So many people are sick right now.  I know I’ve been battling my semi-annual sinus infection all week, too.  But it’s been a very busy week and I’ve managed to do several things that I want to share with you.

First, I went to a fundraiser for a very worthwhile charity, RAPt, the Rehabilitation for Addicted Prisoners Trust.  It was a very artsy, somewhat star-studded night in a very understated sort of way. Soup, nibbles, drinks among new artwork in a renovated gallery on the “other” side of Islington, all culminating in Will Self reading from “19 Raptures,” a selection of specially prepared “pamphlets” loosely and often humorously based on the sorts of handouts you might find at the NHS. (What a showman he is.) I wasn’t at all sure of what I would find, but one of my dearest friends urged me to join her and she’s never steered me wrong, nor did she that night.  These people do extraordinary  and important work.  Their aim is to:
                 “bring about a reduction in crime and destructive behaviour, and promote healthier communities and families, by helping people recover from substance misuse and addiction, and build a positive and fulfilling lifestyle.”
  Although RAPt is not a religious organization, it does have a spiritual component in that it follows the 12-Step guidelines of AA and NA. This approach to dealing with addiction has been seen to work over decades now and the important application of it to prisoners, the great majority of whom offend because of their addiction, is  creating success stories throughout the UK.  Please do click on the RAPt website above to learn more about their work.

And then, just last night, I went to a very different sort of fundraiser for a charity whose work takes them to the most troubled areas across the globe, Human Rights Watch.   For over thirty years, this amazing organization has been dedicated to
                   “…defending and protecting human rights. By focusing international attention where human rights are violated, we give voice to the oppressed and hold oppressors accountable for their crimes. Our rigorous, objective investigations and strategic, targeted advocacy build intense pressure for action and raise the cost of human rights abuse.”
Human Rights Watch trains investigators to go into the world’s most troubled areas and learn first-hand about the atrocities which are being committed on the most vulnerable people.  Right now their work is especially focused on Burma and the Congo, and from what they have documented they have been able to convince the world’s governments and the UN that rape is indeed a weapon of war and must be treated as such.  Watching videos of their work and listening to the people who have devoted their lives to this work was incredibly moving and upsetting.  I urge you to read more about it by clicking on the link above.  I must admit that I have become rather cynical over the years, finding it hard to believe that any one person really can affect change in our dangerous world.  But I came away from last night’s event convinced that there is hope and that change, though immensely difficult, is possible.

And on a very different plane, the last event I wanted to tell you about was a lecture I went to at Greenwich’s National Maritime Museum, “The Poems of Space.” I went with fellow science lover, the writer Tania Hershman.  We took a wonderful boat ride down the Thames to Greenwich and arrived a bit early to the imposing building which is the Maritime Museum. Astronomer and poetry lover, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, has edited an anthology of poems about space called Dark Matter.  She discussed how poets have used the cosmos as their theme over the ages, and had several of us read selected poems aloud during her talk.  Tania and I, being the kosher hams that we are, of course volunteered to read.  I read a poem by Frost, Tania read one by Kunitz.  How I wished I’d had a copy of that book while I was writing Tangled Roots!  A panel discussion then followed moderated by Pippa Goldschmidt and including the poet, Kelley Swain.  It was a great talk, and it ended with an older gentleman, sporting a beard like Ahab might have worn, who thanked the Museum for holding the event because for over sixty years he has had two loves, poetry and astronomy, and finally he has been able to bring them both together.  Wonderful.

So it’s been a long week, and this has become a long blog.  Until next time, then.