Good (sociable) distancing makes good neighbours…

We have such a benevolent gees[1] going in our street, and it has been most encouraging during this time of lockdown.

Every time the air force does a fly-by of our area with its impressive fleet of one black helicopter, we all race out to wave and cheer our essential services on. Well, we would have if it had flown over our neighbourhood. I see that chopper every day around the same time and then it returns around sunset. I’m convinced the crew pops across to Langebaan for a day in the sun and then flies home in the evening.

It must be a bit boring now though for our police and military in (mostly) law-abiding suburbs, where crime stats are almost negligent due to most of the criminals also stuck in lockdown. I mean, if you enter the armed forces for the adrenalin rush, you can’t be getting much of a fix at the moment in suburbia.

The emergency services did a parade of force through the suburb a few nights ago and I nearly choked on chocolate I’d nicked out of the snack cupboard. Police and armed response vehicles drove up and down our roads with lights flashing and sirens echoing off buildings in a frightening manner. I was convinced there had been a five-car pile-up down the road, but it was merely our public defenders, doing an honour lap of the neighbourhood.

And our community obliged by rushing out on our balconies and curbs to cheer and clap for them, remaining a while to wave and cheer with our friends across and alongside us. Anything for a view of people other than those we live with. Don’t get me wrong – I love my household, but am wearying of looking at them all a tad, so it’s exciting to see what other people look like.

I mean Andrew only has a couple of tracksuits that he wears like a gangster in the Sopranos (fortunately without the bling); I’ve seen all of Shannon’s pyjamas and Catlin can’t be seen because she wears a blanket over her clothes, because she seldom stirs form her laptop. Liam is similarly disguised by his Abraham-Lincoln-meets-hobbit hirsute look. The only one who is shedding clothing is the Mad Lab whose coat we sweep up all day. But there’s only so much variety to any of the above.

I am enjoying the casual wear though, and I think I have forgotten how to wear high heels. I draw the line at no make-up however – there are too many mirrors in the house to avoid seeing a putty-less visage without screaming, so I get dressed comfortably and mascara these lids. One must keep up one’s standards. Like ironing. They keep threatening to wear their clothes un-ironed, which works wonders in getting mom to haul out the ironing equipment with a sigh.

So, it’s good to have other folk to look at.

A few nights back, someone played some great rock music in the street, to pay tribute to health workers, and again, out we all popped like tracksuited glockenspiel figurines, chiming our enthusiasm gleefully.

Our road’s neighbourhood watch leader, Shaun, efficiently posts fact-checked government announcements and keeps us on track against that other pernicious virus, fake news. In fact, Shaun has been such a good leader in all the nearly 9 years I’ve been resident here, if he decided to move to greener (or quieter) pastures, the residents of the street would probably blockade the road to prevent the family from leaving.

Then there is Jess whose singing recordings sometimes filter across the street in pleasant sound bites and alternate with Bandile next door’s soul music, and Donnie the DJ’s radio station, in keeping us entertained. My family’s contribution to the music of the thoroughfare: The Maestro’s beautiful Chopin Etudes or snatches of whatever pieces he is teaching; Liam’s plinking beginner practising and the loud debates between siblings that rival any powerful operatic death. It’s no wonder our back neighbour has taken to smoking his homegrown weed supply.

It’s good to know that we are confined in a community of houses, not unconnected silos. This is not a time for stepping out of our comfort zone, but for finding comfort in the zone.

Some of the most beautiful chapters in our lives won’t have a title until much later.”

— Bob Goff, author of Love Does


[1] Spirit, energy, enthusiasm