Joining up my rainbow memory dots - 1978 I help the homeless in Belfast
Fist I shall ask myself this - why do I bother sharing these memories of mine? What does where I was in 1978mhave to do with where I am now?
I am nearly 66. I am an old woman who lives alone and has a lot .of mental health labels stuck and plastered over me,I feel a bit like a small colourful vase full of flowers that are hidden beneath masses of technical blah about what mental condition Im on and am I taking my meds.
I often feel that I spend a lot of time riding on buses or waiting at bus stops with my little bus pass in my hand thinking 'wow I'm really getting somewhere. The reality is I keep my house and my clothes clean and tidy and I am able to get a few paragraphs of my writing down on computer some days. That's about it.
So the first reason fo this type of sharing is about taking care of myself, Reminding myself that I am someone, that I have an identity.
The second reasons is to help you guys. Here is real life back in late seventities in a major hotspot. I'm serving it you on a plate. It's edible.
We might even start a discussion about sharing hope and about peace. I do hope so. I waste my ass every Wednesday afternoon doing a voluntary shift in the Exeter CND shop, address 22 New Bridge Street, Exeter. We do not get many customer for our CND t-shirts , juggling balls , friendship bracelets, Palestinian olive oil and the rest of out merchandise as we are in a very quiet part of town., We are in an indie shop section that is a good half mile from the town centre and in retail footfall is all.
A slow tslow dribble of folks comes in to peruse our shelves and to chat. We are more of a talkimg shop really. I don't think Exeter City Council charges us much for the rent.
Any how that's me at 65. Back in 1978 I was an 'idealistic' little student from the soft suburbs of North London wanting to do voluntary community work in order to 'put something back in' Remember these were they days when we got uni for free.
I didn't think I would come to too much harm (spoiler I still have all my bodily parts) but I thought It would impress my student pals and aquaintainces I had came back maybe with a fingertip blown off so that I could impress them that I had bee out there.
It wasn't quite like that.
When I phoned my mum from the call box at Stirling Uni to announce my summer plans she said 'Oh well you'll lose all your arms and your legs' A bit more drama on the body parts than I had bargained for.
I packed two suitcases as I had to clear out of my study bedroom at Uni. I caught the train from Striling to Glasgow Central then andother train to Larne. I then boarded the ferry from Larne to Stranraer. At this point I decided that 2 suitcases was too much freight and I left behind on the ships the one that had more books than clothes in.
One more train to Central Station in Belfast . II then indulged in a taxi to my new workplace where i would be living in, working four days a week and having too days off and following the three basis rules that I have been st up by the Founders of the Work, Sally Trench and Anton Wallich Clifford
Fat Fred, the guy who came out to meet me on campus six weeks before and who had siad 'we'll hang out the flags when you come also muttered something about 'relationships' but I couldn't make out what he was saying except that this was maybe murky ground.
I chatted to the chatty dad-like cabbie who asked me 'wasn't I chancing my arm? I got asked this a lot during my 10 weeks 'coming of age' non-stop time in Belfast. I always said 'no' as saying 'yes' or don't were not anwers that fitted into the frame of conversation.
I dismounted fromm the cab, walked the last little bit of the long garden path and here I was at the tall three storey big house that was to be my live in workplace.
Externally the Belfast Simon Community House looked all there. Inside the ride side of the house was all there nad the left side, the 'burnt out side' was semi skeletal because of a recent fire. To add to the Goth atmosphere the first job I had to do was to sign the Mass card of Anton Wallich Clifford the old boss. He has just died on tuberculosis at the age of 52.
Going to stop there. Tomorrow 41 years later at the age of 65 I waste my ass going into help in the Exeter Cnd Shp, the house of no customers.
Come and join me Im there most Mondays, like old Miss Havisham rattling on about youth and age and stuff in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
The shop is also open between 11-5.00pm from Tuesday to Saturday and is staffed entirely by people who do not get paid. Some of them might be quite normal.
Peace and Best wishes