Give a little time and get a little back; such a simple concept as the City Corporation’s report on social wellbeing points out, and one we should all be adopting.
The new baby boomers
Right up there on my Christmas reading list alongside the new Donna Leon Brunetti saga was a City Corporation report on social wellbeing within the Square Mile.
Three things jumped out. The first is that being lonely is not the same as being alone. The second is that loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The third? That one of the groups worst hit by loneliness and isolation is young parents.
I expected to see older people, people from different ethnic backgrounds and the disabled (physically and mentally) on a list of those who feel excluded. I might even have added teenagers, LGBT or homeless people to the tally. But young parents was a surprise.
The City Corporation has an interest in tackling loneliness, even if it’s only as part of a wider remit on facing up to modern social ills. And on Golden Lane it has been working behind the scenes to train volunteer residents in the art of Community Building.
‘Builders’ are people who stop to chat and generally act like good neighbours. Sometimes they also act as ‘Community Connectors’, offering handy local tips and plugging people into information and services.
And if the recommendations of my Christmas reading are carried out, they will soon be joined by ‘Maternity Champions’.
The City’s business relies heavily on the daily arrival from outside the Square Mile of many thousands of young professionals. Add to this its young resident population and the sum is a human dynamo that cannot be ignored. Many of the workers might have been uprooted from secure and supportive family networks elsewhere. Many of the young residents will be so drained by the sheer hard work of bringing up a baby that they simply drop out of community activities. No wonder the Corporation puts the social wellbeing of these people at the centre of its action plan. They are the present and the future of its success.
Golden Lane Gazette: December
Golden Lane Gazette: November
Golden Lane Gazette: September
Time ladies and gentlemen, please
Like our Common Councillors, Community Builders and Maternity Champions don’t get paid. What they get instead is City of London Time Credits.
This is a scheme in which you offer one hour of your time doing something for the community – pulling weeds from paving cracks, for example.
For this you get a crisp piece of paper that looks like a foreign banknote. You can spend it not on cups of tea in the local café, or milk and bread at the supermarket, but on fun things like going to the cinema, riding the Thames Clipper or watching Millwall FC.
One Time Credit equals one hour of fun. I recently spent two of mine on a visit to the superb Courtauld Art Gallery at Somerset House to see the exhibition Soutine’s Portraits (finishes 21 January), which revealed the artist’s great skill in painting pinched faces with unnaturally long noses.
Pay, the way to go…
A proper wage for our Common Councillors is a cause worth supporting.
Only when our elected members are given full professional status can voters expect a professional service, fully transparent and compliant with progressive democratic principles.
Tree cheers… not!
The estate became a laughing stock over the festive holiday as passers-by scoffed at its pathetic Christmas tree.
Not only was this the scraggiest of specimens, what is presumed to be an overdose of austerity at the City Corporation saw it left stark naked, with no lights or decoration over the entire holiday.
It wasn’t even planted properly in its traditional place at the centre of the stone rotunda at the end of Basterfield lawn, so the first gust of winter wind left it tilted drunkenly to one side as if trying to stagger home from a not-very-good party.
Residents took to social media to note their displeasure, but would nevertheless like to apologise to anyone forced to feast their eyes on such an embarrassment.
‘Yr rnt iz du’
A new texting service that allows residents to check stuff like rents and repairs will be introduced at a workshop in the Ralph Perring Centre on 30 January (5pm-7pm).
This sounds like a good idea, with plenty of scope for future development. Text messaging is already used successfully for GP and hospital appointments, and at a recent Healthwatch conference there was talk of using it to prompt outpatients to take their medication or to get up and stretch occasionally. The possibilities are endless, so it’s fingers crossed that a Christmas Tree Complaints number will be issued in time for Santa’s next arrival.
Billy Mann has lived in Basterfield House on the Golden Lane Estate for more than 20 years. He is membership secretary of the Golden Baggers allotment group, and earlier this year was made a Housing Hero by the City of London Corporation. He writes a blog about neighbourhood events at basterfieldbilly.blogspot.com
Cover image by Stephen Richards (Creative Commons).