I suppose it had to happen eventually (as Clive always said it would; may he Rest In Peace) and now it’s finally happened and an entire family of them has moved into Number Twenty Three – which was Mrs. Brenner’s old house and though we never got on; what with her not being quite our sort of person and the War and all, though she kept it very nicely appointed and had a gardener who went in every spring and summer after Mr. Brenner passed away but you can afford to do that, can’t you? when you’ve picked up so much money over the years in a variety of shall-we-say ‘businesses’; despite the efforts of hard-working folk (who’d lived here on The Estate from when it was first built I might add) to make a decent living in hard times and all without all the help that only layabouts and immigrants get from the Government these days I might add and I’ll never know why Mrs. B decided to move out of The Crescent at all because we were all perfectly nice and tolerant towards her despite everything, but there you are, so anyway these ones had only been here for a couple of weeks and already they’ve been knocking on the doors and asking the real residents for help without so much as a ‘by-your-leave’, though the wife seems to be nice enough and at least you can see all of her face unlike that sulky little miss at the supermarket (where I only shop for my nephews’ birthdays and Christmases because I prefer to patronise local independent shops rather than those big ‘out of town’ monstrosities because you can still get the service there and they always know your name or recognise your face anyway and they’re run by genuine locals who really know their business though you really can’t beat Tesco’s for cereals and proper scented soap without paying a premium at the hippy ‘boutique’ and cat food’s shocking now even if you buy it in bulk at specialists now that money doesn’t stretch as far as it used to before the Common Market) and anyway she seems to be quite nice, considering, and her eldest son’s still ‘cricket-mad’ which is fine as far as I’m concerned and “Long may it last” say I because as soon as he starts to grow a beard I’m going to get double glazing installed and extra locks on the back door if Nigel will pop round to fit them if he’s not too busy with his girlfriend (that hair!) and she looked really upset about her daughter; the little one by the way – (whom we only saw the once when they and their other relatives turned up in all those flashy Mercedeses to move them and all their movables in) - not the older daughter with the spectacles and the very plain dress but who’s very pretty with a really nice, glossy pigtail (if it’s not ‘politically incorrect’ to use that word!) and who reads a lot and I hope it’s recipes or romantic fiction or something because if she goes all religious I might just take Nigel’s advice and sell this place and invest the profits through his brokerage and move into one of those cosy little park homes up at Lea Green to be nearer to Vera who’s getting nearer to God every day - and who only looked to be about eleven or twelve or so and you’ve really got to wonder if that surly father of hers; doctor or not, hadn’t married her off to some goatherd or something in the old country where she belongs, the poor mite, and though I’m not what you’d call inquisitive she looked as if she’d been crying a lot and I said that of course I’ll keep a look out for the little scrap, we’re all neighbours now and anyway this is called The Crescent, isn’t it dear, and she gratefully went off straight away to tell her family and though we keep ourselves very much to ourselves I got on the phone to the Council at once and they were useless as always since Labour got in and they passed me off to The Police who seemed to be unaware that the girl was missing and who were pretty useless after that as well despite coming to the house and staying with the family for hours and of course they declined to keep the residents properly informed apart from showing us all pictures of her – Maryam she’s called which is so sweet and almost English-sounding – and asking if we’d seen anything unusual on Thursday evening last which of course I hadn’t because: A) I never mind other people’s business, and B) because nothing unusual ever happens in The Crescent which is all part of its ambience and what helps to keep the property prices up, and indeed nothing unusual happens in The Estate as a whole, (except for in The Avenue of course. Baptists; I’ll say no more) and even her at Number Fifteen who’s married to a music teacher who’s years too old for her isn’t what you’d call ‘unusual’ despite those trouser suits though I’ve always thought she can’t be much good at arithmetic (Comprehensive ‘education’, what else can I say?) because it always takes so long for her to argue about the price and the quality of the work done by all the tradesmen who endlessly ‘improve’ her house and garden though why aren’t her sons interested in music at all is what I’d like to know, so of course I couldn’t help the scruffy teenager they sent to my house to impersonate a Police Officer and slurp my Earl Grey as if it was going out of fashion which it never does because though I’m no snob I know that true quality never goes completely out of fashion, but fortunately I always know where to go for advice since Sally moved to Australia and whenever Nigel’s too busy with important people to help out; and of course Mr. Neale’s always ready to listen because he’s never quite fit into our little community here in The Crescent despite our live-and-let-live, always-help-the-neighbours ethnos though he keeps a close interest in his immediate surroundings and we have had some lovely chats