The Voice in your Community
Dearest Readers, it seems ages since the last issue, Christmas has been and gone, January and February are over and we are now in March 2021. Where has the time gone? For me it has gone quickly, I work from home, have zoom calls with my friends and a number of DIY projects have been completed and of course the garden needed defrosting during the short freeze we experienced. But when thinking about this month’s article, I was made aware that for some people the lockdown has dragged and has felt oppressive and the sense of isolation has become more intense. As I couldn’t go to any groups to interview them, I looked back at an article that I wrote in 2017 about Careline Calling, you may remember it, but for those who don’t I thought I would submit it again, as it seems their service would benefit so many people right now.
April 2017 article
Have you ever sat in your home and wished the phone would ring, cos you fancy a chat with someone who cares about you? Has that sense of loneliness become overwhelming so you don’t know how to either make or receive a telephone call?
Loneliness is a silent issue in our modern high-tech life, research tells us that loneliness and a lack of social interaction can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day; in addition, more than half (51%) of all people aged 75+ live alone in the UK and nearly a fifth of those people spend zero hours with other people on a typical day, during the pandemic that figure will have increased.
Years ago, people used to write letters and telephone friends for a catch up, but now Facebook and WhatsApp have taken over, so real communication of chatting on the telephone has been lost.
Careline is a registered charity (No. 1068801) which offers a free telephone befriending service to people living in the Derbyshire Dales and East Staffordshire. They can call you either weekly or fortnightly, how often they call is set up in your first introductory telephone call. It is such a simple solution to isolation, but extremely effective one.
The service was set up 1st September 1997 and now has a team of 60 volunteers who make the telephone calls. Calls take place every day of the year including weekends and bank holidays. Careline currently makes around 420 calls a week, which equates to over 21,000 calls a year.
Do you want to receive a call from a friendly volunteer from Careline? If so, all you have to do is call them, 01335 210353, then join, no fee involved, you then become a Member of the Careline community and arrange with them the day you want to be called. Calls offer friendship and greater social interaction.
Jane Fulham, Careline Manager explains that “The calls also have another important role, in that they act as a safety net for our members ensuring that all is well and raising awareness of problems that may be occurring before a situation reaches crisis point. Follow up telephone calls are made to family members or other contacts should we not be able to reach someone during a calling session.”
The calls are made to members during three time slots sessions; they can choose when to receive the call, either in the morning between 10am and noon or at mid-day between noon and 2pm or in the afternoon, between 2pm-4pm. If you know someone who would benefit from getting a weekly call, then you can refer them via the Careline website www.carelinecalling.org.uk or by calling 01335 210353 or just have a look at their Facebook page www.facebook.com/CarelineCalling/
But what about volunteering for the charity, Jane Fulham told me, “We are always looking for new people of all ages to join our team of volunteers! We have a loyal group of over 60 volunteers, many of whom have been supporting Careline for years. The majority of befriending calls were made from our office in St Oswald’s Hospital, Ashbourne, but during the COVID-19 19 pandemic, volunteers make calls from their own homes. Volunteers involvement can be as little as 2 hours per month or on a weekly or fortnightly basis, whatever best fits with their diary. Individual training is provided and they will receive on-going support from the Careline Manager.”
Careline Calling asked me to include the following due to COVID-19 19 – “because of COVID-19 19 and the national restrictions, we’re not taking on any new volunteers because we are unable to carry out our usual face to face training in the office. However, if people are interested in being a volunteer, they can still contact us to go on a waiting list and we will contact them when training resumes.”
As with all organisations, they are always looking for funding too and have a special Virgin Money Giving page where you can make a donation, using either PayPal or your card details, it’s a great cause, worth a donation. Just go to Virgin Money and in the Search box, add Careline Calling and their donation page will appear uk.virginmoneygiving.com/giving/
My telephone has just rung; a friend was just checking up that I was ok. It was only a 5 min call, but it made all the difference to my evening. So, if you want to either receive a call from Careline or get involved as a volunteer to make the calls, get in touch with Careline on 01335 210353 and break free of the isolation, it will change your life, I promise.
December 7th 2020, Issue 102
Firstly, may I apologise for not writing an article for last month’s magazine, I missed the deadline, plain and simple, my unmanageability, no excuses. As a result, Nigel rang me this month, very grateful for our esteemed Editor and said issue 102 is the Christmas edition.
