We shouldn’t have been at home for the VE day confusion of Bank Holiday Monday falling on a Friday. We were supposed to be on the North Yorkshire Moors, walking St Hilda’s Way with friends and their dog. Another event cancelled, or at least postponed. We tried to rebook the same accommodation for May Bank holiday 2021; someone had beaten us to it.
The road in which we live is in the centre of town, a short walk from the station. With all the comings and goings, it’s sometimes hard to know who lives locally and who’s just passing through. Suddenly, the traffic and footfall has stopped. Thursday night is clapping night. We look up and down the road. These are our neighbours. You’re new here, I shout to the people who have been here for 10 years… you get the picture.
Disappointed not to be going away, and having seen a small homemade poster in another part of town, the idea came to me to build on the Thursday night spirit. I was nervous of being seen as, at best, a rule breaker; at worst, jingoistic. I felt prompted to take a risk. I texted a neighbour. A Northern Irish Catholic, she knows about risky communities. And she may have a view on displaying Union Jacks. If she does, she didn’t say. She definitely has a view on sharing a cup of tea and a cake with her neighbours.
Go for it she said. So we did. We each contacted the people we know and word spread up and down the street. Almost without exception, people came out for a ‘no rules broken’ cup of tea, or something stronger. Spilling out from our driveways, we shouted and maintained good social distance. We even had music, and some dancing, thanks to the church music group’s provision of an amplifier.
It was an afternoon blessed by sunshine. There was real community spirit in the air. People wanted to bottle it and take it home. Now, our neighbours are all seeking to build on the day, something good is happening.