The Voice in your Community
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