Time to take stock?

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Hankelow Green, July 2011

Howard is member of ADAPT, and although he is the author of this article he would like to acknowledge the assistance of Andy Hannah, Chris Thornton, and Alan Draper.

Veronica rang me the other morning. Brilliant photographer, heart of gold, bit of a rah-rah, used to keep horses when she lived up here, and followed the Hunt — you know the sort. Well, after we had visited her dentist together, and her heart consultant (bypass pending, poor thing) she turned to the lockdown in Cheltenham, where she now lives. "My dear, I can actually sit in my garden and listen to a blackbird's song! Heavenly! Quite impossible before, because of the traffic you know!"

Well, writing as someone who in April lost an orphaned, disabled nephew, Covid-19 means fears and sufferings rather than blackbirds singing — but it is true that nature has benefitted. Ever since the nations of the world locked down, production cut down, and the volume of traffic was reduced, the world's atmosphere has cleared. The Great Wall of China can now be seen clearly, the Taj Mahal's dome is no longer obscured — and even little Audlem will have benefitted from cleaner air!

It has been noticeable how much safer and civilised walking round the village has been. We could walk over the Canal Bridge's narrow footpath, and cross the road, without being threatened, or walk down Stafford Street safe and sound. Of course there were still the huge farm tractors and trailers, designed for industrial farming, and the articulated milk tankers, all the way from Fishguard (Pembrokeshire!) going to the Cheese plant, but it was safer, quieter, cleaner, better. A walk round our estates revealed part of the cause, because every driveway had a car parked there, or two, or three, or four!

Might we now take stock,? We have had to learn to restrain ourselves, for the first time for forty years, and we have demonstrated, across the country, that life is not all about "looking after number one", but about community, about all those many acts of kindness to neighbours isolating, about the care home workers and the NHS staff going not "the extra mile" but the extra Marathon, week after week. We personally have benefitted, and are grateful. Maybe you have too. Such ingenuity! Such caution! Such common-sense!

The Climate Crisis

The need for forward thinking, family and community centred, continues, because the Climate Crisis has not gone away whilst Covid-19 has occupied us. Our old friend the late John Spibey, who farmed at Swanbach, once said to me "I don't own my land — I hold it in trust for my grandchildren". So — might we do an audit, distinguish between our "needs" and our "wants" and live within our family's true needs on the one hand and on the other press for better public transport to serve the non-driving old and young? If you have found you can work from home (by Zoom or suchlike as our offspring do) do you need to commute every day? Might we think twice about the travel industry's advertising, and not fly so much? My wife's sister lives in Zürich, and we like to visit her, but we have not flown for years. It is easy to take the train (Eurostar to Brussels, and change to the TGV straight to Zürich). It takes all day, but is very civilised, with good food and drink, and someone else takes the strain! If lockdown has meant you have spent less and have some spare cash, how about improving your loft insulation (and get a grant to help you), or have a few solar panels installed for free electricity, or even stop burning those thousands of litres of heating oil and change to air-sourced heating? If you have land, you could go for ground-sourced heating, though that is more expensive, but there is government help (from the taxes you pay) for these heating schemes.

That remarkable young woman, Greta Thunberg has said "Nobody is too small to do something". Might we each do whatever we can, and make Audlem the Greenest Parish in East Cheshire?