When I left my tiny village for the city a few years ago, I thought there wouldn’t be the same sense of community.
And, yes, that small village community could sometimes be suffocating, with everyone more up in your business than was often comfortable. On the whole though, the sense of being able to knock on anyone’s door in good times and bad, and people looking out for each other, became a comfort.
Like the day little Morgan (now 22 years old) was allowed to go to the village shop on her own. She was stopped three times by villagers, including the vicar, gently enquiring what she was up to. These casual enquiries were, of course, followed up by phone calls to the house asking if I knew where Morgan was at. People stopping your child in public to converse with them was not a thing to be feared then.
I’m thinking about a sense of community this weekend because it’s the Lord Mayor’s procession on Saturday and a renowned street fair on Sunday. Admittedly, my usual preparation for these annual events largely involve making sure I have enough food and water in the house so I don’t have to venture out into these festivities.
Today, though, sitting here in a favourite coffee shop on Saturday writing and watching the stalls, floats and general business of readiness taking place, I do feel a sense of belonging. Most of the ‘Big Issue’ sellers, market tradespeople and others know me by name, and the street sleepers I pass on my early morning walks always have a wave. That said, they know I won’t stop and break stride not because I don’t want to speak with them, but because this is the only time in the day when I relish not having to speak to anyone.
That early morning vow of silence aside, I made an effort (a little effort) not to shun my new urban community when I first moved in – especially since realising the loneliness which exists in this fine city.
With a personality type of extroverted introvert, I am happy to ‘be on’ quite a bit of the time, but can only do so because I am able to retreat into solitude when I so choose. Of course, I am conscious a lot of people without people do not have the luxury of this choice.
But in the moments when my new community of people come together, we are a family. It matters not we are unrelated by blood or background and, in many ways, this coming together is more special as we are not forced into that intimacy by genetic necessity.
So this weekend, I will leave my bunker and process with the procession (watch), stroll through the street fair, join my apartment complex for our own annual get together, fly the Norwich Pride flag with the LGBT community later in the month… and thoroughly enjoy my new reality and diverse, urban village life.