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  • There but for the grace of God go I.

    I have all the qualifications required for a down-and-out. I neglect my personal appearance, I have a tendency to become addicted to anything and everything, I am hopeless with money, I can't keep a job, I have no patience with many of the accepted norms of civilised behaviour.

    I drive my family and friends mad with what I prefer to call my "eccentricities". Only a willingness to please and sense of humour redeem me from being absolutely ghastly.

    Anyway, so bad am I that one year absolutely nobody wanted to be with me at Christmas. I needed to find someone who was even worse off than I was. So I wrote an email to the local homeless shelter asking if they wanted any assistance on Christmas Day?

    They did. So I spent Christmas Day cooking and serving turkey dinner to the luckless of York.

    First I met the splendid chef, John, and he instructed me in the ways of the kitchen equipment, and the etiquette of service. One glass of wine per person, was the strict instruction. This was tricky to police, and many subterfuges were employed to try to get past me.

    "I think you had one already?"
    "No, that was someone else who looks like me..."

    Eventually a massive fight broke out between two of the young women and the table was knocked over, glass, tinsel and crackers flew about and all was mayhem until they took it outside.

    The men tutted and apologised to me as I swept up the sparkly shards and splinters of Christmas.

    I got chatting, as the need for serving, clearing and sweeping abated. They were nice. "This is my third turkey dinner today," one man told me. "The Salvation Army, the church and now this. Getting sick of turkey. Can I have another glass of wine?"

    Another man, handsome in a raddled kind of way, with the piercing eyes of an ancient mariner, told me how he'd met a writer in Goa, and narrated him his life story. "You have to write this down," the writer had told him. "It's incredible."

    "But," the handsome man said, gesturing around him as if at the emptiness of his life, "when am I going to get round to that?"
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