Sometimes it’s the worst of times that brings out the best in people. My mother always talked about the ‘spirit of the blitz’. In talking to ex miners what they missed most was the camaraderie of being underground even though, or maybe because, there was always the sense of possible imminent danger.
It seems strange to me that in the 21st Century, in a country as rich as the UK, people are going hungry, people are living in cold houses. It’s true that I was brought up in a house with no central heating. My dad would get up early every morning to light the one fire in the house which then helped warm the back boiler which provided hot water.
In the winter months, every night I would take off the clothes I had worn that day and pile them high on top of the sheets, eiderdown, and all of my other clothes and coats that created the ‘nest’ I would sleep in. I have to say after I had created some heat by ‘cycling’ in bed it was really cosy but getting up the next morning, sometimes with ice on the insides of the windows, it was purgatory.
Now you often hear older people looking back at those tough times and saying, ‘it didn’t do us any harm’. Why are young people moaning?
This month my central heating broke down. For 2-3 days I had no warm radiators, no hot towels and a bed just like in the old days was covered in lots of blankets and coats. It was awful. I didn’t feel a warm, nostalgic glow, I felt cold and miserable and by day 3 I had a runny nose. I have no desire to go back to the ‘good old, cold old days’ and no one else should be expected to either.
Anyway, here we are in December. This is still a special time of year. Christmas, Peace on earth, Goodwill to all men. Over the past few days I have seen that though these might indeed be ‘the worst of times’ the Spirit of Christmas is still very much with us in these ‘cost of living’ crisis days.
On Wednesday I went to the Sketty Food bank to draw the Christmas Raffle. The church hall was full of busy workers getting packages of food ready for people from their community who need help at the moment. It was in a church but not everyone there went to that church’ or any other church for that matter, they just wanted to help. One man I had known for years from football told me he wasn’t religious. He had seen something on Facebook and wanted to help. For others in the church this was an expression of their faith.
The foodbank had recently received grants to get hold of a shipping container. They were installing electricity so that they could run a big freezer allowing them to keep and store more perishable items. On the one hand it was wonderful to see these extra facilities being provided by the council and big business. On the other hand it seemed to me we are preparing for this ‘foodbank’ culture to last for some time to come.
There were over 30 prizes in the raffle all donated by local golf clubs and fitness centres, artists and hairdressers. These businesses must have taken a massive hit during COVID but they still keep giving. We should try our best to support them if we can.
Cerys Bevan MD Valley Rock Voices making plans at Swansea Market
And today we launch the ‘Everyone Deserves a Christmas’ appeal in Swansea Market. The project of creating Christmas hampers started on the kitchen table of Swansea East MP. Over the years it has grown as the need has grown. As the need has grown so has the support from the local community.
I’ve known Carolyn since we were kids, she knows my dark secrets so when she asks for my help I can’t say no. I don’t want to put myself down but I’m pretty useless at most things, particularly practical things, but the one thing I do have in my favour is that I have is a lot of very talented friends.
This year we have created a 12 track album to raise awareness and funds for #EveryoneDeservesaChristmas. Building on the success of last year’s project with Steve Balsamo we have now added a number of other artistes to the album.
The thing about a project like this is once you explain what it’s all about people really do want to help. The solo artistes involved, Bronwen Lewis Steve Balsamo and Alyssa Bonagura were fairly straightforward to record. The choir was a different story. There are over 200 of them and they rehearse over 2 different sites on 2 different days and at the time of asking them they were starting preparations for their own Christmas concerts.
Alyssa Bonagura recording O Come All Ye Faithful.
Within 5 minutes of me calling Valley Rock Voices MD Cerys Bevan she was onboard and planning how to make it happen.
Today’s launch in Swansea Market is once again a testimony to goodwill. The market management and traders all needed to say yes, then we had to make sure that Steve and Bronwen were free. Finally we had to plan for 200 choir members entering the market without causing a major road block.
If you are free and in Swansea City Centre tomorrow why not pop along to the market at 11.30am.
The launch marks the start of a month of hard work by so many people to raise money and awareness of the #everyonedeservesachristmas hamper charity. Then we move into the final few hectic days up to Christmas when we pack and deliver these wonderful Christmas Hampers.
I pray that we don’t get used to this level of support being needed to help our communities survive but while these hard times are here I am so proud of everyone who has given their time freely and with such great spirit to make this year special… for all of us.
PS The video for ‘Away in a Manger -I Orwedd Mewn Preseb’ features in tomorrow night’s S4C show Dechrau Canu Dechrau Canmol. 7.30 pm Sunday 4th December – 7.30pm Dydd Sul 4th Rhagfyr