Tomorrow is International Neighbour Day A while ago, I started writing a piece about the importance of good neighbours in our life. I thought now was the perfect time to explore it further.
If you live in rural Ireland where it is ten mile round trip to buy eggs, the definition of ‘neighbour’ in terms of geography can be quite extensive. It tends be based on the parish you live in, but in times of need the boundaries of neighbours get extended exponentially in so many positive ways.
I have written previously about the amazing next door neighbours we have (with a field between us). Turning up at the door with a bottle of whiskey as a welcome gift is a great start to any relationship, but willingly standing in your garden at 11pm in freezing conditions to help you find a frozen pipe, stopping your water, is what cements it. Blessed is the word that comes to mind.
I am not going to launch into a long, winding, sentimental praise party about my neighbours, because that would embarass them and me and to be honest I haven’t had enough wine yet! I’ll wait until a summer barbeque to tell them how much I love them, when I’ve been at the Sauvignon Blanc since lunchtime.
Last year, after had particularly difficult run of ‘tough days’, culminating in a nasty argument with my husband. We both said things that we really didn’t mean, we were just angry with our lot in life at that time and took it out on each other. I stormed out of the house, I do like a bit of drama!
I foolishly decided that my 2-hour sabbatical from wifehood, was a good time to go to the pharmacist to discuss a confusing situation with Patrick’s medication. Oh yes, emotionally charged and unwilling to listen, what a perfect time to engage in a conversation about medication that has a significant impact on my family!
After heated words with the pharmacy assistant, I left in tears, making the oh so sensible decision that instead of driving to the beach to walk it off, I’d go and do a food shop on a busy Saturday afternoon. I’m clearly in need of some training on making these decisions!!
Pottering around Aldi, I of course bumped in to lots of people I know, including a couple that live close to us on our lane. We chatted and I was able to fake being ‘fine’, I’m used to doing it now, then my neighbour asked how Patrick was getting on and I just burst into tears. I don’t care how old or comfortable in your own skin you are, bursting into tears in the sweet aisle in Aldi is never going to not be highly embarassing!
We chatted for a little longer, I assured my neighbours I was fine and we went our separate ways. I know I didn’t need to be, but I was mortified!
The following week another one of our neighbours got married and the whole lane was invited. We were on an adjacant table to the couple I had balled crying in front of. After a few glasses of champagne in free bar, I decided to go over and apologise for making everyone feel uncomfortable.
My neighbour scolded me kindly for thinking I should apologise and simply said “I rather you feel you can cry in front of us, and then we can be there to support you.” Like I said, I’m not going to do any sentimental wittering, but we all recognise how much that kindness meant, especially as I know he meant it.
Just as a slight aside, the wedding that day was probably the best of I have every been to and was such a celebration of life and the people we have in our lives, the fact that ALL of the neighbours were invited, says it all about where I live.
The last few weeks, as the world takes on the Corona Virus, we have seen community spirit and support explode. I am lucky to already live in a community where this is high on everyone’s agenda already, so what I am now seeing, gives above and beyond new meaning.
I was delighted that on Thursday I got to speak on Today FM Radio Station and recognise the work of a local Guard, (police office for my non Irish readers), who heard how much my Autistic Son Patrick was struggling to handle the isolation and massive changes to our routine.
Cara the (s)hero, contacted me to ask what could she do to help get him through. So often when dealing with special needs supports you encounter the phrase “I’m sorry but there’s nothing we can offer you/ there’s nothing available.”
It is rare to get a phone calling offering proactive, custom made supports. Every day this week Cara has sent Patrick a video made just for him, from Gardaí around the country in different roles, and this is going to continue. He will be marking the videos of his Ireland map for each county.
The absolute highlight of the week, was when Cara arrived at the end of our drive in an uber-cool Garda Car, with an evidence bag, filled with Garda gear for Patrick. Seriously, an evidence bag – a stroke of pure genius that Hallmark could never match in their gift bag selection.
To be fair, this particular act of neighbourly decency will be hard to match, but I know everyone is checking in with each other, doing shopping, video calls to provide company, dog walking, mowing lawns, baking cakes, getting creative with the supports they are offering.
The level of challenge everyone is experiencing at the moment is varying widely and so many heroes are stepping up. But I think we all need to give ourselves a pat on the back for our good neighbour skills (just stay 2m away from everyone else).
Here’s looking forward to some great street parties when things go back to normal! Sing along now……..