me?" he asked.
"You're the one with the big cat tattoo?" I responded.
I heard a sigh of relief.
"Got it...er, the other boys and I are thinking of heading up there
to help. We sort of have things organised but we need a bit of help. Think we might need a list like you made us last time - you know just in case. Think most of them speak English this time...but just in case they don't - Tom said to ask."
All this is said very quickly and rather nervously but I take "there" to mean the Philippines. He confirms it.
"Not a problem - there is a list. Have you still got e-mail? I can send it through," I tell him.
"Ah, knew you could sort it."
I am given an e-mail address. I ask a few more questions just to check. Have they got all the certification they need? Who are they in contact with at the other end? Do they need help with the paperwork?
He answers patiently enough. Last time taught them the need to have everything in place before they leave. I give him another name in case they need it.
I ask about finances too because I know the four who plan on going don't have much. They never have much. They live from one pay cheque to the next and they won't be getting a pay cheque for a while.
"Ah, the others are helping out...just have to raise a bit more for the fares and a bit of fodder."
I give him another name here. I know his staff are looking for something specific to help with.
He leaves me with abrupt thanks. I make a quick call to the man who might be able to help and tell him what is going on. He's cautious but interested. I tell him I'll come over and talk to his staff if he wants me to but he says he knows I am too busy. I also suggest asking Tom's secretary. Tom is a doctor and he is about to leave to help too but she has sorted some of the paperwork out for "the boys". I remember their local MP was also involved last time. He's still in the job and so I phone his secretary and tell her what is happening. She promises to get in touch with my other contact.
There is a flow of e-mails through the day and the next day and the next. At the end of it people have raised enough money for the fourth fare and food.
Four rough, tough "bikies" are heading for the Philippines. They would seem to be the most unlikely aid workers in the world but they went to Indonesia after the Boxing Day Tsunami. They were not very experienced that time. It was a steep learning curve and they didn't always get it right but at the end of twelve weeks they had done more than most people do in twelve months.
This time they have much more idea of what to expect and how to help. They plan to mobilise some of the young locals to help - and yes, I don't doubt they will mobilise them. They plan to clear some of the debris and use what they can to build some temporary medical accommodation for Tom's contacts there.
It's a specific project and one the local authorities have already decided is urgently needed. The "boys" are going because they have done it before. They can even use the design they used before - with some modifications.
They are the sort of men the police tend to look twice at although none of them has more than a speeding ticket. It is a salutary reminder to me - never, ever judge a human by his or her cover.