Sunday, 28 December 2008

Day 4 in the big Crisis House

Today was checkout day from the hotel - yay. An ill-advised kebab from the night before meant that I was thankfully in a position to avoid breakfast at the hotel. I packed, checked out, and stuggled up Pentonville Road with my rucksack. Having an hour to kill I trated myself to a fabulous all-you-can-eat chinese buffet and then went to the shelter for my shift.

Now there is a lady called Amanda who is also trained on office managing and I have been promised that we will be taking it in turns. She has not appeared; I have checked the shift lists - there is no Amanda. I no longer believe in Amanda and have found myself in the office again.

The centre I am at is called Quiet - it does not live up to its name generally but is designed for the most vulnerable of guests - those who need a bigger vol/guest ratio and a lot of one on one help and advice. This means that I answer the phone with a loud "Quiet".

Today was actually relatively quiet. In terms of logistics if we haven't got it it's because the warehouse has run out and we aint getting it. The next 2 days, will however, be very busy in terms of services. Those that haven't been able to access advice, dentistry, podiatry, new clothes etc. begin to get anxious as time starts to run out but this is counter balanced by the fact that the volunteers are well settled and confident about what they are doing.

As things were relatively quiet though I have been landed with the most important job of all - finding a local pub which will take in 50 volunteers after closing time for a lock-in. This is a huge responsibility and I have been unsuccessful. If Amanda turns up it will be her job.

Got home at 1am to find that eldest daughter had kindly left out some hula hoops, some cookies and 3 days worth of washing up!

I am not allowed to take pictures of the centre so please enjoy a representation of the chinese meal that I had bearing in mind that this is not a true likeness but for illustration purposes only

oh good grief - that came out very big

Friday, 26 December 2008

Crisis Boxing Day

Last night I had a wonderful surprise - a long phonecall from Sara, my darling sis who is miles and miles away in Canada. That really made my Christmas - cheers Saj.

Slept really late this morning - I think it's all catching up with me a bit. The Hotel breakfast is shockingly bad - I mean seriously how can you burn tinned tomatoes?
I spent a couple of hours checking out the sales but remembered just in time that I'm skinted and then started my shift at the shelter. One of the volunteers who just started today came with a check for two grand that her company had given her after she told them what she was doing and later in the afternoon a man drove up in a big car and handed a large box to the volunteers at the gate. When opened it was found to contain 50 massive cigars. A volunteer who seemingly knows about these things reckons that each cigar was worth at least £25. You should have seen the smoking courtyard full of guests puffing away on huge cigars.
I am told that I might be able to get out of the office tomorrow and go out onto the floor which will be brilliant as the only guests I've really spoken to so far are the two that come and get their meds from me.

As I'm not allowed to take any photos of the Centre or the guests please make do with these lovely pictures of the windows of Fortnum and Masons which, thankfullybearing in mind the skinted situation, was closed. I think they are something to do with The Ice Queen - enjoy

Thursday, 25 December 2008

christmas day part 2

... now where was I - oh yes - There I was minding my own business when there was a knock the hotel door - Bill had brought the girls and Aiden to see me - Aiden shot me with his new sonic screwdriver

and The Princess mostly did this
while the girls looked gorgeous like this

Bless them - they had brought me a food parcel of ham sandwiches, mince pies and choccies. We had a quick coffee together and then they dropped me off for my shift.

The life of an admin officer is never without adventure and today was no exception. The church next door had hosted a christmas lunch earlier in the day and had ommitted to check that all their guests had left. So it was that a person of no fixed abode found himself trapped in the courtyard of said church. The Fire Brigade had to be called at great public expense, the vicar being inexplicably unobtainable, to rescue him. I found myself dealing with an office full of Firemen which was great as men in uniform had figured quite heavily on my letter to Santa - don't let anyone tell you that he doesn't exist.
Just as I thought things could not get more exciting in walked the legend that is Bill Oddie with his family to put on a show for the guests. They sang and played for an hour or so and went down a storm. I am still not allowed to take any photos of the centre so instead offer this picture of the ex-goodie and famous bird botherer himself for your general edification.

Christmas with Crisis

Day One

Every alternate year I get to spend Christmas at a homeless Shelter. This of course a great sacrifice as everyone knows how mch I love this time of year - 'Tis the season to be Grinchy after all.

