Posted by BE on December 26th, 2012
Though she was an Ulster woman through and through, my mother was in the habit of using that lovely Yorkshire expression of surprised disapproval, ‘There’s nowt so queer as folk.’ I was reminded of this yesterday during the Auckland City Mission’s Christmas Lunch.
In order not to take the gilt off the gingerbread, I should begin by saying that the lunch was a fabulous occasion. Some 2800 needy and/or solitary people of all ages were fed, watered and entertained in a mammoth effort that ran, as the Herald reported this morning, ‘like a well-oiled machine’.
This is the second occasion that Judy and I have had the privilege of being ‘Santa’s Little Helpers’. Our job, along with around a hundred other of Mr Claus’s staff, was to discover the gender and age of each of the diners at one or perhaps two tables before lunch was served, return to Santa’s Cave, fill our sacks with the age/gender appropriate presents – all beautifully wrapped – and deliver them at the end of lunch to the delighted diners. Joy unconfined!
It isn’t of course possible for the City Mission also to feed the 500 odd volunteers who help to make the lunch run like that well-oiled machine. But a limitless selection of Christmas mince pies and lollies is available to stave off hunger over the three or four hours required. Trouble is, as you know, I’m a Type 2 diabetic and though I might crave a diet of mince pies and lollies, it just isn’t on the prescribed diabetic menu. No problem – I made some cheese, lettuce and tomato sandwiches which Judy carefully wrapped in greaseproof paper and popped in a small green plastic bag with our fold-up umbrellas.
Now Judy is one of those people who prepares for every eventuality – in this case the possibility that, amid all the frenzied activity, the bag with the umbrellas and sammies might get misplaced. So she wrote on the greaseproof paper: BRIAN’S DIABETIC SANDWICHES.
After checking on the genders and ages of the people at our allocated tables and stuffing our sacks with presents, we sat down to eat our sammies. The green bag was where we’d left it, complete with umbrellas and… nothing else! The sandwiches were gone. Viewing our distress, neighbouring SLHs asked what was wrong and, when we told them, expressed appropriate amazement, quickly followed by outrage. ‘What sort of mongrel would do something like that?!’
The thing is, it didn’t make sense. The very idea that someone who volunteers to help at the City Mission’s Christmas Lunch would be capable of stealing and eating someone else’s food, least of all when the owner was clearly identified as a diabetic, seemed beyond belief. There must be some other explanation; The sandwiches must have fallen out of the bag; someone must have found them and handed them in or set them down somewhere else.
It was then that Judy spotted a piece of paper scrunched up in a glass on a table just next where we were sitting. The ‘What sort of mongrel?’ lady pulled the paper out and began to unfold it. And there was Judy’s inscription: BRIAN’S DIABETIC SANDWICHES.
Here’s what I’d like. I’d like the person who stole and ate my sandwiches to ring or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and fess up and apologise. I’d like to know what explanation they have for behaving in such an inappropriate way on such a giving occasion. I won’t publish their name and I’ll accept their apology.
Did it spoil the day? No, it was a wonderful occasion which, as it did last year, could only serve to affirm one’s belief in the goodness and generosity of most Kiwis.
But sometimes you just have to say, ‘There’s nowt so queer as folk!’
Oh, I forgot to mention. I was loitering with other SLHs around the dining tables as we were being given our running orders when an extremely attractive, long-legged young woman approached me, handed me her card and asked if she could have a photograph taken of the two of us. The card was headed ‘Miss World 2102, New Zealand’.
Now you’ll understand that a youthful 75-year-old with the sexual magnetism, not to mention the body, of a David Beckham, and the intellectual pulling power of a Descartes, is unsurprised by approaches from beautiful women of all ages. So I naturally agreed.
Judy, seemingly unperturbed, took the photo on her cell phone. As I was preening myself in front of the bathroom mirror later that afternoon, she was kind enough to point out that the card almost certainly belonged to the promoters of Miss World 2012 New Zealand, and that, without their prompting, the beautiful young woman would almost certainly not have known me from a bar of soap.
Well, you be the judge. Isn’t the photograph of the two of us at the top of this post exactly the sort of picture of a glamour couple you’d find in a Hollywood fan magazine or Vanity Fair? Isn’t it?
Far be it for me to judge but the bloke with the beard has more pizzazz!
BE: Spectacles perhaps, Geoff?
Giving to the needy has no conditions
BE: Which particular conditions are you referring to?
