MY NEIGHBOURS

I have been blessed with a variety of neighbours in my 35 years in this house, as one would expect. I have enjoyed them all in various ways.

When we moved here, my male partner & I came from living in a squat nearby & on to a bed sit. Freezing in winter, high ceiling, one – bar electric fire which we would fight about who got up of bed to turn the puny thing on. Also two lovely Nigerian students lived in another part of the house who gave parties most weekends or joined us in our room to drink & talk so not without its charm. Just chilly.

I cashed in an insurance policy, worked for a year at Fords factory & became a home owner Our neighbours were English & would regale us with tales of the fifties when everybody had their gardens all neat & everybody was white. They were tolerant of our loud shenanigans & good neighbours. I baited them mercilessly about their racism, I regret this now, they felt they were displaced but were kind people & I was intolerant. After they died the house was bought by an Iranian guy who keeps it in better nick than do most landlords. Since then we have had a variety of tenants of many races, all of whom I have enjoyed to various degrees.

One family from Afghanistan began with four daughters; by the time they went there were also two sons. I became great friends with the girls who shared their Jackie Wilson books with me, & discussed the stories (fortunately I loved them.) They showed me their homework and explained about Haram in my diet & habits. The second daughter was incredibly bright & a talented writer at twelve. She had arrived when she was 8 I think. English was her second, or third language & she must have worked incredibly hard.My favourite was Nadia who was bullied by sister number 3.The mother sang around the house all day & I went to congratulate her when the new babies arrived but she never learned to speak English, her daughters translated how clever I thought she was! They all laughed. I was sorry to see them move on.Her dad brought her to visit after they moved out.

The next group was multi-cultural with a large white bull terrier, we fell in love immediately & she would scale the fence to lick me vigorously. I did not object. The mum was a small loud woman who I liked instantly – her 2 white sons, not so much. Her Nigerian husband was OK I thought, until I saw him kick the dog, & the babies they produced were charming . The two middle sons were awful & invasive.  One good result: all the neighbours put up nice high fences against the dog:  Keisse. The eldest son, a handsome mixed race young man, I suspect, availed himself of hundreds of pounds of my wi-fi at the weekend when I was in London I had no password. I rectified this mistake & Plus Net were mercifully kind & let me off half the total, one of the few benefits of old lady status .The mum swore she knew nothing about this venture, I believe her, why not? I had some lovely conversations with the mum & like her enormously but didn’t visit after Keisse was put down after savaging small animals, not her fault but once we  my female partner took her walkies , a terrifying experience, a natural attack dog. Made by frustration of never being taken out, dog abuse really, not the mum’s fault, they should never have had a dog. They did a moonlight but came back to give me their number. I saw her in the doctors’ & we were both delighted but I didn’t visit her.  A shame as she was excellent company & very funny. Cowardice on my part.

Then came the Syrians, the mum very beautiful & made intriguing phone calls from my phone a few times. ‘I don’t want my husband or kids to know’ she said, & endeared herself to me instantly. He was a handsome guy a taxi driver who worked mostly in London they had two boys & a girl who I called the rabbit girl. Her dad asked me if I minded if she had pet rabbits. I was enthused, I like rabbits. I had forgotten the proclivities of the rabbit & it began well, she would cuddle them & let me hold them too. They were sweet warm little creatures & a  delight to hold. Then they began to multiply & soon they were a tribe. I came back from London after the weekend & my patio was denuded. The woman next door on the other side has artificial grass but was complaining bitterly & held me responsible, she threatened death & destruction, and they were irritating her dog & crapping on the plastic grass. Then the next door down got involved, waving his nice dreadlocks & threatening poison. I told the guy next door to keep them under control in a  run or something & this worked for a day or two then they escaped & wreaked more havoc. Fortunately most of gardens are given over to concrete but next door & the next house were frenzied with rage that was out of all proportion & the next time I came home there were dead rabbits  in the rabbit girls’ garden & a dying one under the table in my garden. I called the RSPCA who removed all rabbits two of whom were adopted by a friend of mine & who featured on Facebook. I was the villain of the piece & the small girl never spoke to me again. Rabbits will be rabbits!

The Syrians disappeared one weekend & then the house was empty & all was quiet, except for workmen bringing the house up to scratch & further profit. I was not expecting the ten Polish people who moved in next. They are very clean & their garden is full of clothes lines mostly full. There are two women among them. One of them is friendly & her daughter is too. Mostly they ignore me but they are pervasive. All of the East European people are quite rigorous about not smoking indoors, they gather in noisy crowds outside adjacent to my kitchen though there is a high wall separating us. I watch the tops of their heads as they go to the outside toilet or out to the garden, all shorn or bald & one is taller so I can see his face. Sometimes they gather in front of the house chatting & smoking under my bedroom window but they stopped chucking cans & lighted fags over my wall upon my request! I am not sure if it is the male testosterone that wafts over the wall, along with sound effects from the lavatory or their vibrant chatting & bursts of laughter that annoy me, but I do hope to grow to love them. Even when they take their mobile phone to the garden & bawl loudly enough to be heard in the next street. Perhaps it is the fact that they ignore me that annoys me, they provide no entertainment.

I am a watcher & love to see the Somali women gliding by as if they are on wheels, graceful Sikhs & Muslims. I like the sounds from the mosque & sight of one woman pushing a pram with both hands & her phone tucked into her Hijab. I feel very safe among these people who smile at me & are friendly. The fact that I am gay is part of my wanting to feel accepted I think though I don’t know why.

Just after I wrote this on a Sunday morning I went to the front door to see a portly middle aged guy in his shorts & tee-shirt stuff something in the gaping wheelie bin then put his finger to one nostril & blow his nose vigorously so it is not all beauty! The sights are various.

PS

One of my neighbour families have been very good friends to me, marvellous in fact. Since I was diagnosed with cancer they have brought me food every day, helped me round the house, given me lifts to hospital & made me feel supported. They are Muslim from Pakistan & go to the Mosque opposite my house. Their children are great & the eldest is incredibly bright, loves study & is determined to become a surgeon, she will make it, unless she changes her mind & becomes a world leader! She is serious & we have great conversations, no small talk as she looks solemnly from under her headscarf.  I like her enormously, so different to my lazy, disruptive self when her age. Her sister is very different, with a naughty way about her but fun to be with. Her brother is gorgeous & they fight for the computer, a lot. They are very special. I have never experienced such incredible kindness from anybody or the acceptance, thanks!

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