So, I thought about Christmas (not my favourite time of year) and realised that whenever anyone mentions Christmas, they always mention the food they are going to treat themselves too, why I don’t know, it seems Christmas and food are linked together like peaches and cream. The adverts are starting now and they are all gorgeous chocolate loveliness and hams or turkeys cooked this way or that. Clearly this year, the party food adverts have been pulled off air, but there is an advert with a laptop at the end of the table, so an on line Zoom Christmas seemed to be getting closer to a reality and why not, if it keeps us safe from the COVID-19 virus.
But what is happening away from these glossy adverts? There has been quite a lot in the news about food and focusing on people who do not have enough of it. Marcus Rashford, the Manchester United player has, twice, successful ensured that children get food during the school holidays, millions signed his on-line petition to ensure that children got packed lunches. His eloquent speeches in the press were about not being ashamed of needing help with food and to accept the help when it is offered.
Here in Uttoxeter the Bank House Hotel, Church Street, (www.bankhousehotel.uk/) offered free packed lunches to children in the school holidays and Uttoxeter Lions, Tesco and Waitrose donated food towards the scheme, once again a community coming together to look after the people that need it and I want to thank all of them who worked hard to make that happen.
But what about food for your whole family? The Heath Community Centre runs the Helping Hands Community Cupboard, en-gb.facebook.com/uttheath/ - if you visit the Facebook page you will find lots of details about the Food Bank, with food bags and activity packs on offer free to residents. The foodbank number is 07548 687 632, and they have told me that they are again offering Christmas Hampers for residents. The food is donated by Tesco, Waitrose, Asda, plus the supermarket at 5 Shops plus the allotments in Uttoxeter and surrounding villages also donate. Some of the food comes from the national scheme called Fareshare (fareshare.org.uk/). People can collect food on both Tuesday and Thursday mornings, between 10am -Noon and if you want to donate to the scheme, please drop off any food at these times too.
The other foodbank in Uttoxeter is run by the Renew Church, High Street, Uttoxeter, and their website says they run “a referral-based Food Bank in Uttoxeter and the surrounding villages providing hundreds of families and individuals with food and toiletries each year. We provided some clients with one parcel to help them through a difficult times and others are given longer support. We get referrals from different organisations in the area as well as working with Fareshare, an organisation that provides a link to our local Tesco store allowing us to receive surplus fresh food. Our food bank is supported by other local churches, schools, businesses and individuals.” Telephone them on 01889 567016 or email email@example.com they believe it really is an honour to reach out to our local community and help people in their time of need.
Cheadle and District Food bank is run from Guild Hall, Tape street, Cheadle, ST10 1BG and can be contacted by calling 07902 835158, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website cheadledistrict.foodbank.org.uk/ They are open Wednesday 9.30am – 11.30am and Friday 1.30pm – 3pm. Remember you need a food voucher to get food from them, so ensure you have been referred to get the voucher, visit the website to get registered.
And please remember what the Trussell Trust website (www.trusselltrust.org/) says, “If you are in financial crisis and live in England or Wales, please call 0808 2082138 for free (open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm) to talk confidentially with a trained Citizens Advice adviser. They can help address your crises and provide support to maximise your income, help you navigate the benefits system, and identify any additional grants you could be entitled to. If needed, they’ll issue you with a voucher so you can get an emergency food parcel from your local food bank.”
So, to end my Christmas column, and to echo what Marcus Rashford and the Food Bank organisers have said to me, it is an honour for them to provide help, there is no shame in needing help and asking for it, the only shame is if you don’t ask.
Not everyone has equal access to reading.
September 10th 2020, Issue 100
Dear Readers, 100 issues of the voice magazine and I have been privileged to be part of the team, since issue 9, after I emailed Nigel on my birthday in March 2009 and asked if it would be possible for me to contribute to his new magazine with a gardening column, giving a plant of the month, some gardening tips from the local allotments residents and tips from my gardening apprenticeship at Women’s Farm and Garden Association, www.wfga.org.uk/ he graciously replied advising, “Let me know how you want to go about it and I am sure we can get it into print.” My first very short column featured Maria Peate and her son Jenson, who were so welcoming on Alexandra Allotments and my article was born.
