Monday, August 1, 2011

In Which we all Dine Al Fresco and Wear White, and it was Amazing


I may have mentioned before that I live on an amazing street. Clare St, located in that undefined neighbourhood between Rockland, Oak Bay, Jubilee and Gonzales, is a gem. We moved here when Zoe was just 1 year old,and Jacob was starting grade 1. She’ll be 10 next month and Jacob starts grade 10 in September; we wouldn’t dream of moving off this fabulous little street for all the world.

There are many things that make the street great – it’s short, the houses range from cute to grand, there are dogs and cats, flowers and blackberries, leafy yards and old cars. There’s always something going on. Babies learn to walk on Clare St, toddling up and down past roses and scooters. Kids play on their bikes or build imaginary worlds out of cardboard boxes. Teenagers hang out on the tire swing or shoot hoops while the adults solve the problems of the world, discuss home-made bread, or debate the best way to stain new shingles. We are truly blessed with some of the finest folk you’ll ever have the chance to meet. It’s a mystery to me how they all ended up on my street, but I’ll take it.

One of my favourite things about Clare St is our collective propensity for gatherings; whether impromptu or organized, haphazard or orderly, we really love to hang out together. Every June we all pile into a series of connected backyards for a potluck dinner and sooner or later the discussion turns to the organization of the September Fall Fair/block party with its pie contest and ‘best carrot’ competitions, games and BBQ. Early December sees us all out caroling with our lanterns, flasks in hands, followed by hot chocolate and a viewing of The Grinch for the kids. New Years Eve and we’re setting up the chiminea again and pulling out the deck chairs at Cafe Clare, as we like to call it, in Janet and Kent’s driveway, while the kids tear up and down the street on bikes and everyone sings Auld Lang Syne whether we know the words or not (more often, not)

It does help having a street full of City Planners (we have four on our one little street) as they regularly come across fascinating events and projects that have occurred in other cities across our country and around the world, which they then want to try out on our street. While many people contribute ideas, many of them come from our wonderful neighbour, Angela. The funky little communal book box that sits jauntily on the street was her idea as are the  regular ‘office parties’ for all the self-employed Clare St folks who miss out on seasonal office parties. I think we might be the only street around that does that!

Her latest project for our street, the Al Fresco ‘White Dinner’ is another keeper. This idea started in Paris some time ago and it has since become an annual tradition to hold a White Dinner outside somewhere in the city. Not to be outdone by Paris, we recently held our own White Dinner here on Clare St. We set up tables, brought out our white tablecloths and silverware, picked bouquets of flowers, dressed in white, and brought our dinners outside onto the street.

It was a magical night.


The kids got right into it


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The band was great – we were all up and dancing as the night progressed.



One of the ‘off-Clare’ invitees took this awesome picture of Zoe with her parapluie looking like she would fit right in in Paris. And while it did rain (more of a sprinkle, really) everyone quickly mobilized an assortment of tents and umbrellas and we carried on as if it rains all the time on our white dinners…

There is something very special about a community gathering like this one. It brings people together in a way that is seldom found anywhere else. As far as organizing, everyone take a little piece and runs with it and it all comes together wonderfully. There are no subcommittees to discuss whether or not stakeholders’ interests are being considered. No soul-sucking meetings where everyone has opposing agendas. No bickering email streams discussing whether or not it’s a good idea (duh) or whether it shouldn’t be the ‘grey dinner’ just to ensure that people who don’t like white don’t feel left out…

But I digress. My point is that none of that happened, and none of that ever happens on Clare St, and instead we all left the street at the end of the night feeling the love.

And so to you, Angela, I send all my love and thanks for the amazing things you do for our street. We look forward to carrying on this new Clare St. tradition for many years to come.

And we are definitely looking forward to your next brilliant idea.

Thanks for reading-