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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ACT YOUR AGE. BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

On being ancient

My old age came a surprise to me. One week I was galloping up to London most Fridays to my partner in Greenwich, thence on to an event or two with intermittent parties. Then a few years ago I was diagnosed with incurable cancer of the lung and given seven months to live. I decided not to take the option of chemo treatment or dying. Instead, changed my diet, began juicing, continued with the Cranio Sacral treatment I had been having for some time. I did not change my lifestyle, though I did tell friends. Most told me about their own brushes with the dread disease – also the deaths of course.

Then I met Yae who also had a tumour and had decided against the treatment offered by the doctors. she was inspirational, her philosophy unique.  She practised Shiatsu & I visited her in Sevenoaks weekly and she visited me for my treatments. Her philosophy was at least as important to me as the treatments and I began to feel unworried about my tumour who I called Tubby, I talked to him regularly, I still do. He has graciously remained the same size. I rarely thought about cancer. I changed my attitude to death, began to regard it as another event of life, I was not unhappy with my life, I was having fun and saw no reason to stop.I didn’t want to become a ‘patient’ in spite of being sent a nice nurse from a charity. She disappeared after a few months when I didn’t obediently deteriorate .

Then my hands swelled up and woke me in the night, weeping with pain, diagnosed as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. No big deal but I live alone all week and was amazed and frustrated by being unable to drive or text, opening cans, windows, and using my computer was nearly impossible. My fingers had small pillows fat enough to cover two keys at a time on all devices. Tablets, all tucked snugly in metal trays, and had to be poked out with a pointed knife requiring reading glasses and a great deal of time. All an aggravation but alarming as I thought it was cancer related. I went to see my doctor. She sympathised but didn’t know what it was.  Forunately a friend had identical symptoms, and I realised it was Carpel Tunne Syndrome – no big deal. I went for tests . I  had an operation on one hand, no perceptible improvement.  I must say here that my doctor has always been supportive although at the back of her mind lurked the idea that being a ‘woman of my age’ I have a responsibility to become a daytime TV watching turnip type person who has no need of stimulation at all. She feels, perhaps that enjoying life is dangerous after a certain age. My lovely nurse indulges me as if I was a precocious child but does at least have a nice ribald sense of humour. The helpers, who come to fix things, coo at me in melodious tones call me ‘dear’ a lot. They tell me that most old people expect and like this approach. I respond with my dockers vocabulary, worth it for the looks on their faces, but I regret it, feel ungrateful.

Gratitude is vital when you are old, fine but in return I want respect.  I don’t know any of these compliant old people; most of my friends are as cantankerous as me. There seems to be a kind of conspiracy to infantilise us, I expect it is more comfortable that way. I find this approach annoying and I will try never to succumb to a nice old lady mode, a quiet life is not something I have ever aspired to and I don’t think I will start now.

On re-reading this I find it illustrates both my non- acceptance of my age & a feeling that my way is the only way, it is not. It is the only way for me. What I am against is the assumption that we ancients should change into what is to convenient to be the correct mode for our age. I resent being expected to adopt this stereotype foisted upon us ancients. We are all unique, please don’t underestimate us. WE BITE!

Don’t assume we become a different species. Our needs are not all similar any more than are we, any more than all teenagers are the same, or any other age group. besides which ‘old’ covers a great swathe of people of all kinds. I do not relish being told that I am in better shape than most eighty year olds. This is irrelevant!

 

 

 

 

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Tubby,Me,& our CANCER

So glad that Tubby turned up trumps!  He is clearly a shrewd tumour & has come to realise that we have a future together he has chosen to remain sensibly small. I am not sure if my constant reminders that we live or die together has caused this choice or perhaps it’s familiarity that has bred content, we are very close.

I had four scans before Christmas brought on by some new symptoms which I feared  was cancer related. It was not, it is a whole new panoply of experience. All very painful. The entire time I have been diagnosed with cancer I have had no pain at all, now I do, but. I was able to have a merry Christmas, interspersed with moments of profound naked terror, & I was glad to go back to the hospital so soon.

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MORE FOR WE CRUMBLIES

I am not recommending that we oldies should be armed, necessarily, but having endured two rush hour experiences  at Waterloo I am tempted to recommend just that. And let’s get this clear: I am no little old lady. I see myself rather as a vintage model of womanhood of medium size and remarkable confidence. And as rush hour appears to begin at 3pm, reach a crescendo around 5pm that carries on until 7pm when it tails off, it is likely that any old dodderer will encounter this horror at some stage in their remaining life.

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I Love Glorious Norway

I had never longed to go on a cruise. I had heard about sitting at the captain’s table in evening dress,and the thought appalled me. Besides which it was posh a few years ago, & expensive so that precluded the very idea. Then came the vast liners that look like blocks of flats tottering along in the Solent. Unbalanced ugly edifices that give out huge amounts of damaging pollution apparently. Also I am sure I would get lost on board & can visualise myself wandering forever from deck to deck along gangways – a kind of modern ancient mariner, only a passenger. Then I went to Bilbao on the way to a few days break and that was a nightmare of booze fuelled people & hideous noise. Though I have definitely taken part in booze fuelled adventures in the past I found the limited escape routes a worry. This further put me off the idea of a cruise but I longed to see the Fjords.I asked around among friends of like mind. People I know had enjoyed this cruise and recommended the experience. The answer is to go on a small ship, if you can call just under nine hundred passengers small, and you can. So the decision was made. In part because one friend told me the food is wonderful and the Braemar sailed from Southampton so no airport is involved. The very thought of a large airport scares me, with my propensity for getting lost I always fear I may get on the wrong aircraft or finish up without my luggage in a strange country. Paranoia plays a part in many of my life choices.

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