Interview with a Charity Founder

by Karen J Mossman

(Fiction)

Today I am interviewing Sarah Lane, founder of Bread UK, and who is also the girlfriend of Manchester United and England player Paul Westermain.

“Hello, Sarah, thank you for coming along today.”

I put my tape recorder on the table after asking if she minded.

“Not at all. All publicity is good, Linda.” She gives me an enchanting smile.

“Which came first?” I ask as we settle down in the lobby of a hotel. “Paul or Bread?”

She smiles again and there is a twinkle in her grey-blue eyes.

“Unofficially, Bread was first, then I met Paul, but the actual the charity wasn’t set up until later.”

“So tell me how you met Paul?”

Sarah’s face glows, as she chuckles. “Well, it was just before midnight and I was handing out sandwiches to the homeless.”

“This was before Bread UK was set up?” I clarified.

“Yes, I’ve been doing this kind of charity work for as long as I can remember. I go to the supermarkets and buy cheap bread, and make up cheese and tomato sandwiches. Then off I go and hand them out. This was just one of those nights.”

“On your own?”

“Yes, it was just something I felt I needed to do.”

“Is that not dangerous?” I had images of a young girl walking the dark streets and probably mingling with partygoers or traipsing down back alleys.

Sarah shrugs and pushes her dark hair behind her ears. “People generally settle down to sleep at night, and I knew where to look.”

“What compels you to do it? I mean why would you want to feed the homeless? Don’t they have soup kitchens for that?”

“They do, but not everyone can find them and there are not that many. And because there but for the grace of God go I, I suppose.”

That surprised me. “Were you homeless?”

“No, but I could easily have been if things hadn’t turned out like they did.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I was brought up in care, I don’t know if you know that?”

“No, I didn’t.” I made a mental note as that would make another interesting story.

“Yes, I lived in a children’s home and at eighteen they arranged for me to have a job and fixed me up in a bedsit. From there I moved to a little flat, two rooms instead of one, but I lost the job, found another, lost that and ended up on benefits. I had to do something with my time while I was job hunting, so I volunteered at a soup kitchen. Eventually, I hit on the idea of making sandwiches and handing them out. Instead of them having to look for food, I could take it to them.”

“So you were doing this when you met Paul?”

“Ah, Paul, yes. What happened the night we met?”

I nodded.

She laughs and I find myself smiling. “He fell out of a night club.”

I was just about to pick up on that when a waiter approaches with a tray of tea and cake.

“I hope you don’t mind,” Sarah said. “I’ve ordered us some drinks.”

“No, not at all. Thank you very much.” I usually had a quick interview before being rushed out. The waiter hands us the drinks, and the cake was a lovely touch.

“I’m a sucker for cakes,” Sarah said with a laugh, “I just love them. That’s why once a month I used to make dozens and dozens of fairy cakes to take out too.”

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“I bet that was popular,” I said, selecting one and enjoying her generosity. This woman keeps surprising me.

“It was, and once they realised it was a regular thing, more people showed up. It was hard to keep up the demand, sometimes.”

“What happened when you got a job, did you carry on?”

“I never found a job, and it wasn’t for the want of trying, either. I have no skills anyway, so was limited as to what I could do. If it wasn’t for my volunteer work, I would have gone crazy. Anyway, you wanted to know about poor Paul?”

“Poor Paul?”

“Yes, falling out of a nightclub?”

“Oh yes.” I was distracted by the cake.

“He came out of a nightclub a bit the worse for wear and by the look of his face, he’d been in a fight, too. Not that he gets involved in that sort of thing, but with him being famous, people think they know him and often want to talk football and sometimes they challenge him. Not always with the best results. So he stepped out and then stepped straight into the road in front of a black cab.”

“Oh! Was he hurt?”

“It could have been worse. I stayed with him holding his hand until the ambulance arrived and then went with him to the hospital.”

“I bet it surprised you to be holding the hand of a famous footballer?”

She chuckles again, “I had no idea who he was, just some poor bloke who’d had an accident. I’d no interest in football at that time.”

“So what happened next?”

“He asked me to ring one of his teammates, then they took me home afterwards. Two weeks later he turns up on my doorstep with a huge bunch of flowers.” She chuckled, “It was cake day, and the flat was covered in fairy cakes and I had flour in my hair and on my face. He must have thought I was a mad woman. Anyway, he asked me to dinner.”

“And you still didn’t know who he was?”

“I did by the time we got to the restaurant. People were staring at us and some even came over. He was really surprised that I didn’t know. I told him not everyone watches football. He laughed and said Manchester United were one of the biggest clubs in the world. Obviously, I’d heard of them, just not individual players.”

