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Friday, December 26

Ok. I'll come clean. I'm in London this year for the same reason I was down here last year. I'm a volunteer with Crisis on their Open Christmas project. I haven't shouted about it on this blog, or indeed in any context, because the moment I declare that that's what I'm doing, people's general reaction is "Oh, good for you" or other shades of "Aren't you a wonderful person". I AM a wonderful person*, but doing this is not something that makes me any more or less wonderful.

There's no doubt in my mind that joining the gang of nearly 4000 volunteers on this project is a good thing to do. However, I'm not doing it solely because I think it's the right thing to do, or because I'm some sort of selfless activist. I have no halo. I am a very selfish person and doing Crisis Open Christmas is an act of selfishness on my part. On the up side, this particular act has positive side-effects, but anyone who treats my choice to join in with the project as deserving of praise is missing the point. I don't want to be told that I'm doing something good. If you think it's a good thing to do, then come and do it yourself! Contact me if you would like details of how to get involved, I cannot recommend it highly enough. There'll be another Open Christmas next year between 23rd and 30th December and the number of returning volunteers is testament to the fact that getting involved is a very rewarding experience.

You see... there's a reward.

There are many people for whom Christmas is not an entertaining end to the year. Some of these people are homeless, or have been homeless, and are part of an isolated sector of society. There are some people who are alone at this time of year. There may be no particular significance to this time of year outside of the fact that everyone else chooses not to be alone (if they have the choice) and the world pretty much shuts down. To be imprisoned in your own company under these circumstances is a pretty scary concept. To find an artificial environment, geared up to provide company and activity to fill this gap is a wonderful release from the chains of one's own solitude and from the cacophany of one's internal monologue. The users of the Crisis Open Christmas shelters, be they the guests or the volunteers, find a good place to spend their Christmas.

I am working night shifts at one of the shelters. I've just woken up, having slept since about 10am. The shelter is an hour's walk away from where I'm staying (indeed, where I'm currently sitting writing this blog entry on my laptop via the mobile phone... currently in a damned uncomfortable sitting position). The two hours of walking each day must be good for me. Plus, I've only really got the chance to eat once each day. I want to lose weight this Christmas. Perhaps I'll lose the weight that's crept on during my stand-up comedy inspired glut of gluttony of motorway service station snacks.

In 150 minutes or so I shall get myself motivated to walk to my next shift. In the meantime it's "me time". Food from the nearby convenience store, a shower and maybe a few minutes with my book. It's a basic existence. A B&B, a fair amount of my own company and no luxuries (notwithstanding my laptop and packet of instant mocha coffee). The radio is good company. I can walk away from this existence on 31st December and return to my home in Newcastle.

I think I'll use 2004 to go into rehab for my flapjack addiction.

Or maybe I'll give it another 12 months.

* I am not actually wonderful... more awful, as in "ooh, you are awful"


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