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Park-and-RideIt’s almost upon us. The final act in our 25 year history …

On Saturday, March the 8th we’ll be opening our doors to the public for the final time.

In one of the hundreds of messages of support and sympathy we’ve received since the news broke (and excerpts from which will be on display at the Centre on Saturday), Chris Batten – Director of the Frances C Scott Trust in Kendal – describes choosing to close with an Open Day as “a dollop of quintessential CCC quirkery”, which sums it – and us – up fairly neatly we feel.

Doors open at 10.00am, the Met Office is promising a dry, if not fine, day and if the early indications are anything to go by, we’re going to be playing to a full house. We have people coming down from Scotland and up from the south to say their farewells – and for that reason, can we please reiterate – and emphasize – that you won’t be able to park, or even drop off people, at the Centre. We’ve organized a ‘Park and Ride’ system which will be operating from Muncaster Castle’s main car park. It will be clearly signposted. Just park at Muncaster and wait in the designated area and one of our volunteer drivers will ferry you up the hill.

At 11.00am, Centre Patron Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington will be giving a short speech, followed by the Centre Chairman Dr Tim Sowton and then a representative of the Centre’s clients – Paul Roberts.

The raffle for the wine hamper (donated by Gen2) will be running all day and will be drawn at 3.00pm (ish).

Almost everything that isn’t nailed down will be for sale (we’ve told the volunteers on the day that they’ll be perfectly safe as long as they keep moving …). Look for the little red dots with a price tag attached. If it hasn’t got a red dot, it isn’t for sale. We’re looking for buyers for furniture, office equipment, stationery, books, soft furnishings … the lot … and all proceeds will go to the Centre’s closing down costs.

It should be an … interesting day …


This is a real learning experience, you know.

Today we have had: Turning Powerpoint Presentations into YouTube videos –  and here is the result, which you may find easier to share:

The YouTube version has some added information in the ‘About’ section … explaining who we are, what we do and why it matters. We also spell out the nature and root of the problem a little more precisely.

At the risk of sounding like a scratched record, because we are truly grateful for all your efforts so far, we REALLY must get this message out to as many people as possible, and we can’t do that without your help. We’re already getting some interesting reactions and feedback and we want to keep the momentum going …

Thank you all. You’re real troupers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe haven’t exactly been making a secret of the fact that the Centre is facing funding problems – it has, after all, been in the Whitehaven News as well as on Radio Cumbria – but neither have we been making a song and dance over it, so we thought the time had probably come for us to do what we do best (but don’t actually do that often on acccount of being nicely brought up): get a bit vocal. After all, neither Gretchen nor Yours Truly are famous for not being able to find le mot juste when needed.

Those of you who have watched the presentation I posted yesterday will now know the nature of our problem – that financial support from our friends and supporters has held up remarkably well, as has the funding from Charitable Trusts – which is nothing short of a miracle in these parlous times. It’s the funding from local industry that’s evaporated – and not just for us, lest anyone accuse us of being paranoid: the same story is being repeated over and over again across the area. Small (and not so small) charities doing excellent work with a proven track record are struggling and failing to secure the money they need to keep their doors open.

So this is the favour …

We’re NOT asking for your money, because so many of you have already contributed far more than we had any right to expect, and in any case our survival should not depend on the kindness of good people. We are actively pursuing fresh funding from other sources, but we need your help to spread the Presentation as widely as possible. There IS money out there – we all know there is, and that obscene amounts are being squandered on nothing – but we are only a small charity with a quiet voice and we need our friends to act as our amplifiers …

If you use the link below, it will open a slightly updated version of the slide show which includes details of the Centre and how to make a donation.


Thank you.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         Andrea and a group of friends are taking part in the Keswick to Barrow Walk on May the 11th – all 40 miles of it. Up and down hills. Lots of them. On roads. Whatever the weather. Oh yes.

They’re doing it in memory of Paula, of course, and also in recognition of all the financial help we’ve received from the K2B Committee over the years – amounting to several thousands of pounds. The team will all be sporting these rather ritzy tee-shirts – so if you live anywhere along the route and spot them – do cheer them on their way.