“And then you became a WAG, as they say.” She frowns even though I’d meant it as a light-hearted comment.

“No, it wasn’t like that and I’m still not sure if I like the term.”

I move on. “What was it like? You the girl with no job, and he the rich and famous footballer?”

“Well, to be honest, it worried me in the beginning. We lived such different lives. But when I discovered who Paul really was it  changed everything.”

“In what way?”

She shrugged her shoulders lightly. “I suppose I was scared of the limelight and wary of his teammates and girlfriends. I didn’t feel worthy to move in that circle.”

“So what changed?”

“Paul thought it a good idea to meet people. He said I had the wrong impression of them, and they were just normal people doing an an extraordinary job. I wasn’t so sure, about that, but I liked Paul, so I went along with it.

“We went round to one of their houses. It was an expensive looking place. They were having a barbeque. Most of the lads were there along with their partners. I felt out of my league if you’ll pardon the pun. Money breeds money as they say. The women were all beautiful. The clothes they wore, the hair and the make-up, I felt like the odd one out, almost as if someone was going to point me out and say I shouldn’t be there. They all knew each other, and I knew no one, it was awkward.”

I nodded.

“Then one of them—who I might add is not part of the group anymore, made a comment about my dress. I overheard her say that I looked like I was wearing an Asda off the peg. I felt humiliated. My dress was fifteen pounds from George and I loved it. I’d bought it especially for the occasion and I had felt nice in it up until that point.

“Their dresses were designer ones, I might add, and costing hundreds of pounds. As soon as I could escape, I did. I hid in the toilet and cried.

“I didn’t know how to face them after that. I thought they were all talking about me now I’d left the room. I couldn’t go back in there. It was pretty horrible. I felt like the ugly duckling.”

“You could never be an ugly duckling, Sarah,” I tell her, and she has the grace to smile.

She is beautiful in a simple way. Her hair curls long over her shoulders and her clothes are stylish, casual and comfortably worn. Beauty travels deep and Sarah seems a heart of gold.

“You came out of the toilet, eventually?”

“Yes,” she laughs. “I found Paul, told him I was leaving, told him that I didn’t belong there and was going home. As they were his friends, I told him to stay. We argued. He didn’t want me to leave, but I was going. I warned him not to follow and then caught the bus home.

“When I finally got back to my flat, he was waiting for me. He’d caught a taxi as soon as I left. By then he knew what had happened and was really sorry like it was his fault.”

She picks up her cup of tea and sips it several times before carrying on.

“Paul’s the type of person who really believes in people believing in themselves. He knew I had no self-confidence. He told me I was just as good as anyone there and I should never be ashamed of who I thought I wasn’t. He loved me for being me and he gave me the confidence to believe in myself. I’ve seen him say that too many people, and he is so right, everyone is important, everyone is equal. We should believe in ourselves.”

There have been many interviews with Paul Westermain and he is very charismatic. I was beginning to realise Sarah was special too. With his mentoring work with deprived children and her charity, it made me feel the world is a better place because of them.

“So, coming back to Bread UK, how did it officially start?”

“By accident actually, Linda. Paul wanted me to go to London for an away match. Most of the girlfriends and wives were going, and I was starting to like them. Friendships take time, don’t they?”

I nod and finish the last of my tea.

“Anyway,” she says with a chuckle. “I still wasn’t sure I liked football. Paul never pushed me but suggested we stay on for a few days, taking in the sights and seeing a show, that sort of thing. It sounded wonderful, how could I say no?

“We stayed at Claridge’s. A world away from anything I was used and I planned to spend an evening feeding the homeless. I was intended to speak to the hotel about the food they throw out. All hotels do and it goes into the bin. Such a waste.

“Anyway, I was in the lobby waiting to speak to the manager, when I overheard two men talking. They were in a panic because they’d organised a big charity event that evening and their speaker had dropped out. They didn’t know if they could get anyone at such short notice. It occurred to me that I could tell them about people who live on the streets. They are not all just druggies, but people who’d had a hard deal in life. Losing jobs and homes and many are ex-service men.

“I must have been mad. I’d done nothing like that before, and I had no idea why I suddenly thought I could. It was just one of those moments that you jump in with both feet and then wonder what the hell you have done!

“It went through my mind that people attending functions at the likes of Claridge’s would have no knowledge of life on the street. Maybe I could get them to donate money, which I could turn into food.”

Her face was animated and her eyes flashed with enthusiasm. “My God, I was so naïve!” She laughs.

“Had you done any public speaking before?”

“No! Paul asked me the same thing and when I told him and he was horrified!”

“So you just volunteered to speak to a group of people and you’d done nothing like it before?”

