Sunday, 10 January 2010

We Like To Help You Learn To Help Yourself

When Simon & Garfunkel sang those lyrics they weren't of course singing about the 'Big Freeze' (although their song about a married Mrs Robinson having an affair with her teenage lover is topical at the moment for very different reasons).

If the past few days of snow and freezing weather proven anything, however, it is that so many of us seem to have lost the ability to help ourselves.

We were all given plenty of notice that the bad weather was on the way yet whilst the hardy few were actively making preparations to cope with the snow, there were plenty more who were already prepared to surrender.

The pavements in Worcester Park, you will no doubt have noticed, are treacherously icy - impassible in many places. Up and down the country people are moaning that the Council has not gritted every side road, or the pavements of every minor residential road - and why did the Council not deal with the patch of ice that had gathered under my  front door mat etc etc?

Before the snow came, I gave you a link to Adrian Short's handy grit bin map of Sutton Borough. I made my way across the ice-rink pavements of Worcester Park this morning to check on stocks of rock salt in them - fully expecting every bin to have been completely emptied.

Instead I found several bins almost full to the brim with rock salt and so I set about gritting the pavements of my road. It took me a good hour and a half of traipsing back and forth to the salt bins, filling up containers and spreading the grit by hand but I managed to de-ice a considerable stretch of pavement.

There was no shortage of help and appreciation - from the young chap who helped shovel grit into buckets for me and the woman who me carry a particularly heavy load to the man who helped me haul some containers into the boot of may car and the neighbours who opened their front doors and thanked me for my efforts.

Meanwhile I hear some callers to radio phone-ins adamantly insisting that they will not be clearing or de-icing the pavements outside their homes as that is what they pay the Council to do.

Others insist that they will only do their bit if  they get a rebate on their Council Tax. I'm not precisely sure that I understand the logic of that argument. I cut my hand last November and applied a dressing to it - can I get a rebate from the NHS because I treated myself?

I appreciate that not everyone is in a position to scrape ice from their pavement or haul buckets of grit around. I am not suggesting that the octogenarians of Worcester Park strap snow chains to their mobility scooters and carry on regardless.

What I am surprised at though is the number of perfectly fit and able people who have lost the ability or simply the will to help themselves and others.

I know we pay high Council Tax (it pains me on a monthly basis) but since when did that translate to an expectation that the Council must do absolutely everything for us?

Perhaps if we were a bit less bloody-minded and a bit more civic-minded we would all be able to cope a lot better than we are currently.