That night, Erica didn’t sleep well. There were a lot of elderly people in her area, and she lay awake for an hour or two worrying that some of them wouldn’t have eaten properly that day. Then, when she finally did get to sleep, they turned up in her dreams – all lined up at the front door, expecting her to do something about it.
‘Why me?’ She asked them. ‘Because you can and because you care,’ they chorused, as if they’d been practising.
In meditation the following morning, her spirit guides took much the same view. ‘But why me?’ she asked. ‘Because you can, and because you care,’ they said, smiling. (She could hear the smile even if she couldn’t see it). ‘That’s a bit trite, isn’t it?’ she said, not amused.
But it was true that she cared. And it was true that she was a good organiser. So when Mrs Bindle, Miss Pluck and Mr Phipps came for breakfast (porridge with stewed apple) she suggested the formation of a Food Club for the whole street.
Mr Phipps and the ladies thought it was a splendid idea, so Erica spent all morning knocking on doors in Little Bedlam Street (which was fortunately quite short) to see how people were doing, ask if they needed any help, and invite them to join the Food Club. If the answer was yes (and it usually was) she did a stock-take of their larders, fridges, freezers and gardens and booked them into one of four sittings for supper that evening.
After lunch with Mrs Bindle, Miss Pluck and Mr Phipps (bacon and onion quiche with Waldorf salad) Erica spent the afternoon drawing up a large and complicated spreadsheet itemising all the food they had in the street, how much of it there was, and where it was located.
Meanwhile, Mr Phipps got out his stock pot, borrowed Miss Pluck’s preserving pan, and made huge quantities of vegetable and lentil soup. From six o’clock the neighbours descended on Erica’s house in relays with their bowls and cutlery. To everyone’s surprise and delight, a young man called Fred from what was generally known as ‘the rowdy house’ at the end of the street arrived with four large loaves of home-made bread, and became the hero of the hour. The soup and the bread were both delicious, though some people complained about the lack of butter, and Erica had to bite her lip.
Before returning home, Fred said he had a sack of flour and plenty of dried yeast, and offered to provide four loaves a day until it ran out.
‘But what about your house-mates?’ said Erica. ‘Won’t they be hungry, too?’
‘Nah, they’ve all gone home to their parents. One of them had to walk thirty miles with a hangover,’ he said with a grin.
‘But you decided not to.’
‘My parents are dead. Sorry, that came out a bit abrupt, didn’t it? Yeah, it’s just me. See you tomorrow for breakfast, okay?’
She and Mr Phipps thanked him again, then made black coffee and stayed up half the night planning meals.
Lily hadn’t returned. Without public transport, she was obviously stuck on the other side of town. Every cloud has a silver lining, thought Erica.
On Monday morning there was a large vat of porridge for breakfast made with oats and water, and sweetened by the addition of some dried fruit which was rather ancient, but nevertheless plumped up beautifully.
For lunch there was Fred’s bread with ham, guacamole, and salads.
For supper there was a mild vegetable curry and split-pea dahl, served with rice and some excellent home-made chutney. Several matriarchs issued dire warnings about the flatulent nature of dahl, but it didn’t seem to stop them from tucking in. Afterwards there was indeed much breaking of wind, accompanied by blushing apologies and much hilarity, all of which helped to make the evening the roaring success that it was.
On Tuesday morning, in the middle of breakfast, people from neighbouring streets turned up at the door asking to join. Erica was alarmed. How could they possibly accommodate all these people? ‘Find a way,’ said her guides. She felt a surge of irritation. How big was this going to go? And why was it all her responsibility, anyway? ‘Because you can and because you care,’ they replied, which was just as annoying as it had been the first time.
But then it occurred to her to wonder why she always got so irritable when her guides asked her to do anything. If she was a Lightworker – and she believed that she was – she’d incarnated in order to help with the Shift. And if her particular mission was to organise food for the masses, what was wrong with that? It might not be glamorous, but it was necessary, and she had the skills to do it. So stop being such a stroppy individual, she told herself, and do the job before you with a bit more grace.
But how to go about it?
The idea of stocktaking the kitchens of hundreds of people was impractical – her spreadsheet was unwieldy enough as it was. Instead, maybe they could ask new members to bring all the food they had, and put it together in one place. At a new venue. Where they could cook and serve the food as well. But where? The Community Hall? No, it’d been vandalised. How about the hall of the Parish Church in the next street?
