By 2 o’clock, Julie and Janice had succeeded in getting a turkey in the oven, setting up the dining table with a mish mash of cutlery, ancient paper napkins and a kitchen roll and plates of crisps and nuts.
“Time to make this into Julie’s Place” said Julie grabbing the pile of papers she had printed earlier and a roll of tape.
Janice laughed as she realised that Julie was going to put A4 sheets of paper, each with a letter printed on it spelling out Julies Place on her front window.
“Well I would hate for people to pluck up the courage to walk round this way only to feel embarrassed or wary that they got the wrong door. This way there will be no doubt.”
Janice held out her hand for the sheets of paper. “I would never have thought about that but you’re right, I wouldn’t have knocked at a door in case it was the wrong one”
It only took a couple of minutes and they were done.
“Time for the kettle to go on and for us to have a well-deserved cup of tea I think” said Julie.
The two ladies had quickly bonded that afternoon over preparations for the impromptu gathering and now worked together like a well-trained team making themselves tea and heading back to the lounge to sit and wait for other guests.
When Janice had arrived earlier. they had discussed the reasoning behind Julie’s decision to open her home as they prepared her turkey and veg. It seemed they were both more secluded in their new homes than they ever thought they would be when they moved.
Walking through the town when they first visited, both Julie and Janice had been impressed by the friendliness of the people they met. There were many groups and clubs for people to join, you could be out almost every night of the week if you wanted. It seemed like the ideal place to be for someone who had stopped working and was on their own.
Unfortunately, it hadn’t quite worked out that way. People were still friendly but the few groups that the ladies had visited with the intent of joining had been less so. People who had grown up together for decades were the norm in this town and it was difficult being an incomer to such a tight knit community. After a couple of false starts, both had decided that joining such groups was more effort than it was worth.
Of course, they could go to the local cafes or shops and get to know people there. Although neither lady felt very comfortable going somewhere on their own, it turned out they had both taken that step and both decided it was not something they would be repeating often. Everyone had still been very friendly, but the prices were not sustainable on a regular basis.
Now here they were on one of what could have been the loneliest days of the year laughing and joking together over a cup of tea waiting for more people to join them.
The sign in the window had received a few strange looks from people as they walked their dog or went past in their car. Julie was starting to get nervous as it got ever closer to 3pm and she wondered if this was all a stupid mistake.
By 5 minutes to 3, Julie was feeling sick and wanted to run upstairs and hide. Why did she do this to herself? These grand schemes of hers that seemed like a good idea at the time didn’t always work out. Granted most of the time they did but there had been a couple of failures that made sure her stomach churned with nerves every time she did something impulsive.
“Shall I put the kettle on again?”
Julie flinched as Janice’s words brought her out of her reverie. “Good idea, I will go open the porch door, so people don’t feel they need to stand out on the street if they are brave enough to visit”
As she walked to the door, she could see a shadow coming towards her in the glass. Opening the door, she saw Dave from two doors down slowly walking towards her with two bottles of wine in his hands. He smiled as she opened the door, “Loving the signs there Julie, thought I would bring along a drop or two to help with your lack of shopping.”
Julie laughed as she welcomed him in. “You know me Dave, nothing if not unpredictable. Why not head through to the kitchen with them, Janice from across the way is in there, she can get us some glasses.”
As Julie turned back towards the door to find something to prop it open she saw a new face coming towards the house hesitantly. Smiling she waved and gestured towards the letters in the window, “Come on in, the more the merrier”. The nervous looking gentleman came towards the door, reaching out towards Julie with a box of chocolate biscuits.
“Good afternoon, my name is Alan, I got your invitation, I hope you don’t mind me coming along, I brought these biscuits for you”
Julie smiled and took the biscuits from Alan. “I am absolutely delighted you decided to come along and join us. Let me get your coat and I will take you and the biscuits through to the kitchen and introduce you to my other two guests.” Julie led Alan through to the kitchen and introduced him to Janice and Dave. Leaving them to organize drinks and biscuits Julie headed back towards the door just as the doorbell rang.
As she opened the door to welcome the new arrivals Julie smiled and relaxed. It seemed this had turned out to be a good idea, even if no one else came, this was enough to have made the effort worthwhile.
Looking at the small group of people on her doorstep, it seemed this was more than a good idea, this could almost be classed as a public service. What a great way to spend Christmas afternoon meeting new people and making new friends. Julie was already planning her next big idea as she welcomed in her guests.