I am on a mission to befriend my new next-door neighbour. This is the sort of neighbour who has not one, but two, ‘DO NOT PARK HERE’ signs outside his house – both significantly bigger and shinier than his house number. He is the kind of neighbour that refuses to take parcels for me when I am out. When I asked him once what he did for a job, he muttered ‘Work’ and shut the door. The closest I have come to having a conversation with him was when he accused me of dislodging another neighbour’s gutter when pruning an overgrown tree. Even that was via text to the guy with the gutter I was just about to reposition. But I’m not giving up. I figure a friend may be just what he needs.
And I need a friend too. I don’t even mind the sort with limited social skills. Since the first lockdown I have changed job and moved house to a new town and friendships are suddenly in short supply. Social distancing in my case has become less about how many metres away someone is standing, but how many miles away they are living. It’s about how many invitations I am not getting, how many days go by without contact with anyone beyond my wife and children, and the seeming chasm between neighbours.
Perhaps I wouldn’t have noticed this a few years ago but my values and priorities have changed since Covid. Life does not revolve around work deadlines any longer. The office doesn’t provide me with a daily fix of company. I want and need friends more than ever before in my life, but like for so many of us, my friendship muscle, along with all the other muscles in my body, seems to have atrophied.
I am not alone.