Our next door neighbours are moving! No, we don't think it's anything we said...
It's the end of an era, really, as they moved in over twenty years ago when Mrs Next Door
Neighbour was pregnant with her third baby. So we have watched that baby girl grow up, right from the day she was born. It will seem strange to have someone else living next door? Will it be a family, I wonder, with lots of littl'uns to enjoy that lovely big
Neighbours can be very important, don't you think? They can make your life a living hell or add immensely to your quality of life. On balance, with a couple of exceptions, we have been blessed
with Pretty Good Neighbours and have endeavoured to repay them in kind. Our next door neighbour in our very first house was what is generally called "the salt of the earth." I still remember with gratitude finding Bette in my kitchen, up to her elbows in soapy
suds as she waded through the washing of dozens of tea cups, the debris from a christening party. I wasn't at my best that day and my weak expressions of protest on the lines that she was a guest and shouldn't be washing up were met with a broad grin: "I was
born with my hands in a washing up bowl!" she told me, cheerily. At the time, I accepted this at face value; on later reflection, it made me feel rather sad.
Bette had five children, including twins. The three
girls had rather beautiful names - Jasmine, Lorraine and Angelique. Perhaps she played out her own lost dreams when she named them? Unfortunately she had a tendency to shorten their names with disastrous effect - I still recall her yelling down the garden
at them as she called them in to dinner: "Jazzy! Jazzy!" Followed by: "Rain! Rain!" And then - I kid you not- "Leek!" Leek!"
When I was young we lived in Birkbeck Road, Rush Green. On the one side of us lived
Mrs Cook, who we all believed to be a witch. On the other side lived the Blewitt family, who were of Romany blood. The Blewitt girls all had beautiful, silky hair which they washed with rain water collected in their water butt. We didn't boast a family water
butt; however my sister Maggie and I found an old pail which we hoped might do the job. Unfortunately the rain water we collected in our pail was murky in the extreme so this was yet another good idea which came to nothing. I still remember when Old Mrs Blewitt
died (we always called her Old Mrs Blewitt, though I don't remember there being a Young Mrs Blewitt around). My mum told us the story of how our elderly neighbour had always yearned for her past days on the road. According to my mum, she was now in heaven,
living in a caravan and travelling the by-ways of England. It was a sweet notion that appealed to the romantic in me, young as I was.
There was nothing in the least romantic about Mrs Cook on the other side.
I think it must have been my older brothers who told me she was a witch and, of course, I believed them implicitly. The word "gullible" was invented with me in mind. We used to go to a rather beautiful park not far from home, my brothers, my sister and I.
My younger brother (six years older than me, so a demi-god in my eyes, only transcended by my older brother who was a proper god, not a demi-version) used to tell me that a particularly spectacular house on the edge of the park was, in fact, a cardboard cut-out.
Yes, dear reader, of course I believed him. Gullible is, indeed, my middle name.
Anyway, let us return to Mrs Cook. She used to collect all the many balls of ours which accidentally found themselves in her
garden and keep them in her garden shed until she had enough for a Bonfire of Balls. I think I have told you the following story before but for the benefit of new readers, I will relate it once more. It was all my brother Phil's idea (he was the one, you remember,
who told me about the cardboard cut-out house. I was always slow to learn...) When our ball drifted over into Mrs Cook's garden, he was determined that it would not meet its fiery fate in the Old Witch's Bonfire of Balls. I was therefore dispatched to knock
on Mrs Cook's front door and keep her talking while my brother climbed over the fence and retrieved our ball.
Sadly, when Mrs Cook opened the door to me I was completely tongue-tied. It didn't take her long
to suss out what was happening - back through the house she flew (possibly on a broom-stick but I was far too scared to follow her) and caught my poor brother in the gooseberry patch. I ended up in everybody's bad books - the Old Witch's, my mother's and,
worst of all, my brother's. It was, possibly, one of the Worst Moments of my Life.
Our neighbours are holding an Open House next Saturday. Presumably there will be lots of potential buyers arriving to view
the property, along with the usual collection of Nosey Parkers. Mr B and I are wishing that one of our children could buy the house and move in next door to us with their growing family. We could have a little gate built between their garden and ours, with
a flag pole on which we could run up a flag to indicate if we or they were up for visitors. A Scottish Saltire, perhaps? It would be so absolutely luverly, as Eliza Doolittle would say.
Failing that, we are
hoping for the best. I am thinking that maybe we should hold a "Meet the Neighbours" day to coincide with the Open House. We could serve tea and coffee plus cup cakes in our back garden. If this fails to prove what good neighbours we would be, we could have
leaflets printed saying: "Charming neighbours. Generally quiet, except for periodic visitations by grandchildren and every other Wednesday afternoon when the Nomination Whist group meets up at Number 9."
B thinks Meet the Neighbours is a Really Bad Idea. He is of the "What Will Be, Will Be" persuasion. We must just watch and wait and see what happens.
I think I shall spend next Saturday in the front garden
weeding. That way I can be sure to beam at everybody hot-footing it up our neighbours' garden path so that they can see for themselves that I am not the Wicked Witch of the North.
"They'll just think you are
a Nosey Parker," Mr B points out. He might just have a point.
I had better hide the broomstick...