DUNCAN BARKES Community spirit is still alive and well in Sussex

Some commentators would have you believe community spirit and localism is dead.

In some parts of the UK they may well be right, but my recent experiences prove the flame of community spirit is, thankfully, still burning bright.

On a recent weekend I pottered about with a handful of chores to complete and the prospect of nothing rigid in the diary.

Mrs B’s increasingly-battered laptop computer had started making the kind of noises you normally associate with a waste disposal unit; a kind of grinding, crunching noise, occasionally punctuated by a high-pitched shriek (the latter coming from both the machine and its operator).

I took it to a local computer repair shop, SIA Computers in The Hornet, Chichester. A warm welcome followed by a swift diagnosis (the fan, apparently), the repair took just a couple of hours. Absolutely brilliant customer service.

Saturday was also Grand National day. At Barkes Towers we like the occasional flutter so, not wanting to struggle with weekend parking in the city (or indeed pay for doing so), I headed to The Ridgeway parade of shops in Parklands.

Children are not permitted in betting shops, but I had my increasingly-curious daughter in tow. The staff at William Hill could not have been more helpful, letting me fill in the slips outside the shop, then taking my cash and placing the bets.

Cheerful and friendly, they were even smiling when I returned hours later to pick up our winnings. I also popped next door into the local butcher, MJ Penfold, to pick up some steak. We chatted amiably about the weather and horseracing; the kind of gentle banter one seldom experiences in a supermarket. Furthermore, the steak was the best I had tasted in a long time.

The next day we all had a craving for a traditional Sunday roast, and decided to make the most of the time we had together as a family and spend our winnings on lunch out.

One of our local pubs is the Four Chesnuts in Oving Road, so we took a stroll to this fine local boozer for Sunday lunch with all the trimmings.

The food was ambrosia and landlords Pete and Julie were the perfect hosts. It beat the pants off pub chains in terms of value and service – they even opened the skittle alley so Barkes junior could play while waiting for her grub.

I know I am in danger of making this week’s column appear like a diary entry but I wanted to highlight how localism and a sense of community, certainly on my patch, still exists.

But wherever you are, your local traders need you. We all need to make a concerted effort to support them. The choice, personal service and community spirit that independent and local businesses offer will only be available if we tap into them. Use them, or lose them.