Archives for posts with tag: community

Ah, the red UK post box. An iconic, timeless image, replicated thousands and thousands of times across the length and breadth of the country. Barely a few hundred yards apart, a part of the community, a true local service.

I don’t live in the UK, I live in Ireland, and the post boxes here are green. One thing I’ve noticed about living in Ireland, and I find it one of the very few irksome things because I’m used to the UK set-up, is that post boxes are few and far between. In fact, in the country they’re almost as rare as hen’s teeth.

Obviously there’s a huge cost attached to serving an infrastructure of thousands of drop points for post, and I’m sure the UK has ‘streamlined’ its own network of them over the last couple of decades. That said, a local post box is a huge community service and makes it so much easier for getting your letter or parcel from A to B. It’s the inverse of the last mile, and in sales the last mile can be very expensive to serve. In Ireland, they have post boxes at the post office, but you’d be hard pressed to find them anywhere else in small towns or decent sized villages.

The post box is a dinosaur, I know. Sometimes, though, when you can’t get near the post office – or it’s located in a place that’s impossible to stop near if you’re doing a drive by, it’s a big headache getting your package away.

A handy post box is something I never take for granted, and always try to memorise in towns I often go to.

It is the sense of community, with a small c, that makes and binds a Community with a big C, I think. The idea that the sum of all of us, its constituent elements, is greater than the whole, the place we live or work in.

One of the paradoxes of modern life for me is that at a macro level communities, towns, cities and councils seem to get in their own way, in a one step forward, two steps back fashion, whereas at a micro, person-to-person level, the opposite happens. Sorry, that’s a long sentence, a bit tortuous, but I didn’t want a full stop to break the flow.

I’m frequently reminded of this in provincial Ireland where the community is always helping itself out in tiny ways. I had a an email dialogue with someone the other day, and I needed to get an envelope containing important information to her sooner rather than later. ‘That’s OK, she said, you don’t need to drop it out to me, just leave it at the local shop and I’ll pick it up on my way from work.’ Genius. I left it behind the counter with the chap, and it seemed the most natural thing to do.

One company I work with needs parcels to be collected and sent out on a regular basis. If the local courier can’t get to them before the end of the day on a Friday, we leave them at the local petrol station and he picks them up from there on the Saturday morning.

We may get frustrated and befuddled by the bureaucracy and process of big business and big government, but we make up for it with the small kindnesses of community.

I live in a country that has, supposedly, mobile coverage in the 90s per cent. That must be by population I imagine, since out of the cities and in the country there are plenty of pockets of poor signal.

One such pocket is my house, where our home and home office have enjoyed appalling mobile coverage for the last decade. All was not lost however, because several years ago we bought a mobile phone signal booster that connects to the landline broadband and is programmed by our mobile numbers for 5 luscious reception bars every time.

Except that 3 months ago the booster box broke and I discovered to my chagrin that the box is no longer sold or supported by Vodafone. Wifi calling is promised, which will solve the problem of poor mobile reception, but I’ve been working in tech long enough to know that roadmaps aren’t worth listening to at all.

I went onto the Vodafone community to look for discussion threads on the topic and found one, to which I wanted to comment and voice my disapproval. I had to log in to do that, and I was invited to do so either my mobile or landline account login. That was fine, but after I’d logged in I was taken to a general community page, and not straight back to the specific thread that I was on, as you would expect 9 times out of 10.

I then had to search for the thread again, and still it wouldn’t let me contribute. By this stage I was wise to the process and copied my contribution content in case I’d lost it.

After a couple more tries I gave up, since I got messages that it wouldn’t post. I returned back to the thread and my post was there, published.

Vodafone don’t seem to make it easy for you to post to their community portal. It’s almost like they’d prefer if you didn’t, rather like in the good old days in England when you could claim unemployment benefit between terms at University but the form was longer than War and Peace…

I got sick the other day. Quite sick actually, and I needed a sick bed. About once a year I get a migraine, and about once every other year I get a bad migraine. I have learned to notice signs one is coming on. I have also learned the factors that precipitate one, though it’s usually too late for me to adjust my lifestyle.

Usually I get a migraine in the late afternoon or evening, and I can go straight to bed and shut the word away until I re-emerge on the other side. When I get a bad one the symptoms kick in during the morning.

The other day, I noticed the signs of temporary oblivion around 8am as I was driving into the office where I work for about a week every month. The office is about an hour’s drive from where I stay, in another country from where I live.

