The Voice in your Community
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