I have since had the privilege of interviewing many skilled gardeners and associations’ connected to gardening, I will try and recount my first year at the Voice for this 100th edition: Who could forget Mr John Hickton and Mr Paul Walker advise about how to grow runners beans, Mr Wright gave me tips on giant sunflowers (buy giant sunflower seeds!), Jake from Millfield allotments advised on storing onions, Alice Chapman grew herbs in highly decorated pots, Manor House Farm allotments were great fun to visit, with Ian and Chris giving me tips on how green manure is vital for all plots, Clive and Margaret Smith plant tip was Acanthus Mollis which I have successfully grown, but it did take 5yrs! Mr Beardmore from Rocester Allotments recommended cow manure and the benefits for his plot. My visit to Park Avenue allotments allowed me to meet, Mr David Barker, Jim Godsafe, Mr Bailey and Gordon Harbour who gave me guidelines on growing asparagus, while Mr Barker imparted his knowledge on hedge layer, being a former champion hedge layer.
Reginald Chadwick, a resident at Doveridge helped me with a tip one month, as I got lost trying to find the allotments up there, plant onion seeds on Boxing Day. Dave and Jan at Alexandra allotments provided continued support with inspirational instructions each time they walked past my house, very grateful for their friendship over the years. Mr Shingler and his family told me about comfrey, which let’s face it is the miracle grow of the plant world and I now wouldn’t be without it in the garden. John and Danny inspired me with their homemade Riddle so their carrot patch was stone free. Arnold and Arthur advised to add lime to the soil, to prevent club root affecting cabbages, Sue and Charlie Udale provided me with a bird table, so my garden is still alive with wildlife.
The organisations that I discovered were also an inspiration, starting with the garden organic heritage seed library which advises on seeds from the past www.gardenorganic.org.uk/hsl, or the exotic plants from the Australian Plant Society, www.anzplantsoc.org.uk/, of course I featured the yellow book garden scheme on a number of occasions, Graham and Judy White, with neighbours, David and Helen Loughton open their gardens in Uttoxeter every year ngs.org.uk/, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, Eagle Sweet Peas, in Stowe by Chartley who are Chelsea gold medal winners, try their sweet peas, as they are perfectly perfumed www.eaglesweetpeas.co.uk/. Further afield is Fir Tree Nursery in Scropton who provided many useful tips on plants for each season, as did Heath House Farm nursery and café in Blythe Bridge www.heathhousefarm.co.uk/, plus Paradise Nurseries in Tean www.paradisenursery.co.uk/ and we can’t forget Strawberry Garden Centre in Bramshall strawberrygardencentre.co.uk/. Although I never interviewed Rosemary Roberts, she has been instrumental in ensuring that the Gardens Plant Fairs continue and provide an alternative space for plant buying, within Bramshall park and beyond. And finally, a huge thank you to Chris, George and Les who provided me with incredible fencing so I could grow clematis, the panels came from County Fencing Supplies in Hixon.
After a number of years doing the gardening column I moved my focus to local community groups, this came about when sitting in the hairdressers and listening to someone talking about an issue in their family that they didn’t know how to get support for and I knew of somewhere they could go, so I asked Nigel if I could feature groups that support our readers, as you are aware, he said yes and below are some of the wonderful groups, with their contact details, so you have a glossary for your reference.
I have to mention the wildlife trust – Staffordshire – www.staffs-wildlife.org.uk, then of course Community Matters at Waitrose who provides funds for local charity please email applications to: email@example.com, Mum Art Makers, Great Wood Hall, Upper Tean, who support women through crafting www.facebook.com/mumartmakers/, Greyhound Gap who help rehome hounds, www.greyhoundgap.org.uk/, Careline Calling who support isolated people through weekly telephone contact www.facebook.com/CarelineCalling/, Lions Club, whose motto is “We Serve” and who we are a group of committed and dedicated volunteers who offer help and support to individuals, families, charities and community organisations within the wider Uttoxeter area uttoxeterlions.co.uk/, Stramshall Bowls Club, Stramshall Village Hall gave me a warm welcome and flowers and cake too, Cheadle and District Animal Welfare, do an invaluable job at rehoming cats and dogs, firstname.lastname@example.org. Then you must visit Holly Road Supportive Care Centre, Holly Road, Uttoxeter, where you can go to get sign posted to lots of useful information and get support on all sorts of issues, from housing, dementia, grief counselling and lymphoedema support, call them on 01889 220420. Goldie’s singing group (not a choir), their moto is sing and smile, they meet regularly to sing along to music and share a cup of coffee too www.golden-oldies.org.uk/. The fantastic service by Approach, which is a dementia care and a carers café to help support the carers www.approachstaffordshire.co.uk/cafe-cheadle/, Halfrida House, the women’s refuge and support service, The Autism Pyramid Group, who created a safe supportive play group, www.supportstaffordshire.org.uk/organisation-directory/autism-pyramid-group-the. I really enjoyed meeting The Uttoxeter Station Adopters, in collaboration with North Staffordshire Community Railway Partnership, who keep the gardens at Uttoxeter Railway station looking gorgeous. The energy I found at the fitness league, which stated in 1920’s to ensure women stayed fit and well, www.fl-exercise.com/find-a-class/ was inspiring.
Then I interview the North Staffordshire Railway Study Group, www.nsrsg.org.uk, who collate all the information and history of the railway. A real favourite of mine, is Talking News, a fabulous service for the blind or partially sighted, where they get a weekly “recorded tape” of newspaper and magazine articles, so they can listen in their own homes and continue to feel connected, contact them via their website to receive this service www.lichfieldtalkingnews.co.uk/, the “Fun in Fole” craft group started by Rachel Bott, at Fourways Country Café, Fole it is a great bunch of women who enjoy crafts and chatting – ring Fourways to find out more 01889 507177. The most emotional interview I did was with Youth emotional support services, the team is dedicated to ensuring that children have access to strategies to be able to cope with life’s’ hard knocks, their work ensures that our next generation will be emotionally intelligent people who have the tools to deal with life and life’s terms www.yess.uk/. Featuring Tean Valley Meadow Nature Trust who provide a safe acres of land for Barn Owls to thrive was magical and of course who could forget the Men in Sheds article, with Dave, Clive and Graham and all the creative wooden items they make. The Probus Club is a group for retired or semi-retired men from all business or professional back grounds who meet regularly to share interests and companionship www.probusonline.org/history/. Uttoxeter Canals Trust is a fabulous group of people, who are passionate about restoring the canal locally plus reinstating the mileposts, to find out what is happening on the canal, visit their website cuct.org.uk
Buddy Bags was an idea from Australia, the founder here understood that the sad fact is that 48,000 children in the UK, have to flee their homes quickly and go to emergency accommodation, most of them leaving a violent situation and Buddy Bags steps in to provide a rucksack or as they call it, a Buddy Bag, that has toiletries, pyjamas, socks and underwear, plus comfort items such as a book, a photo frame and a teddy bear. One of the mothers wrote a thank you post card to the Buddy Bag Foundation, which says it all, “I was so surprised and really grateful to receive 2 Buddy Bags for my children, I had hardly anything with me, because we had to leave so rapidly, it’s a great idea and helped a lot”. www.facebook.com/pg/BuddyBagFoundation/events/.
The Forum 50+ group are a Committee that have established a dialogue with local government, statutory and non-statutory providers to ensure that the voice of local people is heard in the right place, these are a group of people who care passionately about resolving issues within the community. We mustn’t forget the British Wildlife Rescue Centre, based in Weston ST18 0JS, whose volunteers give tremendous care to the injured, abandoned wildlife in the area and for me I was able to meet all the hedgehogs, who are a favourite of mine. thebwrc.com/Found-An-Injured-Animal/. Finally, we have nearly come full circle my visit to the Bramshall Garden Club, where the committee, Brigitte, Clive, Penny & John offer a very warm welcome each month to approx. 30 people, with tea, coffee and of course biscuits, (a club is never the same without a biscuit), after the informal garden presentation.
I may have forgotten to mention some of the allotment people or community groups that I have featured, if so, my apologies, I did the best I could. All I can say is thank you for reading my articles and I hope that some of the features have enabled you to have a giggle and hopefully to find a group that can either help you or that you can join, in order that you are part of this great community we have in our area.
If you would like your group's web address to be added here please email email@example.com
June 23rd 2020, Issue 99
My apologies for the delay in writing my next article, as you will have read from my last article, I have been grieving the loss of my dear friend and I couldn’t get into the writing zone, what ever that means, plus the fact because we don’t have deadlines due to the coronavirus lockdown, I have become a bit slack, I like a deadline, it focuses the mind.
In the last few days, I have been aware that I haven’t given myself the pleasure of writing but tonight, as my hubby watches the football season starting again, I realised I could come upstairs and write.
My theme this month is Thank You. They are a simple two words that we are taught as children to say to people, but I have often thought that Thank You is too short a phrase to actually convey the meaning behind the words, so I looked it up in the thesaurus and guess what, Thank, thankful, thankfulness have one common meaning, gratitude or grateful.
Now grateful is one of my favourite words, as some of you know, I write a gratitude list each morning, it is a discipline that I learnt over 29yrs ago and it changed my life, far from seeing the misery plus doom and gloom in the world, which if left unchecked, is my natural state of mind, by writing 12 things each morning that I am grateful for, I turn my mood around and have a day looking for the good, even in times of sadness.
