On day one of the lockdown I lost all my work, as many of us did. I woke up thinking this can either be a boring, fruitless, anxious time or a time to be creative. So I decided to be creative and got thinking…

My work was a zero-hour contract and I wasn’t eligible for furlough, so I handed in my notice. This opened up a gulf of time and I felt a strong need to do something for the community with some of that time.  When everything familiar around us suddenly changes, I see community and connecting with people as key. 

In the first week, I spent a part of every day sitting on the bench at the Cube, just gazing at the raised beds and writing, reflecting, pondering. I started to wonder what the open spaces around us would look like if they were just left untouched for months on end, especially in the summer.  So right there, from the bench at the Cube, I emailed them and asked if I could do a bit of gardening. As well as occupying me, I thought that to keep such an important part of the community looking cared for might give people walking past a little bit of hope.  When everything we know and everything around us suddenly stops and forces things to change beyond our control, what better way to symbolise hope than to literally sow seeds and watch them grow.

I thought it would bring comfort to people passing by; if they could see a difference, and know that people are keeping everything ticking over and looking beautiful, it might bring a little normality in very worrying times; a light at the end of the tunnel. I don’t feel like I did a huge amount, other people were also volunteering, but I felt like a piece of the jigsaw and, together, we have kept the gardens at Malvern Cube looking loved. 

In times of sadness or insecurity, they say the best remedy is to quietly do something for someone else, and that’s exactly what the Cube allowed me to do by letting me volunteer. It has felt enriching to spend a few hours a week doing something where I met like-minded people, chatted to passers-by, grew food, herbs and wild flowers and most importantly, connected with the people in the community. I think we’ve all realised how vital community is at times like these and, as I only moved to Malvern 15 months ago, volunteering at the Cube has made me feel more a part of Malvern. 

I met many people as I pottered away on those raised beds or sat reading on the bench. Everyone was friendly, everyone smiling. Hikers, neighbours, dog walkers, the local police and ambulance drivers, key workers, cyclists, families, young people playing basketball and skating, small bubbles of friends sitting around the fire-less fire-pit, telling each other stories. It felt primal, basic, simple and perfect.  Most importantly for me though, I spoke to some older, vulnerable people who were struggling with the lockdown, and just listened to them. Since I have been unable to visit my own elderly parents during this time this brought me great comfort.

It’s also been a magical time, and we must all believe in magic.  One day I turned up and some lettuces had appeared and, as the days went by, more plants would spring up, planted by unseen hands.  Friends started giving me their leftover sweet peas, tomato plants, bedding plants, sunflowers, seeds and I would find them a home to flourish in.

Inspired by this volunteering opportunity, I have started up a micro-business in gardening and now do several gardening jobs, often for those in our community who are a little more vulnerable. 

So I thank the Cube for giving me a chance to be inspired, to occupy my time, and to let me give something back during what can only be described as the weirdest, but potentially enlightening, few months that most of us have lived through.

I’m writing this on a sunny day with lavender swaying, big inviting apples are on the trees, the first sunflower has popped from its bud and everything is quiet. I sit writing this in the same place I sat when I decided to volunteer; a place I’ll always see as special, a place where I met so many lovely people, and I feel gratitude, just that, as I sit on this bench at the Cube.