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Monday, 27 May 2019

Half Length and Mrs. Rat Poison

Do you make up names for people you see often but don’t know?

We’ve so named our neighbours for years, during which we’ve known Action Man who simply looked the part and drove a Land Rover, and Mrs. Washing who lived at the back and possessed some kind of meteorological sixth-sense that told her when she could hang out the washing without getting it rained on. The rest of us used her as a guide to when we could put ours out. Nearby was Mrs. Rat Poison who once knocked on the door to complain that our bird feeder and compost heap were attracting rodents into the gardens, and her husband, the Pyromaniac, who was always setting off fireworks, lighting fires and burning food on a barbecue. Another was Cloth Legs who covered the table and chair legs of her new dining suite to stop them being scratched.

It is always tempting to identify people by their animals, like Mrs. Slow Dog who used to stroll past with her elderly dog. The dog died but we still see her out and about on her ancient horse – Mrs. Slow Horse. Others have been named after someone better-known to whom they had a vague resemblance, such as Debbie McGee and Judi Dench. Then there was Toby Jug who looked, well, like a toby jug.

There are lots at the local swimming pool, such as Mr. Poser and Mr. Pigtail. Named after their swimming behaviours are Half Length, Bath Toy and Mrs. Bow Wave. Never, ever, swim behind Half Length because he’ll suddenly turn and start swimming back at you. You also learn to keep away from Bath Toy who bobs up and down and zig-zags so erratically you never know where he’s going next. And you’ll be swamped by Mrs. