The estate I live on is probably like many other estates across the city. People busy living their own lives, bustling in and out to work, taking kids to school, fighting to make ends meet and survive the chaos we create around ourselves. People live in isolation, dealing with their own problems.
I certainly didn’t have much time for my neighbours. I’d had a stroke and was struggling back to normality, my husband needed a lot of care. The easy relationship we’d had with neighbours when the children were young had faded.
Or at least, that’s the way it was.
Covid arrived, rapidly followed by lockdown. A brave soul up the road had a brainwave. He is a DJ, complete with all the equipment. He came up with the idea of the doorstep disco. Once a month he lugged all his equipment outside, cranked up the volume and played a great mix of sounds.
We all ventured outside onto our drives, glass of whatever you fancied in hand, and boogied away – or not – as you saw fit. People shouted greetings to their neighbours. Wow, did it feel good bopping away to the music in the company – even if socially distanced – of others.
We stood on our doorsteps and clapped for the NHS. We celebrated VE day in posh frocks with posh sandwiches and cake next to our wheelie bin, a glass of gin in hand, waving to the neighbours over the road doing the same.
We sat outside and watched a video cast onto a white wall – that one wasn’t so successful but it was worth a try.
Throughout all of this one lady has made incredible efforts to fund raise for various charities, and to raise money to buy a bench with plaque to commemorate a young woman from our street who died from Covid.
This weekend we had a street party to celebrate the Jubilee. The road was closed for the afternoon. The street was decorated with bunting. We set up our tables along the street, laden with our picnics. Our resident DJ played songs for us – some people danced, and some tried to sing. We had a tombola which raised money towards planting a Jubilee tree by the local reservoir. Kids ran up and down the street playing with water pistols and just enjoying being kids in a safe space. Neighbours and strangers gathered together to loiter and chat.
The past few years have been difficult for many of us. Yet out of the darkness, for my community, has come something good. This getting to know your neighbours by name, rather than as people that walk past the house on their way somewhere, feels good.
Portland Jones disability liaison for Pagan Federation Midlands