Hacked!

That was not fun. In fact yesterday was one of the most difficult and trying days I’ve had in a long while.

First a text from my email provider saying there had been unauthorised access to my account and they’d blocked it. While I embarked on the long and ridiculously complex process of trying to get myself back into it, there was a phone call from my son, telling me he’d had a suspicious-looking email, claiming to be from me, and asking for ‘a favour’. He said he feared I’d been hacked. That was the opening of the floodgates.

Messages came through on every social media platform from anxious, concerned friends, family members and contacts I hadn’t seen or thought about in years. What was wrong? they asked. Did I need help? What had happened? People I barely remembered were sending sweet messages of care and support and I was having to thank each of them in turn for their warm wishes and concern, then tell them that it was a scam, that if they responded to the bogus email, someone pretending to be me would try to relieve them of large sums of money.

In between all that, I was frantically trying to prioritise who to call next and warn about the scam – friends with autistic perception, elderly friends and relatives, those who didn’t have English as their first language, people in other countries… Anyone, in fact, who might not know me well enough or read the situation clearly enough to realise that I would NEVER email them and ask for money.

It took all morning to regain my email connection. It was only achieved with the caring and patient help of a lovely Scottish BT engineer who guided me gently through the process and interspersed each set of instructions with something like, “I’ve got everything crossed for ye Jan. We’re gonnae do this!”

Me want cookies!

Once I was able to view my contacts list (not easy – the virus scan I’d had to run had wiped every cookie from my laptop) the size of the task really hit me.

By lunchtime, the stream of confused enquiries and people thoughtfully calling to tell me I’d been hacked had become an avalanche. From Seattle to New York, from the cottage behind mine to Switzerland they came, and each, once they understood the situation, offered commiserations, friendship and little messages about how they and their families were getting on. I learned how former pupils were faring at college and university, heard from forgotten friends and those I hadn’t spoken to in far too long.

Sadly, my warning came too late for at least one dear friend. They had already sent the money off. I was heartbroken. And yet even this person, after ruefully commenting that they’d waved goodbye to 200 dollars, still took time to update me on their news and wish me well.

So yes, my stress levels were through the roof, my day had been ruined and I went to bed hurt and sad, yet I was strangely uplifted by the waves of kindness and consideration from friends and virtual strangers alike. There are some unkind people preying off others in cruel ways in this world, but the vast majority of humanity is kind, caring and generous.

Abject apologies if you were stung by this or a similar hoax and huge thanks if you were one of the people who helped me through that day.

Knitty Nellie

I know.  It isn’t the most gripping of titles and – for me – not the most usual of subjects, but hear me out.

Little know fact: I love knitting.  I’m not very good at it (left hander who learned right handed) or very fast, but there is something gloriously zen-like in the way a couple of sticks and a long length of yarn can, tiny stitch by tiny stitch, create flowing garments, huggable toys and much warmth and comfort.

In a moment of whimsy, my mind went back to an odd little animation series my children used to watch in the 70s and 80s.  Something about an eccentric couple called Noah and Nellie who sailed (or flew maybe, my memory of the details is sketchy) in an ark full of animals, encountering various characters who had intractable problems to solve.  Every episode Nellie would listen to the problem, begin knitting and produce something wonderful which provided the ideal solution.

Ah, if only it were that easy…

Well as I said, I love knitting, so whenever I’ve found myself without a project to work on, I’ve used my oddments to make scarves and hats which were then handed out to the homeless and others going through hard times in the local community.

This year though, another thought came to me.  Here in the UK, our gas supplies come in pipes from and through countries far to the East.  For various reasons, the price has soared this year and heating costs have risen massively.  Add to that the need to lower our energy consumption in order to cut  CO2 emissions and we have two very good reasons to turn down the central heating by a few degrees.

The downside is that our homes will be colder this year and that – particularly for older people who are less active and staying at home all day – is a challenge.

In true Nellie style, I wondered how I could knit my way out of the problem.  It didn’t take long to invent Kneckers – kind of muffler/ cowl/ neck warmers things that are very easy and quick to knit and (I’m wearing mine as I write this) really warm and cosy to wear around the house or under a coat collar when going out.

I asked our local community volunteer coordinator to put the word out for volunteer knitters, persuaded the owner of the lovely needlecrafts store in town to hand out free patterns and collect finished garments to be distributed to those who would benefit, and started knitting in earnest.

Happy to say we’ve now done several drops to local churches and volunteer groups who are able to reach those who need a bit of extra warmth this year.  People are busy making fingerless gloves, hats, scarves and, of course, kneckers all over town and I’m super happy!

If you’d like to knit some for yourself and anyone who needs warming up in your local community, here’s a link to the pattern: Kneckers Pattern .

All I ask is that if you download and print it, you either make at least one to give away to someone who needs help keeping warm this winter, or you turn your own central heating down by half a degree to help care for the planet (or both!).

More About Tuesday’s Tale

http://www.gofundme.com/c6erv4

IMG_3085As promised a few weeks back, here is an update on the story of T – the little ballet star I work with whose father has untreatable cancer.

You can find my original post here.

Firstly, I want to send a huge, massive, heartfelt THANK YOU to all the kind and caring people who donated to my original appeal for help for Tuesday and her family.  As you will see, if you go to the ‘Go Fund Me’ site, your donations have already made a massive impact and T’s Mum and Dad would like me to pass on their gratitude and wonder that people who have never met them can be so kind.

If – understandably! – you felt uncomfortable sending a donation via my PayPal account, you’ll be pleased to know that there is now a proper funding site set up.  You’ll find details, and T’s own version of her story here.

I’m very much aware that being asked for money dredges up all kinds of resistance in all of us.

I can’t speak for others, but the kind of thoughts that go through my mind are:
“Hey, I’m on a really limited income.  Is it reasonable to expect me to give some of my money to someone I don’t even know?”
or “The world is full of deserving cases.  Why should I give to this one?  How on earth do I choose?”
or “I can only afford to give £x (or even x pence) and people will think I’m really mean if I only give that much.”
When we’re made to feel uncomfortable by thoughts like that, the easiest way out is to put the whole thing aside and move on.
I’m not great at this fundraising lark, but these are people I know and care about, so I’d love to see them fulfil their dream, whatever adventures and wonders this new phase of their life will bring them.
If it helps, you can donate via Go Fund Me keeping your identity anonymous if you wish, so if you only feel comfortable giving 50 pence or 50 cents, that’s just fine.  All the money and the energy of kind, caring people will build up and help this family to move forwards.

Thanks again to everyone who has already donated, shared the link and sent healing energy to T’s family.