The last time I did this I stayed in a Hostel and vowed never again. This year I was able to secure a room at the Kings Cross Travelodge in their sale - what luxury! Checking in on the 23rd I was soon able to find my room by going down this corridor

and then this one

and then this

Inside what luxuries await - a teeny tiny bedroom and a dollshouse bathroom - not bad for £19 per night inc breakfast

Day 2

Today is my first proper day of volunteering and I'm not sure what to expect at all. On arrival we are herded into a breifing where our shift leader wishes us all a merry christmas and lets us know that if we're not prepared to do whatever we're asked for we might as well all piss off home - I think it's been a stressful day already!

Before we are allocated our jobs for the shift we are asked if anyone has office experience - I raise my hand as do a handful of others and we are whisked away for a round of Admin Idol. I am eventually crowned the winner by dint of being the one who is doing the most shifts. The rest of my 3pm to 11.30pm stint rushes by in a whirlwind of phone calls and logistical nightmares all of which I am expected to sort out myself - my only training being a handful of notes that the girl on the shift before left behind before she left me - a pitying look in her eyes. I have typed up referral notes dictated by a psychtriast whilst simultaneous sorting out the mystery of the missing teaspoons, navigating volunteers to the centre by phone after their prat navs have failed and dispensing medication to guests - it has been a ball!

I'm not allowed to take photos of the Centre, Guests or Volunteers for obvious reasons so please amuse yourselves with the view from my room and the surrounding area.

Day 3
Yay - it's Christmas and the hotel have marked the occassion by losing my breakfast booking and playing Noddy Holder's Top 100 Christmas Tunes on the telly and Carols to Travel in Lifts By on the speakers. This is a bit much for someone who likes nothing stronger than John Humphries and the rest of the Radio 4 Today team in the morning and so I am grumpy - Stef Grumpy on Christmas Morning - surely not!
I am cheered up, however, with a phone call from the girls. Bill woke them all up early to open their stockings, which in the case of Aiden, contained toblerone and a misguided recorder, and then went back to bed. The girls told me that the plan was to leave it half an hour and then despatch the by now hypertobleroned Aiden and his recorder into Bill's room to return the favour.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Orange is the Colour!

With England not playing and lots of family in The Netherlands it makes sense for The Princess and I to support Holland in the Euro 2008.

A little while back I asked my Dad to spend a Euro or two on some bunting and send it to me. Expectations were exceeded when a parcel arrived containing bunting, t-shirts, hats, feather boas, balloons, paper napkins and plates and orange confetti.

Today, with Holland's first match looming, I managed to round up various family members to climb up ladders, blow up balloons and hang precariously from upstairs windows while I offered artistic direction and cups of tea.

I'm very pleased with the results even if half the balloons have popped already - thanks to Dad there are plenty of spares.

Last time we did this was for the World Cup and, even though we did have some England flags too, some passerby took umbrage and lobbed an egg at the house.

Hopefully Holland will make it through the Group of Death - otherwise I will have to persuade everyone to come back and take it all down again


