Ho, ho, ho! Who ate all the mince pies? Erm…. Seriously, will someone please hide all of the food in my sight. Every single year we dread returning from Christmas being the size of a house. Yes, I said ‘we’ – I am dragging you down with me, ha. ‘I’m going to get fit in January’. I’ve said that before. ‘ I think I will aim to lose about three stone in January.’ I’ve said that before. ‘ I am going to do all of the things that I have said I would do for the last five years, but have never done.’ Or maybe I will just see how it goes?….. So when we last spoke (sorry – when I last rambled to you), I was about to tackle the challenge of the first edit of the book. It went well. Looking it at with fresh eyes helped immensely and also made me laugh. Where was I going with that paragraph?! We had a Christmas jumper soiree at our house in N1, when I took an evening off. In a last-minute panic, without a garish jumper suitable, I decided to put my Blue Peter skills to the test. I became a walking health and safety hazard as I threaded battery-powered fairy lights through a red jumper of mine. Don’t try this at home, kids. I really thought that I would be under dressed. That was until I found that the lights had settings. As the music picked up the pace, so did the speed of the flashing lights on me. I was a Christmas tree – a bit of a laughing-stock, admittedly – but confident that if Blue Peter does need a new presenter and is willing to look the other way over fire safety regulations – I’m in. When I handed that first edit in last week, knowing that my friend, Clare and husband, Tony, were over from Brunei and hanging in an apartment in Chamonix – I jumped on a plane to see them for a couple of days. (Who the hell do I think I am? I need to win the Euromillions – pronto.) I had been wrapped up in the book (rather than presents) – it was my first real taste of Christmas joy. I loved being in the snow, catching up with friends, drinking wine and sampling some fondu (yeh – I started the eating thing early). The day before I headed to the snowy village north of Mont Blanc, I received a tweet from someone called The Free Help Guy. Who is this? I was completely intrigued and looked him up right away. And yet again, another human being blows me away. The Free Help Guy (let’s call him ‘TFHG’) posted an anonymous advert on Gumtree in March earlier this year to offer his services, simply, to help anyone free of charge. That alone is wonderful. But once he started, it snowballed into something far greater. He had six months between jobs and as the requests flew in, he decided to devote his time to helping others (still remaining anonymous to this day). “I’m doing this because, like you, I’m a simple feeling, thinking, living being who feels best when they’re making a difference.” TFHG blogs about his experiences – from helping someone paint their house, finding someones’ father, reuniting a man with his camera memory card and he has guided a tourist around London for the day via twitter, to name just a few. I know – amazing isn’t it. So, wanting to be a part of this incredible do-gooding – I could wait no longer and as soon as I got home to Dorset, I was thinking about the task ahead…… “Dad, do you have any post-its?” “No, why?” “I need to smilebomb, obviously.” #Smilebomb is one of TFHG’s most recent campaigns, which is ‘a public message left (on a post-it or such like) from one stranger to another with the intention to make them smile’. Simple and beautifully effective. This was a task that I could identify with, through message-scattering of my own. My postcards were left in memory of a loss, these are a message to create a smile but the link is in leaving them in public spaces. I assured Sarah, who I told was coming along with me to leave a #smilebomb in Wimborne, that as I had left 120 postcards in Paris and NYC and had shamelessly approached many a New Yorker asking them to hold an ‘I heart NYC’ sign (I know) and what inspired them – the little WHSmiths in our local village would be no sweat. It ended up being hilarious. The staff must have wondered what the hell was happening, as our hysterics were coming from the smallest photo booth in the world as we took a shot before we smilebombed in there. That shouldn’t have taken long but our money got swallowed, I got cramp in my leg trying to bend down in the shot (no it isn’t because I have hit thirty, urgh) and we were crying from laughter so much.
And there we left our note for the next person that will visit that booth for their shots: ‘Smile 🙂 You look amazing, Merry Christmas! #smilebomb’ As I am writing this, it has dawned on me that you aren’t actually allowed to smile in passport photos. Screw it, hopefully they will smile anyway. But the thing that hit home most about this, is that the help came full circle – the TFHG had helped us. This is a sad time of year with Mum gone – but having the mission of leaving a note for a stranger, created a beautiful moment for my sister and I. Not only that, but my Dad has already told half of Wimborne about TFHG since I have explained what he is all about. Ever since I heard from TFHG, I have been reminded of Project Inspire which I started just before I embarked on my NYC adventure in April where I asked you to send a photo of yourself holding a postcard and to tell me what – whether it be an individual, group or project – inspires you. I still have some to post and please make sure to keep emailing them to me. Oh and smilebomb away – just send a photo of it to TFHG on Facebook or Twitter and don’t forget to include the hashtag. #Everyonelovesagoodhashtag I thought that Christmas eve was the perfect spot to share The Free Help Guy to you. This enigma of a man – returning answers, solving problems and helping others who need it – is someone whose journey I hope to follow for a very long time. What a legend. I am wishing you all a very Merry Christmas. And to those who have lost, I will be thinking of you. So much love, Rachael xxx