Alnmouth WI, October meeting

There was a little less than our usual turnout for the Alnmouth WI October meeting, but given the evening it was, perhaps understandable – we’re not used to the darker, cold nights yet, we’ve been spoiled by our lovely weather in September.

Yvonne, our vice-president, was in the chair for the meeting as Janis, our president was down with a very bad chest infection. After a warm welcome and last month’s minutes, she got on with correspondence and telling us a little of their visit to our twin WI – Why Aye, which had gone very well, and been enjoyed by all who had attended.

Among the correspondence were some very nice invitations from fellow WIs as well as one from our local Aln Gift Shop, who had a Christmas Special on Sunday, offering a glass of sherry and 10 per cent off all goods bought that day.

Also, there is going to be a Pottery Painting evening on November 18, in the Hindmarsh Hall for our members, details of which can be obtained from our secretary Caroline Martin on 830798.

As our winter warmer fund-raiser on Tuesday, October 21, is approaching very quickly, names were taken for helpers and, after Celia gave us a brief description, in her role as programme secretary, of what is going to happen at our November meeting, described as members’ night (which sounds pretty good), Yvonne introduced our speaker, Dominic Appleby, a Newcastle street pastor.

Dominic started by giving us a brief description of himself. He is 28 years old and his ‘day job’ is a funeral director. He is newly-married and has been a street pastor since 2003.

To say he was an engaging speaker is being modest as he described his ‘night job’, from 10pm to 4am, in great detail.

The Street Pastors is a Christian organisation covering all faiths but, unless asked to talk about the subject, they never push their views at all. Their job is to help in any way they can every Friday and Saturday in the centre of Newcastle and they are certainly kept busy with both young men and girls out enjoying themselves, perhaps going over the top a little with alcohol, which, of course, affects their reasoning just a little.

The worst time is when the various bars begin to close as, when the oxygen hits them after they get outside, things start to ‘kick off’ (his description) and that’s when the street pastors really get involved.

There are two teams of four covering most of the area, all with their emergency rucksacks containing water, chocolate, flip-flops, etc, as most of the ‘needy’ sometimes just want a bit of sorting out, even just a shoulder to cry on, and between them they can usually stop an argument getting out of hand.

Unbelievable really but Dominic assures us that the Bigg Market is a lot less violent now than it was when he first became a street pastor.

One thing we learned was Newcastle is the seventh party city in the world. We are very undecided whether that is good or bad.

The flip-flops, by the way, are for the girls who start the evening off with extremely high heels and, as time gets on, abandon them. As the ground is then, more than likely, covered in glass, they are glad to be given a pair.

The street pastors are all fully trained to meet most problems but find the calming-down method, before they ‘kick off,’ the preferred and usually successful solution.

Dominic was faced with many questions from our members, which he answered fully, telling us how it really is, but he did say most of the ‘lads and lasses’ were there just to have a good time and everyone works together from the door men, St John Ambulance, street cleaners and taxi drivers and, of course, the police to try to get them home safely.

An eye-opener to us all and it made an excellent, sometimes disturbing, evening.

He is now down to just one weekend a month being newly married and although his wife supports him 100 per cent, she does worry about him.

Barbara Galbraith thanked Dominic on our behalf for telling us about the good work the Newcastle Street Pastors do and it’s a feeling of relief that these young men, as well as girls, are out there in a purely voluntary role keeping an eye on things and giving a helping hand to whoever is in need of one.

As there were no October birthday girls present, the lovely flowers were added to the raffle and the competition for the best chutney was judged by Eileen Holland, a visitor for the evening, the winner being Ann Coyne.

As our supper was a selection of cheese with crackers, we also tasted some of the lovely chutneys made by our members.

Our November meeting, as mentioned, is Members’ Night, so we are looking forward to whatever we are presented with.