Someone very special to me celebrated their 50th birthday recently. This guy is more than just a neighbour, the whole family is. They’ve stood by me through the toughest of times, seen me and little P at our worst, celebrated us at our best and welcomed us regardless of either with warm, friendly open arms. I’m so grateful for them (and many of my other friends) and I tell them all the time.

I wanted to do something special for G, he’s a father figure, grandad figure, best friend, uncle all rolled into one for me and P. If I need him, he’s there unless it’s a spider, then he’s out the door faster than I am. It’s the small things he and the rest of the R’s do, like putting my bin out when I’ve forgotten (cue crazy lady running out in her pjs and slippers chasing the high vis jackets 🤦🏽‍♀️) or taking in a parcel. They warmly welcome my little girl’s knock on the door as she marches into their peaceful home, ready to reek havoc. They just let us in and it’s brilliant.

Now I often joke with G’s wife about his mentality and maturity being the same as little P’a joking that they’re on the same wavelength despite the 46 year age gap. But joking aside, G’s a man of wise words.

You see, he said and did something so meaningful at his party and I loved it. I offered to buy him and his fake curly haired wig and bright fancy dress suit a drink, a pint for the birthday boy. He said no a couple of times and then the last time I asked him, he said he’d told everyone not to buy him a drink, but to instead pop some money in the bucket on the bar. It was for charity.

Not just any charity. He wanted it to go to the local burns unit in memory of the horrific fire at his favourite football team’s stadium 36 years ago. Lots of people died then, he wasn’t there but knew many that were. It’s something important to him and his words stayed with me. “I don’t need anything, but there’s people that do, so don’t buy me a pint, pop a few quid in there.” What a guy.

That’s why I love him being such a positive role model for my little girl, because he’s kind, selfless and just does what matters most. He didn’t make a big deal about it, he just kept it simple, “I don’t need owt” I can hear his thick Bradford accent telling me as I write it. He’d rather we all chucked a couple of quid in a charity box.

So I did but I also walked away chuffed that this daft, totally bonkers but kind, honey monster bloke was in mine and my daughter’s life. His words mean so much at this time of year, it’s Christmas and it’s so easy to get caught up in the gifts, expense and materialism of the festive season. But we don’t really need anything and some people do, so let’s all give a little.

So my annual tradition of not sending Christmas cards but donating to charity has returned. I’m not spending money on cards despite being very grateful to receive them, but instead I’m making a donation to the burns unit this year. Why? Because that’s important to big G and he’s inspired me to go back to something I did for a long time and because that charity is important to him. Friends and family can accept Christmas wishes from me, as can the local burns unit. Because I don’t need anything, but some people do.

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