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We’ve been having lunch with Tim Smit today.

The Big Lunch is an idea of his which I first heard about this spring, and mentioned to a few friends as it was an obvious one for us. The idea is that everyone in the country gets together with their neighbours and has a street party – for no other reason than that it’s nice to do things like that.

We’ve got a big green outside the front of our houses which is ideal for parties, and we hadn’t had one since the Queen’s Jubilee (and that was a party people still talk about). Trouble is nobody wanted to organise it – so we didn’t. I have a sneaky feeling we were supposed to start a Grand Campaign way back and grow lots of our own food in time for the Big Day, put up posters, get street musicians, make bunting and other such energetic frippery. But basically, nobody could be bothered.

So we just put a hastily-cobbled-together flyer through people’s doors and turned up with a tent (it looked like rain) and a barbecue. I did make a cheesecake with some home-grown blackcurrants but that’s about as much gardening as was involved, I’m afraid.

The funny thing is, I don’t think we needed to do much more. People just joined in: brought their own barbecues, a few picnics, a lot of beer and a gazebo or two. Someone brought a volleyball net, and we were set for an afternoon doing just the thing which Tim Smit had in mind all along – which is getting together with our friends and neighbours and having a stonking good time. I met a lot of people who apparently have been my neighbours for some time yet who I’ve never actually spoken to, and also spent some proper time having fun with neighbours who are already friends (as opposed to a hasty “hi!” as we pass on the way to work/school/the shops).

What’s more it’s become a fixture – everyone enjoyed it so much we’re doing it next year too. We’ve even set a date. I don’t know how many other people out there have been doing this today – the Big Lunch website says 2 million but heaven knows whether that’s number of events or number of people taking part – but in a way, being part of a national ‘day’ didn’t make a difference: this is about the local, not the national, and you don’t have a special day to do it. It’s just perhaps a bit of a shame that it’s taken Tim Smit to persuade us to get on with it. But I’m glad he did.

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