A poll of 2,000 adults found that people are having fewer interactions with neighbours than they did during the pandemic. The Independent, 4 October 2023
One of our neighbours died last week. We didn’t know his name until that point. We used to call him Hedgehog or Hedgie after the night we had to pull him out of our front privet. He’d come home drunk, fallen into it and couldn’t get himself back on his feet. Also, Hedgie had a prickly personality. Always complaining. I think that’s one reason we never took the trouble to find out his real name.
The other reason is that we couldn’t give a shit. My wife would no doubt contest that statement. She still likes to believe that we’re the caring, sharing type of neighbour everybody loves to live beside. Caring, sharing my arse.
The bottom line is, we didn’t care enough to find out Hedgie’s real name. I’ve been thinking a lot about this since he passed on, and I’m sure I’m right. It’s not an isolated example of our neighbourly indifference, you see. We have form.
The young couple next door had a baby recently and we never even noticed she was pregnant. It happened during the winter months. It was often dark and she wears a big coat, but even so. Also, I should probably wear my specs more than I do.
She’d been to the door a couple of times to collect parcels, but she never said. Fair enough, it probably isn’t the kind of thing a young woman throws into the conversation when she’s collecting a parcel. Especially when the door’s opened by her older, male neighbour who looks like he hasn’t shaved, showered or brushed his teeth in quite some time.
I felt bad when I found out about the pregnancy because I’d let her carry the parcels back to her house. Some quite heavy ones, too. Normally, I’d have offered to carry them, but those particular days I had my slippers on and the ground was wet.
I think it was wet. Actually, I don’t know if it was wet. It might’ve been bone dry. Like I said, I should probably wear my specs more often.
I generally don’t shave, shower or brush my teeth until sometime in the afternoon. Usually, it’s after I come back from my bike ride. If I don’t get out on the bike, the deadline shifts until just before my wife’s due home. Just wanted to clear that up.
Eileen and Paul
The couple across the road, let’s call them Eileen and Paul. They lived across from us for the best part of ten years. We weren’t big mates. Just the odd wave or shout across the street if our paths crossed. One evening, I knocked on their front door to tell them that the front passenger window of their car was down and the rain was getting in.
Eileen rolled her eyes and cursed her own forgetfulness. ‘I can’t even blame Paul for that anymore,’ she said. She must’ve noticed the blank expression on my face. ‘We separated. He moved out. About a year ago.’
What can I say? They split up during the winter months. It was dark. I don't wear my specs often enough.
Here's the clincher. The worst part of that story isn’t that I hadn’t noticed my neighbour’s disappearance from the street. The worst part is that I've called them Eileen and Paul because I never knew their real names.
My wife and I used to refer to them as The Ones Across the Road. She moved out about a year after that little interaction. Not my wife, Eileen. Or rather, ‘Eileen’. Can’t say I was sorry to see her go. Things had got a little frosty between us.
That was about three years ago, and there’s a new couple in there now. We call them The New Ones Across the Road. I don’t have a story about them. We haven’t spoken yet.
All this is why I think my wife and I aren’t very neighbourly. Is it more than that? Are we antisocial? When it comes to neighbours, the answer is probably yes. We keep ourselves to ourselves.
The only neighbour who occasionally passes through our front door is the guy from number ten. He calls in to feed the cat when we’re away. Sometimes he comes round to borrow my stepladder. He’s my brother, though, so maybe he doesn’t count.
Does the realisation that we’re antisocial bother me? Apparently not. If it did, I’m sure I would’ve done something about it by now. I’m not saying that I’m rude. If I pass someone on the street I say hello, comment on the weather, as you do. Sometimes, admittedly, I walk past people I should greet without acknowledging them but that’s not deliberate.
It usually happens in winter.
When it’s dark.
I should definitely wear my specs more often.