Cool Local is ‘Here to cheer people up’ by sharing uplifting stories of individuals and independent and smaller organisations. We encourage people to be positive, to strive for better things and to help each other. We have cheered up the wonderful rugby and charity fundraising organisation the Welsh Charitables RFC, who are delighted to have been shared by Cool Local, and we’re proud that the Netherton Foundry sold product when we talked about them. Check out our Blog here; our Twitter here; our Facebook here; and our You Tube here.
What is the latest thing that cheers us up? The response to Covid-19, in many ways. There are so many positives amid the gloom, created by people doing exceptional things, or ordinary things in an exceptional way. This blog post captures some positives and compares the task before us to the near-disaster of the Apollo13 space flight in 1970.
The Cool Local website is dedicated to the memory of the late author David Nobbs and the also late Dr Joy Philippou, both of whom helped make many peoples lives more worth living. More on this in our About page.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is hideous. Deaths; ways of life destroyed; jobs being lost; business and charities and organisations of all sizes broken, from tech-heavy (airlines and aircraft building companies) to the arts and heritage sectors, and more besides, on a massive scale. The consequences for personal and government finances, for families, for people of all ages and in most walks of life, are unthinkable. The lost incomes and changed and lost human interactions and build-up of stress and mental health issues are another dimension. It isn’t all bad news. For example, in the UK people have helped each other a lot in recent months with Captain Tom especially iconic; the furlough scheme has preserved many jobs for now; and there is a National Health Service and it is keeping people alive; people are finding new jobs and new careers and starting new and different businesses. Even toilet roll is back in the shops.
How the hell do we Keep Cool and Carry On with all that going on?
A recent blog quoted Margie Warrell, published author, speaker, leadership facilitator, and founding CEO, Global Courage, www.margiewarrell.com andwww.globalcourage.com in response to a topical question. Margie’s big topic and lifelong study is bravery, and bravery to get up and get going in the current circumstances is going to be vital. She was asked:
Is ‘being brave’ any different in the new, world-with-pandemic than it was before?
Margie replied, “Long before this pandemic started and long after it is gone, the need for courage and bravery will be crucial to thriving in life and being successful in business. It’s just that right now, when fear and uncertainty run so high, we have to dial up our courage and be even braver than we might ordinarily do.
“Many people in the face of uncertainty, tend to hunker down and protect what they have. Yet to really thrive and seize the opportunities inherent in seismic levels of change that have been brought on my this pandemic, we have to move from a defensive ‘play not to lose’ mindset to a proactive, offensive “play to win’ mindset. This is brave work as it requires embracing the discomfort of the unknown and stepping onto new, unfamiliar and unchartered new territory. But those who will seize the opportunities of this time will not be those who are ‘playing it safe’ but those who are focusing on how to adapt fast and think two steps ahead to whatever new norms and needs this brave new world we will emerge into will hold.
“As I wrote in You’ve Got This! when we reframe uncertainty into possibility, it elevates our perspective to see opportunities and possibilities where we may otherwise only have seen problems.”
Cool Local will soon start publishing a series of blog posts offering advice and links to opportunities that can help people to Keep Cool and Carry on. We will cover, initially, topics including:
Making additional part-time income, often known as the ‘side-hustle’;
Mental health. Help to find that courage, or at least to have resilience and to find strength in adversity;
Networking – an aid to all of the above.
We will draw on advice from numerous sources. We will talk to many people who have succeeded, including already in the pandemic, such as Mike Oldham, who lost his job due to Covid-19 and is now in a new job, with a further role as a professional podcaster.
We hope this cheers you up, which is what Cool Local is about. You can find your own information and inspiration too. Why not do that now? You don’t have to wait for us. Research, talk to people, dream of what you could do and how to get there, and get started.
You can also reflect on this thought from Sir Kenneth Brannagh, actor, playwright and director: “Dream. Dream big. Don’t be afraid. Because in the end dreams and fears do not mix.”
By Darren Weale, Founder, Cool Local, Bromley, 25th August 2020
Life In is a new Cool Local series of blog posts about local life and cool things around the UK.
Leicester Square is Alright. No, with this being written after a visit for a day in August 2020, things generally aren’t alright. The Brexit turmoil, the pandemic turmoil, the exams turmoil, and somewhat sidelined environmental turmoil. Let’s face it, there is a lot of unsettling stuff going on, with the pandemic having the most profound immediate impact across society. So much so that the term the ‘new normal’ has been coined for how society is re-configuring itself day to day.
I had to meet someone in Leicester Square this week. Owing to the nature of my work, I had successfully avoided trips to central London since lockdown began in March. The ‘mask on the train’, the social distance people avoidance, the seeing the busy places and the happy people lifeless and dull, as I feel is happening all too often, put me off.
