The road diversion signs went up at 6pm and were promptly ignored - cars continued to swish down the road, their occupants gawping at the amount of bunting piled up on the pavement and the morose residents trying to get into the party spirit. For reasons best known to themselves, Frank and Marjorie dressed up as Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, set themselves up on two winged chairs in their front garden and got into character almost immediately, with Frank bellowing regally and Marjorie simpering in what she obviously thought was a flirtatious way. I was wearing a square necked white T-shirt and long flowing black skirt - all I needed was an apron and mob cap and I'd have been a very convincing wench. Frank seemed quite keen for me to "update" him every five minutes.
So, as it turned out, the evening was as damp as the weather. By 7pm (the official start time) we had only a handful of guests, all looking bemused at the lack of chairs (six) and tables (two). Amy and Martin On The Corner arrived with 200 paper plates and cutlery in a wheelbarrow. Food on offer included six chickens, three Dundee cakes and some potato salad. Susan At Number 30 had sent Mike along to "enjoy himself" complete with an Ayres gateau. Alice Three Doors Down was looking equally wench-like in a frothy Broderie Anglaise dress and joined Frank and Marjorie in their front garden but kept fretting that she'll be "living on curry for the rest of the week" having cooked up several saucepans of the stuff. As I passed them on my final attempt to rouse the more unco-operative neighbours, I heard Marjorie say in a sad voice "When I think of the street parties we had in Mermaid Court, legendary they were". Frank patted her on the shoulder and adjusted her drooping ruff.
Naturally, I escaped. There was something extremely pathetic at the attempts to keep the party going - Frank kept walking up and down the road, exhorting his "subjects" to make merriment. Old Mrs Lazenby tried to get a conga going but they had to keep stopping to let cars through. I sat on the sofa cringing, watching Casualty, eating some of Alice's curry and trying to forget that the disaster outside was anything to do with me. In my defence, I had tried to tell the Stewarts that the residents of The Avenue were reticent and liked to keep themselves to themselves. Perhaps I didn't try hard enough.
This morning, on my way to take the dogs to the park, I fell over the bunting that hadn't been draped round trees and lamposts. All the curtains were still drawn in the Stewart household and I wondered just how battered their feelings were. I didn't have to wait long to find out. On my return, Frank was collecting his traffic cones (he's got a set of 24). He seemed remarkably upbeat about the disastrous evening and I tentatively asked how Marjorie was doing.
Frank beamed at me. "Oh, she's doing champion - she's drawing up plans for Halloween! Now....how do you feel about running the Bobbing for Apples stall?"