The organisers of National Mushroom Month have missed a trick. As smokers pledge to Stoptober and drinkers down under promise to Octsober, surely we could all have been looking forward to Gnomevember? Think of the branding potential. A rosy-cheeked fellow astride a mushroom, fishing rod in hand, complete with catchy strapline: ‘Gnome Your Mushrooms’. Or something. What is the point of National Mushroom Month again? Someone remind me.
October was becoming a little crowded. It’s as if all the awareness months are fighting for space in the fairy ring of giving generously. We have Frocktober...wear a hideous dress for ovarian cancer. Or Rocktober...rock out in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. Then there’s Choptober...grow massive sideburns in aid of New Zealand’s Christchurch earthquake appeal (such japes!) They’ve got it sussed though - the chops can be kept into Movember, which like all the above started Antipodean side. Ah, Movember...when millions of men around the world sport facial topiary, cause their partners no end of irritation (what’s new) and raise millions for prostate cancer.
And what’s not to love? From a fundraiser’s perspective, the commandeering of months, complete with Twitter-friendly hashtag is a genius stroke. Hey girls! Feel left out in the personal grooming for charity stakes? How about Fanuary? Or Januhairy. Just don’t show off your efforts down the pub.
Australia and New Zealand have a lot to answer for, it would seem. How dare they inflict fun on the serious business of fundraising! Oh. I see what they did there. Evermore to be called FUNdraising.
I can feel a Funuary coming on...two months of relentless hilarity spanning January and February. In aid of The Samaritans, perhaps? People need cheering up in the dark months after all.
And raising money for charity should be fun, shouldn’t it? What we are witnessing is no different to Mr Blobby presenting telethons and office workers sitting in baths of custard or baked beans. Because that was funny, wasn’t it? Hilarious.
I’m sorry, but I wince at self-conscious attempts at having fun, and I don’t want to join in. Because for every cancer patient who loves the fact that you are running 26 miles for them dressed as a giant chicken, there’s another who will inwardly groan. Where’s the dignity in dying? Fundraising is becoming one giant mortality meltdown. We are all crapping ourselves about cancer, heart disease and stroke. And so we run about a bit, or dress up a bit, or sprout hair for a bit.
And as a means of raising cash for causes, it is very effective. But don’t let’s pretend that it’s all about having fun. Because it isn’t really. It’s about the fact that we have seen people we love in terrible pain and suffering, and we want to do something to alleviate the pain and suffering of others, including, if we are really honest, ourselves.
And I can do that by direct debit. Then nobody else has to know that I don’t want to die, that I am terrified of dying and that the memory of the final look I exchanged with my father will be with me forever. It was a look that said everything. It said ‘I love you’, ‘I’m scared’, and ‘I’m sorry’. Watching someone die of cancer leaves you feeling so bloody inadequate. Dressing up and having a laugh can make you feel like you are doing something, of course it can. Stopping doing something can make you feel like you are doing something, perversely.
So good luck to all the Stoptoberers and Movemberers. You will raise millions and improve your health by giving up smoking and running marathons. But for me, it will always be October, November and Remember. Because I miss him most at Christmas.
This article first appeared in The Birmingham Post.