Milk

Two years ago I undertook a challenge to raise funds for Mary’s Meals. In the next week or so I’ll be launching another challenge, in the meantime, here’s a recap of the 30 Day Milk Challenge:

Milk

 

The Idea

During the month of May, 2011; I decided to undertake a challenge. It was a bit Jesus-y this challenge, not in a water to wine kind of way (not sure how productive I’d be given that gift), but rather in a starving in the desert, self-denial kind of way. I set out to survive (and hopefully thrive) on a diet restricted to milk, water, and daily multi-vitamins for the duration of 30 days.

 

No food, no alcohol, no anything, but milk and water.

 

My challenge began on 1st May and ended successfully on the 30th, with only one or two hitches, defeats, and minor embarrassments along the way. During the 30 days I learned a great deal about the difference between what we, as people, need and what we just want. Often our wants are mistaken for needs. When you don’t eat for 30 days, it redefines for you the number of calories it takes to not only function, but thrive as well as redefining the difference between want and need.

 

The 30 Days

The first two days, were spent ignoring hunger pangs and licking salt from the back of my hand. I wasn’t doing tequila shots, my body desperately craved the salt. Those days were also spent trying and failing to consume 4-5 pints of full-fat milk a day. I found this far too filling and on day 3 had to switch to semi-skimmed milk. Much better. By the 5th day, and bearing in mind that I lived with a challenging 2 year-old, the first coffee of the day was to prove a necessity that I couldn’t do without, so I added it back in.

After that, believe it or not, the rest was easy. I never once felt hungry, I felt full all the time actually. I didn’t crave any food in fact I lost all interest in it. Life generally became a bit simpler without having to organise meals, just get a bottle of milk. All in all I felt like a bit of a cheat as I wasn’t constantly having to fight the urge to eat and apart from the occasional energy crash and sleep to recover, it was ridiculously easy…..Until day 23.

Day 23 was a really windy day and as a result all transport out of fife to Edinburgh was halted for a few hours in the evening. My stomach, in a crowded train station, finally let me know its displeasure. I’ll spare you the details here, but it was unpleasant in the extreme. After that, I had stomach cramps almost continuously until day 30. Sleep was elusive.

Days 28 -30 also proved to be a challenge. The toughest days by far. I was hungry, very hungry. Food smells were torture, I dreamed about food all night, I day-dreamed about food all day, I would happily have bitten passing dogs, but there was no way I was giving up this close to completion. The hunger reminded me of my childhood and motivated me to finish. Also I thought about all the kind donations I’d received and didn’t want to let anyone down.

 

The Motivation

I’m not a religious man, despite the Jesus references earlier. I’m not the raise money for charity or Chugger type either. Never been the guy who takes time out of his day, week, or month to help others. So what’s changed? Nothing. I was introduced to a charity called, “Mary’s Meals, who feed and educate one child for a year for every £9.00, donated.

 

So what? I’ve walked past hundreds of people in my daily life who have been raising funds for worthy causes, so why did this one motivate me to effectively punish myself for a month?

The answer is simple: I live a privileged life. I think that most people in Britain, certainly most of those whom I interact with on a daily basis, have no real concept of how fortunate we are to live in Britain, and certainly have no idea (generally speaking) of what it means to go without.

 

Going Without

My family and I never go without a meal and actually have much more than we need. My son’s never known hunger (thankfully); he’s never gone to bed after a day of being hungry and woken up the same way. Neither has my wife, the majority people in this country haven’t, but I have.

I was brought up in a fairly impoverished environment, with most of my family, being mentally ill and/or alcoholics. My siblings and I, in our childhood, spent many days, frequently wondering where our next meal was coming from, and struggling to survive abuse and neglect from the adults in our lives. School was very much NOT a priority for us in those days except as a place to escape to for a few hours, see our friends and to receive a school dinner. I ate at my best friend’s house almost every day at one stage.

 

The memory of those days came back to me vividly upon learning of Mary’s Meals goals, probably because I associate meals with school, and set me on course for this challenge. Mary’s Meals encourages education by feeding children at schools all over the world.

I recalled memories of my mum trying to feed 3 people on a budget of £23.00 a fortnight and sharing a tin of soup between a family for a meal. Memories of items such as soap, shampoo, juices, fruit, and vegetables; classified by the Social Security as “luxuries”. Memories too of every item of clothing I ever owned, having belonged to at least one other person before me. Finally, memories of homeless-shelters and living with a stranger who we were taught to call dad. My family was far from unique in the area we lived in.

 

I have been fortunate and have worked extremely hard to educate and remove myself from this cycle of poverty, drugs, depression and cyclic failure. Due to this, it strikes a deep chord in me to see a charity like this doing the same for so many children across the world.

All anyone needs is the opportunity to make a better life for themselves. Being fed and educated is the very least a child should reasonably expect from life.

People who escape deprived upbringings and create a better life for themselves inevitably feel guilt about what they have and that’s the brick wall I had hit. This was my solution.

 

I will not be doing it again, and I do still like milk.

