Stories from the Pop-Up

We’ve been running our BASIC Community Pop-Up Shop for a few months now.

Some of our customers have been happy to share their stories with us. Here are some of them,

The names have been changed and the stories are shared with the permission of those involved.

Juliet

I first met Juliet with her friend Mavis a couple of years ago.

They came into the BASIC Walton shop and, as usual on a Saturday, we chatted.

Juliet shared with me that she worked for a nationwide hardware store but was struggling to make ends meet as they were cutting her hours.

After a while it became clear that she was in real need so we passed on a couple of bags from our food bank supply to her. Mavis was in a similar position and between then they just about managed to scrape together enough money to drive around town once a week.

Mavis really craved one thing which she certainly could never afford. Coffee!

Over the next couple of years Juliet and Mavis would pop in once a week and we’d discreetly pass on some food. We’d give Mavis a jar of coffee now and then when one became available.

To me, Juliet and Mavis were just one more pair of the countless people who would come to BASIC in Walton for assistance. We helped whenever we could.

Now Juliet is a regular visitor to the pop-up shop. She is a smart, educated lady and not at all the stereotype person one may imagine might need food.

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated quietly together because she was able to donate something back to our BASIC pantry. Things had come full circle.

Here’s her story.

Juliet is a fully trained legal secretary with a good knowledge of shorthand and has impressive administrative skills. However, achieving this level of skill she got married and had three children which meant any career ideas would have to be put on hold.

The youngest of her children was disabled so Juliet embarked on a life as a housewife and carer for the next thirty years.

After all this time her husband announced that he had found another woman and set forward divorce proceedings. By this time the children had flown the nest and it dawned on Juliet that her skills were now redundant. Society and working practices had changed beyond recognition during those years of being a housewife.

The marital home was sold and Juliet had just enough money to buy a small house but this left absolutely no disposable income.

Not only had Juliet lost her husband and home – she had lost any sense of security and the future looked scary and bleak.

She swallowed her pride and looked for work, eventually finding a job at the nationally known hardware store.

At the time I met her Juliet’s hours had been cut several times and she actually had less than £10 to last her per week. Eventually they were cut to just eight hours per week which represented working on just a Monday.

This was too much and despite her need for income and social contact Juliet decided to retire. She knew this would mean she had to exist on the very bare national pension.

She is surviving. She has even been able to donate back to the community who helped her during the darkest times and she now visits the pop-up to buy her £1 bag.

The contents of that one bag are designed to last her the whole week.

Juliet is very conscientious and never, ever takes more than she needs.

When she told me she ‘probably wouldn’t be here’ without the help it was very sobering.

I am sure she would want me to thank you, the people who have donated. On her behalf.

Linda and Brian

I’d seen Linda and Brian most days when I’d drive down to our depot at 7am. To begin with I’d wondered what they were doing making the long walk along Langer Road so early each morning.

Over time it became clear that they were delivering newspapers!

When we opened the pop-up they were the first people to come along.

They are happy and cheerful and Linda is likely to give anybody – and I mean anybody – a massive hug whenever she sees them.

I reminded her a couple of weeks ago about the dark-haired lady who had visited who received a very big Linda-style hug. She remembered. I then informed her that the lady she squashed and squeezed was actually a Baroness….

Brian, it turned out is her son. He is as bright and cheerful as his Mum and by the second week they were helping us to set up the tables before opening.

When they shared their story I was stuck by the sudden serious tone Linda adopted. She was obviously recalling some difficult times.

It became apparent that food insecurity had been a problem for a long time. ‘Quite often the freezer and fridge would be completely empty’ she told me.

‘So what did you do, what did you eat?’

‘Toast’ was the stark reply.

‘Just toast?’ I asked

‘Yes’ she answered, before appearing to spot a new person across the room who hadn’t had one of her special hugs yet!

Emma

I’d noticed Emma at the pop-up a few times before we spoke.

She was an elegant lady who belended into the crowd. She sometimes had her daughter with her.

One day she was taking photos of the stained glass windows and I engaged her in conversation.

We chatted over a coffee and she explained that her daughter, Lucy, was looking forward to some social activities with her school over the next week. It seemed that Emma was a single parent and the break from daily responsibilities would be a welcome respite.

In time Emma shared her story.

She had experienced differences with Lucy’s Dad towards the end of their marriage. This became greatly compounded when he was diagnosed with a terminal disease.

Emma had, of course, been torn between caring for her soon-to-be ex-husband and the welfare of her daughter.

She made sure her daughter maintained contact with her father until his death but then found she was in a state of grieving, explaining, understanding and supporting her daughter while  having extremely limited personal resources.

The pop-up had been a ‘life saver’ she explained and she was so very grateful to the people who donate the items.

Emma is certain that when circumstances improve for her she will ‘give back to the wonderful community in Felixstowe in some way’.