the first in the country and was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Ours was one of the first families to benefit from Ronald McDonald House. There are now fifteen RonaldMcDonald Houses up and down the country supporting families who have children sick in hospital. That original house has been replaced by a brand new and bigger Ronald McDonald House which was opened by The Duchess of Cambridge. Worldwide there are three hundred and sixty-five McDonald Houses in forty different countries of the world.
My family has always supported Ronald McDonald, we never go to the fast food giant without popping coins in the collecting box. It was Rebekah's wish that we support Ronald McDonald in her memory.
I hoped that we would have thirty, perhaps forty, people at the funeral. We had more than one hundred ! We planned to have cakes in the garden after the service to celebrate Beck's life. I was constantly checking all day yesterday the weather forecast which was not good. The rain was heavy but stopped for the duration of the funeral and the time we had in the garden. We asked people to come back to the house and caused a traffic jam in our little road as people poured in. We asked that friends bring cakes, more cakes than we could eat. The plan was the to take some the next day to schools and hospitals. We had over two thousand cakes !
I have spent today taking cakes to the nursery where Rebekah worked and to the school where she used to work. Although she left several years ago so many staff from that school turned up yesterday. There were so many they came in a mini-'bus ! I took cakes to the doctors in my local surgery, the doctors and staff who had known Rebekah as a little girl. I took cakes to the renal ward in our local hospital. I took boxes of cakes to the chief executive's office and asked they be taken round to some of the wards. Tomorrow I am driving over to Oxford to take cakes to staff in the renal ward and transplant clinic in The Churchill Hospital.
As I sit typing this diary entry my whole house smells from the flowers friends have given.
Yesterday was a beautiful, beautiful day. Today was a busy day as will be tomorrow. It is possible then to think life may become an anticlimax and suddenly feel void without my darling Rebekah.
That is not going to happen. Quite the reverse.
I am not personally going to start fund raising for Ronald McDonald. If I did I could possibly raise a few hundred pounds. Instead I am going to use my organisational skills and ability to open doors to find ways those who are working to support Ronald McDonald can achieve a little more. I am not setting up an organisation but just doing my bit. I am setting myself a target to help those on the front line of fund raising generate an extra thirty four thousand pounds a year. One thousand pounds for every year of Rebekah's life. Do the maths, if I live for another thirty four years - 34,000 x 34 = 1,156,000. I want to help generate one million pounds before I leave this earth. When I hit the million I will then think of retirement and NOT before.
I have many ideas as to how I will help those lovely people. My financial year will start on 15th May each year, the date Rebekah passed away. Keep doing the maths - 34,000 divided by 365 days in the year comes to ninety three pounds fifteen pence. To start things off I am supporting Rebekah's friends who are taking part in a fun run in the autumn. Their JustGiving page currently stands at four hundred and sixty-five pounds. STILL do the Maths - that comes to twenty-one pounds a day. I need to get my act together !
Don't worry I will be ! I am organising my thoughts on a website which I will soon be publishing. Tonight I will be sitting up all night watching the results come in from the general election. While watching I will finish the site then offer its draft to Ronal McDonald for his approval and to Rebekah's friends for their comments.
That website has a colour scheme of blue and white, all text is blue on a white background. Rebekah was a Sheffield Wednesday fan and for those who do not know blue and white are the team colours. Already Sheffield Wednesday has got behind the effort and will soon be raising the level in our thermometer.
I have many, many ideas which tonight I will add to the OUR REBEKAH website ready to show to Ronald and seek his approval. When he has said yes and no to the content it will be revised and published as a central tool for friends to use to help Ronald's work.
Perhaps I should explain that when I was at school the only subject I failed was ART so designing anything is not a strength. When it comes to designing and publishing a website I am 100% self-taught. I use a programme which was originally published in 2001 and ceased to be in general web design use several years ago. So my websites are functional but not all singing and all dancing.
The websites I write to promote my story writing are in need of revision and are going to have to slot in behind this new Our Rebekah website.
Once this new website is published and Ronald McDonald has said what he is happy with and what he would prefer I did not do, I will unashamedly be exploiting every contact I have to raise support for Ronald McDonald Houses.
People who knew me years ago used to call me Mr Organiser. I have a reputation for being able to open doors, someone once said that if I knock and the door does not open I just kick it in and walk in anyway !
I will be organising, exploiting, knocking on and kicking in doors like crazy to raisethirty four thousand pounds for every year Rebekak was alive. There are a lot of people out there who need to be ready for me to be knocking on their doors.
There is going to be a change in my story writing. A big change. I am knocking hard on my own front door.
Look at this cool, handsome young man. That's me ! Well it is me fifty years ago. Over the past year I have developed this old picture of myself as the logo for Max Robinson, the pen name I use for my story writing.
