Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Bike security Los Palaminos style

We had a fellow Pats fan come volunteer for a couple of days. Was so good being able to talk about football.

Poker night

Made some poker chips out of bottle caps I collected from around the trailer park

Shiram chilling on Saturday morning when we had a cheeky day off

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

100th post, and some great news.

So this is my 100th post, which is kinda cool. It's fun writting this blog, though sometime hard coming up with new things to talk about all the time.

Since the last time we chatted day to day life has remained mostly the same, although we have a brand new trailer with actual working toilets, well I say that, they worked for 48 hours before breaking. I've lost all faith in the guy that runs the trailer park being able to do anything, so today I went to Brico (French B&Q) and this evening I will be fitting new new flush system to the toilet myself. My plumbing skills are ropy at best so there might well be a flood, but I'm fed up of walking across the trailer park at 6am to go to the loo.

Onto some much better news! In this blog I have talked about a refugee friend I have called Zee quite a bit. Well news has just come through that he has made it to the UK safe and sound, and will be applying for asylum there. This is such great news that he has made it over, although I'm sad I won't be seeing him in camp each time I go in. He was one of the friendliest guys there and would always come and hang out, sometimes bringing us food or cups of tea. I have no idea what the future holds for him, and if the UK will match up to his expectation of what it is, but I wish him all the best, and look forward to hooking up when I get back over there.

In other news, I have adopted a cat. There are a ton of stays that hang about the trailer park, but there is one big, fat, tom cat who is equally as annoying as he is fun, bit like me. So we have taken him in and are now making sure he gets fed and somewhere warm to sleep, normally on my toes at the end of the bed. He's called Shiram and it's nice to come home each day to a pet and a bit of food based unconditional love.

I haven't been into camp so much over the last week, spending a bit of time cooking and the rest doing other odd jobs around the place, so there isn't much to report on those fronts. Oh, I had a Big-Mac today, I'm bloody done with CRS (curry, rice, salad), it was a real treat, and normally not news worthy, but it's been 3 months since my last greasy burger and I miss them so much.

T x 

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Laurel pretending to be a mermaid on the bin

The finished thing. And laurel posing.

Today's meal

Arty beans shot

Laurel and Kira in the bin after the bin collapsed


Bakeries, good news and working toilets (maybe)

So it's been a long time since I was able to update the blog, it's good to be back.

First an update on the bakery, it's finally done and looking good! It was so nice to have a little break outside and do something a bit different with a few folk that I don't normally get to spend work time with. We now have the stuff to fix the tandoor to, so should be pumping out fresh flat breads into camp any day now. I'm very much looking forward to learning how to make naan bread. I've been back cooking for the last couple of days. We made a veg korma yesterday that was pretty good, and a low country stew today, with loads of chickpeas and smoked paprika. Sam, one of the founders, was in the kitchen today doing the rice a way I haven't seen before. It was a heavily spiced Pakistani rice, almost like a pilaf, it was very good, and I'm looking forward to learning how to cook it myself.

After a couple of quite somber posts recently we got a bit of really good news today. The ban on feeding people that was imposed the mayor of Calais was overturned at the regional court for breaching human rights. It's a real win as it means the guys from Utopia can now (in theory) distribute the food we cook without fear of being tear gassed or arrested. A story linked to this that I'd like to pick back up is the distribution of hot meals. Last time I talked about the bento boxes we were putting out the numbers were something like, 150 at lunch, and 250 in the evening. Those numbers have thankfully dropped off to about 50 and 150, it makes getting them all out much easier. The sad news is that this is an effect of the ban. The guys living in the woods were finding it hard to get to the places we were setting up away from the cops. It's really sad to think that people may have been going hungry due to this horrible womans 'starve them em' policy. Luckily the guys at Utopia don't let the fear of tear gas, or arrest stop them getting out, incredible bunch of people.

The final thing to talk about tonight is the trailer park. If you have been reading the blog back far enough you will know that we haven't had a working toilet in the trailer for the last 10 weeks. Well after trying to fix them many times, including soaking himself in sewage, the guy has finally decided to condemn the trailer. This means we are on the move. We saw one trailer last night, and it was grim so we aren't taking it. Today however we have been shown a much better one, with such luxuries as actual light switches instead of holes, and toilets that work. Also it has a deck and picnic table, so perfect in time for the weather getting better.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Inside taking shape, and our lovely new floor.
Now with a new floor, new side walls, and most of a front.

Upsetting news, more building, and Afgan eggs.

