Before I begin, I’d like to remind you that I live in Yorkshire. I would add that I live in a mid-terrace on a former council estate with semi-retired, salt-of-the-earth couples on either side. So I’m sure you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I have the thriftiest neighbours ever. How fitting!
They are also extremely kind and generous. Colin, who lives to my right, is a TV repairman. One day he brought round an old Sky box and remote control, and fixed us up with Freeview. Another time he got annoyed after I paid a roofer to replace a couple of tiles and detach the broken TV aerial from the chimney. Our neighbour told us that we had only to ask, and he was perfectly happy to go up there for us. (“Why not? Two words, Colin. Rod. Hull.”) When we moved in he let me borrow his garden equipment so that I could try and tackle our bombsite of a back garden.
Sue, who lives to our left and gives us spare plants, is an uber-recycler. Sue works as a cleaner and brings back piles of magazines, many of which she passes onto me. Sometimes she goes and cleans posh houses, and I get Good Housekeeping and BBC Good Food. At other times I end up with mountains of those women’s weeklies”, with their day-glo diets of wretched real-life stories, baby snaps and recipes for “Egg Surprise” and “Creamy Mushroom Bake”.
I must admit, some of the first-person features in the women’s weeklies are absolutely riveting. A while back, I read a story about a woman who cut off her breasts with garden shears. Incredible. You don’t get that in Easy Living now, do you?
I feel very fortunate to have such great neighbours. The neighbours tell me that they feel fortunate to have us too: apparently the family who lived here before us smashed the place to bits, urinated out of upstairs windows, used the garden as their rubbish dump for ten years (the council filled four skips once they were gone) and stole the neighbours’ garden furniture (they hid it in the attic – somewhat missing the point, methinks).
Even so, being not-evil isn’t quite enough. So I make up hanging baskets for our neighbours, to thank them for being so jolly nice. On the one hand I worry that this still isn’t enough. On the other hand, they get not-evil and flowers, which is all right, isn’t it? It’s a starting point, anyway…