The Kemeneth project was inspired by the stories of community and kindness we are hearing as we adapt to life with Covid-19. Here are a couple of lovely stories that people shared with us which we hope you enjoy…
A Community of Stars
I met my Cornish husband online some 16 years ago… he’d been exiled in North Wales for 30 years, and with children and a job which were keeping him up there… so I moved up there to join him, and after 8 years, was finally able to draw him back to Cornwall in 2013, to my house in St Just, which I had left tenanted.
I’d bought the house in 1995, following my parent’s death, and by the time I moved up to Wales in 2005, had already got to know many of the residents. There are so many community groups and events, from the annual Cape School Art Exhibition, to Lafrowda Day, Cape Players pantos… Since we returned, Chris has been very actively involved in the community as Secretary of the Friends of St Just Library, and singing regularly with local group the Land and Sea Singers, which he loves. We’ve also acquired a succession of rescue dogs, but as I have become somewhat incapacitated, their regular daily walks have been Chris’s province.
Since the start of the pandemic, both Chris and I have been self-isolating. I’m 70, with COPD, Diabetes, Hypothyroid and generally immuno-challenged – I’m dependent on Chris for most things, so obviously he has to stay safe too.
From the very start of this awful period, we’ve been overwhelmed with the ways in which this community in St Just and Pendeen copes so supremely well in a crisis – our recently-elected local councillor Daisy, together with our tireless local County Councillor Sue James, immediately got to work setting up an online support group for the area, and have been doing everything in their power to disseminate information as to what, where and how help is available for those locked up in their homes. Volunteer helpers have been appointed to every street, and I don’t think there’s a house anywhere which hasn’t been included in the safety net.
We’ve been able to make use of a host of local businesses – which we’re so pleased to do, as they all need help to keep going, as well. We get our Sunday lunches from the Kings Arms, and have had meals delivered from The Commercial and The Square; deliveries of dog food also from Clemos, of fruit and veg from Stones, groceries from Premier Stores, cakes from The Cook Book and The Dog & Rabbit. Our neighbour’s daughter – one of Daisy’s small army of volunteers – has been a total godsend in running errands for us to the Post Office, collecting pasties from MacFaddens and more – she’s even power-hosed and painted our back yard! Another great friend is walking our two dogs every evening, to save Chris – who walks them early each morning to avoid encountering others – from chance meetings.
That the aerial view of St Just is star-shaped is no coincidence – it’s a community of stars… and with kind and caring neighbours like these, a lockdown is no serious hardship!
The things people tell you…
The pandemic is a terrible thing, and so is the lockdown, but in west Cornwall at the moment it’s sometimes hard to remember this, because despite the problems about fear of infection and difficulties with getting food, the weather is so beautiful, and the residents in my town are all helping each other and going out of their way to be kind, to neighbours and customers and anybody who needs help. Many things are being organised, and we are all getting stuff to each other one way and another – I’ve twice opened my front door to find a bag of things on the steps: a box of paracetamol, a bag of fleece fabric, books, a packet of soap…
As well as that, a couple of other heartwarming things happened.
A lady I used to sing with, and who had been especially nice to me when I was ill a few years ago, moved back upcountry when her family circumstances changed. We usually only communicated with each other at Christmas, but she rang me up the other day to see how I was, which I thought was very nice of her. While we were chatting she told me several interesting stories about her late mother-in-law, who used to be a midwife and delivered hundreds of babies – people were always running up to her in the park and thanking her for delivering their first, second or third babies. The midwife had twin boys of her own (one of them my friend’s husband), and the little boys used to have to go with their mum on calls. They found out a lot about precisely where babies come from, and as well as that, they got a great deal of extra pocket money and sweeties from the nervous expectant dads with whom they had to keep company while their own mum and the new mum were busy.
And the second one was a story told to me by a local lady, who also rang up unexpectedly. She said she had been out for a walk for her daily exercise, and paused for a while beside a river, where it flows into the sea at one of the beaches near here. She had thought that there was nobody about, and was surprised to hear a young man calling out to her.
‘Wait there,’ said the young man, ‘and I’ll put stepping stones for you so that you can cross the river.’
She stood there astonished, and the young man did just as he had said, and brought several flat stones and placed them neatly in the river so that she could cross. Like a fairy princess…..
In difficult times, you never know who you’re going to speak to next, and what they might tell you!
We are welcoming personal stories or reflections on the theme of community, so please do get in touch if you’d like to share something with us at Kemeneth@storylines.org.uk. This can be in whatever format you choose, for example writing, a film, audio, artwork or poem. Ideally you’d also include a photo or image to illustrate your story.
We are very grateful for Feast for funding this project.