Mr Bonus is a cheeky chappy – and gorgeous – and 96 years old. I met with the Big Lottery people to visit one of the projects they funded to the tune of £200,000 in Muswell Hill.
First and foremost, therefore, let me say thank you to the Big Lottery – because getting money out of the Government or Haringey Council for anything in Muswell Hill is like blood from a stone. So set in the socialism of the last century – ‘toffs on the hill’ is their attitude – and because overall the area does not rattle the deprivation cage almost nothing comes their way – although the need and the entitlement is there.
Anyway – before I depart on a rant – back to Mr Bonus. The grant was granted to Muswell Hill Methodist Church and was used mainly for a lift and renovations to the North Bank House – which adjoins the Church itself. Not only are the rooms beautiful, with high ceilings and set with windows over-looking beautifully kept gardens and estate – but the lift is big enough for wheelchairs, buggies and lots of people – meaning that all four floors of the North Bank House could be brought into community usage.
And there we found a baby / mother cafe (started and run by mums with babies), toddler groups, tiny groups, the Health Visitor refugees from the closure of Fortis Green Clinics, baby weighing – and the Vintage Club – with whom I spent a very, very pleasant hour. No doubt, Mr Bonus monopolised my time. Having said a few words – I then went to sit in turn at the four tables – where Muswell Hill’s older residents come once every two weeks for tea and a talk or activity.
Reading their program for the next year (including a Strictly Come Dancing) session – they have a fantastic time. I alighted first at the men’s table. Perhaps they stick together through scarcity – or for mutual protection! Mr Bonus came and sat next to me as he is more or less blind. I think he was flirting – or at least I did – until he told me that he lived at the Paddock which I visited only last week.
I said to him – why weren’t you there? He said he didn’t want to miss his meal at the drop-in centre so chose to go there rather than wait for me. So – that puts things in their right order.
Lest you think 96 means old – let me tell you – Mr Bonus not only walk everywhere but is on the button and then some – and campaigning. And you know I love issues.
This is his issue which I will be taking further. Last Friday, there are five elderly residents of The Paddock who go to Weston Park Community Centre for a meal at lunchtime. Haringey Council provides their transport to and from. The transport people rang up and said that they could take them there but could not bring them back – so that anyone who couldn’t get back should not go. These people depend on this meal – so Mr Bonus’ point was twofold. What on earth did Haringey Council expect them to do – just not eat? Why was there no alternative provision of a meal? And obviously, because there wasn’t – they all did go because they needed a meal – and had to pay £6.00 roughly each to get back by cab.
It’s hearing on my travels to hear from the elderly in my constituency all these small in the picture of the world – but huge in individuals lives – issues that add up to what makes life difficult, sometimes unpleasant and upsetting for older people. So that’s why I am on this mission.
Huge gratitude to the lottery for spending their money so wisely. They were delighted too – to see how brilliantly the funds had been used. And full marks to all those at the Methodist Church for all their hard work and commitment. Truly brilliant.