Saturday, December 09, 2006

It's Chriiissstmmaaasss! # 3 - My Christmas cheer deserts me.

My neighbours are strange. To the right side of my little house I have had two neighbours in recent years, both of which I would consider friends. I know their names, we stop to chat, do each other the odd favour and get on very well. On the left side, with one honourable exception, I have had six neighbours who have been the opposite. The honourable exception were a nice couple who moved after six months.

I sometimes wonder if it is down to me - that somehow I am an unpleasant neighbour. But actually, no. I am the person who says good morning if I happen to be going out the door at the same time as the neighbours. I'm the person who says hello when I see them at the local shops. I am considerate about parking, don't make a lot of noise (even though the walls are really pretty thick I always turn down the TV after 10-30 at night and only play music at certain times of the day) and generally make an effort to be at, the very least, inoffensive. Yet the five neighbours I have had on the left side have been a hard nut to crack. When I moved in the neighbours were a young couple. I soon found out that, even through the thick walls, I could hear their shouting and violence. It seemed that the guy was beating the girl fairly regularly. I wanted to intervene and did, inasmuch as I called the police a few times and spoke to the domestic violence unit. They told me they were logging the incidents so that when the girl eventually complained they had some history. I did carry on saying 'good morning' and what-not, but both neighbours acknowledged me and then put their heads down and got into the car. They probably were in that peculiar situation where they were embarrassed about what was happening in their house and didn't want to face anyone who might know. Eventually, thankfully, she threw him out. A few weeks later he returned, drunk and furious, broke into the house by smashing the back kitchen window and proceeded to attack her. This time when I called the police I reported an attack in progress and they came and arrested him. Not long after she moved away and I'm okay that she didn't thank me for possibly saving her life. After all she was having a pretty horrid time. The day after the attack her parents came to help fix the window and I had a short conversation with her Mum in which we discussed our relief at the bastard boyfriend's arrest, even though we didn't actually say it in so many words.

All the other people who've lived to my left have been studiedly uncommunicative and insular. Last year another young couple moved in. I am fine if people want to keep themselves to themselves but on the day they moved in, I was coming back from the shops and had a few bags to unpack from the car. So there was a decent amount of time where they were unpacking a removal van and I was unpacking a car. I said hello and they actually said nothing back. They simply ignored me. I figured I wouldn't take offence at this so continued to be polite and friendly. Yet they continued to ignore me completely. I would arrive home at the same time as one or other of them and make some kind of empty overture. Cold out today, hello, must get in out of the rain - that kind of thing. There was no response. They didn't turn away in a huff, it was just as if they didn't know that responding was an option. This meant that they looked through me as if I wasn't there. I felt like walking up to them and waving in their faces like you do to check if someone you have blindfolded can actually see through the blindfold. After a while I gave up.

Which leads me to the subject of my post. Which is Christmas spirit. I am all for it. But yesterday mine deserted me somewhat. A few days ago I was upstairs working when there was a knock at the door. I hobbled downstairs to find a parcel delivery guy. He asked me if I would sign for a parcel for next door and make sure they got it.
"I'll put a note through their letter box telling them it's with you," he said.
"Sure," I said, which meant that he presented me with a large box. I signed his electronic signing thingy. The box was pretty big an unwieldy. Later that evening when I thought my left hand neighbours (I don't know how many of them there are - I DO know that one of them runs heavily upstairs several times a day) were in, I braved the wind and drizzle and took it round.
"I took this parcel for you earlier," I said to the guy, handing it over.
"Yeah," he said, neutrally, taking it off me and then closing the door in my face.

Two days later, much the same thing happened. This time I received two parcels. Smaller, but MORE parcels. I dutifully and neighbourly-ly signed for them and, later in the evening, went next door to drop them off. This time the woman opened the door.
"You had some more parcels delivered today," I said, handing them over. She was more talkative.
"Yeah, we got the note. We decided to get all our stuff on the internet this Christmas. It's easier." This was the most words I'd heard her speak in seven months. However, as she shut the door on me and went inside to run heavily up the stairs, I couldn't help feeling that she was a couple of words short.

Yesterday I was just on my way out and actually heading for the door when there was a knock. It was yet another parcel delivery guy.
"Can you take some parcels for next door?" He asked chirpily.
"No, sorry," I said, and was immediately gripped by guilt over the fact that both my neighbourly and my Christmas cheer had deserted me.
"Oh," he said, standing forlornly in the rain.
"The thing is," I said, "Is that I am not a bad person. Only they've decided to do all their Christmas shopping online and keep getting parcels delivered. Twice this week I've taken parcels for them and they haven't bothered to come round and get them from me. They just waited for me to take them round for them. And then when I took them round they never said thanks or even treated me as if I was doing them any kind of a favour. It was like they just expected me to be their personal parcel delivery depot. And they told me they were expecting all their gifts delivered this year. Yet they never thought to mention that it might be happening and say "Oh, by the way, I've got some parcels coming this week. Would you mind taking them in for me if I'm not here?' because I would do that, except they actually never even say hello or comment on the weather or anything so they'd never get that far. And what sort of person gets all their stuff online and then has it delivered to their house while they're out at work all day? Surely a sensible person would have it delivered to work so they can collect it themselves and then they can be sure they got it. So, even though I'm not a bad neighbour and it's Christmas I'm not taking their parcels any more. They can collect them from the depot."

"Okay," the increasingly cold and wet parcel guy said, "I'll try across the street."

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