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The most with the least

This week started with a flat battery. ‘Arthur’ the van would not go. Having lent out our jump start kit, it felt right to take the Polo instead; I felt under the weather anyway, so my husband Duncan (who doesn’t drive stick) was able to volunteer to help with collection and deliveries in our little automatic car. Susan and Murdoch were to be absent this week due to prior commitments, and we were already feeling stretched thin as a team. With some guilt I let Clive the Chef know Duncan wouldn’t be working in the kitchen this week, and we headed to Morrison’s.

Fred had called in sick earlier; he had injured his foot, and was unable to trog around delivering heavy food bags. Being short one man on deliveries already, we were delighted to find Saty (our pigeon-fancying volunteer from last week) awaiting us with a coffee in hand. George arrived soon after with his car, but mentioned that he had to leave for a job around 1pm. Now we would be two people and one car down for deliveries! We received eight crates of lovely fresh food from the generous Gillian, and piled off to the Hollies to sort the bags.

George and I peeled off to feed cats and pick up an aloe vera plant for our also-ailing friend, Gordon. Veteran of our food project since the planning stages, he is having to take a few weeks off for health reasons. Once cats were fed and happy, George dropped me off at the Hollies with the others before heading away to his afternoon work.

A new volunteer had arrived; Elaine, whom I knew from gardening activities – we are both avid veg growers. All of us helped Clive in the kitchen – even me, who has to run away whenever onions are present. This week the kitchen smelled fine because the food was to be onion-free, so I busied myself with washing up and making the tea while other, more sophisticated cooks (like Clive and my husband) worked their magic on the veg and made fresh rolls. Finally, this felt like a full complement of kitchen staff! Food was first served to us, and we ‘tested’ it happily before boxing it up and planning deliveries. We talked over the tasty lunch and discovered that Saty loved plants too! I promised to furnish him with his own aloe soon. Elaine I still have home grown tatties to use up – she planted loads in my garden earlier this year. We both agreed we have lots of live kale to enjoy over the winter. Elaine was delighted to discover Clive’s speciality is ‘Jerk’ food – she’s been craving some since she tried ‘Jerk’ whilst living in Nottingham with Jamaican friends! Amazing how volunteering helps you make connections…

Saty had never delivered our food run before, so he followed us in his van – which, incidentally, he’s proved he can reverse into the Hollies’ tiny driveway like a pro J. We had a new man whose precise location we had still to define. This involved quite a trek through an estate of identical houses – almost none displaying numbers. Naturally the recipient wasn’t answering his phone so he couldn’t be prevailed upon to help us find his house. Eventually Duncan just picked the most likely address and buzzed, risking annoying an innocent tenant. Upon the arrival of the homeowner we joyfully discovered we had picked the right house! Noting it down on the map quietly and pretending we had known it all along, we handed over the lovely hot food and promised to see him again next week.

Saty and Elaine had used up their free time by now, and peeled away to rejoin their families. Duncan and I, faced with two more runs and a darkening sky, knew it was time to diversify. I called Gordon, who agreed he could do Prestonpans with Duncan while I called up Adele for help with the big Musselburgh run. Without a car to leave food in, we loaded it all into her stairwell and kept coming back there for more bags to deliver. With the esky, there was no real danger of the hot food getting cold – so we whizzed round as fast as we could, chatting a little with each person but keeping it short because people don’t like opening their doors after dark.

With the last of the light went our final Musselburgh bag, leaving just four more parcels which Susan had agreed to deliver herself. These went to some of her long-time older friends and family; so no real need for two volunteers. As requested we loaded the bags into the place Susan chose for them, with me using my phone torch to light our way in the dark streets – a skill I only learned a few weeks ago. I’m a technophobe, of course!  Then Duncan, who had driven all day for us, dropped me off home to feed cats again and to write this missive, while he visited the injured Fred for a chat and a cuddle with Fred’s five cats and one big, bouncy dog.

Today we achieved our highest number of deliveries ever. Eighteen hot meals and twenty-one food parcels! All with the love and help of our fine chef and our versatile volunteers. J

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