The towering, elderly gentleman loomed at the front room window. He said something to an unseen companion. I’m no lip reader, but I think it was ‘Who dares disturb me in my lair?’ Hands out of pockets, hands back in pockets, hands out of pockets, one hand in pocket, one hand out – that should do it, I thought – not too formal, not too casual. As the gentleman took in my squirming, contemptible sight he sucked air in through his teeth, as though to say ‘ah, I’ll make short work of you, my son!’
The door opened, the gentleman now holding a sturdy walking stick – but it wasn’t to help with walking.
I thought, do I start now or wait until I’m spoken to? He answered by lifting his head questioningly.
‘Erm, I’m terribly sorry for this inconvenience, but I seem to have kicked a football into your back garden, and I wondered if you could perhaps…’
For better or for worse, that is how I talk.
‘…I hope you haven’t damaged the fence again because that cost me eighteen-hundred pounds to repair! I’m fed up with it! We just found the fence in splinters one morning. Eighteen-hundred pounds.'
'...And your music, it drives my wife to distraction! I hope you won’t be holding another party anytime soon. Noise at all hours.’
The gentleman had not quite finished. I could tell.
‘…Where have you parked today? Could you not park too close to our drive, it makes it terribly hard getting out, judging the distance. And at my age you'll know how it is.'
‘Ah, sorry, I’ll pass all of that on, you see, I don’t actually live next door, I’m just visiting and I’ve… well… I’ve kicked a football into your back garden…’
‘Oh, right-oh, I’ll throw it back over.’
I felt about 10 years old. The elderly are a capricious and yet kindly sort.