This book has been independently produced.
It is not affiliated to any publishers, companies, charities,
aid agencies, NGOs or other organisations.
© Ariane Sherine 2013
Individual contributions © the authors 2013
All rights reserved. However, any part of this publication
may be reproduced faithfully without the written
permission of the author(s), providing the author(s)
are fully credited.
All information was correct to the best of the authors’
knowledge at the time of publication. Sources: The Good
Shopping Guide, 11th edition (The Ethical Company
Organisation); BUAV; PETA; NHS; The Vegan Society;
War on Want; UK Uncut.
‘The secret to a happy life is in giving to others –
a powerful message of this very funny book.’
anthony seldon
‘I urge you not to buy this book. That would be silly.
Because it’s free. You should definitely read it, though.’
dave gorman
‘It’s as though something you’ve known for a long time has
been sitting there quietly in the back of your head – an
old friend, if you like. And now somebody has made it the
subject of a modest little book. You may not like everything
there is to know about this friend. But there it is – life’s like
that. Just reading this book might make you a better person,
and we all need some of that.’
simon le bon
What the hell is this book about, then?
How to be happy.
Everyone wants to be happy. What makes you think you’ve
found the secret?
It’s always been known, but I stumbled across it accidentally.
Like a dog poo in the street?
That kind of thing, yes. But nicer.
Happiness, then. Is it a cigar called Hamlet?
No, I think you’re thinking of ‘lung cancer’.
Is it sex with supermodels on a yacht and millions of pounds
in the bank?
Only if you’re Duran Duran.
Okay then, oh enlightened master guru – I give up. Tell me
what the secret is.
That’s it? That’s what you’ve wasted the last minute of my
life for?
It sounds too simple, but it really is the key to happiness.
Says who, you?
Harvard, for starters. The link to the study’s at the end of
this book, but in brief, it says: “happier people give more
[and] giving causes increased happiness”.
And you’re spending 60 pages telling me this because…?
Because the study also says, “Advertising the emotional
benefits [increased happiness] of giving may leave these
benefits intact and might even encourage individuals to give
But if I gave things away, I’d have less myself. That wouldn’t
make me very happy.
It sounds plausible, but studies suggest the reverse is true.
People who spent part of their bonuses on others were
happier than those who spent the whole lot on themselves,
according to research from the University of British
It’s all very well telling me “giving” is the key to happiness, but
there are lots of things you shouldn’t give: a punch in the face,
breastmilk in tea, gonorrhoea.
You’ll be astounded to learn that the study didn’t mention
any of those. But I’m sorry to hear you have gonorrhoea.
It’s all cleared up now. What am I meant to give, then?
Not just money. If you don’t have any you can give any
number of other things…
You want my blood? What are you, some kind of creepy
I don’t want your blood.
Who does, your undead great-uncle?
NHS Blood and Transplant. They need stocks of blood for
transfusions, especially if you’re blood type O- or B-.
But I hate having my blood taken. Why should I give it?
Because it could help save a life. You’d want your life saved
by a blood transfusion if you had an accident, wouldn’t you?
I wouldn’t have an accident. I’m not daft. You won’t find me
in A&E with a carrot up my arse.
Okay: so it’s icy outside, and you slip straight into the road
and into the path of a car driving at 70mph. Would you
want your life saved?
Hmmph. Maybe. Do you give blood?
I’ve been declined for being underweight – you have to be
at least 7st 12lbs (110lbs or 50kg) – but have now put on
weight and will be trying again this month.
So I’m going to turn you over to my best friend Graham
Nunn, who designed this book. He’s donated 50 times. Be
nice to him.
Hello, weird blood-giving man. What’s it like having your
blood sucked?
Relax – they employ nurses, not leeches. But before you can
donate, they have to check that you’re a suitable donor by
asking you a few questions.
Don’t tell me: what’s my favourite colour? Have I ever built a
Lego Taj Mahal? What’s my porn star name?
Er... no. Just stuff about where you’ve travelled recently,
whether you’ve been unwell, and making sure you’re not
planning to exert yourself too much after donating. Don’t
expect to give blood and go hang-gliding afterwards to
Okay, I’ll do a bungee jump instead. So what happens next?
Then they prick your finger, draw up a small drop of blood
in a pipette, and drop it in this strange green solution to
check it has enough iron in it.
I knew it was going to be freaky. So when does the actual
sucking bit begin?
Well, if you pass the iron test (almost everyone does),
you go to a waiting area until they call you to a spare bed.
Actually, they’ve started using these cool-looking reclining
chairs recently...
I had sex in a reclining chair once. Are you allowed to have
sex while they take your blood?
Just keep it in your pants, will you? You’re meant to be
thinking of others here. So when you’re on the bed/chair/
whatever, they ask you to confirm your name and address
(just to make sure they haven’t accidentally mixed you up
with a half-Vanuatuan grandmother) and they swab your
arm. Then it’s time for the fun bit.
You’re being sarky, aren’t you?
A little. This is when you need to brace yourself for the
needle. You’re okay with needles, right?
*clunk* Whuh... where am I? Sorry, I think I just fainted.
Don’t be such a wuss. Okay, I won’t lie, you’ll feel it going
in – but it’s only a second of discomfort and then you can
relax. All you have to do then is wiggle your fingers to keep
the red stuff flowing.
Hm. So can I read the latest Jeffrey Archer, or do I have to
make inane chit-chat with the nurse?
The whole process lasts about ten minutes, so you won’t get
much reading done. I usually ask the nurse if they’ve had a
busy day, then make sympathetic noises when they respond
in the affirmative.
Doesn’t sound like much of a distraction.
Well I’ve given blood 50 times and I’m not very brave, so it
can’t be too traumatic. When you’re done they’ll take out
the needle, ask you to press a pad on the vein for a couple
of minutes and that’s it. You know what it’s time for now,
don’t you?
