(this was the only post I managed to write actually from Calais at the time, due to lack of net access. I have now put it in its chronological place within what I’ve managed to write since. You may find posts you’ve not yet seen further back)
…here at the net at some hotel bar in Calais before the last bus to near the camp goes, or in the day either. Came in at the end of treating maybe 100 people today in our great little first aid caravan, to buy more disposeable cups for cough syrup and French lemsips, and now have so little time and such a jumble in my head. The camp is amazing and sad and terrible and beautiful.
It is amazing because it is a community and there are restaurants and a barber’s and a women’s centre and a tiny library called Jungle Books where I took the children’s books and games that were donated via us.
It is sad because our first day, if you half shut your eyes, it looked a bit like a really weird festival the morning after, but then it rained during the night and those creative crazy structures could only be seen as what they are: homes made out of fragments that helplessly let the rain through on cold, ill people.
It is terrible because of the armoured up gun-carrying police that march through the place and occasionally beat people up; because every night men and women and children, instead of going to bed, walk three hours in flip flops with their few possessions left to do battle with those police, with the road, the train, the trucks, the dogs trained by those police, the massive fences, the razorwire, and their own fear, to try to reach the promise of a safe home, a job, a future.
It is beautiful becase the children still laugh, the adults still make jokes, because some of these little shacks are painstakingly lined with pristine towels and blankets and decorated with soft toys and a tray of sweets for visitors like me and have a perfectly clean floor.
And because everyone still clings to hope, despite the nights it leaves you with palms full of razor wire wounds. And because the three pregnant women I have met in the last two days (6 months, 7 months, and due any moment now) have georgous smiles and good health and as far as anyone can tell, little babies that are absolutely fine.