Cups of sugar? More like passata and wine
When we bought our house 25 years ago, we were still living in London. The builders were in, converting the house from a warren of bedsits into a family home, when one of our neighbours called to the door. She told the foreman that she needed a staircase taken out in her house down the road, and that my husband had said that the builder and his men would be able to do it for her. Being an obliging fellow, the builder went and did just that, clearing up the mess after he'd finished and disposing of the detritus in our skip.
At that stage we hadn't met our neighbour, still less given her permission to borrow our builder. Over the next few years, we did get to know and like her, and the staircase incident was never mentioned by either of us.
We'd been living on the street for about five years before we were invited to the annual neighbours' Christmas drinks party. At that stage we were no longer considered blow-ins. The drinks party stopped when the hosts downsized and moved away, and I regret that we didn't ever assume the mantle. Anyway it's too late now, but I'm going to instigate one in the new house, even though I don't think we will have many neighbours, as most of the houses around us are in offices. Every time I hear about another family that has moved into the city centre near our new house, I make a mental note and wonder if we'll get to know them.
Even though I've lived on this street for 25 years now, and there are only a couple of dozen houses, I still don't know everyone, either by name or even by sight. A couple of the houses are still in flats, with a more transient cohort of residents, but there are families who've been living here for five or 10 years that I've never met. I have a sense that this is unusual for Dublin, and I think it might have something to do with the fact that the street is made up of two terraces facing a park, so when we look out of our windows, we see trees and grass rather than people coming and going. I have never seen some of our neighbours bringing shopping into their houses in all the years that I've lived here.
That's not to say that we don't have some great neighbours. We're lucky to live just a couple of doors away from two of our best friends, who happen to be married to each other. We've known them since London, and claim credit for persuading them to follow us back to Dublin and to buy a house on the same street. We have a proper cup-of-sugar type relationship with them, although because we're all so ineffably middle-class it's more often a jar of passata or a bottle of wine. The other day I had good reason to give thanks for great neighbours when the vacuum cleaner broke down just as we were getting the house ready for another viewing. I was able to let myself in and borrow theirs. Phew.