Ok, so again I'm going to start with some bad, and quite upsetting news. Last night a minor was killed trying to make the crossing. I'm not too sure of all the sad details, but it seems a teenager was trying to cross on a lorry and had a fatal accident. As you can imagine it has affected many people here, and there were quite a few tears around the warehouse and people in very somber moods. These are the dangers these guys face on a daily basis trying to make the crossing and get away from life in the refugee camp. If and when I get more details I will update if appropriate.

That's the horrible news out of the way. Today was spent with Seamus building the bakery further. It's really coming along now and tomorrow we should get it finished. Playing about with power tools and being outside in the sun is a welcome break to smelling of onions and washing up. We found some old windows, and some faux stained timber plastic cladding, so everything is going very Grand Designs at the moment, and we are coming up with new ideas on an hourly basis for fun stuff we could add in, we are thinking a retractable roof, though that might just be a pipe dream.

Finally a friend suggested that I maybe write down some of the recipes that I cook. The first one I'm going to do is the one dish every single volunteer knows how to cook, and most eat at least 3 times a week.

You will need:

4 Eggs

Tablespoon of Cumin Seeds
Tablespoon of Smoked Paprika

1/2 Tablespoon of Chili Flakes 
Tablespoon of Sugar
2 Tins of Chopped Tomatoes

Couple of Garlic Cloves
1 Large Onion
Teaspoon of Oregano


Put he cumin seeds in a dry pan and lightly toast on a medium heat for about a minute, basically until they start to smell. Then add onions and a splash of oil and sweat down until turning slightly golden. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Now add everything apart from the eggs and cook down for about 3 to 4 minutes until the tomato liquid cooks off a bit and it gets a little bit thicker. Now crack the eggs in like you would a fried egg and cover with a plate for about 3 to 5 minutes or until the eggs look like fried eggs on top of the tomato sauce. Serve with bread to dip into. Boom, Afgan eggs.

T x


Sunday, 12 March 2017

Feast time

Dubs and BBQ's

Let's get the bad news out of the way first. The other day a vote was taken on the Dubs Amendment, and by a margin of just 20 votes the UK decided to renege on taking in the agreed amount of children 3000 down to 350. Words fail me, I don't understand how when councils say they are willing to help, charities are saying they are willing to facilitate, how rich people could decide that taking in child refugees would be a bad idea. How do these people sleep at night, and what if it was their children living alone on the streets or in a camp where sexual abuse towards children is common place. For some reason I find myself thinking of the film The Railway Children. When I was a kid it was my little sisters favorite film, and I must have seen it over 50 times as she watched it pretty much everyday for years. It tells the story of kids fleeing the bombing in WW2 London, and heading out to the country where they find a new life among thatched stone cottages in the Yorkshire dales. It's a romanticized way of looking at children fleeing conflict, that ultimately has a happy ending. Now I think about what I'm seeing unfolding in front of me. Children the same age as those in the film, alone, in some truly horrendous conditions with danger at every turn. Instead of the kindly old people taking them in and offering a new life, there's a new breed of apathetic and hateful people, dreaming of the old days but failing to realize that what made the old days good was an attitude that included looking after those who needed it. Where will these kids get their happy ending? Who will step up and offer them the sanctuary they need? Not the UK it seems.Where has our compassion gone that we would leave children to rot in harms way.

Ok onto so happier stuff, the sun is out and we had our first BBQ in the trailer park yesterday. In true trailer park, and being skint fashion, we bodged it up out of what we had lying around or could find. This involved a chicken cooked on a pole I found on the beach and made a spit roast out of using some breeze blocks, tins of ravioli cooked in the tin over the coals, and a few cheeky sausages. I went to bed last night last night smelling of cooked meat and charcoal for the first time in months, it made me so happy. Can't wait for summer time proper to kick in.

Back to work building the bakery tomorrow, hoping to have both walls sorted and build a bit of ventilation as having a tandoor over that gets to 380 degrees in a tin shed will be pretty uncomfortable work come mid summer.


Friday, 10 March 2017

The beginning of what will be a bakery 

Building a bakery

The last couple of days have been really good. I'd been a bit ill with a head cold and was pretty grumpy because of it, however I got a special project to head up, building a bakery on the side of the warehouse.

We have recently got hold of an old tandoor oven and Sam has been fixing it up, ready to make flat breads for food service. It still needs a bit of work as the outside coating of the clay part, but the guy is coming out next week and then we will be able to produce naan bread en masse, and maybe even a cheeky tandoori chicken after work.

