There are ways of making you talk.
To your neighbours, I mean. There’s the right way, and the wrong way. I’m very practised in the wrong way. In fact so practised that it’s taken me eight weeks to gather enough courage to introduce us to the neighbours across the driveway. I’ve just messed it up soooo many times, and truth is, I don’t know why.
Of course afflicted with the paralysis by analysis gene, as I am, I’ve picked over my past fails with the dedication of a forensic scientist.
There was that time when I bounded over like a Labrador puppy with a ‘Like me, like me plea’ in her wagging tail. Funny thing. The chances of new people liking you instantly are directly proportionate to how over-enthusiastic you are about wanting them to like you. Taking wine and then consuming it all, whilst attempting to establish a bonhomie, doesn’t work very well, particularly if you get a little a)flirty, b)shirty, or c)silly when you over-consume in the hot sun. And if they have to gently shove you over the fence when you’ve out-stayed your welcome…..well, don’t wait by the phone (or fence) for a return invitation.
Then there was the time a muttered rude words, too loudly, at the car that rudely cut me up as I turned into our street. Shame that very same rude driver turned into our shared driveway.
Add to these painful memories the time the neighbour lobbed a verbal bomb over the fence as I was desperately trying to get all three kids to school on time, in clothes, fed and with lunches – when we’d all slept in – ’Vhy you alwayz yell at ze children?’
Let’s just say, I have a low level baseline of concern about meeting the neighbours.
I’ve been putting it off for ages, telling myself that it’s been holidays and Christmas and they’ve had streams of people coming and going, it just hasn’t been the right time. I’d seen the neighbour guy -from a distance – ages ago when I received a delivery. I’d answered the door in a towel.
‘Oh hello, I’m your new neighbour’. And waved like one of the girls from Desperate Housewives.
Perhaps not the best clothes for introductions.
But yesterday, Waitangi Day, I was out in the front yard tidying up when neighbour guy turned up. I grabbed the opportunity bounded over and said;
‘Hi, sorry I haven’t introduced us yet…’
And then I proceeded to give the alarmed guy a full family history. I may have mentioned birth-dates and food allergies. He looked rather alarmed at this overwhelm of information. So I diplomatically (think Iraqi diplomacy!) stopped talking about Me, Me, Me and asked about him.
In the manner of an investigative journalist.
‘So, how long have you lived here. What’s your wife’s name. Is this your cat? How many do you have?’
He managed to shoe-horn a stammer that they had previously had two cats, called Monty and Stella.
‘Oh how funny we have two cats called Monty and Stella!’
‘Well, we did have. Monty died last year.’
‘This is my daughter’s cat -Zibs.’
I wanted to change the subject, quickly.
‘Oh so how many children do you have?’
There was a long silence. He looked down. And then up. As if in a car crash I could see his mouth opening and the words starting to form..
‘Only our daughter. We only have one.’
I’d seen thousands of cars coming and going and Big Day Out venue loads full of teenagers and young people over there. I thought, I thought..
Do you say ‘sorry’? Ask why? Or run away.
I chose the latter. Somehow I don’t think my new neighbour is going to be a close friend.
How do you break the ice with your new neighbours? With a sledge-hammer or do you use something a little more socially able?