Andrea’s immersed in training, and has so far managed a couple of 20 mileOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         walks without too much grief although yesterday in the Centre, if I was being deeply ungenerous (Who? Me?), I’d say she was doing a passable imitation of a ruptured duck …

The major point, of course, is to raise money … and she’d be EVERSO grateful if people would sponsor her because – you know – she’s not really doing this for the fun of it. Not even in a pretty pink and white tee-shirt.

If you can spare a few pounds … she has her own page on the K2B website:

Andrea – Keswick to Barrow 2013.

She’ll love you forever. Really. She will. And so will I. Promise.

… the one that was postponed from the 24th of March … actually happened last Sunday and, predictably, after a stretch of tolerably fine weather right up to Saturday, Sunday dawned wet, windy and thoroughly miserable.

But our certifiable heroic volunteers were utterly undaunted. Working on the assumption that you can only get wet once,  they donned their wet weather clothing and flung themselves into the storm to battle the elements along with the weeds and the shrubs and the veggie patch:

bottoms up

wet garden day

Before they all adjourned to Mawsons in Seascale for lunch, there was a little ceremony to dedicate a memorial to Paula.

The memorial took the form of a wooden dragonfly, made by Ralf (of Silent Forest Creations), with the family’s names carved on its wings …



I went out this afternoon and took some photos of the dragonfly swooping over the sunken garden in the spring sunshine … a permanent reminder of a remarkable and lovely lady.




Paula 1 - Jacqueline Moore

Paula Roberts
22nd March 1968 – 23rd January 2013

Just before Christmas we were approached by the regional news programme, BBC Look North, who wanted to come to the Centre to film a segment for their upcoming feature on volunteering in the area. They were particularly interested in talking to Paula and Paul Roberts.

Paula had been diagnosed with terminal cancer in the Summer of 2010 – almost literally out of the blue.  She and her husband Paul – the parents of two young children – turned up on our doorstep in a state of shock having been told that her life expectancy could be measured out in months rather than years.

Together we set out on an extraordinary journey which took us to places  none of us could ever have imagined on that chill late summer’s afternoon two and half years ago. They became our close friends and we became – I hope – their haven and second family.

In due course,  having succeeded in beating back her illness, Paula  joined our Board of Trustees and took an active and enthusiastic part in our Volunteer programme. She wrote perceptive and  articulate  letters of support for our funding applications, was a vocal and persuasive supporter of the Centre and became a powerful ambassador for us in the local community.

By the time the Look North film crew arrived last Wednesday however, Paula was gravely ill. She was nevertheless absolutely determined to face the cameras and tell her story.

Tell her story she did:  and she was magnificent.

Within 24 hours she had been admitted to hospital, and yesterday – with Paul at her bedside – she slipped peacefully away at the age of 44.

She fought her illness with grace, humour and a splendid – even breathtaking –  bloody-mindedness. The Look North interview was both her swan song  and her parting gift to us.

It will be shown – with Paul’s blessing –  on BBC1 between 6.30 and 7.00pm on Monday the 28th.

Rest in peace, Paula. It was truly amazing knowing you.

(Photograph: Copyright Jacqueline Moore Photography.)

The inaugural Cumbria Community Foundation and Nuclear Managerment Partners Volunteer Achievements Awards ceremony was held last night (Wednesday) at the Wave Centre in Maryport.

One of the nominees – for ‘Overcoming Adversity’ – was our very own Peter Bartlett, who’s been a volunteer at the Centre for over three years now and – in spite of multiple sclerosis – is as active and enthusiastic as any of our able-bodied volunteers (although we keep thinking the powered wheelchair could really use a few warning lights and klaxons …).

Last night – to his total astonishment and our delight – he won the  Volunteer of the Year Award  itself … and here he is receiving his award from Graham McKendry, General Manager at Nuclear Management Partners (photograph purloined from Cumbria Community Foundation … but I’m sure they won’t mind!):

Here’s his Certificate:

and here, most spectacularly of all, is the Award itself:

Well done, that man!

(Warning: Small children may find the following image disturbing …)

Teddy, disassembled …

This is definitely a tale that grew in the telling.

Last year, at around this time of year, I decided in a moment of uncharacteristic generosity and selflessness that I would knit a teddy bear for the Centre’s Christmas Fair, either for sale on the craft stall or – if it turned out reasonably respectably – as a raffle prize. How difficult, I asked myself, can it be to knit a teddy bear? Armies of old ladies knock them out as a matter of routine.

