Valencia had had enough. It rained and rained and rained. She wasn’t too worried about the Bloxham family, the neighbours on the left hand side; she was more concerned about Janet on the other side of the road. Janet lived alone, and with total lockdown demanded by the government, there really was no way that Valencia could check on Janet.
In the end Valencia could take it no longer. She had obeyed the lockdown orders for two months now. She left her house, strode across the road, and knocked on Janet’s door. Janet answered.
“I was just checking to see if you were okay and if there was anything you needed,” said Valencia. Everything was fine, so Valencia returned home.
It can’t have been more than twenty minutes before the police arrived. The Bloxham’s next door had seen and reported. Their neighbour was wandering the neighbourhood indiscriminately. Valencia explained to the police that she had been checking on a neighbour. That was not good enough. Valencia was issued with a warning.
Valencia had had enough. It rained and rained and rained. She went into the kitchen, turned on the gas, and stuck her head in the oven.
I mean, what can one do? The next door neighbours have been very kind. When my little girl was ill and I had to spend a lot of time with her in the hospital, the neighbours came over and mowed my lawn. Wasn’t that kind? I am a keen gardener and my property is not exactly tiny, so the lawn takes over an hour to mow. But that was no trouble to Nadine and Todrick, and what a lovely surprise to get home and see the lawn all shipshape.
Now it’s the end of the harvest season and the shops haven’t messed around in putting the price of vegetables way up. Tomatoes especially are a hideous price. So I picked the last of my tomatoes just before the cold weather set in, and I’ve been ripening them in a turkey dish sitting in the sun on my dining table. When they are all ripe I’m going to put them in a bag and take them over to Nadine and Todrick’s by way of thanks.
At least, that was the plan. My mother came in to baby sit my little girl while I went job hunting. It’s almost impossible these days to be a parent and look for a job. Once a job is found it’s easier to settle into some sort of routine. But looking for a job is erratic and hit-and-miss.
Anyway, when I got home my mother had kindly cut the tomatoes up and had made a green tomato pickle. That was sweet of her, but the taste is atrocious. I couldn’t possibly give the neighbours a jar of this pickle so now I’m all at sixes and sevens as to how I should thank them for their kindness.
Oh thank goodness! There is a God after all! I have just heard that Todrick is in hospital and gravely ill. Nadine spends all her time at the hospital of course. It will give me the opportunity to mow their lawn.
Dermot’s neighbour had a pet goat. The goat kept jumping over the fence.
Dermot was an enthusiastic gardener. In fact, Dermot was famous throughout the land for the developing of new varieties of sweet peas. Each variety, both in colour and shape, would take several years. There were four of Dermot’s sweet pea varieties available in the shops. The most popular one was called Night Knight. It was a beautiful navy blue.
One time the neighbour’s goat got over the fence and nibbled on one of Dermot’s sweet peas. It put back the development of that variety of sweet pea by several months. Luckily Dermot caught the goat in time, but he gave a warning to the neighbour.
“I earn my living growing sweet peas, so please ensure your goat stays on your side of the fence.”
Anyway, I forgot to mention; Dermot’s wife is an excellent cook. Tonight they’re having grilled goat chops with garlic, oregano and lemon.
Ghislaine’s next-door neighbour was Clotilde. To be honest, the boundary fence was way too close to Ghislaine’s house. It was only two or three steps away from Ghislaine’s sitting room window. Ghislaine planted some sunflowers in the space between in order to give a little privacy.
This worried Clotilde, not because it stopped her from looking into Ghislaine’s sitting room (she didn’t care about that) but because she loathed sunflowers. There was a good reason for this loathing. When she was seven years old her little sister had died and her parents put sunflowers on the coffin during the funeral. Sunflowers had become the unhappiest of flowers.
It’s not as if Ghislaine and Clotilde were enemies. They didn’t dislike each other at all. In fact, when the sunflowers weren’t there, Ghislaine and Clotilde would chat over the fence quite amiably. Clotilde decided to visit Ghislaine and tell her of her sunflower predicament.
Ghislaine understood perfectly. “Goodness!” she said. “I had no idea.” She pulled the sunflowers out at the height of their beauty despite Clotilde saying she would live with them for the season.
They reached a compromise; they bought a high trellis and together planted a beautiful yellow climbing rose. It was the perfect solution and gorgeous to behold!
This mutual and amiable conciliation reminds us all (surely) of today’s politicians.
You’ve no idea the trouble Ivy went to, to get twelve lovely photographs of the wonderful family who lived next door. There were five in the Winchcombe Family: Mum, Dad, and their three beautiful daughters. The Winchcombes were about as ideal next door neighbours as one could hope for. And every Christmas they would bring Ivy a basket of the tastiest homemade shortbread possible. Glorious!
The trouble was that Ivy always had trouble knowing what best to give them in return. She’d done chocolates at least five times. And then she got this idea. Wonderful!
She would get a calendar printed with a different family photograph each month of the year. Ivy started early gathering the photographs together. It was a difficult task because she didn’t want to let her secret out. The photos were perfect. There was a beautiful one of the family gathering mushrooms in a green field. Another shot was of the family at a fair ground. The loveliest photograph of all was an official portrait taken of the family sitting on a rug in front of a lake. With swans. And trees. And flowers. And… oh lovely! Just lovely!
Ivy was so pleased with the calendar when it was finished that she couldn’t wait to give it to the family. But she must be patient. She mustn’t jump the gun. Only a week to go!
And then the three girls called in with a basket of Christmas shortbread and said that their parents were getting a divorce.
