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Everybody needs good neighbours ...

I've had three interactions with my neighbours today ....

1) Debbie from Number 2 phoned me at lunchtime to ask if I needed anything at the supermarket as she was there picking up some bits.

2) Tonight Joan from Number 8 called on me to say she had ordered fish and chips and would my 15 year old son like some as there was too much for her and her husband to eat (silly question...).

3) And finally our most `responsible' neighbour told me which was the right colour bin to put out for the morning. I must admit this interaction happens every single Tuesday night. I feel the pressure is on because I put some of the bins out in the morning and Louie (Joan's husband) brings them in. I feel a certain level of responsibility comes with being the `putter outer'.

We're like that in our part of the street. I don't know if it's because of the older neighbours who lived on our row when I moved here. They had old values and I happily joined in because that's how I was brought up. When I bought the house I was `the youngun' on the row. Now I am second oldest since my neighbour Esther went into a home.

Joan and I looked after Esther at home until she was 95 and it was too much for her to be left at home alone at any point. We both had keys for her house. We were all strangers but over decades became like family.

As a child I remember visiting elderly neighbours with my Nana. I thought she was elderly at the time but she can't have been. Lets face it everyone over 40 seems elderly when you are young. I remember walking down the back lane in Seghill with her (the smell of a coal fire instantly takes me back to those days - nowadays solely reserved for when I am walking through Beamish Museum). We would be heading for "The Store" as she used to call the Co-op in the village. It used to take us about 2 hours to get there as we would check in on the old people in the street and see if they needed anything. Some of these people were born in 1880's I worked out recently! We would often meet Tommy, who was a neighbour of Nana's - I think he had a stroke previously and couldn't speak but Nana taught me at a young age to speak normally to him and he would write his replies in a tiny little notebook with an old fashioned looking pencil. We had some great chats now I come to think of it. It was completely normal for me to communicate with him in this way as this was all I had ever known.

I miss those days. What my Nana gave me was that sense of community - you look after each other. Of course she had lived through the war and I wonder whether this experience makes you look after each other that little bit more .... to value the little things and embrace the experience of being together. I feel sad for those who don't have that and I worry for the next generation who hold no weight whatsoever on the importance of this. I have friends younger than me who say they don't want that at all, who would want that level of contact with their neighbours! Don't get me wrong sometimes we don't see each other for a week or more - we aren't in each other's pockets but we are there. We are there.

It got me thinking .... have we really lost the sense of community that so many of us claim is missing or are we avoiding looking our neighbours in the eye and making that connection that we don't want to admit we need?

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