Neighbourhood watch

11 Jun


Our relationship with our next door neighbour is becoming increasingly odd. I suppose I should preface this by saying that all relationships with next door neighbours seem odd to me – I am the archetypal self-contained Londoner who has lived in places for YEARS without so much as setting eyes on the people living around me, let alone borrowing a cup of sugar or whatever it is you’re supposed to do in order to break the ice.

I just don’t get it. Before marriage i managed to not meet a single person in the vicinity of my west London batchelorette pad despite living there for 3 years, much to the astonishment of my new flatmate when she moved in around a year after me. I thought I’d have to scrape her eyebrows off the ceiling when she asked me what the neighbours were like and I told her in all honesty that I had no idea.

At that time I hadn’t met the landlord either. My entire tenancy agreement had been conducted over the Gumtree website and then by email. The only thing I knew about him was that his wife called him Nibbles, because that was how she had summoned him to the phone when we had eventually been forced to speak over some flat-related issue. That suited Nibbles and I just fine – from his point of view even that was, understandably, a little bit TMI.

When The Husband and I moved into our house in Dorset our neighbour already had a key, as the previous occupants were often away. We decided – inexplicably – to continue that arrangement, just in case both our keys spontaneously combusted one day, or more likely, we lost them. It was one of those things you find out and then instantly forget, like where you left your glasses or how many sugars a guest takes in their tea.

Until we went away for a long weekend (without telling our neighbour, why would we?) and came home to find our post neatly piled on the kitchen table, no mean feat as the table is a good 5 metres from the front door and in another room. Freaky. Weeks later we heard – via someone else – that our neighbour had popped in uninvited to check on our pets. We had not asked her to do this – we had made our own provisions for them and we hadn’t even told her we were going away. We now have the key back.

She is always telling people that she never sees us but I’m beginning to think it’s more likely that WE don’t see HER. The other week The Husband was working from home, with windows open, when he heard something trundling loudly up the drive way. He went to investigate only to find her moving our wheelie bin from the road and right into the back garden, less than an hour after the dustcart had emptied it. She left it right outside the window of the room in which he was working… Without saying a word (i know, we need a garden gate).

She is also exceptionally fond of my (non-local) mother, to the extent that when she does see me her first words are regularly “how’s mum?” like we are some sort of strange sisterhood which bridges generational divides.

This week she succeeded in taking her neighbourly weirdness to a whole new level. I had a home visit from one of the community midwives, a normal (ok, as normal as it gets around here, see previous post), just-checking-in type appointment. When my partner and I opened the front door to let the midwife out, the neighbour was standing right by the wall which separates our drive from her front garden, obviously craning her neck to try to see into the house (or more likely hear through the open windows, as the glass itself is frosted).

We all stared at her. “Would you mind if I trim back the shrubbery that’s on your side of the wall?” she asked eventually. There is indeed a shrub that comes over the wall from her garden. A shrub I had trimmed right back 4 days previously. It was blatantly obvious that I had done this because it grows in the exact spot where she was standing. If I hadn’t done it, she wouldn’t have been able to see us at all (damn my green fingers).

I was speechless for a moment. The midwife said goodbye and practically sprinted to her car. At this point the neighbour pointed at her and said to me “have you been a good girl?”

“Have I been a… a what?” I faltered, stunned.

“A good girl,” she repeated sternly, like this whole excruciating scenario was somehow my fault.

“um… yes, everything is fine, thank you,” I said with the stiffest upper lip I could muster before slamming the door.

And that, in my opinion, is precisely why neighbours are best left alone. By the time you find put that they are quite clearly bonkers, it’s too late….


5 Responses to “Neighbourhood watch”

  1. almost witty June 11, 2011 at 5:35 pm #

    One of my Cardiff neighbours accused me of leaving the rubbish in the wrong place. To deduce this, it turned out she had gone through said rubbish… having said that, my London neighbours are great. Even the alcoholic naked sunbather one downstairs…

    • zskdorset June 11, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

      If I’d had nude alcoholic neighbours in London perhaps I would have paid more attention to them! But wait… In Wales they went through your bin – I thought that was illegal…..??

      • almost witty June 14, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

        It is. But that doesn’t stop certain kinds of people, shall we say…

  2. zskdorset June 14, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    I trust you deliberately left strange things in there for them to find.


  1. Mission: Impossible « Zsk's Blog - January 16, 2012

    […] While all this was happening the locksmith spent two hours doing battle with our locks in vain, keeping me up to date on the phone (5% battery). He was essentially on his own outside our house hacking away at the street door for most of that time. Interestingly, nobody called the police but hey, I have already told you our neighbours are a bit mad. […]

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