Christmas Eve in the night shelter – a memoir

We're all human. Aren't we?

We’re all human. Aren’t we?

Some years ago I was working as a night project worker in an experimental night shelter. It was experimental because it was a ‘wet’ shelter – a temporary haven for the homeless where the residents (we were supposed to call them clients, but I never felt comfortable with that, so to me they were residents) were allowed to bring in and consume alcohol on the premises.

To the casual observer the set up may have appeared to be a recipe for disaster, yet it turned out to be workable for the most part. The shelter was staffed by two salaried project workers with a line manager and a night duty officer on call in case of problems. We worked four nights on and four nights off, opening up the building and admitting the residents from 8pm to 8am daily, and that year Christmas Eve was – along with my co-worker – our last night.

One of the worst aspects of the job came about in the mornings. The residents had beds in individual cubicles and a communal area for socialising, but in the mornings they had to leave as the building was unstaffed in the daytime. That’s a tough call on a cold winter morning. Most residents would while away the daylight hours in the local library, a pub if they had the money, a fast food place or even a laundrette, before coming to the shelter in the evenings for a meal, a spot of socialising and a warm bed for the night.

We couldn’t possibly have turned the residents out onto the street on Christmas morning, so my co-worker and I volunteered to stay on for an extra 8 hours (unpaid) after our shift until a local volunteer group arrived to cook Christmas dinner for the residents.

The same volunteers had opened up an hour early on Christmas Eve, and as I arrived I sensed something amiss. The residents were clustered in a group in the communal area, and one or two were looking agitated.

Next up, the doorbell rang and when I went to answer it I was confronted by half a dozen cops in riot gear and the same number of irate citizens. It later transpired that one of our younger residents had decided to amuse himself by smashing car wing mirrors with a small hammer, and had been pursued by said citizens and police to the shelter.

So the cops came in, and the guilty kid made it clear that he wasn’t going with them without a fight. There was a stand off, and I was stuck in the middle, between an angry young man and police officers holding out canisters of pepper spray. I just did the first thing that came into my head.

“Whoah!” I said to the cops. “Don’t start spraying that shit around. Let me talk to him. He’ll be okay, trust me.”

With that the cops thankfully paused, but the kid was getting increasingly agitated.

“Look,” I said to him. “Think about it. One way or another you’re going to be going with them. The hard way isn’t a good option. Just give it up and talk to them. They won’t hurt you. I promise. I won’t let them.”

Looking directly into his eyes I could see that he wasn’t going to do that, I knew the kid and I knew where he was from, so despite the fact that he appeared to calm down, then raised his hands and said: “Okay.”

He tried to do a runner, bolted, but as he spun around he ran face first directly into a cast iron roof post and knocked himself spark out.

Not the greatest start to an evening in the season of goodwill.

My first duty of care being to the resident, I crouched over him, shielding him from the police, who seemed all too keen to pepper spray him, but to their credit, they didn’t. They thankfully held off.

He was out cold for a matter of seconds, but it seemed like an eternity until he blinked and started talking again. I helped him to his feet and the cops put him in a van without further incident.

Until he realised he’d been nicked and started kicking the shit out of the sides of the van. But that’s more or less a given in the circumstances, and the cops didn’t seem too concerned about it.

Considering all this occurred within ten minutes of the Christmas Eve night shift things weren’t looking good, but everything chilled out considerably after that.

We had three musicians in that night, one a novice, one who’d come from a well off family who’d taken to the streets after losing his friends to drugs, and a sensitive soul from my wife’s home town.

We spent that Christmas Eve listening to these wonderful guys playing sweet music on their guitars and singing. One of the highlights being the former pro band member who gave a comedic interpretation of Eric Clapton’s ‘Wonderful Tonight’ substituting the signature line with: ‘You look like fucking shite.’ Adding that as a busker, asking a guy in a cinema queue what his girlfriend’s name is and then substituting it for Sally in Oasis’s ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ was a guaranteed money spinner.

In the meantime, I got into a conversation with the guy from my wife’s home town, a musically talented and gifted sensitive soul who was a committed vegan. I asked him if he’d eaten and he replied that he hadn’t so I offered to rustle something up for him. He had a passion for garlic mushrooms, and thanks to my beloved wife – from his home town, Worcester – I had the perfect recipe.

