No wonder no-one's reading my blog as that's EXACTLY what I decided to do this year as my resolution! Anyway, undeterred, I paid a visit to the really nice Sue Ryder store in the shopping centre in town. I am always impressed by the quality of stock in here; it doesn't feel like a charity shop, the stock is reasonably priced and the staff are nice. In fact, the lady that was in there today is amazing - I've met her while volunteering for the Alzheimer's Society and I know that she works in at least two other charity shops in town too. Amazing lady.
Today, I bought this lovely jacket (complete with used hanky in the pocket, ahem).
I took a photo of me wearing it to post here, but my stomach kind of overwhelms it, so I've taken another one which doesn't quite do it justice....
From the Telegraph (2000)
Worker for charity who was inspired by the plight of refugees in postwar Europe to set up the Sue Ryder homes
THE Lady Ryder of Warsaw, better known as Sue Ryder, who has died aged 77, devoted her life to relieving suffering, principally through the homes and the foundation that bear her name; she appeared a fragile figure but possessed great dynamism, remarkable determination and deep reserves of compassion.
Sue Ryder began her work amid the chaos and desolation of Europe at the end of the Second World War. During the conflict she had served in the Special Operations Executive, but with the return of peace she volunteered for relief work in Poland. Her duties took her into the concentration camps, where she met survivors of the Nazis' atrocities - Jews, resistance fighters, political detainees and those who had been dragged from their homes or arrested in churches or on the street.
When she came to write her autobiography, Child of My Love (1986), she could not bring herself to describe her visits to the camps. But she included excerpts from the diaries of those who had been at Auschwitz and Buchenwald. "Each place," she said, "had its own individuality, atmosphere and tradition - all foul, of course."
She also visited scores of prisons, trying to comfort Poles who had ended up in jail for committing offences born of hunger or desperation. She thought nothing of driving hundreds of miles to see a single displaced person who needed help.
When the Red Cross and other relief agencies began to wind down their operations in central Europe in the early 1950s, Sue Ryder decided to carry on with her work. With a small grant from the German Ministry of Justice, she took on the cases of 1,400 young Poles in German prisons who had been seemingly abandoned after all other captives had been repatriated.
Drawing on all her resourcefulness, she argued with, pleaded with, misled and bullied the authorities into restoring hope to those in whom it had died. It took her 20 months to organise passes for all but four of the 1,400 Poles to return home; for years afterwards, she visited the others in prison at Christmas.
In 1952, she started a holiday scheme for those who were still living in relief camps. Then at Celle, in Germany, she founded a home for men who had been in prison. Volunteers came from 16 countries to build eight cottages for them. The home was such a success that she decided to expand the project and to add other sanctuaries for the disabled and the sick of all ages.
So began the Sue Ryder Foundation. A year later, she turned a house at Cavendish, Suffolk, into a home for 41 handicapped people from all over Britain. Gradually, more homes were opened, not only in England but in Germany, Poland, Yugoslavia and Greece. In time there were more than 80, supported by a network of almost 500 charity shops across Britain and the Continent.
These sold both new and second-hand items. Sue Ryder disliked the use of the term "jumble", declaring firmly that everything sold in her shops was of good quality. She bought her own clothes there. The homes - and the shops - were run mostly by volunteers, while Sue Ryder planned, organised and directed their efforts. But she always referred to herself as a field-worker rather than an administrator, and to prove the point often made long journeys through Europe, visiting the homes and even driving lorries loaded with supplies of medicine and food.
She was never overwhelmed by the despair of others. "They're very beautiful," she said, "I can't think of any other word. The real love that comes from the heart is what I feel for them. If you're very close to people who are dying in terrible circumstances, literally dying all around you, they become a source of strength itself."
In 1959, she married Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, VC, by now himself a charity worker, who had been setting up similar homes in Europe. Cheshire had been the official British observer of the destruction caused by the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki, and Sue Ryder came to feel strongly that nuclear weapons were a necessary deterrent to evil.
Aware as she was of the scale of suffering around the world, she never prized material comforts, and often criticised governments whom she regarded as uncharitable. A convert to Roman Catholicism, she rose every morning at 5.30, praying at dawn and frequently throughout the day. She and her husband ate sparingly, taking their meals on a landing in a small, three-room flat they rented in an old farmhouse, once her mother's home, which became the Sue Ryder Foundation's headquarters.
