Part 4 – Flour, Fun and Fridges

Tuesday

Up bright and early for a shower. Clamber around in the dark to avoid waking Gloria and succeed in knocking all the shampoo bottles off the shelf.

I slink off down to breakfast. Libby grins at me over her knitting needles and greets me like a long lost friend. I adore her. Pancakes this morning!!!! Love brekkie.

Today we walk to Theatre through a bone chilling sea mist. I’m less tired today although my back is dodgy and I am rattling with Ibuprofen and Paracetemol.

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We skip the briefing and start bagging up flour and sugar. This can be a meditative sort of job, but we talk and I learn more about my fellow volunteers. Christine works with a children’s charity in London, Harriet has left school and is working, but she has plenty to say and would be fabulous on the CPW degree at CCCU. Gill did a degree at 45 and now has a PhD… Bagging flour is never boring.

After a break we sort and tidy carrier bags into piles for families of 2, 5s and 10s ready for a session on the conveyor belt. We are packing food for Wednesday to send out for 2695 people.

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Somehow Helen and I end up offering to help a couple of lads with the metal recycling. Helen clambers up onto the truck and I sift through a mountain of tins, saucepans, nails, and fridges. Actually the boys lift the fridges, one leaping into the razor sharp rusty tin lids to do this. I have a health and safety meltdown, picturing an amputated foot. An enthusiastic young man gives me a hand and poor Helen ends up showered with stagnant water and strewn with fermenting chickpeas. Nice to be outside though.

We take a break and watch the volunteers in the wood yard. Volunteers go out in vans each day to gather up wood from wherever they can find it and bring it back to be chopped up in the wood yard – pallets, beams and anything else that will burn. The wood is piled into bags and delivered to families to use for warmth and cooking. When I think of the wood we get through on our fire in winter, what the refugees receive could never be enough, but it is something. Work in the wood yard is exhausting, blistering and backbreaking, and I am amazed to see young girls out there whacking away at pallets. One showed me her blisters as we queued for lunch.

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I head out into the sunshine with my beany feast and pass a girl with a tiny kitten curled up in a shoebox. Its eyes are barely open. She had been woken by its cries in the night and found it, abandoned, in the grass outside her caravan. The girl is feeding it on kitten milk from a doll’s bottle.

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We pop into Carrefour on the way home and buy a few small supplies. I buy apricot jam, rice pudding and a lemon. Helen buys wine. We head down to the beach and watch the sun set with Mary, Linda and Jean-Marc.

Linda and Jean-Marc have been in the camp teaching English and French. People were being given three sets of papers. Apparently, if the CRS (French National Police) stop a refugee, there is a risk they will tear up their papers. This sounds unbelievable but it happens. With three sets, they will have a second to produce at the police station, and if that is destroyed they have a third to produce in court. While many travel under assumed names, they were advised to put their correct name on the papers.

Linda tells us there was a legal team in camp today, advising people they must apply for asylum in France in next couple of weeks or face eviction. Apparently people were chattering quietly amongst themselves while the lawyer spoke, but when the translators spoke their faces fell and there was silence. The reality of the situation was hitting home. Linda said she had to walk out. She thought she would cry.

Wednesday
We have a good productive day on the line today. We pack bags to feed 2900 people. Really tired this evening, but I am determined not to miss out on life.

Tonight Linda, Helen and I venture out into Calais and go to the Family Bar, a bustling cheery restaurant where volunteers and locals gather. Something goes askew with our order and we offer the overflow of chips to Allen the Hair and his friends. Somehow we don’t end up paying for the muddled order, so that is a bonus.

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We have heard that our dried food comrade, Dave, is playing his guitar in a local bar, so despite feeling deceased on our feet, we decide to go and support him. It turns out to be a fabulous evening. We meet Claire, his partner and the mad, bubbly Harriet for drink beforehand and then head for the bar where Dave is playing.

Dave had been chatting about music with the owner the previous evening and had shown him a Utube video of him busking in Edinburgh (DaveBeMac). The owner was impressed and keen for Dave to play his venue. When he asks why we are all in Calais, Dave tells him we are staying at the hostel.
“Why?” asks the owner. Dave tells him he is travelling France playing his guitar and we are with him?!?! Groupies or something? The man probes a little more without success.

Many locals are hostile to the refugees, for whom going out into the town has become increasingly dangerous. Head injuries and broken ribs are not uncommon. Now, if they leave the camp they are likely to return without shoes or mobile phones having been told to “Go Jungle” by the CRS (French National Police).

Most refugees would not leave the camp except to tried and board lorries to the UK. Then, of course, they face batons, tear gas and water canons from the police. Some, I am told have made multiple attempts, many very dangerous.

One teenager died recently after falling from a lorry and being hit by a car. The car did not stop. Tragically, the boy had relatives in the UK and a legal right to join them, but had become desperate waiting and had died in his attempt to reach them.

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