This new toy needs a home though, and the kitchen is already cramped enough, so I asked if I could head up a team to build a new floor in a shed out the back to house it in. What started as a little project has now turned into a full rebuild. Seamus, Laurel and myself took the roof off and rebuilt the frame, then spent the afternoon ripping up the floor. Today we rebuilt the floor and have started on putting new walls on. Looking forward to actually finishing the whole thing off and getting the new kit in early next week. It's been really nice to take a few days away from either cooking or being in camp, and spending a bit of time in the sunshine working with a couple of friends I don't normally get to spend time with. 

The sun being out changes everything too, despite being tired from the hard work, and emotionally strained, the mood has lightened up after a few darker days earlier this week.


Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Hard times, guns and bed bugs

This evenings post isn't going to be such a happy one I'm afraid. There has been lot's going on, and none of it that good.

Today was pretty intense, we rocked up to do the free shop, which I had been really looking forward to as I was paired up with my buddy Bella who I always have fun working with. However after we had unpacked the entire shop, humped tons of food up onto the shelves and opened for all of 5 minutes, security came and shut us down on the premise that they were going to spray the community kitchen for bedbugs. So the long, slow process of getting everything out of the kitchen while people were trying to get their items began. Eventually we setup in the other kitchen and ran the entire operation from there, which was cramped, and very very hectic. It was going ok until some 15 year old kiddy turned up without his card. We need to make sure that everyone gets food, and we will never let anyone leave without getting at least the basic items. However each day we have 2 'treat' items, today's were tomatoes and apples, which only go to people that have the cards to make sure everyone gets some. This kiddy had rocked up wanting 7 of each for the guys in his hut. Bella quite rightly refused, asking him to go get his card, and then things started to go south quite quickly. He started getting abusive, and trying to throw our paperwork about over the counter, in the end he threatened to kill her before being escorted out by some other refugees. She was obviously quite shaken, but was a trooper about the whole thing. It turned out that this kiddy was in  bad place. He had paid money to a smuggler to help him get out of camp, however the smuggler had just ripped him off, this only happened 2 days ago, so he was pretty raw about it. Eventually I met him outside and had a chat to calm the whole thing down. He had felt disrespected by a girl, and this was the crux of the situation. In Afgan culture there is a big divide between women and men, and being told no by a ballsy little Italian girl had pressed his buttons at a time when he was already feeling very wound up. Nothing came of it though and everything was fine in the end. One thing I find myself having to remind myself is that these guys are having a terrible time. Whilst it's not acceptable in any way, it can be understood by the terrible conditions and danger that makes up their lives.

While we are on the subject of danger in camp there have been another couple of incidents in camp. Today as we were closing up shop someone had let a tear gas canister off in the toilet block next to the shop. I have no idea who or why, but there were some very unhappy looking guys with their eyes streaming outside the block. Whilst this may seem like an extreme incident, it pales in comparison to what went on 2 days ago. At just 6pm in the evening a fire fight broke out that ended up in 5 people being shot including 1 security guard. Again I have no idea how it came about, but the camp has been visibly very tense since it happened. At this point I'd like to interject that I have seen very little of this, and don't feel threatened at all. There is a criminal element, and a very dark one at that. I've talked before about sexual abuse and violence, however the vast majority of people are amazing! They live in such horrible conditions, getting grief everyday by the police, and treated like animals, yet through this they are some of the most welcoming, and genuinely amazing people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I think about my friends out there in camp, and how they are able to just keep going, and it amazes, and humbles me every time. I wish there was more I could do, or even that I could tell them it will be ok in the end.

Ok, enough heavy stuff for tonight. Here's a couple of kudrish words before bed:

Bashi: You good?
Bashum: I'm good!

T x

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Wind and Korma

It's windy, and I'm not just talking about the fact we live on a diet of beans. The weather since Storm Doris has been grim. High winds each day mean we are constantly fighting battles picking up crates blowing away, or trying to make sure the wind doesn't send our food flying off down the camp. There has been driving rain, hail, sleet, and even a pretty impressive lightning storm the other day. It makes our life harder, but it makes life in camp for the refugees intolerable. I've talked before about shoes, or lack there of, and this is a much more acute problem in the wet. The ground in camp is basically stones and mud, with a single road that runs through the center of it. When the rain is heavy parts of it become very swampy, and you see people tripping over lots. Lack of decent shoes means many of these guys live with permanently wet feet which leads to all sorts of nasties on their feet. Many just have flip-flops and no real shoes, or shoes that are to small so they are forced to cut the backs off in order to get their feet in them, so they offer no protection to the elements at all. It makes me think of Glastonbury '97 where is didn't pack wellies, only a pair of tatty old combat boots, and ended up getting trench foot and having to have the boots cut off my feet at the end of the festival, pretty grim.