Hot sex with the nurse?
You’re obsessed. No, it’s time for the complimentary tea and
biscuits! Go on, you’ve earned them.
And if that hasn’t convinced you, talk to Nick Dastoor,
a journalist for The Guardian, who gives blood every
eight weeks.
So, you’re a la-di-da poncy leftie journalist, are you? Do you
wear black polo necks and drink unpronounceable red wine?
Yes, I do both these things. I don’t like either but sticking to
protocol makes things easier all round.
Fair enough. So what’s all this about you giving blood every
eight seconds?
Well, I used to give blood regularly: once every four
months. Then they asked me if I wanted to participate in
a medical research programme to find out if people could
give blood more often than the current once-every-12weeks limit. I said okay and now I have to go every eight
weeks. If I die, they won’t change the limit.
Not to make you paranoid or anything, but did you ever
think: maybe it’s not a medical trial, but a mission to bump
you off?
No. I don’t see what would be in it for them. I suppose there
would be an immediate blood windfall, but in the long term
it would be like killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
Well, you’re clearly no chicken. How’s it going so far?
I’ve just had my second session and so far the blood keeps
on flowing. I don’t know where it’s all coming from. 11
Do let me know if you die, and then I won’t donate.
Will do, but I don’t think it should put you off giving it
every 12 weeks instead. That’s almost certainly not deadly.
Okay. How do I sign up again?
A good starting point would be to visit blood.co.uk or call
0300 123 23 23 to find your nearest donation venue and
make an appointment.
But I don’t have any time.
Time isn’t something you have, it’s something you make.
You’re making time to talk to me now, aren’t you?
And I bet you’d make time if you met someone really hot.
Yeah, probably. But this section isn’t called ‘meet someone
really hot’. There aren’t any volunteering opportunities where
you get to meet hot people.
You never know, you might meet a hot volunteer or
charity worker.
Have you got a grandma?
I don’t fancy my grandma! What are you like?
I’ve changed topic. I was thinking of the last volunteering
opportunity I saw, for AgeUK. You love your grandma,
don’t you?
Not in that way.
But you do love her.
Well, she’s 88 and tells rude jokes. What’s pink and hard?
I dread to think.
Miss Piggy with a flick knife.
Very good. Now, imagine if your grandma were isolated
and lonely. You’d want a volunteer to make time for her,
wouldn’t you?
Hm. Maybe.
Well, AgeUK are looking for volunteers who can spare just
two hours a week to help improve the life of an old person.
Do I have to wipe their bum?
No. You might help them learn to become mobile again
after an illness, do their online shopping or help with the
computer, finances or correspondence. You could also help
around the house and just be a friendly face in their life.
I suppose I could manage that.
Or you could provide support to someone with cancer
or HIV, or someone with a disability, or mentor a child.
It would only take a few hours of your time a week, but it
would make a big difference to them.
Do you volunteer then?
I fit as much as I can around my two-year-old daughter.
I mentored a child for a year with the charity Friendship
Works, and have just started helping an older person with
Sheesh. Don’t you have any friends? Can’t you find something
less dull and worthy to do?
It’s great fun! Mentoring a kid means you have an excuse
to watch cartoons and do arts and crafts, and get to try
out being a parent before doing it for real. And the elderly
lady I volunteer with is amazing. She was born in 1929, is a
great-grandmother and has had five strokes and three heart
bypass operations. She’s fiercely intelligent, extremely funny,
and very kind too.
I’m feeling all strange and warm inside. Maybe it’s just
indigestion. How can I sign up, then?
There’s a list of volunteering opportunities at the end of this
book. And here’s Guardian journalist Libby Brooks, who
mentored a child with Kids Company.
Another Guardian journalist? You can’t move three
paragraphs in this book without hitting one. Don’t you have
news to write or homes to go to?
Hey, you’re the one writing the book.
Hmmph, maybe. But I’ve got to be honest: I’m quite a selfish
person. If I mentored someone, what would be in it for me?
As well as the generalised warm glow from Doing A Good
Thing, I think that mentoring gives you the chance to walk
in the shoes of, or at least alongside, someone you might
not normally have contact with in your regular life. It can
open your eyes and ears to all sorts of new experiences and
Like what, exactly?
It could be gaining a greater understanding of why a young
person is fixated with beeping, flashing video games–
What about the coffin dodgers?
–or what it feels like to be growing older in a society that
isn’t immediately respectful of age. But it does give you the
chance to look down the other end of the telescope, and also
remind yourself that you have the capacity to find things
in common with folk you might never believe you have
anything in common with.
Hang on: giving blood and volunteering takes effort.
True, but this chapter’s about organising your own activities
for charity.
Is this where I have to limp up to people with a sheet of A4,
looking pathetic, and whine, ‘please will you sponsor me to
stroke some dolphins?’
Not on porpoise. And no: you don’t have to do anything
pleasurable like that – you can do something gruelling, or
entertaining, or even boring. Anything’s possible.
Visiting Pluto? Running faster than Usain Bolt? Writing a
decent line of dialogue?
Evidently not. Anyhow, here’s Nick Harrop, who works for
an aid agency. He’ll tell you about his cycling trip to Paris in
aid of the charity Friends of the Children of Tanzania…
Cycling to Paris for charity, eh? Are you a bit of a
sanctimonious prick?
That’s quite an aggressive question to start with. Could we
begin with something softer?
All right then. Are you one of these do-gooders who’s always
raising money for charity?
Er, not really. I hadn’t done anything like this before. But I’d
seen the work of Friends of the Children of Tanzania, and
was really impressed. I thought a sponsored bike ride would
be a good way of helping them.
