Neighbours. Everybody Needs Good Neighbours.
2020 has been a bit weird, hasn’t it? I thought 2016 was weird when everyone kept dying (by everyone I basically mean David Bowie, Terry Wogan and Alan Rickman) but I think 2020 might have topped that for strangeness levels.
The part where we went into lockdown was a bit of a blur for me as I’d just come back from a week’s holiday in hospital with pneumonia. Obviously, it wasn’t actually a holiday but it wasn’t all bad. Being able to go for a wee without a small ginger boy wanting to observe and know in specific detail what I'm doing or a bigger brown-haired boy desperately trying to explain how he’s just finished Episode 8 Chapter 1 of Piggy in Roblox (I have no idea what that means either) was very enjoyable.
So, although I was very aware of Covid-19 having been in hospital and not being allowed visitors, the actual reality of what was going on was passing me by a bit while I was binge-watching Tiger King and having a little lie down. By the time I came out, I had a couple of days of normality and then... Boom! We were all in LOCKDOWN. *cue dramatic music*
Ordinarily, if I hadn’t been ill, I would have been at work and running around dropping the boys off in various places. So, I do wonder what it was like going from doing all those normal things to where we ended up, but instead, I was kind of eased into it. I like to think lockdown happened because the world couldn’t continue to function normally with me hospitalised, but I think we all know there was a bit more to it than that.
I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t hate lockdown like I know a lot of people did. I absolutely understand why people would have hated it and really struggled with the situation. For us though, it was sort of ok. Mr D continued to go to work (hurray for key workers!) and of course the boys were at home with me on furlough while I pretended to be a teacher. I honestly think it came at absolutely the right time for me to be able to recover properly from my pneumonia (have I mentioned I had actual pneumonia??). There wasn’t the pressure to be getting small people places on time without meltdowns or people not putting their shoes on the right feet or anything like that. There were times when I struggled being here, ALL OF THE TIME. With them, ALL OF THE TIME. With them touching me, ALL OF THE TIME. I mean, I love them more than anything in the Universe, but you can have too much of a good thing, can’t you? On the whole, it was quite nice really though.
I’ve realised that I've already started looking back at lockdown almost with the level of nostalgia I have for the 90s. There were definitely really, really hard times. Much like in the 90s, but clearly, my brain is choosing to forget them!
It certainly helped that we had such nice weather and we are very fortunate to have a garden. It’s not a massive garden but it is outside and that’s the main thing when the sun is shining, you have two children and you live in the smallest house in the world. Outside in the Outside Room a.k.a the garden is where my favourite bit of lockdown happened.
Now, I don’t mean the Australian soap opera featuring Scott and Charlene, I mean actual people who live in our road. (80s me would have killed to live next door to Scott and Charlene).
I didn’t really appreciate it before but we actually have some of the best neighbours around. Mr D and I have lived here for 16 years and in the main have had pretty decent neighbours that we exchange pleasantries with (I have no idea what that involves really) and what have you. We live in a terraced road so we are all pretty packed in and I’m sure everyone can hear me screaming like a banshee at the boys on the rare (hahaha) occasions it happens, but it’s a nice quiet road otherwise. Even with the Hell’s Angels House at the bottom of it.
The way our gardens are set up and the fact we’re on a bit of a hill means we have a good view and chatting range for next door and a couple of houses down from them, which is lovely. I’m not sure they find it so lovely having two small boys constantly shouting “HELLO” at them over the fence but they do a marvellous job of humouring them and for that, I am truly grateful.
So back to our neighbours…
3 doors down we have Pat. Pat has lived here since forever (or before I was born at least which is a very long time). Pat knows everything about everyone in the street (and there are 51 houses so that’s a lot to know!). She knows everyone’s names, she knows who owns which cat, she knows who owns which cars, she knows everyone’s stories and if she doesn’t know, she can find out. Pat is the Google of the road. She is also an expert rock painter and leaves pretty little painted rocks outside our house for the boys to find sometimes. The one she left Brad Logan for his 4th birthday was his best present ever and he carried it around with him for days! It now has pride of place with the other rocks she has painted for us.
Next door but one to us, we have Carole. Carole is in her 80s and used to have Afghan Hounds that were nearly as big as she is (she’s not very big). Carole has also lived here for an eternity and, coincidentally, knew Pat’s mum back in the day. Carole has brilliant stories about things around Reading that she remembers from when she was a girl. I think Carole was probably a bit naughty as a child. She has a cheeky glint in her eye. She told us a story about one time when she was a child, she tied a boy to a lamppost. Then, her mum called her in for her tea and she promptly forgot about him. He was out there for ages apparently! I imagine he probably missed his tea that night.
In between us and Carol are Matt, Shelly and Sophie. Matt gives Pat a run for her money on knowing people. He is the other eyes and ears of RG6 and what he doesn’t know about around here isn’t worth knowing. Shelly is Matt’s partner/girlfriend/Mrs/lady/better-half (I don’t know what term to use!) and she’s brilliant. She has the loveliest smiley face (I love a smiley face I do) and kind eyes. She is one of those people who are just good in all of the ways. Shelly and I love nothing more than a good chat about what we’ve been watching on TV/Netflix and what we’re having for tea. Now I don’t see her every single day, I miss not knowing what they’re having for tea. Maybe I’ll just get a little hatch knocked through from our living room to their dining room so I can just find out every evening. Or maybe that’s a bit weird.
Sophie is Shelly’s daughter. She is a big fan of a false eyelash and Brad Logan refers to her as “The girl with the eyelashes”. Sophie is a terrible influence (in a super fun lovely way) on my children and encourages them to do naughty things at every opportunity. Sophie also, much to the delight of my children, has a stash of party poppers and balloons which she likes to share. Totally normal behaviour for a 21-year-old, right? I’ve been finding gold confetti from one particular balloon popping event everywhere I go for months now.
Most importantly Chad and Brad love ‘Next Door’. They will literally go running outside to see them if they hear them in the garden and that’s all because of lockdown and the amount of time we all got to spend together kind of by accident. There has been more than one occasion where I’ve been having my weekly meltdown in the kitchen about being out of work and one of ‘Next Door’ has been inadvertently looking after the boys for me just by being there and listening intently to Chad’s ramblings about Pokémon/Roblox/Minecraft/Sonic and watching Brad climbing on things he shouldn’t be/dancing/wiggling his bum/using the hose even though he’s been told not to. For this, I am really grateful. Little boys don’t need to see their mummy doing a big, ugly cry even if she is highly skilled in the art of it.
A few weeks ago my mum came with me on the school run and as we got home and got out of the car, Shelly, Carole and Pat were outside having a chat, so obviously the boys had to have a little showoff and what have you. As we went inside my mum said: “It’s like Coronation Street out there”. Initially, I was a bit offended because Coronation Street is terrible but actually, thinking about it, it’s a great compliment. I love that we have great neighbours that we can just have a chat and a catch up with. I like that we have a mutual dislike of ‘Number 49’, I like that we watch out for each other and I know that if I needed any of them they would be there and likewise. Most of all though, I like that we’ve had the time to get to know each other a bit more. Having those great women (and Matt) there has helped us all to get through a really odd time. Hopefully, they feel the same about us...