So, I thought I would write about the things that I have been grateful for in lockdown.
The first is, I am grateful to everyone for staying in and keeping us all safe from the virus, it showed a really great sense of community, as I wrote about in my previous article. I am also grateful for the people who didn’t obey the lockdown rules, because they taught me that it is none of my business what other people do, not to judge other, a lesson that I will continue to learn for the rest of my life.
2. I am grateful to the millions of people who have been caring for the sick, isolated and elderly in the community. We have a neighbour who has been delivering hot meals to the elderly since March, day in day out, she is there with her two colleagues, cooking wholesome meals and then driving round to deliver them. While another neighbour has been going to the hospital each day to ensure that the sick have someone with them to support them, I would imagine she has been scared, but has the courage to go anyway. There are the millions of people who have signed up to make telephone calls to the isolated so that they still feel a sense of connectivity. Careline calling in Ashbourne has been continuing to support our local residents and have helped so many with the loneliness that comes with not going out. There number is 01335 210353 if you want to receive a call.
3. I am extremely grateful to the people who work in the shops, they have been ensuring that the shelves restocked with food, and toilet roll, sorry I couldn’t resist mentioning the famous toilet roll episode, they have been leaving their families and going into work so that we can all have food and supplies to keep going. I am particular thankful to Pets at Home staff, especially to Peggy, you know who you are, for ensuring that my two dogs don’t go hungry. www.petsathome.com/ they have a scheme where they are supporting all the animal charities with food, because those charities have not been getting donations, so were in grave need, so thank you to them for their service to our animal friends.
Locally they have been supporting Cheadle Dogs and Cats home - www.cheadleanimalwelfare.org.uk/rehoming-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/ who are still rehoming dogs and cats through the lockdown.
4. I am grateful for the vets in Uttoxeter, who have been looking after one of my lovely dogs, who developed diabetes in lockdown and without their continuing care would not have survived. Both the vets and the reception staff are amazing. www.glenthornevets.co.uk/
5. I am grateful to both Strawberry Garden centre and the fruit and vegetable shop by Asda, who have both delivered plants and soil to me, I would have gone mad without being able to garden, both establishments offer the best service and brilliant quality plants and soil.
6. I am grateful that I have been able to work from home, I have been doing it for 5yrs now and normally it is just me and the dogs, but because my hubby is working from home, we now have a great routine, we have breakfast together, then go to our respective work areas of the house, then have lunch together and I then have my MS snooze and we meet again at 6pm when he finishes for the day. It has brought us closer together and we are both very grateful for the time together that we have been able to have. I am aware this is not the case for everyone and so I am also grateful for the domestic abuse helpline, who are ensuring that women and men in trouble have a safe place to call and a way out, if they decide to leave. 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247
7. I am grateful for all the cooking programmes on TV, it has meant that we are cooking some great meals, my favourite is the 5 ingredient cook book, it simple and cheap and really tasty, we have even lost weight, because we aren’t eating all the snack stuff that we used too. I am also grateful to Mario’s Italian Café, 36 Bridge Street, Uttoxeter, 01889 569977 for re-starting up their take away service, when you want to have a really good meal, they are the ones to call. The Italian profiteroles are out of this world!
8. I am grateful for the funeral companies that are now filming the service, so that you can be there, without actually being there. A friend of mines father died, Alec Joyce, he was buried in Lewes, Sussex, clearly I couldn’t go to pay my respects, but I could watch the grave side service they held for him and be with Sophie, his daughter via zoom.
9. I am soooooo grateful to Zoom, it’s a company I didn’t even know existed in February but now I use it all the time. Ruby Wax has been running her Frazzled Café on it and load of people are connecting and supporting each other via video link. www.frazzledcafe.org/virtual.
Zoom have made one of their packages FREE, so that there are Quizzes being set up, families are having get together evenings and people are really understanding that video calls/meetings are invaluable. I went to a festival on zoom which was incredible, all the artists were in their own homes and I could enjoy great music while looking for ideas for interior design by seeing where they lived. Business have found Zoom or Microsoft Teams to be invaluable during lockdown, my hubby is holding meetings with colleagues all over the UK to enable their business to keep going. zoom.us/signin
10. I am extremely grateful for the foodbanks that have kept people going throughout these hard times, the Renew church, Uttoxeter has continued to accept donations and provide food renewchurch.co.uk/food-bank/ - they get people who are referred from different organisations in the area as well as working with Fairshare, an organisation that provides a link to our local Tesco store allowing the foodbank to receive surplus fresh food. Their food bank is supported by other local churches, schools, businesses and individuals.