My name is Margot. I don’t think much of the new neighbours. For starters, they are foreigners and don’t fit well into the area. In fact they lower the tone of the suburb considerably. Not that I’ve anything against foreigners, but when people come to a country that is not theirs they should make some effort to fit in; meld into the surroundings. You’d think they would; that’s what rats do. Peacocks strut around, and when a peacock shows off and spreads its tail you can see its arsehole. These people strut around like they own the place.
The new neighbours, so I heard, are Antoinette and Leon from Beijing or somewhere. China anyway. You can tell these things even though they’ve taken Western names. I thought communists were meant to be not so well off, but you should see their three cars! And the house they live in (I presume they rent and don’t own, though why the landlord thinks it’s okay to rent to communists I have no idea) is one of the most lavish houses in our neighbourhood. And that’s saying something. They’ve got three young children. No wonder the world is overrun.
Here comes the one called Antoinette up my path now. Presumably she’s going to ask for a cup of noodles or something! Chop! Chop!
Ching Chong Chinaman Coming up my path I shall pretend to be foreign Just for a laugh.
“Hello. My name’s Antoinette. I’m the new neighbour. I thought I’d come over and introduce myself.”
“When you come from China?”
“When you come from China to dis place?”
“From China? I didn’t. My family have been here since 1824.”
Flora was true to her name. She had planted her large property in plants to attract butterflies and bees. When summer came there were flowers flowering and butterflies fluttering and bees buzzing. She planted shrubs to attract nectar-eating birds. Who needs wind chimes when choirs of bellbirds tinkle in the breeze? And to lie in bed a little longer in the early hours of a summer’s day and hear… the birds!… oh! the birds! The dawn chorus! It was a piece of heaven fallen from… heaven.
Flora’s new neighbour didn’t appreciate Flora’s slice of bliss. “Those bloody birds wake me up every morning. What a racket. As for the bees – I see you’ve put in a hive. Some people react to bee stings. The bees are a menace. And as for flowers, especially lilies, don’t you know people get hay fever from the pollen? I suggest you pull a few things out and start recognizing the needs of other people who live nearby.”
Flora didn’t flinch.
The neighbour’s property was empty and well sprayed. There wasn’t a weed in sight. For that matter, there wasn’t a plant in sight, not even a blade of grass. “We’re getting ready to put it all in concrete. It’s so much nicer, and easier to maintain, and we’ll charge only a few dollars for every kid who wants to play.”
Flora left her paradise for one and a half weeks to go on the Horticultural Society’s Grand Garden Tour. It was one of the highlights of her year. When she returned her garden was dead; no thriving nectar-producing trees, no bellbirds, no lilies, and butterflies, and bees. Even the hive sat silent. Flora asked the neighbour what had happened.
“I done nothing,” said the neighbour. “We’re putting our concrete backyard into a go-cart race track for the local kids. You could learn a trick or two from that as to how to be neighbourly. No bee stings. No hay fever. No bird poop all over the go cart track.”
The front of Melanie’s house was next to the road, but the back lawn had a different neighbour bordering each of the three sides.
Melanie had a little dog, of which she was most fond. It was a Pomeranian and its name was Pom-Pom. In fact, Melanie got on better with her dog than she did with the three bordering neighbours.
You’ve no idea, said Melanie, what Anita Jones is up to. Her husband’s corpse was still warm and she was out cavorting with another man. And then barely three weeks had passed and he’d moved in. Moved in! Anita Jones, I’m telling you this to your face. You’re a cheap harlot. That’s all. Cheap harlot! My Pom-Pom has more principles.
Herbie Davidson, said Melanie, is overweight and disgusting. He walks around in his back yard wearing only his underpants. He’s too fat to do that. He’s gross from top to toe. Nor has he any manners. Herbie Davidson, I’m telling you this to your face. You’re a grotesque, obese piece of lard. That’s all. Lazy lard! My Pom-Pom has more principles.
And as for you, Andy McAlister, we all know you watch porn. You sit at your computer half the night grovelling over it. I can see it through the window. I’ve a good mind to report you to the police, you filthy-minded pig. Andy McAlister, I’m telling you this to your face. You’re a dirty gutter rat. That’s it. Gutter rat! My Pom-Pom has more principles.
One day Melanie saw rat poison tablets scattered on her back lawn. Pom-Pom must have eaten one. It was dead.
This evening after work I’ve got my two grown-up kids coming around with their young families. We’ll cook a few things up on the barbeque to celebrate the occasion. What occasion? Well, it’s not much really, but I’ve lived in this same house on this same street for twenty years! I buried my husband from here!
Next door there’s a lady who lives alone although she’s not there very often. She’s from somewhere in Africa. She has three or four lemon trees. They’re absolutely laden with fruit, and occasionally when she’s not there, and I’ve a need, I go over and “borrow a lemon”. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.
My neighbours on the other side of me – I’m not sure what they do but a van advertising electrical supplies comes and goes, so I presume he’s an electrician or something. I think he and his wife have a couple of kids because I’ve seen her walk with the kids in the direction of the local school. They haven’t been here very long; about five years.
Across the road is a lady who seems to collect cats! She doesn’t seem to work but she’s out on the curb about ten times a day calling “Kitty! Kitty! Kitty!” Cats of all colours seem to come running. It’s sad really. Possibly the cats are the only thing in her life. People with that many cats must be lonely. I think.
Next to her is a fairly rowdy couple. They have a son who comes and goes with the music blasting in his car. He comes and goes at any hour of the day and night. The pulsating beat of the music drives me nuts, but fortunately he comes briefly and drives away again. I’m not sure if he lives there with his parents or not. At least I presume they’re his parents. Apparently they also have a daughter, but she’s in an institution for the-something-or-rathers.
As I say, I’ve been here twenty years now; the longest on the street I believe. I’ve been meaning to pop around and introduce myself.