Monday, 11 August 2014

Have we lost our way?

When we stop and ask ourselves what matters most in our lives; isn't it the people we mix with?

Our partner, our children, our parents, the friends we meet and do things with?

The friendly conversation with someone we know well. We see this all over central Ulverston  particularly on Market Days when people still come into town just to catch up on the gossip seeing friends they haven't seen for a little while.

Time with happy enthusiastic young children that are curious about everything they see.

Invites into people's house to share their thoughts and aspirations sand discuss the activities  they share.

Isn't this why people  love Facebook and why it is so addictive? We all want to have good friends.

So don't we want to encourage and preserve places where people enjoy each others company, the interaction with people we know?

Small family run shops where the people serving us know us and our families. If these kind of shops are slightly more expensive, is this really that important? After all we enjoy the experience of shopping there. In fact these shops can often  be less expensive than the commercially driven , out of touch chain stores that only cater for the lowest common denominator . Chain stores and supermarkets without detailed local knowledge of where to access locally produced  supplies which avoid the expense of distant road travel. Stores run remotely for the benefit of impersonal, uncaring share holders where profit is the sole motivation; and closure is dictated by the bank balance. Contrast  the variety and price of Brocklebanks green grocers with similar Supermarket produce. Contrast again the friendly and helpful Co-op  with the impersonal Tesco up the road where the goods carry dodgy descriptions: eggs produce in the open countryside ( actually in sheds with no daylight where the hens are crammed in on top of each other. Do you remember  Bird Eye Custard produced with similar catchy phrases:"on the sunny banks of the  river Rae" ( actually in central Birmingham where the river Rea is a culvert underground)?

Ulverston has the wonderful benefit of being small enough so that we all know a lot of the people we meet. We can quickly develop friendships because someone we meet one day at say the Bay Horse at the end of the canal is  then in town doing their shopping at the weekend. People I find, who are very willing to talk and get to know new people. People, I find are increasingly starved of face to face interactions where honest, open exchanges take place, where facial expressions and body language are so revealing. Something you don't get when technology , like the computer driven Facebook and even the phone remove this rich form of contact. The former are surely useful as a back up to face to face contact, not as their replacement.

We in Union Lane, where I live, have the great benefit of regular personal contact. We are frequently doing each other personal favours, when the need arrives. In my case rails and bathroom supports where constructed and available within a day of me needing them  after my stroke: no waiting endlessly for public 'services to provide them.   At this very moment one neighbour is baking me a blackberry and apple pie  with lovely shortbread type pastry, in exchange for extra supplies of the fruit that I  picked and gave them. Up the road I can drop in at almost any time and see another family with young children that know me well. I give sweet peas to other neighbours and get raspberries and rhubarb back from two different families. With another family their plum tree is loaded with plums some of which I'll be getting in exchange for produce from my allotment. In another case a teenage son is helped with his Maths exams by an experienced  retired teacher.

Here older people can take the stress out of the busy lives of younger working families my looking after the children  for a while, an activity that is welcome because it's brief. Similarly we walk friend's dogs  and have their company without the responsibility of feeding them and looking after them every other day of the year.

All these interactions take only  a little time to keep alive but the benefits of close contact with real flesh and blood people is  so reassuring when most of our contacts are with people don't really know us.

I know of many streets and roads in Ulverston,  where the neighbours all know each other and are helpful: where similar things are happening all the time.

Isn't it worth making an effort to build  and preserve communities of friendly people ? The benefits are amazing.

Yes people really matter. 

Small is really beautiful

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