Up the road
and round the corner lives an American architect with his French wife, two hardly seen sons and a hysterical Labrador cross. I might have said hello to the wife out walking the dog but I encountered her husband in a fight with some local developers. And then I suddenly became aware that I hadn’t seen him for ages. As is often the case, as I thought of him, he appeared. His brother died last year, he told me, after a long struggle with cancer and now he has it. 54. Not fair. Otherwise, unless you live in a fortunately interactive neighbourhood, you just don’t know.
Next door but one live the “boys” – sometimes noisy but agreeable young men about whom I have written before because I lived for years with disagreeable neighbours and they aren’t. Next door to them however, lives a story – a young woman with a small child who tried to tell me how living underneath them was impossible, they disturbed her child sleeping, and wouldn’t I help her with them ? You can’t avoid the vibe. She didn’t need my help for anything. I wrote her a truthful note (record) which I put through the door saying I had lived there a long time, I had had unpleasant neighbours in every direction but that was not my finding with this group. I suggested she should talk to them. What distinguished them from others was that you could always talk to them – and they listened. She did a rerun a year later. I wrote a second note.
Well she’s still there and I wouldn’t be if you disturbed my child. But there is something that niggles at me. I never see anybody else visit.
I have given up greeting her on the rare occasions we meet in the street because there is no response. I didn’t do what she wanted and so she has washed her hands of me ? Possibly. Of course I write a story in my head, but it is fiction.
I don’t know.
The local police wrote at the end of last year in the person of a community officer, with a list of crimes, asking which was of most concern to me. I looked at the list and wrote back saying that although I had lived here for over 20 years, nothing on the list had directly affected me and I wasn’t looking for problems. I would however like to record that my slight interaction with the police had been helpful and polite – like his email – and I would like to thank them for all their effort. He acknowledged appreciatively.
You know how you know there are certain things you could never do ? My mother used to say that her vision of hell would be selling shoes
and having to deal with other people’s feet. I read a considered article this week about the nearly 30 years ago layers of negotiation between the IRA and Sinn Fein, MI5, MI6, the government of the day and the back channel. I learned that the violence continued at the hands of the IRA while negotiation was pursued through the political wing (Sinn Fein) and that too took place on several different levels. I could never do that. My brain wouldn’t hold it.
Over time, I coined phrases for myself “When in doubt, don’t” and “Be tempted – don’t fall”. Discretion is never a mistake for anything important. The wife of a much younger couple who briefly lived locally invited me to walk with her and the baby in the park, in the midst of which she said quietly “I so appreciate that you never ask about what Robert (not his name) does.” It’s the only time I used the phrase “high security clearance.”
We both drew breath and went on talking about what we were reading. They moved a couple of months later.
I am as short tempered as anybody else and I think I am getting worse but I accept that my response to being unable to move as I want, or get on, is self interested and ignorant. I don’t know what’s going on with other people. Sometimes I guess and I am right, sometimes I am told – but without these two options,
I just don’t know.