Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Being neighbourly ~

This morning I found out that Harry is off work on Accident Compensation. He's been having trouble with the carpal tunnels in his wrists which is expected to require surgery. Even holding a cup makes his hands tingle, which is a big worry and hugely limiting.

Harry has never sought us out socially but can be quite chatty if we happen to meet outside. Most of his front teeth are missing which you forget after about the first five minutes, and although he is very much a plain dresser and a no-frills man he has been at pains to let me know that he is most particular about keeping his place just so.

He has a cat called Rex, of some 14 years, who reflects his character to some degree. Rex allows us a nodding acquaintance but makes it clear he doesn't look for anything more! I always chat to Rex when I see him around the place, and sometimes he will give me the time of day but usually he turns his ears sideways, from which I can tell that he's heard me, and keeps his nose pointing straight ahead as he continues on his way without pausing. Although Harry often volunteers conversation there is a certain angular dourness about both of them.

When Harry shared his news with Rewi this morning, Rewi remarked that Rex would be pleased to have him at home more. "Don't know about that" Harry responded. "Have you asked him", Rewi teased. No, he hadn't, Harry replied no doubt with a glimmer of a smile but certainly nothing more. He expressed similar reserve when remarking on his daughter Shelley's move back home. She had chucked her job as a nanny on an inland farm - too much expected for too little, and so on and so on. I know he's very fond of her from comments he's made on earlier occasions, but perhaps the prospect of her undiluted company was a bit of a damper. Anyway, both pieces of news accounted for more than the usual coming and going of late.

I can't imagine how Harry will occupy himself. He's a practical man and a hard worker. Some months ago when business slowed his hours dropped from full-time to sometimes full-time and sometimes not and he was at a distinctly loose end: on one Saturday when he'd been home since Thursday he remarked that he'd done all he wanted to "Yesterday". I found this staggering and was quite envious (briefly) as I've always got dozens of projects which I struggle to get around, quite apart from the ordinary domestic commitments. How different we all are!

In the neighbouring unit where Margaret lives with her two teenage sons there has also been drama but of quite a different sort: they came to live here the best part of a year ago after Margaret's marriage broke up and they've been waiting for the family home to be sold. Well, it's just sold, so I expect she's already looking for a new place and we'll have the prospect of new tenants before Christmas. We will all be crossing our fingers that the next people will be as easy to have next door. ...I already am!

The previous occupants, a couple with two children, were a disaster zone - regularly at war with each other and the woman particularly volatile. As tensions mounted she got in the habit of shouting abuse at both the landlord and landlady as well as her partner, and when they finally moved out left a horrendous mess and an eye-opening quantity of unpaid rent. Amazing how the blame for who's responsible can shift around!

In contrast we've hardly known that Margaret and the boys have been there, apart from the occasional blast of loud music which Kerry, the younger of the two, says is always his brother's. One time when I was out in the garden Bart, the elder boy, was vacuuming his car out with the car stereo going full bore. Since his taste in music didn't chime with mine, I went over to ask him to turn it down. He could see me but not hear, so I put my hands up to my ears. He turned the sound down so we could talk. Was the music too loud? he asked politely. Yes it was rather and would he mind turning it down a bit, I asked. No problem. Which demonstrates the value of knowing people, even if only superficially.

This afternoon when we walked down to the shops Rewi drew my attention to children calling out, and we crossed back over the road to see the young girls who used to live next door. I often used to have them over to do various art and craft activities, so we'd been good friends before they moved away and I hadn't seen them for months. I'd been quite resentful about that actually and felt dumped. All that time and effort I'd given them and they'd never bothered to keep in touch. However, a day or so ago I'd overcome my annoyance enough to e-mail their parents about a cat which has been hanging about which I thought might have been one of theirs. They responded that it wasn't which I was pleased to rule out as a possibility and now today I'd met them on the street.

It's odd the way these things happen. I'd been so resentful yet when they'd sent me a cheery e-mail it started a thaw, and when I saw them today all that melted as we greeted each other with real pleasure. I'm not good at letting go. Today I was careful not to talk for more than a few minutes before saying goodbye, and I didn't reiterate my invitation for them to come around. They know where I am and I don't want to be a doormat - or to get hurt again. And I'm sure they don't mean to hurt me. It's just the way things are sometimes.

So lots has been going on. It's good to know people, and to be known, a little bit anyway.

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