In this image I must have combed my hair for, allow me to show you another youthful me, this is a more accurate view of my appearance back then.
Heck I was good looking wasn't I ?
Hardly handsome these days, not even ruggedly handsome ! Ugly ? Yeh, I'd go along with that. The hair hasn't changed much has it ? I have no intention of having it cut and will be using it to promote my story writing. My hair will be my trademark. Forget Boris or Donald my hair will surpass them both.
My story writing is going to have to change and Max Robinson (My pen-name) is going to have to sell a lot more books and e-books than he does at present. I want to be very precise and open about my writing,, the money I make and how I intend to exploit my writing to help Ronald and NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND. I will say that again - my writing is to help Ronald McDonald, NOT exploiting Ronald to turn me into a famous best-selling author. OK, have you got that ? Rebekah was not a fan of my story writing, I think if anything it embarrassed her a bit.
When Rebekah was a small child, in and out of hospital, I wrote the book The Wild Adventures of Di Central Eating. It is not strictly speaking abook for children, it is an adult's view of a child's life. Di is fictional but all of his adventures come from things within my own childhood. it was accepted for publication but I never got my act together so that did not happen.
On the left is the original manuscript. Opening the cover there is a dedication saying Rebekah This One Is For You.
Today the story is published on Amazon as an e-book.
Of all my stories, I think I have fourteen e-books currently available, I am always saying that Di Central Eating has the potential to become the biggest seller. However, before this can happen I believe it needs to be illustrated.
If you take away the illustrations from Roald Dahl's books or from A A Milne and his Winnie The Pooh the text alone does not tell the full story. I have tried and failed to find illustrations for Di. However, I now know EXACTLY how I want the illustrations to now happen. I will be sharing this with Ronald McDonald then if he gives it the thumbs up I will be republishing Di's adventures. ALL royalties from both the e-books and paperback editions will go to Ronald McDonald Houses. Not a single penny will come my way. My plan is to open a door and make from this book eighty-six thousand three hundred pounds for Ronald's work. Once the new illustrated book is published I will be knocking on YOUR door to buy a copy.
Some time ago, well a month or so anyway, I put on-line a survey asking what genre of story did most people like to read. I thought the answer would come back as Crime Fiction but NO. Overwhelmingly people said they wanted to read HistoricalDrama.
I started to write a story The Bridge House which is centred on the life and times of my grandmother Lily. Lily was born in 1890. She married William who had an older sister Jessie. William and Lily had three boys. She longed for a little girl but it did not happen.
She then had four grandsons but no granddaughter.
Along came the great-grandchildren. One, two, three boys but no great-granddaughter. Lily must have given up all hope of seeing a little girl. Eventually thereRebekah, the first girl to be born in our family since William's older sister Jessie one hundred years earlier.
The story of The Bridge House opens in 1901, shortly after Lily's eleventh birthday, with the death of Queen Victoria. It is working its way towards the birth of Rebekah. Rebekah will constantly be there in the background. When Beck died I wondered if I could continue writing. If I stopped that would be the end of a hobby I have enjoyed for fifty years. I shared this thought with my wife who suggested I should write the story for Rebekah. That is exactly what I am doing.
One of Rebekah's friends paid to have a star named after her. One of my former students who knew Beck as a little girl said look up into the sky and look for the brightest star, that is Rebekah. I have woven that into the story of The Bridge House.
Sheffield Wednesday will be making an appearance within the next few thousand words.
Another of Beck's friends gave us seeds for a rose named after her. It just so happens that Harry Wheatcroft, the celebrity rose grower from the 1960's was a cousin of Lily. That will be written into the story.
When I write anything I have a plan but that plan is usually in my head. For The Bridge House I have written it down in some detail and am having great fun working through it all. The Bridge House will be published in October.
As with Di Central Eating every penny will be going to Ronald McDonald.
My other stories are going to have to start making me money. I am going to have to put a smile on the face of my publisher and promote them. I am not a poor man by a very long way but to do the work I want to do for Rebekah and Ronald I am going to have to find an extra few hundred pounds a week. I will have to travel both by train and car to meet people. I will need to take people out for a meal as I seek to persuade them to help, Those meals will be in McDonalds but I will not be asking Ronald to pay for a single burger. There will be the need to buy business cards, pay for printing, stamps, envelopes, phone calls and loads of other things. These will all have to be paid for. Selling my stories beyond The Wild Adventures of Di Central Eating and The Bridge House are going to have to fund that money.
So here I am approaching my sixty-seventh birthday and about to enter an entirely new stage of my life. The next thirty-four years will be very busy, very busy indeed. Bye bye retirement.
Well I guess I had better shut up and start working !