Saturday, 24 May 2008

Canterbury Tales

Last weekend saw me camping in Canterbury. Leaving an hour later than planned meant that my first of three trains was pretty busy and that the cycle carriage was full of passengers. None of them were inclined to move further along the train, not even when the ticket collecter came by to berate me for blocking up the gangway. indeed as I got up to move the bike for an unexpected right-sided platform my seat was snaffled. later in the week a friend mentioned that he had seen me on the train but had not said anything as I seemed a bit grumpy. "Were you sitting in the cycle bit?" said I. When he answered that he was we agreed that it was probably just as well that I hadn't noticed him.
I caught the train at Victoria with only seconds to spare having got a bit caught up in hundreds of Pompey fans making their way to Wembley - yes up the blues - get out of my way! Settling into my seat I got chatting to a nice old man who was heading off to his caravan at sheerness for the weekend. All was going pretty well until, having mentioned that I was brought up in the area, he mentioned that I wouldn't like it nowadays - not with all the Nwords and Pwords and such like and haven't we got enough to do looking after our own - oh dear. I was rescued by the ticket collector informing me that I was in the wrong part of the train for my destination and that it would imminently split in two but not to worry as there would be at least five and a half seconds at Faversham for me to change carriages.
Arriving at Bekesbourne station, 1 mile from my destination, I took a wrong turn and some 5 miles later reached the village of Littlebourne - or the Village of Closed Pubs - where my error was pointed out to me in the village shop with the advice that, having almost done a full circle, I should carry on up and down hills for another three miles or so, pausing only to turn left at the first "proper" road I encounter. On reaching my destination, the Caravan and Camping Club site at Canterbury, I almost wept with relief. 10 minutes later, with the tent up and a kettle boiling on the Trangia things were looking up.
I headed back into town and pay £2 for a guide to the city walls and a suggested walk around them. This was lovely and avoided most of the lovely old buildings that have had their bottom parts converted into Dorothy Perkins, Mcdonalds and the like. Having seen all that the city walls have to offer I headed for what turned out to be the worst Wetherspoons in Christendom for the worst burger in Christendom just in time to watch the closing minutes of the FA cup final. Arriving back at the site a short hilly ride later I wondered if 9pm was too early for bed. Just then the man in the tent opposite started playing his pan pipes - apparently there is a tricky bit of "yesterday" that must be practised over and over again. I gave up, lit some tea lights, and opened a bottle of wine. Mr Panpipes then sauntered over and suggests I brought my bottle over and come and sit in his porch as it was now raining pretty hard. He offered some red but, as every fool knows, I do not touch the stuff and so I finished my white. Some time later we headed off into town together and have a few bevys in a pub which promises live music - sadly Saturday night is Trad Jazz Night and it took a lot of vodkas to drown my sorrows. We headed back up the hill to the site where I put paid to his half a bottle of red while he rubbished my lovely tent for having no porch and told me that his weighs about 3g and cost in excess of £150. I know this is not true and so, moderately irritated and chronically drunk I stumbled off to mine and bed - ignoring all the while the still small voice that tells me to take a couple of aspirins and a lot of water.
The next morning I got up early to ride the Crab and Winkle Way. The Crab and Winkle Way is a 7 mile cycle ride between Canterbury and Whitstable and is not to be confused with riding the hangover way which mostly entails fighting nausea, getting lost along the more than adequately signposted route, and getting off to push up hills. I knew I was in trouble when a small boy on stabilisers overtook me. I called a friendly Yakfarmer, a man of some experience in these matters, for sympathy but was merely told that the first 10 miles are the worst. Whitstable is a nice harbour town and I was much restored after large chips and a double Hair Of The Dog at a beachside pub.
Returning back to the campsite at around 8pm I decided to snuggle up in my sleeping bag with my book for an hour or so, waking at 9am the next day just in time to pack up the tent and head off for home. On my return I looked up Mr Panpipe's tent. T'was as I suspected - £14.99 from Millets and weighing in at a massive 5.3kgs - Knobend

Monday, 12 May 2008

Fridge Debris Soup

Food prices are on the rise and yet we are told that the average household wastes something like a third of the food it buys and so I make Fridge Debris Soup. This idea, like so many others, came to me via the Moneysaving Old Style forum -
I don't work on Mondays so that's my day for catching up with housework, meal planning and cleaning out the fridge. I take all the veg that looks like it's not going to survive the night - you know all the puckered peppers, bendy carrots and yellow broccoli - cut off the worst bits and slice up.

Normally I would bung it all in the Slow Cooker but this time I have had to use my big pot for two reasons. The first being that I went a bit crazy in the yellow sticker aisle so there is rather more than usual, but, more importantly I broke my SC a little while back smashing the crock pot to smithereens - I'm not having a lot of luck with appliances at the moment. Next add some water to cover and some seasoning of some sort - I like that marigold bouillon stuff. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer until everything is tender.
Then I like to let it cool down enough for me to fish any stalky bits or tomato skins out - my life is way too short to skin a tomato. Whizz in a liquidiser or with a stick blender to a consistency you like - The Princess likes it all to be pretty unrecognizable so that's what she gets.
It always ends up this colour no matter what I put in - a bit like when toddlers mix up the Plasticine to brown. If it tastes ok then I will leave it at that but if not I might add some worcestershire sauce or some pesto. Pour into containers and freeze as soon as completely cool. I try to make sure that I label everything to avoid UFO's (Unidentified Frozen Objects). Ok so Gordon Ramsey has nothing to worry about but it's good nourishing food for those can't-be-bothered or too-close-to-payday evenings. if The Princess turns up her nose it fast becomes Like-It-Or-Lump-It-Soup