The everyday life brings us glimpses of our neighbours' life. You can hear them sing in their shower, smoke on their balcony, walk the dog in early morning, bring the kids to school, take the apero at night with friends in the back, you can see them in a moment at their kitchen table while going down the stairs or see their mail next to the front door. They live so close from us, fews meters and walls in-between, and their ghostly presence influences us subconsciously. It is often hard to break to ice of the first real conversation, or the first communal activity. However the great feeling of greeting neighbours you appreciate while going out your door is a such a great feeling of belonging.
A long-time French tradition is the Fête des Voisins (Neighbours Day) who encourage every neighbourhood, or corner of a street, to gather people living close together www.fetedesvoisins.qc.ca is a Québec website that gives the tools to organise this type of communal party.
It has been a delicate serie of fun encounters to create links with my neighbours, spending fews hours with them. They all have different personnalities and lifestyles (couple, single, families, finance, arts, restaurant management, social work). But somehow they met each other in the greatest harmony, because they share one crucial thing: they love where they live.
The potluck cooking style is in constant evolution except that it has a specific aims to please most and be serve on a long table with many people. Salads, gratin still warm that you take out of the oven and bring down the stairs in the backyard. The magazine 3 fois par jour published here in Quebec www.troisfoisparjour.com/en has focused its latest issues on potluck with an amazing array of creative recipes for all.
A month before, I talked with few of my building neighbours about their interest for a communal meal. Then I wrote them an written invitation that I stuck on their back windows with potential dates. I received their answers as small notes in my mailbox.
We set up a date on Wednesday July 19th. Aline my downstair neighbour accepted to help me shop, cook some food and prepare the table, since she could not make it to the meal. We had a lot of fun driving with the same hat and spending time together.
We set up the table early (it was the long piece of wood that was our previous balcony floor that we kept) and protected it from the rain until the night. Until 30 minutes before the event at 8pm, it pourred heavy rain. And suddenly, the sun came back, and we removed the tarps, took the prepared dishes out of the fridges and people stated coming out on their balcony to join us. We drew with chalks arrows in the back streets to encourage passing by neighbours to join us. Finally we went around the block and knocked at some doors to invite more of our community to join us. Some families also joined us.
Some newcomers from Mexico brought their son with them and the father was a professional photographer who took the first photo here. Friends from everyone were also part of the group, and brought unexpectandly wines and company. Many played football with the kid and borrowed him some toys.
We took a moment during the night to discuss which renovations in our 1900s building we would like to ask our landlord to do (staircases, basement flooding, insects,...). After that, everyone that come made drawings on the tablecloth and signed their name. We hung it of the fence next to the table and will keep it there for a week or two. It was a great night. :)