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WEEKEND: UNPLUGGED: Perhaps it's me and not the neighbours who acts a bit strange.

Byline: HELEN LEGH

NORMAL people talk to their neighbours don't they?

Chat about their day, whether they've heard about so and so at No 43's affair with the window cleaner, that sort of thing.

Well clearly I am not normal and neither are my neighbours.

I seem to pick places to live where only odd people who you go out of your way to avoid live.

There was the flat where the man next door used to play his hardcore rap at high volume at two o'clock every afternoon on the dot.

Fine to a certain extent, but I know for a fact he was of pensionable age. (No accounting for taste when it comes to Snoop Doggy Dog clearly)

Then there was the house-share I lived in where my flatmate used to take one bite out of every chocolate biscuit in the tin just so the rest of us wouldn't then touch them. Odd.

In the last place I lived, my next door neighbour used to take a toilet break every night on the dot of midnight.

I knew because I could hear through the thin walls, my bedroom being next to his bathroom. That was nice.

This time round, my neighbour is a lovely bloke, lives with his very nice girlfriend, and is very ... nice.

Nice to the point that he'll keep you talking for a good 45 minutes every time you say a polite hello.

He'll tell you about his upcoming operation, his new kitchen units and his girlfriend's mother.

He really is lovely, but sometimes you're dying for the loo, or you have to get into town before the shops shut, all manner of reasons, and telling him this makes no difference to the length of the conversation.

You just cannot get away.

You can try and say hello without stopping, keep your feet moving, make "I'm in a hurry" facial gestures, but nothing works.

So last week when I pulled up in my car in the foulest mood ever and saw him in his garden I thought to myself: "No way, I want to go into my house and mope, I am not going to spend half on an hour on a conversation I don't want."

So I pretended I was on the phone.

Now you can imagine what happened next can't you?

I wandered down the path having an imaginary yet very animated conversation, gave him a smile, a wave and an "ooh work eh?" kind of shrug, got to my door, fiddled with the key, still chatting away when my phone started ringing.

Whoops.

My neighbour looked very hurt and I threw my very red self through the door with the force of three elephants.

Maybe next time I should turn the phone off first hey?

Or just bite my tongue and be neighbourly - there's a thought!
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Apr 24, 2004
Words:474
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