And Breathe

The Jubilee weekend is winding down. When it was announced there was only the upside in my mind of an extra Bank Holiday off work. I’m not pro or anti royalty, I’m just ambivalent to it all.

Our street had a street party on Friday. Five of the fifty-one houses on our cul-de-sac got involved in setting it all up, Helen being one of the main drivers behind it. There have been council meetings going on since April. And almost inevitably I was dragged into things.

Playing to my strengths I wasn’t given anything that involved talking to people, but instead to make spreadsheets to record everything. All the houses, who is coming, how many, what food are they bringing, raffle prizes, who’s donating to the bring and buy sale, the bottle tombola, who’s happy to have bunting up, who’s entering the cake making, the bin decorating, the races. Yes, there was a lot getting planned. Various people went around the houses in the close, asking different questions, dropping off different flyers with information on. It might have been helpful if all the answers had been written down, or if the leaflets had been posted in all the houses, but it was what it was.

The council authorised the closing of part of the cul-de-sac. The bunting starts arriving, along with flags, tablecloths, plates, cups, and a whole host of other party related items. The close being closed did throw a couple of flies in the ointment, but they were smoothed out.

Then all the other stuff started turning up, raffle prizes, books, games, toys, general bric-a-brac, bottles. All the stuff needed for the various stalls that were going to be running on the day. They were being run for charity, St Catherine’s Hospice, Manor Green School, and Crawley Open House. The raffle prizes were sorted out and sent across the road to another of the houses, but everything else; the book stall, the bring and buy sale, the toy swap, the children’s lucky dip, the bottle tombola, and all the decorations, were all in our house. It increasingly began to look like a cross between a charity shop and a worn out Poundland. Granted, a hell of a lot of it was ours, and whereas our lounge and dining room look like bombsites, the loft is the tidiest I’ve ever seen it.

The bunting went up in two stages, the first part across the large area at the end of the cul-de-sac on the Sunday, and then the rest of the street that was going to be closed on the day was done on the Thursday morning. The height of randomness came when I got back from doing some food shopping for the event to find there was a little (two-foot circumference) paddling pool on the side. I asked what it was for, to be told it was for the flamingos. WTAF, what effing flamingos? The toy ones Claire has, so they can sit in water on the day.

Then there was the day. Setting up started early on, setting up tables and chairs, carrying all the items from the houses up to the end of the street as all the cars disappeared and the barriers were put up. It was amazing how long it took to make some sandwiches and stick some pickled onions and cheese on cocktail sticks.

People are out eating as I’m still setting up all the stalls. Someone has erected swing ball, and there is supposed to be face painting and a table football competition, both of which never happened due to everything else that was going on.

It’s only just three in the afternoon and the dignitaries start to arrive. The head of Crawley council arrives with the Labour candidate for the soon to be Southgate by-election. They the Mayor turns up with her daughter. Both the council leader and mayor have only been elected to their posts in the last couple of weeks. There is the feeling that they have lucked out in doing so as they get to go around to all the street parties being held over the weekend and get free food and drink.

There is lots of food and drink out. I’m mildly annoyed by the fact that someone took all of the cling film off the sandwiches I made straight away and so they are getting hard and curly quite quickly. Seriously people, that’s why there was cling film on them, to stop that kind of thing. Then when the rain starts in about six in the evening, there is a consolidation of food onto one table covered by parasols and umbrellas. However, one of the neighbours gets a bit trigger happy and bins a load under the auspices that it could be unsafe. It included half of Helen’s home-made cake, which took ages to make, and was something that could have been taken and put in a fridge. She wasn’t overly happy with that either. It was one of the things that is always a downside to events like this. There was no plan as to what to do with the leftover food. Somewhat ironic considering one of the charities was Crawley open house. (I did also manage to save the tub of flapjack I’d made the previous day – if others didn’t want to eat it, then I certainly did, even if I might still be eating it weeks later.)

The raffle went reasonably well, and there were lots of decent prizes, with a lot of local businesses having donated prizes and vouchers for use. The bottle tombola went OK, with tickets still being sold the following day. But the bring and buy and book sale didn’t go as well. In fact, after a couple of people dropped stuff off at the stall, we ended up with more left at the end of the day than we started with. So, it all came back in, and now the living room looks like the dodgy back room of a charity shop.

And it meant there was nearly as much to bring back as daylight faded and the rains came. By the time everything had been done, I hadn’t left the close all day, but still managed to rack up over twenty thousand steps. And most of them had been made whilst carrying boxes full of stuff, or chairs, or tables, or food

Nine pm came and the barriers blocking the end of the close off were taken away. By one minute past cars and vans were already making their way back to their parking spaces. Some people were still out partying though. A barbeque was up and running, and there was still some food remaining from earlier in the day laid out undercover. The music in the street had been shut off, but there was still music blasting out from a marquee in the next street, and the bizarre conversations had started.

I spoke to a number of people I hadn’t spoken to before. Some of whom I’d never even seen before (but am reliably informed they do live on the street). I’m hoping that normal service is resumed quickly where they don’t stop and say hello and allow me to go back to scuttling past without making eye contact and having to talk to people.

The final stragglers made it back in by about two. Pretty much everything in the street has been tidied away. There may still be some bins to be undecorated,

and there will need to be a car boot sale / charity shop drop off for the rest of stuff next weekend, and the bunting will need taking down at some point (a couple of lengths have fallen down already), but on the whole it is all over, and nearly four hundred quid has been raised for the charities. (Although it may well have been cheaper just to give them that amount without any of the rigmarole of the event – there has been a lot of money spent – and a vast overestimation of what could be sold in a closed event.)

I can safely say that whenever the next street party is spoken about and the date is known, I’m going to book a four-week holiday, so I don’t get dragged into this lunacy again.

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