Community- the missing jigsaw piece.

I loved writing my last blog celebrating the better parts of Barnsley, the new, and old small businesses and independent traders. I loved looking back at the Barnsley I knew and loved growing up. These were fab times, shared with family and friends and some of these friends I'm still in touch with. At the centre of all my memories where I grew up, is also this massive sense of a strong community, a close knit village, intertwined with surrounding villages. I love the above African proverb. Who you are surrounded by, role models and friends, does help shape you.
I remember Community centres and village halls spread all over the borough of Barnsley. These were busy, community hubs, stretching across the neighbourhoods like light houses. They were places to go to have fun, learn new things, socislise and be included. All different generations enjoying each other's company over bingo, yoga, crafting, flower arranging and much more.
There seems to have been an upsurge in the community centre and we went to a book and a craft club at one near us a few years ago. The one at Mapplewell has allsorts going on, lots of different groups meeting like Tai chi. It has a lovely cafe that does OAP specials and it has a library.
I remember the fun and excitement of the
Village fun day in our little village and surrounding ones. The games, many homemade and wooden, like Catch a Rat, were brilliant. My favourite was the wooden swing boats with two seats. My friend and a few other villagers have recently organised their own fun day for the village of Ingbirchworth, which was a massive success and really brought people together.
Community is such an important thing. It's a sense that we are all in it together. Surely things are easier when you face them as  a group . Think of any soap, surely you'd feel better if you had someone like Gail or Eileen, along with the whole of the Rovers fighting your corner! Or, going back, Peggy Mitchell and the Queen Vic having your back? I know I would! All the soaps push this village, community solidarity- a belonging to something good. The idea that when the chips are down, they will be there for each other.

When I see a village fun day today, it makes me think back to the Midsomer murders I've watched with village fetes. Without the gruesome parts! I love watching programmes like this, and Agatha Raisin, where there's a sleuth living in a local village. There is always a lovely, quaint village pub with an unusual name where the landlord and landlady have heard it all and seen it all. But if you want to know what's really going on, just ask at, or eavesdrop a conversation in the village shop and post office. There is nothing they don't know that is not worth knowing!
I feel I've never had a local as an adult, something that really disappoints me! Our locals are now mini supermarkets. Growing up, we had two locals where we'd go up to the serving hatch, knock on the frosted glass and ask for a cola and a bag of Seabrook's crisps. We would eat them on a stone pillar on the car park. No fancy beer garden with heaters then!
The village store was so important too. We had two village shops and a tiny fruit and veg shop where we'd take our Ben Shaw bottles for a 5p refund.  We do have a lovely village store where the owners and staff are very friendly. As are the mini supermarkets. Everyone seems to be in a rush though, peeping at the cars as they're rushing to park up and be on their way. See, there was more time for community back then. The best conversations are in the chippy where folk have to wait for food ordered or the florist, as the gorgeous flowers are carefully arranged and wrapped. In this day and age of the old dinner hour becoming a dinner 15 minutes, some people ring through and have the food ready anyway!
My friend made a comment the other day about people nowadays being 'time poor' and it made me think. Are most people in the modern world too busy to be part of a community now? How sad! I suppose we've made our own communities, such as work families and hobby/interest clubs we join. There are two ways of looking at this. When communities were stronger and more close knit, everyone mainly looked out for each other and helped each other for free, or for a cuppa, or a pint! Neighbours looked after each other's children and gave each other lifts. Teenagers babysat for family friends and people looked in on the elderly, calling to see if they wanted anything on their way to the shop. That still goes on now, but less. The way many careers and jobs are going now, many people go to work and are so shattered when they get in, there's no time for any of this. Plus, many people don't rely on neighbours anymore, with the afterschools in place. I was part of a lovely community of school mums though who you could text or ring last minute if you were stuck. I'm still in touch with a few, who I can still count on at the drop of a hat. These mums are so important to you.
And going back to favours, people still are very generous and will do anything for anyone. Without expecting anything in return. They might just ask for a pint next time! I do get a feeling though of some people now expecting more. A sad sign of the times perhaps.
Back to the dinner hour! I have witnessed the demise of the dinner hour! I used to work in a big village school, Goldthorpe Primary, once a thriving mining community and we used to walk around over dinner, visit the market, buy a butty or jacket potato and still have time to prep for the afternoon! We loved walking around the village, especially popping into the lovely furniture and gift shop, Hollygrove. It had a good sense of community feel. It even stood by the old Wednesday afternoon closing. We are lucky to still have villages like Goldthorpe, Cudworth, Royston, Hoyland, Mapplewell, Dodworth and more, where we can shop. Mapplewell is a favourite of mine with its lovely Tea rooms on the main corner, gift shops, pet shop, newsagents and lovely pubs. Then there's the little parade of shops with the new flower shop, Willow, next to the wonderful Italian restaurant, Mezzaluna. Not forgetting my friend's wonderful salon, Stags and Angels opposite Chez Marshalls, the lovely cake makers and cafe. Mapplewell has managed to hold onto its library and village hall and this has become a lovely, little community hub for groups.
We had a fab village hall and community centre near us when we were growing up. Our main place though for coming together was our chapel hall. This was when youth clubs were still very popular and involved the whole family. Every so often, there'd be games evenings held where parents and other family members came along, got involved, had a laugh and couldn't wait for the next one. Every body knew of each other, but here good friends were made, conversations were had and you realised you had a lot more in common with that bloke from the allotment with the silly hat than you first thought!
An image of my grandad came into my mind then. One of the friendliest men ever. He was from down South and would greet everybody, and I mean everybody, as we walked into town. He'd call them 'squire' and sometimes they'd shake hands or give each other a pat on the shoulder. I'd walk into town, so proud of all the people he knew and got along with. I love the saying, 'If you can't find the sunshine, be the sunshine' because that was my grandad. Like the kids on the Ready brek, it just shone out of him. Well, I'd rather be remembered for my smile and perhaps, sometimes in yer face positivity than being miserable.
Neighbours all knew each other too. These people you saw everyday became family. We were brought up in a row of terraced houses with backings we played out on practically everyday, unless we were on holiday. I have such marvellous memories of playing out with a fab group of us off the street. Playing out seemed to be more adventurous back then. If we didn't come back muddy and starving with ripped clothes and bruises, we'd not been doing it right. Wherever we played, we knew almost everyone. Our neighbours comprised of our teachers, dinner ladies, doctors, milkmen, dustbin men and others we knew well. We wouldn't be able to call them that now. But this is now and that was then when Enid Blyton and friends had never even heard of political correctness.