Was this one of those organised rides, where most of the socalled “sponsorship” went to the company organising it?
No. We organised it ourselves, so all the money raised went
to the charity.
Okay then. Tell me about this “charity”.
They work in a rural part of Kagera Province in the west
of Tanzania. The area’s beautiful but extremely remote.
Disabled children face appalling discrimination: almost
none go to school, and many never leave their homes.
When I visited, there’d been a spate of rapes of disabled
girls, because local witch doctors were insisting that having
sex with disabled girls would make you rich.
The charity was set up by former VSO volunteers to help
pay school fees for disabled kids; pay for operations;
ensure that someone visits disabled children who are stuck
at home; and educate people about disability to combat
Have you got a sob story? I find it hard to make an emotional
connection without one.
I met Sukuru, 18, who had muscular dystrophy. He was
living in a tiny hut with his uncle, and he almost never went
outside. Both his parents were dead, and his twin brother,
who’d also had muscular dystrophy, had died the year
Sukuru was incredibly friendly and welcoming – and it
was awful to see the conditions he was living in. Today, the
charity pays for someone to go round every day, talk to
him, help him to wash himself, and cook for him. That costs
about £16 per month.
That’s all very well, but why should people sponsor you to
cycle to Paris? It’s not exactly much of a challenge. My friend
ran ten marathons in a row/somersaulted across the Sahara
desert/put his dick in a polar bear’s mouth.
I’m not very good at cycling, so it was quite a big challenge
for me. But well done to your friend – he sounds like quite a
He is, actually. Anyway, you say you organised the ride, but
what did you actually do?
We booked some B&Bs and ferry tickets, and persuaded a
very nice woman called Sarah to be our support driver.
What the hell’s a “support driver”? It sounds like a really
shit job.
Basically, she drove ahead of us and met us a couple of
times each day with fresh supplies of water. We paid for her
accommodation and ferry tickets, and told her it was a bit
like a free holiday. But yes, it is quite a shit job.
So did anyone actually sponsor you?
People very kindly sponsored me for about £2,000.
How much did you spend on your bike, and on equipment,
and on your ferry tickets? Couldn’t you have not done the ride
and given the money you saved to charity?
I guess so. But I reckon this kind of sponsored event isn’t
just about the money. It also raises awareness for the charity.
And for me, it was a brilliant way of spending proper time
with some of my best friends. The combination of hanging
around with mates, travelling through beautiful parts of
northern France, doing something that was physically at
the edge of my ability, and knowing that it was all in a good
cause – well, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
What was your training regime like?
I cycled to Brighton when it was snowing, which was bleak.
Then I cycled to Epsom and got knocked off my bike by a
fast-moving car.
Did you get the driver’s name and address? After all, where
there’s blame there’s a claim.
No. There were three of them and they were bigger than me,
so I basically just apologised and hobbled off.
You apologised to them?
They didn’t apologise to you? You apologised to them?
If you’d sued them, you could have given the money to your
charity, couldn’t you?
Do you have any other questions?
Have you thought how many of your disabled children you
could have helped with that money?
I think that’s enough questions. See the end of the book for
ideas on how to organise your own charity initiative.
Hang on: you want me to have sex for money, then give the
money to charity?
No. I just want you to donate your organs.
I can think of one organ I’d like to donate to the whole of
Yes, yes. You’re getting predictable.
How do you know which one I meant?
I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s a
kidney. That’s the main organ you can donate while alive.
Doesn’t sound as much fun as the one I had in mind.
But it’d be a lot more useful.
A lot more painful, too. Isn’t there something easier I can do?
You can sign the Organ Donor register by visiting
www.organdonation.nhs.uk, giving permission for your
organs and tissues to be used after your death. You’re then
sent a card to carry in your wallet.
What if they kill me to get my organs?
You’re a very suspicious person, aren’t you? They’re in the
business of helping people live, you know.
I’m looking at the application form now. I’m up for donating
other bits of me, but I don’t want them hacking at my corneas.
I don’t think you’re going to need them after you die. But
even leaving your corneas out, you’ll be doing a great thing
if you sign. Only 31% of the UK population have signed up.
Blimey, you want the moon on a stick! 31% of people can’t
need transplants.
They don’t. The trouble is, not many potential donors die
in circumstances where they’re able to donate their organs.
Unless you have a brain haemorrhage, stroke, or die in a car
crash, it’s unlikely that your organs will be able to be used.
Okay, I’ll close my eyes when I drive.
You’re all heart. But seriously: three people die waiting for a
transplant each day, so by signing the organ donor register,
you could one day save somebody’s life.
I’ve done it! Took no time at all. Is that the end of the
chapter, then?
Yes, unless you fancy donating your bone marrow? Here’s
Melanie Smith from blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan to
tell you all about it…
She wants my blood and organs, you want my bone marrow...
is there going to be anything left of my poor body once you
two have finished?
No, we’re going to drain you of everything you have. Joking!
Anthony Nolan just want your stem cells. Or, to be more
accurate, the possibility of having them.
Eh? I’m confused! Do you want them or not?
Well, the first step in becoming a stem cell donor is joining
the register, which you can do if you’re aged between 16 and
30. You fill out a medical questionnaire, and if that’s all okay,
you spit in a tube and that’s it.
Classy. Who do you think I am, Boris Becker?
C’mon, it’s just a little spit. Once your DNA has been
extracted from your spit and we’ve tissue typed you, you’ll
be on our register and could potentially come up as a match
for any patient anywhere in the world. The chances of you
actually coming up as a match are on average 1:1000 every
year. If you are a match you’ll be asked to donate your stem
How does that work then?
Donating stem cells used to be done exclusively by drilling
small holes in the pelvis and extracting bone marrow. This
entails a general anaesthetic and some discomfort for a few
days afterwards.
