A Big Gulp – I Have a New Neighbour Arriving

Posted on November 29, 2011

I have a rather nervy next twenty-four hours or so as I await the arrival of what I think is a new neighbour, rather than new neighbours. As far as I can recall, it is a single lady in her fifties who is arriving, and whilst that indicates positive news, it is not necessarily the case as living in a semi detached house with walls constructed from tracing paper requires a lot of mutual tolerance, without it, all sorts of problems can develop. After ten years living in detached houses, adapting to a semi again has not always been plain sailing, I got an early telling off for playing my iPod too loud and I have, on occasion, been subjected to listening to a screaming infant and the marital issues confronting my soon to be departing young neighbours. However, for the 750 days or so that they have been next door, these incidents have been extremely rare and my relationship with them has alway been jovial and pleasant. They are nice people, I wish them luck.

I am hoping my new neighbour will be quiet, the signs are good, however, just because she is in her fifties, it is no certainty she will not be a pain in the arse as I have no idea of her background. The positive side of me has visions of her sat in her spectacles listening to the Today Programme on Radio 4 as she completes The Guardian crossword, whilst the negative side of me sees a neurotic breeder of Staffordshire Bull Terriers or a post-menopause domestic cat collector. It is common knowledge that an ageing single woman becomes more obsessed with our feline friends the closer she gets to being institutionalised as part of the mental health act. You must have seen it before on TV or in the newspapers, you know, when the RSPCA break in to a house to discover that some woman called Doris owned more than 500 cats that she allowed to defecate in the kitchen sink. God save me from that outcome.

Whilst I am nervous, I guess she is too, she must have seen that my front garden has never been visited by Alan Titchmarsh, and she is also probably aware I have two teenage sons and that I am divorced. Even though I am biased, my children are pretty decent lads on the whole, but she could have a picture in her minds eye of an out of control pair of feral scumbags from a broken home. When I think about it, the poor woman must be shitting enough bricks to build a new garden shed, I must visit her quite quickly to put her mind at rest……and to tell her I have a long term girlfriend…..I don’t want her getting the wrong idea, a bald 44 year old might seem quite attractive to a 57 year old who hasn’t had sex for several years. Then again, perhaps not. I think what I am going to do is act completely out of character and get a “Welcome to Your New Home” card and pop it through the door, hope for the best, and make myself scarce as one thing I really don’t want is one of those “can I borrow a cup of sugar” relationships. They are something I have avoided in the five properties I have lived in so far, despite some shocking near misses.

There is a real harsh lesson to be learnt with neighbours, and that is that when you cross that white line in to the zone the includes friendship and dinner parties, you are stepping in to dangerous territory. If a neighbour asks you for dinner, alarm bells should start ringing immediately, as this my dear readers, means that they are bereft of many friends and they seeking new ones…ALERT…ALERT…ALERT…DANGER AHEAD! In my first house, my ex-wife and I naively accepted an invite to a barbecue at our new neighbours house, what happened that night is etched into my brain as if it was yesterday. When we arrived, our host greeted us with a welcoming smile and a drink of something that resembled petrol; it obviously did the trick as our hostess (his wife) was so hideously drunk she could barely lift her head off the table to acknowledge our arrival. Her first words to my (ex) wife were, as she pointed accusingly at her husband……………”HE HAS HAD AN AFFAIR“. That was a bit of an ice breaker I can tell you, how on earth do you respond to that? “Really, that’s nice, was it worth it?……So, what break horse power has your Rover 45 got?”

As the evening progressed it didn’t get any better and our only hope of an exit strategy revolved around having to get George (who was 6 months old at the time) in to his cot. However, the little bugger was totally content and fast asleep in his buggy. This left me with one option……..child abuse! For those of you involved social services, it was just a gentle flick on the ear, but it was enough to do the job, George was really pissed off and let the whole neighbourhood know about his feelings, we had no choice but to cut the evening short to “get him settled.” A screaming baby has few advantages, but this was a credible one, and I am not ashamed to admit that I did not let the opportunity pass. We spent the next two years avoiding them, which is not easy with adjoining fences, but here’s a thing, and if you are young and naive, let this next sentence be a lesson to you…….listen up and listen good. I saw my neighbour and said hello in the pub one night and my friend Sean enquired how I knew him. It turned out that he was part of a large wife swapping syndicate, which all made sense, as various women appeared over the months ahead, but not any men, it appeared his wife was getting the shit end of the stick on this particular deal. Were we being groomed on the BBQ evening? Who knows?

So welcome to the neighbourhood Mrs/Miss Whoever, I will be nice to you, and if you are nice to me I will promise not to play The Clash in the early hours of the morning.

Just don’t invite me to a barbecue please!

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