Good neighbours that is. Ruby From Over The Road has just ding-donged on the doorbell and offered me a choice between homemade apple pie or homemade carrot cake, complete with frosting. She knows I can’t cook cakes and had just spent the morning “knocking up a couple of goodies” and did I want any? Ruby is amazing. She’s been married three times, currently on her fourth, and has five children – to this day I can’t work out when she had which child and with whom. But I know Felix, who is four and calls his daddy Demonic because he can’t say Dominic. Dom is Ruby’s current husband and is an architect and an ardent Green. Ruby has embraced his beliefs and, when she’s not at the end of her garden tending to her compost heap, is sorting rubbish to be recycled in the weekly trip to Peckham Rye park and its recycling bins.
Like my friends, I’m very lucky with my neighbours. We’ve been living in this house for four years and I immediately felt at home the minute Pickfords departed, purely down to the many greetings we received whilst lumping furniture through every available door and window. Out of all my neighbours (including Mad Michael, who wears shorts and vest in all weathers and likes polishing our lamp-posts. At 2am.), I have my favourites.
Apart from Ruby, there’s Jack Next Door who is the Alan Titchmarsh of Nunhead. The things that man can do with a few seeds, a lump of earth and a drop of Baby Bio. His garden is immense and spotless, with serried ranks of vegetables all growing as they should and the rose trees! His summer displays are dazzling. The honeysuckle cutting he gave me three years ago (from his plant that scents the whole neighbourhood) has not prospered in my poor excuse for a garden so I’ve hidden it behind a tub of begonias. I chastise myself that I must really do something with the patch of earth behind my house – I feel ashamed to be in my garden when he’s out there and tend to scurry inside to get out some seedling catalogues but it never comes to much.
On the other side of us we’ve got The Posh Couple. We don’t know their first names (they sign their Christmas cards “from the Robinsons”) and they’re not really very friendly. That doesn’t mean they’re unfriendly, far from it. We smile when we see each other in the street or in the garden, She once chased my hat down the road when a gust of wind caught it and He complimented David on his golf bag only this weekend. But, so used to knowing our neighbours fairly well, the Robinsons intrigue me. They both leave the house before 9 - She walking, He driving - and both return after 6pm when every light in the house goes on. They went to IKEA on Saturday, the amount of stuff that went into the house was amazing. Then that same evening they entertained guests to what sounded like a hugely cultural evening with lots of braying laughter and the slamming of Audi doors on their guests departure. I wasn’t quite glued to the window watching their guests leave but did show more than a passing interest in the arrangement of the bedroom curtains. Then on the Sunday, they both disappeared at half 8 (I was concerned about what looked like a dead pigeon in our front garden but turned out to be a broken umbrella and so I was at the window) wearing tracksuits and iPods and didn’t return until the Eastenders omnibus. Very strange.
Then there’s Alice Three Doors Down. Alice is affectionately known as Hyacinth Bucket, you know, from the TV programme. She’s hugely well known in the area and “does a lot for charity”. She’s also a bit, shall we say, erm, nosy. Not showing an interest like me with the Robinsons but actually a bit of a gossip. Usually, when I see her, I make excuses to get away from before I get roped into “and then he said, and she said”. My current favourite is “oh, Mackenzie’s on his own and I’ve left the stove on”. It doesn’t faze her – or stop her talking - her but it does give me a chance to back away slowly. Many’s the conversation I’ve had with her as I’m walking backwards into my house. Her latest concern is the daughter of those at Number 43. I’m not quite sure what she’s worried about but it involves a Hells Angel.
And lastly there’s Bill and Jane Opposite. Bill drives a Porsche but doesn’t work. Jane is constantly at the hairdressers/manicurist/Bond Street shops and they have an au pair called Lara for their two children Jessica, 9 and Melanie, 12. One look at the Golden Family and you’d think top drawer family, elegance, good manners, well rounded vowels. When you hear them you think resident of Albert Square crossed with fishwife and Burberry-Kappa style innit. Don’t get me wrong, they’re lovely. But when you’re in your front garden on a bright Saturday morning, discussing the benefits of troughs as opposed to tubs with Jack, you don’t necessarily want to hear “get a faaaking move on yer stoopid caaahs, the faaaaking shops’ll be faaaaking shut” from Jane as she shepherds two sullen children into the back of her 4x4 while Bill leans out of the bedroom window yelling “don’t faaaaking swear, it ain’t faaaaking ladylike” with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth and scratching his, erm, nether regions.
At least I hope that’s what he was doing.