Get over yourself Brian. It’s not all about you. You sound like the grinch who stole Xmas.
BE: I’m not sure how you could place that interpretation on my post. For a more reasoned comment check out Rex Widerstrom below. Or perhaps you’re unaware of the dangers of hypoglycaemia for diabetics. That’s one of the reasons why I’d like the person who took the sandwiches to ring me – to explain just how irresponsible his or her actions were. Then again, maybe I should just ‘get over myself’ as you so helpfully suggest.
It doesn’t sound as though one of “the needy” stole Brian’s sandwiches. If someone among the guests had nabbed the packet and spirited it away to eat on one of the 364 days of the year when their needs aren’t so well catered, that’d be mean-spirited but perhaps excusable.
But it seems they were consumed on the spot by someone amongst the helpers, all of whom could presumably have afforded their own sandwiches and thus lacked not money or food but foresight and common decency.
For a diabetic, not having at hand the means to safely boost blood sugar (as opposed to scoffing fruit mince pies) can not be at best very unpleasant and at worst dangerous.
A low act but also, as Brian notes, a curious one given the perpetrator’s very presence was presumably motivated by a desire to do good, not evil.
It was probably the Chinese tourists who mistakenly thought diabetic sandwiches increased sexual potency.
BE: Racist, Ben.
Brian, I would have thought that you and Judy, having both spent a fair amount of time on this planet and, presumably, paying attention for the most part, would have learned by now the folly of labelling anything in such an attention-seeking way.
Judy would have been far better off writing “FREE SANDWICHES – HELP YOURSELF”. I guarantee nobody would have touched them. I’ve seen the same thing countless times when people put an unwanted household item on the grass verge with a sign saying FREE. If I see them, I invariably advise them to change the sign to say e.g. FOR SALE – $50 – APPLY INSIDE. The item is gone within 5 minutes, every time.
BE: Sandwiches in the bottom of a bag is scarcely ‘attention seeking’. And the volunteers at this function are the nicest people you could hope to meet. Scarcely a venue where’d you’d even begin to think that anything, let alone some sandwiches, would disappear.
Clearly it was the “what sort of mongrel” lady. That sort of fervour only comes from overcompensating or callous piss-taking.
Sad innit how we think the worst of others and the best of ourselves. Mayhap there’s the teeniest possibility that the “mongrel” who “stole” the sammies (as opposed to munching the free pies) was, or knew of, a diabetic present and thought that the nice anonymous Brian had thoughtfully brought some fare to donate? And mayhap, if it were a true mongrel, the first thought from the well-heeled “victim” may be to mention to organisers the idea of providing diabetic fare in the future – rather than leaping straight onto the blame train and wanting an apology? And mayhap miss NZ just wanted a photo with any old derilect-looking coot and picked the neediest-looking to hand?
BE: Inanity followed by anonymous abuse. The difference between you and me, ak, is that I put my name to my opinions.
I agree with you entirely Brian about the satisfactions associated with helping out at a lunch such as this. In Wellington’s Aro Valley where I live there is a long standing tradition of providing such a lunch started by a local over three decades ago. I used to volunteer myself. I also agree that the theft of your sandwiches was a low and mean spirited act. But the event itself and the theft tells us a lot about the sort of society this has become. I was fascinated by the presence of Chinese tourists (what the . . . ?) but when a City Mission person was asked about this on the TV news she said this was an opportunity for them to see what a sharing and caring community we are. Actually I draw the opposite conclusion. If we were that sort of community we wouldn’t be having to provide Christmas lunch for several thousand people who presumably (in what is after all a wealthy society with plenty to go around if we chose to share on a ‘fair go’ basis) can’t afford to pay for their own. We have, instead, created the sort of society in which people steal one another’s sandwiches. Thank you Roger Douglas et al
Not in the least bit racist. It was reported that a load of Chinese tourists attended the event and I merely observed that it may have been one of them not understanding English too well.
BE: On reflection, Ben, sounds like a reasonable explanation.
The sandwiches were delicious. Thanks Brian. Now, where did my tour guide go. Burp.
Methinks Myles has got it right.
Sadly, there are some who get their jollies from upsetting other people. They believe it is their right, nay duty, to do so.
A diabetic’s sandwiches would be a real coup.
We can do no more than arrange our lives so as to minimise their depredations – they will never learn.
Fortunately there are others, such as yourself and Judy, who get satisfaction from helping others.
P.S. Loved the contrast in the photo.
