Image above: Flowers outside Strand on the Green school – photograph by Jennifer Griffiths
It was lovely to hear the sound of clapping all over Chiswick last night as people came out of their houses to applaud the staff of the NHS. There’s a real war going on on hospitals, with exhausted medical staff already at full stretch in some places, but for many of us who are able to work at home, this must feel very much like the phoney war did, when Britain and France declared war on Nazi Germany in September 1939. British people expected bombing raids immediately, but nothing much happened for eight months.
I’m beginning to know people who know people who are intensive care, confirmed Covid-19 cases, and plenty of people who think they might have it mildly. Nobody’s sure because the testing isn’t available.
Street by street mobilisation
For now, unless you work in public services, NHS staff, supermarket staff, transport workers (hats off to you, thank you), I’m guessing most people in Chiswick are able to work from home, are working less or are not working at all. The sun is out, a lot of us are lucky enough to have gardens and the full medical and economic impact hasn’t yet hit. I find it comforting that people have been using their time productively to think how they can help others. Street WhatsApp groups have sprung up, with the administrators organising leafleting door to door so people who aren’t tech savvy are included.
Chiswick’s Covid-19 Mutual Aid Facebook group acts as an umbrella for many of these groups, sharing information. More than 900 people have joined it in the past couple of weeks. The woman who initiated it, Philippa Griffin, told me they are very careful about safegaurding, aware that ‘volunteers’ may not all be benign. They don’t give out members’ details, but are able to put people in need in touch with people willing to help.
Images above: Rev Thomas Couper; St Michael & All Angels Church
The churches have been quietly organising. Each of the five Church of England parishes which cover Chiswick has a small group of volunteers and are getting in touch with the elderly and isolated they know about, checking on them. Rev Thomas Couper from St Michael & All Angels told me they haven’t had many calls for help yet, as neighbours are looking out for each other, and little local help groups are springing up.
Nextdoor is also really coming in to its own. The ‘hyperlocal social networking service’ was set up in San Francisco in 2008 and is currently available in 11 countries. You can opt to join just your immediate local neighbourhood group or set the radius wider. Until now it’s been a useful way to get recommendations of local builders and advertise that your cat’s gone missing,
Now it’s full of messages like:
‘We went shopping at M&S in Kew Retail park at 5pm yesterday. No queues, easy to distance yourself from most people and plenty of stock except for eggs and flour’.
It also documents the low level guerilla war going on between runners, cyclists and dog walkers – but that’s another story…
Read more stories on The Chiswick Calendar
See also: Lockdown – Things to do