Part One in a series of "a couple".
Neighbour "A" is way too formal. Let's call this guy Dave. That's not his real name, anymore than LWTU is my real name, but whatever.
Dave had moved into the same street I was to call home (or, to be more accurate, Beirut) about a year or two before me. He was a door or two down, and another neighbour said he was "nice, but a bit weird".
As it turns out, he was indeed a "bit weird", in that he could never have blended in to this kind of environment if he'd shaved all his hair off, scowled a lot and randomly punched old women in the street.
He reeked of "nice, quiet guy with big round glasses and a nervous disposition"; in other words, the sharks could smell blood from a mile away. He didn't actually do anything to warrant his incoming barrage of hate from the local thugs and hoodies; mostly, he sat in his house with his dog, commiting the heinous crime of playing poker online. His house was a bit of a mess; lived there alone, had some equally "distinctive" friends come round from time to time - but that was enough to mark him out as a candidate for some "fun".
Sure enough, by the time we got there, he was already Steven Segal in Under Siege, but minus the muscles, the guns or anything approaching a slim chance of victory. Someone had singled him out - why, didn't matter - and after that, he endured the usual barrage of airguns at the window, vague threats regarding the wellbeing of his dog, stones thrown, fence panels kicked in etc.
Imagine my dismay when I found out he'd made the clinical mistake of
a) trying to round up civic minded people in the area to "do something about it" in a public display of "we're organising talks with the police, young man" (nobody cared, and he was left to fight the good fight like the one man army that he wasn't) and
b) tried to scare them off by going outside his house and waving his camera at them.
Within days, the kids had branded him the local paedophile, and that gave the green light for non-stop harassment.
I tried to do my bit for him, mainly presenting him with another way of dealing with the trouble he endured (mostly, showing him the benefits of NOT being so obvious with his protestations while winding the kids up at the same time), and offered a sympathetic ear when possible.
I'm somewhat ashamed to say I tried to avoid speaking to him if / when he knocked at my door, though - the last thing you wanted was to be seen talking outside your house to someone already marked for justice at the hands of brick throwing hoodies as young as 13.
His stress levels were through the roof; it came close to sending him completely round the bend. Every second was spent worrying about it - when nothing happened, he went into panic overload because the thought the kids responsible were busy planning something "bigger and better" the next night.
I listened to him one night, with a sort of slack jawed amazement, as he told me (in great detail) his "masterplan" that involved removing one of his roof tiles, poking an air rifle through the gap and picking them off with headshots. As it turned out, he went for a slightly less prison-inducing option. There was a set of alleygates near his house that the kids would meet up at, shortly before launching into their nightly bouts of violence. Realising that if he could get them away from there, they'd have one less place near his house to congregate, he went on a few "nightly patrols".
What did those nightly patrols involve, I hear you cry?
Well, he had this pond. A real stinky, never-cleaned-out pond in his back garden. He went around the streets collecting dog and cat excrement, mixed it with the slurry from the bottom of his pond in a large bucket, chucked in some other junk for good measure then loaded the contents into a top-of-the-range Supersoaker, before doing random drivebys on the kids from the safety of his mates car.
While they were keeping away from the alleygates, he then took the rest of his mixture (by now perfected to super strength) and poured the lot of it from his bucket in the alleyway entrance.
Jesus Christ, did it ever stink.
Eventually, he told me one day that he'd managed to grab a flat somewhere else. I was saddened to see an ally go, but for the first time since I'd known him he actually looked alive. After he moved, I found out what had kicked off his trouble with the kids; he'd decided to sit in his front garden with his mate, drinking a few beers. Now, I don't know about you, but even in nice areas I can't think of many people who do this.
Where we were living? Oh dear.
Random displays of individuality were not a good idea. Yes, you should be able to go sit in your front garden if you so desire and do whatever the Hell you want. In practice, you need to get a permission slip from the kids at the end of the street - and unless you're outside a house smashing it up, setting fire to something or throwing bricks at a window, there's nothing down for you...