Yeeeuch, I bet! Not on your nelly, missy.
Chill: these days, about 85% of donations happen a different
way. For 4-5 hours you’ll be hooked up to a machine that
will take blood from one arm, filter out the stem cells and
then put the blood back in the other arm. Sometimes
donors are asked to repeat the process the following day if
not enough cells are collected on the first day. Have you done it then?
I’m on the register but have never been matched to a
patient. However, every donor I’ve ever spoken to who has
been through the process would do it again in a heartbeat.
Give thought? Sounds very 1984.
Not at all. This chapter’s about taking care of the world we
live in.
“Heal the world/Make it a better place/For you and for me,
and the entire human race...”
What’s that creaking noise? Oh yes: it’s Michael Jackson
turning in his grave.
What do you mean, “taking care of the world”? I suppose it is
quite old. Does its colostomy bag need changing?
Sort of, yes. If you want to use a childish analogy, we’ve
been burning fossil fuels, creating carbon emissions and
‘pooing’ into the Earth’s atmosphere. If we don’t reduce our
CO2 emissions, the Earth’s nappy will explode altogether,
showering poo in all directions.
Just one question: why should I care?
You might care when the ice caps melt and tidal waves are
lapping at your ankles.
Very apocalyptic, o doomsayer, but I think I’ll have kicked the
bucket by then.
Maybe, or maybe not. But your children might not have,
and it’s not fair to empty the bucket over their heads. It’s
very probable that we’re the last generation that can truly
make a difference to the planet’s chances of survival.
I don’t have any children, thankfully. And I hardly think my
switching the lights off and putting stuff in the right bin is
going to make any difference.
Not you singlehandedly, perhaps. But if every single
person reading this book just did one of the things listed
in this chapter regularly, we could make a real change for
the better.
Call me psychic, but I can predict what you’re going to say
next: cycle, recycle, Freecycle, other words ending in ‘cycle’.
You’d look a bit daft on a tricycle.
I think I could pull it off. But I don’t need to: I’ve got a
Mazda MX-5 called Maisie. She purrs, she glides, she
handles beautifully...
She also belches out carbon emissions by the truckload. Not
very ladylike at all. Which makes sense, as she’s basically a
penis extension.
I can’t believe you just insulted the love of my life. So I’m
meant to cycle everywhere like a Dutch triathlete, am I?
It would help the environment, yes. But maybe you could
just cut down on your time in Maisie instead?
I’ll think about it. What’s next, recycling? I hear a lot of blah
blah blah about it. Does it save energy or something?
It does, but it also frees up space in landfill sites, and saves
trees too. Try to recycle your rubbish including food waste,
and re-use old things instead of buying new ones.
You’re very didactic, you know. You should be a teacher. Or
a dominatrix.
Shut up and listen. Turn off the lights and all electrical
appliances when you’re not using them, and try not to
overfill the kettle. Make sure you turn the plugs off too. It’ll
save you money.
Yes Miss Whiplash. Anything else?
Water. We don’t have a shortage, but it takes lots of energy
to clean it and make it drinkable. Please turn the tap off
while you’re brushing your teeth, have showers instead of
baths, and share showers with a loved one.
I don’t have a loved one. Should I ask my next-door
neighbour instead?
You’re breaking my heart here. I thought Maisie the Mazda
was your loved one?
I doubt she’ll fit in the shower. What’s next?
Wear more layers instead of whacking up the heating
really high.
Yeah, because wearing your coat in bed is really sexy.
There’s no one to see you, remember?
Don’t rub it in.
Sorry. Look on the bright side: at least you’re not having
kids and contributing to over-population.
Whoo! No sex! Hurray. Not.
Hey, you can always use condoms.
I hope I don’t have to use recycled ones.
No, I’ll let you off that one. Next up: think about planting
new trees, and protect old ones.
What am I meant to do, stand in front of the tree with a gun?
Just make sure you don’t pull off their bark, drive nails into
them or cut them down.
Sounds like fun, but sadly I’m too busy working to
deface trees.
Really? You don’t seem the industrious type. Maybe you
could encourage your company to use recycled paper,
and switch to a renewable energy company such as Good
Energy or Green Energy?
Who the hell are they?
Lovely ethical companies who use local, natural UK energy
sources, such as sunshine, wind and rain, helping you cut
your home’s carbon footprint. A refreshing alternative to the
Big Six.
Are they cheaper than British Gas?
I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is saving
the planet.
You sound like a character from Avatar. Is that it? Can I
go now?
Before you go, think about eating less meat. The livestock
industry is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas
emissions, more than the entire transport sector including
No beefburgers, no car, no fun.
And no drowning as sea levels rise. Lastly: explain global
warming to friends and relatives, so they understand why
they should take the above actions too.
So you want me to tell them that we’re doing poos into the
Earth and its nappy is going to explode?
These chapter titles are getting drippier and drippier.
This one’s about being kind to animals.
Pointless: I already am. I love my dog Snuffles so much, I let
him sleep in my bed and eat dog treats from my cereal bowl. I
don’t even wash my face any more, I just let him lick it clean.
Are you a vegan, then?
What, one of those houmous-crocheting Birkenstock-wielding
lentil-freaks? Don’t make me laugh.
Are you vegetarian?
Look: I’m a red-blooded, alpha male carnivore. Grrrr.
All man.
So if someone killed Snuffles, would you eat him?
You monster! Why would you ask such an unthinkable
They eat dogs in other parts of the world.
They do all kinds of wrongness in other parts of the world.
Just look at Australian rap music.
So if you wouldn’t eat a dog, why would you eat a pig or
a cow?
Because… because they’re food! They’re bred for food.
Some people keep pigs as pets. George Clooney, for
instance. I bet he wouldn’t be too pleased if you ate his pig.
