January 27, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about how a community reaches out. Who, or what cause, is touched by a community “spoke”? Do you think communities can impact change and move a “wheel”? Why or why not? Explore the idea of a community hub in a flash fiction.
Charli Mills, over at the Ranch has prompted us thus this week. Nowadays, living in a suburb of south London, albeit one we call a ‘village’ the idea of community is a fragmented one. I barely know my neighbours on my road though Dog and I walk past there houses nearly every day. Why would I? I only moved in 26 years ago.
The easy availability of public transport, the ubiquitous motorcar, busy and stressful lives – these distract from forming anything beyond tangential bonds. We help out – of course people do rally round in time of need and when our ageing Queen celebrated her 60th year in 2012 we even had a street party, meeting people who have lived on our road for 30, 40, 50 years. We’re stayers in these parts even if we are not that sociable.
That said, on any given day, Dog and I are on nodding and often conversing acquaintance with several people as we tromp our way through a couple of miles. Having children schooled locally breaks down some barriers, even now they’ve grown and flown (and flown again); belonging to local groups – quilting (not me), dance – these introduce us to others who we see around the village. And in that six degrees of separation way of the world you are always a conversation away from a close friend.
But it would be a stretch to call us a community.
As a teenager I grew up on the periphery of a small village in rural Hampshire. My mother was part of the hand-picked elite that ran the Woman’s Institute and I was a vigorous and vigilant attendee at the Scouts. Everyone knew you and yours. You didn’t need cctv cameras to have your every movement monitored – net curtains did the same job. You were kept safe, under one kind of totalitarian logic; under another you were the subject of constant and egregious vigilance – indeed back in the 70s I’d suggest we had a disproportionate number of Mad Eye Moodies keeping watch.
We didn’t allow our children anything like the freedom I was allowed – to wander far and wide; but then again my ‘freedom’ was all rather mythical when I think about it. I think I prefer it the way it is today.
Communities, whether fractured or full can play a useful role, as Mary realises in this week’s flash piece.
Bad luck comes in threes. Overnight rain, a burst water main and a blocked drain. Hansa’s cafe flooded. The mess, the stench, when Mary arrived were dreadful. Hansa sat on a chair, stoney-faced. ‘This will take forever. I’m not sure I have the energy.’
It wasn’t a one man job. ‘You call the insurers. Leave this to me.’
‘Go. Now.’ Once alone Mary called Rupert her half-brother. ‘You remember the posse you organised to clear Dad’s garden last summer? I need them for a friend?’ Mary explained the problem.
‘On it now. Put the kettle on.’
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