So off she went to see Mr Robertson in the vicarage next to St Peter’s. He turned out to be a middle-aged man – kindly, but rather pompous. He’d heard about the Food Club and had been intending to visit Erica, so he was startled to see her turn up without warning before he could get round to it. But he pulled himself together and immediately took the credit for himself and God – himself for his prayers, and God for answering them. No credit for me, then, thought Erica sourly.
They sat down in the study and Mrs Robertson served cups of black tea, which made Erica wonder what was happening to all the milk. The cows were obviously still producing it, but none of it was getting to the public. Was it all being thrown away?
But Mr Robertson was speaking:
‘… and of course, we’ve got a big kitchen – which is pretty well-equipped, actually – and a big hall with lots of tables and chairs. So I wondered how you would feel about moving your centre of operations over here? There’s plenty of storage space and plenty of volunteers.’
Erica realised her mouth was hanging open with astonishment. How easy was this? She hadn’t even had to ask him. And she sent up a prayer of thanks to the Universe, and an apology for being so crabby.
‘That would be absolutely perfect, Mr Robertson,’ she replied. ‘Thank you very much.’
So they convened a meeting. In attendance were Mr and Mrs Robertson, Erica, Mr Phipps, Fred, and a team of volunteers.
Erica used a white board to brain-storm the logistics. It didn’t take long to draw up a plan, and this was it:
Erica would continue to be organiser-in-chief; Mr Phipps would continue to be head chef, assisted by three young volunteers – Amy, Katie and Stew; Stew would collect food from Little Bedlam Street members as required; Fred would continue to bake bread, assisted by Mr Staines the verger; and Women’s Institute members would serve food from the kitchen hatches.
There would be three meals a day, each served for two and a half hours. The only drink served would be filtered water, and plenty of it. The elderly and infirm would be served first, and everyone else could come when they liked and queue for as long as necessary.
‘But what about security?’ asked Fred. ‘How do we prevent gatecrashers? And people turning up twice for the same meal?’
‘How about numbered membership cards?’ suggested a young volunteer called Aaron. ‘I could do that on the computer this afternoon, if you like.’
‘Good idea,’ said Erica. ‘But in that case we’d need someone to sit at the entrance and tick off the numbers on a daily list.’
‘I could do that too,’ offered Aaron.
‘Excellent!’ said Mr Robertson. ‘Sorted!’
‘But wait a minute,’ said Erica. ‘What if we get desperate people turning up at the door, who haven’t eaten for days? Are we saying that we turn them away?’
‘It wouldn’t be very Christian, would it?’ warned Mrs Robertson.
‘That’s true,’ said Mr Robertson. ‘But the food belongs to the members, doesn’t it? We can’t just give it away and then tell them, “Sorry about this, but there’s no lunch for you today. These other people turned up and we decided their need was greater than yours, so we gave them all your food.”’
‘Okay, so how about this?’ said Erica. ‘Any non-members have to wait till the end of the two-and-a-half hours, and if there’s anything left at that point, they can have it.’
There was much nodding of heads.
‘And people can always start their own Food Clubs, can’t they?’ Katie pointed out.
‘Yeah, but most people aren’t good organisers. We’re just lucky to have Erica,’ said Fred.
Through her blushes Erica managed to say, ‘I could write a little manual, if you like. “How to set up your own Food Club.”’
‘Excellent!’ said Mr Robertson. ‘And we can post it on the Church website.’
‘What about people’s fads and fancies?’ said Mr Phipps. ‘Do we have to cater for them?’
‘You mean special dietary requirements?’ asked Mrs Robertson.
‘Yeah. Fads and fancies,’ said Mr Phipps.
‘I think we ought to do a vegetarian option, at least,’ said Erica. ‘And if you could make it gluten-free as well, that should cater for most people. And we should post a list of ingredients at the door for people to consult, in case of allergies.’
‘I’m not making lists on top of everything else,’ said Mr Phipps.
‘I’ll do it,’ said Katie, so that was sorted too.
