4095CharityLodge NewsNews

Local Masons go undercover

Vince Baughan, Master of The Royal Cumberland Lodge, master of disguise and raconteur extraordinaire reports:

I had an unexpected telephone call and picked up the receiver with a certain amount of trepidation. No one makes telephone calls these days, they merely send text messages!

Only my 90 year-old mother actually rings up, usually to tell me she’s having problems with her phone, but it wasn’t her this time. “This is Amit, I need some help”, the distant voice implored. It was Brother Amit Jathoul, recently Initiated Entered Apprentice, from St Alphege Lodge in Bath.

“Oh?” I replied, instinctively looking over my shoulder to ensure no one was listening in. “Yes, I have to move a consignment across town, and it’s bigger than normal,” he intoned in a confidential manner. “I need a hand from an able-bodied Mason to move it.”

“I see,” I responded, wondering into what mystery I was to be drawn, but also vaguely flattered that he thought I was ‘able-bodied’. “What can I do?” I asked. “Meet me in the Windsor Bridge Tesco Express car park at ten past nine tonight and bring a car. Click… brrrr” and the line was dead.

I pulled into the car park at the appointed hour and checked the location. There were the usual suspects you find at late night supermarket convenience stores. Workers late home, buying a frozen pizza. Husbands keen to curry favour with their wives, acquiring some wilting flowers as a peace offering. Young party goers, stocking up on cheap booze to ‘front load’ before heading into town.

Then a shady figure, in a dark coat and a Marlon Brando ‘On the Waterfront’ beany hat. He was furtive, looking into the windows of all the parked cars. I recognised the man as Amit and got out of my car in order to affect a discreet greeting. “Come inside,” he admonished. I followed him into the shop. We stood by the tills trying to look inconspicuous, while two members of staff, diligently going from shelf-to-shelf, checking the stock, selecting items and putting them in large plastic sacks. Amit checked his watch. “I have until midnight,” he announced, ominously.

When the staff had finished their slow-motion supermarket sweep, they piled the sacks in front of us and announced, “They’re all yours!”

Amit and I took the heavy loads and put them into the boot of the car and set off. Within 20 minutes we were at his flat where we transferred the cargo to his kitchen.

Amit told me he had to sort the food into different categories (fresh fruit, veg, bread, pastries, non-gluten etc.) and post them on an app called Olio before midnight, when the ‘best before’ dates expire. He explained that Olio volunteers, with the co-operation of the local shops, ‘rescue’ food that is approaching its ‘best before’ date, perfectly good food that would otherwise end up in landfill, and list it on the Olio app. This provides for people who are struggling in the current cost-of-living crisis, who request items and come around to pick them up. It’s a sort of on-line ‘food bank’. The items not claimed within a certain time are donated to Julian House, to feed the homeless. Amit said that the haul was so large tonight that “… we will probably feed most of Bath’s homeless!”

Amit devotes much of his free time to this cause. He told me that on another night he collected two back-breaking heavy sacks of food from a Tesco Express in Bathwick, which he had to transport on foot. He also pointed out that these shops were just the convenience supermarkets. If a Tesco Express can produce seven bags of waste food in one day, imagine how much food is wasted from a full-sized supermarket. “It is madness that the supermarket model is based on such epic amounts of wasted food” he opined. “Olio helped me out when I was on my beam ends, and this is my way of giving back,” he said.

Amit is keen to get more people involved, signing up as a rescuer of food for Olio. The food shops understand that volunteers are usually on foot or bicycle, so don’t normally load up volunteers with sacks of food. But a car would be very advantageous.

If you want to volunteer, visit https://olioapp.com/en/become-an-olio-volunteer/

As I left him, Amit was already planning another food run from Waitrose before Christmas.

Editor’s footnote:

Not all heroes wear capes, nor do they wear masonic regalia in public, but quietly and discreetly demonstrate those truly Masonic ornaments of, Benevolence and Charity.

Show More

Related Articles

Back to top button