By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
A few months ago, as the coronavirus crisis began to bite, we began to see spontaneous acts of kindness taking place across the Bay and coined the hashtag #TorbayKind.
News of acts of kindness trickled in at first, but within weeks it had gathered a momentum all of its own, and we were deluged with stories of neighbours helping neighbours, friends going the extra mile and particularly poignant, strangers stepping up to help people they had never met before.
Soon we were using the phrase #Torbaykind on a daily basis – often several times a day – as society changed in an unprecedented way to meet the huge challenge it faced.
Some have compared it to a Wartime spirit, but not even during the darkest days of World War II were people confined to their homes 24 hours a day, with pubs and cafes closed and streets deserted around the clock.
Last weekend as pubs and restaurants reopened in the first steps toward a ‘new normal’ it was coincidentally the end of our contest to find good neighbours across the Bay which revealed all too clearly how much kindness there is in our world.
During the crisis we had more than 50 people sign up for our Good Neighbour scheme, but we knew that those that signed up were just the tip of the iceberg, with others preferring to organise themselves.
Some spotted the potential problems even before lockdown became a reality and had already dropped leaflets through doors to enable them to collect telephone numbers allowing them to keep in touch with each other through telephone trees or WhatsApp groups.
New friendships have been forged and communities have come together in a way that bodes well for the future, even if some of the people involved have yet to put a face to the voice because they continue to shield.
What has come through time and again are the lengths people have been prepared to go, to help each other. Nothing has been too much trouble.
Lawns have been mowed, prescriptions have been collected, food shopped for but what has been at the core of everything has been an overwhelming kindness, a kindness that has been acknowledged and appreciated.
People came together in whatever resourceful way they could – over the garden wall at the end of the driveway or during the weekly sometimes thunderous claps for carers and NHS workers.
In Brixham residents of Higher Furzeham established a WhatsApp group a week before lockdown which continues to operate today and has been used for everything from advice on how to assemble bunk beds to looking after the children of one of the neighbours who had to go to hospital for an emergency eye op.
In Preston, residents of Higher Polsham Road have had about as much fun as is possible during lockdown with everything from VE Celebrations to quizzes. They have even raised money for Rowcroft Hospice and Paignton Zoo.
They are now looking forward to the street party to beat the six that have gone all themed with Back to the ’80s, Glitz and Glamour and On the Beach themes to name but a few.
Over in Shiphay neighbours knew just where to go when realising they needed a bit of exercise to get them through the lockdown – 88-year-old keep fit instructor, Sylvia Myers.
Sylvia has been taking exercise classes for just shy of 60 years and thought nothing of leading her street, Fletcher Close in weekly 40 minutes classes attended by everyone of every age, all taking part ,socially distanced, at the end of their driveways.
But what comes through time and time again is the discovery that there are potential friends on the doorstep. People who have lived in the same place for years are meeting for the first time and discovering that they get on. Friendships are being forged and once made will continue in the years to come.
The little kindnesses that make up a good neighbourhood will continue to be made long after this is all over and we will remember where it all came from – a very special #TorbayKind.
Now all that remains for most of these neighbourly groups is the one big party that marks the day when everyone can mingle once again, It may be some time but one thing is for sure it will be worth waiting for
If you and your neighbours want to set up your own group go to: www.bit.ly/goodneighbourtorbay.