Posted by: lucylastic | September 17, 2007

Whatever happened to Friday night?

Well, it’s Monday yet again, the weekend has flown by with undue haste and the distant time that was last Friday night is already faded from my memory.  Actually, if I try hard, I can remember what I did last Friday – I met a group of fellow ‘Street Pastors to-be’ for an end of training, ‘celebration’ meal in a little known (to me and quite a few others) restaurant in Fleet Street, Swindon, called Fletchers.  Check it out on http://www.fletchersswindon.com/  They’ve made a very nice job of the interior, have got a good selection of wines and a reasonably priced menu.  I have to admit, I rarely go ‘into town’ to socialise – if I go out at all, it’s in the environs of the more sedate ‘Old Town’ or to other people’s homes for civilised dinners and witty repartee, (well, I like to think so).  So, I was shocked to discover a whole new world of pubs, clubs and eateries which have replaced what used to be a very boring row of old fashioned and seemingly unprofitable shops and businesses at the bottom end of the town – it’s even been pedestrianised in some places.  Along with the aforementioned Fletchers, (tasty pate, very juicy and tender rare cooked steak and lovely crispy chips.  Sadly, I had no room for dessert, but a steamed treacle sponge and a home-made bread and butter pudding both looked fantastic), there is a Tardis-like Police Post, there are 2 Weatherspoons, (why more than one I am still puzzling over), Italian restaurants, burger places, vodka bars, themed bars, Irish bars and lots and lots and lots of very young people – wearing very little in the way of clothing, (the girls anyway) and many seemingly drunk already by 8.30pm.  There was also a proliferation of ‘promo girls’ giving away stickers for free drinks, free entrance and discount vouchers for most of the establishments.  Apparently, after 10.00pm, most of them charge for entrance, so it’s pretty busy before 10.00pm, quiet for a while until 11.30 when people either go home or start to look for a night-club and then quiet again between 1.00am – 2.00am when no more entrance to the clubs is allowed.  At chucking out time, (2.00am) it all livens up again with a rush towards food vans, taxis, lost friends, possible fights and general loud and raucous behaviour.  As long as it’s not raining, if it’s raining, people usually head for home pretty quickly. 

You may wonder what I was doing in town anyway, and why I am suddenly so interested in Swindon’s night-life……….. I have volunteered to become a ‘Street Pastor’, http://www.streetpastorsswindon.org.uk/ – it’s about being ‘a prayerful presence, offering pastoral care and practical help’.  And now that our ‘going live’ night is less than two weeks away, (Sep 28th here we come) it’s starting to seem a little scary.  Weeks ago, one of my son’s offered up the following comments on being a Street Pastor in Swindon – “You’re mad, mum.  In town on a Friday night?  It’s horrible, scary.  I wouldn’t go”.  And this from a 16 year old who is surely as savvy as most about what goes on!  But that’s the whole point – there would be nothing for Street Pastors to do if it was all nicey, nicey and everyone was well-behaved and respectful to each other and to the authorities, (and in this sense I mean everyone from bar people to bouncers and police and community officers).  My son might think I am a bit of an old duffer now, but I remember very clearly being 16 years old and behaving in a most objectionable manner after a night out at Maxwell’s Nightclub in Chester.  It seems little has changed, the streets are still full of groups of girls, often in tears after a break-up or imagined slight from a best friend – none seem to have any money left for a cab home, (the night bus was discontinued because it was so seldom used) and most aren’t prepared to incur parental wrath by phoning home for a lift.  But this is exactly the sort of thing a Street Pastor does – rings the parent, calms the situation down, arranges for safe collection.  Street Pastors DON’T do money for cabs, (or burgers or drinks), but we may know of a place that does.  Street Pastors work with the Police and the Social Services insofar as they will let us – but there is no question about our motivation – we want to HELP!  It’s not about preaching and it’s not about proselytising but it IS about helping to calm things down and sorting out problems that aren’t quite as big as they might first appear to be.  Street Pastors is a nationwide initiative, and one thing stands out in every town and city where it operates – the crime level drops right down – in some cases by as much as 60-70%.  And it doesn’t move elsewhere either.  If we can support getting just one person safely home, without a crime that would otherwise have been committed, then I think we are doing something worthwhile.  Please spare a thought for us on Friday 28th Sep and at weekends thereafter.  You could even say a little prayer if you want to!

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Responses

  1. Great to know that Street Pastors are alive and well in Swindon. I am part of the Orpington team, which has been going for about a year now. We don’t stay out as late as you do by the sound of it, but my evening on duty is something I look forward to. You meet some fascinating people on Friday evenings and it’s not scary at all – well not often anyway.

    I like your summary of the Street Pastor ethos. Exactly right. We’re out there in the name of Christ because we care about the community and want to help people.

    I’m a new blogger and this is my first attempt to post a comment on someone else’s site. I’m just starting to explore this new method of communication and am still a little bewildered about the whole thing.


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