For today only you can download my first novel, A Beautiful Game, for FREE from Smashwords - all you have to do is click on Santa! The twist? All royalties from downloads will be paid from my publisher, Crooked Cat, to my chosen charity, Macmillan Cancer Support through The Willie Wilmot Fundraising Team. Willie's daughter, Lorraine, tells me why the charity means so much to her family.
It’s been ten years since your dad died from cancer, and he was clearly a family man. Would you mind taking a few moments to tell me about him.
Where do I start? He was the best! He worked hard for his family and was always great fun to be around. He would joke about being outnumbered by his girls (even the dog was female) but he always said he was the luckiest man and was so proud of his girls.
Your family have gone on to raise over £100,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support. As well as the money, your fundraising events do a terrific job of raising the profile of the charity. Can you tell us why this particular cancer charity is so important to you.
We are so grateful to Macmillan for the invaluable support they gave to us. It was exactly what we needed. So when it came to Dad's first anniversary we wanted something in his memory and raising money for Macmillan seemed the obvious thing to do as they had been such a support.
One hundred thousand pounds is a staggering amount of money. Did you ever dream you’d be able to raise that amount when you first started out?
Never did we imagine what started as a small coffee morning in my mum's house would lead to raising £100,000. The support we have had from family, friends and our community has been amazing,
You’ve been fundraising for ten years now yet I see you’ve already got an event planned for next year. What is it that drives you to keep going?
We are driven to keep going as we know the difference fundraising makes to people living with cancer. We can't stop.
Finally, is there anyone you’d like to take this opportunity to thank? Go for it!
YES! We are so grateful for the support of so many. The Hilcroft Hotel has been amazing. We can't thank the companies who donate year in and year out, without them it wouldn't be possible. Our supporters. The fundraising team. Every single person who has come along, bought a raffle ticker, donated, baked... We thank you so much.
The Willie Wilmot Fundraising Team are always looking for local support. If you're interested in future events, please follow their page on Facebook here. If you'd like to donate please follow this link to Pauline's Just Giving page. Thank you!
I started attending a local therapeutic yoga class in Bathgate upon advice from the NHS pain management clinic. I see the class as part of a holistic approach to managing my pain, and it has had a positive impact on my daily life. Today I’m talking to my yoga teacher, Bijam.
Bijam, I was recommended to join your class by a previous yoga teacher and good friend who felt that I would benefit from your teachings. Can you take a moment to explain the term, therapeutic yoga.
Therapeutic simply means healing. I plan my therapeutic class for the needs of individuals with physical health needs who might find it difficult to attain certain asanas (postures). The restorative aspect of moving and breathing with awareness enhances the function of the parasympathetic nervous system, which, combined with the deep rest of Yoga Nidra at the end of a class, helps relieve pain.
I attended a remedial teacher training in 2012 and some of the things I learned have been invaluable, such as the realisation that some aids, such as walking sticks, can actually cause problems. The course gave me the confidence to adapt postures.
Do you believe yoga is accessible to everyone?
I do, yes, but with modifications of course. Why should a struggling body or mind separate you from the beauty of yoga as a life support system? I believe passionately that yoga ought to be, and must be, accessible for everybody.
Having spoken to many people who live with long term conditions, both in physical and mental health, I completely understand how difficult it can be to join in any new exercise classes. Is there anything you’d like to say to encourage people to join a local yoga class.
It's hard because some people think it is only an exercise system. It's not. That said, if somebody begins yoga because they want to want to get the body moving, in my experience the philosophy and understanding of the mind element of yoga clicks later.
I was surprised, and pleased, that the therapists at the pain management clinic placed such a large emphasis on the link between physical and mental health. Can you tell me how you view the link between physical and mental?
Yoga philosophy sees mind and body as one - they're not separate. Yes, they can be in different states, but they can be viewed as two sides of the same coin.
We all live extremely busy lives these days. Is it really possible to build Yoga into our daily lives?
I find it's better to do a short time every day rather than to leave it all to the weekend. And if a long session is too much, break it up. For example, I mentally chant my mantras each morning on the walk to collect the paper, then I come in and do the rest of my practice, choosing from the rich menu of asanas (postures), pranayama (breath work), and meditation.
There's always room for improvement. What I could improve on is to establish a practice before I go to bed, but I find I'm always tired by the end of the day.
I’m curious to know more about the impact Yoga has had on your own life. Can you tell us a little more.
In the beginning it was curiosity that attracted me. In my 20s I found a yoga class but then I became too busy working and bringing up kids. I started again in 1995 and established a daily practice. I know I feel better if I do regular practice. Yoga has enabled me to keep calm. It has become my life support system.
Bijam runs a variety of Yoga classes in Edinburgh and West Lothian, including a wheelchair class in Livingston, and a Healthy Lower Backs course. Check out the class times here.
Further information on the Yoga for Healthy Lower Backs course can be found here.
Wee Sally Therapeutic Massage Clinic is a locally owned business which serves Bathgate and the surrounding West Lothian area. I use regular massage along with exercise, yoga and mindfulness to manage my own pain. I still take daily prescribed pain medication but, in consultation with my GP, I’m gradually reducing the dose of this medication. This holistic approach to managing my pain allows me to live a full and busy life alongside my pain rather than suffering within it. Today I’m talking to Sally Chamness, the owner of the massage clinic.
