Category Archives: community

Community spirit will get us through

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been thoroughly down in the dumps since the election results.  Everything’s been said, the analysis and new leadership battles will go on – and so will ‘austerity’, which is basically code for the social cleansing.

Every person for themselves – well not here in Tooting!  To cheer ourselves up, we went to a non-political community day at the weekend.  Although nothing at all to do with politics, it did give me that warm feeling of being around people who are willing to give their time just to get a community event going, and all in the name of creating fun for everyone else.  I imagine there was nothing in it for them except a lot of emailing, phone calls, being ignored, more emailing and phone calls, more being ignored, then chasing people up for responses, pinning up posters, organising flyers, being avoided on the street when on the lookout for volunteers, relentless hassling for bits of funding, crowd-funding and lots of donation bucket shaking on the day.

However, unperturbed by these many obstacles, it all went ahead.  It was a story-telling event themed around the Pied Piper and there was a parade to the local common where the main event was happening.  Off we went, with a Maypole, a giant mayor (from the Pied Piper), a storyteller, lots of props for said story, and various brightly coloured, homemade streamers, paper-mache creations, decorated branches and of course pretend rats.  A few of these props got stuck in trees along the way, but most made it there in one piece.

Here’s a few things that I learnt on the day:

1.  If there’s a May Day parade and you have children, no matter how cool or unwilling you think you are, you will be taking part in that parade. (I’m thinking of a few other parents, me and the husband have long dispensed with any pretence that we are cool.)

2. It is impossible not to grin stupidly whilst carrying a streamer in a parade.  Seriously, try it.  Even the sourest of souls won’t be able to resist in this situation.

3.  London drivers really are a grumpy lot.  Whilst waiting for giant story characters, an over-sized trumpet, which needed two people to carry it and lots of happy, smiling children skipping across the road at the pedestrian crossing, the second the lights turned green, there was a great deal of angry beeping.  Really?  Shame. On. You.

4. It is impossible to stand still whilst steel drums are playing.  Impossible.  Try it, but you won’t be able to stop moving.  Many moons ago we lived in a flat across the road from a hall where a local steel drum group practised for three hours every night throughout summer.  It was a relief when their annual appearance in the Notting Hill carnival was over, so we could sit down again in an evening without toe-tapping and shoulder movements.

5.  This was a surprise, but never under-estimate the waiting time to buy a wrap.  They were nice, but 45 minutes was too much of a build up.  Of course, they’d run out of most fillings by the time we got to the front.  Note to self: next year take a picnic.

6. Children can find a great deal of patience and willingness to queue when face painting is on offer.  If only this were a transferable skill.  However, “Mummy, mummy, muummmmyyyy.  Now, mummy!” is a familiar soundtrack to my days.  Hmm, do I need to learn face painting?

7. Once you’ve waited 30 minutes for face painting, at least one child will always desperately need a wee when they are next in the queue.

8.  Even with an African drum and an African trying to teach me to drum, I still can’t look cool – or drum.

9. Despite our very urban geographical situation, Tooting has a troupe of people that know how to Maypole dance.  Adults, not children.  They had clearly been practising, had matching hats with feathers in and sang as well, accompanied by an accordion.  Brilliant.

10. I have the most uncanny ability of choosing exactly the wrong time to take my children to craft making stalls.  We will get there just at the moment they are closing for 15 minutes to clear up.

11.  I now know how to make a paper hat.

12. Finally, a beer tent, complete with hay bales for sitting on, looks very inviting on a warm day.  I was driving and in charge of three small people, so merely took in the view.  That’s fine, I have other treasures.  Really, it’s fine.