Through the money kindly donated to my challenge, Mary’s Meals will feed and educate around 60 children for a whole year. I’m incredibly grateful to everyone who donated this money. Thank you.

Mark Wilson

31/5/11

http://www.marysmeals.org.uk/

 

 

Last Season’s Children: the debut novel that never was

The following excerpt comes from a book I started writing in 2009 and as yet haven’t been able to continue with. It was the first writing project I took on and would have been my debut novel if I hadn’t gotten distracted by four other books I had to write, and in all honesty, if I hadn’t been too scared and lacking in the technical skills to write it.

Last Season’s Children is Semi-Autobiographical but is a mostly fictional examination of how divorce and any subsequent marriages (for the kids or the parents) affects children. It’s a subject that has defined almost every aspect of my upbringing and early adult life.

Using the theme of seasons to represent the characters, in Last Season’s Children we follow siblings, Gus and July, every two years throughout their lives. The language used by the characters in each time period reflects their respective ages, education, situation, and mental state.

I will write the rest of this novel, but not yet: I hope you enjoy.

78319085

Last Season’s Children 

2000

                                    August is 3 years old.

                                    July is 5 years old.

 

August:

I’m in bed and it’s past my bed-time. I should be sleeping by now but I can hear the angry sounds coming up from downstairs again. Can’t sleep.

My room has Star Wars wall-paper and I’ve studied every inch of it. Obi-Wan has a blue Lightsaber and is fighting Dart Maul. I picked it ‘cos I love the film and I like counting the droids when I’m lying in bed. My big sister July took me to see it at the Vue Cinema in Hamilton. We go there on the number fourteen bus every Saturday. July’s friends come too and she never goes without me. July always shares her crisps with me.

July says that Mum and Dad are just talking loudly, but I know that they don’t like each other anymore. They still like me, though.

 

July is here, with me. She always is if I can’t sleep. She’s helping me play the flag game. July helps me sort out colours from downstairs into the flags of different countries. She knows lots of flags and I do too. It’s how we put away the angry colours coming up from Mum and Dad’s talking. We play this game a lot. July sees colours too. All sounds make colours for us. Some colours are really nice, like music we like or nice peoples’ voices. Others are a bit scary but July always knows how to make the colours quiet.

 

It’s Saturday tomorrow and we are going to the cinema again and then to our Gran’s. I love my Gran’s house, it’s fun. She has a budgie called Jackie who says bad words and she always makes sugary tablet for us. Gran always makes us laugh, she’s the funniest person we know.  She lives with my Granda, my Auntie Betty and my Uncle Robert. Uncle Robert has no teeth and eats sweets called Odd-Fellows all the time. Aunty Betty is very quiet. Me and July go to our Gran’s house almost every day.

Me and July are always doing things together; even when I just want to stay in my room July says” C’mon Gus, we’ve got a busy day!”

 

Our front door has just slammed. Dad has left again. I’m really sleepy….

 

————————————

July:

Daddy has just left. It sounded really bad downstairs this time, but at least Gus is sleeping now. I kiss him on the forhead, slide out of his bed and go downstairs. Sometimes I skite down the bannister, but I’m creeping this time in case Daddy’s still here. Mummy is crying again and turns away from me when I walk in. I stand beside her leg and tell her I came for a drink of milk. When Mummy turns round she has my milk and a smile but her eyes are very red. We hug and talk for a while and then I go back to my own bedroom. I love my bedroom. It’s next to Gus’s room and has lots of pictures of my whole family, my soft toys and my dolls-house.

Gus and I are going to Gran’s tomorrow. Gran always gives us a lot of cuddles, and tablet.  It’s always better to go there after there’s been a big fight at home. It’s even better if we can go to school the day after a big fight. School always makes me feel safe.

I’m going into primary 2 soon but would like it better if my class could stay with the same teacher. Mrs Cooke is nice and doesn’t mind if I’m a bit too tired to finish all my work in class. She knows I like to read and gives me books to take home. I always take good care of them and give them back after I have read them.

I brush my hair for a while and listen to make sure that Gus hasn’t woken up again. He’s been sleepwalking again and I like to get to him before he wakes up Daddy or Mummy. It sounds like he’s quiet for tonight, so I decide to read ‘til I’m sleepy again.

I’ve got a newspaper in my room, The Herald, and I read it for a little while before I go back to sleep. I have always liked watching and reading the news. The people use words I don’t hear very often and I like trying to use them.  I watched a report on the news yesterday about an earthquake, which is when your whole house shakes. For a few days there’s something the man on the news called ‘aftershocks’ too. Sometimes the people evacuate until it all settles down.

 

Sleepy now…

2002

 

                                    August is 5 years old.

                                    July is 7 years old.

