I took ‘Arthur’ the van on his first food collection! Yes, I could have just gone in the Polo. But the Polo has a small boot capacity, and some of our big food donations were just too big for it.
After getting a couple of ‘reminder’ lessons from George last week in manual van driving, I was feeling much more confident. I patted the mascot, Mr Stay Puft from Ghostbusters, on the head and turned the key in the ignition.
The origins of Mr Stay Puft, at least in my family, are twofold. Firstly he was a character in a movie watched on the big screen by me with my first ever friend – a lovely lady named Alice, who has known me since we were 4 years old; and who might well be reading this. We were both 15 then, and when the new movie came out recently we went together to see it again. Secondly, and more on topic, he was the nickname of my dad, Donald, who is no longer with us but was the best driver I ever knew. In short, I hope my ‘no claims’ discount becomes as good as his was…
As Clive the chef would not be there for another hour, Duncan and I went together to Morrison’s. As Gillian the Community Champion was on holiday for a second week, we just showed up to meet whoever would deal with us. We had to make a slight adjustment to the original arrangement we had with the food collection system. All said and done, we were able to gather sufficient food for distribution which included some fresh seasonal produce and set off with 15 packages.
We had 16 people referred this week originally, but our regular Restalrig man is away – this kept us at the same total three weeks running. There are a lot of people out there who might need our service, so get referring and volunteering, folks. I drove round the back of the Hollies, conscious that the van has no back windows and is wider, and longer, than our usual vehicle. Just as I reversed towards the drive, a cyclist shot in between ‘Arthur’s’ rear end and the still-opening Hollies gates. Missing him by a hairsbreadth, I sent up a prayer of thanks and suppressed some rude words (ok, I think I might’ve said one)… The van took up the space inside the driveway neatly, and Murdoch and Duncan unloaded while I shot home to feed my elderly cats.
While the cats ate, I snacked too; and I decided to swap vehicles. The Polo is a nippy wee car, automatic (which means my husband can drive it) and on deliveries we don’t need so much space. Carry too many hot soups at once and they start getting cold as you deliver them; even when stored in an esky. I headed back to the Hollies, where I called Adele and Gordon to mobilise them for the big Musselburgh run. Murdoch and Duncan loaded up, and I said ‘Hello’ to the gorgeous Susan, who has volunteered this week to take a food donation to service user in Tranent.
We found the Musselburgh run to be challenging yet very rewarding when the labour is shared between two of us. People whose age, illnesses and mobility issues prevent them from earning a living or shopping themselves can get hot, chef-made soup and rolls; a chat and a veg bag on a Sunday afternoon. If someone is not answering we are there to check they are okay; and to call specified neighbours who have keys to check on them. If someone’s family has taken them out, the neighbour will mind the food until it can be delivered. It is a system created generically, at point of need, by ordinary people; and could work in other parts of the country wherever people require a bit of extra help now and then. Being raised in London, where someone could die and not be missed, it is an education to watch how people in Scotland develop solutions to community problems.
We all met back at the Hollies, where piping hot soup and a veg bag for the Prestonpans delivery was collected. While we were travelling to Prestonpans the catering team was cleaning up the big kitchen where the food preparation was done for hours. The roads were surprisingly clear, and we made it to the address in record time. Gordon and George carried the bags in for one of the service users who lived there, put the food away where he wanted it, and returned with a small donation of strong bags for use next week. Yay! Constantly buying shopping bags is something else we have found to be a hidden expense in the food game. It’s always nice when someone saves big bags for us. We were happy to have George with us who has sacrificed time from is busy schedule to lend a hand.
We careened back and dropped off the kitchen crew, who had worked hard and were well deserving of lifts home. We said goodbye to George and Gordon, who veered off to their own firesides for a quiet evening. Duncan drove for me now, as I was tired – as he always does, upon request. We headed for our little home and our two gorgeous old rescue cats, Reiver and Romany.
Goodnight, everyone; many thanks to all our helpers and supporters, and to Morrison’s – and the Hollies – without whom this venture would have been impossible.
Please call 07531 436 389 to refer someone in need, to donate, to discuss volunteering options or for information. Thanks to Big Stevie, who donated ‘Arthur’ the van, we can carry more than just food. Donations of food, pet food, toys, clothes, blankets and toiletries can now be accepted and redistributed to people who need them, and will make good use of them.