By David Gledhill, Marketing & Communications Lead
And so it begins – the clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in to the point where evenings are immersed in darkness, and Christmas is just around the corner.
But what sort of Christmas are we looking forward to this year? I am not sure any of us know the answer to that other than the fact it will be different to any we have had before.
At one end of the scale, supermarkets are gearing up to produce smaller turkeys, smaller packs of Christmas crackers and more Christmas puddings for two rather than family portions.
At the other end of the same scale, the foodbanks are gearing up for their busiest Christmas ever as more the side effects of the virus affect more people pushing them further into poverty or making others feel pinch fo the first time.
That is the thing about COVID 19 it does not discriminate – it will confidently strike whoever you are – and the effects are the same regardless of your wealth and social standing.
Now, as ever at this time of year, is a good time to start planning for the Festive season, but this year we all need to take stock and plan not just for ourselves, but for others – for our family, friends, and potentially for our neighbours.
Lockdown and the three tier system will inevitably mean that some families used to coming together over the festive season will be prevented from doing so, which for some will mean a Christmas alone.
During lockdown, we launched a Good Neighbour scheme that helped communities across the Bay support each other and the relationships and networks that were set up continue to this day.
But as the days grow darker and colder, we hope to see more neighbours looking out for each other in ways that have never been more needed. Now and in the build-up to what for some may be a miserable Christmas.
All it takes is a phone call or a quickly scribble note pushed through a letterbox, and that can make all the difference to those who think they are going into winter alone, estranged from their families by a virus over which they have no control.
During the crisis we heard about neighbours going the extra mile – not just checking in on people or doing their shopping or collecting their prescriptions, but organising outdoor socially distanced socials,
It might be dark and it might be cold, but there is nothing to stop us doing the same over the coming months – we just need to wrap up warmer. It is amazing how much a mulled wine or cider can make to an outdoor gathering which is properly organised and COVID aware.
You might want to get a few socially distanced neighbours (in groups of no more than six) to celebrate Halloween later this week or Bonfire Night the week after, or leave it a little later and celebrate Christmas and New Year with them.
We know of neighbours organising coffee mornings over the fence and others linking together for weekly outdoor exercise sessions. Where there is a will, there is a way as long as you are sensible about it.
Before all our lives changed back in March, people were concerned in our over- bureaucratised society that needed permission to look out for each other – we don’t, but if you are worried about it our Community Builders are on hand to help.
We have a pack that we can send to you with a few suggestions about how to get going – perhaps setting up a telephone tree or a Whats App group – or even just knocking on doors and then stepping back when it is answered.
Some people react badly to winter every year because the cold and dark keeps them indoors for longer, and they miss the company of others. And that is without a virus.
For most Christmas is that breakpoint when friends, neighbours, family and far-flung relatives come together to eat drink and be merry. We can still do some of that this year, though the friends may be closer than you think in the shape of your neighbours
As we have proved over the last seven months, there is plenty of goodwill to go around. Let’s keep it going.
To find out more or to sign up for our Good Neighbours scheme contact the Torbay Community Helpline on 01803 446022.