Sarah was laughing. “I was mad, wasn’t I? When I think back I don’t know what inspired me to think I could——well, I do. I was thinking of all the food I could buy and hand out. All I had to do was tell them how I made sandwiches.”

I was sceptical and it must have shown.

“I know; Paul was the same. Nothing is ever that easy, is it?”

“Well, I wouldn’t have thought so.”

“Afterwards, I went into a panic. So I grabbed a phone book and found a charity called St. Mungo’s.

“They try to prevent people from sleeping rough, a first stop if you like. I asked if they could see me, and they did. I had a long chat with a guy called Richard. He gave me some facts and figures, which I wrote down. At least then, I would know what I was talking about.

“Paul was sceptical and kept asking me if I knew what I was doing, but I was excited. Finally, I could speak to people who would listen. Any of us could find our situation changed and end up on the streets.

“Anyway, there I was, standing in front of three hundred people who had just eaten a nice meal. I suddenly realised that me talking about people not getting enough to eat might make them feel uncomfortable, and I didn’t want that.

 

 

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“I didn’t want to put doom and gloom on their evening by telling stories of hardship either. I thought I had blown it because I had to think fast and start again. I knew I going to make a fool of myself and at the same time didn’t want to let anybody down. So I had to say something.

“I gave them the basic outline and switched tack. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but British people are very good at turning bad things into humour. I had some really funny encounters, like the man who thought he was still in the army and  saluted me every time I saw him, and another who kept calling me a cake fairy and moved his arms as if they were wings. I told the stories and people laughed. I couldn’t believe how well it went.

“I spoke for over half an hour. It was amazing. And I really enjoyed it. At the end, I suggested that if everyone in the room made a £10 donation, I could go out tomorrow buy bread and hand out sandwiches that evening. At least people would be fed. I really hoped I wasn’t too cheeky asking for that amount.

“Anyway, they applauded, so they must have approved. Afterwards Paul said he was really proud of me. There was a look of admiration in his eyes and I knew then I hadn’t made a fool of myself.”

I smile with her and doubt she could ever do that.

“Oh, and I forgot to mention that the organisers said they would pay me the same at the person who didn’t show up. Three hundred pounds would buy a lot of sandwiches. I was so thankful.”

“That’s amazing and £10 each off the audience would buy plenty of food, too.”

Sarah bit her lip and then spoke quietly. “The organisers handed me the envelopes with the donations. When I looked inside, I thought there had been a mistake.”

“They had given more than £10 each?” It wasn’t a surprise.

She nods, “There were cheques for hundreds of pounds and so much cash. I was speechless.”

“How much was there?” I ask intrigued.

Sarah’s eyes fill up, “I still can’t believe that first time. There was over £20,000. More than enough for what I needed.”

I blink several times, both out of surprise and to push back a tear. Even I hadn’t expected that.

She gave me that dazzling Sarah Lane smile again. “More cake?”

 

 

THE END

Musical Parade

I came across this post from Abbie’s Corner all about rodeo’s and carnivals. We used to have parades where I lived. Floats – decorated lorries carrying Rose Queens, or bands or charities. It was always fun. Often there would also be a brass band and I recalled one time I was with my mum and she had a foster child in pushchair who had fallen alseep. The band came to a stop right in front of us and there was a man banging a big drum as the trumpets played around him. He looked down at the child and then at us with a confused and then an amused expression. The child hadn’t woken and still slept soundly. Because of all the noise we couldn’t expalin she was deaf.

Worth reading this post to bring some  memories back for you, too.

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The Day I Found a Dead Body

by Karen J Mossman

My mother was fearless. She had a strong sense of injustice. If something was wrong, she would put it right, or put people right.

One day I remember her telling how she was walking passed the park when she heard a crowd chanting. She went in to find a lot boys gathered encircling two who were fighting. Immediately, she pushed through them and told them to stop, and go home, all of them, right now. I admired her. They dispersed with a few grumbles. This was back in the seventies, a very different time.

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I was in my late teens when I found the body walking to work. I wasn’t very far from home as I passed by some bushes. At the corner of my eye, I caught sight of rags. When I looked properly, I saw it was the body of a man; dirty and bedraggled with matted hair. In my mind he looked like he had been there a long time. I froze as I stared. I wanted to prod him, just in case, but I couldn’t bring myself to touch him. I ran back home, “Mum, Mum! Mum!”

She walked back with me, my brave mother. I knew she would know what to do, who to call, and I suppose, check he was actually dead, because I didn’t know for certain.

Leaning over the body, she prodded him with her finger, “Are you all right?” To my complete surprise, the man woke up.

“Oh aye,” he said, “I’m fine, just having a kip.” I realised then that he stunk of booze.