11. I am grateful for having lovely people in my life, I won’t embarrass them by giving their full names but just by listing them: Avril, Angela, Ken, Barbara, Peggy, Tina, Russell, Maralyn, Marjie, Lynn, Dominque, Cat, Nick, Sandra, Kerry, Tony, Bill, Audrey, Dick, Margaret, Colin, John, Stan, Matt, Jeff, Karen, Joya, Sophie, Jayne and Paddy, these are the people, along with my wonderful patient hubby, who have ensured the lockdown and the possibility of isolation has not happened for me. Of course, it goes without saying I am grateful to Nigel for continuing the Voice Magazine and to all of you who read it and advertise in it, so that we can continue to serve the community.
12. Finally, I am grateful for being taught the discipline of gratitude, 29yrs ago I was advised to try writing a gratitude list for 90 days, one day at a time. I was told that if I didn’t feel any different after the 90 days, then my misery would be refunded in full. I have never looked back, why not try it?
May 22nd 2020
I hope you are all staying safe in this strange lockdown time.
I have to say that I am not watching the News about Coronavirus, the death toll is too much for me to bear. It means that lots of people are grieving at the moment and I was wondering what to write about for my next article and then realised that having experienced the sudden death of my oldest and dearest friend, Sarah Wellman in November 2019, I am very aware of how hard grieving is, and the process that is needed to go through it.
For me, I discovered I wasn’t able to grieve fully on my own, so, I approached Cruse Bereavement Service in December, www.cruse.org.uk/ for help. As you can imagine, the waiting list is long at the moment, but they called me about 6 weeks ago and said they were offering telephone counselling service. When they called, I wanted to say No thanks, that’s ok, but I knew that I had to say Yes. I wanted to say no, as I didn’t want to talk about my loss, because then it is real, but I know I have too, as untreated grief leads to all sorts of mental health issues that I don’t want to experience again in my life.
So far, I have had 5 telephone sessions and part of the grieving process that Cruse suggests is to write a letter to the person you have lost. It helps with the 5 stages of the grief process that Elizabeth Kubler Ross mentions in all her writing about grief, the stages are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kübler-Ross_model
I haven’t written a letter to Sarah recently, but I have read out to the Cruse volunteer, the letter I wrote to Sarah in November just after she died and before the funeral. It allowed me to move forward in the grief process. So I wondered that if I shared it with you, our lovely readers, that it might help anyone else out there who is grieving, and perhaps encourage you to write your own letter and start the process of healing.
I know I need to write this letter to say goodbye, but I don’t want too, I want someone to ring and say it’s all a terrible mistake and that you haven’t died, that you are away in France for a holiday, why France I have no idea, but that’s how its playing in my head.
When I got the call to say you had died I just kept saying I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it over and over again and then started crying with what felt like a howl from deep inside me, somewhere that hurt is kept and only comes out when someone really special dies.
Does that mean you were special, yes it does, it means that you were someone that you could be yourself with, laugh with, talk cooking with, chat about shabby chic projects with and pickling recipes with and it was all with an ease of familiarity that is rare and so precious.
Did you judge, no, did you hate people, no, were you frustrated by how people treated you/me, yes, but we understood why and understood they just didn’t get what we did, that life wasn’t about climbing some imaginative ladder for us, but it was about caring and sharing life together and sharing the simple things, being kind to each other, that was the secret to our lives together as friends.
Book shelves featured in the last time we saw each other, along with linen tops with pockets, (I’ve got to have a pocket for my fags) and your long purple coat. It was such a simple trip out together, with yummy food and browsing the shops, the book shelves needed more research, measurements were taken and a sort of negotiation with the old man who was selling them, he wasn’t sure why were clearly so happy and laughing about where and how to get it into your dining room, which already had so much in it, the linen top was bought and the purple coat looked a million dollars on you. We found all the benches on the high street so that I could rest between strolls and we watched the world go by, just happy to be together and sharing time.
We parted company for my afternoon MS nap and you went home to measure the dining room!
Later we had supper with my husband and it was an easy evening, chatting about nothing in particular and yet that was everything.
If I had known that would be the last time, I would see you, I would have rushed after you and hugged you again, of course I would, I loved our parting hugs, but we parted with the normal hug and a promise to telephone just like normal.
