The Assassins keep themselves to themselves pretty much all the time, I think if you asked one of the neighbours to point them out in a crowd, they would fail. They don’t look around them as they come and go, it seems important to get from the street into the house without being noticed. I suspect that they have hypnotic powers, when you look into their eyes, you forget everything about them. I know I have asked their names several times but still don’t know them and I have never seen them anywhere except within 20ft of their property, not on the bus, in the shops, or anywhere.
Shouter Candy used to have a fancy man, who sometimes slept in her house or in his car out the back, if Ken was away. Ken didn’t know about him and I was sworn to secrecy.
Candy tries to get me in her clutches so she can read my horoscope, tarot cards and tea leaves, I learned the hard way not to get caught. A two hour visit left my head full of far-fetched prophesies and a sore spot on my shoulder, as she has the most curious habit of prodding me to re-inforce every point she is making in each sentence.
I asked her to feed my cat for two days while I was away but she said she didn’t know how.
Ken and Candy upset the “Widow” next door because they built a conservatory, she felt it would stop her sunlight, it doesn’t but it was 5 years before she would speak to them again, even though Ken cuts her lawn too.
The Stomper gets his lawn cut as well, even though he has a mower and an alright back. Earlier this week I heard a mower out the front and thought that my lawn was being cut but no, it was the Stomper, cutting his own lawn but not returning the favour and cutting the Shouter’s, or mine.
Dawn, the purple and turquoise wearing absentee wife used to live here in numbers 20 and 22 all the time and taught at a local school. She was very energetic and gossipy. Now she rarely speaks, just nods and goes quietly about her business. I spoke to her a while ago, she’s been very ill with cancer in one eye but she is recovering and philosophical and there is a vestige still of her energy.
In our little pedestrian area there are thirteen houses and two flats, laid out in an L-shape with odd numbers 39 to 50 on one side and even numbers 18 to 24 on the other, the two flats in the corner. No-one knows where the other numbers in the series are.
In the upper flat, lives the German Walker, she’s out all the time striding purposefully, dressed for English weather. She is friendly but shy, so we stick to weather comments as required by the British Stiff Upper Lip Society. She grows flowering plants on her East-facing balcony whilst dreaming of English lawns rolling gently down to a slow green river, bordered by cottage garden plants staked out with twigs to keep them upright during summer showers.
Number 50 had a new porch built a few years ago with a luxurious downstairs bathroom for the elderly lady friends who lived there. As is the way of these things, one of them died quite soon after – the one who could no longer climb the stairs. They and their husbands had met as students in the 50’s and they had spent their whole lives living near each other, holidaying together, retiring together, the two wives moving in together when their husbands died. One of them was called Phoebe, we had a cat called Phoebe, they loved our cat, she loved them. Our flirtatious cat would watch and wait each morning for the two ladies, to be made a fuss of as they passed by to run their errands. Later she would follow them home for afternoon tea. Now our Phoebe has gone and the other Phoebe lives alone with her luxurious downstairs bathroom.
Around another corner from there, in the proper street lives the Man with no Nose, actually he does have a nose, he just can’t use it for smelling, he lost his sense of smell on a hillside a long time ago. Tall and skinny, he wears a battered old leather hat with a wide brim, some kind of stetson maybe and he carries two miniatures dogs around in shopping bags. He told me the sad tale – ‘walking in the countryside one summer’s day on a hillside I nodded to the walkers passing by, “lovely spot for a walk” “yes but a shame about the smell, we won’t be coming again” – “what smell?” “the pig farm, down below” He had turned and looked down on a vast field of pigstyes and it dawned on him that he no longer had a sense of smell. Just occasionally though he can smell shampoo when his daughter blow-dries her hair.” He is wistful but surprisingly not angry.
Stan from numbers 20 and 22 is the kind of man who leans slightly forward as he walks and doesn’t put his heels down to the ground, he looks tense and alert, at the ready to jab or to run. He comes and goes with a furtive look, as though he might have something to hide. When the weather is good he hangs out his washing on the line in his garden, which runs right across the view from my sitting room window.
Today it is seven pairs of mid blue heavyweight Y fronts, yesterday it was blue shirts and a purple vest, though there is never any of his intermittent wife’s laundry
The Man who cannot smell used to have the same kind of car as I did, a blue Renault Megan Scenic, he parked it on a corner one evening, quite close to a house with a wooden fence. During the night, the car spontaneously ignited, the fire spread to the fence and into the corner house. No-one was hurt . Later I heard the happy ending – the neighbours opposite invited the elderly man, who was terminally ill, to live with them so that they could look after him whilst his burnt out house was rebuilt. How ironic that the man with no nose whose car had caused the fire, couldn’t smell the acrid after effects that hung all over the neighborhood.
On a far corner to the south, lives a Japanese woman who has built a Oriental garden where each part and plant is tended with patience and purpose, it is calm and decorative, a place for contemplation. Her black and white cat sits on a shed roof and waits for my daughter to walk by, they have a mutually beneficial relationship of cooing and purring, stroking and rubbing.
The Sri Lankan boy who seemed to grow 2ft overnight and his petite sister lived at 24 for a while, once I heard them laughing loudly and looking out of my bedroom window to see them in their back garden, the two of them spinning the rotary airer around. What was is making them laugh so much? Then I saw their cat up inside the wires, clinging on and terrified.
Stomper is moving out this week, he just told me that the new people are moving in straight away, except that they’re not new – SHE, the landlady from hell and her husband are moving in, in order to do it up before selling. There is also some suspicion that she is giving this house as her usual abode in order to sell it without incurring CGT – I hope that’s not true but its really none of my business!
The Assassins worked in the back garden again today, lots of noise of stone cutting equipment, shifting of gravel and general noises of bodies being buried. I’m surprised they didn’t wait until dark but I suppose they can just about do it without being seen as the shrubs are well-placed to conceal most of the garden. How does one broach the subject of a contract I wonder, this is highly theoretical of course, I could never really ask them to dispose of the Landlady – could I?
Meanwhile the hedges which were 18 inches apart are now only 16 inches apart as all the lovely pink flowers have bloomed, its very pretty but now too narrow to allow two people to walk side by side or to pass each other. How can I muster the courage to ask him to cut it back? Perhaps I should start a “Petition on the Restriction of Hedges” after all there is a clause in our Leasehold document that states “The frontage of each property is restricted to be laid to lawn with a single small tree allowed in the centre of each plot, no other plants or surfaces may be allowed.”