So I cooked the guy some garlic mushrooms, and he said they were the finest garlic mushrooms he’d ever tasted. He was teary eyed when he said it, and it moved me.

“I’m going home,” he said. “I’ve decided. It’s been too long.”

“But it’s half four on Christmas morning,” I pointed out. “No trains, no buses. Get your head down here. You’ll be okay.”

“Thanks all the same. But I’m going home,” he said. “Could you open the door please?”

I tried to talk him out of it, but he wasn’t having any of it. He thanked me for the garlic mushrooms, slung his bag on his back and walked off into the mist at 4:30 on Christmas morning, thanking me for my hospitality and understanding.

It was a strange night, yet a wonderful night, and one I will be eternally grateful to have been a part of.

There is no moral to this story. It’s just life experience for all of those involved.

We’re all just people – no more, no less.

Thanks for reading this, and Merry Christmas.

Cafe Spike.


Our Christmas message to politicians

Theresa May - hasn't got a fucking clue what Brexit means.

Theresa May – hasn’t got a fucking clue what Brexit means.

Dear politicians

Whilst we – the great British public – truly appreciate that you’ve taken the time and trouble to record personal Christmas messages to the nation, you really shouldn’t have bothered. [Read more…]


Ten Christmas TV Specials We’d Love To See

It's Christmas Day and this family are settling down in front of the TV to watch 'The Evil Dead.'

It’s Christmas Day and this family are settling down in front of the TV to watch ‘The Evil Dead.’

Strictly Not Dancing – Ten couples who all have two left feet flatly refuse to dance and prop up the bar despite being cajoled by a panel of judges possibly including Jeremy Clarkson, Holly Willoughby, Donald Trump, Nicole Scherzinger and a meerkat out of the Compare The Market ads.

Gogglebox Watch – Drunk people eating massive takeaways are filmed watching and reacting to Gogglebox on the telly, saying how they either like or dislike the Gogglebox regulars and revealing which ones get right up their noses. [Read more…]


Ye Olde Cafe Spike Gift And Noveltie Shoppe – Xmas Sale Now On








Café Spike Xmas Hamper

Café Spike Xmas Hamper

With the festive season careering towards us like a rocket powered one horse open sleigh, our thoughts invariably turn towards purchasing the usual load of old tat in order to keep our friends and relatives sweet over the Christmas period. We know it’s a pain in the proverbial back entry and we want to help. So what we’ve done is we’ve got Café Spike’s Marketing Director to come up with a soupcon of outstandingly tacky gift ideas, going cheap, which you can buy now – and in so doing save yourself the bother of going out in the wind and rain this winter. Ye Olde Café Spike Gift And Novelty Shoppe is proud to announce that our Jumbo Chrimbo Bargain Bucket Sale Jobby is now officially open for business.Stunning Selection

Our Marketing Director has personally hand picked a number of locally sourced junk and novelty items which are available NOW to all devoted Café Spike readers.*

*Offers exclusively restricted to Café Spike Members only. For details send us your name and address on the back of a £50 note in biro and we’ll get right on it once we’ve finished whatever we happen to be doing at the moment.

Sea Gorillas

Here’s a great idea for the kiddies! Sea Gorillas! All you’ll need is a big fish tank to keep your Sea Gorillas in and we’ll take care of the rest. Just send us your money and we’ll send you a sachet containing approximately 250 freeze dried Sea Gorilla eggs. All you have to do is dump them into the water and wait a bit until they hatch, and boy are the kiddies in for a treat when they do. Before you know it you’ll be presiding over your very own miniature Sea Gorilla colony as the cute little hairy characters hatch out and start to colonise your fish tank. You will be the king or queen of your very own Sea Gorilla city, with the ability to be a tyrannical despot or a philanthropic godlike figure presiding over your very own colony of hairy miniature aquatic Sea Gorillas.

And that’s not all!

Aquatic Sea Gorilla Pub. (Artist's Impression.)

Aquatic Sea Gorilla Pub. (Artist’s Impression.)

