The rain poured down as I awoke, covering the garden in much-needed water because we mowed the lawn last night. It also covered the paths and roofs, making a sound like a thousand cats (or one Reiver) padding about the world in hobnail boots. I got up, fed the cats and decided I would need waterproofs today.
In fact, by the time we were leaving for Morrison’s the rain had stopped. Sun began shining out from behind clouds, and the birds were all deftly hopping about trying to steal more of the birdfood we’d put out than the other birds. I counted that the crows won two points; the seagulls one point. This is just because there were only three gulls competing with what seemed like every crow in East Lothian!
Fred and George joined us in the car park, where Gillian and Tam had arranged 14 crates of lovely veg and fruit – needing used quickly but mostly still nice. We sorted them into three piles; the huge ‘veg bag’ pile, the moderate; ‘cook it up quick’ pile and the ‘give it up’ pile. Only a very small amount needed composted, and Clive has many ways to cook and preserve anything which is fine but no longer looks aesthetically pleasing. In bright sunlight we dropped it all off at the Hollies, where Clive and his helper Susan began the veg prep. Duncan and Fred bagged up, while George and I whipped back to feed my two cute rescue cats, Romany and Reiver. Animal fans will be glad to note that the elderly Romy’s dwindling weight seems to be stable right now, while of course the opportunistic Reivy Boy misses few meals. We have joked with our vet that If he ever developed an overactive thyroid like his older brother, Reiver would last a good, long time just using up the ‘ballast’ he’s already carrying.
Today I am focussing on the work of another of our volunteers. For decades she has lived in Musselburgh, worked as a nurse and always had time for the people around her. Adele, our stalwart pedestrian delivery expert; manager of the huge run known as ‘Musselburgh One’ and, every last Sunday of the month, also second cook and bottle washer at the Hollies. Adele, famous for never sitting down or running out of steam, seems to have worked harder since she officially retired from nursing instead of taking a well-earned rest. Every time we see her, she is helping someone in need or feeding someone who’s been at work and hasn’t had the time to cook. She even feeds me, after taking the time to learn all the stringent-but-necessary rules so an allergic like me can stay healthy. Adele holds a position of trust in the Church, although I’m not sure what her official title might be. This is because she never makes herself the important one in any conversation, and always asks about the fortunes of other people.
I have talked with Adele about her childhood in Scotland – about a place and a time which was so very different from life in Edinburgh today. A time when kids could be trusted to play outside for hours without parents unduly worrying. Where being ‘online’ meant you’d probably caught a fish. And a time when children learned the basics of how to look after themselves.
I myself remember when, at fifteen, my friend Alice (Hi, Alice! I know you’re reading this …) happily informed me that her mother had shown her how to work the washing machine! I wanted to come over to learn this new skill myself, because we simply got left to watch telly back then – I didn’t get to take a valued part in ‘household maintenance’ unless it was ‘dusting’ ‘wiping’ or ‘folding’… it seemed to be generally thought that us kids might blow up the hoover if anyone ever taught us (or allowed us) to use it, or even go near it. I asked to be taught to cook the evening meal, but it never happened. My parents graduated onto ‘reheatable’, then ‘ready’ meals anyway. In fact, our gas oven was a scary beast – you had to crawl into it to light it if you were small enough! Even today, this is probably why I spend so much time boiling on the rings instead of roasting anything. I remember my old nan once letting me help her make cupcakes, and she was great at teaching me darning and crochet. ‘Redundant’ skills which I have tried, in my turn, to pass on to the younger generation. Mostly they don’t look up from their phones.
Adele, of course, long before fifteen, could cook and clean, could fix broken things and maintain anything. In her own, very modest way she has for years ‘maintained’ the Musselburgh Church congregation in its current state of general good health and good spirits. The people living near her all love Adele, and many of the older or more vulnerable locals have benefitted from her help in many ways; year in, year out. Including, now, with the distribution of much-needed fresh foodstuffs and hot meals from Cook-Inn. Adele, you are a powerhouse. We adore you!
Back at the Hollies, Clive and Susan had prepared a lovely big pot of hot grub! A slightly smaller pot, this time for all of us volunteers, bubbled beside the first. We all trooped in, set the tables and enjoyed an amazing repast, with artisan bread rolls to complement and donated Lidl tatties and veg adding to the experience!
Joining us were the lovely Lia and Andrea, back after a short break. Loving thoughts go out to them for their kindness in coming in, after their beloved dog died just a week or so ago. I am informed that efforts are being made to find another canine friend, to share their home and benefit from their experience with pets. Also a ‘hello’ to the lovely Hannah and her daughter, who came in from an ‘Easterly’ part of East Lothian especially to deliver the big run with Adele. Hannah has helped in our kitchens in the past, but now we had four cars; one run each! We might be home in time to play with cats in the sun…
Naturally, Prestonpans and Wallyford – the run Duncan and I took – was full of people out enjoying the sun! We phoned around, and in the end we found places to hide the goods until the folk (or their adult kids) could pick them up. Susan was left with several bags to deliver to ‘missing’ local people during the week, and Susan lives upstairs! More power to you, girl; that’s a lot of carrying.
Fred, of course, had a whole ‘Pilton’ run to deliver in his wheelie trolley. Fortunately he has adult children available who can be pressed into helping (!) But, in the end, Clive was dropped off home with many thanks for his direction – both in the kitchen and to his house – and we all were off to catch the last of the rays!
God bless all. Here’s to a blissful week and a dry day next Sunday!