Europhobia's St John Ambulance thank-you piss-up - success!
Well that went pretty well.
It all started thanks to the insane number of visitors my liveblogging of the 7th July bombs managed to attract. The following evening I received an email from someone (who wishes to remain anonymous) who'd read the coverage and had been really impressed with the calm way that London (initially, at least) reacted to explosions in our midst.
Rather than make regular charity donations, they were wondering how they could buy someone in London a pint - pretty tricky from the other side of the Atlantic. They bunked me £50 via PayPal to distribute as I saw fit. Despite me being some anonymous guy on the internet about whom they knew basically nothing. Within a few days, other readers had chipped in to the tune of a good couple of hundred, and it continued to grow.
I started to get worried, and asked for advice on how to proceed. At this point a volunteer from the St John Ambulance Brigade left a comment pointing out that they had attended all the bomb sites (met the chap last night - good bloke).
Now most people, when they think of St John Ambulances, think of the people at the village fete or at football matches, waiting around in case a small child grazes their knee or gets an asthma attack. I don't think that any major news organisation mentioned the fact that, on 7th July, they acted not only as vital back-up to the regular emergency services (attending non-terrorism related emergencies, manning the phones, helping co-ordinate the response etc.), but also attended the various scenes of the blasts.
One chap I met last night, who was also interviewed on BBC London News with me, was one of the first medics on the scene after the Tavistock Square bus bomb, tending the injured for several hours. Other St John volunteers walked into London through the chaos to help out, and stayed on duty not only throughout the day, but for several days on end - right through the following weekend and beyond.
You will doubtless find it hard to believe, but few organisations take emails from someone calling themself "Nosemonkey" very seriously. Jenny from the St John press office, bless her, did. Over the last few weeks, with various emails back and forth, we managed to set a date, and she was able to contact the volunteers. Last night a bunch of them turned out to a pub near Edgeware Road tube (where a few of them had helped treat the injured on the 7th), and we had a good old-fashioned piss-up courtesy of Europhobia's generous readers. (At this point I will admit that I did have a couple of pints on the fund - but only a couple, and at their insistence - I bought the rest myself.)
These people did a fantastic job, most for no money as the vast majority are volunteers. Some of them encountered things that no one should have to, many have been left traumatised by their experiences. This thank-you piss-up was, apparently, the first time that any of them can remember the public showing their thanks in such a way. One St John worker couldn't think of anything similar happening in the twenty-seven years she's been in the job.
This was genuinely appreciated. To all those who donated - you've done this here interweb proud.
As an added bonus, BBC London News were in attendance (camera crew and the works), giving some much-needed publicity to the fact that these guys were doing a gruelling job for no money and - pretty much until now - no recognition. You can watch them interview me and the St John hero of the day for the next week via this handy video feed (it's about 17 minutes or so in from Thursday's early evening news). There was also a reporter from the Times who will hopefully be able to get a write-up in Saturday's edition, and Rafael of Observer blog fame was also in attendance (not to mention my Sharpener colleague Katie bringing a donation). A long-time reader of Europhobia even turned up briefly to whack an extra £20 over the bar.
In short, damn good stuff.
(And from henceforward I shall be known as "Internet Website Master Nosemonkey, as seen on TV". Or not.)
Blogs can do some good, even if most people on this side of the pond still don't know what they are. And as there is currently a massive, co-ordinated blog appeal for help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, there's another chance to prove it.
Again, thank you people who donated - from the St John volunteers as well as from me.
Update: Rafael's Observer blog write-up - ta boss!
Update 2: Bird-based blog business by Bartleby - "slim" I like, but a "man bag"? It's a briefcase with a shoulder strap. Honest.
Update 3: St John say thanks for the thanks - thanks! (And please, no thanks for the thanks for the thanks for the thanks - that'd just be silly. Thanks.)