Blogging assignment no 3 is saying hello to the neighbours . My daughters would say this was not a difficult assignment for me, that I talk not only to my neighbours but to everyone else besides. Not quite true! but if you don’t believe me then read my story below.
One warm evening in august.
On a day when the sky remained blue and the wind was soft and gentle.
The sort of day if you were not working you would be ecstatic and on the beach.
But I was working that day, on a busy hectic ward, with no time for a break.
Thirteen hours spent running and administering to my ill patients.
By the end of it I was hot, grumpy and exhausted and to make matters worse, due to a last minute emergency, I was late getting off duty and as I cycled frantically around the corner to the train station, I saw the tail lights of my train disappearing down the track.
There goes my evening swim, I thought crossly and sat on a metal seat to wait for the next train which wouldn’t arrive for another half hour.
As with everything in life there was an upside to this. My train was always busy and I usually had a tough job getting my bike on, making a few enemies in the process.
So when the next train pulled in, I was overjoyed to see that it was virtually empty and better still the carriage I chose to get into was completely so.
Plonking myself down at a seat where the window was open and the window across the corridor open too, I sighed contentedly.
I was really too old for this crazy stressful job but misfortune and poor planning on my part meant I had to stick with it for another few years.
Sometimes it occurred to me that, like cycling madly to catch the train, I seemed to spend my life pedalling furiously just to keep up with everything.
Peace and calmness overcame for my fuddled overloaded brain as the train took off and the balmy summer air blew in through the open windows.
The train stopped at the next station and I watched a woman get on.
She came down the carriage and sat on the seat across the aisle from me, first banging closed the window on her side. Then standing up again, she reached over me to close mine.
‘Please’ I protested, looking over my shoulder at the seats behind, hoping she would get the message and sit elsewhere.
‘I’ve been inside all day and am enjoying the fresh air’
She didn’t take my hint and move away.
Instead she said ‘but the open window makes the carriage noisy and I wont be able to talk to you’.
My heart sank.
‘Oh well’ she plopped down opposite me ‘I’ll have to sit nearer to you so’.
She ignored my look of dismay and she continued,
‘I have just made the biggest mistake of my life ‘.
One of the things I will never forgive my father for was instilling in us the importance of being polite.
I hope I am never mugged because I just know while he/he is clouting me about the head while ripping the bag from my shoulder, I will be nodding politely.
Unable to help myself, I put on my kind face and raised my eyebrows slightly in an interested fashion and leaned slightly towards her.
Please go on, I am listening, my expression said
I needn’t have bothered. She was already in full flow….Telling me how her newly married daughter had just bought a house in dublin only a month after she herself had bought one in galway,
‘If I had known my daughter was going to settle here’ she waved a much ringed finger at the passing scenery ‘I would have done the same ‘
She paused for a breath before continuing
‘I’m sure my daughter indicated that she and her new husband were moving to galway. oh if only I had known that was not the case’……
I stopped listening but was careful to hold my expression as though I was, and took time to view my new neighbour
In her fifties with carefully dyed light brown hair, she wore a small amount of lipstick and rouge. Cream linen trousers covered her slim legs and pearly pink painted toenails peeped through a pair of expensive gold sandals. She wore a white shirt, with a single gold chain around her neck. There was nothing about her that would point to insanity or even mild madness.
The only giveaway that something was wrong was indicated by the faint smudge of her mascara.
I shuffled my bare feet enclosed in scruffy birkenstocks under the seat.
‘Do you think thats normal?’ she interrupted my thoughts.
‘Sorry I didn’t catch that’ I murmured politely.
‘That she said I shouldn’t call without phoning first’ She was looking at me impatiently. ‘Is that normal behaviour from a daughter’? She repeated.
I broke my silence and my vow not to get involved.
I was a nurse after all and this is what we do. We help people.
‘Well I suppose’ I replied carefully ‘In this day and age with mobile phones, its as easy to ring first, check that they are in or aren’t busy.
Visions of what newlyweds must get up to in the privacy of their new home flashed across my brain.
‘But its my DAUGHTER’ she wailed tears welling ‘and now she’s so CROSS with me’.
Fussing in my bag, I found a tissue and handed it to her, resigning myself to a counselling session.
‘My daughters are often cross with me’ I said gently ‘It’s a mother/daughter thing. I wouldn’t worry about it’.
To prove my point I told her about the time recently when I was choking on a bit of frisee lettuce in a restaurant. Acting swiftly I had stuck my finger down my throat to grab the tail end before it had a chance to disappear into my lungs.
As I was hauling it up with relief, I had caught my two daughters looking at me in horror. ‘MOMMM’ they had hissed in unison.
‘Sorry’ I had said meekly, hiding the offending green leaf in to my napkin and taking a sip of wine to ease my traumatized throat. They had ignored me crossly for the rest of the evening.
I was relieved when the woman smiled at my story.
‘I used to get cross with my own mother’ I continued ‘On the bus she would insist on talking to the smelly old person at the back .
‘Loneliness is a terrible thing’ she would lecture to me if I would nudge her crossly.
‘I might be the only person he/she talks to today’
My new neighbour nodded thoughtfully. ‘That was Kind of your mother’ She said ‘I know how it feels to be lonely’. She looked at me mournfully.
But now I was in full flow.
‘As you said yourself, she is newly married. Maybe she is just trying to prove her independence.
Is she your only child?’ I asked kindly
She shook her head, pushing the tissue under her eyelashes in a way that women used to wearing mascara do. (A thing that annoys me intensely, after all if you are so upset who cares what you look like) and looked out the window at the sea before answering.
‘I have a son but he moved to australia’. Looking back at me the tears began to flow in earnest.
I watched my tissue changing from white to black.
‘Well if its of any consolation’ I replied getting back to the original conversation ‘I always phone my daughters before calling on them. It seems to be a thing of this generation. I don’t take offence about it or feel they love me any the less’.
‘Maybe you are right’ She agreed.
I was tired now. My long day of hecticness was catching up on me. I thought a nice glass of sancerre as the evening darkened and cooled would be lovely’
I was about to ask her if she liked wine but she had jumped up suddenly.
The train was juddering and pulling up to a halt and she caught the rail to steady herself.
‘Goodness! I nearly missed my stop’ she said more cheerfully now, giving her eyes a final dab.
As she was hopping off the train she turned back and said…
‘I envy you. you must have a great life! You appear so serene.’ And with that she scampered lightly up the steps of the train station.