My Ham & High Column this week

In the Summertime, when the weather is hot… is how the song goes – but as I put on heavy stockings and boots to go to a community picnic on the day I am writing this column, with the wind howling and rain predicted for the next several days yet again, summer and hot do not seem to go together!

So I am crossing everything I have that this coming Saturday the sun will shine. But even if it doesn’t we all still have to go to The Fair in the Square (Pond Square) in Highgate. It is just a lovely event – with lots for anyone of any age to get involved in, see friends, play games, listen to music and eat, drink and be merry.

I also get to do one of my favourite tasks of the year at this event as one of the judges at the dog show.

I have a dog myself – Purdy. No, she is not named after Joanna Lumley’s character in the Avengers but named by my children after a drink they liked. Sadly, they had never even heard of the Avengers when they named her. They have heard of Joanna Lumley – but only because of Ab Fab!

Purdy is a beautifully natured black and tan mutt who cannot be taken to dog shows on account of occasionally less than charming behaviour towards other dogs despite years of efforts to train her. Inside the house – away from other dogs – however, she is without doubt the nicest and cleverest dog in the world. Eat your heart out Pudsey!

The categories are things like ‘best trick’, best child and dog in fancy dress, best small, best medium and best large dog, and the dog with the most appealing eyes. Love it!

Great efforts are made by the participants’ owners (and the dogs of course) and great fun is had by all. That is not to say, however, that we (the three judges) do not take our role seriously – we do. A competition is a competition – and we score, rate, discuss and come to an agreed verdict! I’m afraid that registration has now closed and you can’t enter your pooch on the day, but do come and watch.

So rain or shine – I will be there, as I have been for several years now. In fact – I have been at many recent street parties – many of which were in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee. Each one has been a huge success and a tribute to the great sense of community that we are so fortunate to have in my Hornsey & Wood Green constituency.

At each one neighbours have come together to organize the party – with food, music and games and general amiable talk with those they live next to but don’t always know. I remember the first street party I ever went to as an MP in Hillfield Park – where each householder sported their house number. And you could hear ‘oh you’re number 9 with the beautiful roses!’ and so on. It is a wonderful way to get to know your neighbours.

A brilliant side benefit of knowing your neighbours is that stronger community ties improve communities and families – with better health and lower crime rates. For example, the crime falls in correlation to the number of people you know to talk to within a fifteen minute circumference of your home.

Summer also means horticultural shows. We are blessed in the area with great horticultural groups who put on the shows each year. It is another favourite of mine – as what local people grow is amazing. I get to give out the prizes – and over the years of these events have also had the opportunity to visit some private gardens and our wonderful local allotments. And then, of course, there are the fun runs and the strawberry teas.

So come on weather! Do your bit for this lovely community season! Whilst stoicism in the face of weather is part of the British DNA (witness the Jubilee pageant and many a year at the Kenwood Concerts), we wouldn’t half welcome a bit more sunshine!