Friday afternoon was a little different. I’d been kindly invited to visit an Asylum Seekers Group and have lunch with them. There are many collective and individual differences between myself and the men and women I was introduced to. Ethnic background, religious beliefs, age, skin colour and so on. I was only really aware of one difference though, and that is that I lead a safe, comfortable, and privileged existence. I’m not running away from anything and nor have I been thrust into a strange country where I don’t know anyone. I have to contend with the slings and arrows of everyday life and nothing more. I don’t know the horror of being somewhere too dangerous for me to remain, and trying to find refuge in a foreign environment where the locals can sometimes be less than friendly.
The one thing we did all have in common however, is that like me my new friends are all gay, and being gay is rather more difficult for them than it is for Heather and I (putting it mildly). Rainbow Home is an LGBT Asylum Seekers Group run jointly by MESMAC North East and Northern Lights Metropolitan Community Church in Newcastle. I met the cheerful and gregarious pastor Cecilia Eggleston who organised some games for us all, including balloon wafting and egg and spoon. Then a couple of the chaps and I debated the fate of Alan Pardew over a splendid sit down lunch cooked for us by Janet Owen from Mesmac. I came away feeling very humble. For further information see Rainbow Home
Sunday morning saw us discover some more rainbows, the watery sun had them out in force at the Newcastle Stampede
We were up early in preparation for Heather taking part in the event which is a 10k assault trial over Newcastle Race Course in aid of the British Heart Foundation. She knew it would be gruelling, organisers advised that she should tape her trainers to her feet with duct tape. She had the duct tape but had neglected to buy safety pins to attach her race number to her tee-shirt. I heard her rummaging around upstairs before she appeared clutching something;
“What are these?” she asked, palm outstretched, “Can I use them to pin my number on?” She had my silver and gold medals for blood donations.
“Well what will I use then?”
I love the way she places the problem on to me and I marvel at how she ever managed before we met. Take Thursday night for instance, I was perusing frozen pizzas in Tesco’s when my phone rang, no preamble, no nothing.
“Am I alright to park here?”
“Er, I don’t know I’m in Tesco’s, where are you?”
“I’m on the Quayside, have a look on the Find my iPhone app and see if I’m OK to park.”
“Well can you not just read the sign?”
“I can’t see a sign, just look on the app will you.”
Anyway, back to Sunday morning. We finally managed to locate some safety pins but it still left Heather with the conundrum of how to attach her electronic tag to her shoe.
“Well how did you attach it when you did the Blaydon Run?” I asked quite reasonably.
“Helen did it for me.”
Happily Helen was doing the Stampede as well and we were picking her up, so problem solved.
It was a sunny though somewhat blustery autumn morning, but we got parked OK and Heather and her friend Helen got themselves registered and collected spanking new British Heart Foundation tee shirts. They were supposed to put them on, but they didn’t want to get them muddy and gave them to me to look after. For the same reason we travelled in my car that day and not Heather’s, can’t be doing with clarts in her pristine Hyundai. Off they went, and I occupied myself with a walk and managed to find a strategic photo point where I hung around to get a couple of shots. Then I stood near the finish line and waited in anxious anticipation. After what seemed like a very long time they rounded the corner, their white and green tee shirts and reddish heads of hair now all one shade of dark brown. I got quite a lump in my throat.
The Newcastle Stampede was not something we’d ever heard of, and taking part was first suggested back in January, but not by Heather. She agreed that it was a good idea and eagerly entered – only to find that no one else did and she was on her own. Fortunately Helen stepped up to the plate and it’s a fantastic achievement for both of them. Back injury prevents me from taking part in such activities (I couldn’t actually do the balloon wafting on Friday because too much bending) however even when I was fully fit I think I would have looked at the spec for this event and decided that it was too cold, muddy, dirty and difficult. Very well done ladies, and also to friends of mine Liv and Poppy who completed it too. Their start time was a little later on in the day and I would have loved to have stayed to cheer them on at the finish line as well, but I had two cold and muddy charges to take home. Helen was shivering and I helped her on with her seat belt, then unfortunately I drove off forgetting about Heather and leaving her stranded on the kerb. We noticed she was missing (eventually) and went back for her – she didn’t seem very pleased with me……..