Lifestyle Choices

The unrelenting poison poured into UK society by the current Home Secretary can lead to a sense of numbness and apathy at how she wants to reshape Britain. If you are as appalled as I was by her depiction of homelessness as a “lifestyle choice”, then there is a positive way of pushing back.

Find a local homeless charity or foodbank and bung them some cash - even the smallest amount helps. If you are in a position to do so, add Gift Aid. That way, the Government has to top up your contribution by another 25%!

It is worth doing a little research to find out how a charity raises and spends its money. A quick check in the Charity Commission’s Register of Charities can tell you a lot - do they have a whole load of board members with salaries of more than £60K per year, or are they sitting on an excessive amount of funds? Note, though, that the Charity Commission does consider it good practice to have some reserve funds to provide financial resilience.

Smaller local charities often give more bang for your proffered buck. I recently found that the food bank I had been supporting was sitting on a large bequest, so I switched to supporting Friends of Essex & London Homeless when I can. Their Charity Commission entry says:

We set this charity up to help homeless, vulnerable and people living in poverty in Essex and London by distributing foods, drinks, clothes, toiletries and sleeping bags and we do this by operating 2 soup kitchens weekly and also if anyone needing our help is brought to our attention.

And that is what they do, with minimal overheads and providing regular evidence of their activities on their Facebook page.

If there are multiple ways of donating to a smaller charity, check them all out. I found that it wasn’t possible to add Gift Aid when contributing via their website, but it was an option when helping Friends of Essex & London Homeless via Facebook. Of course, that means keeping a Facebook account, but that is a minor inconvenience if it forces the Government to help people experiencing homelessness, even in a small way.

DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal in Memory of Dad

A big thank-you to everyone who contributed to the JustGiving fundraiser in Dad’s name for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal.

On Thursday the funeral directors deposited £170 collected at the church on the day of the funeral to the fundraiser. The total has now reached £455 (including Gift Aid), and has all been transferred to the Humanitarian Appeal. I’m sure that Dad would have been very pleased.

The fundraiser page is still live at

(Photo courtesy of Maureen Littlewood.)

Small Reward Offered for Safe Return

After a month of feeding and caring for my #Movember moustache the ungrateful wretch has escaped and was last seen hot-footing it across the local park. A small reward is offered for its safe return.

Despite my tragic loss you can still donate to this fantastic cause at my Movember page. Thank-you for all the generous contributions so far.

The Last Day of the Moustache

Today is the last day of the Movember challenge - though you can still continue to donate.

A month of daily applications of Miracle-Gro is finally over and the result is… underwhelming. Rather whiter than last year, and rather more straggly. Though there is something of the bedraggled walrus about it.

Unfortunately the walking challenge didn’t quite go to plan when my left knee attempted a rapid unscheduled disassembly and then swelled up to twice the size of the right. Resting it up and taking a break from daily walks helped, but at the expense of a week of disrupted sleep thanks to calf muscle cramps due to the lack of exercise. Thankfully, today, the last day of the challenge, I was able to get back to a 5 km hobble.

But this month was really about raising awareness and funds for a number of men’s health issues. Men die 6 years earlier than women, and for largely preventable reasons. Movember is hell-bent on changing this. With the money raised by the Mo community, they fund groundbreaking research and health projects, changing the lives of men all over the world. None of it is possible without your donations.

They have funded 1,250 health projects, helped fund 34 clinical trials, and have announced the co-funding of eight projects across the world supporting the mental health of first responders and military veterans.

Movember-funded scientists have shown that breast cancer drug Olaparib is effective in treating men in the advanced stages of prostate cancer. The drug has achieved FDA approval in the US (with other countries to follow).

Before 2013, we could identify only 6 genetic variants that were associated with testicular cancer risk. We now know there are more than 50; Movember-funded work in the UK identified 35 of them.

So please donate if you can. Thanks!

The Curse of the Exploding Knee Cap!

Here’s the latest image of the horrific growth on my top lip for #Movember - you can see why my wife complains of pogonophobia.

But it is worst than that - I’ve been struck by the Curse of the Exploding Knee Cap!

I’ve been having a few warning twinges from my left knee for a few weeks now and today this transmogrified into continuous pain - of course at exactly the point when I was furthest from home. Eight hours later and I have a very swollen leg. Damn annoying, since I’ve only been doing fractionally more mileage than normal.

Do I get extra donations if I hop the remaining 42 km of my Movember challenge?

Movember Donation Link

Science Shambles

The Movember challenge has encouraged me to walk a bit further each lunchtime and that has allowed me to make inroads into my podcast playlist. The backlog currently stands at 426 episodes - 388 hours and almost 30 GBytes of MP3s. So I need to do a lot more walking…

One series of shows that always get priority are the Science Shambles podcasts from the Cosmic Shambles Network. These are great examples of science public engagement, featuring leaders in a wide range of scientific endeavours talking about their work, or just taking part in fascinating Q&As about their subjects.

This year they have managed to involve four astronauts (Samantha Cristoforetti, Helen Sharman, Tim Peake, and Chris Hadfield) as well as luminaries such as Alan Moore, Sir Paul Nurse, and Jon Butterworth. They produce a Sunday panel Q&A session, as well as individual interview podcasts, and special events. The Sunday afternoon Q&A is broadcast live on YouTube and later published as an audio podcast. As the audio version is not heavily re-edited the sound quality can be a little dodgy at times but the content is always fascinating. The interviews and book review episodes are very professionally produced, so don’t be put off by the Sunday sessions.

The Science Shambles podcasts often share episodes with sibling Book Shambles and Genetic Shambles podcasts, both of which I can heartily recommend.

Traditionally the Cosmic Shambles crew do a series of live events through the year culminating in a Nine Lessons and Carols for Curious People show in December - a science-oriented variety show full of comedy and music. After more than 15 years in front of appreciative audiences, circumstances have meant that this year the show will be broadcast online as a live 24 hour event starting at midday on the 12th December 2020. At the time of writing over a hundred performers have been announced, ranging from Jim Al-Khalili to Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Dame Dr Jocelyn Bell Burnell to Lost Voice Guy, and from Chris Hadfield to Nitin Sawhney.

Nine Lessons and Carols for Socially Distanced People, as it has been renamed, is going to be free but they are running a Crowdfunder to support four charities*, server costs, and considerable amounts of coffee. It is well worth bunging them a quid or two.

If you like Science, give it a try - you’ll love it.

* Charities supported:

Movember Progress Report

So, more than a week into Movember and my wife (who doesn’t follow me on social media) has only just noticed that I’m growing a moustache… I’m not sure if she needs new glasses, or whether it’s just that she can’t bear to look at me. She claims the latter. Either way, I’m certain that it is nothing to do with the hair on my upper lip being rather whiter and perhaps a little sparser than previous years…

Movember Donations

Movember starts here...

First day of Movember and a quick photo to prove how lovely and smooth my upper lip is… what? Oh… OK… well it’s smooth anyway.

Movember strives to make a difference in mental health and suicide prevention, prostate cancer, and testicular cancer. Since 2003, it has funded more than 1,250 men’s health projects around the world. The impact of COVID-19 and the lockdowns makes the mental health aspect more important than ever. Raising funds by a little light moustache growing in November, or doing some sponsored walks or runs are easy ways to help fund research and support across the world.

Jonathan’s Movember page

Carers Trust survey

The Carers Trust are doing a survey in the UK about adults who provide unpaid care to family or friends. They will use the results in a future campaign to support unpaid carers. They particularly need more male carers to take part.