I really don’t know any of my neighbours very well. In thirteen years of living in the same street I have only been in one or two of my neighbours’ homes and only a couple of my neighbours have ever been in mine.
It’s not that we aren’t friendly—we are—when we actually get to see each other. Most of us work full time and we wave and smile when our cars pass as we drive in and out each day. Others are retirees and we only bump into each other on weekends or holidays—but we always stop and chat about the weather, or the gardens, or the dogs. I am not certain I even know all their names (although I am pretty sure I know all their dogs’ names . . . )
In spite of this I have never felt at all isolated living where I do. I have always assumed I could go and knock on any door in the street and be greeted by a friendly face or the offer of help if I needed it. Turns out I was even more right than I imagined . . .
I had the day off last Friday so the girls and I were a little late in going out for our morning walk, but it was still only just coming light as we returned home. I was somewhat surprised, therefore, to see a young man standing at my front door. “Can I help you with something?” I asked. It honestly didn’t immediately occur to me that I was in the process of being robbed . . .
Long story short—on seeing me the man at the front door took off down the street and his partner in crime, who had been in the house, fled over my back fence. Luckily it is a high colourbond fence and he obviously couldn’t get over it and still hang on to my jewellery box, which I found, plus its contents, scattered all over the back garden. Inside the house there was a small pile of ‘loot’ piled on the coffee table ready to be absconded with (my laptop, my phone, and two small purses, which he obviously never opened as one was empty and the other was full of doggy poo-bags . . . )
So they got nothing—except maybe a fright. The ‘lookout’ was seen by me and one of my neighbours and took off as fast as his legs would carry him, and the man who jumped the back fence apparently ran directly into the waiting arms of a tradie who was on his way out to work and, realising the man was up to no good, chased him down the street with a big stick . . .
Of course it is easy to laugh about it now (especially as I didn’t lose anything) but it was all a bit unnerving at the time. In 57 years I don’t remember ever having had to go into a police station before (when I mentioned that to the policeman he said I was either ‘very good’ or ‘very good at not getting caught’!) but they couldn’t have been more helpful. And, as it turned out, they were in for a very busy day. I later found out that three other houses, the local pool and the RSL club were all broken into the same night.
You know how I know that? Because by the end of the day everybody in town knew that. I had barely arrived home from the police station before my neighbours starting arriving to see if I was okay and to ask if there was anything they could do for me (even the ones whose names I didn’t know—bless). My immediate next-door neighbour had already passed his CCTV tape on to the police (smile boys, you’re on camera) and by the afternoon the local communications network had gone into complete overdrive . . .
Later that afternoon a local fisherman (who I am sure I have never met before) jokingly asked me if I had anything left in the house ‘worth nicking’ (at least I hope he was joking . . . ) Everyone at the local shops already knew all about it—Betty told them . . . and Betty heard it from Sharon (I don’t believe I know a Betty or a Sharon)—and several people I see out walking every day (but barely know) also stopped to express their concern—and, naturally, to give their opinions on who the perpetrators might actually be . . .
Wow. I admit I was a bit overwhelmed, and grateful, for all the concern and help I was offered.
And you know what else? It occurred to me that, with a ‘neigbourhood of voluntary spies’ like ours, I should think that those two burglars could well be feeling just a tad nervous about now . . .