Mark’s been coming to Addi Road’s Food Pantry for a while now. “I’m a regular,” he says proudly. Lately, he’s been noticing “all these new faces, and just loads more people. It’s obvious the need is getting bigger and bigger with everything that is going on.”

Around his local area, he says the panic buying at the supermarket “has just been crazy. I haven’t been able to get loo paper. It’s such a hassle, man. At least I have I have got tissues now. I get them from the Chinese place across the road.”

He’s grateful the Addison Road Community Organisation Food Pantry is still open. “My favourite thing is the sourdough bread,” he says. “It’s great for toast. I get given a free loaf every time I do a shop here.”

“I come here for the price. Everything is so cheap, plus you get the free bread and fruit and vegetables,” Mark says. “But the staff are super friendly too. They always have a smile for me. I really appreciate it. Like, I just got here today right – and I am looking out for people, trying to pull out a smile from someone here in the crowd while we are all just lined up waiting to go in and do our shop.”

He lives in a boarding house. It can be a bit isolating. Lately, he says, the people he shares with there “have been trying to look after themselves more with all that is going on. And keep it all tidy. But it’s pretty hard sometimes.”

Mark explains he has also been recently operated on. “It can be difficult when you’re crook. Just the social part of things, having to stay home in your room. Not going out as much. That’s why you look for those smiles from people. I’ve noticed with the corona virus stuff how flat everyone is, the stress that is everywhere. People are really flat. When I meet with the staff and volunteers here they give me that smile. It’s almost as important as the food, eh.”

In his youth Mark played drums in a Beatles tribute act. He played the part of Ringo. He even recorded some stuff on the Au Go Go label doing sessions for the renowned producer Tony Cohen. “So I must be a legend in my own lunch time somewhere,” he says smiling. “I will bring some of my recordings in next time I come here. Maybe you can play them for people?”

Once Mark has done a shop at Food Pantry, he heads home and makes himself a decent meal. It keeps him positive.

When he’s feeling well enough and he has the strength, he likes to go busking. He has got himself a tiny little Middle Eastern drum he just loves. Mark will set up near Ashfield Station. “Sometimes at peak hour you will see something like 5000 people go by. They’re all worried. I know it. But I can get these beats going in that Arabic way, it’s a bit like a belly dance beat, and something about it soothes people. When I hit it right, I can see those smiles coming on people’s faces.”

“I haven’t got a big head about it. But people will come up to me and say thank you. Thank you for giving us an up beat.”

Donations to Addi Road’s Food Pantry can be made here:

Story by Mark Mordue