Localism. I’ve always lauded local. I love local: farm shops on holiday; the local delicacies. Yet this is the very word that was trained out of me when starting out in local journalism. “We don’t use it,” was the editor’s mantra “because if it wasn’t local we wouldn’t be talking about it.”
But “being local” is how we flourish as human beings. Even if we work a commute away, or an overnight stay away, home and its surroundings will be where we love being. It’s a big part of our social life, if we want to retain our sanity and not have to travel miles every time we want to visit friends. Its called a community.
During the Covid-19 crisis, it has also proved a healthy network of help, should we need it. Cards have long since come through the door naming our local representative to call on from the Covid-19 neighbourhood network, which has helped many local individuals and families since the start of March.
Dozens of businesses have changed their models, from restaurants (including the Joshua Tree pub) into takeaways and larger stores – unable to open – into delivering.
The community run Garibaldi Pub on the brow of the hill on Mill Street, not only turned itself into an off licence when lockdown started, and was rushed off its feet when it later joined the MyPubShop chain, especially as it was selling plain flour. Yes plain flour! In 1kg packets! It’s so easy to run out of beer and need emergency supplies, but flour! Oh plain old flour! And there were eggs, pasta and local bottled beers from the likes of Crumbs Brewing and Pilgrim Brewery and beyond. All profits to the NHS, but don’t take back the plastic bottles from which they distribute the four-pint beer out of the barrels in the off-licence – there’s a health crisis on!
We’ve been encouraged to shop local, avoid the big supermarkets if possible for social distancing reasons (even though it is harder to keeper your distance in a small shop!), support local business. This is a good value to keep, if we are to reduce our carbon footprint. (Has anyone else noticed that the carrots from some supermarkets have a more marked flavour than normal? As if they have been freshly picked. Like the ones you can grow at home and come straight from the garden, without them living in containers on ships on a long journey from abroad.)
There are an abundance of local Facebook or Twitter groups – or those on other networks – we can join. The Local newspaper group’s national bosses have set up the app “In Your Area” to match and outstrip this, adding news to a forum for advertising community events and giving people a chance to sell items (if the local social media networks have not beaten them too it already). East Surrey Reduce the Waste group, on Facebook, for example, or Churches Together.
Then, this week, the ‘girl who gardens’, the Twitter handle name of Renee Canter, a local RHS qualified gardener, put in place a fabulous idea she’d been germinating but not quite gotten around to before and set up a plant seed exchange station. In recent years, she has organised Blooming Earlswood at this time of year and even made a guest appearance to give advice on plants at the annual St John’s Church plant sale, held each May.
With a willing accomplice, at 49 Earlsbook Road, this is now in place. And I am the happy owner of a chilli pepper plant, donated by a lady whose 93 seeds of that variety all germinated.
The seed table has filled up quickly. It’s doing a roaring trade. Or it would be if any money was exchanged. But it doesn’t need to be, does it? Gardeners are only too happy to exchange tips and, it seems, excess plants by proxy.
What’s not to like? I just hope the excess bean seeds I donated in exchange can Jack up into giant pleasure for someone else to enjoy.