A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how hundreds of servicemen and women went to the funeral of an ex-Royal Marine they’d never met, just so he wasn’t buried without any mourners.
It was a touching tale of people going out of their way to do what they think is right – the type of community spirit some people would want us to believe no longer exists.
Over the past few days I’ve had my own brush with community spirit.
Since Saturday last week I’ve become more acquainted with the people who share the same bit of Portsmouth as me. I’ve been in their houses, peered into their sheds, shone torches under their bushes and poked around their bins.
Now before you all start calling Leveson, the police, the government and the navy, I’m not a reporter gone rogue who’s trying to find the next Liberal Democrat to accuse of bad behaviour.
No, I’ve simply been looking for my missing cat – a cat who follows me to the shop, who miaows when she can’t see me in the house, and who waits for my car to pull up like a dog who wants his dinner.
Aside from my obvious heartbreak at losing such a precious companion, it’s given me a real insight into the people who live in our area.
These people go out in the rain with me and help me to look.
They commiserate and they promise to search. They see my posters, read my leaflets and share the pictures I’ve put on Facebook and Twitter.
Crucially – fundamentally – they make me believe that I am not alone in my search, that I have hundreds of pairs of eyes all looking for her, and that soon someone will find her, call me and we will be reunited.
So the next time I hear about community being dead, I will say this: we might not gossip over the hedge any more, and we might not all have keys to each other’s houses in case of an emergency. But what we do have is a sense that if the chips are down, we will rally round and do the best for our neighbours.
Apart from the man a couple of roads up who hates cats and refused to help, even though mine could need help.
He quite simply doesn’t get what community spirit means at all.