Fiona Duff: Rallying to help kids deal with sad losses

Drivers and co-pilot at the start The Bumble Bee Rally - Edinburgh to Monte Carlo. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Drivers and co-pilot at the start The Bumble Bee Rally - Edinburgh to Monte Carlo. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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IF you happened to be hanging around Holyrood Park yesterday morning you may have seen a group of people with an array of rather glamorous cars.

On first sight the words “flash gits” probably would have popped into your head.

However, as often as not, first impressions can be so wrong. Just over a year ago in Edinburgh a man just shy of his 50th birthday died very suddenly. Richard Barlas left a wife and four children bereft. It is testament to Richard that a group of his vast number of friends have got together to organise the Bumble Bee Rally (“B” being his nickname) and they are off to Monte Carlo. Of course it isn’t just for fun, although I imagine that there will be a heck of a lot of that along the way.

They are raising money for Richmond’s Hope, a local charity that offers support to grieving children who have lost a parent or sibling. They are being sponsored by friends and colleagues – one driver, Steve Turner of Macintyres of Edinburgh jewellers, has managed to squeeze some sponsorship money from Seiko, the makers of rather fine watches.

Ten years ago my ex-husband died not long after he had been diagnosed with cancer. At the time the children we shared were not even teenagers. Dealing with their sadness and confusion was not an easy task, and on top of that there were so many other emotions running high.

It is the normal order of things for one to lose parents before we go, but not when you are young. Every girl hopes that her father will be there to walk her down the aisle, and every boy that his dad will be there shouting from the touchline and buying his first legal pint of beer.

A place like Richmond’s Hope brings children together who have one thing in common. They will be of differing ages, not go to the same school and probably support different football teams, but they have been plunged into a dark place.

Understanding the finality of death is hard enough for an adult – friends who have lost a partner will still expect them to walk into a room when they hear a door open – so it is impossible to really get inside a child’s head. Like grown-ups they will experience all sorts of stages including anger.

At Richmond Craigmillar Church there is even a Volcano room where they can go and let off steam, shout at the world and scream until they go hoarse. But most of all they will have each other with whom they can talk, comfort and support.

Needless to say, a charity such as this needs funds to pay the professional counsellors and the upkeep of the premises.

Of course, the drivers could have raised money from having a jumble sale or holding an auction.

However, although I didn’t know Richard that well I can almost hear him having a chortle at the fact that they are behaving like a bunch of flash gits.

Greek fare brings back holiday memories

I have only been to Greece once. It was many, many moons ago to a very small island of which virtually no-one seems to have heard. It was an idyllic week and the first time that my friend and I had ever been exposed to real Greek food rather than supermarket taramasalata or a late night kebab.

The little restaurants around the harbour produced delicious fare; each evening we would venture out, eat too much and then happily accept a complimentary ouzo from the waiter.

And now I have found somewhere in Edinburgh which specialises in food from this country. Spitaki on East Claremont Street is run by three siblings who have all worked on the island of Rhodes. Not for them returning home with a bit of pottery and a dodgy bottle of retsina. They arrived back in Edinburgh with an extremely handsome (and talented) chef.

Last week I visited with some friends and although there was a distinct lack of Grecian-like skies inside, the food we ate took me back to the beachside tavernas of that wonderful summer holiday.

Listen to your mother, or suffer sore feet

One of the best things about being a mother is been proven right.

My youngest daughter recently went on a practice night of camping for her Duke of Edinburgh bronze award. For a couple of weeks before she departed I kept telling her to wear her walking boots, and also to walk a bit further than the nearest park when taking the dog out for his constitutional.

Did she listen to me? Of course not. And did she get any sympathy the morning after she arrived home when she showed me her feet that were so swollen and blistered that her school shoes couldn’t fit?

Of course she did – I’m not completely heartless, but I did enjoy telling her that if she had heeded my advice she wouldn’t have been hobbling around like an arthritic old lady.

Missing you already, Masterchef

I am not sure quite why Masterchef is such a hit. We sit watching people cook, wondering if John Torode and Gregg Wallace really dislike each other – if they do they should win an Oscar each for pretending that they get along just fine.

Some contestants get better, some have absolute disasters. They go and work in the kitchens of famous restaurants, then cook food for some rather scary critics. Every so often Gregg, below, shows us his gnashers and says “cooking doesn’t get much tougher than this”, which just goes to show that he’s never tried to cook a meal half way up a mountain in a blizzard. Then again neither has yours truly.

But it’s all over again for another year, which is probably for the best. I did feel a bit of a fraud criticising those amateur chefs whilst tucking into

a baked potato.