I've been coking with Annie over the last couple of days, and it's been really good fun. She's super chilled out, and it makes getting the work done very easy. Yesterday we spent ages putting together a Korma for today's service. Someone went off to the shops to buy us some coconut milk, but came back with what I can only describe as a condensed milk version of it. It's kind of this grey jelly sludge that's super sweet and coconutty. At first there was a bit of panic as we were already past the point of no return cooking, so committed to the recipe, but we figured what the hell and put it in. It's made probably the best Korma I have ever tasted. There's a lot of this that goes on, bodging up recipes on the fly, and working with what presents itself. It's very good fun, and so far we haven't produced anything that I haven't been happy to serve, but there is always that slight worry that it might not work out well, and ruin a 1000 meals worth of food. Annie has an amazing job working on a elk ranch in Texas during the season, she is going to make inquiries about maybe getting me a little work out there for a month or two in September which I would love. I'm spending this afternoon looking at visas that may let me do an internship there.

Ok that's about all for today, it can be hard thinking of fresh content to write each time I log on, but hopefully tomorrow will present itself with some new stories.


Friday, 3 March 2017

Box Kid
Born to distribute rice
Drag party

4 days worth of blog

Not been on here for a few days, apologies, lot's has been going on.

First of all was a really good fun food service on Tuesday. There were loads of little kids about, and by little I mean little, between 3 and 7, hanging about in a giant flock of smiles and runny noses. They drove my hot food team mate Jacob mental climbing into the truck cab and beeping the horn, I think after a while they were just doing it on purpose which was hilarious. We made a little boy aged about 3 a cardboard box hat with a smiley face on it and he was made up. He spent a good hour running up and down the road scaring people, and having he time of his life. As heart warming and fun as it all was, that feeling of helplessness came back strong. These are preschool kids living in a site that's not fit for human habitation. Being kids they are wildly oblivious to what's going on around them, playing with what they find and getting up to mischief, but being an adult it breaks my heart to know that this is their life, and they have little or no hope of leading a normal one.

After work on Tuesday it was my housemate Leo's birthday, so we had a party. One of the best things about working in a warehouse full of clothes is that's it's basically a giant fancy dress box, so with that in mind the theme of 'drag' got floated and accepted. Being a balding man, dressing up as a pretty woman is kinda hard, so I settled on doing Britney Spears when she lost the plot and shaved her head, cue hot pants, a thong, and skimpy tee, with a badly shaved head. There were some great costumes, we had a Jesus, a couple of army rangers and Leo went as Elsa from the film Frozen. It got pretty messy, and my memory of the of it is a bit hazy, but loads of fun was had with some booze that we had been sent by a sympathetic distillery.

Wednesday was a nice chilled day off, spent  most of it in bed just relaxing and napping before going back in on Thursday to do mains.

Thursday was lush. We had a guy called Seb in just for a flying visit and we got on with some amazing food. He's an old rave crew head from the early 90's so we spent ages talking about free parties, old rave tunes and food, it was loads of fun. He'd been working on a north African curry with loads of sumac and that went out Thursday lunchtime, before we got to work on my dish. I've been craving BBQ so much that I took the decision to risk cooking something along those lines. We roasted up some chicken in a classic north Carolinian spice mix of smoked paprika, brown sugar, cumin and garlic, before making a base of onions, roasted red peppers, more smoked paprika and black eyed peas. It came out really well, and went down a treat in camp. I'm glad they dug those flavors as it means I can play about with BBQ style a bit more.

Then today was Friday and it was a day in the free shops. Got to see all the boys too, Zee, Reza, and even Rebar. I'm so happy I got to see Rebar, it's been almost a month and I have been worried sick about him. He's told me where he lives now, so next time I'm in camp I'm going to go round and chill out for a bit. There were some folk in camp doing crepes with jam, so they all brought us little snacks throughout the day. It was very nice and chilled out.

Ok so that's loads of nice news and happy stuff, but as with life out here for every up there is also a massive down. The mayor of Calais seem to be taking a leaf out of Theresa Mays book (probably called How To Be A Heartless Bitch), and is trying to ban the distribution of food to refugees. This doesn't affect the food we do in camp, but all of those outreach boxes that we do each day, currently 150 at lunch and 250 in the evening, she wants to stop that. Basically she's trying to starve people out. The camp can't take anyone else so the numbers of people who now live in the forests and on the streets is growing, via some other charities we supply food to we try and make sure that these guys get fed. She's now said that people doing this will be arrested. Already a girl I know got tear gassed yesterday, and tonight Leo got pulled over driving home by the CRS. It seems this is the signal the cops need to make life even worse. Kids going to get fed at a local church that we supply food too are being arrested for nothing more than having brown skin, and I feel the harassment is only going to get worse. You can read more about it here, there's even a cheeky photo of Lux cooking.

