True story: When I was at University in Canada I worked part time at a Gym called Good Life Fitness Club. As part of our training induction, they made us practice answering the phone saying: "It's a great day at Goodlife, Mel speaking, how may I help you?". I kid you not. It was company protocol to answer it like that and probably the single most cringey-est part of any job I've ever had. It's a good thing that job brought me to my best friend or I would have a lot of regrets.
So you'll understand the comedy value when I spotted that our local Council was promoting a festival called The Good Life at our local Nature Reserve, Oxford Island. Oxford Island is a spectacularly beautiful neck of the woods just about 10 minutes from where we live and a really underrated landmark in our area. Anyway, the festival was set up to showcase self-sufficiency. To promote local food, artists and musicians, as well as encouraging sustainability through family-friendly activities, demonstrations and workshops.
Being a fan off all of the above, you will get how excited we were to spend the afternoon roaming around the festival in the sunshine! YAY!
Levi was particularly mesmerised by it all. Free food samples, musical instruments made out of recycled materials, live music, animals roaming around, circus performers and puppet shows - why wouldn't he be!
*Insert gratuitous amount of pictures of Levi enjoying the festivities*
Here's a tip: Always bring your child with you when you go to the food sample stalls. Now practice saying this, just loud enough for the stall owners to hear: "Oooh, you liked that sugary cinnamon roll??! Was it yummy? You want more??...Ok, just a wee bit more then". Then stock up.
The straw weaver man basically wouldn't let us leave his area without us getting a picture of Levi on his wheelbarrow. He was keen. Levi was not.
I want to know how you end up figuring out you are good at this?
You know when you didn't know you needed something in your life so badly until you see it? I now need a maypole with a flowery garland surround.
The good weather helped a LOT. The Lough was just glittering in the sun and it felt so good to be out in the fresh spring air. It's funny how the change in weather can release new life into stuff.
We moved into our new house in November and it's only in the last couple of weeks that I have started getting to know our neighbours properly. Again, the good weather literally brings us out of hibernation. It's been so great to chat to our neighbours while we put the washing out on the line, to hear stories of kids growing up together in our row, of neighbours that all have each others front door keys. We're already skill swapping with crochet lessons (I'm going to learn properly this time, I SWEAR), offers of baby-sitting, exchanges of baked goods, new music to listen to and help with the gardening. I honestly love living here - I'm finding real joy in these simple things with the people living beside us.
I picked up a flyer at one of the tents at the festival about a new initiative called The Big Lunch.
'The aim is to get as many people as possible across the whole of the UK to have lunch with their neighbours once a year in a simple act of community, friendship and fun.'
I thought it sounded fun and so I chatted to the neighbours about it and to my delight they had already registered (not that you have to register but it's cool to be a part of a bigger collective sometimes) so we are gearing up for a big old neighbourhood lunch on June 2nd!
'Community' is a word I have heard people banging on about a lot in churches, politics and the third-sector for years. I imagine this is because we are all feeling a little displaced by life at times. We move so fast in every way that I think sometimes we've kind of lost our grounding in it all; our sweet spot; our recognition of familiarity amongst the rapid change. We see ourselves clutching for this over social media, connecting with people almost every minute of the day (grateful for technology, truly). It's astounding how much we connect without any real investment at times.
I guess my thought is that amongst all this displacement I wonder how many of us even know how to really cultivate community? If we really believe that creating and belonging to community is essential to our well-being - how are we contributing? If this is you (and it's definitely me) maybe a good place to start is just knocking your neighbours door?
I have a whole bunch of other thoughts on how cultivating and investing in where you live can change your life so consider this part 1 of....a bunch of parts.
So go on then, be a good neighbour.