There is an illusion, if you watch the news, that the entirety of the UK is made up of London or other major British cities. It is as if no news exists in small communities or even urban town communities. There is a sense that all people want to do there is leave for the cities. That is sometimes the case, Andrew left his hometown in his teens, returned in his twenties and left again shortly afterwards but what shocked him the most was how much it had changed in a few years. A whole biodiverse moss land had been built on for the sake of out of town shopping and a football team. The whole town has now been swallowed by a larger town and re-branded as a suburb, no matter how much the locals fight back or even bite back about the heritage and community they have. The heart of the town was slowly ripped out, not in the name of progress, but in the name of greed. We both come from what is effectively ex-industrial towns, one built on railways and the other on cotton. Even as children there were produce shows, craft shows, jumbles and local events but slowly over time they vanished as a town became a suburb; roads choked and people moved away. It's heartbreaking to see housing built over green belt land in the name of progress, it is a perversion of the term and wherever they are built a slum naturally springs up in the same town as people move to flee some problem or other. We have met couples who moved because the bins were emptied on the wrong day. Others that moved because they didn't like their neighbours but when pressed admitted they'd never really talked to them. And many, many more who move because they like the feel of a new house with new things. So, how can growing and even a village show save these people?
Maybe it can't, maybe a table of tomatoes doesn't do it for them, maybe they want to be left alone but often being left alone means the television or the pursuit of the cult of 'I'. I don't want to do that. I can't do that. It's like having a nation of surly teenagers who haven't even discovered masturbation. The word 'community' to them often means effort. We sympathise, we do, there are days we feel like that. There are days we discuss silly things like where to put the gun nests when the apocalypse comes and where we can build the walls to keep people out. You know, we thought we were the only ones to do that, until we met other small holders and micro holders who in their wishful day dreaming considered the power of a wall of nettles on marauding zombies - they're not that effective - it's just another way of getting out of being part of a wider community.
We become cabbages. We rot in the ground unless someone comes along and likes us, and that isn't going to happen if we stay in doors or bemoan the fact that we can't find love, then admit we spent the weekend watching Take Me Out and X Factor. We do this on social media in zany ways but it still says one thing, we are scared, we are a nation of frightened old people. It's as if we skip from our surly teenager self to the end of our lives but have none of the fun in between. You become like your Grandmother telling anyone who will listen that people in the next village or who are on twitter are strange because they live on a hill. Sometimes even in social media, you can live on a hill. Back in the real world we heard a Dad in a queue tell his son not to play football with the lad from across the way because he didn't speak English:
He's different, he said. Isn't that a good thing? asked his son. Once it was but not now, replied his Dad.That's how easy it is to slip from zombie fantasies at the end of the world to racism. They're all born out of ignorance, they fear of invasion, the fear of being overwhelmed. It is a primeval fear, up there with the dark and Morris Dancers - just kidding, you need a Morris Dancer in the apocalypse.
So, how can some leeks and onions save us? They don't. You save yourself and you do it by saving others, that can be as simple as taking in someone else's post or offering to help with a village show or weeding your front garden, then offering to help the person next door when they are doing there's. It can be about joining together as a community to make your community a better place. It's the realisation that we are all different and that makes us better when we come together as a community, we put aside our selfish 'I' fears and loneliness, we build bridges and sheds and flowerbeds and pick up litter and cook for each other and, and, and.....the list is endless because of our differences.
Making your community a better place to live doesn't always involve sleeping policemen in the street or high wattage street lights or even a neighbourhood watch. The fact that we have the latter speaks volumes about our society, that we have to form a 'club' to watch out for our neighbours. We do it under the illusion that our house insurance goes down but surely as this is the community you live in, you'd watch out for your neighbours without any financial remuneration? No? Yes? Communities that come together can change the country. A good idea about greening a community to produce food and to bring people together started in the North and has now spread across the world. There are always cynics, people who say that we don't live in that type of world anymore where you can leave your door open and no one would rob you. Time for a wake up call, that world never existed, the only reason no one ever came in to your Grandparents house when the door was left open was because their neighbours would see who went in. There is fear from the outsider for a strong, thriving community. We know, we have been there, the feeling you couldn't possibly fit in. Try it. See what happens. Join in. Just don't break into someone's house.