Home at the Heart of Liz’s life

Liz Anderson, Bernicia tenant, talks about the importnace of a good home

Bernicia is supporting a national campaign calling for a once in a lifetime investment in social housing to give everyone a safe, secure and comfortable home.

The ‘Homes at the Heart’ campaign led by the National Housing Federation recognises that for some people the COVID-19 lockdown at home has been like a prison sentence in poor housing rather than the sanctuary it should be.

Bernicia tenant Liz Anderson, 72, explains the importance of a good home and how living in a caring community is a foundation stone of her life.

Liz, 72, will out-jive anyone on the rock ‘n’ roll dancefloor. Which is perhaps why she’s such an energetic force of nature on the cul-de-sac too. However, this wasn’t always the case, as Liz used to struggle with chronic pain thanks to an unwelcome condition called Fibromyalgia.

“I’ve been a Bernicia customer for 25 years now. But I moved into my current home twelve years ago. The previous house was a three-bed home in Sunderland, but I was struggling with the stairs because of the fibromyalgia. Luckily, the team at Bernicia found us a lovely bungalow in Spennymoor, and honestly, I haven’t looked back!”

Moving to Spennymoor gave Liz much more than bricks and mortar, and, unperturbed by difficult life experiences, Liz went on to find friendship, romance and rhythm and blues in the friendly North East town.

She said: “My homelife changed dramatically when my husband of 25 years left me. And then we lost our good friend and next-door neighbour, Tom, to bowel cancer, so I felt like I’d lost so much.

“Tom was a really good friend to me. He was a gay man with no interest in the ladies, so the neighbours didn’t gossip when we spent time together! We loved watching videos of the violinist Andre Rieu and once went to Scotland together on a ‘turkey and tinsel’ coach trip. As an older gentleman his health problems were quite challenging and I became his voluntary carer quite quickly, doing his shopping and helping him get to appointments and things.

“His passing really affected me.”

Luckily, Liz, knew pretty much everyone from the 16 bungalows that form the cul-de-sac, so she was never short of someone to chat to over the fence or walk to the shops with. And when Billy and Bernie moved into Tom’s old house, she found in them really supportive neighbours who’d look after her garden and keep an eye on her home when she went on holiday.

As an involved customer, Liz often returns the favour, helping neighbours with contacting Bernicia’s customer team when they need help with something, and, as one of the fittest residents on the block, she’s always happy to offer a helping hand.

She said: “Because the cul-de-sac is for people of retirement age, there are many of us living alone, so we’re all so friendly and always help each other out and check in on one another. I’ve got great friends on another street just a two-minute walk away too.”

Liz’s friend Sheila is one of her nearby friends. In fact, it was Sheila who introduced Liz to rock ‘n’ roll. The pair met when they would go swimming at the nearby pool when Liz was beginning to escape the restrictions that fibromyalgia had placed on her life. They’ve been good friends ever since.

Liz said: “Sheila taught me how to dance to rock ‘n’ roll in my sitting room. She couldn’t believe how quickly I picked it up! But I was always into dance when I was young, so I guess I had the natural rhythm.”

As a talented dancer, Liz soon progressed from beginner’s lessons in the sitting room, to weekly classes in Spennymoor, and onto dancing competitions across the North of England! She said: “I recently beat a 16-year old doing the Cha-Cha at a competition in Whitby!”

It was also through rock ‘n’ roll that Liz met her partner, Richie. She said: “My husband had left me and Richie’s wife had sadly passed away. He became my dancing partner and I guess you could say we’re now an item! He’s taken me away on holidays and texts me every day. Meeting Richie was a real ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ moment.”

Liz was keen to stress that the kind of rock ‘n’ roll dancing she, Richie and Sheila do is not laid-back jiving, but much more fast-paced stuff. They often go to see live bands such as The Firebirds and the King Cats, and Liz and Richie are also currently looking forward to a trip away that includes a critically acclaimed Queen tribute act as part of the package (another music love that the couple share).

Back home, however, life is always happy and content these days. Liz’ two sons live nearby, and they often visit, bringing the grandkids with them who enjoy playing in the garden. Liz said: “The cul-de-sac is so clean and green, and my back-garden is full of wildlife – with birds, squirrels and rabbits visiting regularly.

“I also get a lot of help from Bernicia who tend to the front garden for me, which I’m really thankful for.

“The transformation of this part of Spennymoor was huge. Before Bernicia took it on, it was a rough area, with multi-storey flats and anti-social behaviour. But since Bernicia built the bungalows here it’s all green verges, trees and shrubs. They’ve done a great job. And the community and things to do in the town keep me active and happy.

“This place is definitely my forever home. I never want to leave – I just love it here!”