A total change of scene is like a breath of fresh air. Day trips organised by Thames Reach can help to give people a different perspective on their situation.
Lesley Feilman is a resident of our Graham House hostel, after a long period of street homelessness and battling with alcohol abuse.
She has made big steps and is taking part in the activities on offer while she waits for a permanent flat to become available.
Here she shares the feelings triggered by a trip to the sea organised by hostel staff:
“This is not just a story about a day out at the seaside. It’s about long forgotten mixed emotions, about feeling like a human being again and getting back a sense of belonging.
“It all started with quite a rush. People were flying around, not knowing who was coming from who, and who was going with who, but eventually we all got sorted in the mini buses. Once our seatbelts were on safely, the race was on. I noticed the old funny familiar feeling of butterflies in my tummy churning over. It felt so very, very good to be leaving the gloomy smoggy grey clouds of the concrete industrial jungle of London’s stale air.
“As the journey went on, I noticed so many different views of England, like quaint little villages with wood thatch houses, cows, lambs, and horses amongst tiny cottages and farmhouses. So many different varieties of hills and trees, which we so seldom see in London city. Such a different feeling of peace from London’s hustle and bustle and confusion.
“When we finally reached Bognor Regis, like children, we couldn’t wait to get out of the packed minibuses.
“The first thing that hit me was the smell of the warm salty sea air. It made me want to leap into the sea and then to explore the beach. So I did just that. I found a bamboo stick, so I used it to overturn pebbles that were more like flat seashells with round grooves in them. I popped them into my rucksack to take back home as a good reminder of the wonderful bright blue sky day we all had.
“Everyone was doing their own thing and some decided they couldn’t resist the surging green waves. So off came bras, panties and sweaty cheesy socks and on went sandals, cozzies and shorts. Some people were so overwhelmed they went in with their clothes on. I just paddled. It felt so free with the cooling sea water flowing between my toes and over my feet.
“After that, I decided to have a look in my rucksack for my packed lunch that had been so nicely prepared for me and then sat down on the odd shaped pebbles. We ate with the sounds of Seven-Ups and Coke-Cola’s popping and sizzling as we opened them and black headed seagulls swooping overhead. They must have smelt the spicy chicken drumsticks.
“And when the sun went in, the black headed seagulls sat gently bob, bobbing on the green sea waves, flowing back and forth with the waves and the breezy wind. It still felt heavenly when we had a few grey clouds and a spot of rain, until the sun broke through again.
“It all seemed so peaceful, even watching children playing with slimy seaweed, cheerfully and joyfully screaming in fun and laughter. It reminded me so much of what I had forgotten - of what it was like to be part of a family, since becoming homeless. But it also felt like we were all one - to see the lift in each and every one of us, the sadness gone from our eyes. At least for one day.
“I felt like I was part of the human race again and not part of a race against time.
“As I was finishing my fish and chips, I felt saddened to be going back to the rat race of London inner-city life!
“I dearly wish and hope we all could do it more often!
Lesley G. Feilman
“With thanks to all the Graham House and Robertson Street staff and residents for a day I shall hold dearly in my heart and I shall never forget!”