It’s a Monday, late afternoon and I’m in Brixton Town Hall. I’m sitting in a large hall surrounded by a cross section of the great British Public. There are two things on my mind, both guilty pleasures. One is comedian Tony Hancock, the other a packet of ready salted Walker’s crisps. I can guarantee that three times a year these two guilty pleasures coexist and occupy my mind. It’s blood donor day for me, which has become a little ritual that makes me feel ‘grounded’.
I love vintage radio comedy and a late session in the office is often accompanied by Round the Horne, The Navy Lark or Tony Hancock’s ‘Hancock’s Half Hour’ masterpieces. Of these two stand out, ‘The Radio Ham’ and ‘The Blood Donor’. If you’ve not heard them (or seen the TV versions) then check them out. Hancock, a much troubled comic genius, portrayed himself as an everyman, but a very pompous one. He decides to do his duty and contribute to society by donating his blood, only to discover that they want as much as ‘an armful’, something he failed to realise. Around him is a reassuring nurse, calm, professional doctor, whose patience he tests, and members of the public played by an ensemble cast.
Today’s Blood Service is welcoming and efficient. For me the double heart logo is iconic. Its strapline and excellent ad campaign ‘Do something amazing today’ go to the heart of what the organisation is about. The fact that many thousands of people turn up to a public hall three times a year to be poked and prodded (all be it very professionally) and have their blood extracted shows how a campaign message can be a call to action. And all of this for no financial reward. We all know that our health is core to the quality of existence and how vulnerable we are all likely to be at some part of our life. So, while the going is good, giving an armful helps someone, somewhere.
I look at the logo on the water jug, the design of the pvc tablecloth covered in children’s drawings and the logos. Plain crisps and a cup of tea, what a joy as a small group of us munch and slurp then head off into the early evening darkness.