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The Mad Hatter's coffee morning

In his weekly Spalding Guardian column Ward's World, John Ward explains why he is happy to be involved with the Macmillan cancer charity.

Nice to think something resembling normality is coming back to our traditional way of life after the onslaught of assorted lockdowns we have endured over the past year or so that cancelled or affected so many events, ranging from those just for pleasure to fund raising for worthy causes, which is probably just the tip of the iceberg in many respects.

One cause I don’t mind putting myself about for is the annual Macmillan Coffee Morning that is held around about this time of the year on a national level, whereupon assorted local groups around the country do their bit by baking cakes, making tea and coffee so as to be sold at local gatherings in order to both increase awareness of the Macmillan cause and also rise funds.

John Ward at the coffee morning (51939379)
John Ward at the coffee morning (51939379)

I was recently doing my minor bit towards helping out by bunging my Mad Hatter costume on and going along to our event held just down the road where I did my ‘meet and greet’ thingamabob routine in the said outfit.

I say my minor bit, as all I did was turn up, then greet folk as they came along to support the event, while the committee and helpers had spent many hours baking away at home in order to have the assorted cakes and buns there to complement the tea and coffee, so I got away quite light really, all things considered.

One dear lady though, while in mid chatter, asked me how long I had been ‘doing this sort of thing for’ to which I replied in all sincerity it was since just gone nine thirty which direct, honest reply seemed to reward me with a swing from her handbag followed by ‘you daft apeth - I mean how many years?!’

John Ward at the coffee morning (51939391)
John Ward at the coffee morning (51939391)

Tricky one I thought, tricky – but I replied with ‘quite a few years I suppose’ as once you, or rather I, sat down to work it out as it had never crossed my mind before until now plus, the thought of avoiding another whack from her handbag helped.

Looking back now I could have gone in for collecting car numbers which might have been more exciting but as some car numbers are now stuck on and not with screws or nuts and bolts, this works out less painless.

‘So once upon a time…’ – nope, it all started many moons ago now when a friend saved a dress top hat that was being slung out from a tailor’s window display that highlighted their wedding hire range, so the hat had never been worn in anger as they say as it had been used as a prop in their window.

Being a sort of collector of assorted items of headgear I welcomed it to my bizarre collection and it languished in the attic until I bought it down to dust it – you can put a tick in the box marked ‘checking stock’ on that one – but that was about 37 years ago now.

For those of a mathematical mind, you may be doing the sums now and wondering what drove a mere child then of nine or 10 years of age to collect such items but as to that I have no idea but all I can say is I had to use my head most of the time to get the full use out of them all.

My first outing in the ‘Mad Hatter’ outfit was literally a last minute thing as a friend of a friend wanted somebody to attend his daughter’s wedding in a ‘meet and greet’ capacity as the lady who was going to perform in ‘a similar sort of role’ became ill at the last moment, so my effort was indeed a ‘cheap and cheerful’ real last minute thing but it basically worked, much to my surprise more than anybody else’s.

I often wondered what the lady who I stood in for would have looked like: Cinderella? Fairy Godmother? Or Alice in Wonderland even? Nobody seemed to know when I asked but I like to think, once she was better, that she carried on in the role but going in blindly I simply turned it on its head and decades on it still seems to work okay.

Since then I have done other events ranging from more weddings due to referrals, even a Christening much to my surprise, assorted birthday or anniversary bashes, retirements, corporate and promotional events etc but I like doing occasional events for good causes, if the cause is worthwhile.

Some leave a lot to be desired or at least are questionable as to what they are supporting.

There are the occasional ‘thinkers’ that seem to wonder if there is an ulterior motive behind such a greeting process but that might be down to their home life – or lack of one – that they should ask such questions as ‘so what is this all about?’ to which I usually reply its being courteous and in most cases can, or does, ‘break the ice’.

Then the added joy I am not trying to sign them up to change their energy supplier or at worse, ‘complete a simple three minute survey’ that takes nearly 20 minutes plus having to give their bank details, blood group and next of kin to a total stranger with clipboard as when I smile it costs them nothing.

I have attended assorted Macmillan events over the years, but my reason for doing so is simple: I have lost so many friends over the years to various cancer conditions so I am not doing it for me, it’s for them which might sound a bit corny but behind each event lies the fact they are not there due to this wicked disease so I do ‘my bit’ in their stead as I like to think if they were still here they would be doing it as well, if not much better.

Oh yes – the above event raised well over £1,300 in less than three hours but as mentioned, many more hours were spent baking ‘behind the scenes’ beforehand but a wonderful achievement regardless and proving the community spirit is still very much alive and well or rather it is around this neck of the woods.

So I welcomed them but as they left I bade them farewell and thanked them for their support as I gave them formal warning that they were expected to attend the next event (no excuses or notes from their parents accepted) but as Sir Brucie Forsyth might well have said: ‘Didn’t they do well!’

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