Good Neighbours

We’ve had a really neighbourly week this week – proper London village living. Our family got a little bit bigger this week too – very exciting. And I’d like to wish all my Muslim friends, neighbours and blog readers Eid Mubarak!

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up with animals all my life. We had so many different pets as kids but we never had a dog, so when Leia (pictured above) came into our lives six years ago I was over the moon. Leia is a Hungarian Vizsla and is the most gentle, sweet, daft mutt I’ve ever met. With my building work usually being so local, I’m lucky that I’m home for lunch most days and get to spend a lot of time with her. My parents live in the house opposite mine and my Mum walks Leia most days too. And if we’re away, the boys next door or our nanny Charlotte (who’s also another neighbour) take on lots of Leia duties too.

But before we got Leia, we already had our awesome cat, Indiana (above), who’s now ten years old. Indiana is one of those cats that everyone in town loves. He’s a free spirit and gets fed and looked after by neighbours up and down the street but as the front of our house is south-facing, he’s never happier than when he’s sprawled in the sun in our front garden. As a result of this, every child who walks past our house loves Indi. Every weekend I’ll open my front door to see various toddlers sitting on our front step stroking Indi and him gladly lapping up all the attention. His mum is my parents’ cat and lives opposite us, and his grandma belongs to our next door neighbours, so even our cats have a lot of neighbourly love going on.

This week we were lucky enough to get two new additions: Ginger and Patch, pictured above. My Dad took our eldest up to Pets at Home to choose her birthday presents from him and my Mum, and ever since, our daughter’s taken her parental commitments very seriously; feeding, watering, stroking and cleaning them out before school and when she gets home. It’s also been a great excuse to have a few of our neighbours over to meet the new Burrs.

Last weekend, my wife Sarah saw the tweet above by the author Julie Cohen on Twitter and it really inspired us. Sarah and I have a house overflowing with books and haven’t really gone through our books to prune these back since we moved in here seven years ago. However, one of our bookshelves is on the other side of a wall I want to knock down to extend our kitchen later this year, so we knew we had to tackle some of them. We didn’t want to get rid of any kids books, as even the ones our eldest has grown out of will still be loved by our youngest in the future. The kids were lucky to receive a book as a gift from another of our neighbours, Gavin Rhodes, a few months ago. His book, Superstar Kids, is a fun, rhyming book available here and both of our elder daughters really enjoyed it. But even without going through the kids’ books, we managed to build a pile of about 100 books to cull.

First thing yesterday morning we laid the books out along the front wall (above) with a sign up and left people to it. It was so interesting coming back out every few hours to see what had gone or peeking out of the window to see people stopping, chatting to each other and considering what books to take. It’s quite a busy road and on the way to the high street so there’s a lot of footfall on the weekends. One of the best moments was seeing four young, teenage boys on bikes stop together, have a browse, and then cycling off with “How to Win at Poker”! By the time it started to rain a bit there were fewer than 20 books left, which was a real success.

Sarah took the leftover books with loads of other stuff to a car boot sale this morning and after the awful Grenfell Tower fire last week, we gave the proceeds to the Evening Standard’s Dispossessed Fund for Grenfell. If you want to donate too, the link is here, but you can also text GREN88 and an amount to 70070. For example, GREN88 £5 (you can donate £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10). It’s pretty hard to watch the video above and not want to do something to help, however small. If you’re able to dig deeper, Selasi from last year’s Great British Bake Off is hosting a £50pp fundraising dinner for Grenfell on Saturday 15 July. To find out more about it and book tickets, see here. Amongst the horror that people are dealing with only seven miles away from us, what you see there too is an incredible sense of community and neighbours coming together to look after and care for each other. London is often criticised for being an unfriendly and lonely place to live but that is not my experience and I’m grateful every day for having such awesome neighbours around me.

Today’s been a real family day, celebrating my sister Joanne’s birthday. I offered to make any cake of her choice and rather than a cake she actually chose my rhubarb and ginger frangipane tart, pictured above, made from the rhubarb in my Mum’s garden. When you’ve spent the past three years force-feeding your friends, family and neighbours with different recipes, it’s always interesting for me to find out which ones they actually request. This one’s a real winner and if you want to give it a go yourself, the recipe is here.

I’ve got a glut of blackcurrants in my garden at the moment, so if there are any left after my littlelun’s scrumping (above) I’ll be throwing together some summer baking recipes with them this week. Eid Mubarak again to all my Muslim friends and until next week, Happy Baking!

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