Saturday, 7 July 2012

Day 13 begins

Day 13 begins

I awoke to the sound of some early morning conversations. It was only 5 am. But day had already arrived, even if it was a bit drizzly. I got up to find dozens of fishermen set up and casting their lines into the pond behind where I had put my tent. I don't think that they had seen me as I was park side of the bushes, but what the hey, they also had little tents set up too. It felt like a mini campsite. I quickly got everything packed away and stowed in my bag and began the task of finding a spot for breakfast and somewhere to use the facilities. Asda are always very helpful in this department and now I have no vehicle to find a parking space for it was even easier. Washed and ready to face the day I set out along Hessle Rd towards the center of Hull. I found a barbers open at this hour and went in for a quick trim, my hair was becoming a bit unruly.

Taz was a young man from Northern Iraq of all places. I smiled as we chatted, as I was really getting a broad view of many nations already. He had lived here for about 13 years and was very handy with his quick witted dialogue, proving he had gained a large degree of competency speaking English. We covered a lot of testy debate topics but we got along well and I didn't feel there was any tension towards our discussion despite Taz being a Muslim and me a non denominational person. He was handily a wizz at cutting and styling and I was set at my ease by his professionality and skill. I felt a million dollars when I walked out of there, and smelt great for a change. Reading between the lines I felt as though maybe there was some resentment towards him and his business from other local businesses. He didn't say as much but I could hear a frustration at certain elements of his integration. I wondered what racism was likely to be like here in a very old community, where a lot of the population had been born and bread, and traveled little way from their roots. 

I carried on along the Hessle road and found across the street, one of the biggest outdoor shops I had ever been into. Winfields is an amazing place. My coat had been leaking and I suspected it was my own fault, as I had put it on a cold wash cycle a few weeks ago and the use of a tiny bit of detergent had clearly stripped a lot of the waterproofing. Carl helped me out of a lot of money that I really can't afford to spend, but I do now have a Goretex coat that is guaranteed to keep me dry......oh yeah we'll see. If it fails I shall take it back to the manufacturer direct as I will be going through the north east of England soon close to where they hail from. They tell me quality comes with price..... Lucky for them I say..... I have the ideal opportunity here to road test their gear and put it through it's paces. Maybe they should sponsor me and get me to test out their new stuff...
So wallet a lot lighter, I set out as my stomach was still growling like a banshee on death row.

I saw a cafe and thought just how much like a Parisien street this setting was and the frontages. It turns out the cafe was on the Boulevard, hence the name of the cafe. Good food, (not French) and great tea and I was ready for the next stage of my adventures.
I had previously asked in Winfields if they knew of a boxing club here, as I had an idea to meet with the owners who I knew had been on T.V. recently. The project that they ran sounded exactly the kind of thing I was looking to encounter in my quest to know about community projects run by the local people, for the local people especially youngsters. If you needed any proof that certain areas of society were struggling then all you had to do was visit Hull for a few days I was told. We are always seeing it come top of some poll or another for its, failings or shortcomings, sadly. But I was sure that if I dug beneath the surface a little I would find gems, even diamonds.
I followed my intuitions and the brief description given. Above a fish smelling place. I found it very quickly but no sign of life. I met the guy who ran a lot of local chip shops, Bob Carver and he was chatting with another gentleman who ran a Landrover repair service center, Barry. We chatted and soon Barry had offered me a cup of tea. I met Mark, Barry's son and Adam the other mechanic who were likewise very chatty and cordial with a stranger. They eventually remembered the name of the guy who ran the boxing club and gave me a number to call. Once my tea was supped I set off leaving the very kind people of LRS Hull, to get on with more pressing tasks and I noticed that quite some time had passed since I had arrived.

