Essential to Survival

No writing today. It’s my volunteering day at a shelter for Rough Sleepers. Spent most of my shift sorting out donations. What are needed are socks, underwear, t- shirts and jeans. None of the last two get given, which is odd. A positive flood of gloves and hats and scarves,

Some rucksacks had been given and it would appear that individuals had packed the rucksacks with what they felt Rough Sleepers wanted. Most had been given out yesterday and I was told to unpack the remainder as a lot of our guys want empty rucksacks as they have their own possessions. It was very moving unpacking the rucksacks as clearly people had thought a lot about what people might need and each one was slightly different: some had books, some writing equipment, scarves, sweets, thick socks, Thermos flasks. I like to think of those people in their homes having the compassion to send a survival pack to those they don’t know and perhaps as they packed them they thought of their children or their mothers doing the same for them. And I like that some included books and writing gear.

The inclusion of pen and paper reminds me of a friend of my late father’s. This friend had been a merchant sailor during the Second World War. Being both nervous and practical he had made himself a survival jacket which he wore at all times and his ship was torpedoed and he managed to get into a life boat and survive sixty days at sea during which six of the other seven in the boat died. In his jacket he had water and sweets and concentrated food and skin cream and a knife and tinned food and, carefully waterproofed, a notebook and three pencils. During his ordeal he kept a journal and after the war, when he retired, he went to local schools giving talks and reading from the journal.

I love the fact that pride of place in his survival kit was the means to record his experience, to express himself; that this was essential to his survival.

It’s essential to mine!

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