Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Lost forever

So, I’d spent the night watching Valencia being eliminated from the Champions League while I shopped online for women’s clothing.

That might have made a good tweet, as I had, I suppose, intended it to be, until the phone rang and I was informed that my neighbour, Dave, had died.

You joke about withholding full names to avoid identifying people but I genuinely do not know his full name. He was “just” my neighbour. Dave to me as I was Ian to him.

I suppose I knew, or at least suspected, he wasn’t well. I’d see him about more often than usual, although I knew he was  a man who loved his work, even  if it did bring him long hours. And I was aware he was losing weight in a not entirely reassuring manner all the time while the enquiry “How are you?” would be answered by the standard Scottish response “Fine”.

Part of what I do for a living is advising people about how to deal with difficult neighbours. Noisy neighbours, neighbours who dispute property boundaries, sometimes neighbours who are simply un-neighbourly.

But there are 80.000 people in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth and only a handful who find themselves unfortunate enough to have to consult me or my professional colleagues because of their neighbours. The real lesson comes from the experience of the rest.

It is said that you can choose your friends but you cannot choose your relatives. Ha ha. But equally, you cannot choose your neighbours.

But, for so many of us, our neighbours, despite the fact that we are initially thrown together by nothing more than random circumstance, become our friends. And in the way we are thrown together so many prejudices are cast aside.

“They are really nice, although they are not married, you know” becomes “They are really nice, although they are Pakistanis” or even “They are really nice, although I suspect they may be homosexuals”. And in time the “although” disappears. As does the rest of the sentence.

Do you know what, that is because most people are “Really nice”.

So, Dave, at your funeral I will finally, presumably, learn your second name. And that knowledge will not be important.  But my loss at your passing will. You were really nice.

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