So that kind of bring us up to date. Hotdogs for tea tonight and an early night.

Will check back in tomorrow with updates.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

The beaches of Dunkirk and how you can help

Day off yesterday. It was really nice. All of us are a bit skint at the moment so we decided to go and culture ourselves by going to the beaches of Dunkirk to learn about what happened there in the war. It's still the tail end of storm Doris, so there winds were huge and the flying sand stung our faces, but it was good fun, if bracing. It's weird being in this one town that has so much sad history, be it past or current. I felt myself imagining what it must have been like to be a young man in Dunkirk with the Nazi forces surrounding me on all sides the only hope of getting out by relying on the kindness and courage of strangers to help. Then skip forward to today, where again we have 1000's of people trapped with little or no hope of getting out, but this time rather than sending help in their hour of need, the powers are ignoring them in the hope that they will just somehow magically disappear. It was/is a very sad and sobering experience. 

I've always known that I have come from a privileged background, a stable home, food on the table, loving parents, education etc. It's only by doing this that I've realized just how privileged my life has been. Sure there have been rough times, I've slept rough before, I've skipped meals when I didn't have enough cash for them, but there was always a light at the end, and I knew ultimately that things would sort themselves out. I can't quite fathom what it must be like to live not knowing, just trapped in this limbo hell. Even when compared to the other volunteers I have it so much better. We have been doing more safety briefings, and hearing about the experiences of other girl volunteers can be harrowing. I've talked before about how sexual violence is a real problem in camp, but only through speaking to some of my female colleagues am I now starting to get a bit more perspective on it. Most won't use the toilets in camp, for fear that the mafia have keys and it would be easy for them to break into a cubicle when someone was in there, but even going beyond that their days are so much more draining than that of the men. There is a perception that if you were to marry an English women you would get instant access to the UK, that coupled with the fact many of them are quite young, and also very pretty, means they get hit on constantly. It's hard to think about it as there are two sides to the story, one is that if you were a young man, trapped, and you believed that maybe you could charm your way out of that situation, would you not try too? The other though is the fact that it is totally inappropriate. I think most of the girls get why it happens, and from what I have seen handle it amazingly. Some choose to wear a ring on their wedding finger and say they are already hitched, others use fake names on facebook to try and safeguard against someone in camp coming across them there, it must be so draining.

Ok onto some happier news. Yesterday I decided to actually put some effort into spreading this blog about and got some nice feedback, both on Reddit and Facebook. I was also contacted by some people who have a bit of spare time and wanted to come out and help, which was amazing.

If you're reading this and want to get involved here are some ways you can. First of all if you have time, it's really easy. Go to the Refugee Community Kitchen or Help Refugees websites, fill out a small form that will take about 5 minutes, arrange a date, and come over. It really is that simple! That could be for a weekend, week, month or longer, it's up to you.

If you don't have time to offer then we need stuff. One of the biggest needs is shoes, all sizes but specifically mens size Europe 42. All the guys seem to have the same size feet, to the point where it's a running joke in the warehouse about how everyone is size 42, and now quite a lot of staff now have 42 tattooed on one of their feet. Sadly they just don't have enough to supply camp, so seeing residents with flip flops or shoes with the backs cut off is a regular thing. Other big needs are sleeping bags, socks and mens small/medium clothing. There are collection points in most cities, so if you have stuff that is decent quality please send it on. Likewise with food, we do rice and curry every day, if you have items that would go into these, spices, salt, rice or drinks items like tea, hot chocolate, coffee etc, then please box them up and send them over.

The other thing is money. If you can spare some you can donate directly to either charity via their websites or fund a volunteers stay out here.

The final, and most important thing is your voice. We are a temporary solution to a growing problem, more of a plaster on the wound than a cure. Write to your MP, get friends involved and put pressure on the powers that be to do something, it's the only way the problem will get fixed at it's root cause.

Cheers for reading

T x

P.S: look mum, an entire post with no swearing ;-)

Saturday, 25 February 2017


I shared my blog around a bit more today, so am seeing some extra views come in which is amazing. Please consider donating to allow me to stay out here long term while the crisis is worsening again. You can donate here:

Much love and many thanks

T x