Everyone Needs Good Neighbours.
It had not even been a very good joke, and to see someone in their early forties with sunbed-brown skin and a ‘wet-look’ black perm laughing like a twelve-year-old with a crush on her English teacher at one of your not-actually-funny jokes is not terribly pleasant.
But we’ll get back to this.
Our current house is not terribly unpleasant.
So far as I can see.
It has the correct number of walls and the roof has remained attached for two years. We have gas, electric and, briefly, telephone. It is a pleasant street, six-year old boys complain to me as I collect my daughter from school that the Fire Engines woke them up, we like our neighbours on our left and LOVE our empty-house-no-neighbour scenario on our right. This ticks all the boxes to my mind.
Tired Mam believes that it is akin to the Amytiville Horror. That is her concern.
It was not always thus. We had different left-hand neighbours once.
Oh dear God. Where do I start?
I am playing in the backyard (a proper northern-England terrace, mind. Built for miners. No luxuries like back gardens) with Favourite Son. He is only a few months old. He cannot even crawl.
A football comes sailing over the wall from said neighbours’ yard and narrowly misses FS’s skull. That does not even have bone at the top of it.
I furiously yank open gate to back street and address next-door kids:
Me: Look [Brandish child] He doesn’t even have bone at the top of his head. I don’t mind you having a kick-about. Just do it a bit further down the street. He is out here a lot.
Two months after this conversation. I have eleven confiscated footballs in my outhouse. Eleven. I had tried being reasonable. I wonder. As a mother (a single mother, so money must have been an issue), when you bought the tenth football you must have been thinking about cost.
The joy of realising I am The Grumpy Guy On The Street Who Won’t Give Balls Back is tempered by the hours in which Neighbours Children are In Their House.
I know. I have two children under the age of five myself and they are bloody NOISY. Not like these fucked-up little cunts though. Jesus. I don’t know what the Nazis heard when they gassed all those kids, but it can’t have been as bad as this shit. For three solid fucking hours. Every night. I’ve never heard so much screaming and hammering on walls in my life.
It relents at about 10 o’clock. Ten. I know the age of these kids. Ten is too late. No wonder they’re hyper. Whatever.
This brief respite is then replaced by the soothing sounds of ‘Bat Out Of Hell’ at volume turned to ‘eleven’. Or the greatest hits of Olivia Newton John. I do not know which is worse.
After three occasions of knocking on neighbours door at eleven-thirty at night and explaining the non-sleeping situation of all in my household, I resort to merely banging upon the wall.
Not activity for a civilised man but having seen the less-than-pleasant face of Next Door Neighbour, I am not anxious to ever see it again.
They move out, and all is well. I have more footballs than I know what to do with and do not have to listen to anyone’s dreadful records. New neighbours are perfectly pleasant.
I have some lime. But a sad lack of either vodka or indeed tonic.
The only off-licence now open is fifteen-minutes walk away. I hurry.
I get there in reasonable time.
Me: Smirnoff. 35cl. And some tonic water.
Woman: [I do not look at her] It’s two-for-one on tonic water.
Me: O.K. Lets go crazy.
She giggles. She is being coquettish, with her face like an unnaturally brown paving slab and her hair so tightly permed it resembles an unrealistically large number of pubes sprouting from her head.
She pretends not to remember that we were neighbours. She is doing a menial job.
I give her some money.
Whilst she simpers.