Harrogate neighbours provide Anne with crucial lockdown support

In the latest of our Salt of the Earth features, reporter Louise Perrin meets Starbeck resident Anne Dennis who tells us about her neighbours Krista Gray, Ivy Kirkbright and Alison Hobbs who have offered constant support to both her and husband Michael,before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 5:01 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 5:04 pm

When we began running our Salt of the Earth feature back in January, we introduced it by saying that we wanted to celebrate acts of kindness across our communities.

With the outbreak of coronavirus, there have been thousands of acts of kindness performed by people who have helped friends and neighbours with shopping and collecting prescriptions.

There are those who have walked dogs for shielding people, those who have stayed in touch by the internet or telephone and those who have just generally been there for each other.

Pictured are Anne Dennis, front, and then behind her from left to right, neighbours Alison Hobbs,Ivy Kirkbright and Krista Gray

In this week’s Salt of the Earth, Starbeck resident Anne Dennis tells us about neighbours Krista Gray, Ivy Kirkbright and Alison Hobbs who have offered support both before and during the pandemic.

Anne,78, said: “My next door neighbour, Mrs Hobbs, does all my shopping for me on a Friday. She does my weekly shopping with hers.

“My mobility is not good, and if Mrs Kirkbright, who lives next door but one, sees me trying to hang the washing out, she’s round in 2 minutes to do it for me, and then she comes back again to bring it in for me when it's dry.

“She’s been a really good friend to us over the years, she even puts the bin out for me sometimes when she’s doing hers.

Ellie Gray posing for the camera

“Mrs Gray, who lives across the road and her husband also help me. One day, I was trying to extract some weeds from between the house and the footpath, and Mr Gray came and did it for me.

“He goes shopping on a Saturday for his grandmother, and if there’s anything I’ve forgotten they get it for me.

“They’ve been really nice and often ask to see if I’m alright, because I’m looking after my husband, Michael who is not too good. They’ve been fantastic.

“Mr and Mrs Hobbs help if I’m stuck with anything. One day they saw me trying to plant some pansies in the garden, I was trying to drag these things and balance them and hold my stick at the same time, so they said to me go in the house and we’ll do it for you.”

Pictured are Anne Dennis, front, and then behind her from left to right, neighbours Alison Hobbs,Ivy Kirkbright and Krista Gray

Anne said that although she knew her neighbours before the outbreak, the lockdown has definitely meant she has got to know them better.

She said: “I didn’t know Mrs Gray very well before, but I do now. On clapping night, we were all talking to each other and I don’t normally as I don’t see them, so I’ve got to know them all a lot better, we’ve been here 58 years. It’s ridiculous isn’t it!”

“Mr and Mrs Gray have been there 5 or 6 years. I did know them before, but when my husband was taken ill she saw the ambulance and came across to me with some flowers.”

“I said to Mrs Hobbs that I didn’t want to put on people, I tried to do my own shopping, but I was so frightened I would bring something home to my husband. She said I will do your shopping. I don’t care if the outbreak lasts 2 or 3 years I will still do it."

Anne’s situation was exacerbated by the fact that her son, Andy, who also lives in Starbeck worked in the IT hub at Harrogate hospital and partner Tracy worked in the Covid ward at York Hospital so they were unable to have any close contact and were forced to communicate from the middle of the road. Anne’s daughter lives six hours away in North East Scotland.

Anne’s good neighbours have meant she hasn’t needed assistance from any of the local agencies. She said: “I haven’t needed to use the volunteer schemes because the neighbours have been so good. The greengrocers have delivered, the butcher delivers and the pharmacy, Chamberlain pharmacy at Knaresborough, have been excellent. I just ring them up and tell them what we need and they sort it out from there end.”

Krista Gray has lived opposite Anne and Michael for over five years, she said: “We are all in this together, as much of a cliché that is, we are.

“Two weeks before we went into lockdown, we had to self-isolate because my husband went down with symptoms, so we understand how difficult it can be.

“We were lucky we had family around us. My sisters and parents are up the road, but at that point they didn’t have to isolate themselves, even then I remember thinking how difficult it was.

“We only had to do it for 2 weeks, but couldn’t imagine having to do it continuously. We had people going to the shops for us, but it was the situation where people were panic buying, and then I started to panic as a mum, thinking how are we going to get our food in for the week.

“Then companies like JC Baloney, who normally supply to the hotel industry trade, started to distribute to the general public and that was a bit of a relief, but there was still a feeling of what if I can’t get this? Even though we had my sister and my mum and we knew we weren’t going to starve.

“But we knew we would be alright in 2 weeks because we could get out and deal with the situation ourselves. I couldn’t imagine what it’s like for people like Anne who can’t get out, and have to rely on other people.

“It is really difficult for people whose family don’t live in the area. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they can’t get to their relatives. That’s why organisations like COVID core were created on Facebook

“Anne’s lovely. Alison, who lives next door to her, does her weekly shopping. But if she forgets something, or if Anne forgets something, we’ll get it.

“We pop to the local shop every so often and then my husband does the big shop on a Saturday. So we keep her covered for any food or bits or bobs that she needs.

“The reason I knew them initially is her son, Andy, used to be our neighbour. I messaged him on Facebook and said “I know you parents are fine, but I just messaged them to say do you need anything. He passed on my contact details and gave her my Facebook, she’s very up with the technology. “

“We just started messaging on there, and then we started getting stuff for her, then seeing each other face to face. To be honest I have enjoyed our conversations throughout lockdown, as I’m stuck at home.

“My husband is working from home, but is busy all day. My eldest, Saskia, is 12 and she’s been studying, doing her school work and then I have my 19-month old, Ellie who has been raiding the kitchen cupboard.

“It's lovely having all this quality family time, but it’s nice to have a bit of conversation too.

“All the neighbours around here are lovely, but you know with everyone working full time you never really get the chance to chat properly. “

“It’s definitely a two-way thing, initially Anne said: ‘I don’t mean to bother you.’ I said to her: ‘I love the conversations!’

“I can imagine it can get lonely for her, I mean, it gets lonely for me but I can imagine it gets lonely for her as well. I just want her to know that it’s a two-way thing.”

“The relationship has definitely gotten stronger during lockdown and I don’t want it to just end if everything goes back to normal.

“I don’t want it to be just a wave here and there. I hope that she knows that we will always be here for her.”

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