Friday, 30 October 2009

Neighbour Changes

A quick recap on the neighbour situation. We've lived next door to Pam and Bob since we moved here almost nine years ago. Bob was always pleasant and friendly; Pam was barely civil at best, sometimes quite hostile. Then in April Bob was diagnosed with cancer; in May, he died; and his funeral was held in June.

My Paramour and I have done what we could to support Pam. She hasn't had an easy time. Her father collapsed ten minutes before her husband's funeral, and had to go to hospital in an ambulance with one of her brothers while the other escorted her to the funeral. A couple of weeks later, her dog died very suddenly. We encouraged her to get a puppy, which she did. She put her house on the market at the end of July, and we thought about buying it ourselves, but it would have been too much of a financial stretch.

Pam is a difficult person, and I wasn't sorry at the prospect of her moving away. However, I didn't think her decision was entirely wise. She told me she didn't want to stay here because her only friends are 'pub friends', she knows she shouldn't spend much time in the pub, and they're not helping. They don't want to hear about Bob, and keep telling her she should move on. In my view, nobody should ever say that to a grieving person. Pam wants to move to live near her family, and maybe that is a good idea, but she's lived with Bob in the house next door to us for the last 20 years, and it seemed to me that part of her motivation was to escape her grief. Which, of course, she won't be able to do.

My Paramour and I met one of our new neighbours a few weeks ago. We were on our way back from town and saw a couple of people on the pavement outside Pam's house, pointing at things and chatting, so we went and introduced ourselves. Mark, our new neighbour, was with a friend, looking at some of the work that will need doing. He told us that he and his wife had wanted to buy our house when it was last on the market, but couldn't afford it at the time. We both took to him: he's a few years younger than us, friendly, with a good sense of humour. It's been 15 years since I last had a neighbour I really liked, and it would be lovely to live next door to people we get on with.

Today is their moving day. Last night I went to the supermarket and bought two bottles of fizz and two cards. (I'm afraid I bought a slightly nicer bottle for the new neighbours.) This morning I took Pam's bottle and card next door, first thing, and left it on her wheelie bin. About half an hour later I got a text message.

How kind. Thank u. Have just found your card. I will miss your kindness and understanding. Bob really liked u both as I do. I feel totally bereft 2day when I should b happy 2 make a fresh start. Once again thank u. x

My Paramour thinks that maybe the move will be helpful for Pam. I hope he's right - but I'm not convinced.


Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Aw, that story is both sad and happy. Happy that you get nice new neighbours, sad that Pam is having a hard time and may not face that great a future. Although having said that, even when the decisions we make are not the best, change - in my experience - is nearly always a good thing eventually.

But none of that is what really struck me when reading this piece. What struck me is the thing that first drew me to your writing, and I guess (since we are now good friends) to you. As a person, you are incredibly good at balancing the bad and the good, and at having an overview that takes in the complexities of a situation without being tempted to bend the stick in one direction or another. You're also compassionate but honest. You're not insincere and you don't get caught in the liberal trap of feeling as though you have to say nice things about everybody. The irony is that, by not being mealy-mouthed, you end up being kinder than the alternative. Because you don't hide your dislikes from yourself or others, it means that when you're kind the recipient can believe you really mean it. And I bet this is why Pam was able to say such nice things about you.

And what is more, as well as having these personal traits, you find a way of putting them into your writing. This means you can write honestly about people, portraying both flaws and good points: Not lying about the bad things, but still eliciting sympathy in the hearts of your readers.

I know you might be laughing at some of this, because we've had conversations about your tendency to sugar-coat your characters and hide their flaws. But you don't always do it, you haven't always done it, and this is a brilliant example of you not doing it.

Hurray for you!

JJ Beattie said...

What a lovely post and a lovely comment from Beleaguered Squirrel.

Debs said...

Ditto JJ.

Your new neighbours sound lovely, and it's especially nice for them as they've obviously wanted to live in their new home for a long time.

Debi said...

Beautifully put by the Squirrel.

As so often happens, you write movingly and without judgment about other people but it also reveals so much about you. All of it good but without any hint of smugness or self-consciousness. It's all there for the reader to find.

Hurray for you indeed.

Anonymous said...

what they all said - but I also hope the Paramour is right about Pam - sad all around.

Karen said...

I agree with B Squirrel. A lovely post, beautifully written :o) I hope Pam will be ok.

HelenMHunt said...

Sending out good thoughts to Pam - and to you for doing what you could x

Queenie said...

Dearest Squirrel, I think that is the nicest blog comment in the history of the Internet. Thank you very much. I'm not sure I deserve it, but... thank you.
And thanks to everyone else, as well.

Pat said...

I really believe you should do nothing for a year. I hope her family is supportive.
As for neighbours - three of my close friends are in the neighbourhood but experience has taught me to have a friendly but distant relation ship with immediate neighbours. Think on!