Our immediate neighbour has had his house up for sale for months now (hope this isn't a reflection on us!) and finally the 'sold' sign has been slapped up. At the ripe old age of fifty-two bachelor Joe is off to make his fortune in Australia. I'll miss him, but not the loud hip-hop parties that broke out at the drop of a hat. Wonder what the new neighbours will be like. The last new neighbours moved in around five years ago. The people before them kept pigs. Not the little cutesy pot bellied pet types – these were bigger than shire horses, and mean with it. Talking of funerals, one of the pigs died, and I kid you not, was buried in the back garden. Luckily the people who bought that house don't seem to be very keen on gardening. Unlike Paul's ex-wife – they still live together, along with Charlotte's latest husband – well – as she said, what's a girl to do when a man cries and begs to be allowed to stay? Secure parking spots in London for motorbikes are thin on the ground. Charlotte is our resident gardener, and every year – no doubt in quiet desperation – presents me with a beautiful hanging basket. Which promptly turns golden brown within two weeks.
In every neighbourhood, there's always the cat woman. Spotting a captive audience, Veronica rushed over and regaled me with tales of her seven hundred and twenty four cats. They all have human names, and if you happen to drift off mid sentence and then return to "Robert got his ear bitten off in a fight, and I told Timothy that was naughty …" make sure you're wearing protective goggles, else you'll get brake fluid in your eye. Veronica's also a soft touch for any injured wildlife, and last I saw of her she was trying to stuff a very reluctant goose into the boot of her Nissan. "Tiggywinkles" has banned her from delivering any of her 'rescued' furry or feathered friends. So usually any hapless owner of a suitable estate car (me) is roped into ambulance service. I learned my lesson last year, when I got shanghaied into taxi service for an angry seagull and three disorientated hedgehogs.
The brakes have now been bled four times, and I hope that's the last of the pesky air bubbles. But as far as Veronica's concerned, the car's still out of action – while the weather lasts, I'm cycling everywhere. Not having any wheels is a great excuse for getting out of invitations.
You can call it being anti-social. I call it self preservation.