After about 2 hours of taking meds and fighting the inevitable, I informed the office manager in halting English – I can’t string a sentence together when I have a migraine, and forget the names of common objects and people I know well – that I needed to lie down in the building’s sick room.

There was no sick room, and no sick bed serving the 5 floors of office space housing the handful of companies. All the rooms have lights on that came on automatically. So, here I was, stuck an hour’s drive from where I was staying and not capable of much more beyond curling up in a ball. Eventually, I found a large bean bag, and the building manager opened up a disused room in the basement with nothing in it, not even a light.

After spending 2 hours in there, I felt well enough to drive to where I was staying, at which point I went straight to bed for 5 hours, until I had slept off the horrendousness of food poisoning-like symptoms and felt semi-human again.

You would have thought a large office building would have a sick bay though, wouldn’t you?

As a footnote to this sorry story, I had to take my first sick day in ten years. I had a suspicion when I wrote that post that it might come back to haunt me…

My son is a talented musician. He doesn’t get it from me, unless you count singing in the shower.

He’s just started busking in our local city to raise a few bucks to defray the costs of a summer school he goes to at a University in Dublin. It’s a pretty nerve-wracking experience for a young teenager to plant themselves on a busy shopping street and put themselves out there. He gets a little anxious before it, and worries about what people will think or say, but he gets it done. And he gets a bit of cash.

Quite a bit of cash actually. The other day I kept a distant eye on him for an hour, holed up in a nearby coffee shop. I was able to people watch as well, a favourite pastime of mine.

People are so generous. Their generosity amazes me. People of all ages and types gave him money. While he was playing, in between songs, even before he had started and was setting up. Maybe it’s because he looks younger than he is, or because he’s playing a relatively unusual instrument for busking with, I don’t know.

I know one thing though. We’re lucky that we live near a city which is well known for its friendliness, its arts culture and its generosity. I was blown away by how generous people are.

It restores your faith in humanity, for a while at least :-).

Community pride is a great thing for getting projects off the ground and delivering the benefit to that local tranche of society.

Some countries are better at it than others, and it’s perhaps a function, of history, culture, wealth or simply how well governments tends to fund things. Some are really proactive. Others less so, knowing and expecting that a few individuals will get it done for their community.

It is in the countries and areas with the best culture of community project success that you find the most generous people, I think. Everyone pays their taxes, theoretically, and they have very little control over how their taxes are disbursed, unless it’s via the indirect and infrequent mechanism of voting. Yet in community-minded societies you find people who are very actively generous towards a number of different projects, none of which they may ever use or benefit from.

It is pride and spirit in one’s community that sparks the generosity, which probably engenders more attachment to and better care of the end product.


I have nothing but admiration for those who professionally or voluntarily put other people before themselves and their families. It takes a special type of person to make a success of being in a caring profession. I don’t think I could do it.

I wonder why it is that governments tend to come down particularly hard on the public sector caring professions. Maybe it’s because there are so many of them, composed largely of young people and women, that successive administrations think they can get away with non-existent – or derisory improvements in pay and conditions.

The bodies, like the NHS and the various individual trusts in the UK, and the HSE in Ireland, are often pilloried for being bungling, bureaucratic and buck-passing. The individuals that are employed by them, are usually exemplary.

I’ve had the misfortune to be admitted to hospital a few times on either side of the Irish Sea. On every occasion the staff have been fantastic, plain and simple. Professional, responsive, assuring, the list goes on.

For me, caring professionals fulfil the most important role in society and this is one of the tenets by which I think a life should be lived, and a society should be governed.

It’s all about levelling the playing field.

Everyone should get a fair chance and those that fall on hard times or simple bad luck should where possible be restored to parity to take that chance again. It’s what community and the tribe is all about.

I am lucky to be associated with another area of the caring profession, namely charity.  COPE Galway is a charity that addresses homelessness, domestic violence, and care of the elderly.  Is is all about ‘quality of life in a home of your own’. As you can imagine, at this time of year their work is particularly important.

Last month I got a tour of the various facilities that the charity operates.  No surprise, then, that I found the staff to be fantastic, plain and simple.  Doing important work that benefits the most vulnerable people in our community. If you had a few units of your currency to spare, they could certainly put them to good use.

It’s really important to me and it’s my blog, so I say this again: whatever you do in life, try and make it fairer for all by levelling the playing field.