When we moved to our friendly street in Glasgow this summer, we decided to do something we once did in Aberdeen: have an Open House for our neighbours. Our New Year’s Open House invitation was designed by the Dafter and was truly a work of art, if I may say so. She did a painting of the houses on our street with lit Christmas trees in the windows, and fireworks going off in the night sky overhead.
The afternoon came, and all became quite merry and bright inside if not out. It was yet another extremely rainy and stormy day outside. Here is my before-the-guests arrive cup of tea, that I had with a few minutes of calming knitting:
We didn’t know who would come, but we reckoned we’d invited no more than 30 people. The Open House was from 2 – 6 pm.
We’d made more Christmas cookies and spritz cookies. I like Michael’s “love hart” reindeer:
We decided not to bother with much alcohol, but had some non-alcoholic berry punch warming on the stove, lots of soft drinks, tea and coffee, and a bottle of champagne contributed by one neighbour who couldn’t manage to join us. Do you like Michael’s beautiful Pendleton shirt? A Christmas present from my mother.
What I don’t have a picture of is our bed, which was piled high with knitting projects, mending basket, all our coats from the hallway, papers and other clutter!
Those of you who know that the Dafter has been very unwell with ME/CFS may be questioning whether having a party was a good idea. We had discussed it together, and she felt very strongly that she wanted to meet the neighbours (especially any children) and that she would go off and rest whenever she needed to. So we went ahead.
We brought out our boxes of “toys for young visitors” – a tradition I’ve taken up from my mother.
And what happened? Well, a very good time was had by all. Almost everyone we invited came! At one point the living room was jam-packed with people of all ages from babies to grannies, with many different conversations going on. The dining room had people grazing the food and chatting in comparative quiet, and upstairs the Dafter (cleverly propping herself on a warm radiator for good back support) had organised four other children between the ages of 3 and 13 into a quiet game of “Who Am I?”
The conversations ranged from talking about the history of the residents of our street – some have been here for nearly 40 years – to discussing voting in the independence Referendum. All very lively and interesting.
One of the best things for the Dafter was meeting another teenage girl who doesn’t live here, but comes to spend some weekends and part of her holidays with her mother. I think they were both very happy to find each other.
The non-alcoholic punch was the surprise hit of the night. And oh my goodness, people were so generous! After everyone had left, we had 6 boxes of chocolates and shortbread unopened, four bottles of wine and three bottles of champagne.
We had assumed, as it is a very friendly street and people say hello and wave, that everyone already knew each other. We’d thought, that will be okay – they’ll all talk to each other and we can just be busy getting food and drinks! (Cowardly hosts that we are.) But in fact lots of people hadn’t met each other properly before. Many of our guests thanked us for having the party and said how good it had been. One woman said, “Now I really feel Christmas has come to a proper close and I can start the New Year”.
The Dafter had a fantastic time and never needed to absent herself to rest, though she was very careful not to be on her feet for too long. She also allowed herself to eat sugary things (which she normally never does) – that is a trick she uses to be able to do things that require some sustained exertion. It works if you don’t do it too often! The next day, although she was tired and needed to rest, she wasn’t overly exhausted or in too much pain. I think the happiness of meeting other people and especially the other kids gave her a real boost.
One neighbour, in thanking us the next day, asked, “An Open House – is that an American thing?” I suppose it is, I said. I’m not really very sure! But I will use my foreignness, as I often do, as a bit of an excuse to do odd things. I wonder if someone else on the street will want to do it again next year? Or maybe we can do it again in two years’ time. I’ll keep you posted!