Adrian's Writing

…and drawing

What's the logic of… charity sponsorship?


Charity sponsorship; it seems simple. Someone commits to doing something challenging. If they succeed, their sponsors donate money to a specific charity.

But wait a second... almost no one, nowadays, does something really difficult. They can’t, Health and safety would be all over them like a rash if they decided to walk a tightrope over the Thames while wearing ship chains, or wrestle a half-starved lion, or swallow a bucket of scorpions. No one nowadays can be allowed to risk their life, or even serious injury as part of a sponsored event. That’s perfectly sensible, but it means that all legitimate sponsored events are perfectly do-able by everyone who takes part in them. Not only that, but most modern sponsored events actually benefit the people taking part. Also, the events are usually enjoyable, as shown by the oodles of websites full of grinning faces standing around finishing lines and comments like ‘gosh, it was wonderful! I’m looking forward to doing it again!’ Therefore, in nearly all sponsored events nowadays, people are sponsoring other people to do something they’ll be really pleased they’ve done.

That’s odd, because if that’s the case, then, logically, I should be able to ask people to sponsor me to cycle to my town centre every morning and drink a FairTrade coffee while reading a magazine. It’s healthy, ethical and I’d be pleased I did it. I could even make it challenging and say I’ll have the coffee at precisely 11am every day. That would be really difficult to achieve! That would require organisation, persistence and a positive attitude. I think most people would respond badly if I asked them, but logically, it should be fine. For me, the ‘coffee at 11am every day for a month’ challenge is harder than, say, cycling 50 miles in a day. I can cycle a long way on a bicycle, but meeting a deadline every day for weeks on end is torment, so how does my ‘coffee at 11am for a month’ challenge look utterly ridiculous and frankly rubbish to others, but the easier task, for me, of cycling 50 miles in a day seem respectable?

I don’t know. To be honest, I’m confused about the logic of donating. If someone thinks a charity is worthwhile, why do they need to watch someone to go around the Isle of Wight in a wheelbarrow before handing over some cash? Surely, if a person thought the charity involved was valid and worthwhile, they would just donate the money regardless?

It gets weirder. What if, say, Jimmy Saville was still alive today and was running a marathon in support of a cash-starved children’s hospital. Would you sponsor him? My automatic response is ‘no way!’ since it’s now pretty clear he was a monstrous, repulsive, sexual predator. But he wouldn’t get the money I’d donated, the hospital would receive it. None of it would go to him. Would it still therefore be a positive act? I’d still be reluctant to do it, but who would I want to sponsor instead? Why would I need to sponsor anyone to push me to help out an ailing children’s hospital? Why I do I need to be woo'd by a celebrity and see someone run ten miles in a gorilla suit before I hand over some cash? It makes me look like I have to be entertained before I'll open my wallet, however important the cause.

Charities do need our money, but raising those donations by organizing events is a woefully inefficient way of raising money. A fundraiser once admitted to me that two-thirds of the money raised from the celebrity-endorsed event she’d help organize was lost the charity. The money was spent paying for advertising, catering, commissions, venue and so on for the event. What charities ideally need is for us to quietly pay them every month, without any ostentatious displays. That way, they can use nearly all the money donated to get on with their work. They’ll also know that they have a reliable supply of income, month in, month out - security and stability that will enable them to plan ahead and implement long-lasting beneficial projects... wait a second, I’m talking about a welfare state.

The logical conclusion seems to be to never sponsor anyone at an organised event. Instead, a far better act of charity is to set up a monthly donation to a organisation whose aims you strongly believe in.

For those that disagree with this conclusion, I'll soon be setting up a MustGive web-page for my ‘fairtrade coffee every day for a month’ challenge. Please give generously.

Five places I've almost been killed while cycling

There’s been a lot of talk this week about cycling deaths in London. Our mayor, Boris Johnson, responded to the news by seeming to imply that the deaths were due to cyclists using the roads in a reckless or dangerous manner; in other words, it was probably their own fault they had been killed. This viewpoint is, unfortunately, shared by many other non-cycling Londoners. This mentality can be seen in the recent case of a man in Scotland who was only banned from driving for five years after he killed a cyclist, even though it was the second cyclist he’d killed.

