Updated: Mar 27
WHY STREET PARTIES MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
I didn't get a mobile phone until I turned 40. I was committed to keeping my life simple. Thankfully I didn't need one in my work- I was a teacher in a Steiner school- and we tried to create a media-free bubble- so the children could play and let their imaginations run wild. Recently, as part of my research, for a book I'm working on- I've been watching 'Gavin and Stacey', reading 'The Mail On Sunday' and soaking up Denzel Curry and Kenny Beats latest hip hop creations. Why? You might ask. Well- to figure out what's popular. You see- until about four years ago I felt like I had been living in a cave. I mentioned this to a friend, and she said, "all parents feel like they are living in caves."
Yes- raising a family is like living in a cave. Paying the bills, work- the demands of the children- we soon forget life outside our cave. When was the last time a friend popped round unexpected? When did you last go to a new place or laugh with a stranger? Family life demands rhythm and a lot of planning. But if our schedules and timetables are too tightly bound up with our children- the walls of the cave become oppressive.
It takes a village to raise a child. Children need many healthy influences in their lives. Adults need to mix and mingle too. In the village our rough edges get rubbed away- our obsessions and neuroses are softened by the hubbub of village life. But locked down in a cave- in the nuclear family- in the suburbs- they are amplified. Our husband or wife- on the sofa, scraping the contents of a yogurt pot. Gets on our nerves, till we want to scream. But outside our cave? We wouldn't notice or even care about yogurt pots.
The philosopher Plato thought that most people lived as if they were shackled and imprisoned in a cave. Shadows flicker across the walls- these dark impressions are all the cave dweller ever knows of reality. Unless she steps out of the cave- the world is much bigger, brighter and richer than she ever imagined.
I run a community choir at The Brew-house in Southbourne On Thursday night at 7pm. Parents bring their children. Last night when I arrived to set up the room- two excited children greeted me: "We're getting Pizza." They told me. Whilst the parents sang- the children ate pizza in the corner. Choir was great fun. Afterwards I chatted with the 8 year old boy- about his friends- how fast they could run- where they lived.
His Mum, my friend Claire sighed: "They live quite far away. I wish they could play on the street." When my marriage ended I met my new partner Claudia. She lived on a yacht called 'Sin-bin' in Bristol harbour. It was great- except for the loo and shower. You could only use the loo for number 1's. The shower didn't exist. We used local hotels and cafes and spent much time wandering around Bristol. One evening we stumbled upon a street party- the street was closed and all the residents made merry- drinking, dancing, eating. Children running about. They saw my guitar and asked me to play. Under the stars, we sat around a fire on the street- for a moment everybody left their caves. People told stories, talked about their challenges- we shared songs. It was great.
"I want to a street party. I'm going to organize a street party." Claire told me.
I hope she does. I hope everyone leaves their caves.
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