Before long I was in the city center, having passed a lot of culture should we say...
The center was a wonderful surprise, a lot of old buildings and a lot of history had been made here, clearly. I am learning all the time of course from conversations with people, just how certain places came into existence and how they grew and from where. Hull had been an historic port and industry had been served well by its location over the centuries. During the second world war it had been the second biggest port in England. Apparently Hull had been almost flattened in bombing raids, but they came back with determination not to let the Germans defeat their true spirit. The statue and monument in the main plaza gave me a few clues as to the seafaring connections. Maybe this was the place where I would really get to know all about the reason for us adopting the title Great into the union with Britain. The monument certainly depicted a ruler of the waves and master of the seas. I don't want to decry anyone especially people who have worked hard all their lives, but my thoughts about the reason for us to deserve the title Great Britain and United Kingdom are based upon my observation of some of the atrocities we have rained down across the globe over the past centuries, and are still perpetuating.
I had a coffee and wrote a poem in Neros, old habits you see. I have been writing in Caffe Nero for a few years now. More than 250 of my catalogue were created with that ambience. See link here if you like poetry. (Please feel free to comment if you would rather I give up writing it)
The city was alive and all the goings on of life can usually be observed from the windows of a coffee house vantage point. I also visited the rather nice Ferens gallery across the square that was hosting a Warhol tribute exhibition. I was amazed as I never really knew much about this man other than his quote about everyone becoming famous for fifteen minutes. I am still waiting for my fifteen, but not especially bothered if it doesn't come before I go. At least I now feel like I am being a participator in society. And the Imagine project is all about society, community and sharing, or as the new wave techies call it, Networking....
I decided I better ring Gordon Haigh, the guy who runs the boxing club, to ascertain if they would be available for a chat at some point. I spoke briefly with his wife Susanne who told me that they could meet me at about 4.30 at the club. Finally I was putting my project seriously into a higher gear, and arranging this meeting felt like a breakthrough in my networking.
As I was on a roll as it were I visited the BBC walk in center after lunch and spoke with Joan at the reception. She tried her best to get me a spot maybe on one of the afternoon shows, as I had decided that maybe now was the time to push the charity angle a bit further. Though in some ways raising money is not a direct aim it falls comfortably into my idea about what wonderful people are doing to help the less privileged especially children, and ways in which to ease the pressure on the resources for all those people who will benefit from your and my giving. She came off the phone to a producer I guessed and said in a tactful way, that they had no openings today.
I think I read that as, 'put a guy with a strange name on the air without verifying who he is and what he is about', came across. Joan bless her, was not done yet though, and wrote a lovely resume for me and sent it out to a huge number of contacts in her data banks. I thanked Joan for her dedicated effort to help me get the message to a wider audience. I really am not looking for fame of accreditations, only the networking that can help raise money and awareness of the reasons for Imagine as a project.
As I walked away I heard the wheels of the universe turning in time with my courage to go beyond my own personal comfort Zones, and I smiled to myself that I was stepping up to the plate to be knocked down if that was my fate.
I walked back closer to the boxing club and my appointment with its owners. The birds were singing and the rain was staying at bay temporarily. I chose a different direction to walk back and easily found my way all along the Boulevard to where I had been earlier in the day. I waved to a young man on his bycyle as he seemed very interested in me walking and I thought it might spark a conversation, he smiled and waved back but no more.

I passed Winfields again and the barbers too.

I met with Taz's other stylist Vin and they offered me something to drink and we chatted including a customer that was seated. He listened intently and asked me some questions and shook my hand as he left the place, wishing me a good trip and good fortune. I was getting the feeling that I was almost as local as the locals here I had been passed this place so often today.

Adam at L.R.S. Hull, offered me a cup of tea as I had arrived a bit early for my appointment with the Haighs, and Mark and he chatted about all manner of topical subjects, mostly nothing to do with Landrovers or off road vehicles thankfully. Barry popped out of his office to say hello again and was pleased that his help had brought me a possible reward. You see, a little thing like kindly getting me the number and giving me a few cups of tea, and some shelter from the rain, was all it takes some time to be of great assistance to a humble walker. 

Hull Saints Amateur Boxing Club
Just at 4.30 I went out into the drizzle to the club next door. Gordon and his wife had arrived and we introduced ourselves. I instantly felt at home here, no falseness no agendas, hidden or otherwise. Gordon suggested he show me around and give me a brief idea of what the layout of the place was and what equipment that they had to work with and how they basically operated the club on a shoestring. They were very appreciative of the man who let them use the building, Mr Bob Carver. He was one of their main supporters/sponsors, though I found that there are precious few financial supporters. 

