BIRKENHEAD has a big heart – it doesn't always get the best of media coverage, so when the townsfolk do something positive it's right to accentuate it.

This week's Globe story about the Charles Thompson Mission centre warmed me and many others who responded to their call for donations.

Their mission statement is simply "We care".

It is not possible to know what those who sleep rough go through.

But we, the fortunate ones, can all show the true spirit of Christmas by helping.

Anyone who has seen the current film A Streetcat Named Bob will get an insight into the perils and pitfalls of the life of a homeless person.

I once "slept rough" for just a weekend under London’s Waterloo Bridge for a story.

It was a freezing cold December.

I met people from all walks of life who told me their own stories. Many of their tales could happen to you or me.

On my final night, while many were asleep, I left bobble hats, gloves and selection boxes for my fellow sleepers, who I never saw again.

Waterloo Bridge is famous, but the streets of Wirral are no less cold and lonely.

Charles Dickens wrote about the UK's homeless problem and it seems nothing has changed, but there are still generous people out there.

Well done to the 50 brave souls who gave up their homes for one night in exchange for donations to the charity.

They had a stark glimpse into what a homeless person has to go through every day.

The mission also provides food, furniture, clothes, healthcare and advice and even toys for the borough’s poorest children.

A touch of Frost can do real magic.

Organiser Bernie Frost and his team are people we can all be very proud of.


TWENTY years ago this week I realised how lucky I was.

At 6am on a freezing cold winter's morning in 1996 I was off on a mission, too.

A place where it was minus 13ºC, Minsk, 200 miles from Chernobyl in the former USSR.

I was given a seat on a specially commissioned plane, a guest of Noel Edmonds for his then Christmas Day show.

I was told one hour before take-off that we were taking gifts and aid to children who had survived the nuclear disaster.

There were 30 children and their parents who gathered at the airport who thought they were there just to hand over presents to the Chernobyl victims – many were orphans.

Noel then informed them they were coming with us.

And over in Minsk we gave out hundreds of hampers and singer Chris De Burgh sang carols.

An event I will remember every year at this time by lighting candles – the reality that the kindness of strangers never dies.


WIRRAL Arts ambassador Billy Hui sums up the hard work of his heavenly choir.

Billy picked up his award at the Globe office with a little carol concert entertaining the other six winners.

Then he was off to a gig at Ellesmere Port. On Sunday they sang at the Wirral Hospice Light up a Life.

This Friday it's the BBC Radio Merseyside carol concert where Billy will bringing along his trophy.

He said he was "humbled and proud" to be an ambassador.

Happily, we will all be hearing a lot more of this hard-working, feel- good singer.


THIS week I gave my annual talk to students at JMU's excellent journalism school.

One exercise the reporters of tomorrow had to do was write a feature about my talk. Tables were turned.

And I read the news today, oh boy.

As Robbie Burns once said: "Oh to see ourselves as other see us."

So a big thank-you to Shelby Hamilton and Liam Keen – two truth-tellers to look out for.


AND finally... Last week I attended the press night of the Royal Court Christmas show and as a curtain-raiser they were playing the Slade seasonal super-hit Merry Christmas Everybody.

I sighed, Scrooge-like, and said "not again" as the man sitting next to me smiled knowingly.

It was Noddy Holder. I was well and truly Slayed.

Peter Grant