Friday, 1 June 2007


The North East has a reputation as a very friendly place, and generally speaking, that's well deserved. Most Geordies are friendly. They'll help you if you're looking lost. I've been offered money for the bus by someone I'd never seen before who thought I was getting back off the bus because I had no money.

But strangely, the area I live in is quite the opposite. I know the woman who lives upstairs from me. I used to know the people who live next door but they moved, and I've not really met the new neighbours. Next door the other way and the lady opposite I know to say hi to, but I don't know their names. I've no idea about any of my other neighbours.

I want to say hi. I know all my parents' neighbours, they know what I'm up to. I could borrow the proverbial cup of sugar there. And I think it's a shame that I don't have the same thing here.

Walking down to the corner shop before with D, I heard a voice. I couldn't make out what it was saying or where it was coming from at first, but then it resolved itself into 'will you go to the shop for me?' I wasn't sure who was talking but as I quickly glanced round I spotted a face, a man with glasses. I asked D if he'd heard, if we should turn round and see what he wanted but we decided not to.

Meandering back up the road, I felt guilty. It transpired that D hadn't really been listening to me so hadn't understood what was going on. I decided that if he was still there, I'd ask if he still needed anything.

He was still there, sitting in his doorway in a wheelchair. 'Do you still need something from the shop?' I called. He looked at me. 'I wasn't listening properly before. I'll go back if you want.'

'Thank goodness' he said as I started up his drive. 'Can you get me a cheap lighter,'
he brandished his unlit cigarette, 'and a half bottle of whisky?' He thrust a £20 note at me.

I smiled. 'No problem' and turned back to the shop. I asked the girl behind the counter for what he'd ordered and the guy who owns the shop turned to me and smiled, asking if it was for the guy up the road. 'Yep' I grinned back.

A couple of minutes later I was back with his whisky, lighter and change, passed them on to him. He lit his cigarette with evident relief and I thought back to when I smoked, how frustrating it must be for him if noone stops by to help him. He thanked me and I started back up the road, reflecting on how hard it must be for people who have to rely on the kindness of passing strangers.

I feel better for interacting with one of my neighbours, minimal as it might have been. I've resolved to find out a little more about the neighbours I don't know. To make my street a friendlier place.

I've decided to start Rabbitwatch. I keep looking out for the rabbits every day now. Tonight, I didn't see any - there were people playing frisbee in the sunshine on the grass outside the Civic centre. But yesterday I saw eight. Three on the grass outside St Thomas's church and five outside the Civic. Five at least looked like baby bunnies; I guess they're breeding like... well... bunnies.

I'll try and remember to take my camera and get a picture one day next week.


Alda said...

What a great story about the old guy and the whisky.

I know what you mean about neighbours. I've recently made friends with my neighbour across the hall (after living across from her for four years) and it's really nice. I've never really had that before - probably because I was afraid to make friends or become 'too involved' with my neighbours.

PS. I'll mail you some questions. :)

b said...

Thanks Alda :)