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six and a half times

It’s been a tough weekend. National Air Ambulance week starts tomorrow. So we’d decided on Street Collections for yesterday and today. Not a bad idea when the weather is on your side.

So Saturday was okay. Apart from the fact that barely half a dozen people in Stevenage even deigned to acknowledge our existence, never mind bothering to find out that you’re collecting money for an Air Ambulance which any of us might need one day. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming anyone. Times are hard and I’ve ignored those chugging the street enough times myself. It’s just that it’s so undeniably dispiriting when they look right through you. But hey, the sunshine was out, and one or two people were bothered. A few even walked off brandishing a wrist band or a pin-on ribbon or a helicopter badge.

Today. Well. We must have seen no more than thirty people cross the Market Square. To be fair, the folk of Hitchin (especially the kids) were nice. Appreciative even. Then it tipped it down. So despite our best efforts, we stared the rain logged sky in the face and accepted defeat, packing up our soggy leaflets and buckets filled with more H2O than Cu. My fellow previously-just-as-optimistic-with-250-wrist-bands-each-collectors in St Albans and Welwyn Garden City, soon followed suit. No point in flogging a dead horse.

I’ll admit it. I did start to wonder why we bother making the effort. But there was the Mayor of Hertmere’s Civil Service to get to in Borehamwood, so no time to dwell.

During the service the Vicar did that thing. You know that thing. The thing where he looks up, peers over the rim of his glasses and drills down to the very point of his whole sermon, whilst looking directly at you:

“Look after your inner self”. Okay already. (At least I had an unexpected Sunday lunch today. Refer to previous post).

I have to admit, I quite liked the service. I’m not a church goer at all, but I like an excuse to sing. And they had some good choices on the hymns: “Bring me my bow of burning gold; Bring me my arrows of desire”.  Religious? Really?? Positively rousing, either way. Things are looking up.  And then the best thing happens. A little girl with long blonde plaits and wide open blue eyes with green centres, comes up to me:

“You did an assembly at my school this week!”. In fact, we’ve done nine school assemblies this week, in the hope that the kids will wear red for a day and pay £1 to support the Herts service  (red helicopter you see) during National Air Ambulance week. But as I’ve said to nine school halls of perfectly lined up and neatly crossed-legged children this week, the most important thing is that they tell their friends and family about what they’ve learnt, and well..spread the word.

“What was the coolest fact, that you learnt?”
(she thinks)

“I think…that…the helicopter blades go around six..and a half times…per second”.

It occurs to me that she’ll remember that forever (which is pretty damn impressive if I do say so myself). Then as quickly as she appeared by my side, she’s turned on her heel and disappeared, ushered by her grandmother into the queue of grown ups patiently making their way into the marque for post Civic-Service-High-Tea. Well, she’s remembered and then told me a Herts Air Ambulance fact. Maybe the effort is worth it, all the while.

I’ve not got much of an appetite so I nibble a piece of flapjack and warm my hands around a china cup of tea as the afternoon progresses through the Mayor Pat Strack’s welcome and the rom-pom-pom-band playing everything from “Oh I do like to be beside the Seaside” to “Memories” from Cats.

Really I just want to get home and curl up with the the girly Blockbuster DVD that’s waiting for me on top of the telly. But I make a point of talking to a dozen people on different tables before I leave. There’s one couple who I really like: kind faces, ready questions and just a graceful way about them. The bright chestnut eyed man asks a question about where the helicopter is based and I start to chat away to the two of them. And then:

“My granddaughter tells me that the rotor blades on the helicopter go around six and a half times in one second”.

Grin. Cheshire Cat.

(I didn’t take this photo. Casey Gutteridge did:

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