On the Market: The loss of several neighbours brings the end of an era

Rachel Love

Rachel Love - Credit: Archant

In her final blog post, Rachel comes to terms with saying goodbye.

Everything is changing around here and for once it isn’t us.

The toothless gurner has died, so has the lady around the corner, her husband, their neighbour and the dog down the road.

There are a few terrified conspiracy theorists wondering if it’s the village cursing us all, karma for number 43’s poorly maintained verges, the human poo outside the station, the overflowing recycling bins on ‘that street’ or the home-grown gobby teenagers terrorising cul-de-sacs. Elderly neighbours can be seen huddled together talking about Irene and Phyllis, “Ooh… She’ll be the next to go!”

One elderly man recently rang the doorbell and asked if we would be attending his funeral.

“You know you’re still alive, Joe?”

His eyes were welling up and I had that awkward sweat that creeps up on me when I think someone is seeking comfort.

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“There’s nothing worse than saying goodbye,” he said, his meek words escaping from his trembling mouth.

“Well, bye Joe… take care.” Now I’m looking back it probably wasn’t what he wanted to hear.

But as I watched him turn away down the path I realised that he was right, saying goodbye is the worst part of it all. Even moving house is a goodbye. I began to realise that moving house is much more than packing a few boxes, tidying up and calling the removals, it’s all about that dreaded goodbye.

Families of the dead neighbours have been traipsing up and down the street, eyeing up properties, pointing to garages, loose roof tiles, cracked bricks and uneven concrete, kicking the odd bit of gravel back into the confines of their dead relative’s pebble dashed driveway and using their hands as visors as they gawk at “all the work that needs doing to the chimney”.

They’re all pasty and pointy-faced and they only ever turn up when someone has died. “Money grabbers,” Jeanette from 64 will say under her breath as I pass.

The word on the street is that these ashen visitors will inherit the empty bungalow and sell it to construction companies for demolition and a bigger, bolder replacement, all the memories and secrets of the bungalow lost forever.

My point is, moving out - whether you’re dead or alive - is so much more than leaving one place and adopting another, it’s a goodbye.

My mum is ruthlessly unsentimental; she doesn’t attach a memory to a single place or thing. She says, “You can have your memories of this place in your head, you don’t need to be here to remember them!”

But I find it’s the dent in the living room door, the crack in the kitchen tile, the wobbly banister and the paint stain on the bedroom carpet that brings back all of those obscure and wonderful memories.

Those things hold the stories of my nephew’s first steps, my brother doing kung fu in the corridor, someone drunkenly falling over or me spilling a drink on movie night.

It’s like the last Friends episode; even the thought of it brings on a tear, because you will never be in that place ever again. It isn’t yours anymore. You have to say goodbye.

So as the funeral car pulls away from the bungalow’s driveway and the procession of pallid faces follows in its shadow, I give a little nod to that empty house and all the memories it holds.

If I have to move away, which I know at some point I will, I want to make sure I create as many lovely memories as possible, soak them up and hold onto them for as long as I can because then maybe saying goodbye won’t be the worst part anymore.