I won’t eat his pig if he doesn’t eat my dog.
Look, I’m not here to broker a non-existent deal between
you and George Clooney. I’m here to convince you to
go vegan.
Why the hell should I?
Because it’s the right thing to do. It’ll save 100 animals a
year, help save the planet, and it’s far healthier for you too. If
you don’t believe me, talk to Graham again. He’s been vegan
for 12 years…
So, let’s get this straight: you’ve gone 12 years without putting
anything remotely nice-tasting in your mouth?
Nice-tasting? You mean dismembered bodies, liquid
squeezed from cows’ nipples, and chicken foetuses?
Hold up, we’ve got a live one! Are you one of PETA? And I
think they’re chicken periods, actually.
Sorry, you’re right – chicken periods sound much more
appetising. And not all PETA members go around throwing
red paint on anyone wearing fur, you know.
Red paint? Are you still on about getting the decorators in?
I like the term ‘flying the Japanese flag’ myself. Do you vote
Green then?
Actually, at the European elections I voted for a party called
Animals Count.
As keen as I am on our furry friends learning mathematics, I
don’t think your vote counted on that occasion.
I wasn’t expecting them to beat the Tories. I just wanted to
show my support.
Fair enough. Anyhow, apparently only 0.3% of the population
are vegan. Are you telling me 99.7% are wrong?
That’s like saying Justin Bieber must be a better lyricist than
Nick Cave because he sells more records. What’s popular
isn’t always the measure of what’s good, otherwise Fifty
Shades of Grey would be the best book ever.
Isn’t it? I quite enjoyed it, especially the saucy bits. Why does
everyone eat meat then, if they’re wrong to do so?
Because they were brought up eating it and have never
thought to question it. They choose not to think about the
suffering animals go through.
I thought they were killed humanely?
That’s like saying “but I thought politicians always told the
truth?” Here are the facts: sentient, intelligent animals are
often kept in cramped and filthy cages. How would you like
to be kept in a tiny and dirty cage before being slaughtered?
Is that a kinky offer on your part? Very kind, but I only
fancy women. Anyhow, how do you know the animals are
intelligent? Have you given them IQ tests?
Yes, and they scored very highly. Probably more highly than
you would.
Look, stop having a go at me. It’s not as though I’m personally
clubbing animals over the conk with a baseball bat.
No, but you’re creating the demand for their death by
eating meat.
Pfft, not singlehandedly. Anyhow, I could just about go veggie,
but I think being vegan is extreme. What’s the point? Cows
are meant to be milked.
Millions of male calves and chicks are slaughtered every
year as ‘waste products’ of the milk and egg industry, and
animals farmed for their milk and eggs are killed at a
fraction of their natural lifespan.
You’re Mr Cheery, aren’t you?
I’d be a lot more cheery if you went vegan. But if that’s too
much of a change, how about having one vegan day a week,
or going vegetarian instead? You might be surprised at how
easy it is.
Give all my possessions away? Are you batshit insane?! Who
do you think I am, Jesus?
Jesus would never have been so uncouth.
Alright: who do you think I am, Bob Geldof?
I’m not sure Bob Geldof gave all his possessions to charity.
Though maybe he was forced to on a Monday. That might
explain why he didn’t like them.
Have you given all your possessions away?
Not all of them, but I’m currently selling 50% of them in
eBay charity auctions*.
Well aren’t you a bloody saint.
No, I’m frequently quite hopeless. I stick my two-year-old in
front of DVDs because I’m always busy writing, I never see
my parents, and–
All right, all right, it’s not therapy. Which “charity” are you
raising money for, then?
Médicins Sans Frontières.
What’s that when it’s at home?
Doctors Without Borders.
We’re all without Borders now. They closed down.
Yes yes. Anyhow, most of us have too much stuff which we
don’t use. We’re surrounded by clutter, and we only use a
small amount of it regularly.
* The first batch of eBay listings will start at 8pm on Tuesday 3
December. Listings will be uploaded every two weeks and run for six
months from this date. Username: givebook. Please do visit and bid.
The listings are in the same Q&A format as this book, and I’m aiming
to raise over £3,000.
But I can’t give away 50% of my stuff. Okay, so I haven’t worn
my lime green fluorescent leggings in years, but what if I’m
invited to an ’80s fancy dress party?
You can always borrow a costume, or make one. I was
invited to a Halloween party, and I just dressed in black and
did some freaky make-up with a black eyeliner.
Cheapskate. What about the economy?
The economy’s not getting much out of your clutter. But
if you donate it to charity, or sell it in a charity auction,
the charity will get money which it can spend, helping
the economy.
Are you doing this to get to heaven?
No, I don’t believe in God. But I don’t mind if you do. It’s
whatever gets you through the night.
A mug of Ovaltine and a knuckle shuffle over Lorraine Kelly,
That’s definitely not in the Bible.
I knew this was coming. I’ll say this right now: I can’t give
money to charity, because I don’t have any.
This chapter’s not about giving money to charity.
It’s not? Don’t you believe in it?
I totally do. In fact, I think people who can afford it should
give 10% of their income to charity.
Do you?
Yes, I give 10% to the Against Malaria Foundation. I’ve
barely earned £5,000 so far this tax year, but even £10 a
week will buy five nets to protect people in developing
Ha, that’s what you think. They’re probably spending your
tenner on booze and fags.
Erm, no. They’re the #1 rated charity on the charity analysis
sites GiveWell, Giving What We Can, and The Life You Can
Save, which rate how cost-effective the different charities
are. So I feel very happy giving to them.
Are you trying to win a Nobel Peace Prize?
Absolutely not. I’m just aware that I’m lucky: I can afford to
give 10% of my income to charity as I own my own flat.
