Let's do it!

About six years ago, the borough of Southend had quite a thriving Lets community.

For those who've never heard of this scheme - Lets stands for Local Exchange Trading Systems or Schemes.

These are local community-based mutual aid networks in which people exchange all kinds of goods and services with one another, without the need for money.

Lets is a non-profit exchange network and the theory is that goods and services can be traded instead of 'official' currency.

Lets networks use interest-free local credit so direct swaps do not need to be made.

For instance, a member may earn credit by doing childcare for one person and spend it later on carpentry with another person in the same network.

The UK Lets website states that: "

Research in about 1996 indicated that at least 40,000 people were involved in some 450 Lets schemes, most of them established according to the democratic and co-operative LETS model
developed in Britain by Letslink UK, which began work in 1991.

Our research project, launched in September 2003, has the aim of establishing the current state of Lets in the UK, and the needs of LETS organisers."

So this sounds like a great idea doesn't it?

Surely the practise of exchanging skills has got to foster good community relationships between
people and groups as well as offering ser vices and goods for people and families who might otherwise not be able to afford them.

I was rather sold on the idea of this philosophy and assumed in Leigh with its bohemian bent, would be the ideal place for a system like this to thrive.

I spoke to two Leigh ladies - Linda and Patsy about their Lets experience.

Patsy told me:

"I was a single parent and heard about the Lets scheme through a friend in Cornwall.

"I thought it was a brilliant idea and was put in touch with other local Lets traders.

"It worked OK and I built up quite a bit of credit by
doing baby sitting, haircuts and house cleaning, so when my washing machine broke and I couldn't afford a plumber, I tried to use some of my credit to
get it fixed.

"The problem was that there were no plumbers on the LETS scheme despite having 'earned' a substantial amount of credit, I couldn't really 'spend' it on anything I needed."

Linda enjoyed a slightly more positive experience.

"In Leigh, there seemed to be a surplus of some skills and services on offer but a real shortfall in others. I offered cooking, babysitting, cleaning,
dog walking and gardening and at one time what I really needed was a decorator, but had trouble finding one.

"What was useful for me though was the networking. I don't drive and to this day, still house clean, 2 hours a week for a chap I met via Lets in exchange for a lift to and from Tesco's which would probably cost me about £15 if I used a cab.

"It's a shame Lets isn't more established in this area as it's a fantastic ethos and I would
certainly try the system again."

Anyone interested in finding out more about Local Exchange Trading Systems can visit the UK website at - http://www.letslinkuk.org


I hope any parents of children planning to 'trick or treat' this Halloween will remind them how frightening this activity can be especially for older
people or those living alone.

I know that usually small groups of young
children are out en masse in their spooky costumes and accompanied by their parents or appropriate adults and this is of course, no problem.

The difficulty arises when teenagers also embark on the goings-on.

It's nothing short of terrifying to open the door and be greeted by a 5ft something teen, wearing a mask, sporting in a deep voice, demanding a 'treat' and
threatening a 'trick'.

I hope I can appeal to parents of teens to discourage their kids from doing this and indeed I'd ask the teens themselves NOT to take part in trick or
treating - after all, it's something that's really far more suited to young children.

Try to put yourselves in the position of an elderly person and think for a moment that what might be a lot of fun for you, is a miserable and frightening experience for them.

Essex police state that:

"Homeowners, pedestrians, car drivers and other trick or treaters all deserve to be treated with respect.

It might seem like harmless fun, but anyone throwing eggs and flour on Hallowe'en or scaring others, could end up in a mess themselves.

Don't get egg on your face this Hallowe'en.

Firstly, under the Public Order Act, anyone causing harassment/alarm or distress could be arrested.

People do not have to be actually harassed, only
likely to be.

Threatening to throw something, shouting through the letter box and scaring people are all examples of this anti-social behaviour.

Essex Police officers will be watching closely and will tackle Trick or Treaters who are behaving badly."

And speaking of Halloween, last week I mentioned some Halloween type events happening in Hadleigh Country Park on October 28 and 29.

For anyone who missed the blog, more information about events at Hadleigh Country Park, please visit can be found at http://www.fhccp.org.uk

Though not in Leigh, I found other spooky events going on too - Tuesday 24 to Saturday 28 October - free event
any time between 10am to 1pm, and 2pm to 4pm, Southchurch Hall Museum, (off Park Lane) Southend.

'Bonfires and Broomsticks'

An activity week for children looking at the traditions and folklore that surrounds Autumn, Lean about the Celtic New Year, Halloween and Guy Fawkes.

Children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult
Details from Southend-on-Sea Central Museum, 01702 434449.

Halloween at Colchester Zoo - Saturday 21 October - Sunday 29 October.

Enjoy lots of eerie fun for all the family at Colchester Zoo this Halloween.

Visit the Haunted Forest in the Beginning Zone from 12.00 every day - if you are brave enough!

Plus children can search for 1 of the 100 hidden bats
around the zoo each day and trade it in for a sweet treat (terms apply).

Make sure you come in fancy dress as your favourite ghost or monster.

More information at

Pumpkin Week 23 - 27 Oct - Pumpkin Week Carve a pumpkin and follow the clues around the farm trail in the pumpkin hunt.

Monday 23 October - Marsh Farm Country Park
More information about Marsh farm events at