Today saw us getting ready at breakneck speed; a friend was visiting from the North of England, and we were to meet her before Cook-Inn started, sometime after ten! On a Sunday that is early, even when your confused-elderly cat gets you up around 5 am nearly every morning. Giving our cute wee furry boys some hasty second breakfast (just like the Hobbits have in ‘Lord of the Rings’) we barricaded them away from the front door – mainly to stop the cheeky Reiver from escaping and causing mayhem all over the village! Fortunately, he is easily distractable if there’s food involved. Our regal Romany, of course, never wanted to roam the cul de sac in the first place. He curled up cutely on the heat pad and went to sleep.
Morrison’s was full of customers, and as we made our way in we noted that the Big Issue seller we normally talk to wasn’t there today. We hope she’s alright, she never did show up. The cafe wasn’t too bad, and we claimed a table while Duncan got the teas in.
My friend (whom we shall call Natalie to preserve her anonymity) was coming from a different corner of Edinburgh this morning. We have known each other many years, and the vagaries of Edinburgh traffic and the challenges of having a teenage son have taken its toll on our collective timekeeping in the past. For this reason I brought a book to read, knowing also that my beloved would baulk at the social niceties of sitting drinking tea in a cafe. As predicted, he hared off after just five minutes to try and chivvy the Vegetables Manager into bringing out the food donation an hour early.
It was suddenly the fourteenth century, and a friar had been murdered! This, after he had been seen fighting with a Scots student last night – in the relatively new, Cambridge University down in England. A rotund monk called Michael, and a physician by the name of Bartholomew, were investigating the crime. As the official corpse examiner, Bartholomew risked being hanged as a heretic – because the science of ‘anatomy’ back then was considered similar to devil-worship…
“Hello there” Someone shouted, making me briefly wonder why a Cambridge physician might have an Irish accent. ~George, our faithful worker, had arrived with Fred – the manager of the Pilton run. Natalie had not yet arrived, and the table was already much too small. We vacated to a bigger area, and bought more hot drinks. The boys brought news that the rain, which had hit us on the way up, was now finished – and a quite beautiful day was in the offing. Duncan, still chatting to the Veg Manager, had apparently waved to them upon their arrival. I had just finished explaining the plot of my book to them, discovering as I did so that in last night’s Cambridge riots the rich merchant’s daughter, having sneaked out in secret to spend time with the (poor, but likely innocent) Scot..was only attacked because of mistaken identity…
I jumped as I was tapped on the shoulder. George and Fred jumped a little as well. Natalie had made it! A trip back to the counter for another hot drink, and we had a bit of a catch-up. Natalie only comes to Edinburgh once a month, and most times she has so much to do she can’t socialise. This seems to be the price one pays for promotion! More money, and less chance to spend it yourself. Instead it goes on travel fares, and on keeping your young adult brood content in your absence. Much like the rich merchant had experienced in the book. Unlike the merchant and the monk, whom the author (Susanna Gregory) describes as ‘portly’ and other words to that effect – I was told off by Natalie for dropping a dress size. Natalie sweetly believes I can’t afford to lose another! Natalie herself is a tiny bit slimmer, as well. Hard work seems to agree with both of us. Duncan, appearing at our table like a whirlwind, announced that fifteen crates of food donations awaited us, and promptly got told by Natalie he should cook for me more often.
The next hour was spent calling and texting the volunteer crew, most of whom had not got the message that ‘the Hollies’ was not open today. We were to bag up in the Store’s car park, and deliver from there. Duncan, speeding up the work, had unconsciously wrong-footed several earnest volunteers who had their lunchtimes already planned. Still more, feeling the warmer weather or having sudden family commitments, cancelled with no notice. Feeling like Michael the fourteenth century monk, who had countless ‘Beadles’ working for him (but hardly any of whom seemed available whenever any work needed done) I hastily restructured the runs in my head, and we divvied up the produce between our car and George’s.
Another text came, this time from someone wanting to help! Duncan would drop off one run with the lovely Lia and Andrea, who were to pick up Susan (who texted me ten minutes ago, happy to be second person on deliveries. Duncan and Fred would then deliver to Pilton. Duncan would drop Fred off last, and then disappear with the car to pick up our neighbour and her gorgeous toddler from the airport around three, while George and I delivered the last two runs. Adele was available to help on foot with the bigger Musselburgh run. All decided, we loaded the bags (leaving via the loos because of all the tea) and set off.
Adele’s run was completed with swift efficiency, with just one brief stop; someone’s carer, originally from South Africa, told us about a good idea they have over there. Restaurants and cafes which shut at 2am there have a delivery service come to take their hot ‘waste’ food straight to hostels, where the boarders get to eat it straight away. While I turn into the proverbial pumpkin by nine thirty every night, it stands to reason that later rising people could easily perform this service if our own councils and governments helped publicise and initiate it.
Reports came in as we drove round Prestonpans and Wallyford. The other Musselburgh run went well, although one older man wasn’t feeling too good today. Susan would keep an eye on him. Pilton was going strong except that our man in the tower block either was out – or afraid again, this week, of the huge shadow that was Duncan darkening his door. He never did open it, and leaving it on the stair would not make it likely that he received any veg – so this time his bag went to another poor family. Most recipients had bags and containers to give back, except for one or two people whose health conditions meant that they were never going to get it together to return our soup containers -which is why we end up buying more every few weeks. If we access funds for it we shall go on to cardboard ‘disposable’ soup pots instead.
A quick trip home meant that Reiver and Romany got their late lunch – and I rang round. All volunteers were safe and sound, with Lia updating me on the older man’s condition. Duncan was waiting at the airport for our friend’s baby buggy to show up on the conveyor belt. He gave me an update on what he could see coming round the corner on the belt; ‘suitcase, baggage, cuddly toy…’ just like that game show we all watched when we were tiny. There’s always a cuddly toy!
Satisfied that all was well, we decided to call it a night. George and I headed off to a certain store, there to get our own food for next week.
Later on, I settled down with my book, to discover more about the plot twists of my medieval mystery…oboy! That’s no elderly matron, but a well-disguised lady of negotiable affection, smuggled in for the college’s party… Bartholomew, you surprise us…
Fifty points and a Morrison’s grapefruit to anyone who can identify the title of Susanna Gregory’s book by these ‘excerpts’! God bless, all, and good night.