Now I am the other side of that parting and knowing it was the last time I saw you, I want to deny it was the last time, but it’s a fact that I am negating with not to make it not true, it’s a fact that I cry spontaneously about, at really odd times, it’s a fact that I am told I will come to accept, but now, just now, the pain of that fact is too much to bear and too stark to comprehend, it is not true, I say, please god it is not true, but it is!
I want to ring your number and hear you say, “hello”, in that hesitant way you always answered the phone and then when you knew it was a friendly voice, you’d say, “oh hi, how are you, what have you been up too” and we would always have to watch the hour and re-dial, sorry BT, that’s just the way it was, our calls were no cost to us, either financially or emotionally. We would chat away about things we had read and the latest project in the house or the garden, the latest course we were thinking of taking or the crochet project that you had just completed, then it would be bye and both of us would leave the call knowing that someone out there in the big world knew us a bit better and were happy to know us.
We were friends, really good friends, who discussed everything, sought each other’s counsel on decisions, shared each other’s dreams, encouraged each other when we were paralysed with fears and laughed about the silliest things. We explored the world and then came back together to compare our findings, good and bad.
Friends are so precious, they are the solid touching post you have in your life that allow you to go out and explore, knowing they will be there for the good and bad decisions and offer a hand up when you fall and stand by and smile with pride when success comes to you.
They are there and then they are not.
How do you go on when they are not, initially in a fog of confusion, then through a haze of fog, then some sun shine comes back into life, but then there is the funeral and as yet I haven’t experienced that, so I don’t know what it will be like, but for now, supper is in the oven, the house looks pretty chaotic, but I am sitting listening to Bob Dylan and writing to you.
Goodbye my friend, goodbye to you, from the bottom of my heart. I want to thank you for every single moment we shared, for every encouragement you gave me, for allowing me to know you and support you and for sharing that deep sense of knowing each other that is the essence of being a human being, that true silver thread that links two people together.
The thread is broken now because you aren’t here anymore, but you are, because I will still think about you at the times I would normally have called you for your view on life and I am just hoping I will be able to hear your voice again in my mind. I hope that will not fade.
Until we meet again, which I am sure we will, know that you were loved by me, as only true friends can love each other and I am so thankful that you were part of my life. I will go on with my life, as everyone else does, but with a sadness and a missing that is part of growing older, I will be wiser and more compassionate from losing you, but I don’t want to be, I want to get that call to say it’s all a mistake.
April 9th 2020
As you know, I normally go to a local community group and find out what they are doing, in order that you can go along and share in their activities. But going out is not an option at the moment, we are all staying at home to save lives. But Nigel, our esteemed Editor in Chief, has suggested we all write a column for the website.
It got me thinking about a poster I have on my office wall – its entitled “How to Build a Community”, it is a list of ideals for a great community, it say things like: know your neighbour, greet people, plant flowers, buy from your local merchant, share what you have, support neighbourhood projects, read stories outload, talk to the postman/postwoman, listen to the birds, ask for help when you need it, give help when you are asked, sing together, seek to understand, learn from uncomfortable angels, work to change.
I have had that poster since 2013, when I saw it on the internet and loved it so much, I printed it off. I look at it from time to time and try to emulate its philosophy, but now, it seems that the whole world is trying to do all the things it asks us to do to build a community, here are my thoughts on each one.
Knowing your neighbours – in our street we have set up a WhatsApp group and said that if anyone needs anything that their existing support cannot give them, then we are here for them. As a result, we are getting to know each other better. One person posted last weekend all the takeaway places still open, invaluable information for my husband, as he has had to eat a week of strange meal concoctions, as I use up the food in my freezer, sorry to my husband……
Greet people – on our once a day, exercise walk with the dogs, we are saying hello to anyone else we meet, and saying, Stay Safe, after we have smiled at each other. It feels like we are not alone in this, people are greeting each other in every street and wishing each other well.
Planting flowers – well as you know, that is my favourite hobby and it’s great to see people out in their gardens, with the time to actually enjoy being outdoors, planting things, the planet will benefit.