I loved that my great grandma and grandparents lived on the same green. Back then, we all played on this green as there were hardly any cars. We'd run in after thd Rington's Tea Man had been to see if Gran had bought any extra goodies that week. The best biscuit with a cuppa was a Tunnock's caramel wafer and they are still my fave. Or a wagon Wheel! There would be the Meat and Fish van who'd deliver too. My Gran loved looking out onto the Green and telling me stories of long ago. I'd sit there, with this huge imagination, as she talked about people falling in the divvy, like it was a huge skip! It was only years later that I realised they were lucky folk who won on the CO-OP dividend! My Gran knew every family on that Green as she'd grown up there. Some families are still there now.
Everything seemed more simple back then. Funny thing is, it is only now, in a more complicated stressful time of living and surviving, can we appreciate how simple it was. Most families had one car, one television and a standing phone that you could walk away from or leave at home without getting withdrawal symptoms. Now there are two, three, four of these in households and consumerism and social media are taking over. I must point out I'm generalising here.  When we had visitors, any TV or radio was turned off so conversations could ne heard. A lot of homes now, these are kept on and people are used to talking over them, or just start watching what's on. But then, my childhood days were the fab days of family parties with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones LPs being played one minute, then folk laughing as they attempted to play Charades the next! We didn't rely on a TV screen for entertainment; we made our own.
There seemed to be more visiting then, when I was younger. You just called many a time, on the off chance someone would be in. There was no texting, messaging or arranging three weeks in advance a date when you could all get together, you just knocked on the door If folk were in, the first thing was that the kettle was put on. Then, followed a rummaging around the cupboard for biscuits: custard creams, jammy dodgers and golden crunch creams. You were in luck if a family box of Fox's favourites came out! Sometimes, someone would run out to the local shop for extra milk. I used to laugh when people would say,
"If I'd have known you were coming, I'd javr baked a cake!"
These spontaneous family visits were lovely and we do still do them, sending a text ten minutes before. Sometimes, though, with family and friends, we try so hard planning a date in advance, we either can't agree on one, or it's six months ahead! When I grew up, weekends were mainly family days. We'd meet my aunty, cousin and grandma in town on a Saturday morning. We'd have Sunday dinner at ours, or my grandparent's, then Sunday eves at my uncle's where all my dad's family would congregate. I have so many marvellous memories of family weekends.
It's great to know we're all different, all good at different things and like different things. On our own, we may struggle, but together, we are much stronger. I love these wise words.

