It’s time for the Fannings to leave Brighton and float up the country. Hopefully coming to land somewhere in the middle – far, far from neighbours.
Like Alexandra Small in my upcoming book, we’re moving from the home we’ve never really loved enough to want to make it forever. While Allie’s hand is somewhat forced after losing her job and her husband all in the space of a few hours, the need for quiet guides our hunt. I’m dread invites to ‘supper’ from former public schoolboys wearing red jeans. I end up sat next to a skinny branding consultant called Justin. We’ll chat about hot yoga, Tom Hiddleston, the hazards of buy-to-let, and the novels of Elena Ferrante. There’s always some woman crying about an imaginary problem she won’t remember in the morning. We don’t fit in.
I’ve had neighbours most everywhere I lived. In Amsterdam, we were crammed in tight, under a hockey teacher who made vigorous love each Sunday afternoon at 3pm to her otherwise placid looking companion, and next door to a man who wore very little in the house, but surely should have. We overlooked one of the five most fascinating places … to pass out wasted. Smoking strong Dutch weed is perfect if you need psychological help, but have made a conscious decision not to get any.
Cigarette stealing spaniels
Years ago, in Manchester I lived next to lesbians whose King Charles Spaniels made it their mission to steal my Marlboro Lights – I was drinking a lot back then, and found it charming.
Our temporary bolthole is my late mother’s house. Or ‘the money pit’ as I like to call it, with a leaking roof, dodgy heating systems, rising, falling and ingress damp and taps that refuse to switch off. Or on again. New neighbours have made matters worse. They have five cars between the two of them and an addiction to solar lighting. I swear the lady of the house is on a mission to create the summer version of those Christmas houses that were all the rage a few years back.
And they’re anti-vaxxers. It’s tempting to pass comment as they stage yet another family barbecue on people who’ll eat sausage but decline a vaccine … because they don’t know what’s in it.
Mr Fanning has used the lockdown well. He’s learned how to plaster a wall, plumb in a sink, move electrical sockets and lay paving slabs. I’ve reorganised my spice collection and reupholstered a chair. Badly. And lost most of a fingernail. Something they seldom mention in those smug YouTube videos.
There’s one month to go before we put the place on the market. By a curious twist of fate, that’s when ‘Rebuilding Alexandra Small’ hits the shops for real. I’m expecting to have the audio book on sale around about the same time, so that’s three ways to show you love me more than any of those dreadful neighbours.