Carla shares her story of getting to know her neighbours better over a new daily ritual while isolated at home.
If you’d asked me if I knew my neighbours before COVID-19, I would have said of course!
We share cheery driveway greetings. We hold serious verge discussions on errant drivers who ignore the local stop sign, and dog owners who refuse to pick up their pooch poo after early morning walks. We get together for annual Christmas drinks.
One neighbour brings in the bins of those who are full time workers. One who is a garden guru keeps a look out for malfunctioning sprinklers, and we remind each other to close our garage doors. Did I mention we are all West Coast Eagles fans?
But the fact is, I didn’t really know my neighbours before COVID-19. The real knowing has come after weeks of social isolation and a daily catch-up dubbed Driveway Drinks.
It was my extrovert husband Chris, going stir-crazy at home, who came up with the idea. He posed that we should meet our next-door neighbours for a 5pm sun-downer one afternoon, albeit separated by the flower bed.
We found ourselves on our respective driveways with our folding chairs and a glass of wine having a chat and a laugh for an hour. It was so much fun we thought we should do this again tomorrow – and we did. And the next day and the day after that.
Platters of nibbles, eskies and a bluetooth speaker took the daily get-together up a notch.
Some days, neighbours over the road would join us seated on camping chairs on the end of our driveways. Separated, but connected, we discovered we shared much more than a love for a blue and gold footy team.
We all had similar fears about the impact of COVID-19 on our families, our businesses and workplaces and our futures. Netflix recommendations were debated, mutual friends discovered, and fascinating and fun stories of childhood, relationships and travel recounted.
Driveway Drinks only went for an hour each day, but boy did we look forward to that late afternoon opportunity to converse with another human being.
This daily event coincided with families heading out for some fresh air, dog-owners giving their furry friends some much needed exercise, and retirees stretching their legs. Whenever they spotted our appropriately spaced out sun-downer, they smiled and laughed and waved. We were a novelty, a sunshine moment in what were otherwise and uncertain bleak days.
Even the police conducting a neighbourhood patrol stopped in front of our driveway one day. They wound down the window and said “we’re keeping an eye on you lot”, before driving off with a beep and a wave.
As Anzac Day approached, the Driveway Drinks discussions turned to the RSL’s plan. That come 6am on 25 April, people would stand at the end of their own driveways with a candle as a nod of respect to our Veterans. We chatted about whether people would in fact do that in lieu of the sadly cancelled traditional dawn service.
There was general agreement that perhaps people would honour the RSL’s wishes, and some discussion about us having an early morning neighbour sausage sizzle – social distancing style of course.
Standing at the end of my driveway on Anzac Day listening to the Last Post ringing out from the bluetooth speaker I was lost in my own world. I turned to look down the street and noticed the tiny pinprick glow of candle after candle.
You ask me if I know my neighbours. Absolutely, and they are good people.
Carla Shearman is a media junkie, PR consultant, fur-grandma to Milly the Moodle, and a lecturer at Edith Cowan University. During COVID-19 she’s running her business The PR Collaborative from the home office which is also doubling as a gym, virtual classroom and music room.
If you’re feeling disconnected, you can call Lifeline on 13 11 14.