Sunday, 16 December 2012


Helen McCookerybook posted this on her excellent blog a few minutes ago, and I was so touched I have reposted it in full. Check her blog out - you won't be disappointed. Also, check her out at Gonzo..

Every year my Champagne Friend and myself go to a carol service. This one was hidden, rather; it wasn't on the Southwark Cathedral website but I had seen an ad on a tube train and I got us a couple of tickets.
It was a wonderful combination of the Secular, the the Spiritual and the Christian; there were some painfully moving accounts from people that had been helped by the charity and some lovely singing from the choir (and congregation). One story was funny: a woman described being given a free Christmas tree as a child, the last one on the stall, and dragging the massive thing home on a piece of string with her sister. They'd taken all their not-much-money to get one to try to cheer up their mum after their dad left home because he'd gambled away all their money. As the tree became wedged in the stairwell of their block of flats, their mum was furious. But eventually she borrowed  a saw and after what seemed like an age managed to saw off enough of the tree to get it into their flat, where the sisters made decorations for it. And mum was happy. The Crisis Skylight Choir, which featured a solo cameo from each singer, were so touchingly brilliant that the congregation broke protocol and gave them a huge round of applause. Perhaps the most grave speech was from the man who has been volunteering for 30 years after going along because he needed help himself after  a terrible family upset (he didn't tell us what it was). Voice cracking with the combination of a sore throat and passionately-felt emotion, he ended his talk with the words: 'This is ordinary people, helping ordinary people'.

He described working at the food counter last Christmas alongside a Jamaican brickie and a Dutch investment banker, all working together to make sure that single homeless people felt loved and cared for when it is so cold and bleak outside.

The youngest volunteers, two children, marched down the aisle with Christmas puddings with sparklers poked into the top that went out as soon as they were lit, which in itself was a rather symbolic moment.

The Merbecke Choir ('retired' child choristers) and the London Philharmonia Orchestra injected energy into the carols- the descants whammed into the final verses of the carols in a congregation-versus-choir competition that was oddly uplifting.

Somehow, this morning all the money-and-party thing doesn't seem to matter very much. I came away moved to the core by the kindness of the Crisis volunteers, and horrified by the face that in the last five years homelessness has increased by 43% in London. And we are still one of the wealthiest countries in the world, in spite of the recession.

Winter is vicious on the streets. I am putting their link here in the hope that if any of the people that read this blog can afford it (and only if) some of you might be willing to donate to them today:

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