This week’s trip, though, was surprisingly encouraging. A train trip to Charing Cross with a mask blowing my own warm breath up my face wasn’t good and I gave up reading to sleep on the journey if I could. I walked the short distance to Leicester Square and felt really nervous around people, as I have been when seeing people maskless in shops or getting carelessly close. Just doing what was normal when it isn’t and fearing the worse was horrid. But what did I encounter? Much of the old normal, in fact, including…
First up, musician Rob Falsini, a man with a very good voice, busking and doing a fine rendition of a U2’s ‘Blood Red Sky’, with a hopeful lyric – ‘We will begin again’. Then he decided to end his set with a Radiohead number, so I moved on before their sheer depressingness ate into my slightly revived mood. It revived a great deal more due to then meeting two homeless people.
The smiles of Mickey (Big Issue seller, left, above, in front of an open cinema) and Chris (right) were beaming their way around the square as they sought buyers for the magazines and for people to be nice to, and one of them was me. Mickey said that they are ‘brothers who look out for each other’ and they were simply a reminder of just how nice people can be, whatever their station in life. It made me reflect on one of the very few upsides of the pandemic, that the government has shaken its magic money tree to accommodate homeless people in a way and with a speed it never managed before, and long may it continue.
I passed a man sharing the word of God, another old Leicester Square favourite, and a French bulldog who was observing ‘Bones’, a puppet performing to music and talking to passers by. As Bones’ puppeteer said, “I built my own theatre. You’ve got to take advantage of any opportunities that present themselves.” One song was, thankfully, Pharrell Williams ‘Happy’, a one-song Radiohead antidote. I moved on to another reminder that the Leicester Square/Soho area is a melting pot of the affluent and the poor and dispossessed.
The Catholic Notre Dame De France church was the source of the queue (the longest in the square) of homeless taking food and drink from a small premises between a closed gentleman’s club and an also closed ‘Just Chips’ outlet. It was good to see the help being offered and received in the heart of London, and I stopped for a quick chat with a masked helper.
The Moon Under Water pub was taking its safety seriously, but my first visit to a pub in months felt as uncomfortable as I feared. That part of the new normal – calculating and accepting risk and enjoying things unhindered – is hard. However, the trip ended on a high with a few good things at the end.
The sight of a giant panda entertaining people in Chinatown was welcome, and so too was finding the Wong Kei, a contender for my new favourite Chinese restaurant after the New World nearby closed despite my personal dining support, maintained for over twenty-five years. The Wonky, as my lunch partner referred to it, was formerly described as the rudest restaurant in London. That was pre-2014. I don’t think it has changed that much, but the food is good.
No, the new normal isn’t much fun, but compared to how it might have been, Leicester Square is Alright.
Corporate coffee can be unpopular with people who value independent shopping on high streets. There are often objections to mega-chains such as Starbucks and Costa taking premises on British high streets and out of town locations (one in Wales here).
Yet the high streets and shops that are doing best (or are, at least, surviving) frequently do so by adapting and mixing things up. Two are in Orpington in the London Borough of Bromley. Cycle42 is a bike/bike repair shop that has Lizzie fixing the coffee and Charlie fixing the bikes. Apparently there are cakes too, which means we’ll have to go back to investigate….
New Bookshop, Cockermouth
Meanwhile, we’ve also visited and greatly enjoyed the New Bookshop in Cockermouth in Cumbria. It isn’t that new, but it is very nice, and it too has coffee and cakes, and a few products related to the cute local sheep, the Herdwick.
The Orpington, Record Store Day 2019
Back in Orpington, a new part of the night (and day) life is ‘The Orpington’, a record shop and restaurant, another example of coffee meeting something different. That in turn isn’t a long way from Nicholas James, a butchers in Locksbottom that has, you guessed it, alongside the butchers, a coffee shop, a deli, wine and drinks, and a deli.
You could argue that all this is a bit confusing. Shouldn’t we have bakeries that are bakeries, DIY shops that are DIY shops, etc? The blunt answer is with so many of those closing, perhaps we can’t. Nor can we trust the government to help the shops out, as high street guru Mary Portas found. It may be too much to say that coffee is rescuing high streets, but it is certainly helping when used imaginatively. Perhaps it is time for more places on the high street to wake up and smell the coffee.
This is the first of a series of blog posts that talk about, unsurprisingly, getting out there and doing good.
The ‘getting out there’ is anywhere, really. Preferably real places with real people, or online, or a bit of both, but something positive. The ‘doing good’ is literally what it says – talk with people (many actually like that, some lonely people really need it); start or help a business; start or help a charity, sports club, or any non-profit activity that you love. Plant a tree. Stroke a cat or dog. Network. Meeting people online or, better, offline and face to face means you have more chances to help make this world a better place, something it badly needs. If you can walk to those meetings and not drive everywhere that is also good for your health and for the environment.
