Signing up with the app Nextdoor was very unlike me. I don’t remember why I did it in the first place but no doubt it had something to do with my permanent search for an electrician or that elusive but transformative handyman.
It certainly wasn’t because I was particularly gripped by what my neighbours were up to or their opinions on bin collections or Brexit.
But over this past year, with so much face-to-face connection made impossible, this neighbourhood message board has made a more compelling read than I would ever have imagined.
The posts have ranged from the trivial – another day, another catalytic converter stolen – to the heartbreaking.
The way Nextdoor both enlarges our worlds by introducing us to people and issues that we probably wouldn’t otherwise have known about, yet simultaneously makes the community more intimate, is quite fascinating
A few weeks back our local site featured a call for any sighting of Richard Okorogheye, a young student who was finding the stresses of lockdown hard and who had gone missing without vital medication.
There were several Nextdoor postings over the days before his disappearance became a national news story.
And now that his body has been discovered miles away to the east of the city, the tragic news and the distress of his family has somehow felt closer to home than it might have been without that early alert.
The way Nextdoor both enlarges our worlds by introducing us to people and issues that we probably wouldn’t otherwise have known about, yet simultaneously makes the community more intimate, is quite fascinating.
All my life I’ve hated any hint of group activity, from the enforced Brownies of childhood to the supper-round-the table book club that was my adult idea of hell. Rallying calls to action of any kind usually make my hackles rise. So Nextdoor, which relies on a collective mucking in, should be hugely grating to a big-society sceptic like me.
Yet I’ve been genuinely heartened by the optimistic stories to be found there.
Only last week a young Italian woman posted that she was alone with no food or money, and in 24 hours had been offered and accepted a job along with countless other offers of help.
You might be sceptical about this, but with all the misery in the world right now, why not give someone the benefit of the doubt?
I’ll never warm to some of the less appealing aspects of Nextdoor – the seemingly endless moans about dog poo, stolen bikes and a really quite unpleasant degree of nimby curtain-twitching.
Yet it’s part of the mix. All human life displayed, at the click of a key.
Why can’t men settle for a nice bouquet?
One business that’s flourished during the lockdowns is mail-order flowers.
Not the traditional Interflora from established high street florists, many of which have had to close, but cooler, new online businesses such as Freddie’s Flowers, Bloom & Wild and Flowerbx which were started just in time to benefit from our apparent floral largesse in the pandemic.
Sending flowers, it seems, has become a way to replace being there in person to celebrate, commiserate or just to say hello.
These days a rose by any other name may well be a hug.
What a pity that most men don’t really appreciate bouquets.
I had two male birthdays last week, and buying presents for them was more than the usual nightmare with the shops closed. How much easier it would have been if I could have just bunched them.
Sending flowers, it seems, has become a way to replace being there in person to celebrate, commiserate or just to say hello
I confess... Jessie is my new girl crush
Are we still allowed to have crushes? Well, even if it’s inappropriate, I’m declaring a humungous girl crush on the brilliant Irish actress Jessie Buckley.
Her range is huge, from a single mother country singer in the film Wild Rose (good enough to get a slot at Glastonbury that year), a traumatised Ukrainian wife in Chernobyl and now Juliet in the National Theatre’s first film of one of Shakespeare’s plays, shown on Sky Arts.
With her lilting County Kerry brogue and curly flame-haired bob, 31-year-old Jessie is the first Juliet who has made me cry.
She even achieved the unachievable: convincing me that she’d fallen at first glance for a Romeo played by Josh O’Connor – who still carries the same put-upon goofy stance of his Prince Charles from The Crown.
A Royal marriage we can all learn from
Many of us could benefit by looking at the 73-year marriage of the Queen and Prince Philip. It’s never easy for couples where the man has to walk a few steps back from his wife, but they managed to find a way to support each other through all the many difficulties life throws up.
After all that time they will have moulded together in a unique shape. I do hope that the Queen will have other friends and family around her who can, in some small ways, help fill the dreadful hollow he will have left.
Will we really feel free tomorrow?
These past few weeks have felt rather how I imagine the phoney war of 1939 must have been.
Clearly there are differences, since then the anticipation was of fearful battles to come rather than us hanging around waiting to get back to what we remembered as normal.
But there is a similar sense of things not being quite real, the days passing slow as treacle. The wait, like all waits, more testing the closer we get to the finish.
Tomorrow more things open up. We can go into clothes shops, eat outside in pubs and restaurants, get our hair cut. I’m curious to know how that will feel. Will it seem like liberation? Or make the things we are still prevented from doing even more frustrating?
Amanda’s in Vogue – just as I predicted!
You read it here first. When poet Amanda Gorman made her dashing appearance at Biden’s inauguration, I said her new talent agents IMG would be negotiating a Vogue cover.
And so, two months later, it has come to pass, with Amanda draped in a Louis Vuitton blanket of Kente Ankara fabric design.
Photographed for American Vogue by Annie Leibovitz, it’s a smart move back to their more majestic style than their much criticised low-key Kamala Harris earlier this year.
What’s the betting on a glamorous Jill Biden next?
When poet Amanda Gorman made her dashing appearance at Biden’s inauguration, I said her new talent agents IMG would be negotiating a Vogue cover