Chat # 3
Many people found Lockdown brought them closer to their neighbours. Unfortunately, Heather isn’t one of those people.
SCENE 3: CITY CENTRE (EXT. DAY)
Heather (female, 60+) sits alone on a bench, feeding the pigeons / seagulls.
HEATHER: That’s right. Mama’s here. I know, I know. I should get the half loaves. But I like thick cut bread, and they only make that in full size loaves. That’s how they get you. You’re not complaining, though, are you? And there’s only you lot listen to me any more. As long as I keep buying thick cut bread, eh? Before all this, I was out all the time. Improv workshops. Spoken word nights. Writing groups. Life drawing classes. Or just popping into Pop Recs for a coffee and a natter.
I’ve never done ‘women’s groups’. I just… it’s not my thing. I never really clicked in a group like that. I need something to keep my mind whirring. And to be around younger people. Keeps you young in yourself, I reckon. Then the groups stopped and everywhere closed. In less than a week, I went from arty farty, to a forgotten old fart. The lads at Pop Recs were great. If I ran out of anything, one of ‘em would be right there at the end of the garden. But as the weeks became months, I felt bad always asking. Who am I to them? And they’ve got families of their own. I had to take a break from Facebook in the end. There were all the usual rows.
Nobody has opinions any more. They all have deeply held convictions. And arguments. About everything. About masks. About distancing at protests. About clapping for the NHS. But that wasn’t the main reason. You get used to the rows. It was the “all in it together” brigade.
All these people who were ever so proud of their street, or their kids, or their wives. All posting about how close they’d become during lockdown. There was a street in Grindon where they all did this Dancing on your Doorstep thing. Every Sunday, someone would pick a song, and at seven o’clock the whole street would come out and dance to it. Bruno Mars. The Weather Girls. Michael Jackson. They’d all be in costumes, and laughing together. You know what they did in my street? My neighbour built a wall. It’s awful, too. Maybe 20 or 30 feet tall and all cladding. Looks terrible next to the Victorian brickwork. I can’t even see the roofs of the other houses unless I go upstairs and look out the windows. 8
HEATHER (cont’d): They didn’t just build a wall, mind. They knocked the old one down, first. Killed I don’t know how many roses doing it. And you know what they said when I told them? It was my fault! Because of the irregular way I watered my garden.
They said I’d damaged their wall! Have you ever heard anything like it? That was my sanctuary during all this. I’m usually too busy to take care of the garden, but I suddenly had all this free time. I was out there for weeks. Mowing. Pulling up weeds. Pruning the damn roses. Irregularly watering! And just when I’d got it how I wanted, and I could sit out of an evening, with a cup of tea and the radio on… down comes the wall! Kills all my roses. And for the next two months, there’s builders everywhere.
That was a low point. I could go days, weeks even, without speaking to anyone. And there’s my next-door neighbour, going on like that. I started singing around the house, just to cheer myself up. You know what she did? Sent me a message on Facebook saying she could hear me singing, and would I please stop? At nine o-clock, could I keep it down? After all the times she’s kept me up with her mithering and her Zoom quizzes and her hundreds of grandkids! I’ve blocked her now.
I was so upset. Wasn’t enough for her to take my garden. She wanted my singing, too! So you know what I did? Signed up for lessons! There’s a group on Zoom. People all ages, singing folk songs from all over the world. I told the lass who’s running it about her next door, and she was really cross. So this week, we’re doing the theme song from Neighbours. (Emptying out the last of her bread crumbs.) Anyway, that’s all of it. Thanks for the chat. I’ll be back in a couple of days to let you know how the sing-along went.