The power of friendships, old and new

When living and working in the Rylands you become very aware of the long-established families and friendships within the community. What’s less obvious are the new relationships and friendships being formed through social groups such as Friday Club (the weekly social dining club for the over 60’s). Here’s the story of two Friday Club regulars Peggy and Freda, and what their friendship means to them.

Around two years after her husband’s death, Peggy was only going out to do her shopping and was struggling with her grief and feeling lonely. She was told about Friday club through a friend in the Rylands. She went the first time with a friend and started to look forward to going. Freda joined the group a little later and in Peggy’s words their “friendship just exploded from there, it was so easy to be friends with her they just clicked straight away.”

The first adventure was to Bardills garden centre and they started walking together locally once or twice a week. They attended Janet’s 24-hour danceathon in October 2019 where
they danced and laughed the night away till 4 am.

Their birthdays are two weeks (plus ten years) apart and they started a tradition of having fish and chips on Queens Road to celebrate. Social distancing wasn’t going to deter their
friendship this year as they sheltered on opposite ends of the bus shelter to enjoy their feast.

Peggy shared that if she didn’t have Freda she might have not gone out as much over lockdown and have “locked myself away again – I am really pleased about being friends, we
can just laugh and be at ease.”

Following the death of her husband Bob, Freda moved to Beeston to be nearer her daughter. Freda knew no one else, and would just go walking. Like Peggy, Friday Club was
recommended to her, and a regular called Frances met Freda at the car park so she didn’t have to go in on her own. At her first meeting, she sat between the regulars Peggy and
Sheila where there was a space. Peggy, Sheila and Freda just got chatting, and after a while, she started joining them on little trips to places like the film club at the heritage centre.

Sadly Sheila passed away, and Peggy and Freda’s relationship just developed. Freda explained that they go walking and have little adventures, “It’s just nice – and it’s a laugh. We
speak every day on the phone. She came to my birthday party last year and my 70th this year so she knows all the family – they think Peggy is lovely and they’re amazed at how I’ve
opened up. When I have bad days – sometimes she senses it – it’s weird.”

Peggy explained that another Friday club member has christened them the “lively birds” – “lets face it, we all know each other at Friday club, before Friday club when my husband was still alive I would see people around the Rylands and say hello, but life was so busy I never really knew them. Friday Club brings people closer together, we all have grief in common, friendship is important. I don’t laugh with anyone else as much as Freda.”

Friday Club is open to all residents over 60. Meetings are every Friday between 1.30 and 3.30 pm for food, friendship and fun. Since the latest COVID-19 restrictions it’s changed to
phone calls, Zoom meetings and food deliveries, but Friday club will be back as soon we can meet safely again.

JB and NR

Survive and thrive: Why community matters part 2

As once again we find ourselves in a second lockdown, with Christmas approaching it feels appropriate to capture the mood and reflect on what we have found during our community work in the Rylands.

For many there is an expectation to maintain a stiff upper lip and plough through these unprecedented times, when in reality there is a need to allow ourselves to mourn our seasonal traditions and get-togethers that we’ll be missing this year.  This year, the picturesque ideology that we often feel pressure to achieve seems more out of grasp than ever. So we’re starting a conversation to say that it is okay to admit that it’s not OK. Feel free to say that this is rubbish! It’s okay to verbalise that this is hard, and difficult and dismal at best, that we miss our loved ones and friends. It’s okay for our Friday Club Clubbers to be unhappy that their weekly get together is on hold, and to not want to embrace Zoom calls or elbow rubs or face masks or social distanced walks in the torrential British weather.  It’s okay for our young people to miss youth club, and it’s okay for volunteers to be tired and ask for support.

There is a trendy slogan doing the rounds on social media stating “We are all in the same storm but we are not in the same boat”. While this in many ways is true, we can offer lifeboats to those who might be taking in water, we can recognise that some boats may be weathered or weary and giving out distress calls. This does not mean the boat and its crew are doomed it simply signals that its community needs to help slow the leak and support that struggling ship to navigate itself back to safe shores.

This Christmas for many of us is about weathering the storm and remembering that behind every dark cloud is blue sky. We all have different ways of coping, whether it’s go for a run by the river with your permitted one companion, going for a walk with your family and picking up a takeaway coffee on the way, or staying home keeping safe and warm until the storm passes. It’s likely that Christmas will be different this year for most of us, so let’s be kind to ourselves and one another. Let’s enjoy the simple pleasures of the season and remember there is hope around the corner in the shape of vaccines, our caring community, and the thought of the arrival of a brand new year.

Beeston Rylands Community Association update

Beeston Rylands Community Association (BRCA) continue to provide lunch deliveries and support to elderly residents. All the while the team keep adapting their work to comply with the changing COVID-19 restrictions. When we emerged out of full lockdown, we reintroduced Friday Club (our social dining club for the over 60’s), and therefore reduced the food deliveries.

We instead introduced a food voucher scheme, where all those previously receiving a food delivery could go to the Boat House Cafe and get some hot or cold food twice a week.

Since the tightening of restrictions, we’ve reintroduced twice-weekly lunch pack deliveries for the most isolated in our community. This work made possible thanks to Sarah, Sandie and Tony of the Boat House Cafe, our team of volunteers, and our funders: Broxtowe Borough Council, Nottinghamshire County Council, NET Coronavirus Appeal Programme, Martin Lewis Emergency Fund, and individual donors. If you need help, please contact Janet Barnes, Development Officer / Volunteer: 07904 067160, janetmbarnes@ntlworld.com.

JB

Survive and thrive: why community matters

Only now we are emerging out of full lockdown can we fully comprehend the extent that all our lives have been affected over the last six months. The aftershock for many has been as traumatic as the immediate impact of the pandemic.

As part of Beeston Rylands Community Association, we pulled together a fantastic band of volunteers who helped deliver food and friendship to the most in need within our community. We discovered the significance of continuity and consistency of twice-weekly food prep, activities, and letters and while at times monotonous, it was the only real source of certainty for us and the recipients. As a result, we made new connections and friendships with people we previously wouldn’t have crossed paths with and found that existing friendships were not only invaluable but strengthened as we navigated our way through difficult times.

One of those friendships has been our own. Thrown together through our work, we found courage and support in each other over the last few months. So as we emerged out of lockdown, we decided we needed to embark on a Thelma and Louise style adventure (without the bad bits). We ventured out of our beloved Beeston and drove up the M1 to do The North East Skinny Dip 2020 in aid of the mental health charity MIND.

For us and many other people mental health and its journey can sometimes be an uphill battle, it ebbs and flows and has an irritating ability to disarm us unexpectedly.

Jumping into the freezing cold sea was about letting go… of our clothes, yes, but most importantly of the past and all the things that can’t be undone. It was about connecting with a friend and pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones.

Before we ran into and out of the cold North sea together, we agreed now is the time to shake off the past, and focus on the ‘what next’. To use this experience of running into the unknown as a catalyst for evolution into new community projects, our “survive and thrive” plan.

“Survive and Thrive” is about investing in activities, connectivity, and opportunities for our community. This includes first-rate new social facilities, delivering new classes and courses, and developing a community transport scheme.

Our column is about optimism and moving forward as a collective whole. We’ll update you on community matters, whilst trying to uncover the unexpected, the quirky and the brave aspects of Beeston life. It won’t always be full of laughs, but it will use real-life case studies to demonstrate what’s possible. We recognize now more than ever that we can’t be sedentary when it comes to community and inclusion. The time is now.

JB & NR