Blessed are we with some splendid neighbours here in the rolling valleys of Wiltshire. With lockdown 3.0 dragging its heels, a cheery hello on a walk is a tonic. The village WhatsApp group is helpful and good natured. Need eggs? Someone has chooks. Flat car battery? A charger.
You just know there is a “but…” coming and you’d be right.
When do blogs turn into rants? [Checks notes] About, ooh, now.
Next door was a derelict farm building and is now a bijou dwelling. Freshly filled with good, decent folk who are settling in well. This post is not about them. It is about another neightbour who is directly across the street.
I encountered the latter on yesterday’s daily fresh air fix and was bluntly cross examined about the new arrivals. Who are they? Where have they come from? Being a helpful sort, a cordial member of the community I answered, nodded at his supposedly pithy responses and – not a moment too soon – carried on.
Seconds later I experienced that “dammit” moment. What our French friends encapsulate gorgeously as L’esprit de l’escalier.
Dear reader: I know you are bursting with a question! How did yours truly know all the information about our newest neighbour? Well – hold on to your pyjama bottoms, put down your tea – the day after they moved in we knocked on their door, handed over a bottle of “welcome to the neighbourhood” fizz and introduced oursevles. We had – drumroll please – a chat.
Why can’t Lord Snipealot go say “hello” FFS? Am I doing this wrong? When a next-door are new, pop over and say “welcome”, no?
My uber-wit, mic-drop, way-too-late comeback skills need work I’ll grant you. So for the record, here is the energy I should have conveyed at the casual interrogation:
Other words have been edited from the above because I am a grown up. (This I keep telling myself. As if the mantra will somehow make it true one day. Because it has totally worked in other areas of life. Like, totally.)
[FYI: Dude has lived in the village forever, is not on the WhatsApp group and is minted. His conversation is always tilted to gaining/retaining the upper hand (as opposed to a more humane, appreciative inquiry). Next time I see him, I hope a little more cynical readiness will be with me.]
And there it is. We live in strange times. Times where a little empathy goes a long way. Where reaching out to people helps us all.
It’s not diffiuclt to be nice. It’s not about wealth. You just have to make a teensy effort.
Worth it if you want community.