I love going back to my roots, to the times, places, people and events that made me who I am today. I often visit where I grew up and so much nostalgia still floods through me. Passing places where we played, dens we made, shops that aren't there anymore, where we'd buy our 5 and 10p mix ups, clinging onto the crumpled up paper bag and saving your faves till last. In my case, the white mice! I walk past houses where families I knew lived and I'd go for tea. Past the houses where you knew the people would always be generous for Trick or Treat, penny for the guy (ours was a mobile chap in a wheelbarrow) and Carol singing. I still feel a pang when I walk past my beloved, old house. It's much more than just bricks and mortar because it was a loving, cosy home for so long. Where my roots started to grow.

I probably have such a nostalgic way of looking back on village life and community because I loved reading all the Enid Blyton books and Milly Molly Mandy books. At the front of the MMM books was a map of the quiant village her and her friends, Little Friend Susan and Billy Bunter lived in. I used to draw it and label all the places such as the village school, pub, shop, blacksmith forge, the Manor house and the duck pond. They had little adventures around this picturesque village.

One of my fave ever books is 'Cider with Rosie' by Laurie Lee. I loved the pull of the characterisation and setting that made you feel you were in the book alongside them all. The 1950s nostalgia has stayed with me. The story of Lee's growing up came alive through the flowery language. You could imagine you were sat on the old charabanc bus that drove everyone into town.
As I was older, I began reading a series of gorgeous books about a village school in Thrush Green. I became addicted and went finding all the series, each covering a different village member's story. I found loads of old copies on markets and in second hand book stores and just loved each book about life in this lovely village.

This was followed by Rebecca Shaw's Village series of books. I love the idyllic feel to these books, even though there are things gpijg on behind closed doors! It's great to find a brill book series where you don't have to say goodbye to the characters yet!

Talking of village school, that was definitely a place that helped build communities. They still do now. Everyone knew, and respected everyone. I'll never forget our lollipop lady who had a son in the year above. He'd 'got done' big time and someone yelled over to her as she was seeing us safely across the road. She was like, "The little so and so! The memory of one of the mum's of a boy in my class, turning up to discuss his behaviour. I remember the image of her walking down the corridor, looking like Tina Turner, her heels clankimg on the corridor! Your mum or dad might call in at the shop on their way to pick you up from school. A dinner lady might have grabbed them to relay the story of something that happened at dinner, as everyone knew everyone. I have been part of lovely, close knit school communities with fantastic parents over the years.
I loved the community I grew up in. They say it takes a village to grow a child and I'm very thankful for mine! You have to think though, what makes a village, a community? I am so very proud of people who are breathing new life into their local communities. Like my friend who tends the flowers around the Welcome sign that she is so proud of. And co-organising the successful Community Fun Day last month. Bravo to you all!


  1. Oh for the good old days! Time definitely goes faster these days!

    1. It sure does! Time did seem to go slower then.

  2. Loved your new blog about community and friends who just round for a cuppa. Brought back fond memories of us visiting grandmas . I would hear mm am say not taking me coat off am not stopping and and an hour later would still still be chatting over a cuppa. May be chatting about the next community gala day. Julie m

    1. Aww. That's brought back even more memories. I'm nit staying, then stay fir two cups of tea!

  3. Oh my I want to cry for joy & sadness at the same time. These were so special happy times it’s so lovely to hear all these blasts from the past again and at the same time, I really don’t think kids today will have these kinds of memories to reminisce on, it’s so sad. Once again you’ve transported me to another time, I’m that little child again where innocence reigns and the world is one big adventure! Love it! Thank you 😘xxxx

    1. You are most welcome! We have a special time machine to go back and relive amazing moments. I love revisiting such a simpler time.


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