Sally, the first thing that attracted me to your company was the phrase ‘therapeutic massage’ within the name. Can you take a moment to explain the difference between a massage that I might receive on a spa day compared to the massage I get with yourselves?
When I first opened the clinic in Bathgate, I worked on my own and the skills and work that I preferred to do at that time is what some would consider “functional”. My specialties focused on pain relief and pain management, as well as improving people's stress levels and ability to move freely. Using stretching techniques and movement we try to help our clients improve their day to day lives. This can sometimes feel uncomfortable, although we try to stay within a clients pain threshold. The word 'Therapeutic' creates the image of something more than relaxation, and hopefully helps describe the work that clients can expect from us.
It didn’t take me long before I began to recognise that there was a strong link between my physical and mental health. I noticed that when my anxiety increased so did my level of pain. I’m sure this is something you are well aware of and I wondered if this link impacts on the work you do?
Two years ago I was attending a pain management course at the Astley Ainslie Hospital in Edinburgh. Over the course of ten weeks, I learned a variety of strategies for helping me cope with living with pain. Now, two years on, I'd like to share some of the techniques which I continue to use. But please remember we are all unique, and if you're struggling with pain or anxiety it's important you find the strategies that work for you. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to be interviewing people who have helped me get to where I am now, including a massage therapist and my yoga teacher.
I open the envelope with curiosity and, interestingly, a level of anxiety. Have I set myself targets? What if I'm failing to meet these targets?
I take the letter from the envelope, relieved to see there are no bullet points, no targets, and no list of must-dos. Instead I begin by telling myself how proud I am of what I've achieved over the course so far. That's a surprise.
And now I remember one of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome at the beginning of the course. The expectations I set myself were ridiculously high. I was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a teacher and, like so many other people, I was my own enemy. Until I started attending the pain management clinic I put my own health at the bottom of my list of priorities. This feels like a perfectly normal thing to do, but if we're not careful our own health may suffer and then how can we care for those around us?
In the letter I remind myself that it's okay to accept help from family and friends:
They support you because they love you and want to help you in the same way that you love and care for them - no guilt necessary!
By the time I get to the end of my letter, tears are running down my face. I'm reminded of how difficult living daily with chronic pain was, and how every day it was a battle to put on a smile and face the world. But I hope you notice the past tense in these sentences. Yes, my body still experiences pain and anxiety, but I'm managing to live alongside my pain these days rather than inside it. As I tell myself:
It's not a quick fix or a race; you're in it for the long haul.
My letter finishes with some words of wisdom that I hope anyone reading this can try today:
Be gentle with yourself xx
Yesterday I took part in a storytelling workshop run by FDAMH (Falkirk's Mental Health Association) as part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. I was invited along to share my experiences of mental health, particularly on how writing helped me reclaim my identity.
I'm a novelist and through my novels I've always sought to give a voice to people who perhaps aren't heard in our society. Both of my novels were written whilst I worked part-time as a primary teacher - a job I was always extremely passionate about.
And then 4 years ago I was involved in a traumatic accident in my classroom. The accident left me in chronic physical pain and suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. I became withdrawn and struggled daily with depression and anxiety. I lost all sense of myself and my self-worth.
I no longer had any interest in writing. I'd lost my voice.
But then two things happened, almost simultaneously.
I was attending a pain management course at Astley Ainslie, which looked at both physical and mental health, and I attended my first Woo'er with Words spoken word event in Falkirk.
As part of the pain management course we were asked to visualise our pain as something concrete with the idea of using this image to release the pain.
I was inspired by the poets and writers at Woo'er with Words and I decided to write a poem based on the visualisation technique.
This turned out to be the first of a series of poems. You can read more here.
I'd reclaimed my voice.
I'd like to thank Janet for inviting me along to share my work and present an exercise, and I'd like to thank FDAMH for organising a fantastic week of events. Yesterday was a clear example of the great work they do!
I was lucky enough to hear you read a scene from your new book, Wildest of All, at an event last year and I was instantly hooked. Tell us a little about what the book is about.
19 years ago I was a young teacher getting excited for the start of the summer holidays. I was pregnant with my first child and I planned to spend the summer holidays relaxing by catching up on my reading. As a primary teacher I was been keen to read children's fiction, eager to keep up with reading trends and always on the lookout for something new to read to the children in my class.
I vividly remember settling down to read Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in my garden. It was a beautiful sunny day, one of those days where you're surrounded by the sounds of lawnmowers, children playing, and bees flitting from flower to flower. But I don't remember any of those details because I was hooked in the world of muggles and wizards. I don't even remember stopping to have lunch.
Last September I returned to University for the first time since gaining my degree in teaching twenty years ago. This time I was joining the MLitt course in Creative Writing at the University of Stirling, and to say I was excited would be a slight understatement.
The first year passed by far too quickly, and to mark the end of the year we were challenged with putting on an evening of live literature.
For me, the best thing about the evening was the warmth and appreciation we all showed for each other's writing. What a great way to end the year!
I've got a busy summer of writing projects ahead of me, but I can't wait to start all over again next September...
One of the events run locally took place in Falkirk, and I was delighted to be invited along to read from my latest novel.
I’d like to thank everyone who organised the evening. I’ve got a feeling this event is going to grow...
Emma Mooney is a writer of Scottish contemporary fiction and is the author of A Beautiful Game. and Wings to Fly.