Are you part of a community? If not, does it matter?
Planet- either Planet Group or Planet Housing Association- has a Community Investment Officer to design support projects for people in the Eagle’s Nest and Marsby, particularly those currently isolated, and sent round a woman to conduct a survey on community engagement; so I talked to her, and saw my life through others’ eyes- or through my own eyes but as if it were someone else’s.
What three words would you use to describe Eagle’s Nest? Quiet. Peaceful. Beautiful.
What word do you think an outsider might use? Mmm. I remember a council estate plonked down between Linlithgow and Falkirk, with nothing to do, a few buses, a wee shop/post office; and I thought it “Godforsaken”.
She asks how often I use the amenities of Marsby, and how important I think them. The hairdresser- I remove my wig. Not at all. The doctors’ surgery. It is very important. The church. I have been there a couple of times. Anything else? The Lakes- the park is very beautiful. I don’t eat out in Marsby, or use the take-aways. I don’t use the pubs, I go into Swanston or Kettledrum. I have used cafes occasionally.
Do I know anyone locally? Are there people I could ask if I had practical problems? No. I say hello at the bus stop, even have conversations on buses occasionally, but do not really know anyone.
-Do I use the community centre?
-It must be a community- it has a community centre. I was last in there to give blood.
-Do I use social media? Am I aware of social media pages for Marsby?
-No. I suppose I am what I used to refer to as “difficult to reach”.
-We say “Hard to reach,” she says. I don’t think this is a political correctness change of phrase.
Am I isolated? Well, today I shall go to Swanston for tea with a friend. Yesterday I went to Kettledrum for coffee with a friend. On Monday night an old friend visited from Nottingham. This is an unusually busy week for me, but I see people. On Sundays I go to the Quaker meeting.
-Anything else important to you?
I indicate the television.
-Yes, that’s important to a lot of people.
-On a scale of one to ten, how satisfied are you with your life?
Mmm. One and ten- bored and frustrated, but- I say, “This is the life I have created for myself.” We agree on seven.
R thinks they might do something like the Swanston Housing Association: committees, residents’ associations, that sort of thing. Did he join in? God no, he says. I am more isolated because I do not have work or family, but I doubt many people have more community connections than I have, more friends or see them more often. I wonder about campaigning for the county council election in May. It would be good to get the Tory out.
How old am I? She is fifty as well, she says. Hers is a job I might have been doing in very slightly different circs.
What would I create here if I could have anything at all? An art gallery, I say. It would be good to walk to the Hockney exhibition. I wish them well with this, and it might even benefit my mental health if they got something going, but I don’t see what they can do.