To close off our 60th year of making a difference, we wanted to share a very thoughtful submission from the Sannick family from Kessingland who have been Orwell customers for 30 years. Their story is a fascinating insight to their experiences in the local community over the years and we are so grateful that they took the time to share.
My family and Orwell
I first moved into an Orwell home 30 years ago, in Whiting Road, Lowestoft with my husband and our 3 children. Our rent was about £325, which I was grateful for as it was so much more reasonable than private rentals.
It was quite a close-knit community, and I used to enjoy organising events to draw the old and the young together, to remove the perception that young people were a threat to the elderly. It meant so much to those who were lonely and isolated. We ran fetes, and trips out. I then applied for the job of mobile warden, and enjoyed that for many years. I was sometimes sent to other estates such as Morton Peto House (helping their own sheltered housing officers), Lincoln Court, Levington Court and Nelson Court.
I helped out at a luncheon club, and I also started a degree course in Norwich. We used to arrange meetings and community events in the local school in Whiting Road as we had no community room. This way isolated tenants could meet up for a chat and some company. In my own time I would organise fun events such as Friday Fish and Chip Day in the Community Room at Nelson Court.
We used to organise trips out for Levington Court and I used to ask residents from Lincoln Court to join in if we had spare seats on the coach. When we went out we played a game, everyone paid £1 and picked a number. These numbers were on the coach wheel, and the number at the bottom of the wheel won all the money to spend on our trip out. Just a bit of fun.
In those days residents could pay a service fee for the warden to check up on them every day to see if they were ok, which gave them an opportunity for a chat and I enjoyed getting to know them. I used to try and help struggling families, and in those days often had late night requests to help with fallen curtains, and had to learn to strike a balance.
Sometimes I would be asked for a pint of milk, and I would often send one of the children to the shop if I didn’t have any spare. My husband would come home on occasion to find me plating up 18 dinners instead of our family 5, and we would ask the children to deliver them so families in need could have a hot meal. He would see bed linen on the line and say he did not recognise those sheets! He has always been supportive of the children and I and was only too pleased to help others in need.
The stories from the elderly residents were so interesting, such as one lady who told tales of being a “Clippie” on the buses. War stories were also very interesting. We seemed to have more time for one another in those days. I remember two ladies who enjoyed going shopping and to lunch each Tuesday. One was very unsteady on her feet so I would take them in my car and collect them afterwards.
Despite a very full day I was happy. My day started at 6.00am, getting the children to schools, then catching the train to college in Norwich. I returned at about 6.00pm (my family would help with the children while I was out). After that I would sometimes take my youngest son to Gt Yarmouth to train for Football as he was on the team. I would sit in the car for the 3 hour training session and we would get chips on the way home.
During this time my husband was a rock, sharing all household and childcare duties with me.
In 2001, when my two sons were 11 and 8 years old, and my daughter was 14, we transferred to a house in Lincoln Court and have lived there ever since. I remember having quite a battle to get the boys into the local Kessingland school but succeeded eventually. My daughter remained in Benjamin Britten school in town as she would be doing her GCSEs. It was another close community of mostly elderly tenants, there were only 2 other families with children.
I resigned from my post as mobile warden and I was not replaced. The Caretakers took on additional importance to the tenants, I remember ours being very caring, and would put out bins for collection, be continually sweeping and trimming edges, and would do any odd jobs that needed doing. The age range of tenants changed, and it felt like the close community atmosphere was lost.
I think it would be nice to have another tenants group, and we could perhaps meet in the community centre or local school. This would help with the isolation felt by some tenants.
My children are all grown up with their own homes, and I have 3 grandchildren, all of whom have come to live with me, though the eldest is 19 and largely independent. The others are 4 years old and 16 months old, and it seemed crazy to start nappies and stairgates again!
However, life is fun, and the children are settling well. My husband is still an amazing support. He works full time and I work part time.
I love gardening, and particularly love to see Lincoln Court looking pretty. I grow all my plants from seed, giving surplus away to neighbours and the local churchyard, my husband does the heavy lifting. We keep busy!
I will say that Orwell is an excellent landlord, and everything that is needed is done in good time and to a good standard.
The Sannick Family