Looks empty doesn't it? The New Pilot Inn closed some time ago. I used to frequent it, and I still do, though these days in it's new incarnation as a refuge centre for the homeless and street people. They call it 'The Vaughn Centre ' now, and it does good work as the centre for the BRILLIANT Homeless Healthcare Team and GEAR, the Homeless charity that offers facilities for aforementioned fellow-citizens down on their luck.
My mum and dad used to play darts here. In my (very) late teens, I used to accompany them on match days, drink half a pint of cider and blackcurrant, and marvel at how my father could hit the bullseye and calculate what he needed to 'finish' in seconds. Mum, not so good at either, but a worthy member of the team anyway. I was never good enough to play in the team, but I could occasionally hit the board ...
Two weeks ago, I learned from my friend Tony Hipkins, who majors in holding Gloucestershire County Council to account for its provision for vulnerable people, emailed to say that GEAR has no funding to open the Vaughn Centre at Christmas this year. I shall find out why, in due course, to see if a fuss needs to be made about it, but in the meantime there is some cash to raise. £200, in fact.
Abigail and I went to church this morning. Not together, because she goes with with her mum and dad. When I arrived she was crying becauss she'd lobbed her pet dinosaur across the aisle and hit somebody. When mummy requested that she desist from such behaviour, Abigail took offence and started to howl. She's my granddaughter, and I love her to bits, but I know mummy is right, so Abs just has to get over it without sympathy from grandma.
Father Aidan gave me permission to make an appeal for a second collection for GEAR and Christmas, and I sit preoccupied through the Mass wondering what I am going to say, as the "Feed The World" angle has already been taken.
Abigail returns from Little Church, dinosaur trauma forgotten, with an activity book all about Advent. "Look grandma!" She announces, loudly, because that's her volume setting, and she reads, "No room at the inn!"
A light goes on in my brain:
"I'm not sure of what I'm going to say, because this is so close to my heart, (and here I tear up) but Abigail has just reminded me of when I was a teenager and used to go with my mum and dad to play darts at The New Pilot Inn in Gloucester, which is now a refuge for the homeless, and which can't open at Christmas this year because it has no money. Honestly, if the church can't open the inn door to the lonely and the lost at Christmas, we might just as well pack up and go home... "
Not sure how I ended up, but the result was a collection that raised far more than £200
That's Christmas sorted, now let's see what can be done for the new year ...