Several people made the joke about how the first rule of weekly blog club is that you don’t… yeah, I don’t need to repeat it.
So… the theme for this week’s weekly blog club is family.
Rather than dipping into “My Family and other Animals” territory I thought I’d reflect on Life in Lightmoor and the lovely constructed family we’re building there.
Those of you unfamiliar with Lightmoor in Shropshire it’s a new Bournville Village Trust Development (yes, that Bournville) on the edge of Telford just before you tip into the Ironbridge Gorge and the World Heritage Site.
I love Lightmoor. It’s an intentional community and a large portion of the people who live in the village have chosen to move there instead of moving elsewhere. Me? Why did I move to Lightmoor? I cheated by sharing a house with my best friend. I didn’t weigh other options, consider the distance to the primary school or look at catchment areas. I packed boxes, I waved the 15th floor of a tower block in Edgbaston goodbye and moved in. Never looked back. I’ve come to regard Lightmoor with the warmth that some people have for members of their family.
The day I moved in I vividly remember my neighbours, Rich and Lisa, popping out and offering to help unpack the car. Without thinking my city conditioned, blinkered response was “Why?”. I couldn’t understand why people I didn’t know would want to help move things in the house. I was perplexed by this small act of kindness. I’d only lived alone in a tower block for three years.
At the time I moved in there were a number of houses finished. More completed houses were added as time progressed. We’re a community that grows by increments and degrees. I remember feeling a little like I’d moved from the mean streets of Edgbaston (not all the streets are mean, but you know what I mean) to the neat clipped streets of Stepford. (C’mon, surely you’re starting to spot that I’m a consumer of culture) There was a distinctly weird feeling to Lightmoor in the early days. It felt like everything was on show, everyone was being careful, everyone was putting on their “game face”, everything felt a bit stage managed.
Fast forward six months. More houses. Community meetings. New people. People are relaxing. They’re being themselves. An incident occurs that I like to refer to as “Fight Night” and it’s the night I like to think when things shifted. My house fronts onto a row of terrace houses. Imagine me as being a more mobile Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window and you’re starting to get an idea of the slight fascination I have with my neighbours. It was during a short warm spell, people were abandoning their houses and eating/drinking/talking in their garden. This particularly warm Saturday night I went to bed and left my bedroom window ajar and fell asleep listening to the gentle bubble of music and conversation. The peace was broken around 1am by two parties trying to compete with music playing, trying to outdo each other. Voices were raised. Threats exchanged. One neighbour pulled a hosepipe out and aimed it over the fence at a garden full of people. Chaos was introduced to Lightmoor.
Nothing like that has happened since (thank goodness, hosepipes are a dreadful way to resolve neighbour disputes). I assume that apologies were exchanged and relationships fixed. I’m not suggesting that pulling a hosepipe to spray your neighbours is going to settle a dispute. I also don’t want you thinking I had some kind of dysfunctional upbringing for this story to warm my heart. (I had a lovely childhood in Wiltshire, thanks) I smile because my neighbours are capable of such acts of passion. I think in the moment the hosepipe was turned on one or two of them were absolutely themselves, not their projected selves or their work persona, they were utterly human and utterly real and had reached a point where, for them, the hosepipe was the only logical solution to the situation.
When I attend residents association meetings and sometimes things can get a bit formal and a bit stuffy I like to remember the hosepipe and remember that my neighbours, this constructed family and intentional I find myself sharing in are absolutely vital to me. I also like to remember that these neighbours of mine are capable of almost anything.