Once the mini tour was through I explained what my angle was, what I hoped to gain from my time here. They seemed ok with my enquiries and ideas of getting to the heart of their efforts to share their skills and talents and dedication with local people, mainly kids and young adults. As people started arriving to train I met the rest of the team who all give their time and dedication for absolutely nothing. That is, nothing financial. They surely gained some satisfaction from seeing these youths grow up into decent individuals with an ounce of respect and sense of community.
Gary Petty had been a friend of Gordon's since they were nine years of age, and a joint founder of the Hull saints amateur boxing club. A fit man too with oodles of charisma and dedication. Ray brown another of the usual trainers and then Nick Hunt a newer member, also a serving police officer. I met Collette and Dawn two of the mothers of members and keen supporters and participants in the running of club affairs.
Then there was a huge group of youths, boys and girls too. Gordon and the team set about putting all of the kids through their rigorous exercise routines. They were very good at what they do, I could see instantly the respect the youngsters all had for the team. Gordon and Gary had been able to earn their respect no doubt, and Gordon was supper fit to boot. The training sessions are weekly and for a very reasonable fee, affordable to most parents, and for less than a pint of beer their children were able to come as many times per week as they were able. Gordon and his crew came everyday, come rain or shine, year in year out, and almost had to be forced to have xmas and new years day off. (I got this from sources other than Gordon and Gary)
From the very beginning I was welcomed with a huge amount of openness, and charitable nature. Susanne made me a cup of coffee that unfortunately I couldn't drink as I was busy watching all the goings on and chatting with Dawn and Collette whilst the youngsters were put through some tough training. Many of them come solely for the training and exercise and don't actually box. But there were a number of rising stars in the camp. 'Gentleman Joe', is Gordon's son who is now a professional fighter, but he was not here tonight. Millie, Dawn's daughter is very good too, and a keen and able footballer it seems. I found it hard to focus on any one part as there was so much going on, but it was one of those environments that you could see was helping to shape some really good values in young people. I know boxing is predominantly about punching someone else. But the sport of boxing is not especially a brutal past time. The training involves a huge amount of personal respect and discipline. It requires an understanding of coordination and timing and team work too. It incorporated socialising and participation in a way that X-boxes cannot. It shows young people that through hard work and a disciplined approach a lot of personal rewards can be earned. Yes earning respect for themselves is in my observation something positive that is coming from what I saw Tuesday evening. Kids from less fortunate and disrupted backgrounds and even low educational households, and this environment was putting all these young people to some degree on the same level playing field. I later learned that some families are divided as to the children's participation in this activity, but most had agreed that it was a positive environment for them to gain some skills and social interactivity. I saw no indication that Gordon and the team were raising thugs or bullies with fighting skills. In fact I asked Gordon about this directly, and he explained that he is determined to show thoroughly how the absence of bullying comes from the dedication he and the team give to the individual abilities and needs of the groups. If he finds out that anyone of the club has been involved in any kind of trouble, he would likely ban them from coming again. I could see that the youngsters had a huge respect for what Gordon taught here, and possibly for some he and the team were often the best and even only strong male role models for some of them. Because he didn't just talk the talk, they could see him walk the walk too. 

My observations of this topic are that youngsters often fashion themselves after the role models that they respect and aspire to be like. And in Gordon Haigh I could see no downsides that they would fail to be proud to copy.
And as IMAGINE is all about the sharing and investigation of our nations wealth of resources towards community spirit and togetherness, I can say with pride and hand on heart, that what I saw here was nothing short of a miracle in the attic. 

Click above link for Movie of Hull Saints A.B.C.

As with all good things, they come to an end, and at least for tonight, the joy of meeting the wonderful people of Hull was almost at an end. Dawn had arranged to help me tomorrow with a video project that I had in mind. Gordon and the team wished me an enjoyable stay at the Alexandra Hotel and I set off reeling from the joy of their company for the evening. They were incredibly thoughtful and considerate people, and I was glad that I had pushed myself to call them and experience this time with the Hull Saints A.B.C.

I set off towards town and hadn't gone very far before I got speaking to people from the Rayners pub. Jackie, Lloyd, Hilda and Steve from Stoke on trent. I had a drink with them chatted for quite some time and then made tracks to the Hotel that I had seen advertising a £15 per night room. 

The chance for a proper shower was drawing me in fast, but I still had to be careful with funds. Not that I smelt, but you know how good it is to relax tired muscles, especially as I am carrying a huge bag everywhere with a tent swinging from the side.

As I walked along the Hessle Rd I heard a voice call out to me and was surprised but pleased to see the young man on the bike from earlier. He asked me if I remembered him, of course I had, I don't easily forget faces, sometimes names, rarely faces. His name was Levi, he was from Hull and was out to get something from the shops. He was very engaging for a young person. I mean that he loved conversation and wasn't stuck for something to say, which is what happens with a lot of teenagers, especially if they are spoken to by adults. He asked a lot about my project and said how pleased he was to see someone doing such a good thing for others. I asked him what he meant and he told me that he loves to help people and recently helped an old lady carry some heavy bags to her front door, because her trolley was overloaded and cumbersome. Now some people would expect a young person to be 'out for something' if they were approached and asked if they needed help. He told me the woman offered him some money but he refused, as it was his pleasure to have been of service. Levi could have been spinning me a line, but he asked nothing from me either, so had nothing to gain by saying this. In truth I feel able to believe without reservation that he was telling the truth, as he had initiated the conversation with me and been nothing more than a charming example of the decency of some youths in society. I would be proud to be his parent, he had really good manners and an endearing quality. Thank you Levi for being such a nice young man, and rebuilding my confidence in strangers too. He rode of home wishing me well, what a lovely end to my evening.

The Hotel was open and I took a room, that the guy had somehow made worth £20. Still I was not in a mood to be resentful, Hull had shown me some of its finest diamonds this evening. The shower was divine and despite the lack of a womans touch here at the hotel, I had a very comfortable bed to sleep on.
Out went the lights and out went I, exhausted and happy, day 13 came to an end.

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