Yesterday I helped a friend in need. Clara (Iwantmymummy)and I go way back to old skool days, where we shared form rooms and crushes on the same lad. She needed a helping hand, and I will always offer one to any friend that needs it. That’s just the kinda girl I am.
But I wasn’t the only one that helped out yesterday, there was a whole working posse. When I arrived Mammasaurus greeted me with a paint covered, already exhausted smile, matching that of Clara’s. Not long after that MissieLizzie arrived with her Husband and bubbly daughter. And soon we were joined by SeasiderClare, who got stuck right in. Another fellow blogger popped in to drop off some kind donations to Clara having presumably driven some miles as she wasn’t local, before disappearing off to see what school uniform shopping Norwich had to offer, but unfortunately I didn’t catch her name.
We had all come together as we had all been appalled by the ‘accommodation’ Norwich City Council had given Clara to house herself, husband and 18month old daughter. It is taking all my restraint not to go off on one about just how appalling this house was when Clara received the keys. However if you want to read more about the kicked in/boarded up doors, the smashed kitchen window complete with phallic graffiti, the grease and bird crap covered walls, the paint swallowing/skin slicing (and probably asbestos filled) artex, the horrible dark brown glossed woodwork and coving (which I’m still having nightmares about), the toe-catching gaps and holes in the bare floorboards, the urine stenched cupboards and corners, the mystery electrical wire sticking up out of the weeds in the garden, or the missing fence that leaves the entire back garden open to all that use the public alleyway alongside the house (including the neighbourhood cats that just love to leave their mark in the gravel the council used to ‘level’ the garden), then I urge you to please pop along and see what Mammasaurus, MissieLizzie and Clara herself have had to say on the matter. There’s pics too!
Shockingly, the council have offered just £25 per room for Clara to ‘decorate’ this house. The walls in the lounge alone soaked up over £40 of paint. That’s without the prep that had gone into filling, smoothing and undercoating the walls, and painting the woodwork, flooring and ceiling.
And that’s just one room.
In about 8 hours we worked out our little working posse had thrown well over 25 litres of paint at that house. Most of that was swallowed up by the awful artex. Only the lounge walls are finished. Yesterday we managed to give all rooms except Clara and her husbands room an undercoat attempting to cover the hideous dark, filthy walls. All rooms will require at least one more coat, but more like two, in some cases even more. And again, that’s without the woodwork, flooring and ceilings.
There’s an awful lot of work to do here, and I know we’ll all be back very soon to attack it once again.
I realised that in fact, what the council have here is a ridiculously cheap way of getting their houses renovated. £25 per room. 6 rooms (inc hallway) that’s £150. Because Clara respects her surroundings and rightly wants to raise her child in a safe and clean house, the council have effectively put the burden onto her, and managed to get one of the houses on their books renovated for £150. Disgusting.
Because it’s not just our hard work that makes all this possible. It’s materials too. Materials that Clara just cannot afford. She’s paying rent on this house already as the council deem it habitable (pah!), but they cannot move in yet as it just isn’t safe. So her whole family are still living in her old bedroom at her parents, and she’s paying towards their upkeep there too. Not to mention the storage costs of their belongings that have nowhere else to go.
The house not only needs ten tonnes of paint; it needs costly flooring, building materials, wall preparation, light fittings, curtains, landscaping, furnishing etc etc.
Thankfully it turns out that there are some amazing people out there. Since admitting the situations she’s facing, Clara has been inundated with offers of help and donations, nearly all of which have come from complete strangers.
When I started dabbling in blogging and twitter, I was completely oblivious to the power of the online community. I had no idea just how common it was for true friendships to form, and just how ‘normal’, and nice, other bloggers could be.
I was extremely intimidated by these people that had 1000s of followers; these higher echelons of bloggers, who I envisioned sat upon golden sofas manically typing out witty blogs on jewel encrusted laptops. Turns out they’re sat on their normal sofas, in their normal PJs, typing on their normal laptops, just like me. But probably with more gin.
Big-Mummy-Blogging events just seemed like something you could only get involved in if you knew the secret handshake and had scores of minions hanging off your every blog post. But really it seems its just an excuse for a knees up and a chance to ramble on about blogs to those that actually understand, unlike the other-halfs at home who just look at you weird and ask for an explanation on hashtags for the kazillionth time.
With the exception of Clara, I had never met any of my fellow helpers. I was a little nervous about meeting the famous Mammasuarus, and wasn’t sure I was prepared to start putting faces to names of blogs and tweets I’ve been silently reading from afar. This blog is fairly new, but my old blog ran for a while, with a minute amount of success before I closed it down; and I was surprised when Mammasaurus said she knew of me! Obviously none of them had heard of this new blog, but I was neither surprised nor offended. I have noticed that my followers have increased by at least you four, for which I am very grateful. All of these previously mysterious ladies were lovely, not at all scary, and I hope to stay in touch with them all, no doubt via twitter!
In a strange turn of events, it turns out the reason SeasideClare looked so familiar was that she is one of my best friends big sister! It’s a small Norwich as they say, and not only does she live not far from me at all, I also live on the same road as her parents. (But being best friends with her bother – I already kinda knew that!)
The fact that Clare was local and somehow heard of the plight and offered to lend a hand surprised me. But I truly blown away that MissieLizzie and Mammasuauras travelled some considerable miles to help out. Liz brought her whole family along from Bedfordshire, and after a brief visit to ‘our fine city’, her husband and daughter were a great help to us all, with her husband doing a sterling job on Beans’ ceiling, and her daughter entertaining us with her talk of bananas. Mammasaurus was up at 5am to drive over from Gloucestershire, before leaving at 3:30 to make sure she was back to Southampton in time for her little ones bedtimes. And she brought cake.
Another thing that completely overwhelmed me were the piles of paint and other donations sent by bloggers from all over the country, with more apparently yet to arrive. These people have selflessly sent items at their own expense to help someone in need. I was pleasantly surprised to hear of a few large companies that had offered to send items too. And while I know that a large incentive behind such donations is the publicity, I note that not all companies that I know have been made aware of the plight have offered such help. Nor have the council opened their eyes to the disgrace and offered any further assistance…
Now I don’t write blog posts to be read, I write them to get things out of my head. And if others read my posts, then that’s great. If you are taking the time to read this now, thank you.
I’m sure that this is the reason why most blogs are started, but just look at where they can take you! Through my blog I have been shown first hand the power of the internet and the kindness of strangers. In a very short amount of time I have met some lovely people that are even lovelier than their blogs imply.
Through Claras blog she has received much needed support and help when she has so desperately needed it during her difficult battle with post-natal depression. And now, when things looked like they were taking a turn for the worse, her online friends have helped her pick herself back up and see the positivity amongst the shit hand the council have dealt her.
And for that I truly thank you. Thank you for being so kind and generous, for supporting Clara, and helping a family in need.
Should you feel you can help any further please drop Clara a line, and should you agree that the house Norwich City Council are charging rent for from a family with a 18month old toddler is unsanitary and unsafe, please feel free to tell them about it too…