I am off later this week toSydney. It is not a particularly exotic destination, and the weather is forecast to be even worse there than inMelbourne. However, I am looking forward to going along to a number of talks.
One of my days will be a full day of talks on the theme ‘Emotions in Social Life’. I will also get to see another talk on loneliness and ageing by Adrian Franklin, who headed up a project which found,
‘Various evidence suggests that housing can play an important role in developing social bonds and that this is revealed in the different rates of loneliness for people in different tenures, dwelling types and the spatial concentration of loneliness. For example, loneliness is particularly high among people living in single person dwellings, public housing and private rental housing. This suggests that housing policy has a role to play in addressing this significant issue.’ (see AHURI Report 164: Housing, loneliness and health)
This time I will not have to say anything about my own project. If I was to describe what I have seen through my project so far as an emotion then I would probably choose ‘warm regards’. I cannot claim to have spoken to any sort of representative cross section of Port Melbourne’s people, but there is warmth that seems to come through the groups and the streets. Such warmth is often demonstrated through thoughtfulness such as: those remarkable women at the seniors groups who remember how every single person there likes their tea or coffee, the volunteer who packs savoury biscuits to ensure the diabetic in the group can have a snack with morning tea, the gentleman who rearranges the café furniture so a person with a walker can get past, the neighbour who shares around cake when she ‘accidently’ bakes too much, and the cards that get passed around when somebody is sick. Even when people disagree or have a negative assessment of another person, if they have had any sustained contact or collaborated together, this seems to be tempered by warm regards.
Warm regards are not too intrusive and may be an odd way to describe a place which has so often been described to me as ‘passionate’. However, I think the regard with which other residents, and the place itself, are held is what underlies why people will take on the advocacy and campaigns that they do. Of course, the end point goals will not always be agreed on, but nothing seems to motivate community mobilisation amongst Port Melbournians quite so much as the sense that their community has been ignored.
Perhaps ‘warm regards’ are part of social life in most areas, but I wonder if the special knack Port Melbourne seems to have had over its history for bringing people together helps with its cultivation. On the other hand, there could be many instances where being brought together may make you realise that you do not feel so warmly towards the other person afterall.