We have new neighbours. They moved in yesterday.
This morning the doorbell rang. I opened the door and there they were. Husband, wife and two children.
“Hello,” they said, “we’re your new neighbours. I am Alan, my wife is Helen and these are Jack and Jill. We moved in yesterday. We came from up North, near the border with Scotland.”
I was slightly taken aback by the direct approach. I don’t usually like people I do not know. They say a stranger is a friend you have yet to meet. I say a stranger is a person who should keep away from me!
“Hello,” I mumbled, “I saw the moving-in van yesterday!”
“We’ve come for a cup of tea and biscuits. So we can get to know one another!”
I was further taken aback into my own house. What a cheek, I thought. Complete strangers wanting to get to know me. How do you say “Go away!” politely. I did not know how to respond.
Our dog was barking furiously behind me having been disturbed by the doorbell. At least he was making his true feelings known. That’s what I like about dogs. If they don’t like you they bite you.
“Oh, you have a dog!” said Helen. “We don’t like dogs. We’re cat people. We have two cats, a hamster, a goldfish, two rabbits and a macaw. You’ll hear the macaw singing every now and then. He never stops actually!”
“Oh really?” I said unenthusiastically. My mind had already made up a list of insults but I chose to keep quiet.
“Aren’t you going to invite us in?” asked Alan.
“Well, it’s not convenient really …” I mumbled almost apologetically; wondering why I should be feeling guilty at all. It was them who disturbed me in the first place. Coming all the way from “up North” ringing my doorbell.
And then, I don’t know why I said that really, I added, “I am washing the crocodile right now. He gets a bit dirty when lying on the wet grass and mud!”
“I told you people down South are different,” said Helen to her husband, “they are not as friendly as up North!”
Alan nodded and said, “Up where we come from people are always calling on their neighbours for a chat and a cup of tea. Or borrowing things from each other, like a cup of sugar, or some eggs, or the lawnmower or such like. Do you have a lawn mower? Is it electric or petrol driven? I prefer electric myself, much neater!”
“Actually I have a goat,” I replied, “I let it eat the grass. Much neater than an electric lawnmower because it eats right up to the edge of the fence, which you can’t do with a lawn mower.”
“Oh … you don’t have to be sarcastic!” said Helen, “is it because we’re from up North? Is that why you’re being unfriendly?”
At this point the two children started cutting the roses from my prized bush. I kept my cool and said nothing about it.
“No …” I replied getting a little irritated, “it is not because you’re from up North. Let me tell you that I am devoid of all forms of prejudice. I dislike all people equally! And for your information, my wife is from Scotland; that’s as far North as you can get without falling into the sea!”
“Well, she made a mistake marrying you then,” retorted Helen.
Before I could say anything, albeit my mind was blank, her husband said, “Calm down dear. It’s not worth it. He can’t help the way he is. You know how some people are when they get to a certain age!”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked angrily. “I’m younger than you by all accounts!”
“Well … thank you for the flowers,” added Alan soothingly, “we’d better go and put them in some water. They don’t look as if they’d last long anyway!”
Once again I was at a loss for words. If I had a dictionary at hand I would have responded more appropriately … perhaps by hitting him over the head with it.
As they were leaving he asked, “Does that mean we can’t borrow the lawn mower?”