Buy from your local merchant, I can only talk for Uttoxeter, as I live here, but there is a greengrocer by Uttoxeter Town Hall who is fabulous, the staff are keeping us all safe by having a queue and only letting one customer at a time pay for the wonderful fresh fruit and veg on offer. There are local butchers, Edmonstons, Uttoxeter and Sargeant’s in Bramshall and Uttoxeter who are not only open, but also offering deliveries to vulnerable customers, the amazing ladies in Old Saddlers Yard Café, Uttoxeter, are offering free delivery of homemade meals for their vulnerable customers, Sams Free Range Eggs are offering free delivery, Titterton Cheese provide free home delivery of products (cheese & eggs), Local Milkmen – Adrian – 01889 567652 or Clive – 07855 718553 are still working hard to get things to their customers, Denstone Farm Shop are offering a delivery service on orders over £25.00, LH Aerials is providing help and assistance regarding TV related issues over the phone.
The Eco Centre is delivering all their produce too. The community is truly coming together, people are beginning to shop local, that’s an amazing outcome of this situation. There is a list of local businesses on a parish council website that you can view for more information https://uttoxeterruralparishcouncil.org.uk/local-businesses-offering-services Support neighbourhood projects – Staffordshire County Council started a Coronavirus Kindness Campaign right at the beginning of the lockdown, when everyone realised we had to pull together and thousands of people have signed up to deliver shopping, medicine and other vital services to the vulnerable in our community. If you want to volunteer, more information is available at www.staffordshire.gov.uk/coronaviruskindness
Read Stories – with all the home schooling that is going on, parents now have time to read to their kids, create amazing pictures with words from story books, laughing and create amazing memories that will be forever cherished by the whole family. The Harry Potter books are being streamed online for everyone to listen to, storytelling websites are popping up all over the internet - we are appreciating the true value of words again.
Talk to the postman/postwoman – this is a great thing to do, they are working so hard to ensure that we keep in touch with people, say hello to them and thank you. The post has become a lifeline for some many people, my normal post lady, Kim Mace, is an absolute dream and I have been talking to her from my upstairs window and thanking her for what she does, as well as all the other postmen and postwomen who are ensuring that we stay in touch.
I also want to mention the binmen and women, let’s not forget them! I am clapping them when they come, they are amazing in what they are doing, one of our neighbours, Charlie, is a binman and I want to say a personal thank you to him and all of the teams that are out there, they are working tirelessly for us. I know the brown bins aren’t getting emptied, but ESBC has asked that we all compost our green waste until this situation is over, is that too much to ask?www.eaststaffsbc.gov.uk/bins-rubbish-recycling/composting
Listen to the Birds – the sound of bird songs is incredibly loud at the moment, it’s so nice that all the background noise of planes and cars has gone or got quieter, so that we can actually hear them and they seem to be loving the fact that the air is so clean. Robins are singing their hearts out in my back garden as I write this, what a joy. Bird song CDs and the Sound of the Sea CDs have long been listened to as a form of mediation and now we can hear the birds for real. Staffordshire being landlocked ensures the Sea CDs are still in demand!
Ask for help when you need it/Give help when you are asked – our society before Coronavirus was a strange place, we seem to have become isolated into our own worlds of mobile phones, TVs and computers, but now, we are talking again, we are asking for help, we are realising it is Ok to say yes I need help, we are not insular anymore, the community groups who used to meet in village halls are now supporting each other over the phone.
Sing together – the stories of choirs online singing together, the visions of music being played in Spanish town windows, the clapping that we are doing on Thursday nights for the NHS are all such heartfelt expressions of what music is all about, it lifts your spirits and makes you feel alive again, why not join a choir online, search for Gareth Malone Home Choir on YouTube and make 8pm on Thursday a date for your diary to clap for the NHS.
Seek to understand – haven’t you noticed that people are being more tolerant of each other since we were all in lockdown as we are all in the same boat together, I have and it’s lovely - Thank you to everyone who has slowed down long enough to understand that it is people that matter and tolerance/acceptance of each other is the key.
Learn from uncomfortable angels/Seek to change - is the coronavirus an uncomfortable angel that has been sent to us, so that we look at what we are doing and reassess what we really want to do, the amount of people that I talk to all say, this will change how we live, this will change how we move forward, this will change what we value, this will change our outlook, this will change what is important to us, have you noticed a change in you? My change is to not be so busy anymore and make time for the important friends I have in my life…..
Well readers, that’s my musing on the coronavirus and community: for me, that poster has always been a dream society and maybe now, after this lockdown has finished, it will continue to grow and we will be a different community. Thank you for reading this, I appreciate everyone of the readers who support The Voice community magazine that Nigel has put together over 13 years ago, he is one of the good guys in our community and I am very grateful that he allows me to write for him each month. Thank you to Nigel and all my fellow columnists, we are a great community team.
I will speak to you again in a few weeks time on The Voice website – take care everyone