I felt so privileged to attend the Life After Stroke Awards at the Dorchester this week. The glamorous ballroom, elegant dinner and host of celebrities didn’t detract from the reason I was there, smiling, clapping and hoping my mascara wasn’t running. Karren Brady introduced the ceremony to honour people who’ve overcome a stroke to create better lives for themselves and others. Christopher Biggins hosted the event and many of the celebrities presenting the awards have either had strokes or are close to someone who has. A veritable list of stars stood on that stage, but none shone as brightly as the recipients – all of whom were totally awesome!
I enjoyed my flaming brulée along with Liz and Nancy, the friends I made out of our shared horror experiences. Together, we’re a voice for the families of young stroke survivors. We sat between two politicians – one from the House of Lords and the other from the Commons, pushing forward the agenda to ensure childhood stroke is more widely recognised, fast-tracked and appropriately supported in its aftermath.
It was also delightful to share the table with Joanie and Sarah Scott. Joanie and I met on Facebook and we recognised each other immediately – the beauty of social media. Sarah suffered a stroke when she was 18, and has won the Volunteer of the Year Award for her work at raising awareness in schools and at public events. She wasn’t the only young person honoured… Carer of the Year went to a gorgeous young girl of just 13, Cheyenne McLaughlin, who looks after little sister, the survivor of a stroke while still in her mother’s womb. The Children and Young People’s Courage Award was presented to Hannah Garrity who suffered a stroke at eight years old. And the Adult Courage Award was deservedly given to Angharad Lloyd Thomas, whose life was devastated by a stroke when she was 20. All young people… all surviving…. All amazing!! All determined to overcome, achieve and live happy, successful lives.
It was the second time I’d cried this week, and I rarely do. But on Monday, I was early for a networking event in a pub in Shoreditch (yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking!) so I popped into a quiet bar for a cup of peppermint tea. Scrolling through Facebook, I was hit by the dreadful news about Rik Mayall.
I didn’t know him personally (although I did date his chauffer a few times in the late 80s). But the Comic Strip team epitomise my youth… I grew up with Rik and Ade, Dawn and Jennifer – and my friendships at that time were sparkling with their humour. His portrayal of a poetry-writing, student anarchist entertained a whole generation; the politics may have changed, but the comedy genius shines as brightly as ever. It made me so sad.
The networking event was lively, despite the sombre Rik chatter. I got to play with a new on-line music platform – Music Jelly – and it was such fun! I created a cacophony of sound with a mix of totally unrelated instruments, musicians and tappers (don’t know the technical term for that!) using a range of iPads to control my uneducated musical choices. I can’t explain it well, but it’s fascinating and totally absorbing, and worth checking out if you’re a music lover.
Back in 1982, Rick Mayall and co coined Cliff’s words for their masterpiece launch into TV comedy history: ‘Once in every lifetime, comes a love like this. I need you and you need me, oh my darling can’t you see…?’ This week quite a few people have needed me to advise them on website content. If you need me for that, or any other writing or social media advice, I’m right here: @WeekendWitch.