If you aren’t over Christmas already, maybe you should think about having a Christmas party for your block.
Although the combination of alcohol and people with long-held grievances may be too volatile to contemplate, it’s also an opportunity for neighbours who have stopped speaking to each other (and can’t remember why) to at least nod, if not smile, in each other’s direction.
Let’s not get too Kumbaya about the whole thing, but if your committee can organise a reasonable time and place, preferably on common property, provide some finger food and encourage everyone to BYO booze, this is a great way of resetting the relationships in the block and heading into the New Year with a fresh outlook.
I know it’s traditionally a New Year’s Eve thing but Robert Burns knew what he was doing when he wrote Auld Lang Syne – even though most of those who bellow it out on Hogmanay have no idea what they’re singing.
Apart from “should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind,” most New Year revellers fill the gaps between lusty choruses with mumbled variations on “rumpty-tumpty-tum”, while the more knowledgeable few often skip to the last verse which, in English, goes something like
And here’s my hand my trusty friend
And I’ll take a hand of thine
And we’ll take a right goodwill drink
For the sake of Auld Lang Syne
What does this have to do with strata schemes and Christmas? It’s no mystery that when different people with different ideas of what’s acceptable and what isn’t are forced to live in close proximity, there are going to be disagreements and tensions.
I’m not talking about the trauma of taking each other to a tribunal, over issues that range from petty politics to fundamental matters of residents’ rights and responsibilities.
It’s the barking dog that doesn’t bark any more, but there’s still residual resentment over the initial noise and the subsequent complaint.
It’s the noisy party from last Christmas that got so out of hand that the police were called. No one was arrested but the jury is still out on neighbourly relations.
It’s the complaint about the idiot who consistently parked in a visitor space … who turned out to be your previously friendly neighbour.
So organise a party: just some tables, plastic glasses, party pies (or hors d’oeuvres for the posh blocks) and a decent sound system will do it. This should be about people, not politics, but it’s also a chance for residents to put some faces to the names that appear on the strata committee minutes.
If you want to up the ante a little, live music is always a big attraction and in a large block you may well have someone who will happily do a turn for you.
If you’re feeling particularly bold, karaoke is a form of entertainment that pretty much relies on no appreciable talent on the part of the participants. They say it’s a great leveller.
Which brings us back to Auld Lang Syne. A couple of years ago two friends of mine – Mairi Campbell and Dave Francis – had their poignant, original version of the song featured on the soundtrack of the first movie version of Sex And The City.
Check it out on Youtube for a reminder that Christmas can be a lonely time for some, when it’s a lovely period for others.
But it’s also an opportunity to repair and reconcile, so throw a party that will get the lost and lonely out of their rooms.
And don’t worry about disturbing the neighbours – if they’re not at the party, they only have themselves to blame.
NB: In the interests of full disclosure, ironically, as I write, I am preparing to go to a work-related party and a friend’s 50th – so I will miss my block’s party. As Burns also wrote, “the best-laid plans o’ mice and men gang aft agley …”
A version of this column also appeared in the Australian Financial Review.