Thursday, 19 May 2011

Back to front

I've been working in the front garden for the last couple of days,
trying to inject a little life into the parched, shaded,
needled, rooty terrain beneath the cedar.

This is a space that I pass through
en route to the car,
my second home,
ignition key at the ready,
to become one with the anonymous traffic.

It hardly merits a second glance.
The contrast to our back garden is stark.
Our back garden is peaceful and quiet,
full of trees, flowers and birds,
shielded by the brick bulk of this Edwardian house
from the sirens, and hissing, rushing tyres,
the reverberating bass from a passing car,
the buses braking, bursts of music,
the gesticulating walkers,
the mobile talkers, the crying child,
more sirens, the pneumatic drill,
the delivery vans idling,
the junk mail deliverers,
the three o'clock gaggle of released schoolboys,
bottle kicking, shrieking.
It's not a place I choose to linger.

But because I had to stay out there,
digging and scraping,
bagging up blown rubbish,
I began to acclimatise and people saw me
and found an excuse to talk, over the fence,
(I jumped the first time as I straightened
to find a face, to face with mine).
They asked directions, praised the house,
asked how long we'd been here,
checked out the door colour,
Farrow and Ball?
Smiled and waved,
reported on an elderly neighbour,
invited me round for tea.

I thought. I've got this back to front.
I close that door as a bulwark against other people
and cast them all as strangers.
So strangers they become.

We'll never have a street party here,
it's not that kind of street,
but maybe after seventeen years it's about time I knew the names 
of more than seven of my neighbours.


  1. A beautifully judged posting, Lucille. It made me realise that after living here for over two years I know none of my neighbour's names and recognise only few of their faces..

  2. I have found that I get to know people on our lane by walking the dog, or when I used to walk my children to school. That way they and I would stop and talk. But if you just whizz up and down in the car, you never get beyond a wave from behind the glass.

    Pomona x

  3. I know more than seven. But when we lived in the street where we has small children, we knew everyone.