3rd December 2021

Llanelli Online News

Llanelli's First For Hyperlocal News

High Rise resident champions virtual reality boxing as aid for mental and physical health issues

DECLAN Stuart has found a novel way to keep active in his ninth floor Swansea flat – virtual reality boxing.

The 28-year-old puts on a headset and throws out jabs and hooks.

“After 10 or 15 minutes, you’re dripping with sweat,” he said.

“Without that, I would be struggling.”

Mr Stuart is among millions of people in the UK who don’t have a garden.

Getting enough exercise and fresh air during the coronavirus restrictions is a challenge.

Mr Stuart runs a non-profit organisation called Breaking Down Barriers, which helps people with mental and physical health issues, and can work from home.

His block of council-owned flats, on Matthew Street, is close to shops and pharmacies. He has lived there for four years.

He said having wi-fi was vital.

“You’re disconnected without it,” he said. “In these flats you don’t always get to know your neighbours.”

Mr Stuart lives with his partner but has been unable to see his four-year-old son, who lives in Waunarlwydd with his mother, for three weeks.

He said it was because his son has asthma and is considered high risk.

“All I’ve been able to do is FaceTime him,” he said.

“I ask him how he’s doing, if he’s been doing any drawing, but it’s hard to have a long conversation with him.”

Mr Stuart said he’d noticed more people shouting and running along the nearby streets at night than normal, and claimed car break-ins and criminal damage were more prevalent.

But in other respects, he has got used to the new normal – no more rushing around, the absence of trips by public transport to meetings.

“And the sky is looking nice,” he said.

Around half a mile away are the Griffith John Street flats.

There, a 56-year-old woman was catching the last of the late morning sunshine before her balcony went into the shade.

The woman, who asked not to be named, worked full-time in hospitality under last month.

Her wife, who was also on the balcony, worked full-time in retail.

Now that routine has disappeared.

“It’s claustrophobic,” she said.

“We’ve cleaned the flat from top to bottom. We play darts, games, and we’ve got a chance to read.

“There’s only so much television you can watch.”

The couple don’t have the internet, so online food shopping is not possible.

“We’re a couple of old dinosaurs!” she said.

“When we had to stop working, we filled up with food.

“Since then, we’ve literally just been to the shop on the corner for milk.”

The woman said she was relieved that the main door to the council-owned block had recently been fixed.

She said: “We keep to ourselves, but we are coping.”

The couple have children who they keep in regular contact with.

“As long as our kids are fine, we’re fine,” she said.

A couple of miles west, Heather Elphick has lived at Clyne Court – comprising three large blocks – for 18 years.

She is now mainly confined to barracks, although her top-floor balcony has wonderful south-facing views of Swansea Bay.

She said: “I watch people in their houses – the husbands in the garden sawing or hammering, or playing football with their kids.”

Mrs Elphick, who lives alone, said was keeping herself busy by sorting out her belongings and tending to her flowers.

She added: “I might do a jigsaw, or read a book.

“I watch my soaps, but the TV goes off at 9pm.”

She said she only leaves the block once a week at present.

Her latest expedition to the city centre involved a trip to Poundland, Poundstretcher and the Tesco superstore, off Oystermouth Road.

“I queued for about 20 minutes for Tesco, and then you have to follow the arrows up and down the aisles,” she said.

“If you forget something you have to double up – I must have done a 5k there!” she said.

“But I’ve got enough now until the end of April.

“It’s my 70th birthday in June – I’ll probably be having a glass of wine on my own on the balcony.”

But she said a friend can help out for things like medication, and she laughs when she describes how people avoiding her on the pavement “gives you a bit of a complex”.

She added: “You’ve got to laugh, like, because there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Also living in the council-owned Clyne Court complex is 86-year-old Brian Bellamy.

“I’m coping all right,” he said. “I always keep my food cupboard packed up.

“I’ve also gone to CK’S (food store) to pick up one or two things.”

Mr Bellamy wasn’t too worried about getting out for exercise.

“I get enough doing the housework!” he said.

Mr Bellamy lives on the second floor, and gets a few hours of sun each day before it disappears behind the neighbouring block.

People check up on him. “I’m not forgotten,” he said.

He recalled growing up in the West Midlands during the Second World War, clambering into bomb shelters during Luftwaffe raids.

He then worked in the theatre and met all sorts of famous faces.

Asked if he knew anyone who had Covid-19, he said comedian Eddie Large, who died earlier this month aged 78.

The comedian’s family said he had been suffering with heart failure and contracted the virus in hospital.

Mr Bellamy said: “He was lovely – really nice.”

He added: “I used to know Danny La Rue and John Inman, but they’re all gone.

“The only ones I keep in touch with now are Ruth Madoc and Sue Pollard.”

Mr Bellamy looked forward to brighter days.

“I would love to get back to normal, but I think it will be a long time,” he said.

A council spokesman said housing staff were continuing to offer support and services to tenants over the phone and by email, with the district housing offices having closed.

He said the landlord services team could be contacted daily, and that the neighbourhood support unit operated 24 hours a day, providing advice, logging incidents of anti-social behaviour and liaising with agencies such as the police.

The spokesman added that communal areas of the blocks continued to be cleaned and patrolled daily.

Cllr Andrea Lewis, cabinet member for homes and energy, said: “It is recognised that the current restrictions on movement can prove difficult for some and it is appreciated that this is more difficult for those tenants without private outside space.

“It is important that individuals take their permitted one form of exercise a day to maintain their well-being at this time.”

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