Tag Archives: community

Talking at Bus Stops

I met a lady at a bus stop the other day. She had the most magnificent false teeth. I could tell they weren’t real because they made that plastic clacking sound. I couldn’t stop looking at them, they were sort of otherworldly. I was in a fowl mood, which I was feeling guilty about. I was annoyed at myself for going to the public swimming pool at prime kid splashing and dive bombing time. I hated all of the children, particularly the one who belly flopped right next to my not-yet-wet head.

On top of my irritation and newly wet hair I then felt all of the guilt for having so much rage toward small people. Guilt is just the worst.

Bizarrely, I visited Homebase on the way home and bought a box tree for the front garden. (I use the term ‘garden’ very loosely here.) You know, those little round ball trees you can sculpt into giant squirrels, or rabbits, or cocks? Well, I then had a bit of a meltdown that I had become the type of person who buys topiary for their front garden. Frankly, I’m annoyed about the very existence of Homebase, or at least I like to think that I am, so it’s baffling to me that I chose to spend 15 minutes of my life in there choosing a box tree.

I digress. The lady at the bus stop. Her voice was like a cup of Ovaltine. Really quite nice, and definitely comforting, but you’re not sure quite why. She asked me if I was also getting annoyed about the bus running late. I didn’t feel like telling her that actually it was children and topiary that had made me feel like a thunder cloud so I agreed and engaged in chat about how you can’t rely on buses these days.

I was quite taken aback by what she said next. She looked at me square, and said “I think everyone has become despondent.” She might have still been talking about Transport for London, but I took it to mean something along the lines of “Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump are about to destroy humanity because of ego and money and we’re sitting here with a box plant waiting for the 123 feeling annoyed at innocent splash-happy children.” I felt a lift in me when she talked. It may have been because she was talking to me at a bus stop which doesn’t really happen ever. I felt a sudden burst of joy about the realisation that I wasn’t alone in this. She talked about Walthamstow and how it used to be. She said everything has changed. Everyone is angry at each other, no-one communicates properly anymore.

 

via GIPHY

 

Working as a support worker for older adults, I heard this kind of thing quite a lot. They felt left behind. They have seen their communities change and grow in funny ways and they don’t like the way the world works anymore. Fish & Chips cost a tenner when it used to be thrupence, their best mates have died and music halls no longer exist. Plus buses, much like their bowels, are irregular.

I wish I had told her, that she just needs to keep talking to people at bus stops. You can’t change Walthamstow on your own, not unless you’re the Mayor, and even then it’s a bit tricky. But you can do little things. You can make topiary bushes into cocks. Hey, I’d smile if I saw one – my heart would feel somewhat lighter. You can greet your bin man (or woman), they’re always remarkably nice. You can notice the loveliness of a persons nose and tell them. And, you can talk to people at bus stops.

Yes, I want the big stuff to change too. I don’t want Donald Trumpy Pants or any other person with ill-advised hair and terrible policies to run the world but I just don’t know how to stop them. I am at a loss. So, in this age of despondency, let’s forgive ourselves for buying topiary. Let’s aim to make dull moments more enjoyable, one bus stop chat at a time.

Annie x

The Battersea Park Road to Paradise (and belonging)

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I’ve just finished reading The Battersea Park Road to Paradise by Isabel Losada. I picked it up in the brilliant Oxfam book shop in Brighton during one of my soul searching days out. The book jumped out at as the kind of light, life-affirming reading I needed after surviving a deep depressive phase and was beginning to rebuild my life brick by brick. It’s the kind of book that could easily be dismissed as another Eat Pray Love-esque chick-lit romance novel without a great deal of substance. But as I read, I found that this was not the case. Like me, Isobel was genuinely on a quest to emerge from a big black ‘hole’ and hungry to find meaning and substance to this life.

Feeling stuck? Yes, me too. I’m in a pothole on the road to enlightenment. You wouldn’t have thought a pothole would be deep enough to get stuck in, would you? But I’ve managed to get totally wedged in. – Isabel Losada

As I read more and more, about her voyage into the world of Feng Shui, motivational speakers, guru’s and Ayahuasca in the Peruvian jungle – I  realised that I had just bagged myself a new friend in Isobel with something in common. The desire to learn and make the most of life. To experience the extraordinary, to be willing to take the road less traveled for fulfillment.

She too is a woman living in the big city, and like many people in big cities all over the world – we can feel bereft of something. I love london, but I also long for a tribe. I feel envious of the Ashaninka tribe, that Isobel stayed with, who live off the land in the Amazon Jungle. Their basic needs are fulfilled and they want for nothing. I can’t help feeling that our insular and consumerist culture has a lot to answer for when it comes to our mental health. In order to sell us something, that shampoo advert, or diet pill or new Apple product needs to make us feel unhappy with that we’ve got. So we buy, buy and buy forever. We don’t need all this shit, we need people, warmth, love, knowledge.

As Isobel puts it:

Isn’t it ironic that the Ashaninka tribe are, in so many ways, living more happily from the land than most of us are living in our boxes in our towns and cities? They live simply and with people they love around them. We have to learn to love and cherish one another. We have to bring people together. We have to hold parties – not the kind where people drink, but the kind where people listen to each other, where real friendships are made.

We can’t all live in the Amazon, but in London we too can feel connected and vital. I have just started volunteering one day a week at Thrive – an organisation specialising in Horticultural Therapy – in Battersea Park (funnily enough!) I spend my Tuesdays there digging potatoes, planting seeds and cutting sweet peas with a small group of adults with different learning disabilities. Gardening is therapy – living off the land even in a small way is nourishing for the spirit, and soil can make you happy! But what I am finding to be extra therapeutic is the existence of a community of people, working together, and being nourished by each other. A team where everyone belongs, and are working hard together for a shared positive goal. Surely this human connection has to be part of the key to happiness and well being. If you feel like you belong, then you are part of the way there.

So join that rounders team, go to a community cooking class, volunteer at your nearest nature reserve if you have the time. There is something magical about people coming together for something that is not money driven. Something that adds to our sense of community and belonging. If you do this, then perhaps everything else will fall into place in your world and you might just find your tribe.

Annie x