Following on from the launch of its predecessors, we continue our story with the House of St.Barnabas. For the release of the 990VS3, we showcased the silhouette on HOSB porter John Smallshaw.
Over the years the 990 has stood the ultimate test of time and changes in trend, whilst maintaining its permanent place within the sneaker market. The House of St.Barnabas follows that same journey. Having had the building erected in the 1700s. The building has hardly changed but simply modified within its interior, similarly to the way the 990 has been updated to keep it current and fresh to its community members.
We caught up with John to find out more about his journey and how the House of St Barnabas as helped him.
The New Balance 990 v3 will be launching in-store and online on Friday 5th November, sizes range from UK6 – UK12, priced at £200.
Footpatrol: Could you tell us in a bit more depth what your role is within the House?
John Smallshaw: My role in the house… Well, I’m employed by them as a kitchen porter and have been here for around 10 years now. Have I progressed? Well, I have had the opportunity to become a chef, but I am quite happy doing what I do as there are other aspects that I get involved in. Like creative writing as part of the group we have upstairs, poetry nights; I need my free time. So, this is what I do: I wash dishes and keep the kitchen clean. I am getting older now and things are slowing down. My wife says I’m not, but that’s my wife! I love being here, I love the house (House of St. Barnabas). I think the house has made the biggest impact in my life, changed my life and it saved my life. If I ever owed them anything they have never said that. I always felt I owed them that of course, otherwise I would have been pushing up daisies if it wasn’t for the house and the people associated with it. It’s a family and being away from my own, which I have been for a long time. This was a family that became my family. That’s not just the people that work here now, but all the people that worked here. Like Charles Dickens! You can almost feel him coming out of the walls, there is a magic that seeps into your bones. I am not the only person that says that.
FP: How did your journey begin with HOSB?
John Smallshaw: Well, I left home when I was 15, a runaway. I come from a long line or long lines in the north of England. Bread lines, labour exchange office lines. I went to work on the docks in Newhaven as a 15-year-old as a casual stevedore for £5 a day, which doesn’t sound much but my weekly rent was £5 a week for bed, breakfast, and an evening meal. I then gravitated over to London and very soon got involved in the drug scene which was and still is unfortunately still rife in London. From pills, heroin, crack cocaine, anything in MIMs that would give me a high. I always used to carry a copy of MIMs in my pocket to find out what would do what. I watched people I knew die off. I was really lucky not to do the same.
About 12 years ago, one of the last guys from the time period I’m talking about got terminal cancer. We were both junkies, it didn’t stop us from taking drugs still. I sat with him in his house and his daughter would come round and his grandchildren, his wife had sadly passed. One day I looked at him and I was quite jealous as he was on morphine. This was the life of a drug addict. I just looked at him and thought you’re going to die, and it was a purely selfish thing because that’s how drug addicts can be, selfish people. I went out that night back to my hostel and I never went back. I had a lovely flat in this hostel, warm heating and £16 a week subsidised by the council. I locked myself in my room for about 3 or 4 weeks, coming out every time I got a gyro to get some of the brown to make me feel normal for the day. Then one day, I went down to where I used to buy the stuff and the supermarket at the bottom of the road was selling sugar puffs 3 for £1 and I loved them! When I came out, I realised I didn’t have enough money for the gear and that was when I ended it.
I climbed the walls for about 2 years, saw a councillor at my local doctors and gave him all my grief for years which was really lucky for me. I then did a 2-day course at Crisis, then a goal setting course for 2 days and came away quite deflated. The lady who was the mentor on the course came to see me at the hostel and asked if I would like to go to St. Barnabas. My first thoughts were ‘Ugh Religion’. I have always had a bit of down on that. To keep the job centre of my back though I thought why not give it a go. I came down and didn’t realise it was an interview, I thought they were just looking for people to fill places. I knew the building but at the time never knew what it was. When I came on this course and after about 2 days my eyes opened and I still don’t know what it was that did that. I just got the whole thing. I was 55 years old, thick as a brick or as 2 short planks as we say up north. I just began to throw myself at anything they offered.
FP: We heard that you are also a bit of spoken word talent. Do you think you could give us a short few lines relating to the House off the top of your head?
Yes, about 12,000 and counting! There is one though. I am actually currently in a play, so if you’re reading or watching this back at base. The Blue Elephant Theatre, 5th, and 6th of November. It’s a fairly cheap and good play, written by Brian Beaton who is a chap in the house. This piece comes at the end of the play. It’s about time and how we deal with time as are many of my pieces and it’s called, ‘The Constant Clock’.
The Constant Clock, by John Smallshaw.
“You can hear the tick and the tock. Can you feel them as they mock when you turn and face the face of the ever present clock.
That look of shock that’s in your eye, should not come as a surprise for, we all know that time lies with the dog that carries fleas.
If it pleases you to think that ticking time is but the link then, please yourself away.
But time is night and time is day, it’s the rock that man has built, a man’s upset when time is split and it trickles down the drain.
Time, and time again as we take time by the hand and we wander off alone into times eternal land. To the shore line at the hourglass that trickles out the sand to the ever present beat of the time. In which we meet the waters lapping at our feet. Where the tide of time will greet us as if we, an unborn fetus had no idea that times against us as we try to build a fence against the past and present tense.
But time is stone and it wears away the bone and eats at all the parts. And time still the beat of hearts and the tears of time will tell if this is heaven or this is hell. When at the ending of the day, the bells ring out to say. Time gentlemen please! We shall get down on our knees and plead for one last chance. Just one more loving glance at the time we left behind. I am resigned to that.“
FP: If there was one thing you would say to people to help further encourage their support what would it be?
JS: As I said recently you’d have crossed the road to get away from me because I was a lost cause. I was heading for the end. There is always a turn around and really you see it yourself, you try to ignore it but just turn around and look in a different direction. There are lots of people out here to help but you do have to ask. Nobody is a mind reader.