Early on Sunday morning, if you were awake and excited for the day ahead, the sound of brushes sweeping the street and gutters could be heard. A surreptitious delivery of tables and chairs borrowed from the Church was deposited on the street. Then at ten o’clock the barriers went up at the two ends of the street declaring firmly ‘Road Closed’. Now work could seriously begin.
Slowly the volunteers emerged, some carrying tables, others ladders, all blinking in the unfamiliar sunshine. The bunting was niftily hung, zig-zagging from tree to lamppost, back to tree. The handsomely stencilled table-cloths were painstakingly cut to size per table and small pots of purple petunias decorated each table until they were surpassed by a magnificent array of jars with summer flowers arriving as if manna from heaven (or, as it was, left over from yesterday’s wedding feast).
At two o’clock the balloons blew in, the games were laid out, a large thick rope became the demarcation line for a tug-of-war, the gazebos poised waiting for the barbecue one end and the cake competition the other. Ockendon Road was now ready to begin the festivities.
At three o’clock the residents started to arrive with their chairs, their picnics, their bottles, their conviviality. Names and street numbers were declared on decorative labels, cakes landed on the deck for judgement, musicians played to set the mood and the kids were let loose with chalk, face painting, finger puppet making, skipping and bubble machines.
The visiting Fire Engine came and left in a hurry then returned for a while. The ice-cream man pedalled in and the quiz was circulated. New acquaintances were made, cakes and samosas shared, songs were sung. A wayward car left behind by an absentee driver was decorated ceremoniously with balloons and the odd cupcake on its windscreen. The tug-of-war at 5pm was a seriously competitive affair first with the kids then with the adults. And the sun shone on.
As the light began to fade, the clearning up began..fervently. The kids were ushered home, some still playing football to the end. The last few stragglers stood talking and drinking up the atmosphere as all around returned to normal and the houses sucked up their inhabitants once again. The street relished the last few hours without cars, returning to an age some of us still remember.
PS: Three pictures a from an earlier street party: the 1977 Royal Jubilee