From Me To You’s Alison Hitchcock and Brian Greenley didn’t know each other well. But when Brian was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Alison offered to write him letters. 100 letters later, their lives were changed.
I didn’t think much more about it, but I liked the idea that From Me To You existed and were encouraging people to write letters both to friends with cancer, but also to people they didn’t know.
A few weeks later I was walking through my local library, and I saw a poster advertising a letter writing event for the very same charity. As I was on deliberate downtime week 5, I had nothing to stop me going along and joining in. So I did. At the time I wrote
On Thursday I spent a really pleasant half an hour or so with the people from From Me To You who were having a letter writing day in Jubilee Library. I’d heard about them on the Allusionist podcast a few weeks ago and then spotted a poster. So I thought I’d go along. My Silver Line letter friend is having a break for a few weeks so I thought I’d write a letter to an unknown person having cancer treatment instead. It’s an interesting thing to write a note to an unknown person, knowing that it’s a one-way exchange, that you’ll never hear back from them and so you can’t ask questions. All you can do is try and write something that is uplifting and that I feel would brighten my day a little if it were me. It reminded me a little of writing postcards to Mum. They weren’t an exchange, a conversation, either they were about giving her something to look at, to hold, and to give her some company when someone read it to her. The letter writing was an uplifting experience. And Alison and Brian were lovely people.
Since then I’ve written a few more letters and caught up with Brian and Alison at the library again, and, more recently, at WordStock Brighton. I still like what they’re doing, and try and help spread the word, and write some words for them from time to time.
This past week BBC Sussex’s show Afternoon with Allison Fernes featured From Me To You as part of Volunteers’ week. As part of this they asked some of the letter writers, and a letter recipient, to be interviewed on the show. So, on Tuesday, that’s what I did.
I turned up to the studio in plenty of time and sat in the reception thinking through all the reasons why I write letters, as that is what the interview was mainly going to be about, and it seemed an excellent way to keep my nerves at bay. I write letters because I hope that receiving one at a time when you’re not at your best raises your spirits. I write because it feels like a reasonably easy way to show support for somebody. I write because it reminds me to be grateful and appreciative of my life. I write because it gives me an excuse to buy nice stationery. I write because it makes me feel good to do so. The producer, Ollie, came out to collect me and gave me a quick run-through of what was going to happen. I made an offhand comment that I hadn’t been on local radio since I was six months old. Which led to me telling him that my Christening was broadcast live on BBC Radio Humberside. As he showed me into the studio, he mentioned this to Allison. And that is where the interview started from (it starts at 2 hours 40 minutes). It was an interesting experience, and I’m pleased with how I came across.
When it was done, and I left the studio, I stopped to collect my stuff. Ollie said that while I was talking to Allison, he’d called Radio Humberside to tell them of my link to them. They were keen for me to give them a call and tell them how this had all come about. So I did.
Thursday afternoon found me back at the BBC Sussex studios, this time in one of the remote suites downstairs ready to speak to Andy Comfort at BBC Radio Humberside. The kit was pretty low tech but functional. The lady who showed me in said that when the red and green lights on the grey unit lit up, I should put the headphones on and get ready. So I sat and stared and waited. And then they lit up. I put the headphones on. I heard a song, and a member of the ops team spoke to me and said that Andy would be coming to me as soon as the song was over, and that was all the preparation I had. My heart was beating pretty rapidly - I’m not sure that wearing my Fitbit with a built-in heart-rate checker was my wisest idea as I had proof that my heart was racing! I had a set of notes about From Me To You laid out next to me as from my perspective that was the reason I was doing this - to spread the word about them. It wasn’t about me and my Christening. Only that’s exactly what it was. It’s funny, but I’ve never really thought much about the fact that I have a recording of my Christening, and how rare that is. It is just how it is. But I guess, in retrospect, it must have felt like a great opportunity to Radio Humberside. If you want to hear the interview - it is here. As with Tuesday’s, I’m reasonably pleased with how I came across, even if I remain a bit bemused by the unexpected second radio appearance of the week, and the third of my life. I’m now going back into radio retirement for the time being!