I wish I could have been like her, she was always so sure of herself and was good at getting the best out of people. She was a foster parent, and Social Services would ring up and say they had a child who was disruptive and naughty and they couldn’t place them. They would not sleep at night either. Mum would say, pass them over, and with a short space of time that child was going to bed at seven pm every night, and although never perfect, they fitted into the household as any child would.

She always believed that children need a routine, need love, and believe they are important. She always gave them that, as she did us.

She passed away in 2010, her seventy fifth year and up to two weeks before was still fostering.

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This was mum in 1977, doing what she loved.

My Little Star, Tilly.

Ark Angels Animal Rescue is based in Chester. This is where we got our King Charles Cavalier Spaniel Meggy, from. She is a rescue dog, taken from a puppy farm somewhere in Wales in June 2018. It was evident she’d had lots of puppies and they estimated her age as four or five.

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I’ve continued to support the charity by taking part in their regular auctions. This helps raise much needed money.

Recently they have had an online animal show with various classes. If you want to be wowed, go and look at some of the pictures. They are so cute.

The winners were announced and Tilly, my Yorkshire terrier pup did really well.

For the Cutest Baby Section, Tilly who is now twenty months, won first place.

Tilly certificate

 

For the Best Action Shot, this is Tilly aged twelve months running across the beach in Anglesey. A great shot by AMG Photography, Andy Hatton.

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Then Tilly got placed again. Fourth place for Best Pet with a Prop. I was absolutely thrilled.

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These are the pictures that didn’t get placed, but thought I would share them anyway.

Entry for Group Shots

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Entry for In Loving Memory

This is Jodie

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Missing People

Like many others, I enjoy a good mystery. Stories where you need to know what happens next. Tales that pique your curiosity and keep you turning the page to get to the end.

Over the years, I’ve found missing people intriguing. Why did they disappear in the first place? Was it an accident or something more sinister? Is there a happy ending or does it end in tragedy? Also, just as importantly, how does it effect those left behind?

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Before I thought about becoming a published author, many of the stories I’d written over the years involved this mystery.

Did you know there are 300,000 people reported missing each year? That works out at almost 900 a day.

The first high profile case I recall was that of Lord Lucan in 1974. His wife claimed her husband had attacked her, and murdered their nanny. The police investigated, but Lord Lucan was never found and to this day it remains a mystery. You can read the full story here.

Journalist Amelia Hill wrote a fascinating article in the Guardian in 2012 about a girl who became pregnant. Her boyfriend didn’t want to know and her parents told her to get an abortion. She felt she had no option but to run away. She had her baby, but says her life had been a lie ever since.

As part of my research I went onto the missing person’s website. There were many stories about people who had disappeared, and those left behind. One mum showed the bedroom of her son left just as it was in 2006 when he disappeared. The torment she must live with wondering whether he is still alive is hard to imagine.

Another high profile case was that of estate agent Suzy Lamplugh who disappeared in 1985. An attractive young woman who had penciled in her diary she was meeting a Mr Kipper. She was never seen again, her remains never found, and they didn’t traced Mr Kipper. As a result estate agents changed the way they worked and Suzy’s mother founded a Trust in the name of her daughter dealing with personal safety.

Not all cases are as high profile, and in 2012 an appeal was launched for a missing woman who had not long given birth. She was already suffering from anxiety and depression. It could have gone either way and for a few days, everyone lived in hope until they found her body.

Madeline McCann is one of the most famous and still talked about cases. In 2007, the four-year-old girl was abducted while on holiday with her family. She was a beautiful little thing with blonde hair and big blue eyes. She captured everyone’s hearts. Despite a massive investigation and search. The police had no viable leads and no trace of her was ever found. It’s a tragedy and like many others, we all hope one day the truth will emerge.

There are many more stories with no conclusions offered and it’s frustrating not to have an end. I’ve always wondered what makes people want to disappear in the first place. What are their stories?

 

One day watching a television programme that searches for missing people, it gave me an an idea for a story. What if you were the missing person, and suddenly your face appeared on screen? The secret you had been trying to keep was now out

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Found! tells the story of Amanda, who had problems with her brothers. She takes off to Scotland and creates a new life for herself. When she and her boyfriend are watching television, it is her face that comes up onscreen and Jamie, her boyfriend is shocked by what he hears.

The people left behind don’t always know the reasons their loved ones leave. It affects them in difference ways and many suffer for years. So in this story, I’ve included the bewildered family and how they coped with her disappearance.

As mentioned before, some stories do not have ending and we are not always given that neatly wrapped up conclusion. With Found! I wanted to round it up and conclude it, so get your tissues ready for an sweet ending!

Found! is also available on Kindle Unlimited.

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