Thursday, May 15, 2008
I'm collecting ...
In practice, the experience is more haphazard. Mrs Heathbank and I were covering the area known as the Bullwood, the main road south of Dunoon. I suspect we get these odd places because the Episcopal church is not so readily associated with a parish, but whatever the reason this is our patch. Only this year we doubled "our" bit of road because of a shortage of able-bodied Piskies willing to take it on. And so it was that on Sunday we covered about 3 miles of road and drives and hillsides as we delivered the envelopes, and this evening we again covered the same 3 miles collecting them. As you will see from the photo, it involved some ingenuity and energy to retrieve some of the envelopes.
I actually hate doing this. Most of all, I hate the dogs. I think there are more dog-owning households down the Bullwood than anywhere else in Dunoon. I was on my second house when the door opened to reveal a large German Shepherd on the step above me, so that its face seemed alarmingly close to my own. It was accompanied by a totally inadequate small girl with golden hair. I found myself gibbering at her. Not a good start. After that, Mrs H got all the houses where I remembered that there were beasts, as well as the ones where there was barking.
Another hazard is the people you meet. One woman yelled (above the barking of two ferocious hounds) that she gave money to her own religion. Reasoning that the money goes to help poor people and is merely collected by Christians didn't work. No luck there. Then there was the old boy who took an age to come down his hall, past washing on a clothes horse, then laboriously unlocked the door. I switched on my brightest smile. "No," he said, lugubriously, and locked up again. And there is the Grumpy Woman in the Dolls House, who waved a minatory finger at us on Sunday, so that we didn't even try to leave an envelope. We've tangled with her before and it wasn't pretty.
You do see some places you never knew existed, though. Some of the houses lurk up huge long driveways, and others have bungalows sprouting in their enormous gardens. Some people have built expensive-looking conservatories and then filled them with junk; others houses have strange smells. I was reminded yet again of Larkin, talking about "the smells of different dinners" - by this time it was well past my dinnertime, but I was glad I wasn't dining at some of the houses we visited.
But the hardest thing of all is remaining polite and cheerful. Mrs H is much better at it than I am. I have an insatiable urge to say "sod off, then" when rejected, or told that I'm doing a grand job but "we have our own charities, thank you." And when people on "my" patch tell me that they've given their contribution to their own church, I have to fight down a snarl. Especially if they've used the envelope I left them.
I have, however, to record that some people are delightful, with their envelopes filled and waiting for us, or rushing off apologetically to find money to put in it as we wait. And most deserving of mention is the former pupil who didn't hear us at her door as she was putting her children to bed when we called. She appeared in her car just as we were setting off back down the road, waving the envelope out of the window. She was going to drop it off at my house if she hadn't caught us. To her, and to all the others who kept the smile on my face - thank you. Till next time ...