Well I don’t, and I’m skinter than a naked tramp.
Well then, that’s fine.
So what’s this chapter about then, if it’s not about giving
money to charity?
Spending money judiciously.
Enough with the long words, Hawking.
Putting it in the right place.
Thanks for translating, but I already told you: I’m skint.
Do you earn £20,000 after tax?
Yes, but –
Then you’re worth a million pounds.
Nurse? I think she’s gone mental.
Over the course of your lifetime, you’ll earn a million
pounds net. That’s a shedload of money – enough to frolic
with in the bath, cackling manically.
There’ll be no frolicking in my bath, missy. I earn £26,000.
Put your net salary into GlobalRichList.com.
See? You’re in the top 1.39% richest people in the world by
income. You’re very powerful, so it’s your responsibility to
use that power wisely.
Who do you think I am? Spider-Man? Anyhow, you’re talking
to the wrong person: I’m terrible with money. Everything I
make goes straight out.
Do you have £2.99?
Why, do you need a three-pack of condoms?
No, I don’t have a willy.
You can borrow mine if you like.
Very kind, but I don’t want it – I want you to buy an app. It’s
called The Good Shopping Guide, and it’s produced by the
Ethical Company Organisation (ECO).
Is it about where to get the best discounts?
It’s better than that: it tells you which companies are ethical
and which aren’t, so you can decide where to spend your
million pounds.
Aren’t all companies evil and money-grabbing? Isn’t that just
what they do?
No. Some are lovely, like Highland Spring, Green People,
Ecover and Brother.
How can you tell?
The app and the book rate all major UK companies, listing
how ethical they are in terms of human rights, workers’
rights, animal welfare, respecting the environment, political
donations, and many other relevant categories.
Sounds riveting. I think I might read it to get to sleep at night.
It’s surprisingly interesting, especially when you realise that
your money’s been going to all the wrong places.
You mean the taxman?
No. It’s good to pay taxes. Did you know what would
happen if all the corporations and wealthy individuals who
should pay tax in the UK were made to, instead of entering
tax avoidance schemes?
Um… they’d all move abroad?
The government would have an extra £25 billion in tax and
wouldn’t have to make such drastic cuts to public services
and charities, much less introduce the bedroom tax, which
hits people who are already struggling to make ends meet.
So you didn’t mean the taxman then?
No, I meant companies that contravene human rights,
prevent workers from forming unions, support the
arms trade, support cruelty to animals, devastate the
All right, all right, keep your eco-friendly hippy knickers on!
I hear you, sista. But I can’t use the ‘right’ shops. Our nearest
Co-op and Budgens might as well be on Uranus.
Is that a bum pun? I just can’t tell. If not: you can support
your local independent supermarket instead, especially if
they stock Fairtrade goods.
But a packet of cereal there is £5.49!
I know, but think of it as paying extra for diversity in your
community. They’re not trying to rip you off, they’re just
trying to survive and pay the high rents for their premises.
But the same cereal in Asda is £2.50.
That’s because supermarkets get large discounts for buying
in such huge quantities. Look – if we don’t all support our
local independent shops, very soon they won’t exist, and our
high streets will all look the same: they’ll only have a Pret,
a Starbucks, a Tesco, a McDonald’s, a Carphone Warehouse
and an Argos.
Hey, don’t knock Argos. It’s where I get all my pens.
Argos are reasonably okay, actually. They’re in the middle
ECO category, along with Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.
Ooh fancy, Waitrose. I can’t afford to spend £4.50 on an olive
and gruyere focaccia.
Neither can I – I’m £2,000 in debt. But sometimes it’s worth
paying a little more for certain things (not focaccias), as
every time you buy an item, you create demand for it.
For instance, I always buy recycled toilet paper instead of
bleached white. So ask yourself: what would you like to see
more of in the world?
Women in bikinis?
I despair.
Where do you shop, then?
Mostly at my local independent natural foods store, as they
stock the most Fairtrade and eco-friendly goods. I use the
ECO guide for everything else.
That’s a really weird way of shopping, you freak. I just buy the
coolest brands.
Then you’re probably inadvertently supporting sweatshops
in developing countries. Here’s Kat Alexander, a director
of the Ethical Company Organisation, to tell you more
about it…
This ‘ethical shopping’ guff doesn’t sound very sexy. Are you
saying that when I’m on a hot date and she says ‘Let’s go to
Starbucks’, I have to consult your app and then say, ‘Sorry,
they’re bad and I can’t’?
You can check the app quickly and privately, and then
suggest that the coffee at Costa Coffee is better! The great
thing about The Good Shopping Guide is that there are so
many mainstream, widely-available brands listed, it’s easy to
pick an alternative, more ethical brand. There’s also often no
price premium when doing so.
How do you find out all this stuff about companies, anyway?
Is it industrial espionage or just watercooler gossip?
The majority of our research is publicly available info –
criticisms from major environmental or human rights
organisations, for instance – but we carefully consider
each criticism before counting it. We also examine a lot of
primary research – for example, we look at the published
policies of each company and rate them accordingly.
I’m confused: your app says the Body Shop are bad in the
‘animal welfare’ category, but I thought they were famous for
not testing on animals...?
The Body Shop don’t test on animals. However, they’re now
owned by L’Oreal, who are renowned for animal testing.
We research the ultimate holding company of each brand,
as they’re the ones who finally pocket the profit. In this
example, L’Oreal are featured on leading animal rights
campaign group PETA’s list of companies that do test
on animals.
I didn’t know any of this stuff already! Why didn’t anybody
tell me?
We’ve been researching and reporting on the ethics of
companies for the last 15 years, and have seen a big change
in consumer attitude and awareness in recent years, so this
information is becoming more widely available. We started
with the book, then launched the app, and are now working
on something new for next year when the information will
reach a hundred times more ethical consumers – check
back here in 2014 for details!
