Well that’s the purpose and function of community centres – to be at the centre of their respective communities to facilitate social interaction and related functions. Today we go for a reflective piece on the way we live. Neighbourhoods are often quite different to the traditional urban model of which the Ballybricken is/was a classic example.
There are/were similar areas in every Irish city or large town; however, that traditional model is in decline. In the older urban areas people lived in closer proximity to each other, gardens would not have been the norm. Most families, of many generations in the same locality, had their extended family living close by “I won’t be long – I’m just popping over the road to my mother or ‘me nan’ or auntie” was normal and natural.
Another norm was that doors were rarely locked. The door was either left ajar or if closed the key would be in the lock. Most worked within walking or cycling distance, so having cars or the whole concept of commuting was simply unheard of. The pre-fridge/car era also meant people, mainly the mother, shopped for her family on a daily basis, thus meeting other women as they too did their best to stretch the spending pound to its maximum value.
The opportunities to interact generally with your neighbours was considerable, be at play, school, shopping, working, even jiving! I know only too well that that era of Irish life also had a hidden Ireland that lurked in the shadows. But here I’m attempting to make the point that traditional neighbourhood patterns have changed, or all but. Thus the new constructs of the modern housing estates have to build a sense of neighbourhood and community.
Ireland is still far from the ‘Bowling Alone’ territory as depicted by a Professor Putman a few years back, but nevertheless many residents of new housing estates might just about know the people living next door and be barely on nodding acquaintances with three houses away. High hedging and walls may have their merits as an aid to privacy but they can also be screens of isolation. Today a family unit is increasingly a nuclear family, originally from a different county of indeed country, at a distance therefore from the extended family network.
In any given estate, especially newer ones, there is usually a significant percentage who are tenants rather than owner occupiers. Nothing essentially wrong with that as many houses are/were bought for investment purposes and as such are a valuable source of accommodation for those not yet on the ‘property ladder’, but such tenants are by their nature usually transient and will no doubt, in time, settle in some community. Consequently, therefore, they usually don’t have a rooted commitment to the place where they currently live. Thus there may not be the incentive to be interested in the concept of neighbourliness, at least not in a place through which they may be ‘just passing’.
I know the economic climate has changed and greater numbers will continue to rent but the overall tendency still applies. Of course, here we can only engage in generalities as by dint of personality many a person though only living in a particular place for a limited time may well be the most popular, friendly neighbourly type person in whole area. Also we must further avoid stereotyping as to what constitutes a family unit as the composition of which goes right across the range today, but then again it always did.
Then of course there is the motor car! Useful in lots of ways but in other ways it works as a kind of social cocoon, with us getting into our vehicles often in the seclusion of the driveway and gliding silently past our fellow residents. Some we know reasonably well, others maybe just names and occupation, others still mere nodding acquaintances and lots more the vaguest glimpse of recognition and some others again – a total blank. But enough do get to know each other, as it really is up to people to build a real sense of neighbourhood and create a good place in which to live and grow. Taking part in such events as your Residents’ table-quiz might be one of the ways to go!
At the centre of things
But creating the right quality of living environment is not just about family planning but community planning and infrastructure to support and facilitate social interaction, which helps to build that essential sense of community and real vibrant neighbourhoods. Since my opening words I have been on a determined but necessary journey towards my objective in today’s column, namely emphasising the key importance of and vital necessity for multi-functional community centres in this and every other area of the city. We are well served with lots and lots and lots of houses and shops and eateries. We have an excellent library and there is a well used community/rooms facility in part of the old Ardkeen Stores shop. But this bulging greater area needs more to service its ever increasing needs.
A well designed and generous-sized community centre out here in Brasscockland would be most welcome as they would/could become centres and focuses for so many different activities within the area and create that sense of cohesion and belonging that in turn creates neighbourhoods consisting of real neighbours! Howdy folks!!
A blind spot
The Tesco Supermarket on the Ring Road has been doing great business since it opened about five years ago and as you know operates 24 hours a day. I’m told it has the third highest turnover of all the Tesco stores in Ireland. The associated petrol station does phenomenal business – I reckon there must be a tanker delivery per day to cope with demand. During regular hours there is invariably a queue waiting on all 8 pumps. Price of course is the big draw plus the club points on offer and the best of luck to them. Such is the demand which in turn gives rise to the aforementioned queues that a feature of the layout near the service station’s entrance poses a potential traffic hazard.
In fact there are two distinct situations worthy of study in this regard – we first drew attention to this over two years ago. Firstly, on approaching the car park entrance itself, one is presented with two options, left or right. The majority of drivers turn left, the others go right (though few of these indicate!). These latter right-turning drivers are heading either for the Home Base side of things or the petrol station itself. But those drivers who are turning right, into the petrol station, are presented with something of a ‘blind spot’ created by the shrubbery at the left bend of this crucial corner. I urge again that this set-up be studied with a view to a solution.
Secondly, while there is a choice of entry, all emerging traffic exits the one way – a great volume of traffic at that. Again while at one level it’s a great business for Tesco, a significant side effect is that the queue, or even multiple queues, can extend right around the corner, creating a blockage for cars wishing to exit only.
Again this needs to be looked at and as there is ample space, there is plenty of scope for a re-jigged layout to facilitate visibility/sight lines and ease of passage.
Well worn path
Good to see the work well underway on the footpath outside the wall at Viewmount – this has been well overdue. It had been in a precarious state given the sheer volume of traffic going by – there was a fatal accident at the lower end a few years ago. It is now almost 5 years since Michael Kenny was tragically killed along here in April 2004. This new footpath will improve matters, we sincerely hope.