A knock at the door one weekday afternoon came as quite a surprise for 81-year-old Eileen Haig –especially when it was a Bromford colleague staring back at her.
The widower has lived in her Tamworth bungalow for the past four years but, apart from contact over a recent kitchen installation, Eileen had rarely spoken to her landlord in that time.
“I hadn’t had any interaction with Bromford for the four years really and I was a bit frightened when I realised who it was. My first thought was ‘oh no, maybe I’ve done something wrong’ and all sorts of things – especially relating to the kitchen – were running through my head,” she explained.
But smiling Sharon Jones, a new neighbourhood coach in Staffordshire, had simply turned up to say ‘hi’ and find out how Eileen was.
“I invited her in and she immediately explained why she was calling round and put me at ease straight away. She had a lovely way about her and we had a great chat in which I did most of the talking; and I told her about how active I was in the local community. It was just nice to know Sharon was a friendly face nearby in case I ever did need anything. My initial assumption was quite off the mark,” the mum-of-five admitted.
Sharon said: “Part of my role is to start building relationships with all of our customers and it can be quite an apprehensive thing for some customers initially, particularly when some of them haven’t spoken to Bromford for a while.
“We had a lovely chat and by the time I left Eileen said she felt completely reassured. Before that, unfortunately, Eileen was simply a customer who paid her rent on time – we didn’t actually know anything about her. It was only after taking that time that I discovered just how involved with her neighbours she is. She’s quite an inspiration actually.”
Sharon established that Eileen has been a massive darts fan for more than 64 years and is captain of the local pub team. The former taxi and coach driver, whose husband passed away 20 months ago, is also an active member of the local Women’s Institute and still attends church on the first Sunday of every month.
Eileen added: “I’m the sort of person who can’t stop in and watch the television – I like to get outside and do things and I’m a big believer in a simple ‘hello’ going a long way. My father always used to say to me – ‘never fall out with your neighbours as you never know when you might need them’.
“We have an active community and we’re always here to help each other. I’ve had neighbours pump up my car tyres, if a lightbulb goes the guy four doors down always helps me and Ron cuts my lawn whenever it needs doing. The neighbour three doors away had a car crash and badly hurt her ribs not long ago so I knocked her door and offered to get her some shopping.”
Sharon concluded: “I learnt so much about Eileen and the community in general just from that one interaction out of my day. It was fascinating listening to her and she may be 81 but she has a better social life than me!”