Friday, 30 January 2009

On being a good neighbour

The phone rang last night. My wife picked up the receiver and, after a short and friendly exchange which I didn't entirely hear, she ended the call and announced:
Frannyy, Edna is coming round in a minute.
Edna (not her real name) is our delightful old neighbour. She is a very elegant and posh lady, always dressed up and courteous, who often pops round to our house for some company, never unannounced of course; sometimes for a chat, other times for a cup of tea, occasionally for something stronger.

A few minutes after the telephone call announcing Edna's imminent arrival, the door bell rang. I opened it and Edna nearly fell into the house. She stumbled past me and into the hall with a few hasty steps, then stopped as if to get her bearings, vacillated briefly then turned round to face me and give me a kiss on the cheek, handed me a bottle of red wine and slurred:
Hello dear, so kind of you to have me this late in the day. I hope I am not a burden.
"You're not a burden, Edna, you're drunk" is what I wanted to say, but naturally I didn't and uttered some other pleasantry instead designed to make her feel welcome. This was the second time she had stumbled on the threshold to my home, and never before on the way in.

I made her a strong coffee and saved the wine for another occasion instead. You may think this is rude, but, you see, while we often sit down and have a tipple or two in each other's company I had to exercise some caution in administering more drink, given how events unfolded for her one new-year's eve not long ago.

We had some friends staying for new years eve. And so did Edna. Her friends were some equally posh and sombre people from Ludlow. They wore cardigans and pearls and were looking forward to their delicious meal and to midnight. The friends staying with us were gay extroverts with a predilection for mischief.

Mrs Frannyy invited Edna and her friends over for an early aperitif. Edna happily gushed to her friends her praise and admiration for us, and what reliable and trustworthy neighbours and friends we have become to her since Albert's death (also not the husband's real name).

They came at around 5 p.m. The Ludlow guest and I chatted and made small talk over a drink. Kevin, on the other hand, sat with Edna, poured her a large glass of wine and started an intense and involved conversation. I could tell because they were leaning towards each other with evident and keen interest in what the other had to say. I occasionally caught fragments of the conversation and it appeared to be about life as a flight attendant and part time cabaret artist.

A little later I noticed Kevin had opened the third bottle of wine and that Edna was beginning to slur her words. A glint of mischief sparked in Kevin's face, we locked eyes and my tacit smile was interpreted as encouragement. He continued to top up Edna's glass. In for a penny, in for a pound; I brought out more bottles and the wine flowed freely. Now the conversation between them had graduated into something altogether more interesting and included detailed description of gay sex.

Three hours later our guests, who had come in for a quick how d' you do, were in no fit state. They were as drunk as lords and Edna was the worst of the lot. Kevin offered to walk her back home. As they stepped out of the front door Edna briefly lost her footing and steadied herself by placing a hand against Kevin's chest. Never one to lose an opportunity for exploring human behaviour in awkward situations, he grabbed the eighty-year-old's hand and shifting it slightly onto his nipple piercing acted all surprised and, theatrically but believably, whispered:
Oh, Edna! I never suspected....
He then used the fingers of her hand (still on his chest) to rub his nipple.

I believe her semi-comatose response was to rub his nipple piercing of her own volition for a while with the occasional Oh Kevin! thrown in, and then said words to the effect of: oh take me home you salacious devil. Which he did.

He returned a few minutes later and we continued our party; we laughed, we drank some more, we had fun, but crucially we ate a great meal and saw the old year out and the new year in. Which is more than can be said for Edna and her guests. Apparently they were so sozzled that they barely managed to prepare a frugal meal of baked beans on toast and then go to sleep, hopelessly drunk, at about 9 p.m. No big dinner, no party, no countdown till midnight. Their evening ruined, they missed the lot.

Edna didn't speak to us for the entire week, which is why last night I kept the bottle of wine and gave her strong coffee instead. She'll thank me for it today.

1 comment:

  1. you should never withhold wine from widows ... no matter how good your *intentions* are dear frannyy ....