In conjunction with Dodgy Dave’s Miniatures we have special rates (providing you’re a member) on quality aquatic underwater hotels, pubs, bars, restaurants and sports stadia, roads, bridges, Sea Gorilla cars, submarine factories and army camps. Yes – you read that right. Dedicated Sea Gorilla enthusiasts can start wars by training their Sea Gorillas in miniature Sea Gorilla army camps to go out and oppress their untrained Sea Gorilla brethren until the flames of revolution are stoked.

Make money by charging your friends and neighbours to come round yours and watch your Sea Gorillas – it’s much more entertaining than anything on the telly.

Sea Gorillas starter pack: 250 (approx. – give or take a couple of hundred) freeze dried Sea Gorilla eggs (not freeze dried tadpoles) in a posh sachet only £19.99 + £80.01 service charge. (Includes VAT, postage, packing, handling, payment protection insurance, all beer and company kebab shop fees and our cheap complimentary bonus prize.) Usual terms and conditions apply. Send us your money and there’s an outside chance we’ll actually send you something in return.

Café Spike X-Ray Specs

This one is our most popular seller among adolescent male teenagers – and that’s no surprise! Wa-heyy!!

Teens, let’s be honest here – how many times have you walked around in your town and wondered what that hot guy/chick would look like with no clothes on? We’ve all done it at some point in life and it’s a bit frustrating because you’ll never know – unless of course you physically assault said person and by virtue of physical force divest them of their clothing.

Which isn’t really recommended and could in exceptional circumstances lead to a lengthy term of imprisonment.

And rightly so.

How CS X-Ray Specs Might Look On That Woman Off Shameless

How CS X-Ray Specs Might Look On That Woman Off Shameless

With Café Spike X-Ray Specs there’s no need for any of that malarkey. All you’ll need is a pair of CSXRS’s, a table with a good view of passers by and a walking stick to disguise the effects of this world beating product as you limp away into the sunset.

Our new honeycomb thermoplastic X-Ray lens technology allows you to see right through clothes, and even read credit card numbers through handbags and purses.

In minute and explicit detail.

It even works when you’re watching the telly! (Allegedly.) Just think – Loose Women as nature intended! (Or perhaps not.)

Admittedly, you’ll look like a bit of a knob sat out in public trying to scan naked people in our outrageously oversized and stupid looking X-Ray Specs which make it patently obvious to the whole world and its entire family exactly what you’re up to, and that you’re a bit of a weirdo. But hey, it’s all part of the game – and it will increase your communication skills no end as you try to explain to investigating police officers what the bloody hell you’re doing.

Available now – Only £19.99 + £80.01 handling and admin charges.*

*Credit card purchases may accrue additional billing but we promise it won’t amount to any more than 17,673% pa of the original billing fee.

The Café Spike Ant Farm

Yet another stunningly innovative gift idea from the boffins here at Café Spike – run your own ant farm and become an official air traffic controller as you guide your very own flying ants in and out of your very own flying ant airport, being careful of course to avoid mid-air collisions, and direct your very own ant miners and leaf cutters as you strive to prevent your very own ant colony from extinction/annihilation.

Your starter pack consists of 250 freeze dried ant eggs which may or may not hatch when immersed in water.*

*Café Spike accepts no responsibility or liability for stupid ants that can’t swim when exposed to water. Sorry – but that’s your problem.

You will need – a big terrarium with a thin bit at the bottom so you can see the intricate ant mining tunnels in minute detail. (Magnifying glasses available at reasonable prices. Members Only.)

By our own admission, our Ant Farms aren’t half as entertaining as our legendary Sea Gorillas, which is why we’re offering them at the reduced rate of only £19.98 + £80.02 to cover the fiddly bits, which quite frankly can be a pain in the poop tube.

We Didn't Have Any Pictures Of Ants So We Bunged This One In. We're Guessing It's A Dog.

We Didn’t Have Any Pictures Of Ants So We Bunged This One In. We’re Guessing It’s A Dog.

Having said that though, our Ant Farms are really good if you get some kind of a kick out of watching ants digging tunnels and scurrying about all over the shop despite having no particular place to go. And if you buy the Ant Farm in conjunction with our Café Spike X-Ray Specs offer you’ll be able to see your ants in all their naked glory.*

*Order separately, or add a surcharge of £50 when ordered together. Because we know a mug when we see one.

Stay tuned for more spectacular offers from Ye Olde Café Spike Gift And Noveltie Shoppe.