Following a repossession and a long vacancy, the house next door has a new owner, who is doing it up. We share a drive and I bumped into him as he was unloading decorating stuff from his car. I’m not good at chit chat. “Hello” I said. “Hello” he said. “You own the house now?” I said. “Yes” he said. That was the point I realised I had completely run out of conversation. He stared with increasing panic at me while I frowned furiously, trying to think of something else to say. This continued for a while. My brain had seized up completely, locked at 100% CPU, trying to think of anything to say that wasn’t just fucking insane. Meanwhile, my facial muscles stayed the same in the absence of any further direction from further up the head. In the end he dived inside the house to escape the steady but vicious frowning that was being pointed in his direction.

The next day I was brewing up some beer in the garage with the door open. I was at the stage where you boil it with the hops, and I had a nice rolling boil going in my large stainless boiling pot. My boiler has various wires coming out for heaters, thermometers and the like, along with taps and attachments for chilling the liquid once the boil is done. I had my head immersed in the aromatic steam when I spied my neighbour walking from his house to his car. He spotted me and looked puzzled, so I thought I’d try to be friendly again. I was trying out a large friendly grin when it occurred to me that it might look a little odd that I was grinning at him with my head immersed in steam coming from some weird contraption with wires and pipes coming out of it. I couldn’t help it when my grin turned into a bit of a giggle, which must have added to whatever effect my steamy grinning was having on him because his quizzical expression turned to one of alarm and he almost ran to his car.

The day after that wasn’t any better for neighbourly relations. I was leaving for work in the car, just as his car appeared at the end of the drive, turning in from the main road. I stopped and started waving my arms about a bit, mouthing words to convey the message that it was perfectly OK for him to continue down the drive and I would reverse back into my parking space so he could get off the main road safely because I’m nice like that and not a dangerous maniac. I’m guessing that from his point of view, the dangerous maniac with the weird laboratory in his garage was annoyed that he was coming down the drive, getting shouty and angry. He reversed back on to the road at high speed in what was, quite frankly, a shockingly dangerous manoeuvre. I tried to catch his eye as we passed but he seemed to be hiding behind the steering wheel.

I haven’t seen him since and I’m not quite sure how to convince him that I am almost normal and really not that dangerous.

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