I knitted the body without too much grief, and also the three pieces that make up the head. Then I embarked on the arms, which each have two sides – Side A and Side B.  I clicked away happily through numerous episodes of Midsomer Murders and Lewis, completed both sides and started on the legs, which also have a Side A and Side B.  Part way down Side A of the first leg, I decided, in an idle moment, to admire my handiwork – especially the way everything fitted together. Except it didn’t. Side A of the arms was shorter than Side B  and what’s more the shaping didn’t match – which was all rather dispiritiing …

By this time, the Christmas Fair was getting quite close and I had a pattern for knitted jelly babies that was AWFULLY easy and therefore AWFULLY tempting … so, in true “Ah, b*gger it’ fashion, I wussed out, dumped the teddy unceremoniously in the knitting basket and made with the jelly babies.

Fast forward to this year,  and – determined to vanquish the disassembled monster lurking in my knitting basket – I dragged it all out again. First I finished knitting the legs, telling myself that when I was sewing it all up, I could probably gently ease the two bits of the arms together. When I came to try it however, the net result was a tragically deformed limb. I mean, really – I’d have had to send the poor little soul out into the world with its own, specially commissioned crutch. So, gritting my teeth, I rattled back the shaping at the top of the arms and added half a dozen rows. Result! Not a perfect match but – as the Matriarch is wont to say – a blind man would have been glad to see it.

Then I went to sew the leg pieces together.

Guess what.


One piece was shorter than the other. I could have cried. I mean, I literally could have cried. Somehow, I’d obviously managed to miss out a whole section that said “increase one stitch at either end of the next row and on the following 4th row” …

More rattling back, more reknitting and reshaping.

Eventually though, I had two pieces that matched (ish) and I got everything sewn up beautifully. Which is when the trouble really started.  ‘Stuff your teddy’ it said.

And I was tempted. I was sorely tempted.

Have you ever tried stuffing a knitted toy?  Too little, and you get a nasty case of brewer’s droop. Too much and in the wrong place and you have something that should be swinging around on the bell ropes crying “Esmereeeeelda!”*. One leg looked as if it had a really nasty case of deep vein thrombosis, while the other needed a calliper. And the arms. … Don’t even START me on the arms.

All of that paled into insignifcance however when I put the head together and tried to get the eyes and mouth in the right place. A millimetre can make all the difference between ‘sweet and appealing’ and  ‘psychotic’. It’s frightening. One twitch of the needle at the wrong moment and your furry chum has been transformed into Freddie Kreuger’s baby brother.

Teddy is still a work in progress. This weekend might just seem him in one piece. I do hope so because this morning a photograph of him in bits ruined a little girl’s whole year. He may or may not end up a thing of beauty and a joy forever … but however he turns out, he’s going to be a raffle prize. This is a bear with history and character. This is a bear with a back story. This is no ordinary teddy bear. And by my reckoning – if you include all the man-hours that have gone into his manufacture, he’s worth about £2,500 …

This bear will be, in short, a collector’s item. In years to come, on an afternoon antiques programme, an aged expert’s eyes will brim with tears as he gazes upon its frayed and fragile remnants, and he will say:

“I can’t believe it.  I’ve heard rumours of this bear’s existence all of my life – but never thought I’d live to see it. I can die a happy man …”

Don’t say I didn’t tell you.

*I am indebted to my good friend Kirsty McCluskey for this image …

I’d like to report that the weather gods were kind to us on Saturday, but they weren’t, of course.  Wind, rain, leaden skies and single-figure temperatures were the order of the day, as usual … BUT (and it’s a mahoosive ‘but’) we somehow contrived to have one of our most successful Christmas Fairs EVER. 

It all started very quietly, with us moping around saying: “Nobody’s coming …  They’ve had a better offer …  They don’t love us any more … We should have paid for that advert in the Whitehaven News ...”.   The next thing we knew, they were fighting their way through the doors.  The car park was log-jammed (because between us, Brains Trust that we are, we’d contrived not to put out the “CARS THIS WAY” sign) and people were shoulder-to-shoulder in the Centre, chatting to old friends, knocking back the fruit punch by the pint, necking sausage rolls and cakes as if they didn’t expect to eat again for a week and hoovering up the bargains in the sales rooms like crazed vacuum cleaners … It was all extremely  heartening, especially in view of the fact that Andrea and all our Volunteers wore themselves down to nubs organizing it and setting it all up.

