Friday, 14 September 2012

There goes the neighbourhood

Went round to see the neighbours. Hopefully, I looked like a person they'd listen to. For that in Smalltown, I'd normally need red arms, a neck tattoo, and a pit bull. But I hoped the Moleskine and a black biro would do instead.

The thing is, we've long lived next to a house used as a shelter for difficult teenagers. Now that part, I am not too bothered about. Shark, Squirrel and Tiger are brung up very strong on the idea that we all help each other out. And everyone needs a few chances to straighten themselves, okay? Anyway, I might be visiting Shark there one day, after I kick her out for lip like she gave me this morning. So I can deal with it.

As I can with the knowledge that we take a direct hit on all the crazy things your average teenage can throw at a Smalltown residential street, from drug taking and prostitution, to 3am music and smashing the wing mirrors of 50 cars parked along a midnight street, including ours. For this theatrical display of teenage spirit, teaching prepared me. It was more than an eye-opener. It was like a crash course in the antics of a delinquent underworld.

But, after seventeen years, the contract changed on our local homeless shelter. Joan, the woman who previously held it all together, was one fierce operator. She believed in involving residents immediately with information on house procedures for all the inhabitants, from the damaged to the dangerous. She popped round, called Hello neighbour, and shared her observations about the car parking trauma, the wheelie bin theft, and how the window cleaner ended up in prison. And she had a mean kick. She helped out in a trice by kicking in our gate when the iron locked in the brickwork. Neighbours like that you don't find too often.

But now, as holder of the previous contract, she's gone. Along with the permanent staff. I miss her. Agency employees have moved in, supporting a fresh set of clients. Yet we still expect we'll need the huge tolerance and patience that anyone does, when they have a house bursting with miserable screaming teenage angst. Even if ours already have a home, we'll still need that kindness. I expect the homeless shelter will want the same from us.

Two months into this change in our street community, it's sad that no-one's come round to say Hello, neighbour. Maybe they're busy getting to grips with the police force. Representatives of whom arrived at 2am after things turned violent.

Best not wait any longer for the first move. Time, is it not, to equip myself with the Moleskine and black biro, proffer my hand and say Hello, neighbour. It's either that or chuck a brick through their front windows.

1 comment:

@notatschool said...

We live next door to two care homes, one run by social services which is fine and v friendly (despite police and fires in front and back gardens etc), and one private, which is not friendly at all and from which a naked man escaped, climbed over our fence, came into the house and wanted to play with the children!

Hope your visit went well!