I have a confession to make. I’m not very good at community. You know how we are all supposed to get our jollies from embracing our fellow man/woman, loving thy neighbour, pitching in and stuff for the common good? Well, “community” sort of scares me. I guess I'm just not a joiner. But then I met Helen and Darcy.
Our part of the neighbourhood is quiet. It hugs the precipice that leers over the Jamison valley, is often shrouded in dense mist, and is populated with holiday lets and renovators’ delights. Inside the renovators’ delights dwell old people, eking out their foggy last years amid 70’s décor and day time TV. There are the crotchety ones, the sad ones and the stoic ones like Helen.
We first met Helen not long after moving in. Helen liked to take her daily constitutional past our house and it just so happened, being a bonny Scottish lass, she loved border collies. She fell for our Sam and the feeling was mutual. It wasn't long before we also fell for Helen with her canny knack of showing up just when Sam was due for a walk and her keen observations on neighbourhood goings-on. She knew everyone, and had perhaps lived here the longest. She loved that we were renovating Mabel’s old place. She didn't love the way her legs got tired climbing Gordon Road but she tried to keep up none-the-less. At 90-something years young she took it upon herself to look after some of the other less mobile folk, dropping in for a chin wag and a medicinal each afternoon with Darcy and Cath. (She had a seemingly never-ending stash of her father’s Glenfiddich.)
But time ran its course for Helen and in early 2014 she died.
Helen’s passing left Darcy and Cath at a loss. No longer had he an afternoon drinking buddy or she someone with whom to disagree with on religion and politics. Age began to tell more visibly on them. Real frailty set in.
One afternoon I noticed the octogenarian struggling with his wheely bins and offered to help. And so began my weekly pilgrimage to see Mr Darcy.
I often scuttle in between work deadlines and loads of washing to rush the near-empty bins to the curb hoping not to be noticed so as to avoid conversation. But occasionally I am stuck, invited inside to hear the latest about Cath’s heart condition, their goodly friends from the “church” and snippets of neighbourhood gossip. I’m sure Darcy would like to offer me a drink.
I received a card on my birthday that Darcy made on his computer, and in return delivered a box of chocolates to celebrate his 90th. In our letterbox this Christmas was a jar of home-made marmalade, the same sort Helen used to give us.
They have our number should anything untoward happen that doesn’t require an ambulance.
I guess you can’t help but get involved in other people’s lives.