 

August:

I’ve got chickenpox and I’m stuck in bed. I’m not allowed to go anywhere for another week, and I’m bored. I want to go to school ‘cos I miss playing with my friends at break, especially Jim Gallagher; he’s my best friend. We get into trouble together sometimes but always back each other up. One day an old man who lives round the back from Jim told us to come in for ice-cream. I said we weren’t going but Jim was desperate for ice-cream so we went in. The man smelled of pipe-smoke and cherry tobacco and he had a massive freezer in his living room, like the one in the corner shop. He told Jim that he wanted to show him something upstairs and ‘cos Jim was following him I said that I had a sore stomach and needed him to take me home so that Jim would leave with me too. I walked Jim home and then went home to my own house. My Dad went round to see the man to tell him not to ask us in again.

 

My teacher is nice at school. Mrs Cooke says that I’m as good a reader as July but I don’t like it. It’s boring and I prefer sports. I walk to school with Gillian Foster who lives 2 doors down from my house.  She always turns up at my door and says that she is my girlfriend but she’s not. I’m never having a girlfriend, all they do is make you argue with them. I like Gillian but she’s very loud and tries to kiss me all the time and she still uses stabilisers on her bike so she can’t keep up with me.

 

It’s Saturday and I should be at the Cinema in Hamilton to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I’ve been so excited to see the new Harry Potter film. Everyone wants to be Harry in my class, but I like Ron Weasley better, he makes me laugh. July helped me make a Ron costume and I wore it last month to a birthday party and cast some spells on some ‘Slytherins’ that were there too.

On the way back from the party I was running through an alley July and I use for a short-cut. I fell over and my hand landed on a broken Buckie bottle. The green glass went into my palm and came out the other side. It was really sore. July took the glass out and took me to her friends’ house whose mum is a nurse. She gave me butterfly stitches and put a bandage on. It’s almost all better now but a have a big scar on my palm that looks like a big letter ‘J’. When-ever I see it I remember July pulling out the glass.

July is home with me today ‘cos she won’t go to the cinema if I can’t go with her. She’s helping mum to clean out the taxi. Mum drives a black taxi and works for a man called Peter McKenna at Maxi’s Taxis. She sometimes works at night-time when we are sleeping. Gran comes to sleep at our house if mum is working nights. Me and July go to a lady called Grace’s house after school and have our dinner there until mum comes home. Grace has a big fat ginger cat called Tiger. July always cuddles it but I’ve kicked it two times now ‘cos he scratches me and I don’t like him. Grace lives next door to a man called Donny Smith. My dad said I’ve not to talk to him and if Donny talks to me I’m supposed to tell my dad.

My dad has gone to Blackpool for a few days ‘cos he is fed up with my mum. July misses him and has phoned him three times this week, but I’m not bothered. We hardly see him when he’s home anyway so it doesn’t make much difference that he’s away.

I want to see my Gran today. She says we can go there because they have all had chickenpox before, except Uncle Robert. Gran says he will just have to stay in his room until we leave. I hope Gran has made some soup and some tablet for us.

I can see Alexander Goode playing in his garden next door. He still has a bandage on his wrist from when we were fighting two weeks ago. Alexander Goode is eight years old and much bigger than I am. Every day since I started school he has hit me on the way home. I don’t like fighting and July said I hadn’t to hit him back, so he continued to hit me for 6 weeks.

One day when he hit me I fell and tore the knee out of my school trousers. Dad saw them when I got home and I had to tell him what Alexander had done to me. Dad asked me why I hadn’t hit him back. I told him I was scared. Dad asked me who I’m more scared of, him or Alexander Goode. He told me if I didn’t go next door and batter him, that he would hit me hard for being a poof. Dad took me into the garden and kicked the fence to break it. He gave me a post and sent me next door.

I was really scared to hit Alexander but my dad fights all the time and I didn’t want him to hit me like I’d seen him hit some men. Dad has the biggest scar I’ve ever seen. It goes from under his belly-button, across his body and up to his neck. He said it’s mum’s fault he got it ‘cos she was talking to a man she shouldn’t have been.

I went next door and did what I was told. Alexander doesn’t talk to me anymore and stays out of my way. I feel bad but kind of like that the bigger boys let me hang around with them now.

I wish these chickenpox would go away…

——————————————-

 July:

I’ve been really busy at school recently, and at the dancing. I have hardly seen Gus ‘cos he’s been in the house ill for ages now. I miss walking to school with him and wee Gillian.  Mum and dad have been working lots and hardly speak to each other when they are in the house together. I miss my Daddy; he’s away just now. Gus doesn’t seem to mind but before he got ill he’d hardly been around either. I think he’s been hanging around with that big boy Tommy Stuart and his gang. I hope they don’t encourage him do stupid things. They are always in trouble with the police. Gus was sleep-walking again last night. He was talking too; about the colours from that day but he didn’t remember it in the morning. He is listening to music all the time just now cos he’s at home. That always makes his head busy at night and he lies in his bed sorting the colours instead of sleeping. Our cousin Davie Connell gives Gus all of his albums to listen to ‘cos he knows how much Gus loves them. I’m going to ask Gran later if dad will come home soon ‘cos I’m worried that he won’t…

 

End of Excerpt

You can find Mark Wilson and his books on Amazon US; Amazon, UK and at Paddy’s Daddy Publishing