Retired Derbyshire GP's new chapter in helping homeless and asylum seekers
A retired Ilkeston doctor has hit on a novel way of helping Derbyshire’s poor and homeless people.
Dr Patrick Halls is donating the royalties from his first book to the Hope Centre in Derby which supports those in need, including asylum seekers.
Patrick, 68, who lives in Smalley, near Heanor, has volunteered at the centre for three years. He said: “As a GP I had always enjoyed the aspect of the job chatting to the patients about their lives and background so I was very pleased to be able to have a natter to the clients of the Hope Centre.
"I have done various kinds of voluntary work in my time including working as a doctor for two and a half years in rural Gambia and working as a Derby street pastor helping to keep people safe on the streets at night for 11 years.”
Lockdown provided the opportunity for Patrick, who worked at Littlewick Medical Centre in Ilkeston before retirement, to write his book The Asylum Seeker.
He said: “I have a real interest in staying well in mind and body. During lockdown, like everyone else I was tempted to get depressed with the situation. So I thought ‘What can I do to challenge myself and inspire me to keep going mentally?
“I have always had a hidden urge to do a novel and I did start to write a spiritual fantasy story in the late 1970s but never kept it up and threw it away. That urge to write grew during lockdown.
"When August came I had already got the first half of the book in my head but then managed to come up with a complete written outline and that was a big help as a guide to start filling in the bits.
"I found a lot of my thinking started to be bound up with the story at night in bed or walking round in the daytime – how was I going to write this chapter or that scene? That was an escape from all the bad things going on round us all in the world at that time.”
The Asylum Seeker focuses on a journey through the life and faith of a man called Mark, from being an awkward, friendless youngster to becoming a family man in a responsible job. Patrick said: “That includes taking him through various adventures from learning Spanish and Farsi, working on a farm in Argentina, being a diplomat in Teheran involved in nuclear talks to being a vicar who is facing enemies seeking to destroy him. Throughout Mark’s life he comes into contact with asylum seekers who help shape his destiny.
"When I wrote the book, I was also sharing a bit of my own life and journey of faith. I too, like Mark, love riding a bike with an old-fashioned horn, allotments and languages. I speak Spanish to a high level and have learned French and an African language, Mandinka, to a good level.”
The Asylum Seeker, priced £2.99 for Kindle and £8.99 for paperback, is now available on Amazon.
Patrick has dedicated his first book to a man who he met at the Hope Centre. He is currently writing a second novel.