It’s official. I have now received an invitation to my very first Hen Do. Not only that, but the organisers have asked me to give a speech!
The invitation comes courtesy of the Orkney Dragons women’s rugby team, so it is one I had no hesitation in accepting. Having seen them dismantling opponents over the course of the season, it seemed like an offer not to be refused.
Truth be told, the Dragons are proving themselves to be an increasingly irresistible force. In the space of just two short years, the team has gone from taking its first tentative steps in the BT North Women’s League to winning the title. In the process, the Dragons have established themselves as a team to be reckoned with in a sport that is growing in popularity amongst girls and women across the Highlands & Islands and beyond.
Sadly, a fixture clash on Saturday saw me coming off the bench at Scottish Liberal Democrat party conference in Aviemore to deliver a speech on the future of policing at the same time as the Dragons were brushing aside their Shetland counterparts to secure the league title in emphatic style. On the upside, the annual Hen Do in a couple of weeks’ time perhaps offers those who missed it a chance to catch up on my latest thinking about police reform but, for my own safety, soundings will be taken beforehand to gauge the level of interest.
I suspect though that this will be an occasion, once again, for celebrating a remarkable season and reflecting on how much has been achieved in such a short space of time by captain, Jo Inkster and her team. The progress made has been astonishing and has not gone unnoticed within the wider rugby community. Scottish internationalists have been up to Orkney to deliver training sessions. All left inspired by the passion, commitment and skills of players and coaches alike. Winning the league can only help raise the profile of rugby yet further and hopefully encourage more girls and women in Orkney to get involved.
On the subject of profile-raising, I also want to mention the efforts of another group of people in Orkney who will be spending the next few days trying to do just that in relation to the important issue of Multiple Sclerosis.
Orkney has the dubious ‘honour’ of having the highest incidence of MS per head of population anywhere in the world. With MS Awareness Week running from 23rd-30th April, the hope is that more people will come to have a greater understanding and appreciation of what life is like for those affected by MS, as well as their family, friends and work colleagues.
The MS Society’s campaign this year is entitled “Kiss Goodbye to MS” and focuses on the importance of research in trying to identify treatments that can slow, stop or possibly even reverse the disability associated with MS. Fittingly, some of the leading work being done is this field is being undertaken at Edinburgh University by an Orcadian, Professor Jim Wilson, including a study into the specific reasons for the high incidence of MS in the Northern Isles.
This year’s campaign sees the public being asked to help raise funds for MS research by making small sacrifices during the month of May, whether by giving up booze, turning off gadgets or saying no to homebakes! More details about how you can get involved are available by visiting www.mssociety.org.uk
Meantime, the local MS group, chaired by the hugely affable George Hannah, has been busy preparing different activities for the week and trying to get across the message about the support that is available, including small grants that can be used for all manner of things. These grants and the activities being put on, not just this week but all year round, illustrate perfectly the supportive community that has been created in Orkney for those affected by MS. For this, Freda Norquoy and colleagues at the MS Therapy Centre deserve enormous credit too, as does local MS nurse, Moira Flett.
Until such time as we truly can Kiss Goodbye to MS, the support being provided within this local MS community remains invaluable