I think we might be bad neighbours. Not like Channel 5 documentary bad, we’re not “From Hell” or “Who Kill”, we’re just not very good. We don’t do neighbourly things. We’ve never organised, or even been to, a street party, we’ve never given a neighbour some coffee when they’ve run out (they’ve never asked to be fair) and we’ve never looked after anyone’s houseplants when they’ve gone on holiday.
In our defence, we’ve had some pretty bad neighbours over the years. We lived in Brighton for a while, next door to a drug den. I didn’t really want to be friends with them. They once keyed my brother’s car because he parked outside their house. I wouldn’t have minded so much, but it wasn’t even really their house, they were squatting. I was always lead to believe there’s a lot of money to be made in drug dealing so these guys must just have been really bad at it. Not only could they not afford rent on a house, but they didn’t even own a BMW. Maybe they should have concentrated a bit more on their careers than on scratching people’s cars.
The next place we lived was Bristol. In the nice bit, Clifton. No drug dens there, just lots of students. Thinking about it, a drug den would probably do quite well around there, maybe I should mention it to Brighton’s least successful dealers.
Everyone looked friendly and we decided this was the sort of street to be neighbourly in. We started out with lots of waving and smiling and then eventually got the courage up to introduce ourselves properly. It was just before Christmas, so we took our neighbours a card. They took it, looked at us pitifully and said: “We don’t actually celebrate Christmas, we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses.” And that was pretty much the end of that. They barely spoke to us again. A bit harsh I thought.
So, we don’t have a great track record. But now we’ve moved to the country, we really need to befriend some locals. We’re in a Località, which is a small, slightly spread out collection of houses. This basically means we have three neighbours close enough to introduce ourselves to. So, the other day we went and did it. (Well, my wife did, I just stood behind her nodding and doing my best to look neighbourly).
First off was Mauro. It turns out our house used to be his house. He was born here, as was his father, but they sold it 20 or so years ago and built a new one just up the road. They still own all the vineyards around us so I’ve spoken to both Mauro and his father quite a lot already. His father speaks dialect and I… well, I don’t. Still, we manage to have fairly long chats about the weather, the vines and the house. My wife always looks on with amusement when she sees the two of us chatting. She knows I can barely understand a word and am largely just nodding and smiling. I think he does too.
Next up was Antonio. He wasn’t so friendly. I think he’s probably just a bit like us. He was perfectly polite but clearly not bothered about neighbourly stuff. We left him in peace.
The final place is a Bed and Breakfast. We wanted to check the place out as much as meet the people, and it turns out that not only is it a very nice place, but they’re also lovely people. My wife even got a hug! They seemed genuinely excited to meet us, took the time to tell us all about the neighbourhood, showed us around their B&B and were incredibly welcoming.
So, two out of three isn’t bad, but let’s see what happens now. If I find out that Mauro is a drug dealer and the B&B owners are Jehovah’s Witnesses I’m going to be very disappointed.