Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Have You got that Charitable Feeling?

This is not a blog I ever expected to write.

I never thought I’d discuss my charitable habits. They seem somehow rather personal, but to write this particular snark, I guess I have to.

I give to my chosen charities via direct debit. I have done for donkeys’ years. I also gift-aid them, so I don’t tax-deduct them, which, frankly, is a bit daft, but there you have it. My choices of charities are personal, but are related to birth defects and education. I also buy the Big Issue, and I give when family, particularly my children, involve themselves in anything that requires extra help. My daughter’s dance school is currently trying to fund sprung floors for its new premises, and is struggling to make ends meet, so I’m helping out a little with that.*

I tend not to give randomly to charities. I avoid chuggers, although, they’re doing their jobs, I suppose. I rather object to those who turn up on my doorstep, because I consider it an invasion of my privacy, but I’m always polite to them and I don’t waste their time, likewise with those who phone me. 

When my children were in school, they were regularly seconded into doing sponsored events. In my opinion this is a particularly odious form of begging. It often involved my children doing things they had no interest in or which required no skills, and, possibly, some form of humiliation or drudgery. It also generally required that they performed tasks that were not related to anything educational when they should have been sitting in classrooms learning stuff. It also required that they asked my friends, relations and neighbours for cash. Usually, my children wanted to join in with the sponsored events, and I never prevented them from doing so, but I always made a donation rather than fill up a sponsor sheet. I rather preferred events that allowed children to pay a fee to dress up for school, or gave them the opportunity for a lunchtime disco (think of all that jigging about, and music never hurt anyone), or even allowed them to buy fairy cakes and rice crispie treats.

Anyway... There appears to be a new trend on the High Street, and I’m going to have to either avoid certain shops and restaurants for good, or start saying ‘No’ to a whole new group of charity muggers.

I do not want to get to the till, having chosen my purchases, and be asked to make a charitable contribution. I especially do not want to get to the end of a lovely meal with friends or family and be leveraged into handing over extra cash because I’d feel churlish not doing it, even if I’ve already given a generous tip to the lovely waiting staff.

It’s not good practice, it’s discomfiting, and retail and waiting staff are already doing a job, thank you very much without being expected to be charity collectors as well. Many retail and waiting staff are already doing a, literally, stand-up job, on their feet all day, dealing with the miserable public, for the minimum wage and virtually no benefits. They are the people that have their lunch breaks at either half-past-ten in the morning or half-past-three in the afternoon. They’re at the sharp end of everyone’s temper and misery and down-right rudeness, and, at the end of every transaction with every miserable git who comes their way, they’re now expected to ask for extra, free cash. For what? Because the shopper hasn’t already been rung up by a charity asking for money, stopped in the street by a chugger, accosted by adverts on the television with miserable music and some doleful voice begging for funds, and pledged a tenner on his niece’s latest sponsor form.

I ask you... Have you got that charitable feeling? And I answer: No, I bloody haven’t, I’ve got that shopping feeling, but I don’t really want to have to say no, and look miserable and feel mean when the nice kid serving me asked. I don’t want to look like a colossal tosser when I just spent a couple of hundred quid having a groovy time over lunch and a couple of bottles of wine on a Thursday, with my mates, when some poor child is dying of starvation in a warzone somewhere.

I’d much rather my dining and shopping choices weren’t limited by which stores and restaurants introduce this new trend of chugging at the till. My choices are already restricted by so many other factors.

And can I just say that we live in the First World, and, I hope, in one of the most compassionate nations in that First World. I know that refugees and asylum seekers come here because that is what they believe. I am proud to live in possibly the most compassionate nation in the First World. I would not have it any other way. My contention is that in the most compassionate nation in the First World it really ought to be possible to feed the starving and heal the sick and comfort the dying and house the homeless, and school the children and keep them safe from harm. In the most compassionate nation in the First World it really ought to be possible to do all of those things, and it really ought to be possible to do them all without recourse to charitable institutions.

I will continue to give. I am happy to do it, and I always feel uplifted when I receive the letters that tell me how my money has been spent, and the good that has been achieved with it. I just don’t want to be left feeling miserable that I’ve said no, yet again, as some point of principle when, do you  know what? I should be proud that I actually say yes.

* Now I'm going to be Snarker turned Chugger and point you in the direction of the dort's dance school where you can pledge a quid to get those sprung floors sorted out, and, honest to goodness, I really can't believe I'm doing it, but there you go. There's also a YouTube link at the end so you can go and look at them shaking their stuff, too. Who wouldn't pledge a quid for that? Smiles. 

Addict Dance Academy: See them dance (The dort's the one with the two-tone hair). 


  1. I prefer to have a nominated charity and give to them whole-heartedly, in my case one that has personally affected our family when my son was tiny. While I support charity in general I just feel bombarded by it, particularly when I lived in Plymouth and a walk across town would include having "BIIIIIIIIG ISSUUUUUUUE!" yelled at me five times at the very least.

    A gripe on that front, if I may. Feel free to not read it of course, but why on Earth do people yell "BIG ISSUE!" at passers by? Would you stand in front of a car dealership and scream "FOOOOOORD FIESTAAAAA!"?

    The day I hear someone who has clearly been given their copies, sat down, read them, taken note of the highlights, famous guest columnists etc and stands there actually SELLING the damn thing, I will start buying it again. I feel for the homeless but, thanks to Plymouth having a vendor on far too many corners, that mantra is like nails on a blackboard to me.

  2. I give to the BHF because my dad died of heart failure, the NSPCC and the air ambulance.

    I positively refuse to give to charities that then send my money abroad as I feel we've thrown enough money at other countries when we have our own sick, starving, abused children dying here, soldiers who are homeless and suffering from PTSD etc. And if I can ever afford to spend a couple of hundred quid on a lunch, I certainly won't feel bad when I say 'No' to someone asking for even more money.

    Rant over.

    1. I often disagree with sending it abroad for one reason: a lot of the money does not go where it should and we are not addressing the actual problems. There often isn't a lack of money, there's a surfeit of bastards. Usually with machine guns. Frankly, if the SAS were to have a whip-around to fund removing warlords and bring peace and stability to these regions I'd donate in a heartbeat, but we send medical supplies, food and grain only for those same bastards to steal and sell it to fund their private armies, mansions and lavish lifestyles while their people starve.

      Our "two pounds a month" is like a fart in a thunder storm.