It’s a funny thing that just as we plan to pack up and leave to find home in the manner of ET, home (ie. South East London) starts to look more appealing. I know that’s an oxymoronic statement – south, east and London usually only combine in sentences that start with burglary, car theft hot spot and knifing, but truly, in the case of our little street, it’s true.
Partly the appeal is a result of us making our house look all pretty so that tennants can come in and trash it. But more than that, in the last few weeks our street has started to feel like the set of Neighbours only with octogenerians taking the place of Toadfish. I’ve mentioned before that the average age of our neighbours is about 114. If you added up their ages all together and then went back in time you’d pre-date Jesus easily. But they are all lovely – maybe that’s because older people still remember the notion of community, maybe it’s that they are all retired so have more time on their hands to ‘take an interest’ in what’s going on around them, maybe it’s because I have handed over the chairmanship of the resident’s association so I’m once again filled with warm, fuzzy thoughts about them all and not murderous ones brought on by being asked to pay the communal gardener for the ten thousandth time and make John change the timer on the outside security lights.
Walking down my street can take an hour these days, stopping for conversations about hospital visits, hip replacements, the buddleia, whether or not we are beating Lula (seriously). Sometimes it feels like I’m in a musical and everyone will throw off their walking sticks and start dancing in unison like they do in the Oliver-esque McCain chips advert (I’m starting to notice that most of my analogies relate to tv and film – hmmm). It hasn’t happened yet, but perhaps as a leaving gift to us they’re all practising. They wait till we leave in the morning then come out into the street in their legwarmers and jazz shoes.
Another addition to our community has recently arrived. An acquaintance from uni days who’s moved into the area. She happens to be an ex-dancer (the proper kind not the lap kind) and is now a pilates instructor and her boyfriend is a physio, and the most amazing thing has happened. Firstly we now know people in our corner of SE London – as in people we’d actually invite over willingly for dinner – people in our age bracket. And secondly we are actually living the original notion of community – helping and supporting other members of the community in a way that Transition Town founders would be proud of.
I make this claim with a slight pang of guilt because I’m sort of lying. Because the truth is they are both helping me and in return I’m getting John to help them because I have no skills myself with which to barter. So, I’m getting private pilates tuition and half price physio on my herniated back and in return John is helping design things. What’s John getting out of this you ask? I’ll tell you – he’s getting a supple wife who no longer complains about back pain every five minutes (a real passion killer).
So this weekend has been brilliant and brilliantly depressing. We have discovered community in a way that we could only dream of a few months back and annoyingly just as we are about to leave it behind. And I have again realised that I have absolutely no talents or skills to exhange in return for pilates lessons or even, MONEY. Other than hawking out my husband like I’m a pimp. In a post-apocolyptic world I’m not going to fare very well at all but then I realise that neither will John because there won’t be any macs or vinyl – ha ha.
How did I get to 31, with a first from a good uni and still not have a single skill that is saleable? Then I remember I just sold my first piece of writing. As in I got 37p for every single word. I could have written a side of a a a a a a a and got like a thousand pounds. So there is hope after all. We can find community in other places. If we can find it here in SE London then we can find it anywhere. And if I can sell my ramblings for actual currency then there is hope.