Brian, I did read a random report for a media outlet; it may have been twitter, that said a member of public who attended the Auckland city missions’ christmas lunch reported that they were greatful for the diabetic sandwhiches they had after realising their blood glucose levels needed adjusting on Christmas day.
In the spirit of Christmas I will certainly agree that the gentleman in the photo has the physique and sex appeal of David Beckham.
Unfortunately in the spirit of Boxing Day I seem to see a resemblance to another couple whose photo appeared in the paper the other day. I am to kind to say who they were but, appropos of nothing in particular, did you see the item about Hugh Hefner(80+) and his affianced(about 25) making up and planning to get married after all?
BE: There are no photographs of me in pyjamas or a dressing gown, so it’s difficult to comment on the Hefner resemblance. However, I will say that the elf hat doesn’t do me justice. For comparison I’ve inserted a photo of Judy and me taken yesterday.
On the sound basis of never ascribe to malice what can be explained by incompetence, maybe one of the not-so-bright SLHs wondered what was in the bag, found the sammies, asked around for the nearest Brian and promptly fed him the sandwiches?
BE: There are other Brians?
I like the photo of you and judy but why are you lying down on the rug?
What a lovely shot of Judy – but I fear you, Brian, look somewhat more sophisticated WITH the beard, and somewhat haggard without it. And stay away from children (as in the top photo), unless they’re your own grands…
Apart from ak being a colossal grinch, I must admit that thought of the possibility of a frustrated diabetic guest purloining your sammies also occurred to me. As a photographer I wonder if Judy must have deliberately used the Retro setting on her mobile to make the pic of you and herself appear burnt out and overexposed and used the correct exposure for you and Miss NZ to make everybody look photogenic. Or maybe it was you that altered the settings Brian!
Nice photo. It reminds me of something….
Interestingly, I believe the full original expression is “‘Tis nowt queerer than folk tin a leipreachan elf; shart a few sams o’ a picnic”. Quite spooky really.
BE: Now that is a spooky coincidence. Thank you.
What a shame that Brian took this attitude towards his sandwiches. Wouldn’t it have been much more charitable to note that in future a diabetic alternative could be supplied for those such as himself instead of jumping to the conclusion that someone has simply stolen them. That person may have well thought they were for a diabetic. Hardly a display of Christmas generousity of thought and deed on Brians part.
Why does thid letter seem to focus our attention more on Brian one way or another? I live in the Kapiti area and I am just looking from an outsiders point of view with no axe to grind.
Surely photographs of the people in need at the Christmas Do and the helpers would have been more in the spirit of the day.
It is sad to see how many people give of there time for alternative motives than compassion, love and empathy, to be seen to be doing the ‘right’ thing and look at me. The spirit of giving should be to serve without glorifying oneself.
I hope Brian and others reflect on what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.
Blessings to you all.
BE: What a througly self-righteous and offensive comment. Did you actually read the Post? Well, if you did, you evidently missed this:
“In order not to take the gilt off the gingerbread, I should begin by saying that the lunch was a fabulous occasion. Some 2800 needy and/or solitary people of all ages were fed, watered and entertained in a mammoth effort that ran, as the Herald reported this morning, ‘like a well-oiled machine’.
“This is the second occasion that Judy and I have had the privilege of being ‘Santa’s Little Helpers’. Our job, along with around a hundred other of Mr Claus’s staff, was to discover the gender and age of each of the diners at one or perhaps two tables before lunch was served, return to Santa’s Cave, fill our sacks with the age/gender appropriate presents – all beautifully wrapped – and deliver them at the end of lunch to the delighted diners. Joy unconfined!”
“Did it spoil the day? No, it was a wonderful occasion which, as it did last year, could only serve to affirm one’s belief in the goodness and generosity of most Kiwis.”
As for the photograph of me with the beauty queen, it’s really a piece of self-parody, as the text suggests. And the link to the Herald takes you to a fulsome review of the lunch with photographs.
And yes, I did find it surprising that, at an event such as this, someone would nick and eat a meal clearly marked as being for a person with diabetes. As I said, ‘There’s nowt so queer as folk.’
There’s a lot in your comment about ‘compassion, love and empathy’, but very little evidence of any of those in what you’ve written.
I think the elf hat suits you, Brian.
And was the young lady’s card really headed ‘Miss World 2102′? She’ll be about 110 by then.
BE: But you’ve got to agree, she’s worn particulalry well.’