I’ve been looking forward to regaling you all with my experience of wearing my first Style Crisis make. It’s all done – I promise – and road-tested too. However the events of the last few days have rather put a stop to any sense of fun that I might have felt in sharing that with you. I am a great believer in carrying on regardless. However the enormity of the fire at Grenfell Tower has proved just too overwhelming to make light of – well – anything, really. I know from conversations with customers, friends and family this week that this disaster has affected us all, however far removed we are from the event itself.
I spent my teens in eager anticipation of moving to London. I lived, loved and worked there for fifteen years. In my first three years I lived at 10 different addresses, cycling everywhere. I knew London, I miss it, and love visiting – but I also know how much it’s changed since my first solo shopping trips in the 70s; since I moved there in the 80s. If housing was difficult to find and expensive then, it’s beyond ridiculous now. Like many I’ve assumed that situation couldn’t continue. A city needs people to run it as well as live in it – and so many have either been forced out or compelled to live in appalling conditions. However not in my worst imaginings did I contemplate an event such as this.
It’s becoming clear that individuals, families and a significant swathe of a community are likely to have died in the Grenfell Tower fire. Some of those affected had already lost everything once, having arrived as refugees. The local community has pulled together, demonstrating remarkable resilience in the face of devastation. For those of us at a distance there may be little we feel able to do. Of course we will donate if we are able – and the British Red Cross has established a national London Fire Relief Fund for that purpose. However like me, you may be left wondering what on earth the world has come to if a tragedy such as this can take place in Britain, in 2017.
Political change and practical actions will clearly be required to make sure such a thing can never happen again. Those of us in a position to help lobby, raise awareness or support individuals will surely do so. However right now, many of us remain at a loss.
Beyond donating and expressing my sorrow and outrage, what next? How is it possible to talk about apparent trivialities such as a new shirt, for heaven’s sake, in the knowledge that others have lost everything?
For what it’s worth, I’ll be trying two things.
First – I’m going to make sure I connect with the people around me. Many of us are fortunate enough to have families, friends and communities to support us and to give us a sense of safety, of belonging, of home. We know there are those who don’t necessarily experience that connection with others – and events such as The Great Get Together, inspired by the death of Jo Cox, a year ago today, are inspiring in their determination to bring people together. I’m not the best at organising parties and get-togethers but I know people who are, and I’ve been saying ‘yes’ to invitations for coffee, tea and even a barbeque this weekend, ignoring my bookish and box-set urges.
Second – we all know and love the process of sewing. We know the pleasure of creating something with our hands; of being in our ‘happy place’. Psychologists call it being in a ‘state of flow’; being captivated by the act of creating. I’ve heard many of you describe the sheer joy of sewing, warning off family and housemates and becoming completely absorbed in the creative process. You can find out a bit more about why and how that happens in this TED talk by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who helped define that state of pleasure.
I’m hoping then, that finding time to do some sewing will allow me to reflect and also to clear my mind a little.
I’ll also be counting my blessings, as will we all. Following the extraordinary example of the student who sat her Chemistry GCSE the morning after escaping from the fire, normal service will be resumed next week. I’m fortunate enough for that to be an option and the Grenfell Tower disaster has reminded me of that. This is a community I feel privileged to be a part of and if Ines Alves can get on with her GCSEs, then the least I can do is crack on too.
Any suggestions as to how we might all do that are as ever, most welcome.