Don't KNow What You've Got 'Till It's Gone
I remember listening to a song by that title as a teenager and applying it to all manner of things and thinking how true it was then.
I'd re-write the phrase now as 'You don't know what you've got until it's gone, and then you've got it again!
Around 4 years ago we lost our village shop and post office within a week of each other. The people of the village were upset, sure, but we soon grew accustomed to shopping elsewhere and before long it felt normal. Behind the scenes a diligent group of volunteers worked for thousands of hours raising funds, filling in grant applications forms, liaising with potential tenants and more recently learning how to use tills, buying stock and painting walls. Eventually, on the 14th of June we opened the Grindleford Community Shop. It's a bijoux affair in the Vestry of the village church, but it's more than big enough to stock everyday items, serve teas and coffees to passing walkers and cyclists, and perhaps most importantly, chat with people.
Sure the prices are more than you'd pay at Aldi or Lidl, but they're sensible at the same time. The committee has listened to what the village wants and is not tying to force a deli or an artisan bakers on us. I for one am happy to pay a few pennies more for my milk, bread and eggs not just for the convenience of having a shop open 7 days a week less than half a mile from my house, but because of all the other benefits that it's brought with it. Some are obvious, some are less so.
I've already mentioned the social aspect to it. Each time I've popped in I've either bumped into somebody else shopping, or else I've stopped for a chat with whoever was on the volunteer rota at the time. There's a notice board in there which was full within the first few days advertising stuff going on within the village. There have been social gatherings, and more are planned. It's brought a new lease of life to the Church, improving relations between church officials, and villagers - church-going and non-church-going. The room itself, decorated beautifully, is a lovely space for volunteer workers to hang out. It's teaching folk in the village (the volunteers) new skills. It's helping teenagers lean life skills. It's encouraging people passing through the village on bikes and on foot to stop in. I've no doubt that it will help to maintain and push up property values in the area.
If my few pennies more add up over the year to pounds and not pennies then so be it. Call it a village tax, the benefits of which are listed above.
Back to the title of this piece, despite the fact that I was instrumental in getting the shop back up and running, clearly believing that it was an important thing to do, it wasn't until it was actually up and running that the full gravity of just how important community spaces / projects are. To the residents of the village who have not yet visited, and to people everywhere who have slipped into a routine which ignores what's on your doorstep, I challenge you to think local, if not all of the time, then some of the time, and pay the tax of a few pennies more. The likes of Tesco are reporting declining profits year on year, whilst community ventures continue to grow. Last year was the first year in half a century that a new shopping mall was not built in the USA, whilst hundreds more lie abandoned. I sincerely hope that we're waking up to the fact that we really didn't know what we had until it was gone, and that we're finally getting it back again!