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New life

One of my favourite lockdown discoveries was a social enterprise on Blake St called The Larder Club. Ok hands up, you got me, I was first intrigued by the striking and beautiful teal décor and the amazingly scented hand sanitiser. Look, it’s been a long year. Now friends, get your tissues ready, as I did, because you’ll need them when I tell you that The Larder Club provides employment for women who are rehabilitating after being in prison. They have links with Askham Richard, very close to York. Give them a round of applause!

I’ve been getting regular take-away coffee from them (in my reusable Huski cup, of course!); as you know I’m a fan of indie business locally, particularly those who try to go the extra mile for our amazing planet. But this weekend I pushed out the boat and had a very special lunch inside. Man, those plush green chairs were something else! It was tricky to choose between all the delicious Italian deli-style light lunches on the little menu. Yum. You’re tempted already, aren’t you? I chose a lovely primavera salad packed full of fresh and unpronounceable vegetables, and my companion had handmade fettucine. The café's ethos is to provide their staff with barista training, in addition to cookery and table service skills, to improve their future job prospects and help them rebuild their future.

John, who was in charge today, has previously told me about their amazing North Star coffee, which comes from a grindery (if that’s not a real word it should be *giggles*) in Leeds, so points-a-rama for low food miles. North Star's outlook is warm and snuggly ethical, and a real draw for anyone who cares about workers being paid fairly and land being farmed in a way that ensures it is protected for future generations to use *drools with awe*. Oh and their coffee is also supremely yummy!

If you’re wondering how this loops round to eco-healthcare then let me illuminate you. Social networks are beyond important. Many of us are now enjoying, if a little tentatively, reuniting with friends and wider family and restarting some of our old social activities. And these bring us so much happiness! For anyone living on their own, social links might be a lifeline from what has been complete isolation. And often with isolation comes low mood, feelings of despondency, anxiety, often resulting in physical symptoms; think fatigue, insomnia, palpitations, I could go on. But, the good news is when we’re busy and our minds are pleasantly occupied it’s harder to focus solely on life’s difficulties. Of course I’m not belittling how all-consumingly impossible the plight for mental wellness can seem for many. Humans are generally sociable, and we all need a hug now and again, sometimes a mind-hug! And that might come in the form of a kind word, an opportunity, or a second chance.

During my outdoor lunch last week, my chosen bench had a ‘friendship’ sign encouraging the sitter to expect a companion before too long. Had I not been inexpertly stuffing my face with a tasty lunch from local café But First, and avoiding (though on this occasion merely prolonging the inevitable) spillage on my shirt, I would have enjoyed an animated discussion on politics, religion and all the other things that are supposedly taboo. Conversation is so important and I, like most GPs, always have a bit of corridor chit chat with patients at both ends of the consultation. As well as learning useful things about that person – maybe where they’ve just been, what notices they spotted in Reception that interested them, or what they think of Dr Rob Guion's shorts – it’s a chance to connect and form the sort of rapport we all find so vital. Look, I can’t just launch into asking you about your testicles unless I know a little bit about you, now can I? Wouldn't that be quite, er, ballsy?

Ahem. Well, regardless of how plucky my patients might be feeling, you can be sure that I will encourage as much sparkling chat as possible, and for some people this needs a little helping hand once they are back at home where sadly company may not be available. Social projects like The Larder Club are designed to help here, and there are also some brilliant ones in the great outdoors. I’ve just written about this for the Humber Coast and Vale 'Green Social Prescribing' newsletter, as they specialise in helping people getting active outdoors, enjoying fresh air in a safe and supported way, often working on community projects, with other individuals who may also be experiencing difficulties of their own. Nature can really soothe! There’s evidence to show that people who are recovering in hospital get better quicker if they can see trees from the window. It doesn’t sound so crazy when you step outside, take a deep breath, look around and experience the beautiful barrage of sensory joy!

So friends, your challenge this week is to see what social enterprises are available nearby. Tell a friend! Tell me! Maybe you know someone who needs company, or a change, or chance or to rebuild? Many excellent options like those described above are available through your friendly GP and their practice team. And if you’re lucky enough to have safe and accessible outdoors to enjoy, put on your (reef-safe) sunscreen or your wellies, and GO!

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