I never thought I’d type these words but I miss our nosy neighbours Susan and Dick. Every time I pass their apartment, I have a little pang of sadness that I won’t be able to feast on their moans and groans any more.
In a small tribute to Dick, I trotted across the road and half-heartedly picked a few blackberries off the neighbouring property. Dour Dick loved that bramble bush. He even carried his step-ladder down the road to reach the higher branches.
Although Dick’s long gone, I’m half-expecting to see him back at the blackberries in the next few weeks. He was never one to miss out on some free fruit.
I’d like to say that SuDick’s departure was a ceremonial affair but in reality they just kind of sloped off quietly. Susan sent me a final email with her special ‘Welcome Pack’ attached (DON’T make any noise after 11pm but DO close the gate to the bin compound), should I wish to continue her tradition of passing it on to any new neighbours. (I think she saw me as a potential protege. I can’t think why!).
She gave me a final round-up of local goings on: ‘Apartment 6 is laying down new carpets as I write,’ she said. ‘Apartment 5 has a new owner; I think they might be retired.’ etc etc.
The woman who has replaced SuDick is very peculiar indeed. She’s straight out of Hollywood Housewives: heavily made-up, with big anxious eyes, hair permanently in rollers and constantly spring cleaning in a pair of marigolds. Her name is Diane. She looks like a Diane.
I had to knock on her door the other night to see if she’d taken collection of a parcel I was waiting for. Knowing that she spends most of her days dusting her apartment by the entrance gate, I told the parcel people to deliver it her flat.
I knocked on the door and waited.
There was a lot of clattering and eventually the door creaked open. Two huge doleful eyes peered back at me, marigolds donned and feather duster poised.
‘I was just wondering if you happened to take delivery of a parcel for me,’ I said, cheerfully.
‘Oh, I’m in a terrible mess here,’ she cried. ‘I did see a parcel man at the gate but I don’t think he could get in so he just drove off.’
Knowing that my parcel was only a few feet from her but she did nothing to help was very annoying indeed.
I decided ‘Marigolds’ was clinically unhinged so I left her to her dusting. On their second attempt, I asked the delivery people to try Apartment 8 instead.
Apartment 8 houses an inert tenant, who claims to be a solicitor but actually spends most of her days sitting on her balcony, chewing the fat. She seemed the perfect candidate for a daytime parcel delivery.
When I got back the following evening there was a message from the courier saying that Apartment 8 HAD taken collection of my parcel. Bingo!
I expected the woman at Apartment 8 to sign for the parcel and then leave it outside our front door. But there was no sign of it and she appeared to be out for the night.
When I got back the following evening, there was still no parcel. I found this weird.
‘Wouldn’t you sign for the parcel and then go and put it outside our flat?’ I said to the husband. ‘It’s odd that she just took it with no further communication.
‘In fact, how does SHE know that WE know that she’s even got it?
‘She’s effectively taken our parcel hostage!’
I went round and knocked on her door.
‘Do you have a parcel for me?’ I said.
She looked blankly for a moment, despite the fact my huge parcel was taking up most of her entrance hall.
‘Oh, that parcel,’ she said breezily. ‘Yes, it’s here.’
‘Thank you,’ I said.
The reason that I wanted the parcel fairly urgently is that it housed a new bathroom cabinet for my old rental flat down the road.
My latest tenant has moved out so I’ve been busy sorting the flat out. This loosely involves: the bi-annual chore of re-oiling my real wood worktops (note to anyone thinking about getting real wood worktops – DON’T DO IT), lovingly touching up my Farrow and Ball walls, ordering a new Brabantia bin (along with the aforementioned bathroom cabinet), and having all the carpets shampooed.
I even went as far as buying a vase, a big bunch of flowers, and leaving a ‘welcome to your new home’ card for my new tenants.
They moved in last Saturday and I’ve heard nothing since.
‘Don’t you think it’s weird that they just moved in and never acknowledged the flowers and the card?’ I said to the husband.
‘Aren’t people strange?!’
A couple of days later, I drove round with the husband and sent him into the communal entrance to the flat to leave the bathroom cabinet outside the door (ready for the handyman to fix it to the wall at some point this week, the husband being unfortunately incapable of such high-level manual tasks).
While the husband was lugging the parcel up the stairs, I peered up at the window trying to work out whether my flowers were still in the cellophane in the vase, as I had left them – or not. I toyed with getting the binoculars out of the glove compartment – SuDick-style – but decided that might be a bit much.
The husband re-appeared and climbed in the passenger seat.
‘All done,’ he said.
‘Did you put your ear to the door to see if they’re actually in there?’ I said.
‘Why would I do that?’ said the husband. ‘That would be the behaviour of a mental person.’
‘To check that they’re in there!’ I said. ‘TO CHECK THEY GOT THE FLOWERS.’
I knew a Dick, so to speak, and he once came back from lunch having collected plums (I think) from a tree in the car park of our science park. Knowing the pollution they could be infected with nobody was really keen to take up his offer of a plum. Didn’t stop him though. For some other unknown reason they also seemed to surround the labs, and their pollutant-billowing stacks, with schools…
Can’t get the help nowadays can you? Ted