‘The Day of Small Things’ (Valley Press)

-Reviewed by Ian Chung

The Day of Small Things is the second charity publication put out by Valley Press, a publishing house based in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. It features articles, photographs and creative writing by supporters of the Bridlington Romanian Project, which is aimed at helping those living in a Romanian shanty town named Odoreu. The impetus for the project came from Bridlington resident Val Taylor, who first encountered the plight of ordinary Romanians more than 10 years ago, when she was visiting Romanian orphanages as a volunteer with the Women’s Voluntary Service. However, the catalyst for her to act occurred nearer to the present day (as recounted in the book’s forward), when she received a call inviting her to revisit the country. Funded fully by donations, The Day of Small Things is but one expression of Taylor’s continuing efforts to improve the lives of the Romanians in Odoreu, which have thus far included building wells to supply them with clean water and ferrying gift boxes from the UK to Romania.

On the back cover of the book, it reads: ‘It is hoped the book will raise awareness and generate funds to continue offering the hands of friendship and faith which have achieved so much so far.’ That phrase ‘friendship and faith’ is instructive. As the project is based out of Christ Church, Bridlington, there is a very strongly Christian element in the accounts describing the work that has been done, as well as in the creative writing that is interspersed throughout them and collected in a separate section in the second half of the book. Nonetheless, the aim of the book is assuredly not so much to proselytise as to highlight the work that has been, is being, and still remains to be done. In this respect, the book is unquestionably successful.

In a brief introduction to the creative writing section, Valley Press author Deirdre McGarry explains that most of it was the fruit of a workshop that she ran at Christ Church. It consists mainly of rhyming verse and haiku, accompanied by several short prose pieces. The poems are by and large disarmingly touching, almost like nursery rhymes, except rather than returning the reader to the incantatory simplicity of those familiar childhood nursery rhymes, what one gets instead are poems that poignantly narrate the stories of the Romanians in Odoreu and those from Bridlington who have tried to do whatever they can to help. What also makes the creative writing pieces interesting is how they have been inspired by photographs, usually printed alongside the pieces, thus becoming a demonstration of ordinary people reacting to the extraordinary circumstances depicted in the photographs.

On the Valley Press webpage for this book, it states that ‘every penny made from sales of the book goes towards providing more of the aid and friendship which have achieved so much already, and will continue for many years to come’. Reading The Day of Small Things, there is a pervading sense that while much has been accomplished so far for Odoreu, even more remains to be done, and more importantly, that the people of Bridlington possess the will to make this happen. This slim volume is a step in that direction, and deserves to be supported. Purchasing it may be a small act, but as the book repeatedly emphasises, even small acts are not to be despised.