Saturday, 3 October 2009
on being a good (or bad) neighbour
This morning, I was woken by a knock on the door at eight. There was a policeman at the door, notebook out. He asked me if I heard anything last night as there was a break in at one of my neighbours houses. I was still half-asleep and I vaguely recalled some noise in the early hours of the morning. Was it before or after I got up to go to the loo at ten to six this morning? I couldn't remember. He asked me what kind of noise I heard. I told him there was a van, doors slamming. I remember being woken by noise from the van and thinking to myself in my half sleep state how it was a bit out of order someone being so noisy when people (ie me) were trying to sleep. I assumed it was another neighbour who is a builder and there are often one or two vans on the street overnight. In the morning he leaves for work, and I guessed that he had an early start today, hence the van doors sliding and banging.
It took me maybe two minutes of the uniform police standing on my doorstep before I asked, what happened? He told me there was a break-in but couldn't tell me anymore than that. I asked if the people were at home when it happened, which they were. I asked if they are alright? He told me 'they will be'. One of those phrases I have learnt to read between the lines, ie. no they are not alright, but they will cope/get better/survive.
He asked me a few more questions and I realised how I had no information that was any use. He asked if I had got up and looked out of the window to see what the noise was. My answer was a regretful no. I quickly added 'I wish I had now', knowing that the sentiment was no use in hindsight.
This morning there have been police up and down the street, door to door. Another neighbour knocked on my door to ask if I was OK. (A bit sleepy still and annoyed with myself that I didn't look out of the window or dial 999 or witness anything useful.) We has a brief chat about the incident. I know the people by sight, a couple with a toddler, we say hello, sometimes stop and chat mainly about their boy. I was told an ambulance had taken the woman and child to hospital. The husband has been standing on the opposite side of the street watching the police knock on doors, hoping perhaps that someone has seen something or wondering why we didn't.
My street is a friendly street, one where we say hello to eachother, admire eachother's hanging baskets and sometimes stop for a brief conversation. I know the neighbours on either side of me a little better. I know their names. But, it's a street where a burglarly can happen, and I lie in bed assuming the noise is something else, and go back to sleep.
There is a certain amount of guilt hanging over me today, and also a wish to start knocking on doors and ask people's names, say hello, ask if there is anything I can do for anybody.