Posted in Essay, John Anstie

There but for Fortune … and a Rucksack

The Rucksack Project Banner
The Rucksack Project Banner

Fortune seems to be the word of the moment for me; it keeps recycling itself and coming back to haunt me! On the one hand I’m not surprised, because I feel I’ve had my fare share of it. I was born into a middle class family, privately educated, for the most part and afforded the grants to enable me to attain undergraduate as well as postgraduate degrees. As a result of this start in my life, my career path has enabled me to get jobs in disciplines that require scientific, engineering and management skills, which later led to positions outside my original education and training, including giving me sufficient wit to own and manage my own company for a while.

Recently, I become involved, through the initiative and actions of Peter Wilkin, a Poet friend and co-author of the anthology, “Petrichor Rising”, which we published in July this year, in a charitable project, which is an early rising star of the social networks, called the Rucksack Project.

The Rucksack Project is relatively little known charitable concern, set up within the last two years by one man, Matthew White. It is not a registered charity because it does not accept donations. Instead, it empowers people physically to contribute their time along with the resources of local charity shops to make up a rucksack containing several essential material items aimed at helping to sustain homeless people against the cold Winter weather.

Whilst in the process of preparation for this rucksack ‘drop’, which is planned to take place in Bradford, UK, on 21st December, I was recently told a story by a fellow chorister of his meeting with a homeless person. In brief he had passed the gentleman of the road on his way to a well-known fast food restaurant for a quick bite. Because my friend didn’t have any change, instead, whilst getting his own meal, he bought and extra meal and a cup of hot coffee. On his way back to where they were performing, he explained why he hadn’t stopped before and gave the homeless person the meal and coffee he’d just purchased and carried on his way.

Within a few paces, he felt the meal, still in its bag, fly past his left ear; clearly, it wasn’t wanted by its homeless recipient. My friend uttered his displeasure to us with the swift judgement of one who maybe hasn’t experienced at first hand, the kind of issues that drives people to become homeless, which include alcoholism and drug addiction; which in turn can be caused by pre-existing mental health issues, neglect or abuse, particularly as children. Or perhaps my friend had just not thought about it long enough to come to a more humane conclusion.

I would say to anyone who has not been touched in some way by a mental health issue, in a family member or a friend, or who has not come across a child or teenager, who has been abused – either physically or mentally – and consequently disenfranchised from family life; tossed into the precarious position of depending on the largesse of others or the state; they are not work shy wasters! Instead of throwing charity at them and running, try sitting down beside them, talk to them and find out what is their story … and listen. If they have become an agitated addict, this won’t be easy, but do try, because you may be surprised how much it means to them to be treated like a fellow human being, like equals. It behoves us to remember how lucky we are. There but for fortune go we.

– John Anstie

© 2013, essay,  John Anstie, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ LHC -CHERN Cocument Server licensed under CC A-SA 3.0 Unported License

John_in_Pose_Half_Face351w-rH34dTL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John participates in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and is a player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. John is also an active member of The Poetry Society (UK).

product_thumbnail-3.phpJohn has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

* Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.