in his sitting room despite the smell, so yesterday afternoon I paid him a little visit with a slice of the walnut cake that Clive loved so much in the red dress with the rose pattern and my hair down and tied with a simple ribbon and a dab or two of Indian Coral and the door was on the latch (because it’s still very much that sort of neighbourhood despite - well - you know, them) which was unusual for him because despite his charm he always keeps his doors firmly locked due to his experiences in Kenya (or was it Rhodesia? I forget which) and so I just walked in with a friendly “Coo-ee, Mr. Neale!” but he was nowhere to be seen and the back door was open so I could see all the way through into that high garden of his with its overgrown hedge that blocks the light to Mrs. Middleton’s dahlia beds and he wasn’t in his shed which was bolted firmly enough, though the padlock was off and it looked as if he’d been painting one of his silly boats or model rockets because there was sky blue metallic paint on the bolt and in little drips all along the path that really needed some attention with a good proprietary brand of moss remover, so I went back into the house to call him downstairs but to no avail, which led me to worry that he’d had some kind of a seizure (and given how his complexion has been getting worse these past few weeks I’d been afraid that some such might be on the cards) so I went upstairs hesitantly and against my firm beliefs about privacy to find Mr. Neale collapsed and lying on his side in the front bedroom with the curtains and the blinds drawn and sprawled amid all his ‘ham radio’ equipment and the asthma mask and lots of his orchids all strewn about and torn up (ugly, smelly purple and black things that I’ve never liked and I always told him he’d be better off getting a Pekingese) with splashes of that glittery paint everywhere, and you could have knocked me down with a feather when I tell you that the poor man had not only his shirt off but he also had a big rent in the skin of his back from the nape of his neck down to his, well, shall we just say his waist-line? and his head and entire torso were collapsed and hollow though the rest of him was solid enough; like a banana that’s been peeled and the end half of the fruit taken out but the rest put back inside the peel, though looking into the large gap it seemed as if his insides were a lot less complicated-looking than all the wiggly stuff that one sees on hospital programmes and he was covered in ever so many little round holes about the width of my little finger; and some of which were dripping with the blue paint and there was a sparkly pink pencil with one of those nasty little rubber Japanese cartoon characters fitted onto the blunt end stuck right into his chest area, but I was disturbed right then by hissing from the far corner by the bedside table where I saw what I thought was a ventriloquist’s dummy but when I looked closer was a tiny little naked man like a dwarf but the colour of porridge or a faded wooden fence that needed a good thick coat of creosote and he had one very large eye with a black contact lens that was looking at me though the other eye wasn’t looking at anything because it had been punctured and was dribbling sky blue as well and now I knew exactly where the hairless little brute had recently come from and just then it started, oh-so slowly, to crawl towards me with its pale little pipe-cleaner arms and funny, twiggy hands and toeless feet and I thought to myself: “Doris my girl, you know exactly whom this creature has locked up in his shed and it’s intolerable that anything like this should happen in our lovely town in the nicest county in our dear country with a good British Home Stores and a proper, old-fashioned Marks and Spencer, and that’s so convenient for the station for shopping trips to London and Clive never liked him for some reason but he never told me why not and he came here to be welcomed by us all so nicely and now he’s taken to kidnapping our little girls from under their families’ noses (though he seems to have only a single nostril) and you know your duty,” so I went down to the shed again and pulled the bolts across the door jamb and let the poor little girl out into the sunshine.
After I had taken Maryam back to her parents who, needless to say, were delighted to see her and not a little flattering in their gratitude though I say so as shouldn’t, I went back to ‘Mr. Neale’s’ house because I knew from The Daily Mail what to expect if the ‘authorities’ decided to treat Mr. Neale as some poor refugee and took into their heads the notion that the Americans had poisoned his home on the Moon or something and that he really deserved our help despite his criminal behaviour and just where could they deport him to? - and like as not they’d let him go free and squander taxpayers’ money on ‘settling’ him and treating him like Royalty and put him above the respectable people who’d have to pay for him to lord it over us and he’d be up to his old tricks again in no time because that sorts never learns, do they? - and what if he brought his family down and God only knows what drugs and noise and diseases they’d bring with them and anyway I had discovered why Clive had come to dislike him so much in recent years and it was a jolly good thing, too, that it had a very long extension lead because if there’s one thing you can rely on in the suburbs it’s that we keep our gardens nice and tidy now that electric hedge trimmers are so cheap and reliable and easy to wield.
The Daily Mail’s very sensible editorial policies about such matters as immigration and law and order and a great deal of up-to-date celebrity news can be read online here.