There’s an old saying: “if you want to make God laugh, tell him you have a plan.”
When this column appeared in the Australian Financial Review last week, it opened with the question: “Is it too late to un-cancel your apartment Christmas shindig? Or, if you’ve never had one, to kick off the New Year with your first block party?”
Now that the whole of greater Sydney has been declared a hot spot in other states, and the Northern Beaches are in lockdown, that seems slightly presumptuous.
But if we dare dream that some day all of this will be behind us, and the only people contracting and dying of Covid-19 will be anti-vaxxers (see previous comment about telling God you have a plan) then a V-C Day block party would be just the tonic we need.
According to Wikipedia, block parties originated in New York during World War I – when a city block was roped off for dancing and general festivities in support of the troops (and, it turns out, probably to super-spread Spanish flu).
They were then revived in the 1970s when hip-hoppers would tap into street lights to fuel their sound systems and apartment residents would open their doors to their neighbours.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Brits love their street parties, especially to celebrate a Royal wedding, but they tend to be more about bunting, scones and cakes than bone-crushing beats.
Somewhere along that spectrum, lie Australian unit block parties with BYO booze replacing the tea and sandwiches, while we plug into common property power points to fire up a modest PA system or (Lord help us) a karaoke machine, rather than hack into the public power supply.
But are they even legal? Right now in NSW, outside the Northern Beaches, the restrictions for social gatherings are up to 50 in people’s homes, provided an outdoor space is being utilised, with a notional limit of no more than 30 if the residence has no outdoor area.
Up to 50 people can gather outdoors in a public space. This could change on an hourly basis, so check the government Health website.
In Victoria there’s a limit of 30 people per home (including outside spaces) and you should wear a mask indoors if you can’t maintain social distancing of 1.5 sqm per person.
Covid restrictions in Queensland mean that 100 people can meet outside and 50 inside, with the standard advice to stay 1.5 metres apart from people you don’t know and avoid excessively hugging and kissing those whom you do.
Again, any or all of these different states’ restrictions could change with the flick of a microphone switch.
Now your common property foyer or meeting room is, strictly speaking, neither a residence, nor a public space nor a place of entertainment, so the specific rules may be a bit vague.
Also, to be fair, many apartment residents would no sooner party with their neighbours than drive to the airport on the off chance of getting a flight to the USA, so getting even 50 people to a unit block party would be an achievement.
But it’s different this year. We’ve come through a tough time together, and may even have got to know each other little better.
More people than ever have been working from home and it’s been a time of supportive smiles, help with shopping and politely waiting for the next empty lift.
Some of us have been tolerating each other’s renovations (sorry about that!) an putting up with restrictions on who can go to the gym or pool and when.
And it would be a shame for us all to just slip back into our old isolated ways without taking advantage of the enforced familiarity that the lockdowns and recovery periods imposed upon us.
And we should take the chance to make a connection with our neighbours before we only see those who are locked into the same commuter routine as us.
Of course, up until about a week ago, many of our blocks were “welcoming” staycationers who’d booked apartments via the newly floated $100 billion Airbnb and its ilk.
Hmmm. For a moment there, the new normal felt very like the same old, same old. But, after such trying times, maybe that’s worth celebrating too.
A version of this column first appeared in the Australian Financial Review.