Wednesday, 5 January 2011


for the second year running
a card slips through or letterbox
a card that's not addressed to us
'christmas blessings' it bestows on the front in gold letters
above a depiction of the adoration of christ
and a quotation from luke 2:7
"and she brought forth her firstborn son
and wrapped him in swaddling clothes
and laid him in a manger
because there was no room for them in the inn"
inside a printed message
courtesy of the copywriters of hallmark cards
the only personal element is 'from ruby and russell' handwritten at the bottom
it reminds me of the cards i used to receive from my nan
at birthdays or christmas
even when i had travelled to the other side of the world:
'To Dave...Lots of love from Nan'
this envelope is addressed to 'barbara'
that's old mrs j
our landlord's mother
who used to live here until she passed away a couple of years ago
ruby and russel unfortunately remain unaware of this fact
although they are presumably neighbours
as the envelope is hand posted
it makes me think of the stories you here
about some old person or other
without friends or relatives
who dies one day
and is only found a year later
by the electricity meter man
who notices a rotten smell wafting through the letterbox
i consider how many of our immediate neighbours i can name
i'm not doing so badly on this side of the road
there's catherine, andy, james and emma at number 23
the chinese neighbours next door at number 25
edwin and ella the other side at number 29
then the suttons just round the corner in corvedale
i also know a few other people who live a bit further down the road
the amrits who have been there for donkey's years
since i was a kid
a couple of families with children from h's old school
we've also met the people in corvedale whose gardens back on to ours
but across the road i draw a complete blank
although our houses exchange extended gazes
we're lucky if we get a brief glance from these neighbours
let alone a conversation
this is despite the fact that one family has two young kids
i get the feeling that we must have done something to irritate them
although i'm not sure what
a car alarm going off in the middle of the night?
just once i picked up an empty plastic wrapper fluttering in the breeze
addressed to a mrs preston at the house number directly opposite
but i can't verify the name
good fences make good neighbours so they say

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