The Secret Postcard Sale will be happening in the middle of North Finchley’s Christmas Festival and just before Chanukah, which makes it the perfect time to buy gifts. It is the season of giving, a time when people come together and share: share food, share time and share love. It is also a particularly difficult time if you are alone.
Loneliness is perhaps the biggest taboo we have. It is harder to talk about than sex or death or almost anything else. Age UK Barnet’s experience is that older people do not use the word; it is too shameful to admit. They talk instead of the importance of “keeping busy” or say that they are “lucky” because they have a daughter, neighbour, or son.
In June 2012 we ran a consultation about the potential closure of day centres. 191 people completed questionnaires, and I read every one, because if people have the courage to expose their fear, their loneliness and isolation so openly, they should be heard. They don’t just talk about loneliness, they talk about friendship and family, the kind of family we build when our own is not around us. Here are some of the things they said:
“I will have to stay at home. No friends, no communication.”
“No company. No food, who would provide this? It would be very difficult to look after ourselves.”
“Being confined to home 7 days a week with no respite.”
“I will be isolated in my home as I live alone and can only walk a short distance. I will miss my friends and contact with the outside world. It is hard to even think about.”
“What point is there in living longer, if there is no social life, or friends to meet? How about a toxic pill for us all at a certain age – would that solve the problem?”
“Meeting people. Otherwise indoors all day as I am blind.”
“The day centres are a lifeline for us elderly people. We meet our friends, talk, discuss various things, laugh, we give birthday Christmas cards, buy cakes for our day, we keep active, we have talks, visiting choirs, tea dances, on Thursday we have Tai Chi, some raffles. We have transport to and from the centres. It’s something to look forward to. If I don’t have Thursday out it means there is nothing, everyday the same.”
“I will be very upset and lonely without the centre. We all meet every week and we’ve become like a family”.
I want to thank all the people of Barnet who have helped Age UK Barnet provide something so loved and valuable: the staff, the volunteers and all the people who have donated postcards to the sale.
The artists from East Finchley Open Artists, Finchley Art Society, Milldon Art Society, Barnet Guild of Artists, Herts Visual Arts Forum, Creative Cricklewood, Barnet Craft Collective, Barnet and Finchley Photographic Society, Age UK Barnet’s Art Group and Southgate and Palmers Green Open Art Studios – thank you for sharing your gifts so freely and generously.
East Finchley Open Artists are holding their Christmas sale on 24 November and Finchley Art Society will be exhibiting from 9-24 November in Trinity Church Hall, Nether Street.
I want to thank the Bookartbookshop and Ben Uri Gallery for reaching out to ask people to contribute.
To the people who heard about the sale on social media or through word of mouth, from our youngest contributor (aged 3) to the oldest (who I think is 86), to the people who came to the Rhubarb Wine and Secret Postcard Party at Café Buzz or to the postcard making day at Meze Meze with Jill Tytherleigh, to Hampstead, Hendon and Golders Green Rotaract – thank you. It is one thing to make art if you are an artist; it is quite another if you have not picked up a pencil in years but you are willing to take them time and effort to make something for public display. So a special thank you to you: the professor of law, the retired vicar, the painter and decorator, the teachers, the accountant, the politican, optician, bloggers, school librarian, nail salons and tattoo parlour, and all the people who I know nothing about, beyond your generosity.
To my friends, neighbours and family, who understood that community is something which stretches across borough and national boundaries – I have receives postcards from the USA, the Netherlands and France – thank you, heel veel bedankt and merci beaucoup.
I wanted this to be an event to which everyone could contribute, by making or buying, and I cannot tell you how touched I am that around 200 people have understood that every single card is important. Each card is a gift, of time, effort and care. Through the act of your giving you have touched me deeply, and will touch lives of the 4,000 older people Age UK Barnet reached last year.
If anyone reading this would like to volunteer for Age UK Barnet, take a look at our website to get in touch.
If you would like to donate to Age UK Barnet, please come to the sale or give through the website.
It seems it really is a season of giving and goodwill to all.