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18 December 2017


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Bitterne Parker: Clare Diaper
Sunday, 22 March 2015 00:00

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Clare Diaper, pictured giving away books in a park, grew up near Totton when trips to ‘town’ were only for special occasions and to visit elderly relatives. Thirty odd years after leaving Totton to go to uni, and with time in the interim spent in two foreign countries (Wales and Australia!) Clare has returned to her hometown with a slightly different headspace to the one she left it with. Exploring, celebrating and sharing Southampton’s hidden talents and treasures has become a passion, and she is now an instigator, participant and player in a whole variety of community projects.


The Qs & the As

What's your link with Bitterne Park

Since my return from Australia I have been living over the way in St Denys and Bitterne Park Triangle is my local community hub. Choir in the Old Chemist, cake in the café and a real ale and mindfulness meditation in the Butchers Hook, I love it. I also have friends over the water and love having Riverside Park nearby for walks and wanderings.

What’s your earliest memory of the area?

I don’t really remember it as a child, as it was not an area of the city we would visit. But one of my first memories when living here was seeing it from the vantage point of the river on a cold February afternoon. A friend and Bitterne Parker who had access to the rowing boats at the St Denys Sailing and Rowing club took me out. I’d recommend the trip to all Bitterne Parkers.

How could the area be better?

I don’t think we make the best use of access to the water front. Riverside Park is a great space and I think it would be lovely to have a community café and toilet facilities… the café could provide jobs for local people and a place for community events celebrating our waterside heritage.

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The poo barge

Tell us something we probably didn’t know already about Bitterne Park

Bitterne Parkers with a riverside view are very lucky to observe what I jokingly call the ‘poo barge’, which comes up the river at high tide to collect the sludge from the sewage treatment works. I guess most Bitterne Parkers will know about the poo barge, pictured,  but what they possibly won’t know is that the sewage treatment works collects wastewater from as far afield as West End, Stoneham Rectory and Bassett! I know this as I worked in the industry for over 15 years and have visited the treatment works.

What’s good – or not so good – about the wider city?

I think there’s lots of good things about the wider city: the parks, the history and old buildings, the arts spaces and cultural events and the diversity of people and cultures. What’s not so good is that we as Sotonians tend not to sing the praises of our city, or perhaps we do but others have more powerful voices!

What’s your passion in life?

My passion is about seeing things anew, doing things differently and empowering and inspiring others to do the same. I'm chair of Transition Southampton, a group with an aim of inspiring a happier, healthier and more sustainable Southampton and this involves thinking about and demonstrating new ways of doing things. I’m passionate about reducing our waste, be it through good design, upcycling, mending or repurposing materials and my passion here is sated through involvement in the local Scrapstore and Transition Southampton’s Repair Café.

How do you put bread on your table?

A whole variety of ways… I left full time employment and a career in research over six years ago as I felt more and more that my values were not aligned to corporate or business goals. I worked part time in a research consultancy for a while but found when I returned to the UK that part time work was not so easy to come by. So, I now coordinate the volunteers at the Third Age Centre, rent out a room in my flat and was lucky enough this last year to obtain a small grant to fund some of the community work I do. In 2015, who knows?!!

What has your career taught you?

That being true to your values is inextricably linked to happiness  I don’t have heaps of cash now, but since leaving the corporate world and working much more closely with my community I am so much happier and feel so much more alive. It’s a big and scary step to leave the security of a full time job and the role it provides but well worth it in the long run.

What really gets your goat?

I realised yesterday that it really gets my goat when people can’t be bothered to do a task well…. Be that sweeping the path, writing an e-mail or planting a garden….I  won’t say what happened yesterday to prompt the response as the person involved might be reading this! We all say it’s because we don’t have the time, but I think there’s a whole host of other factors at play, laziness being one of them!

How do you relax?

My favourite relaxing activity is walking and hiking, exploring somewhere new or treading a familiar path in a different season, the freedom and energy a good walk generates has sustained me for years. I have recently been involved in putting together a book of walks from railway stations in collaboration with the Three Rivers Community Rail Partnership. Nearly 40 walks; from Salisbury to Bursledon, Chandlers Ford to Southampton Central and all stations in between. It should be launched this spring so look out for it.

Which is your favourite pub?

Love the Butchers Hook as my local and have recently discovered The Guide Dog. The Duke of Wellington in town has character and The South Western Arms is a great space. I do like a bit of music too and really enjoyed the Ukelele Jam Christmas Social at the Talking Heads. My favourite though would be The Bramble Hill Hotel out in The Forest near Bramshaw.
What are you drinking?

A cup of tea at the mo…  really enjoying Redbush more and more after finding it a bit strange to start with.

What do you listen to?

The same things! I tend to get a favourite and play it again and again… Peace and quiet too, as I’m not one to have music on in the background.

Can you recommend a really good read?

I organise Southampton’s Books for Free which means I have access to a huge range of books; fact and fiction, old and new, sci-fi to romance, thrillers and biographies. My most recent fiction read was ‘If nobody speaks of Remarkable Things’ by Jon McGregor and although I initially struggled a bit with the writing style, I was blown away by the message of the book. A recent inspiring biography was ‘Grace and Grit’, Treya Killam Wilber and Ken Wilber’s story of spirituality and healing in life…  and in death

What’s a great day out?

Walking again, possibly by the sea in the summer after a spell of really lovely weather so that the sea is not too cold and is just right for a dip at the end of the day.

What scares you?

That we have left it too late to do anything about climate change and the planet is inextricably broken… the planet will survive I know but I feel sad that we have left a bit of a mess for generations to come.

What would you most like to change - in the world and in yourself?

In the world I would most like to change the idea that the world can just keep on giving, without us giving back …. In myself, I would most like to change my inability to put words together in a coherent and passionate way when public speaking… I always seem to think of them after the event!

What’s on your ‘bucket list’?

No particular place to visit, but one thing I have long wanted to see is the Northern Lights. I think I’d most like to see them from the shores of the UK but I think that further limits my chances.

Tell us a joke

Two birds on a perch and one says to the other, can you smell fish?

It’s the only joke I can ever remember the punch line for!

Finally, what would be another great question for other Bitterne Parkers?

What would you do if you owned and ran The Bitterne Park Hotel?

Thanks so much for taking part!

Clare is current chair of Transition Southampton, a local group she says is in need of more active members to help inspire a happier, healthier and greener Southampton

Tune in next time when another Bitterne Parker answers our searching questions. But before then, do you know a Bitterne Parker we really should feature? If so, please nominate them by emailing us using the contact form, and we'll do our best. No promises, mind.

Read about other Bitterne Parkers

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