Tuesday, 27 December 2016



A few doors along from me used to live a woman whose name
(for the purpose of this tale) was Mrs. SMITH.  Mrs. Smith and her
three daughters were living there when my family moved into the area
in 1972 and had presumably lived there for a good number of years
before we had ever thought to do so.  In the fullness of time, her
daughters married and moved out and Mrs. Smith lived in the
house by herself.

About fifteen years ago, I would occasionally see Mrs. Smith's
teenage granddaughter visiting her, but her health had started to
fail so I never saw much of Mrs. Smith herself, apart from the very
odd occasion when she was sweeping her front porch.  Then, around
six years back, I noticed that the now adult granddaughter and her
boyfriend seemed to be visiting Mrs. Smith quite a lot, if their
frequent comings and goings were anything to go by.

And then one day the penny dropped.  Mrs. Smith's grand-
daughter and boyfriend weren't visiting, but actually living there,
Mrs. Smith having moved out of the house and in with another of her
daughters some months before without me having noticed.  And so it
had come to pass that another long-time familiar face had disappeared
from my everyday life without me ever getting to bid her a last
goodbye.  (Not that she'd be concerned with that.)

I've no idea if Mrs. Smith is still alive or not, but I wouldn't be
at all surprised to find that she expired a few years back, so frail
had she become.  In the caverns of my mind are many people who
were once everyday participants in my day-to-day life who I haven't
seen in years, and, like Mrs. Smith, I have no idea whether they yet
inhabit this mortal plane or left for parts unknown a good while
ago.  Alive, dead, flitted, emigrated?  Who knows?

(UPDATE:  I later learned that 'Mrs. Smith' passed away on
Friday, November 1st, 2013 - twelve days after I first posted
this.  Her house has now been sold to someone who lets it.)

What strikes me as odd is that it can be many months, some-
times even years, before we realise that we haven't seen 'so and so'
for ages, and that part of the backdrop of our lives has been altered
by their absence.  I often think of folk who once perambulated past my
window on a daily basis that I haven't seen in years, and wonder where
they are and (if alive) what they're doing now.  (Just where is the guy
with the ill-fitting toupee, who my teenage self used to see making
his way to and from the local pub every night?  He must've been
one helluva fighter to stop his drinking buddies continually
ripping the p*ss out of him, that's for sure.)

I remember sitting in a cafe in Southsea, back around 1985,
and noticing an elderly gentleman with a pale film over one eye
and a distinctly Karloffian-type face (as BERNIE WRIGHTSON
would draw it), dressed in 1950s style clothes under a black overcoat.
I only ever saw him once, maybe twice, but every now and again, my
mind jumps backwards and I wonder what became of him, simply
because I associate him with Southsea and have fond memories
of my time living there, over thirty years ago.  

When I'm gone, I wonder if anyone will one day ever wonder
what happened to the guy with his German Shepherd dog, who
faithfully traversed the neighbourhood in all weathers, and, without
ever having known me, sort of miss me in the same way that they
miss their childhood - simply because I was once a familiar
(from afar), everyday part of it.

It would be nice to think so, but somehow I doubt it.  


Colin Jones said...

My very kind neighbour died this year. It shocked me that she had died before her husband who is frail and elderly - I naturally assumed that he would go first but no, his apparently fit-as-a-fiddle wife died before him. She regularly hung out washing on her line and had a basket of flowers hanging in the back yard but no more...it makes me feel incredibly sad.

Kid said...

Which it is - incredibly sad, I mean. It's strange that we seldom appreciate good neighbours as much as we should until they're no longer there. Is the hubby still in the house, or has he gone into 'care'?

Colin Jones said...

Kid, the husband is still living in the house and is being looked after by his family - I received a Christmas card from him but I doubt he wrote it. How much longer he'll be living there is anybody's guess. He and his late wife were such good neighbours...why do things have to change...sigh.

Kid said...

My sentiments exactly, CJ - why do things have to change? That's why I prefer to live in the past.

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