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"Perhaps they could open up the gym and pool to the residents close-by who are going to have to stomach the building work? Could they offer discounted fees for City residents?"

The Barbican Estate Office’s new pre-Christmas bash – complete with mince pies, decorations, music and mulled wine – was a really fantastic evening.

Who could have imagined that the Lilac Room’s clinical office shell could be made over into a welcoming and stylish Christmas grotto.

Extra thanks go out to Nabeela Ahmad (who sends out our BEO newsletters every Friday) for the loan of some of the lights and decorations from her daughter’s wedding. I’ll be lobbying for a repeat in 2019, and I’m hoping that the . person(s) in charge of the mulled wine will still be around because it was delicious.

Throwing caution to the wind, I took down the Christmas tree earlier than the customary 12 days after Christmas. I also did some washing (even though I could hear my mother’s ghost in my ear warning me of bad luck), so this could be an interesting year for me if I’m feeling superstitious.

On the plus side, I moved into an empty flat and have been filling it up with bargain furniture gifted on Barbican Talk, so a big shout out to all those kind residents who take the time to post on the message board rather than just dump it down in the rubbish area.

One of the tables I’m using at the moment is on its third recycle, so let’s give ourselves a virtuous pat on the back for that. We have a very exciting year ahead of us in politics, nationally with Brexit, and locally with our own issues.

A rather personal issue which I’m dealing with at the moment is the multiple emails I receive daily telling me that my computer has been hacked. ‘They’ have allegedly taken over the camera on it and filmed me participating in dubious pleasurable activities.

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Hackers are trying harder than ever to con residents out of their personal information

I’m assuming that these hackers aren’t talking about my over-indulgence in mince pies (obviously, we non-bakers have to try a large range of six packs in order to settle on the preferred brand annually). The hackers ask for Bitcoin, bless ’em.

As a relatively wise internet user, I’m comfortable ignoring these emails, even though sometimes they have old password information (from ages old unimportant registrations which have presumably been hacked along the way), but these emails must scare people who are not so familiar with how the internet works.

I’ve even received emails branded with banking logos, footers and disclaimers which mimic the bank’s so closely that you really have to examine it to death to tell the difference. So, please, beware: internet scammers are getting better all the time at fleecing us. If in doubt, contact the bank directly and don’t use information from the email, rather go straight to their website.

We’re lucky enough to have branches close by for most banks (another City blessing) so take a stroll down to speak to them in person for added reassurance.

I also wanted to give a quick plug to the The Running Works Beginner Run Club. The Running Works offers a free (also easy and gentle, honestly) nine-week plan for beginners that will take you from walk/jog to a 5km run.

The new stores are shooting up in Breton, Bunyan and Willoughby and cost a significant amount more than our old stores. On the plus side, the options are more spacious (43, 61 and 86sq ft) and since they are replacing car park spaces, are joyfully much more accessible.

If you don’t need much space, however, and can bear the stairs, the smaller store rooms (13, 32, 40sq ft) are still the cheapest options. Personally, the trek down to the store room via the stairs prevents me from saving anything other than what I really, really need to keep.

Now, down to business and the planning application to remove our ‘4B’ signs and replace them with tall, lit up, Barbican signage. After our last objections, we (all I hope) received a letter saying that the matter is under consideration and we might be invited to speak at a public planning meeting.

There was some other legalese which seemed to suggest that we might be cut out of any further appeals but it was pretty confusing and so I’ll be checking up on that and I’ll let you know more later.

The Girls’ School expansion project continues and the leaflet we received late last year painted a pretty picture of how little we would be affected. The feedback you might send back on the freepost leaflet is going direct to their communications firm, which prides itself on “transparent and purposeful dialogue” and seems to specialise in helping planning applications.

I’m still battling to find any way that City residents are going to benefit from this. It might be radical of me to suggest that the school gives some thought as to how they can help the community. Perhaps they could open up the gym and pool to the residents close-by who are going to have to stomach the building work? Could they offer discounted fees for City residents?

What about those pupils who don’t manage to get into the school or whose funds don’t stretch… how about some evening, weekend or holiday tutorials for those students who have to travel miles out of the City to the nearest state school?

I know that they lend us their hall for our annual BA AGMs and all this other stuff smacks of idealism, but I’m a dreamer and even a whiff of decent community-minded spirit would persuade me that the school is a benefit for local life.

The only other moan I have this month is about Brutalist Tapestry in Beech Street tunnel. Has anyone had any luck seeing their messages on the pixelated billboards because it looks as unclear to me as the first of my ultrasounds. I do hope that it starts to clear up and I have my Insta at the ready.

The next Barbican Association meeting is on 17 January and please diarise the BA AGM on 24 April.

Helen Hudson has lived in Defoe House on and off since the 1970s and keeps us up to date on resident news and committees.

Cover image by Riodamascus (Creative Commons).

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