Note Number 3. Neighbours, Everybody Needs Good Neighbours…

Neighbours 
Click on the link above and hear the title song

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…That’s When Good Neighbours Become Good Friends…

I’ve moved a good few times in my life and therefore I feel qualified to write about neighbours because over a period of greater than sixty years I’ve had a variety of them. Some I remember with fondness, some with exasperation and some with a mild sense of distaste in my mouth but on the whole they have been a pretty good cross section of society.

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Our Row of Little Cottages

Right now, we have the most splendid people living in our small terrace of three cottages and the farm opposite and of course the lady in the big house…
Last night we were treated to the most wonderful dinner party at the end terrace. Eight of us round the table; our two lovely neighbours, three of their family members and a friend. The food was bloody marvellous, well the lady that cooked it was a professional chef so we felt quite spoilt. The South African wine was delicious and the company exhilarating. How lucky are we? These neighbours are friendly, helpful can’t do enough for us but at the same time are not knocking on the door every five minutes…well not most days anyway. I feel blessed to have met them. Must ask for that potato dauphinoise recipe it was fabulous…

The people in the middle terrace are a young couple with two small boys but it’s a holiday place so they’re not here all the time but when they have been around they’ve proved to be excellent neighbours. The farmer and his wife are friendly and welcoming but extremely busy. I had forgotten how hard a farmer’s life can be and all for very little reward. Twenty-four seven, all year round. The cows always have to be milked even when it’s Christmas. I suppose I should be a good neighbour and offer to help but…

As for the lady in the big house…well she’s no problem at all…except, you’d want her on your side in any dispute!

In my late 20s with two young children I found myself homeless and a single parent. I ended up on a pretty rough Council estate in Weston Super Mare and for the first week I was devastated. But, life throws shit at you and you have to get on with it. I was given a maisonette and below us lived an old lady who could not have been sweeter to my son and daughter, they were about six and three years old at the time…we can count her as a good neighbour. But best of all was a young mum who lived with her husband and young baby in a house a few doors away. She became one of the closest friends I was every to have. She made my stay on the estate bearable and helped me see all the good things that were happening in my life. We had a good laugh, we cared for each other and we learned from each other. I could not have got through some of the bad times without her. Things were rough, money tight but she stopped me from hitting rock bottom. The sad thing is, this wonderful woman developed a non-malignant tumour that was wrapped around the top of her spinal chord. It was not possible to operate. An intolerable situation. She became paralysed and died quite quickly in her early thirties, leaving behind her husband and two daughters. What a loss. My beautiful neighbour, I think about her often and will go on missing her forever.

Now for a bad neighbour- I’ve had a few but I’m going to tell you about one we had in Italy. She was in her eighties and had lived at the house next door FOREVER…I could understand her coolness at having foreigners move in. I could have done so much to help her, shopping, cleaning etc., but she would not consider any friendly offer. She even called in the Carabinieri when we were doing some work in the garden and halted the proceedings saying that we had taken half a metre of her land. The powers that be came to measure and said, ‘Yes you have taken a little, it’s not too clear but in any case she has taken a metre and a half over your boundary at the top there.’
‘What should we do about it?’ I asked.
A shrug of the shoulders and he said, ‘Nothing, she’ll be dead soon.’
We were allowed to carry on with the work but she was such a nasty neighbour she pulled up our plants and stole some big stones that we had set out as ‘garden art’ and proceeded to bash them up in her own garden. Very strange. The Man thought she was practising some kind of voodoo…I must admit she was very thin and scrawny and little bit witch-like. She swore at us in Italian in a very high pitched voice and The Man would swear back in English, she couldn’t possibly understand. She did die – eventually but not until six years had been spent spying on us from her window and we’re sure, putting spells on us…creepy. We asked the family who sold us the house whether she’d always been a meany. ‘Oh yes,’ he said, ‘She had a row with my grandmother and since then has always been really nasty to all of us and I suppose she’s just carrying on the feud with you.’ Thanks for not telling us before we bought the house Giacamino…Italians eh? Family feuds eh? Fortunately, she wasn’t able to actually enter our house so nothing nasty found in the bed…that episode in The Godfather brings a whole new meaning to the word ‘neigh(bour)’ hmmm…

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Another good neighbour lived (and still does) in a small house at the bottom of our rather long driveway where we lived in West Buckland. She was a teacher in the local primary school, Filleigh. When we first arrived, Thomas was six and the twins were three…she was brilliant with them. The boys were always knocking on the door or more likely barging in, and she never turned them away. She welcomed them and taught them so many wonderful things about animals and plants. There were always tadpoles and frogspawn in the spring, flowers in the summer…she made these lovely sweet, battered, deep fried elderflowers. She had cats and dogs and she loved children and animals. Her mission in life was to educate, in the best possible way. She was an outstanding teacher and not just in school. The boys adored her for all the ten years we lived there and still speak fondly of her now. You know who you are – Julie.

I could mention more neighbours but I’m saving those for my memoirs…

Those of you who know me will recognise that the song quoted in my title today was written by my bro Tony Hatch.

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