All of this – or the positive attitude behind it, I’ve not done all of those things (start a sports club? no!), has helped me and others in lots of expected and unexpected ways. The most memorable to date for me was helping out the Welsh Charitables RFC by sharing online what they do, as I love it. They help charities in Wales via the medium of their national sport, rugby, both playing it and having fundraising dinners. A few years ago, a highly unexpected result of this was their inviting me to a fundraising event with the seven players involved in the most famous rugby union try of all time, from the Barbarians vs All Blacks match in 1973, which I am pretty sure I watched on TV as a young man.
The move was started under his posts by Phil Bennett and polished off by a flying Gareth Edwards. For more, read this from The Guardian newspaper – www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2013/jan/27/barbarians-all-blacks-greatest-try
I met all of the ‘Magnificent Seven’ and have their autographs and it makes me very proud, so an added and belated thank you to the Welsh Charitables RFC and particularly their Hon. Secretary, David Power. Without that invitation, I’d not have heard the speech by Tom Pullin, the only Englishman in the move, who said, ‘The only reason I got passed the ball is because I faked a Welsh accent’.
Cool Local will be sharing more stories like this, including many from guest writers. Meanwhile, if you’re not doing so already, why don’t you get out there and do some good?
By Darren Weale
Links to Welsh Charitables RUFC – their events also appear on our Events page:
We like the Croft Tea Room in St Mary’s Cray in Orpington. It is a small, neat, and tasty place for food and drink. We don’t make empty recommendations. So locally we’ve been to would criticise. The (now closed) Bakery on Orpington High Street for its glacially slow service. The café at Carlton Parade in Orpington whose toast used to be limp, thin and terrible. Not now, from what we saw through a window the other day. The Croft Tea Room does, however, provide good meals and really good home made cakes you can see going in and out of the oven. It is also a much-needed community hub in an area that needs one, and is run as a Community Interest Company with quite a few volunteers, young and old. It’s limited by its small size, it isn’t on a road with massive footfall, but it is a good place, friendly, and, well, good. If you’re within reach, give it a try. Facebook: www.facebook.com/CroftTearoom
We talk about and share uplifting stories from across the UK, to cheer people up. We’re now also focussing on one location in particular, Bromley in Kent, to identify the active social media users ‘on the street’ – schools and other public bodies, charities, shops, businesses, and others. The idea is that if more people in Bromley are aware of who to connect to locally, they’ll connect more and be aware of what is going on, what to do, and what to see. That will benefit the people who have the social media we’re sharing. Here are some examples of active local social media users we’re sharing, or who we soon will:
Businesses – Teepol Products, based in Orpington, manufacturers of cleaning products since 1938
Charities – Bromley Borough Foodbank
Entertainment – Bromley Youth Music Trust presentations
Food and drink – the new rather good (we’ve been there a few times) place to eat in Orpington – A.MANO coffee bar and kitchen
Places of worship – Bromley Reform Synagogue
Schools – Bishop Justus Church of England School
Services – Anderson Veterinary, Orpington and other locations
Shops – Pet Perfection in Green Street Green and Petts Wood
Social media hubs – Bromley Gossip on Facebook
Where can you read about this?
Our more permanent introduction to what we’re doing in Bromley is here.
We’re writing from Cumberland presently, and based for a while in Cockermouth. It is a cool place. Why? There is a spirit of independence and pride that stands out and also this is the Lake District, one of England’s places of greatest natural beauty, and it is a fine place to be. More in our ‘Cool Cockermouth’ blog post here.
Robert Hokum, musician, above, with photographer Wendy Auld, performs many songs very well, but one cover, Ice Cream Man, is particularly good, as you will learn if you see him live. He appears in our blog about the Ealing Blues Festival, which can be read here.
Two separate projects, both linked by sheer love of live music, have recently seen significant success.
Years of effort and commitment have gone into the new 1000-capacity Fiery Bird venue in Woking in Surrey which opened its doors this month (May 2018) and the also newly openedEel Pie Island Museumin Twickenham.
The Fiery Bird venue is a major uplift for live music in Woking, and built on the long-term efforts of locals who have presented a range of music in smaller environments in the past.
The Eel Pie Island Museum captures the history of one of the more unusual settings and vibes for live music, a venue that was part of a vibrant musical culture. When we visited it, the very friendly staff were engaged with locals working on art for the museum, Long John Baldy was playing on vinyl, and the Director of the Ealing Blues Festival and the co-founder of the Ealing Club Community Interest Company were visiting. It is a mecca of musical memorabilia, including from the late Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, The Who, John Mayall, The Rolling Stones, and more. There was even a display on the history of the local boatyard, boats having at one time ferried musicians and music-goers onto the island. Such places are a magnet for the musically-minded and a vital part of our heritage.
Congratulations from Cool Local to those involved in both projects.