Ian Burleigh is vice chairman of the Tudor Rose Court Residents’ Association.
Those of us who live in the City of London, like others living in Greater London, know that London is really just a collection of villages.
In our village we live in flats. Our village green is Fortune Street Park, where in normal times children play on their way to and from our primary school with its entrance directly into the park.
At lunchtime on sunny days you cannot see the grass as it is covered by workers enjoying lunch from the Whitecross Street food stalls, or sushi from our local Waitrose.
From the park, brave souls making their way through a narrow Dickensian passageway are rewarded by our high street containing all the boutique shops, cafes, restaurants, betting shops, tattoo and massage parlours, and more nail bars than can surely be necessary, to be found in any self respecting village.
Across the road there is a covered market leading to our friendly local grocer, Waitrose, complete with our Big Issue seller near the door.
Our village sheltered housing scheme, Tudor Rose Court, where I live with my husband, is sandwiched between the Grade 2 listed Golden Lane estate and the fêted brutalism of the two thousand Barbican flats, similarly listed.
Our block of 35 flats has a courtyard garden, cared for by an informal group of residents. The courtyard is surrounded by the Barbican wildlife garden complete with ponds, a den of foxes, mosquitoes, far too many inquisitive, overweight squirrels and at least one toad.
In normal times it is a pleasure to take the short, scenic walk past the magnificent California lilac, the flowering crabapple trees, over the pedestrian crossing into the park with its wonderfully diverse planting and a different selection of friends, neighbours and children depending on the time of day.
Onward through the scary narrow passageway, across the high street, glancing for bargains as you pass the market stalls, giving a cheery smile and greeting in response to the Big Issue seller brings you to the occasionally slow to open automatic doors.
You have arrived at the palace of delights that is “our” Waitrose. Friends and neighbours are invariably to be found here, both as customers and partners, chatting, selecting from or replenishing the amazing array of goods on display.
How quickly things can change.
Now we find ourselves in lock down. Texts have been received from our GP surgery advising self-isolation. Phone calls from neighbours distressed at not being able to order goods online.
Criticism from neighbours via our scheme manager that those of us answering the call to ‘meet at three’ in our courtyard to alleviate isolation are insufficiently distanced from one another. No eggs, pasta or paper goods to be had for any money from any store within two miles.
Police warnings of scams tricking vulnerable people into allowing entry into their homes on the pretext of testing for coronavirus but in reality to threaten and rob.
I am wondering how I will cope when an elderly neighbour becomes seriously ill with Covid-19. Will an ambulance be available when I call? Will I even be able to make the call – the network is already overloaded? What happens when there are no beds available at the hospitals or the Excel Centre?
What is the best way to help a terminally ill and terrified elderly person when you are the only one there? Worse still, what if you’re not there and they are all alone?
Just over a month ago, during normal times, Adam Gilbert, manager of our Waitrose, together with the deputy manager, came to meet the residents of Tudor Rose Court to have a cup of tea and discover our experience of our local store. They received a lot of praise from residents, and also some suggestions for improvement.
We all learnt from this positive experience. On Monday we heard from our neighbour who works part time on the checkouts that Adam was looking for ways to help those of his customers less able to cope in today’s challenging times – maybe someone should get in touch with him. I rang the store and asked for Adam, who was unavailable at the time, but called me back as promised.
He proposed a delivery of store cupboard goods that would be useful if we were unable to leave our flats: could I take soundings from my neighbours as to what would be most useful? I emailed a list to Adam.
Following the delivery of ambient goods to Waitrose on Wednesday night, all the goods that we had suggested, including fresh eggs and potatoes that we had found particularly difficult to obtain, were delivered by Adam in person to our doorstep on Thursday evening on his way home.
We were absolutely delighted that everything we had requested had been included. A group of neighbours helped divide the goods into individual packages which were delivered to each front door by 7pm together with a note explaining the generous gift was from Waitrose. One self-isolating resident emailed to say:
“…it’s a miracle. I got eggs!!!! Never thought I’d see an egg so soon again.”
Others who were able relayed their delight in person.
We had been feeling isolated, worried and alone, not able to place orders online and uncertain how to obtain even basic items. That all changed last night.
From an initial idea on Monday to delivery on Thursday evening we are extremely grateful for the generosity and kindness of Adam and his team at Waitrose & Partners, our local village store in the City of London.