After living in the area for almost 30 years it would be fair to say I feel rather plugged into it. I didn’t at first but that was when we still had the florist shop. My time was divided between the retail shop, and the fledgling flower growing side of the business. I was hardly home, and when I was home I was knee deep in picking and processing flowers, paper work, or housework. Getting to know the neighbours didn’t feature and it was a situation I didn’t like given the distance between neighbours in this semi-rural area was more than a few steps away if assistance was needed for an unexpected emergency, or just to enjoy the time of day.
It was perhaps in our second year in the previous property that I decided to borrow Mum’s idea and have a Happy Hour a few days before Christmas. She did it for the first time the year my father died, way too young, probably as a way of keeping the blues under control as Christmas began on the 24th for my parents. It was their wedding anniversary. Going out for a meal was never on the cards when my brother and I were growing up, so the celebration was a special family meal at home. Then on the 30th it was Dad’s birthday so all in all Christmas in our household was a seriously festive week.
Over the years Mum’s Happy Hour on the 23rd became a major occasion for family, friends and neighbours alike, and that ‘hour’ had grown to be more like an extremely convivial five or six. Mum knew most of her neighbours – it was renowned as a very friendly street! – I knew none of ours but that first Happy Hour we held changed all that.
I designed a basic invitation and letterboxed maybe a dozen of those neighbours closest to us. We had no idea how many might choose to turn up, so catering was guesswork, and on the conservative side when it came to nibbles and finger food. Too conservative as it turned out as nearly everyone I’d letterboxed turned up! Insufficient food notwithstanding It was definitely a success, as well as a terrific way for everyone else to meet their neighbours, not just us! Friendships were cemented as a result of that impromptu decision, and our social life improved dramatically. The Happy Hour tradition continued for several years until various neighbours moved away, moved on, and my life got too busy generally juggling various work commitments – as well as the pulp mill campaign.
Now we’ve moved on, although we’ve remained in the area. We also already know most of our neighbours. But as we head towards Christmas I’m thinking it’s perhaps time to resurrect that Happy Hour idea, and invite those in our friendly community around to have a bit of a ‘do’ a few days before the 25th. Working on it.