In the hierarchy of respect in this country, I wonder sometimes if cyclists are viewed by society as somewhere around the level of a horse. Actually, even that might be optimistic, I’d be fascinated to read the reports of the public reaction to someone killing two horses and see how they compare. A year-or-so ago, I found out that even though Teddy Bears are more dangerous than cyclists, a Tory MP tried to enact a new law, specifically to punish dangerous cyclists.

To try and help change the view that cyclists’ deaths are mostly their own fault, I’ve put together my top five place in London where I was almost killed even though I was doing everything right. In every case, I was cycling responsibly, stopping at the lights, giving appropriate hand signals, staying in lane, carrying bright lights if it was dark, etc. I wasn’t being foolish, reckless, undertaking, getting in a lorry’s blind-spot, or performing sudden accelerations. I was Mr Responsible. Perhaps, if people read about one cyclist’s experiences, some of them might feel a little more sympathetic towards cyclists and the dangers they face.

Here’s my top five, in no particular order:

Cyclists or teddy bears; who's the most dangerous?

A hot topic this month in the world of British cycling has been the plan by Tory MP Andrea Leadsom to bring in a new Bill to target dangerous cyclists (Covered here among other places).

Although the number of people killed in the UK by cyclists is around one every other year, she still feels it's important to send a message to these two-wheeled potential killers. The example she has given of a cyclist killing someone is a case where a cyclist hit a pedestrian who'd strayed into the road. To make things worse, he'd reportedly shouted at her 'I'm not going to stop!' before he hit her. Read More...

The joys of towpaths and parks

Normally, when it comes to going on a long cycle ride, I always think of getting the road bike out. It's light, fast and I can zip along the roads emulating the stars of the Tour de France. The only problem is, I don't really emulate the stars of the Tour de France at all. Firstly, they're a lot fitter than me. Secondly, when we see them riding, they're on traffic free roads. They don't have to dodge 4x4's or huge lorries or people turning left without indicating. Thirdly, their rides seem to start at ski stations or medieval walled towns, rather than Tolworth.

This discrepancy nagged me one day. Why was I trawling through dull suburbia for twenty miles just to get to the start of a scenic route? Was there an easier way to enjoy cycling - the trees, the twisting lanes, the challenging hills, the exhilarating descents - without all that hassle? I thought back on what I'd done when I was younger. How had I enjoyed cycling then? I remember that I'd really enjoyed cycling on the tracks on the park and common near my house. Not as dramatic but just as fun. I therefore decided to find a route on my doorstep that had those elements. Here it is: Read More...

An adult on a bicycle

A great quote from H.G.Wells:

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race."

Lycra louts and trouser suits

Here's a personal favourite, resurrected from the pre WordPress crash days. Enjoy!

One phrase that has puzzled me in recent years is ‘lycra louts’. It is used regularly and with a fair amount of emotion but I really don't know why. I can understand ‘lager louts’ since drinking lots of lager can make the best of us into anti-social idiots. But why do people demonise cyclists wearing clothing that reduces chafing? If anything, you’d think it would be the opposite way around. The cyclists without the lycra would be the menace. If I cycled for four hours in damp underwear that had been rubbing itself against my sensitive areas with all the delicate softness of a cheese grater, I would scream and shout if someone got in my way. But it’s the opposite. Read More...

My favourite cycling books and films

A friend asked me recently to recommend some cycling books and films. Instead of just telling him, I thought I'd stick them on my blog so everyone can check them out.

First off, an absolute gem of a French animated movie called 'Belleville Rendezvous'. There's not much dialogue but there doesn't have to be. The expressions and actions tell you everything you need to know. A young french lad is given a bicycle and it transforms his life. With the help of his grandmother, he becomes a professional racer (incredibly skinny apart from HUGE thighs). He takes part in the Tour de France but ends up in the broom wagon. From there, he is kidnapped, taken to New York and made to take part in a 'simulation' Tour De France ran by gambling gangsters. Strange, magical, often hysterically funny. The only criticism I would have is that the middle section about the three old ladies - the Belleville triplets - drags on a little too long. Apart from that, brilliant.


My journey to work

I might not have my own flat nowadays, or be able to go on a fancy holiday, or buy the latest kit (have you seen the new 11" Apple MacBook Air? It's very nice...) but on the plus side, I don't have to commute into London every weekday. Hooray! Instead, I cycle the following route...

First off, it's into Bushy Park through Hampton gate. Read More...