Community Chest

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.

Rallying Round

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.’

If you want to catch up on previous episodes, click here


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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28 Responses to Community Chest

  1. Sacha Black says:

    Even I had acres of freedom running through fields and playing down by the river without a mobile phone in sight. We had to learn to tell the time and listen out for my mothers fog horn of a whistle which she used to call us back in from two fields away. It worked too, it was THAT loud!!

    But when I think of letting my boy out now with no phone and no way to ensure he’s back on time I get hives. I prefer it now too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I experienced community growing up. I chose to leave, to go where I could be anonymous. I was happy. Years later, my family found an amazing community in a small, southern city where we bonded with other “transient” families, military and professional. It was the best I’d seen since my childhood. There are still pockets out there, if you go looking. Of course, we all share a virtual community here.☺ Lovely piece, Geoff. πŸ’–

    Liked by 2 people

  3. noelleg44 says:

    I also had acres to run around in – actually miles, since my friends all lived in a five mile radius and we walked everywhere to see each other. No locked doors and just a huge bell my mother rang when it was time for us to come home! The town newspaper was all about people we knew. Now we do indeed have different types of communities, along with locked doors, “play” dates, and GPS trackers.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. We also had net curtains doing the tango and we played and wandered far and wide. I don’t want to know when my 12-y-o granddaughter is allowed to walk two and a half blocks to her girlfriend’s house, or my hair will turn white. Am I too protective you think?
    Loved your story. Talk about community described in 99 words. Bingo! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Thanks for the encouragement Tess. I’m sure, when grandkids come, if they do I’ll talk a good game about letting them go and be ridiculously protective. Looking back I’m glad we had a boy first. I know I would have been more controlling of a girl but we set the standard with the lad and worked doubly hard to be the same with the girl. Not easy.


  5. My kids had the freedom to wander as they were raised in a small coastal community – down to the beach at the bottom of the garden, down to the river mouth, riding horses over the fields………. it all came to a full stop the day a teenage girl disappeared a couple of miles up the beach from us and the marsh at the bottom of our garden was dragged in the search for her. By the time her body was found my kids, and the whole community of kids, had their freedom severely curtailed. I always thought it was a dreadful shame that we responded with such fear.


  6. Charli Mills says:

    There’s such a mix of communities, really. It depends on the people and why everyone is living there. I never wanted to live in a suburb so I rebelled against its unwritten codes and grew dandelions on purpose. I felt more lonely in that dense suburban population than I do in rural Idaho. It’s important to be where we fit. Regardless, humans come together over need and rally, as in Mary’s case, when called upon.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: The Hub of Community « Carrot Ranch Communications

  8. roweeee says:

    Very interesting topic and great post, Geoff. We live in a beach suburb in Greater Sydney. Before this year, both kids were at the local primary school where I’ve been pretty involved at various times and everyone knows everyone and while we’re not peering through the lace curtains, word gets around.
    When it comes to setting the boundaries with the kids, I’ve been open-minded and it’s been our younger daughter who has tended to go out bike riding with friends more than our son who loves electronics.
    This year, our daughter got into a selective primary school in a nearby town. This not only means that she left the primary school we called home but she’s also on the train and bus to get there and she’s only 10. While I was concerned about the travel, the educational benefits were obvious and when I escorted her to the train, she had a friend and ran into several more and the platform was buzzing with school kids. She has a new community on the train by the sound of it. Much more exciting than a lift from Mum.
    Our on, on the other hand will be riding his bike to school but he’s currently being driven or catching the bus until we get my bike fixed and can take him round and make sure he is riding safely. He managed to leave his clothes beside the laundry basket etc so not sure whether he’s consistently observant.
    Just because he could ride to school, I didn’t want to just push him out the door without making sure he was roadworthy.
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

    • TanGental says:

      Yes how things have changed. I caught the bus with my brother, sure, from 6 and cycled the four miles each way from 11. Any day I got a lift was a plus!! And I was hopelessly unobservant, ditto my son and still we survived. Boys, huh? Can’t live with them…

      Liked by 1 person

      • roweeee says:

        That’s encouraging because a friend’s brother was hit riding his bike and died and that came to find and so I thought we really needed to make sure he was right before he took off.
        Now, it seems that my taxi is back in action so needing to speed this process up a bit. I was looking forward to my own independence LOL!

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        There is always self interest as motivation. Very powerful that!!


      • roweeee says:

        It is scary though that with young people in particular a moment’s distraction can have terrible consequences but at the same time, you can’t keep your children wrapped up in bubble wrap. They need to spread their wings but when you see them teetering, it’s so tempting to pick them up.

        Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        It’s the ultimate deep breath moment, really but 99% aren’t candidates for the Darwin Awards so survive.


  9. trifflepudling says:

    As Charli says, “Regardless, humans come together over need and rally, as in Mary’s case, when called upon.” It’s certainly true that the only time all we neighbours have truly come together in my little area was during two winters of extremely snowy weather when we all helped each other out. In a way, it doesn’t really matter now that all of us don’t interact that much because I now know that they’re nice, kind, thoughtful people and not psychopaths (unless they were disguising that very well!) and they know I’m not as mad as I look as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. willowdot21 says:

    Loved the post Geoff not got a lot of time to comment but wanted you to know I read and enjoyed!!

    Liked by 1 person

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