I’m literally on my own soap box and a little bit conscious of labouring the point made in my earlier article about knowing (or not knowing) your neighbours, but yet again, I found myself uncharacteristically drawn in by the drama of Coronation Street last night. I say uncharacteristically because I’m not an avid (ever?) follower of Corrie and yet the fictional aftermath of Roy and Hayley’s recent devastation really resonated with me. I felt the strangest stained sadness; stained because it’s still there. I can still picture the stark scenes of Roy’s silent grief; disbelief; denial. As if he was a real person, as if he really was my neighbour; as if I really knew him, which of course I don’t.
But last night I switched on. I switched on to see if he was ok.
That is a disquieting concept. It doesn’t make sense; this was not the sound reaction of a normally rational person. He doesn’t exist other than on a fictional street, in a fictional city surrounded by fictional folk and yet I cared and, here’s the really important part, so did his neighbours. Not family members, not daughters or sons but neighbours. People thrown together merely by the mutual bond of a location, a shared postcode. Silence streamed through the usually noisy Rovers pub; the juke box switched off as a subtle sign of respect. Neighbours, who were friends, sharing the same shock; the same silence and the same sadness. Everyone shared these heartfelt emotions but none of them, none of them were family.
Then the rationale returned. Why am I writing about this again and what does this really mean? Why has it become so important? Am I (potentially) boring people as if I was an obsessive fan when I’m almost the opposite; a passing and very passive viewer? What’s the real message here? I returned back to my question on Tuesday – how well do I know my neighbours? Enough to care about them because unlike Roy or Hayley, my neighbours are real.
And then I did a little bit of research and it’s not encouraging reading. According to a recent poll about 70 per cent of people do not know their neighbours’ full names and just over a third wouldn’t recognise them. It seems clear that British people are becoming increasingly isolated from their local communities; from the very people they share the same road with – that is unless you live in Wetherfield or are in minority areas as the statistics above suggest. Half of all older people (about 5 million) say they rely on television as their main company and 10.6 million viewers watched the episode on Monday. Roy and Hayley brought us all together but as soon as the final credits rolled we were all separated again.
This doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t sit right and so maybe it’s time to make a stand; a time to try and make it right. There is something I can do and maybe you can do to be a better neighbour, perhaps even a better friend. Be a real part of Better Lives for People in Leeds. And the best part is you don’t have to go to Weatherfield to find out. The answer is right outside your front door.
Please ask yourself:
- Do you know anyone where you live, be it on your street or in your block of flats?
- If so, how much do you know about them; their lives? (I’m optimistic here and hoping the answer is lots)
- Hold on a minute. Please flip that question: if you don’t know anything about them, how would you ever know if they were lonely or in need of a little support?
- Are you a good neighbour; are you the sort of person who would care?
My honest answer (and not just because my name will be at the bottom and I want people to think I’m a good person), my answer is yes, I would care and yes, I want to be a good neighbour.
The thing is that I want to start caring more because although small, it could still make a HUGE difference. I can start by saying hello, I can stop and spend a little more time finding out if my non-fictional folk are ok. Because then I’ll get to know them, to be a neighbour in the true sense of the word and not just someone to take in parcels and water plants. I may be able to recognise if they need a little support occasionally. And remember, I don’t have to go far and neither do you…
And so, if any of this makes sense, now is the time to start. Start being a better neighbour by getting to know some of the strangers on your street. Just imagine what a better place Leeds could be if we all went that little extra mile because it is literally so much less than a mile, it’s a few steps away. Being neighbourly can start now if you want it to. Just take a look at this: http://www.randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideas/415-be-a-welcoming-neighbor or join http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/
Lizzie Whewell, a potential Corrie fan!