Monday 7 June 2021

Our Neighbourhood

Today I went to my Italian class outdoors in a sunny spot and then very much enjoyed the walk through my neighbourhood back home. I contemplated the newer-built home that are larger than, but probably not better built than our own. We have a nicer view, too. We like our neighbours. We probably would like the other neighbours, a few streets over. 

It's not a bad neighbourhood, really. I wouldn't want to work in one of the nearby shops, mind you, and toolboxes occasionally go missing from the backs of vans. There was, of course, that stabbing and also that xenophobic attack on that Eastern European. A woman, clearly off her meds, stopped us on our way to the railway station the other day to complain that she couldn't get her meds. But it's not a bad neighbourhood, really. It's cautiously friendly. It doesn't put on airs. It abounds in small dogs and large children.  

Nevertheless, it's the kind of neighbourhood where, when I was about to hang up my regular uniform out on the clothesline, I knew my long, barely frilly black dress would startle the neighbours, and I had better put on leggings and a long white T-shirt instead. 

My T-shirt says "Phil. Theol. Hochschule Sankt Georgen Frankfurt am Main Seit 1929" which would shock the stuffing out of your average German trad, but the neighbours almost certainly don't read German, so no worries there. 

Leggings rate as modest dress for women in our neighbourhood, and I am probably really going out on a counter-cultural limb by wearing an ankle-length denim skirt 6 days out of 7. It just occurred to me that the neighbours might think I am off my meds when they see me wearing my navy blue French scout hat. (It is the only wide-brim hat that actually fits my 60cm-round head I have ever found.) 

As a matter of fact, the only neighbours I saw today at all were the Moppet Next Door's Eastern European father (partner of her Scottish mother), who was in his pigeon cage, and Sandy, the oil rig chef, who came wandering out of his flat to give me an extra loaf of bread he had made yesterday. I reminded Sandy that he may make free with the herbs in our herb garden, and he assured me that he had recently taken some of the coriander. 

Everybody on our street hangs up their clothes on fine days--including Sundays--in their back gardens, which is to say, their back yards. I padded through embarrassingly high grass (B.A. cut it just two weeks ago) to pin up "the darks" and hope the the pigeons from two gardens over would not spatter them from on high. This happened last week, in fact. I was glad Sandy saw me wearing my arm brace, for it suggested an explanation for the overgrown state of our beech hedges. 

In my dreams, the grass is as manicured as one of the bowling greens in which our neighbourhood abounds. But also in my dreams, everything hanging from the clothesline would have been "Made in U.K." The clothes pegs would all be wood, and none plastic, and I would actually be hanging them up either in the New Town or outside our country cottage in some bucolic locale featuring lambs and chickens instead of pigeons and extremely lost fawns who eat pea shoots out of my veggie trug.  Also in my dreams, the neighbourhood cats would not use my raised garden by the shed as their outdoor litterbox, nor would they get squashed in the street and brought to the pavement to die in decency by poor Sandy. That happened to one of them last week. 

Really, I need to do something about the lawn and the beech hedges, so I might as well get stuck in first thing tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, I am slowly replacing cheap foreign clothing with quality British clothes, and the plastic clothes pegs keep breaking, so their replacement by wood ones is inevitable. The New Town will have to wait until we win the lottery, I'm afraid, and the country cottage is not really practical for non-drivers. Lambs and chickens are impractical for a couple whose idea fixĂ© is to spend as much time in Rome as they can without going broke. But the cats I have manage to keep out of my raised garden by planting wooden skewers all over it. I feel badly for the squashed one, but at least it wasn't Lightning Next Door. Lightning is so desirous of human companionship that he actually invaded our house without a warrant and got as far as the hallway before we shooed him out. 

One last story about our neighbourhood for the evening, in case I didn't tell you last year. So last year we were all supposed to stand on our front stoops on Thursday nights at 8 PM and applaud the NHS. It was a tad alarming, for weekly state-organised community expressions of gratitude for state departments are just a tad Orwellian. Anyway, one Thursday last midsummer when people were enjoying the evening sun in their gardens, 8 PM struck and there was scattered applause for the NHS and a bonus: cheerful live bagpipe music from one street over. 

Live bagpipe music is not actually fake shortbread tin tartan tat Shhhhcottish, Moneypenny; it is actually part of normal Scottish life, with bairns learning it in school, and people practising it in all kinds of odd locations, like water treatment centres. When it suddenly bleats out, spontaneously, from somewhere unseen on a summer's evening, we listen and approve. When the piper finished his five minute tribute to the NHS, the whole neighbourhood applauded twice as hard as it had for the NHS. 

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