Don’t Upset The Neighbours…

man

We moved to Cookridge in 1964.

In those days our street was one of the very last ones in Leeds, walk to the end of our street, turn right and walk for a few minutes more and you were in fields, real countryside with farms and cows and things, its still pretty much the same.

The bungalow that our dad scrimped and saved for cost him £2300 in 1964, an extraordinary amount of money, most of which was borrowed from the Leeds and Holbeck Building Society, to give an idea of just how extraordinary an amount of money it was he always spoke of “the other bungalow” that they just missed out on buying and how glad he was that someone else got their deposit to the builder just twenty minutes before he did because that bungalow cost £2400 and our dad knew that he couldn’t afford that extra £100.

We moved into the bungalow one November night in 1964 in the middle of one of the thickest fogs I have ever seen, so thick was the fog that you couldn’t see the road at all from inside the car as our dad drove us up the big hill that Cookridge is perched on top of and it was fortuitous that we almost ran into the back of a bus which crawled up the long hill at 5mph as we could at least follow the weak rear lights and hope that the bus driver could see the road ahead.

The bungalow was of a daring new 1960’s design with the whole of the front wall of the sitting room being one huge window facing out onto the concrete street and your opposite neighbours, every bungalow in the street was the same, this was cutting edge housing design, the new decade when our country had finally put the war years and the war debt behind us and was striving on with a brave new building plan, Leeds was becoming the “Motorway City of the North” as our local politicians liked to emphasis at every opportunity and glass fronted bungalows were hyper-cool, we would sit in our glass fronted bungalow wearing the latest in nylon clothing and plan our holidays on the moon according to the vision of the very near future that was presented to us at Wrenbury Avenue.

The very first evening as we sat in our glass fronted living room and pondered on the wisdom of sharing our family life with everyone who walked past the bungalow and our mother berated our father for not letting her buy some new nets and curtains for the ones she had brought from the last house were for a far shorter and narrower window and our father worriedly perused his building society savings book for nets and curtains for such an expanse of glass would indeed be extremely costly, we realised that the bungalow had two other slight, teensy-weansy built-in snags.

The first had been immediately apparent from the first minute that we arose on that first morning – the neighbour in the glass fronted bungalow opposite liked to spend all day long standing at his large front window staring straight across the road into our glass fronted bungalow.

When I say he had stood at his front window all day staring into our bungalow then that’s exactly what I mean, a bald headed man who wore an old cardigan even on the warmest days and with a pipe constantly hanging out of the corner of his mouth John Hall (he would later introduce himself) had only one aim in his life – to stand at his window, arms folded behind his back, puffing at his pipe, staring into our bungalow.

Our dad tried shouting at him at first, shouting from inside our bungalow, surprisingly Mr Hall couldn’t hear him being that two large panes of glass and thirty foot of road stood between them, so our dad motioned with an obscene gesture across the road to Mr Hall, inviting him to, erm, go away, Mr Hall appeared to misunderstand the obscene message and just waved back jauntily.

Eight hours later and it was our teatime and Mr Hall was still standing at his window staring into our house when our dad stormed across the road to berate him, it was then that his long-suffering wife explained that her husband was on long term sick from his civil service job having suffered a nervous breakdown some months earlier, in short Mr Hall was our local nutter and for the next twenty years we had to learn to ignore his constant observations from over the road.

The second snag became obvious as soon as our dad returned from the Hall residence over the road and the next-door neighbours turned on their TV set for the night – their TV set was so loud that we couldn’t hear ours, at all.

Our dad had just sat down and started to recount the tale of Mr Hall the nervous nutter over the road when the blast of the Coronation Street theme tune made the cheap glassware in our china cabinet rattle in sympathy, our mum instantly jumped up and switched on our TV set without thinking – it was OK while we were watching the same channel as next door, we could have the sound on our set turned off completely and just listen to next doors and as our dad liked to observe, that was “saving our speakers” but we had to watch whatever they watched all night long or else we couldn’t hear what was on our TV at all, and their taste in TV programmes was crap.

So for the second time on that first evening at Wrenbury Avenue our dad stormed out of the house again determined to give a neighbour hell over their objectionable behaviour.

He returned ten minutes later with a “I don’t believe it” look on his face and the TV set next door blaring out just as loud – our next door neighbours were both stone deaf, deaf as doornails, well almost totally deaf, the wife could just barely hear something when the TV was turned up full and would explain to her husband what was happening, she promised to turn down the volume but for the next thirty years did not in fact do so – we learned to live with it.

In fact it turned out to be no bad thing having deaf next door neighbours for later on when our dad splashed out on a radiogram and we started buying the popular music of the 1960’s we found that we could play our records as loudly as we liked, full volume so that neighbours way down the street would stand out in the street and wonder where the hell that racket was coming from but our next door neighbours never heard a word – or at least that was the theory for our mother would always put a stop to our high volume antics by insisting that we turn down the radiogram “before we all went deaf” and despite our inarguable factual argument that it didn’t matter as the neighbours were already bloody deaf, she always won despite not actually knowing which of the knobs on the radiogram was the volume one – our mum and technology were not happy bedfellows.

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