No Surprises Living in Devizes; The Lonely C Word

Well we made it without skidding on fallen leaves, it’s November and yep, I’m going have to mention the C word. Sorry everyone, I know, don’t want to think about that senseless rush; hoping you’ve enough wrapping-paper, wishing it’d be the relaxing Christmas you’d like it to be as opposed to endlessly shoving AA batteries into toys, trying to keep the cat out of the tree, forgetting to take the pigs in blankets out the oven and racing around the house restricting energetic nipper’s access to the Quality Street tin.

Kids make Christmas, least I’m told, and I’m reminded that I’ll miss it when it’s over. Ever so gradually this sad notion is becoming reality; the kids now roll out of their cribs later than us, rather than bounce enthusiastically on our bed at four-thirty. They’ll amuse themselves with electronic devises, hide in their room listening to atrocious pop (who is Little Mix anyway and what happened to Bananarama?) and complain when I bring out a classic board game only to find the dice missing and the money moulded into papier-mâché since granny spilt her snowball on it while dancing to Slade, three years ago.

If all this does become just a fond memory I’d like to think I’d be prepared. I’d hope to be the grandpa with the crepe paper hat gradually slipping over my face as I orally catch flies on the sofa after a hefty dinner, as harassing grandkids position items around my slumbering frame, you know, empty bottles and beer cans to make it look like I’ve had too many, marbles beneath my slippers awaiting my wee break, and balloons over my face to find them rising with my perpetual snore, a continuous moment of hilarity.

However, there’s always a fear, there’s always a worry that you’ll be alone on Christmas Day, as many are, and let’s face it, no one should be. About four years ago people in this situation met daily in the café at the Shambles in good old Devizes, but it closed on that special day, as do most places of business, and quite rightly so, we all need a break.

Witnessing them expressing their concerns, wondering where they could go, was Jeannette Von Berg, tirelessly collecting funds for the Air Ambulance, as she still does today. Now if you recall a No Surprises Living in Devizes column of yore, we talked of heroes in our town, of those doing great things for the welfare of others, without return.

Jeanette’s name came up on top for her work for the Air Ambulance and many other charities, but we just have to give her another mention here, along with Pam Sloan and her team; of whom Margaret & Chris Stone, Pamela & Bob Hanney, Gladys Cobbert, Michael and Vicki Messam, Ian & Becky Phillis and others have all contributed in past years. They’ll be cooking a whopping Christmas dinner for around about fifty this year, as they do every year since, for people who are alone on Christmas Day.


In a world which seems to be getting perpetually crueller, how absolutely wonderful is this? I’ll tell you shall I? It’s off the scale generous and kind, the sort of thing Christmas should really be about, not Black bleeding Friday riots and driving home tipsy from the office party where you failed you get off with the floosy in HR.

Now you should know me well enough by now to know I can, occasionally when the mood sets, do “nice,” despite this being a rant column. Still I find myself stumbling on my words when I called Jeanette for some more information about this cause, as she humbly explains how the others do most of the cooking and she does the organising, telling me how generous everyone is and how the shops like Sainsburys, Morrisons and Wilkos  kindly give, along with the Lions and Town Council. Healthy Life in the Little Brittox owner, Justina Pettifer, commented on Jeanette’s post on the Devizes Issue Facebook page, offering nut roasts for vegetarians attending, while many others expressed their willingness to help out on the day.

Seems there isn’t a criterion for being eligible to join the dinner, so long as you’re alone, Jeanette expressed it’s not only for the elderly, single parents are among the welcomed for the mass meal at the Baptist Church  on Sheep Street which begins at noon, doesn’t end until four, and includes musical entertainment too.

If you would like to help, or attend the meal then you should contact Jeanette, if you’re having trouble with this, please do not hesitate to message Devizine or Index and I’ll gladly put you in touch.

I’ve still outstanding a visit to Opendoor, the homeless charity of Devizes, hoping to check out the wonderful work they do there and report my findings to you, but it all boils down to the same thing, no, not Brussel sprouts, it boils down to the simple fact that while there’s local people in need, there are wonderful people to help; that, for me, is a convivial motive to reference the C word so early and a spirit in Devizes which makes it special.

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