How lockdown has instilled a sense of localism

A favourite jacket’s zip broke. So did a one on a plastic, but reusable, cover on a small greenhouse. What should I do? What would you do?

One option was to throw them away, to buy afresh – online – and keep major clothing and gardening chains in business. Another option was to mend.

Neither needed fixing urgently. The jacket was for days that are colder than summer. The greenhouse has done its work this year, nurturing seedlings that are now planted out. It would seem shameful to discard not just its plastic but metal structure, just because the zip had failed.

So I waited, through lockdown, for a local mender to reopen. I took both items to them – the greenhouse request being an unusual one – and asked them to fit new zips.

In the case of the greenhouse, I asked it if it was possible. Yes, said the owner. But it might be cheaper to buy a new one. Yes, I had considered that. But I didn’t want to throw away all the perfectly good bits. I’ll take the hit for a new zip.

While, for many, lockdown has been pause for thought to “think local”, for me, this isn’t a new way of thinking. Our wasteful, throwaway society discards, rather than makes do or mends.

Plenty of people have volunteered to help their local community in lockdown: a neighbour, perhaps, who needs their shopping or medical supplies. A call to a friend, not only because we seem to have the time, but because we want to check if they are OK. Our groups and societies we cannot meet up with at present have been keen to keep in touch. To care. Neighbourhood groups have formed, not just from councillors or councils, but within communities, to offer help if required.

Many office workers have found they don’t need to commute to London or elsewhere to work. “Teams” or “Zoom” can keep people in touch, as much as a phone. Although working remotely isn’t quite the same, for a communal sense of being. Pupils can study at home. But the work might not take them long, their parents might have to juggle home learning and work and they lack the interaction and abilities to build friendship that a school community brings.

A favourite jacket with new zip
A favourite jacket with new zip

Some have concentrated on showing they care about their history, trying to save a historic building with ideas that it could be used for communities, as well as housing. They are thinking, rather than erase history, charities might move in to the “community hub” part. On the climate emergency front, that saves the carbon emissions from destruction and reconstructing something else. It also leaves out the need to remove embedded asbestos.

We’ve spent more time than ever tending our gardens in the time we previously used to commute, growing vegetable and wondering how to cook them best. In Earlswood a seed swap station appeared.

We’ve walked more, perhaps cycled more, got out into the wild more, taken a bigger interest in sustainable transport plans. Perhaps we have shopped more locally, generally.

We’ve thought of others more. Foodbanks and families have been in need like never before. Tomorrow (Saturday July 11, 2-4pm), Merstham Cricket Club runs it fifth “Covid-19 Cricket Tea With a Difference” in aid of Stripey Stork, a charity helping families, and two local foodbanks.

Have we cared more about our environment? Sadly some left much litter when they cast aside their lockdown shackles. People should know better than to drop PPE, especially. Again, tomorrow (10am to noon) one group will run a second litter pick in quick succession since lockdown – socially distanced – on the green opposite the hospital. To pick up after those who wastefully discard – and to keep our community tidy.

Clearly, we have thought more about our local community in the past few weeks than maybe many of us did before. Part of the reason for waiting for the mending shop to reopen was to keep the local stores in business. We’d miss them would we not? We’ve missed them in the past few months. This thinks of local people and the local economy. My chosen menders is not a chain, but a family business. “Did you want the jacket dry cleaned at the same time?” Why not? You had me at “Hello!”