Shortly after she was created a peer in 1979, Lady Ryder was asked whether she had sought reward. "Reward?" she responded. "I don't look for reward. Surely, according to God's judgment, our reward is when we die. We are all pilgrims on this earth." But she was very much aware that for her work to continue she needed the support of young people. "It is the young we must reach. We are building, but they have got to carry on. They've got to be made more aware, from the age of five or six, of what needs doing. Money is not the be-all and end-all of life."
Margaret Susan Ryder was born in Leeds on July 3 1923, the youngest of nine children. Her father, a farmer, had married her mother when he was a middle-aged widower with five children. Her mother often shouldered the troubles of others; sometimes there was little room for the family as people crowded into the house to relate their problems. As a child, Sue accompanied her mother on visits to local almshouses and workhouses.
Sue was educated at Benenden School, Kent, and was 16 when war broke out in September 1939. She immediately volunteered to be a nurse with the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry. She was accepted but was soon posted to the Polish section of the Special Operations Executive. Her job involved driving SOE agents to the airfield to take off on their missions to sabotage industrial production in occupied Europe. Three hundred agents passed through her hands in this way, including the SOE commandos who attacked the heavy water plant in Norway.
In the course of this work, Sue Ryder was immensely impressed by the help given by members of resistance movements in occupied Europe to SOE agents. "They went into it in cold blood, of their own choice," she recalled. "They were fighting for us and they didn't have to do it. The fact that they faced what they did face, completely aware of what lay ahead, would have an appeal to anyone."
In 1943 she was posted to Tunisia, then to Italy. After the war, she volunteered to do relief work in Poland. In 1975, she and her husband received the International Variety Club's Humanitarian Award, an honour previously won by Dr Albert Schweitzer, the missionary, and Sir Winston Churchill.
When she was offered a peerage in 1979, Sue Ryder took a long time deciding whether or not to accept. She finally did so, realising that the House of Lords could provide her with a useful platform. She took the title Baroness Ryder of Warsaw because, she explained, of her "great admiration, respect and love for the Polish people. I feel I belong to Poland."
In the House of Lords, Lady Ryder spoke regularly in debates on housing, the needs of the sick and disabled, unemployment, drug abuse, race relations and defence. She continued to work indefatigably for her foundation, routinely travelling 50,000 miles a year to visit homes and new sites and to attend official functions. When Poland first began to break free of Communism in the early Eighties, she organised the consignment of weekly lorry loads of aid.
But the need to raise funds for the foundation was a perennial problem. In 1989, faced with a £4.5 million deficit but with growing demands for assistance from Poland, Lady Ryder agreed to an appeal being made through The Daily Telegraph. Within a short time, contributions amounted to £40,000, enabling a lorry loaded with medicine, food and clothing to set off for Poland shortly before Christmas.
"A tin of food from outside means more to the Poles than just nourishment," Lady Ryder remarked. "It shows that they have not been isolated and forgotten. They know the rest of the world is thinking about them."
When the Queen Mother opened the Sue Ryder Foundation Museum at Cavendish in 1979, Lady Ryder insisted that it was a tribute not to her but "to all those who have suffered and who continue to suffer. It is intended to show the misery in the world and the needs which exist more vividly than the written word could do. It is not dedicated to me."
Among the exhibits were a reconstruction of her mother's room, her own wartime uniforms and many of the presents she had received over the years. But her own role in the movement, she insisted, was unimportant. "Something else much stronger guides the foundation," she continued. "I admit that my example may have influenced people but I, in turn, have learned from the example others gave me. My other source of strength is my religion. It is everything to me. I believe that everything I do is guided. If I fail in something all I can do is to offer it up as an attempt."
The last years of Lady Ryder's life were sadly clouded by ill health and by a bitter row with other trustees of the Sue Ryder Foundation over its management. In 1998 she retired as a trustee and earlier this year set up a rival organisation, the Bouverie Foundation, to distribute money donated to the Lady Ryder of Warsaw Appeals Fund.
Lady Ryder wrote two volumes of autobiography, And the Morrow is Theirs (1975) and Child of My Love (1986). She was appointed OBE in 1957 and CMG in 1976. Her husband, Lord Cheshire, died in 1992. She is survived by their son and daughter - both of whom, like their parents, are involved in charitable work.