Okay, just read your app and I have a problem: Lee and Levi
jeans make me look hot, while all the other brands are deeply
unflattering. Are you saying I should make my arse look fat
for the sake of human rights?
Look at the High Street Fashion section, choose one of
the recommended shops and try on their jeans. Seasalt
Clothing is stocked at John Lewis – I’m sure their jeans will
make your bum look good!
And if that hasn’t convinced you, talk to children’s book
author Catie Wilkins, who uses the ECO app.
Erm, I think you’ve spelt your name wrong, Katy. Why should
I trust the opinion of someone who can’t even spell her own
first name?
It’s the French way of spelling it. Also I’m not on trial here.
I’ll be the judge of that. So are you going to give me a puff
review of this app, full of hyperbole and superlatives?
Nope. I’ll just say that I think it’s full of fascinating content.
Superlative alert! What’s so “fascinating” about it?
It puts everything you know you should care about, but
can’t be bothered to look up and do proper research on
yourself, in one handy place, so you can make informed
decisions about your high street shopping. It’s perfect for
time-stretched or lazy people who still want to be ethical.
What useful things have you found out, then?
That clothing retailers People Tree, Liv and The Third Estate
are brilliant and have a good human rights record, whereas
most clothing companies have a poor human rights record,
such as Tesco, George, Primark and French Connection.
Now I definitely won’t go into those stores again unless they
change their policies. It’s a small thing. But if enough people
voted with their wallets like this, things might change
Riiiight. Anyhow, I’ve just Googled you, and you’re really fit.
Fancy going for a coffee at Starbu– sorry, Costa?
Smooth. Sorry, I’m married.
‘Give support’? I can form a human bra for you with my
hands if you like…?
You haven’t quite got the hang of this philanthropy stuff,
have you?
Fine, be like that. What’s this chapter about, then?
Exercising your right to vote.
Exercising it? What is it, a dog?
Not exactly, though some would say that politics is a dogeat-dog world. You should still vote though.
What’s voting got to do with giving?
It’s giving support to the democratic process.
Blimey, that’s tenuous. Anyhow, all politicians are knob-ends.
I don’t want to support any of them.
Then vote because it’s the right thing to do. Imagine a foulmouthed old man who’s relying on you to feed him. No
matter how much he swears at you, you’d still feed him,
because you believe in human rights.
If he called me the c-word, I’d leave him to starve.
Delightful. Anyhow, here’s Rowenna Davis, Labour’s
parliamentary candidate for Southampton Itchen, to answer
all your questions…
Why the hell should I waste my time voting? All these sodding
parties are all the bloody same, aren’t they?
Politics is not what the media would have you think it is.
It’s whether there are syringes in schoolkids’ playgrounds,
whether your mum can afford a house, whether the air
we breathe is clean or dirty, whether there are potholes on
roads, and whether or not you can have free treatment for
cancer. There are certain decisions we have to make about
our society together, and voting is an important way we do
Maybe you’re right. But let’s face it: politics isn’t very sexy, is
it? If I told a girl I’d been putting out a fire or flying a plane,
I’d probably get in her pants quicker than you could say
“permission to land”, but if I droned on about going to the
polling station, she’d probably fall asleep in her dinner.
We have firefighters and army plane drivers and emergency
services because of public funding and public policy. If you
vote for certain parties, they’ll give you these things, and if
you don’t, they won’t. In fact, if you went on a date with a
girl, and you hadn’t bothered to vote for a party that funded
a free fire service, and your candlelit dinner caught fire,
you’d be wishing you hadn’t spent so much time thinking
what was sexy and a little more time thinking, ‘how should
I vote?’
I model myself on Russell Brand, as he’s such a hit with the
ladies. Isn’t he right that we don’t need to vote, we just need a
The closest thing I’ve ever seen to a revolution in the way
Russell Brand is talking about in this country was the
London riots, where I saw my neighbourhood burn. Past
generations fought and died for the right to vote. Rather
than slag the system off, why don’t you join it and make it
What have you got against Russell Brand? Is it that he gets to
have sex more often than you?
That’s exactly what I have against Russell Brand.
Who’d win in a fight, David Cameron or Ed Miliband?
I don’t know, but I’d pay to watch.
Look, my one piddly little vote can’t swing anything one way
or the other, so why should I bother? I’d rather stay in reading
GQ and spanking the monkey.
It sounds like you want more political power, not less. If you
don’t believe that one vote makes a difference, why don’t you
start your own party or convince a group of your friends to
go to the polls? Or alternatively, campaign for something
you really care about?
My doddery old granny always used to vote, blethering on
about suffrage or something, but it’s not really something our
generation are doing, is it?
I’d listen to your granny. As a woman, I know that, not too
long ago, women didn’t have the choice to take our votes for
My mum voted for the Lib Dems last time, but after the
election – ta-da! – it magically morphed into a vote for the
Tories. How do I know that won’t happen to my vote?
Watch what happens to the Lib Dems at the next election.
You’ll see that parties can’t lie and get away with it.
You seem like a rising star. Are you going to be the next
Mrs Thatcher?
I certainly hope not! I believe that society isn’t just about
the individual. What gives us meaning is where we live, who
we love, and what we do. So much of that is about working
together as a community, not beating each other down to
get to the top.
I’ve just Googled you. Phwoarr! I’d like to put my tick in your
box. If I promise to vote, will you go on a date with me?
Your vote’s too important for that, as is the relationship with
the man I love.
Give love? What kind of soppy hippy bullshit is this?
I knew you wouldn’t approve.
Can I go to the loo now? I’m busting for a slash. I’d like to ‘give
love’ to the toilet bowl by caressing it gently with my piss.
What a charmer you are.
