Monday, August 09, 2010

The road that takes you to the places where all the things meet, yeah

I get an email which invites me to a local event with "family activities". It ends "volunteers are needed to help – making cakes or preserves in advance, or helping on the day".

Um... no. The last local event I was invited to happened directly outside my house. It was fun in many ways, but blighted by (let's call him) W, a man who had drunk so much red wine that his mouth resembled a black cave of horror. M was providing the music for the event, and I was very glad that this was controlled a) largely by a prepared-earlier playlist and b) from upstairs, as after a certain point in the evening, whenever the track changed W would shout 'this is shit!'. When something came on that he did like, he would lurch to the amp, on our front path, and try to turn it up to 11 so "everyone" could dance. My job - which I took upon myself, but someone clearly had to do it - was to deflect him from this mission for long enough for him to forget about it. A couple of times this involved physically pushing him out of my front gate.

Later, he came over to me, and told me I was giving him 'a look'. I'm sorry, I said truthfully. You are pissing me off, but I really was trying to keep my face neutral. Ah, he said, but the more you glare at me, the more I want to impress you.

What larks.

At such moments, I also remember the time X years ago, when one of M's chilblains got (temporarily, as it turned out, in the best Blackpool tradition) engaged. There was a party. It was 17 shades of uncomfortable. And several days beforehand there was an awkward phonecall, where it was suggested to M that I might "like to do the vegetarian food".

Um, no, I said. I cannot think of anything I would like to do less.

And I didn't do it, a fact of which I am now rather proud. I did turn up, but I was somewhat dissolute. Like the monasteries.

All the above sometimes leads me to fear that I am not a communal person, not willing to do my bit, etc, whereas generally I think it's fair to conclude that I'm actually dangerously sane, believing as I do that nobody wants to bake cakes, that men like W should be confined in the nearest cellar till they no longer pose a public nuisance, and that engagement parties are a crime against humanity.

But the sometimes bit twinges, so I was very happy today to be part of a plan to have a Reunion Picnic. It is 10 years (give or take) since I spent a year (give or take) working on the smallish but perfectly formed Millennium Project which was my entry into NGO X. Of the seven other people (plus one husband and one son) present, I still see two regularly and one occasionally, but I was mildly and pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it was to lie on a blanket by the river and laugh with all the others as well. There was no plan as such - beyond two of us bringing blankets and several of us knowing how to find the river - but delegations were formed, roles were assigned and a perfectly serviceable picnic was purchased, consumed and later disposed of in an environmentally friendly fashion.

I conclude that I can do community, as long as it isn't compulsory, and you get to take a packet of leftover cheese and onion sausage-style rolls home afterwards.


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