During lunch back at Erica’s place, (Fred’s bread with hummus and salad) she broke the news to the Little Bedlam Street members about the further expansion of the Food Club, and said that their supper would be served at St Peter’s Church Hall that evening.
A team of Church volunteers went door-to-door through the neighbouring streets that afternoon, and by evening the membership of the Food Club was ten times as big as it had been in the morning. And food was pouring into the hall, in exchange for membership cards; some brought a little and some brought a lot, but all were welcome. The contributions included vast quantities of flour, to Fred’s relief – his sack was going down fast.
On their way to the kitchen, the new members glanced enviously at the Little Bedlam Street ones, who were seated on plastic chairs at refectory tables eating their supper (fish fingers with baked beans and roasted vegetables followed by poached pears with tinned rice pudding) and chatting away merrily as if they were old hands at this Food Club lark, even though they’d only been members for two days.
But tomorrow, the new members would be joining them.
Meanwhile, Erica filled the fridges and stacked the shelves, and was so busy that she forgot about eating. But Fred remembered, and kept a serving hot for her in the oven.
Breakfast at St Peters the following morning (porridge, of course) was pretty chaotic, because everyone seemed to come at the same time and the queue stretched out of the door and down the street. But it was a very cheerful queue, buzzing with conversation and laughter. In the middle of it all a journalist arrived from the local paper, wanting to take photographs and interview Mr Robertson and the elderly members. To Erica’s surprise, Mr Robertson insisted that she be interviewed too, which raised him a notch or two in her estimation.
During lunch (leek and potato soup with Fred’s bread) a couple of chaps from the local radio station turned up to do a live broadcast.
And during supper, (beef or bean stew with polenta dumplings and cabbage, followed by apple crumble) there was a team from national TV. Erica was too tired to be nervous, so she just said what she thought.
After the hoards and volunteers had gone, Erica and Fred ate supper in the kitchen, then turned out the lights, locked up, and posted the keys through Mr Robertson’s letter box.
They walked back to Erica’s place in Little Bedlam Street and turned on the telly, to find the Food Club on National News!
‘Well, it’s just a question of organisation,’ Erica was saying to the interviewer. ‘It’s not difficult. You just have to get on and do it, really.’
‘The thing that strikes me most is that everyone seems to be having a whale of a time,’ remarked the interviewer.
‘They are, aren’t they? And do you know what I think? We’ve all been living our lives cut off from each other. Then something like this happens and we’re forced to pull together in order to deal with it, and when we do it feels fantastic. That’s why everyone looks so happy.’
‘You’re re-discovering a sense of community.’
‘Exactly. It’s been missing from our lives for so long that we’d forgotten all about it. But it’s easy to get it back. That’s what’s been so amazing about all this.’
‘Good stuff, Erica,’ said Fred.
‘No sign of you, I notice. Where were you?’
‘Hiding in the gents with Mr Phipps.’
‘Yes, but don’t tell Mr Robertson, or he’ll get the wrong idea.’
Then Mrs Bindle and Miss Pluck came on-screen, flirting outrageously with the interviewer.
‘Would you like to taste my crumble, young man? It’s a little bit…’
‘…tart, but crispy and juicy and really quite delectable.’
Fred and Erica laughed so much that they missed everything that Mr Robertson had to say afterwards.
Next there was a piece about food producers and retailers who’d decided it was better to give it away than let it rot. There was a small milk tanker in a village square dispensing free milk to a queue of smiling locals, a trestle table outside a Greengrocer’s serving soup to all comers, and an independent supermarket delivering free fruit and vegetables.
‘How strange,’ said Erica. ‘All positive news. No riots, arson, looting or murder.’
‘The Cabal must’ve lost control of the media,’ said Fred. ‘Perhaps the financial crash was the last nail in their coffin.’
Erica stared at him.
He grinned at her. ‘You know what I’m talking about, don’t you?’
‘Yes, I do. So what about the Mass Arrests? And Disclosure?’
‘Watch this space,’ he said, standing up and stretching. ‘Anyway, I’d better go and crash. Up early tomorrow, eh?’
But Thursday morning arrived much sooner than either of them had expected, with a frantic Mr Robertson on the phone. The hall had been broken into during the night, and most of the food had gone.
Part 3 soon.
© Sue J Davis 2015
Please see Copyright Notice on the ‘About’ page.