Are you saying you don’t love me?
You have your good points. We all do. But often we choose
not to appreciate people who are our opposites.
Yeah: like I choose not to love ugly, stupid, unfunny people.
I’m talking about views at opposing ends of the spectrum.
Left-wingers and right-wingers; atheists and religious
people; Eurosceptics and Europhiles; feminists and antifeminists; drinkers and teetotallers; vegans and meat-eaters.
We give ourselves labels, then dismiss people with different
labels. We forget that we’re all human beings with the same
hopes and fears, sharing the same planet.
That’s all very well, but you’ve just spent this book banging
on about leftie principles, you atheist vegan environmentalist
Yes, I’ve definitely made my views clear, and I hope they’ll
have persuaded people to think. But I think what’s most
essential of all is to be openminded and tolerant, and to be
kind and decent to other people.
What if they’re dickheads?
We’re all dickheads at some point, in one way or another.
But the best way to reduce the sum total of dickheadedness
in the world is to love other people.
Yeah. If only Gandhi had used the word ‘dickhead’ more, he’d
be quoted far more often.
You can go to the loo now, if you like.
Hang on: I have one question. Are you seriously telling me I
have to love Smelly Tony, the drunk guy down the street?
Smelly Tony needs love as much as anyone.
Smelly Tony needs deodorant and a toothbrush, if you ask me.
And some gaffer tape. He shouts at me every time I pass by.
So start with him. Take the person you think you could love
the least, and decide to make their life better.
What if they don’t deserve it? What if they’re the next Pol Pot,
or Mussolini, or Jeremy Kyle?
Then you might be able to dissuade them from their
errant ways.
I can’t exactly go up and say, “Hello, I’m here to dissuade you
from your errant ways”.
So just go up and say hi. Ask how their day’s going, and
whether they’d like to go for a coffee or drink. Tell them
you just read a great book (not necessarily this one, perhaps
another one) or saw a good film you’d recommend. You can
never have too many friends.
You bloody can. I don’t want to have to buy 5,000
Christmas presents.
It’s a nice problem to have. And if you want some ideas on
ethical Christmas gifts to buy, see the end of this book.
Is this the last chapter? If so, I think you missed out
‘Give Head’.
Hey, I’m not telling you all my sex secrets.
Balls. What is this ‘just one thing’ of which you speak, then?
Give Just One Thing is the humanitarian campaign linked
to this book. It encourages you to take the action in one
chapter. So you could give blood, or sign the Organ Donor
register, or volunteer, or take care of the environment…
… or do none of these things, and you’ll love me anyway?
But you secretly want me to do all of them, right?
That would be great, but perhaps impractical if you have a
busy life. Committing to one of them is realistic.
What do I get if I do this? A gold star?
No. You get to feel happy. Genuinely happy. Because when
you do good things, you feel good about yourself and
your life.
Are you happy?
I’m happier than ever since I started giving. I feel as though
my life has meaning and purpose. I want to get out of bed in
the morning, even when it’s cold and rainy.
You’re a bit weird.
Yes, as we’ve already established, I’m a weird sanctimonious
hippy dickhead. Anyhow: if you go to www.givebook.co.uk
and click ‘Give Just One Thing’, you can read all about what
other people are pledging to give.
Anyone I’ve heard of?
Visit the site and see. So which things are you choosing?
I’m going to volunteer, as you said I might meet a hot charity
Don’t you mind that I’m doing it for the wrong reason?
No. It doesn’t matter why you do something, so long as the
outcome is positive.
So even if people do these things to make themselves happy,
rather than to make others happy, that’s okay?
Yes, because they will make others happy. And can you
imagine if everyone who reads this book does just one
It could be truly amazing.
Please visit www.givebook.co.uk to view the links and
resources for each chapter. Thank you.
Kat Alexander is a director for the Ethical Company
Libby Brooks is deputy comment editor at The Guardian,
and the author of The Story of Childhood: Growing Up in
Modern Britain (Bloomsbury).
Nick Dastoor is a deputy production editor at
The Guardian. He previously worked as a page editor at the
Sunday Herald.
Rowenna Davis is Labour’s parliamentary candidate for
Southampton Itchen. She campaigns on the living wage,
payday loans, betting shops and the cost of living.
Nick Harrop is world news editor for the Catholic aid
agency CAFOD. He is a former VSO volunteer and has
written comedy sketches for Radio 4.
Graham Nunn is a designer. He designed the Atheist
Bus Campaign, the charity book The Atheist’s Guide to
Christmas, and this book and website.
Melanie Smith works for Anthony Nolan, the charity that
runs the UK’s bone marrow donor registry. She advises
transplant doctors on which donors are the best match for
their patients.
Catie Wilkins is a television comedy writer and children’s
book author. Her latest book is My Brilliant Life and Other
Disasters (Nosy Crow).
Ariane Sherine is a writer and single mother. She is a
volunteer for Age UK and Terrence Higgins Trust, and will
be an entertainment volunteer for Crisis this Christmas.
She is the editor of The Atheist’s Guide to Christmas
(HarperCollins), which raised nearly £60,000 for THT.
David Cook, Michael Shaw, Kathrine Bancroft,
Emme Sheldon, Charlotte Edwards, Antony Topping,
Charlie Brooker, Urmee Khan, Paul Armstrong,
Andrew Morris, Anthony Seldon, Simon Le Bon,
Dave Gorman and Martin Hunt.
Thanks to Lucy Gill for proofreading and fact-checking.
Thanks to Peax Webdesign for the PW Scratchy font.
Thank you to all the contributors, especially Nick Harrop,
from whom I shamelessly plagiarised the idea for the book.
And thank you to Graham Nunn for being an amazing
friend, as well as designing the book and website.
FOR LILY, and her generation.