“Life is short and art long, the crisis fleeting, experience penniless and decision difficult” ~ Hippocrates. As a young man, John was sporting and fit. It was then as much his recreational therapy as a cappella harmony singing, music, walking in the hills and writing is now. Playing Rugby Union for over twenty years, encouraged in the early days by a school that was run on the same lines and ethos as that famous Scottish public school, Gordonstoun, where our own headmaster had been as a senior master. This gave shape and discipline to a sometimes precarious early life. His fitness was enhanced not only by playing rugby, but also by working part time jobs in farming, as a leather factory packer and security guard, but probably not helped, for a short time, selling ice cream! His professional working life was spent as a Metallurgical Engineer, Marketing Manager, Export Sales Manager, Implementation Manager and Managing Director of his own company. Thirty five years spent, apparently in a creative desert, raising a family, pursuing a career and helping to pay the bills, probably enriched his experience, because his renaissance, on retirement, realised a hidden creative talent as a writer of prose and poetry. He also enjoys music, with a piano and a fifty-two year old Yamaha FG140 acoustic guitar. He sings bass in three a cappella harmony groups: as a founding member of a mixed voice chamber choir, Fox Valley Voices and barbershop quartets. He is also a member of one of the top barbershop choruses in the UK, Hallmark of Harmony (stage name of the Sheffield Barbershop Harmony Club), who, for the eighth time in 41 years, became UK Champions in 2019. He is also a would be (once upon a time or 'has been') photographer with drawers full of his own history, and an occasional, but lapsed 'film' maker. In his other life, he doubles as a Husband, Father, Grandfather, Brother, Uncle, Cousin, Friend and Family man. What he writes is sometimes autobiographical, often political, sometimes dark and frequently pins his colours to the mast of climate change and how a few humans are trashing the Earth. In 2013, he published an anthology of the poetry (including his own) of an international group of poets, who met on Twitter in 2011. He produced, edited and steered the product of this work, "Petrichor Rising", to publication by Aquillrelle. His sort of strap-line reads: “ iWrite iSing iDance iChi iVolunteer ”

10 thoughts on “There but for Fortune … and a Rucksack

  1. I’ve been watching your posts about the Rucksack Project on Facebook, John, and It’s a wonderful thing … even more so because everyone is involved firsthand, not just making a donation and passing on the work to paid workers. That’s makes it even more of a gift of love.

    I appreciate what you are saying about talking with homeless people. I do it myself much to the chagrin of some friends. They seem to think that if they are too friendly these homelss people will latch on to them, but no more inclination to do so there than in the rest of the populations. Discussions can be instructive. I also feel that when homeless are interviewed for feature articles and for studies by service organizations, they should be paid for their time. Not everyone agrees with that.

    Well considered piece, John. Thank you!


  2. Thanks for sharing this encounter. I am one of the trained left-brained who tend toward “solutions” in practical ways; my partner, Steve, tends toward presence and listening, not assuming. Fortune has it that the world is made up of all kinds. Working together, listening together, is a great way to get all kinds engaged.


    1. You’re touching on a key quality of the human condition, that we are all different and therefore can bring a variety of different things to the party. The most important aspect of this is that we should show up; we should attend the party. Thanks so much for your thoughtful and very relevant comment, Scilla.


  3. A wonderful effort, John. Yesterday I spoke at length with a childhood friend who has had so much hardship in her life. I was (and still am) overwhelmed by thinking about how protected and cared for I have been, when there are so many for whom life is such a struggle.


  4. Human connections … that’s what our lives should be about … were meant to be about. Great piece of writing John that I agree with wholeheartedly ~ & thank you for all your support with the Rucksack Project, Bradford 🙂


  5. There was never a single doubt in my mind when I instantly accepted your invitation to the Rucksack Project, Bradford, Peter. Connections, yes, connections is so important to us humans and, as I replied to Priscilla (scillagrace) below, every one of us has something to bring to the party. Thanks for your comment, mate.


  6. Jamie and Victoria, thank you as ever for your support and particularly for your understanding and thoughtful comments. You both know so well how important thoughtful comment is. As for the Rucksack Project, there’ll be more to hear about this I feel; I have resolved to make contact with the Sheffield Cathedral Archer Project, through whom I understand aRucksack Project was already organised in December. I think another will be needed come January or February.


  7. Reblogged this on My Poetry Library and commented:

    The homeless are often maligned, and therefore the Rucksack Project brings a much needed boost to their cause. No-one deserves to be homeless, no-one deserves to be be poor; those of us who ‘have’ a roof over our heads. food and warmth, should be very grateful indeed that we did not fall foul of a kind of destiny predicated by our genetic heritage, environment, circumstances, parentage … that left us physically or mentally incapacitated or, more likely, both.


  8. John, I have such an appreciation for what you have written. Such appreciation! I was very, very lucky to have been able early on in the AIDS/HIV movement to have immersed myself in this movement. My volunteer work and then my actual work was within this community community. I truly cannot express how lucky I was.


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