The net result was a clear profit of £1,300 – which must qualify as a near miracle in the circumstances.

And the new Centre Dog?  What of him?  Well, Ben – predictably – was the star of the show.  Every time I turned around, he was sitting on someone else’s lap being told how utterly gorgeous he was …

I was recently talking to a friend of a friend (who shall remain nameless) about the Centre Newsletter.  He’d been sent a copy by said mutual friend, who thought he’d find it entertaining.  (By the way, I think I may have forgotten to mention that the newsletter is now available online HERE.)

In a patronizing sort of way (not wise, bubba, NOT wise at all …),  he said he found it very amusing, but then went on to say “Esmeralda (not her real name – but isn’t it a GREAT name?) tells me it takes you a week to write it.  Surely not?”  He didn’t actually ADD the words “A bit of inconsequential fluff like that?”, but they were hovering there, understood, between us.

I said “I’m afraid so.  It’s because I move my lips as I type …” and left it at that, but then I thought it was worth detailing the process by which the latest newsletter got to a doormat/inbox near you …


Day 1:  Here we are – the computer and I at my immaculate workspace (see photo above).  Two word processors without a single creative thought between us, and four A4 sides to fill with deathless prose.

After a while, I get up, go out to the kitchen and make a large mug of tea.  It does the trick.  When I get back to my desk, I write:  “Newsletter 49”.

Eat your heart out Clive Cussler …

In the next hour, I try to write the 1st paragraph at least a dozen times.  If I was using an old-fashioned typewriter the floor would be littered with screwed up sheets of paper.  As  it is, the words just vanish into the ether as if they never existed.  It’s a tricky paragraph, because it’s about the death of a friend – and writing an eulogy, even one that’s only a paragraph long, is an art in itself.  I finally come up with a form of wording that says what I want it to say without descending mawkishness and then, at last, I can move on.

In front of me is a barely legible list, on several scraps of paper, of all the things I have to remember to mention.

I’d like to be able to tell you that I carefully draft the newsletter first, conscientiously making sure I include all the points, get all the details right and thus tidily and methodically fill up my four A4 sides.

I’d like to, but I can’t:  because I write newsletters the exact same way I used to write examination papers.  I sort of suck up all the information, take a deep breath, grab my (metaphorical) pen then go for it like a demented, machiavellian gerbil.  By the end of the day I have about two-and-a half sides of verbiage.

Day 2: So here we are again:  the computer and I and the two-and-a half sides of verbiage.  I read it through,  honk uncontrollably at my own jokes, and then scrap half of them in the process known as “Killing Your Darlings”.


Having reduced the length to a page-and-three-quarters, I put the  gerbil in ‘drive’ and off we go again … this time managing to fill all four sides by the end of the day.  It’s just unfortunate that I still have half a page of “Don’t forget to Mention” stuff that I’ve forgotten to mention.

Day 3: I soldier on bravely, running  into 6 sides, until I’ve ticked off everything on my list (well, everything I can read, anyway …).   Fortified by tea and biscuits, I then embark on the next stage in the process:   Editing.

Editing hurts.  There’s no two ways about it.  You have to cut out all your most treasured bits; all the places where you paused to slap your thigh, rock backwards and forwards in your chair with tears of laughter rolling down your cheeks and think “Oh man, I’m too good for this place …”.  They all have to go, to make way for boring stuff like times, dates, facts and figures.

Day 4:  I’m almost there.  I’ve hacked vast tracts from the forest of words,  shrunk the print, closed up the gaps between sections, removed a whole raft of adjectives and  just managed to squeeze it all onto four sides.  This, of course, is the point at which Gretchen says “Have we got room for a paragraph about ….?”

We?  WE??!!  Who’s this WE???!!!!

If I make the print any smaller, we’ll have to issue magnifying glasses with the ****ing thing … but I smile calmly and say “I expect so.”

Day 5:  I bury her body where they’ll never find it.


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