Sometime after her husband died, some started suggesting that M had bounced back too quickly. When I told Pam, she immediately said, "Of course, that is what they say. Unless she takes longer: then they will say that she is wallowing in it, she's unable to move on, she's hanging on to it."
Pam is at least 15 years younger than me, and how she knows such is a mystery to me, but of course it's true. Perhaps it's because she grew up in small communities, where it's not only Miss Marple who observes and knows people.
For some years the neighbouring house to mine - separated by an empty block - was rented. Sheila was there for some years: An older woman, Sheila with her frizzy dyed orange perm was happy and unselfconscious in her shorts and sleeveless tops despite her withered, stringy limbs. Cheery, smiley Shelia, head always popping up over the fence, exhuberant. Her partner - let's call him Len - was short and stout, a suitable foil.
Some time after my husband died, I started finding reasons to blame myself. E. G.: I had always served healthy food, I believed, including 3 vegetables. Suddenly I found out that this should have been five.
Guilt. Endless opportunities for guilt, self reproach. (Now, I understand, it's seven).
The next time I saw Sheila she had changed. Gone was the orange mini-afro: she was grey, fringed, bobbed. When I spoke to her she stared blankly, hostiley, accusing. She turned away. She seemed to endorse my guilt.
It was some months later that I read in the daily paper that a man had had a heart attack and died in his back yard. It was Len. I dithered, fearing Sheila's scorn, but wrote sympathetically and popped it in her letter box.
I didn't expect an answer, but there it was, from Sheila's brother, thanking me. "I don't know whether you know that Shelia (sic) had Alzimer's?" he said. "She was a lovely woman." I thought of Sheila then, staring into the mirror at this woman with an iron grey Dutch bob, wondering how her curly orange identity had been stolen by this old woman.
A disputing couple came next. They had excellent social connections, but I doubt any of those would have believed the vituperative exchanges that rang around from morning till late at night. Breathtakingly vicious. .
After them came a solo man who played music so loudly that birds fled the trees once he started. It was not possible for me to hear my television. It was an assault I assumed one had to endure. Vicky knew better. Much younger than me, she also had grown up in small communities.
"He was obviously trying to bait us," she said. He was? I didn't realise that.
Vicky went head on. Having dinner guests one evening and being drowned out by his noise, she crossed the lane to his house, complimented him on his taste in music, asked the name of the album, thanked him for the fact that she didn't have to play any music for her guests because his provided it all. She invited him over one evening to meet her her husband and family.
There was no more loud music. Ever. V peacefully solved what I saw as an unsolvable issue. Knowledge of a variety of people, such as you gain in a small community, give insights that such as I are blind to.
The house was sold after that. For some years there was a very occasional marijuana plant in my yard, but even they have stopped.
All is peaceful ... which, in retrospect, can sound boring, can it not? I don't mind at all. Boring gets a bad press.