The following was written by Mudchute Playworker, Penny Wilson

The sun still shone done on us for our doorstep Elevensies and the knot of people stopping by to chat to each other became a part of our new routines.

So had the Thursday clapping.

By the second Thursday evening we had become aware that the NHS staff still needed sufficient protection. We realised that the carers who looked after our community in their homes and in residential homes also needed more supplies. Their role was now being recognised as being as vital as any in society. The Home that my mum had spent her last years in had suffered huge losses because of Covid19. My brother and I thought of the delicacy of love and care that the staff had always shown her. How must they be feeling?

So our second Thursday clapping was vibrant and thunderous. NHS workers living in our street joined in too. It was a shout for fairness. An explosive expression of gratitude and a thing we could do together that seemed to make us feel stronger and bring us closer.

We needed it.

It was the beginning of us finding a street identity. We were a little tiny bit of the mass of cheering we could hear bouncing of the buildings and echoing down the deserted Main Street.

We felt, well, somehow, a sort of pride in ourselves. I had only found that in private, or small groups of people before. This was new.

Two young brothers who live a couple of doors up from me enthusiastically started the cheering and clapping. They scampered up and down the street, sort of unable to believe what was happening. One of them played his guitar to each house, a mini performance for everyone. We all felt a little lifted, elated by this Thursday.

story-of-our-street-3Several of us had made rainbows to put in our windows. These were tiny islands of daring colour that we hadn’t risked before. But they served their purpose, they became little defiant landmarks for passers by and neighbours. Another sign of our togetherness in the weirdness of this episode of our world.

The habit of Sunday music in our street made it to week two. We selected and shared music together and there was dancing and chatting and distanced closeness. This new tradition added another marker to our week.

Monday, and I was working in my basement. I looked out of the window, out onto the Area and up to the railings. There were some of my little neighbours looking down at me waving and shouting hello.
We were all excited by our new friendships.

The strangely empty street had been mocking me while I drank my doorstep coffee. And somehow an idea developed and took hold. If all the children were faithfully doing their school work at home, then what was missing was playtime.

So, by a consensus of neighbours, eleven o’clock became playtime.

I had the supplies that we needed.

We started to chalk on the pavement.

In those early days the children were tentative about asking permission.
‘May I draw a rainbow on the pavement, for the NHS.’
‘Yes, of course. And you can draw something just for yourself as well.’

Another new thing had begun.

The following was written by Mudchute Playworker, Penny Wilson

In the early days of lockdown the spring was such a joy.

Do you remember the chicory flower coloured skies and snow falls of pink cherry blossom. Do you remember the eerie quiet and the stillness? I don’t think I had ever heard silence before.

For the first time ever I appreciated the true value of a garden and the liminal nature of our street. In other countries I have wondered about the elders who sit at a regular spot in the village, just sit and watch and nod hello and watch and sit. It’s like watching the river. Always changing.

Never dull.

I found myself becoming an amateur sitter. And as I sat, I thought, well, if this is the End Of Days, I am going to live and love every second I have left. I am going to cram my time full of Moments.

It struck me how I was learning a lot from the early stages of Coronavirus. You have germs. I have germs. Some of them may be very nasty. By keeping away from each other We are looking after each other. It feels like an obvious thing to say now it has become a sort of new second nature. But it felt, in those days like a new community of strangers, interdependent and mutually trusting each other with each other’s lives.

This is the sort of thing we sitters think.

We developed a protocol for our Elevensies sitting outside our street door. A cup of coffee. Three cushions or chairs for time spent together as a socially isolated group, the dance of distances with our neighbours, standing aside with a nod and a smile to make room…

So there we were on our doorstep, sitting and knitting and trying to find new words to capture the colour of the California poppies outside the neighbours house, when from high window. We heard our names echoed between the boys. ‘It’s home schooling.’ ‘Our first day’ ‘maths then literacy’. A harassed looking mum peeped out of the window and pleaded for them to do five more minutes school time, then they could have a break and a window chat with us.

They grumbled and stomped back into the improvised school room. Mum went back in to try and get some of her own work done.

And sure as anything, five minutes later their heads popped out again shouting for our attention.

‘ Penny. Penny. We’ve been writing poems. Can we read you our poems Penny? Mine’s quite long Penny, but I’ll read it to you anyway.’
So I stood like some sort of Romeo gazing up at the high window and one of the boys read me his poem.

I can’t remember the exact words, but they had strength and charm. They were about two birds. One of them flying freely and singing and exploring the skies and trees of the woodland. The other in a cage, trapped and bored and frightened.

It was the I realised that I could hear the birds singing in the absolute quiet of Tower Hamlets, and the only thing that was missing Iain the stillness of our street was the sound of children playing.


We could have that happen very easily.

Playing in the street

The following was written by Mudchute Playworker, Penny Wilson.

Before lockdown started I heard from some friends who work on a wonderful Adventure Playground in Wales, The Land in Plas Madoc correctly anticipated what was to come. They have worked closely with their community for many years, so they know almost everyone in their area. They started to turn their collection of pallets into growing beds for the children and benches for elders to put outside their front doors so they could keep at a distance and still watch the world go by in safety.The growing beds were delivered to the homes of the children complete with bags of compost and seeds. The benches were also delivered to the doors of the elders or those people at particularly high risk and set in place.

When the lockdown arrived, this act of foresight was in my mind. It was not possible for me to make benches, but we made a family decision to institute Elevensies on our door step. We took out cushions and settled in the growing patch of sun, which, between eleven and twelve o’clock shone on both sides of our street. Our new routine of unstructured time made this not only possible, but desirable. It quickly became part of our new life rhythm.

The-story-of-our-street-1We took our cups of coffee and tea and our knitting or whittling or whatever small pieces of work we were doing at the time, and sat chatting in the sun, waving and saying hello to everyone who went past on the street.

I had done the same when I started working in a brand new Community Centre nearby. Day by day the neighbours would welcome the smile and the greeting and we got to know each other and soon we had a crowd of regular attendees for our wonderful new space.

For me this was inspired by the daily life of a village I know well in France. People may or may not get along and agree with each other, but they share a small space and need to cooperate to get along in fine weather and tough times. They share a sense of being together in the same place and the same time on the same planet.

Why shouldn’t our corner of London be the same? It always used to be that way.

So sitting on our doorstep started a little knot of a meeting place. Neighbours also brought their elevensies, and built it into their own new rhythms.

We had surprised ourselves by all rolling out on that first Thursday evening, and those that followed it, to clap and cheer and whoop in support of our NHS and carers. The birds roosting nearby rose in a huge cloud.startled by our noise. And our fearful spirits lifted a little as we discovered that we shared more than we had realised in all the years we had lived side by side.

We used the newly formed street WhatsApp group to make bulk orders of bread, swap needs and solutions, keep an eye out for each other as necessary and make each other smile.
Pretty soon our knot of chattering, all done at a newly acquired habit of social distance, came up with the idea of a Sunday morning music time. A speaker was brought out onto a step, we had chosen a song, the sun shone, the doors opened. We waved and sang and danced. Something very new had come about in our street.

This story rolled out in some wonderful ways.

I am sure it is not a unique one, but it has been documented, and you may enjoy seeing where it goes in future posts.