By Stephen Yeates
Regular Scab readers will know that Marc asked us to use Christmas to take in things, people and places we’ve maybe neglected, or were yet to discover.
On the eve of term 2, this morning I volunteered at a shelter for the homeless in Hackney.
My body clock is buggered, hence me dressing half asleep and putting on a food-stained jumper. I’m surprised I’m not offered a bed when I turn up.
The shift itself is as rewarding as I thought it’d be. All of my fellow volunteers very sweet and quietly efficient. I put my hand up for the ‘fag run’, which when mentioned on email I took to mean being sent out for a box of Dunhills. Turns out I have to sweep up those that have already expired through the cold and quiet night. I do the best job I can. I even sweep some leaves and generally tidy the front up. Oh, and I have to check down the alley for booze. There isn’t a drop to be found. Dry January really is a thing.
I head back inside, one lady’s arthritis is proving a shrill and spiteful foe in fastening a trolly containing all of her worldly things. I close it for her, the ease of doing so is heartbreaking and makes me think of my old Nan. However, strength is a many and textured thing. She has a job interview. I bet she gets it. I can see it in her eyes.
On the other side of the room, another of the guests complains that ‘the girl in the kitchen has burnt all the bacon’. His exasperation is clear for all to politely ignore. Funny, though.
My shift flies by. I’ve done well I’m told. I just got on with it. ‘If our houses were big enough they’d be in our bedrooms’ is the gentle motto that guides the shelter’s work, and apparently I chipped away with a sensibility that felt at home with that. It’ll be good to do a few more shifts this winter.
On my way to pick up a portfolio I reflect. Marc’s brief – to me – feels like the search for perspective, a deep and mindful intake of breath before a breathless term leads us a merry dance. So I decide to take him up on another challenge and call someone I haven’t spoken to in a couple of years.
That person is my Dad. We swap the odd Facebook message, he’s a funny bloke, but we generally operate better under the stability of the written word. But if not today, then when will I speak to the old man?
I’ve left him a voicemail. No answer. Maybe he’s busy. Maybe he’s wary of an unknown number. Maybe he thinks I want something.
Well, he’d be right, I suppose.