Last Friday (Black Friday) I took a walk around the evocatively named Wheathamstead – a picturesque Hertfordshire village listed as England’s 20th richest in a 2011 survey. I drive through the place pretty much every weekday but only really visit the fish and chip shop and public toilet.
I realised how little I knew about Wheathamstead when looking at the notice board by the car park. An advert for Small Business Saturday exhorted shoppers to ‘shop local’ on at least one day – 5 December 2015 in the UK – fair enough.
Decades ago I remember being told by someone who knew about such things, that there were children dying of malnutrition in Chester. Hard to believe if you know Chester, but that was 45 years ago. It’s scandalous that Wheathamstead in 2015 is not immune from the ravages of government cuts. And the austerity doesn’t stop at the Food Bank – around the corner outside the church is a banner advertising the Credit Union. A Credit Union is a save and borrow facility helping those the high street banks won’t touch; not the sort of resident you’d expect to find in a village like Wheathamstead.
Which brings me to my passion for ‘make and mend’ to save money and the environment. I’ve always wondered why the much publicised mantra ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ does not include the fourth R – repair.
At the Repair Shed in Hemel Hempstead, we’re trying to do our bit to rectify this omission. This year we’ve run four very successful Community Repair Days – people bring their broken items, we assess them for free and, if possible, we fix them. We also do affordable paid-for repairs, but we’re not in the business of putting professional repairers out of business. We describe our facility as ‘a clinic not a hospital’ – if we can’t do a relatively quick fix but decide the item is repairable, we’ll recommend local businesses that may be able to help.
So, last Black Friday – a US import that in my opinion brings out the worst in otherwise reasonable people – I had my eyes opened in Wheathamstead. They say that poor people living in affluent areas are doubly disadvantaged because they are effectively invisible. Not so in Wheathamstead it would seem – the whole community appears to be pulling together in hard times. A silver lining in a dark grey cloud.