This last week, we finally got organised enough to put on a BIG LUNCH (if you don’t know about the annual BIG LUNCH set up by the Eden project, it’s a cracking idea designed to help us Brits throw an annual street party and get to know our neighbours).
It actually fell on Jesse’s 6 month birthday, so we told him it was kind of a party for him. We’re just hoping it doesn’t raise too many expectations for future birthdays.
If you’ve been reading this blog a while you might remember that towards the end of last year we were trying to set up the Tenants and Residents’ Association on our estate. There once was a TRA but it wound down, and no-one had ever bothered to get it going again. So the dynamo that is my husband set about marshalling some troops and battling the prevailing cynicism to kickstart a new TRA.
Our building is the only building on the estate on our side of the road. All the other buildings are across the unusually-wide street and before this year we didn’t actually ever meet anyone from there. We were a world unto ourselves. But then after a few weeks of flyering and door-knocking and postering, 30 people turned up to the relaunch meeting. And most of them came not to gripe about leaky roofs (although heaven knows, we all could go there…) but because they wanted to get to know people and build a sense of community around the estate.
The frustrating part is that up until the launch meeting the family Flan were all in it together, but then Jesse suddenly started going to bed at 7 and giving us back our evenings…which meant we couldn’t both go out of an evening. And given Andy was voted in as the chair of the TRA, it was more important for him to be there.
So Jesse and I missed a lot of the planning. We did some flyering. But we still got to go the party! And what a day it was.
There were loads of people, piles of homemade food, a furnace of a barbecue, a packed bouncy castle, a long queue for face-painting and a whole lot of chatter. There was even sunshine! And a friend from uni turned up, who I hadn’t seen in about a decade! What are the chances?
I loved that there were so many kids there (there were a lot of rounds to the tug-of-war) and that everyone just wanted to hang around and keep nattering. It took a lot of legwork to make it happen – the new TRA committee had a lot on their plate – but it was just a great day. All kinds of people came out of the woodwork, wanting to get more involved.
And possibly the highlight of the day was the incredible Spanish tortilla cooked by Lourdes, one of our legendary neighbours who is loved by people across the whole estate.
Just that morning in church we’d been thinking about what it means to reweave the broken threads of relationships in all the different spheres of our lives, and how we can put into practise a love which restores people and communities. That afternoon we got to practice. There’s a new, fragile expression of community starting to emerge in the neighbourhood, and we are loving being part of it.