1 GIVE HOW TO BE HAPPY ARIANE SHERINE 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. Giving. Giving? Giving. 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”. 5 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 more.” 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 Columbia. 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? Money? Not just money. If you don’t have any you can give any number of other things… 6 7 You want my blood? What are you, some kind of creepy vampire? 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. Weakling. 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. 8 Q&A WITH GRAHAM NUNN 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 celebrate. 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 9 (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. 10 And if that hasn’t convinced you, talk to Nick Dastoor, a journalist for The Guardian, who gives blood every eight weeks. Q&A WITH NICK DASTOOR 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. 12 13 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? Reluctantly. 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. Unlikely. 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? 14 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 AgeUK. 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. 15 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. Q&A WITH LIBBY BROOKS 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 perspectives. 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. 16 17 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… Q&A WITH NICK HARROP 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? 18 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 discrimination. 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 before. 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 19 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 character. 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. 20 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? Yes. They didn’t apologise to you? You apologised to them? Yes. 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. 21 22 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 womanki– 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. 23 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… Q&A WITH MELANIE SMITH 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 24 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 cells. 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. 25 26 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 27 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. 28 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. 29 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 aviation. 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? Precisely. 30 31 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 question? 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. 32 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… Q&A WITH GRAHAM NUNN 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? 33 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 34 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. 35 36 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. 37 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, generally. That’s definitely not in the Bible. 38 39 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 countries. 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. 40 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. Oh. 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 41 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. 42 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 environment... 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. 43 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… Q&A WITH KAT ALEXANDER 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 44 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! 45 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. Q&A WITH CATIE WILKINS 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 46 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 eventually. 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. 47 48 ‘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… Q&A WITH ROWENNA DAVIS 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, 49 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 that. 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 revolution? 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 better? 50 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 granted. 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 51 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. 52 53 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 commie! 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. 54 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. 55 56 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? Yes. 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. 57 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 worker. Fantastic. 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 thing? It could be truly amazing. Please visit www.givebook.co.uk to view the links and resources for each chapter. Thank you. 58 CONTRIBUTORS Kat Alexander is a director for the Ethical Company Organisation. 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). ABOUT THE AUTHOR 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. THANKS TO… 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.
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