Autumn has arrived. The evenings are a little bit darker, the mornings are a little bit colder, and I am starting to feel the tug of hibernation. As the leaves start disappearing, humans have a tendency to do the same. For some of our older and younger neighbours, finding the motivation to leave the house can be a struggle. However, it is during these months that staying busy and connected becomes even more important.
(Below: Eustelle and friends celebrating at our 5th birthday party)
The importance of staying active is personified in older neighbour Eustelle, who I visited this month to interview for my first South London Cares storytelling newsletter. When I asked my colleagues at South London Cares who I should write my first newsletter about, Eustelle was an obvious choice. And after an afternoon of drinking tea, eating biscuits, and chatting, I can see why!
Eustelle has been on the move since childhood. She was born on the sunny island of St Lucia but moved to Curaçao when she was two years old. Her father worked for Dutch Shell, and they relocated across the Caribbean sea for his work. With four children, she told me that her parents ran a tight ship, and life was formulated around school, church and home-life. Eustelle remembers lots of “rules and regulations” and having to “sit still, and not talk”.
(Above: Eustelle's parents after an Easter Church service in St Lucia)
Clearly, these lessons didn’t stick, as sitting still isn't in Eustelle's vocabulary! Since we first met Eustelle just over a year ago, she has brought joy and energy to 55 social clubs! The more I chat to Eustelle, the more I discover that she has always lived a busy life, and that was not going to change as she got older.
(Below: Eustelle holding court at Quiz Club)
Eustelle’s life really hit the fast lane in 1966 when her father was asked to relocate to London. It was a significant change for 20-year-old Eustelle, who remembers arriving by boat to a “grey and dull” Southampton. However, by the time they had ridden the train to Waterloo station, Eustelle was extremely excited, “everything was faster and bigger” she told me. And indeed, Eustelle perfectly adopted the pace of London.
Eustelle's first job was working as a typist, and she was such an asset to her team that they offered to pay for English lessons at a night school. In fact, she impressed them so much, that just a few months later, they told her that she had outgrown her role. Eustelle laughs when she remembers this, “they told me, you are too good for us, I think you can do better somewhere else”.
(Above: Eustelle (left) and her two younger sisters)
Excelling is something that Eustelle has done throughout her career, and especially at Sainsbury’s where she worked for 20 years and two months (Eustelle is impressively specific). At Sainsbury’s, Eustelle quickly became a woman in demand: “I ended up at Sainsbury’s for a two-week assignment, and then they kept extending it, I kept going to different departments...until three people were made senior managers, and all three wanted me to work for them”.
This pattern continued throughout her time at Sainsbury’s, becoming the secretary for the Director until he retired, and then the Executive Director until he too retired! Fiercely committed, Eustelle looks back on her time at Sainsbury’s extremely fondly, knowing that she was respected and valued. “That is the ethos of Sainsbury’s..when it first started it was a family business, and every member of staff then becomes part of that family.”
(Below: Eustelle at a business visit to PwC)
It will come as no surprise to hear that Eustelle’s favourite Social Clubs are our business visits. Eustelle tells me that she is continuously surprised by how the workplace has changed since she retired, “everyone is hot-desking now!” At a recent business visit to a tech company, Eustelle was so impressed by the different methods of working. Eustelle tells me, “they had cushions, different furniture, lovely plants - we didn’t have that when we were working!” What she found most shocking was that these offices “had areas where they relaxed!” Clearly relaxing doesn’t come naturally to Eustelle!
Even in her retirement, Eustelle is continuously busy, “I am always on the go”. She is the secretary for the social side of the NHS Retirement Fellowship, responsible for organising a guest speaker each month and an excursion (this month they are going to the Tate!). She habitually attends each and every technology club to ensure she is up to date with all her online correspondence!
(Below: Eustelle and Mema at a technology workshop)
She also volunteers once a week on the geriatric ward at St. George’s hospital, assisting with their feeding programme. “The nurses always say, ‘are you coming back tomorrow?’ and I say no I’ve got too much to do!”
If that wasn’t already enough, earlier this year, Eustelle took part in a nine-mile walk to the High Commission of St Lucia offices to raise money for the St. Lucia Diabetes Project (I told you she never sits still!).
Volunteering is something that Eustelle has always found time for, “Even when I worked at Sainsbury’s, I used to volunteer at St Thomas’s on the general ward, after a full day of work.”
When I ask if it ever gets too much, she smiles and shakes her head, “it keeps me busy. I can’t sit still. If I sit still my mind starts saying ‘I could have done this’ ‘I should be doing that’ so then I get up and get on with it”.
I think this is a lesson that we can all learn from Eustelle as the months get colder and we navigate our busy lives. Although it feels like a time when we want to recluse and stay indoors, we should be doing the exact opposite, and this is what will keep us going through the colder months. Thanks to Eustelle, I have a new mantra for the next few months; get up and get on with it.
Posted by Jodie Goffe on Tuesday 17th September 2019
Jodie is the newest member of our Development team, who work to secure the all important funds that help South London Cares to deliver their programmes. You will find her cheering at marathons and bike rides, calling out raffle ticket prizes, and enthusiastically thanking all our wonderful donors.