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Everyone remembers their first car; mine at the age of 23 was a 1969 Triumph Vitesse convertible (back when insurance could cost more than a car). A two litre, four -seater convertible rust-bucket which I spent more time maintaining than driving. In those days parts were readily available in scrap yards where the ability to climb a stack of rocking cars was just as important as being able to handle a socket set. The grey suits at the HSE put a stop to that malarkey and quite rightly so.

In more recent times I bought another Vitesse as a first venture into the classic a car market, and having moved that on have more recently acquired two e-type jaguars. Initially I intended to maintain these myself where possible – however as parts availability is now limited to a few suppliers (and often poor quality replacements), it soon became obvious I was one stripped- nut away from a whole world of pain and frustration. How I miss those scrap yards.

The real pleasure in owning a classic car is of course being able to drive on the open road – surprisingly, the simple decision to go for a drive now leads to several levels of doubt – will it start? Which roads have the least potholes? Is it going to rain? What if I breakdown? Etc etc And yet driving vehicles of a certain age is a totally different experience to modern cars – a better level of respect and tolerance from other road users (even cyclists amazingly) – and in the absence of power steering, ABS, modern suspension and a radio – the real feeling of driving. And its noisy.

As classic car ownership seems to be increasing in the UK, and there are more events to attend – the average age of owners remains above 60 which is a concern for the long-term well-being of these vehicles. We certainly need more interest from younger generations to learn the skills of engineering and maintenance to keep them roadworthy.
And they too will then learn that we are not classic car owners; merely custodians.

Having highlighted the worrying lack of new skill entering the classic car arena, it’s great to see that on our redevelopment of Littlebrook the contractors and supply chain have embraced our desire to create apprenticeships and training opportunities on site despite Covid constraints. Coupled with our involvement with the local schools and University Training College we are proactively encouraging young people to consider careers in property and construction – if just a few of them grasp that opportunity we will have a legacy to be proud of.

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Our blog will see guest features from leaders in the third sector; and to start things off we have a dear friend and founder of The Big Issue, John Bird. At just 5 years old, John Bird became homeless before residing in an orphanage until 10. In his teenage years he turned to theft for income and would later be in prison for petty crimes. He now proudly sits in the House of Lords, where he fights for social injustices and gives a voice to those in poverty and who are homeless. The Big Issue was the start of his social entrepreneurial journey, and he has since been a part of many social enterprises and political movements.

“I will go down in the history books as the inventor of The Big Issue. The fact that I invented numerous other magazines will probably not even get a footnote in the history books. But up until recently I was inventing away at a fair rate on knots.

What stopped me was the pandemic. I lost the appetite for coming up with new ideas for magazines, most of which never saw the light of day. A magazine to flourish has to have hundreds of things working for it. It’s a tough old world.

But I have not been idle. Instead, I invented a movement. It’s called RORA: “Ride out Recession Alliance”. And it brings big businesses, like Nationwide and Unilever, with charities like Shelter and Generation Rent, together with individuals and politicians who want to stop people being made homeless through job loss caused by Covid.

So, it’s a clever alliance that at the moment numbers a few hundred which we wish to grow to number thousands and thousands. Why? Because poverty created by the pandemic can push people into evictions and into homelessness. And hundreds of thousands of homeless families and individuals frightens the hell out of me.

RORA is beginning to be taken up by government and by business because it helps people get back into work. It has a website that is full of jobs and training, upskilling and new positions you may want to increase. At the same time, it campaigns to keep people in their homes, taking up the Prime Ministers declaration that ‘no one will be made homeless by Covid-19’. We have to ensure that we don’t get mass homeless because it will destroy people’s lives for decades.

I started The Big Issue to work with people who were already homeless. But what if suddenly we had people laid off from their work and unable to get work? And then slip into eviction.

RORA is bringing businesses together to put pressure on the government to stand by its word. But also to help us create work, and on our website we already have hundreds of jobs and skill increasing training.

In 2018 we created a conference in Northampton that brought many businesses together. The idea was to get businesses and charities to start trading together. We called the conference ‘The Social Echo’ Conference and it was about stitching together the support groups within communities. It was very imaginative, and we managed to get a number of concerns working together. The hospital buying bread from the local baker, the sandwich bar buying the service of a housing project etc.

It didn’t quite take off, but the idea of a social echoing around a community did take seed. And last year Social Echo worked overtime in and around Peterborough working with those hit by the lockdown. Bringing food to the neediest and helping people with problems thrown up by isolation. Social Echo is a very simple way of saying that whatever act you make in the community it will resound around, positive or negative. And sure enough the actions of the Social Echo team has had very positive effects and is now being looked at by government and local authorities. (socialecho.uk will get you in touch).

I was so interested in the power of local communities that back in 2018 I even had a new magazine title to go with the work of Social Echo. It was called “Darning Street: stitching together the social fabric”.

It didn’t go far. But I do believe that most of us have all woken up to the power of working locally. I know that increasingly government and local authorities are realising that a blasted community can only put pressure of the NHS, local government services and cost much more in the end.

Back to the community! if we want to get out of the troubles thrown up by the pandemic then its back to where we live. A positive social echo will work wonders. Promise to try it once and see if you dont get hooked on that feeling too.”

 

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“It’ll all be over by September” I remember saying very often around my house in March last year. How wrong I turned out to be.
Our family has all been together from that first lockdown, nearly a year now….my middle son Theo arriving from work experience in Spain (pretty much the last flight out), the eldest Leila from Uni in London (with boyfriend) and Lucas from Uni in Bath.
In the space of a few short weeks Lisa and I went from an empty home to 6 adults in the house 24/7, all wondering what was going on and for how long.

The first 3 months was all a bit of a blur, work was intense with the build-up to achieving planning consent for our 2.3m sq ft logistics facility in Dartford. Thankfully Dartford councillors were keen to maintain business as usual, even if that meant a committee meeting via Zoom call and we achieved planning consent in June.

After that we all settled into a new normal routine, as everyone has had to, ours was not a unique condition.

With all the negative elements flying around, I think it has been important to focus on the silver linings; spending precious time with family that would otherwise be living away, having older relatives safe and well and being fully engaged by work throughout.

Six adults is a lot of mouths to feed, so it was important that cooking was shared by all (some more than others). Leila excelled in the kitchen, indulging us with regular lockdown bakes.

Four of us six are avid football fans, West Brom (me) Man U and Arsenal, so regular televised football was very welcome when it returned. Although my team have proved incapable of keeping a clean sheet and ship over two goals every game played.

And I must say we did manage to find tv series that we all wanted to watch and settle down to each evening; Ozark last year and more recently Schitt’s Creek brought a lot of welcome laughs.
Music wise I’ve widened my horizons and found Hania Rani’s album Esja a relaxing listen at quiet times.

Considering we had 3 boys aged 19 – 23 living under one roof for several months they have all got along amazingly well and even worked together to repair the garden lawn which had been trashed by builders the year before.

Many have been way more adversely affected by this pandemic and I feel for the parent’s that are juggling home schooling with work at the moment. Having adult children at home presents different problems, mainly around job prospects, securing work experience during lockdown/home working and university life restricted to screen time lectures.

But now….as quickly as everyone came home…..everyone is getting moving again and moving out, pretty much all at the same time. My daughter has started a job with the NHS in London, the boys are back at University and Lisa and I are empty nesters again….let’s hope it sticks and the children (young adults) can get on with their lives again.

Just at the time the children move forward, we move forward at Bericote too, starting the speculative development of a new 450,000 sq ft distribution unit at Littlebrook.

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