Barbara, my Fellow Trustee, turns up at the Quaker Meeting House on her mobility scooter, waving what looks like a cutlass. She resembles a particularly fearsome pirate which isn't quite what you might expect in a place
as, well, wholesomely friendly as the Quaker Meeting House.
Fear not, dear reader, the knife, warlike as it appears, has been brought along for no more sinister purpose than to slice hot cross buns and cheesey
scones, preparatory to them being spread with butter. We know how to give participants at the quarterly Voluntary Sector Forum a good time.
For yes, indeed, that is what we are doing, this sunny Tuesday morning.
Enjoying the inspiring company of so many representatives from voluntary and community organisations who work tirelessly to make our lovely town of Worthing an even better place to live. Particularly if you need help because you're depressed, or homeless,
or need a boost to your self-confidence, or are living with a long term illness or caring for someone in need. I could go on - and on - but I'm sure you get the message. There's only so much the statutory agencies can do to address the multiplicity of needs
in any community - and it's the voluntary sector which valiantly picks up the slack. Unsung heroes, one and all.
Barbara's Other Half, Chris, has turned up with two enormous boxes of "stuff." When we had to
leave our Town Hall offices at the end of last year, we decided what absolutely needed to be kept and divided it up amongst any Trustee with a bit of space in their loft or garage. Unfortunately we do not have a list of "Who Has What?" so tracking things down,
even assisted by the Power of Email, takes some doing.
I take a quick look in the boxes, my eye immediately caught by an enormous packet of tea bags. Honestly, we possess enough tea bags to re-enact the Boston
Tea Party. All we need is a ship. Having already purchased tea bags, coffee and sugar for today's event, I am reminded of the need for an inventory. One day, possibly, I will find some time..
Chris also carries
in three large flasks, already filled to the brim with hot water. It seems the Awesome Twosome have thought of everything.
Whenever I phone them at home, I am always completely discombobulated because they
sound exactly the same. "Barbara?" I ask, timidly. Or, sometimes: "Chris?" I always, but always, get it wrong. Is it something about living with each other and taking on certain characteristics? Though Mr B and I have lived together for over 50 years and I
don't know of anyone who has mistaken one of us for the other over the phone.
Our straitened circumstances as a charity mean that we have to do things differently. Every Trustee is called on to lend a hand,
whether setting up tables, meeting and greeting, buttering hot cross buns or washing up afterwards. As Chair, I try to do A Bit of Everything. Nobody seems to object to our Do It Yourself approach to the dispensing of tea and coffee while the cheese scones
and hot cross buns go down extremely well.
It's the Youngest of the Darling Daughters birthday today but our celebrations will have to wait until tomorrow when she joins Mr B and me for a Birthday plus One.
I have fastened a daffodil in my buttonhole - daffodils being her favourite flower - as a kind of marker of the occasion. When I have finished at the Forum, I need to pick up the ingredients for a birthday cake and find time for a quick trip to town to buy
her birthday presents. It is, I concede, all rather lastminute.com.
Thanks to so many helping hands, our Forum is a great success. I am bowled over by the brilliant ideas emerging for an exciting new
partnership project. Nobody seems to want to leave, they stay on chatting, exchanging contact details, promising to stay in touch. This is what these quarterly gatherings are all about.
"Can I give you a hug?"
I ask Barbara, tentatively. You can never be sure, can you, if a person is happy to be enveloped in a bear hug. Barbara accepted my hug graciously. How would we have pulled off such a successful morning, I say, without her help and that of her Other Half?
A hug was the very least she deserved.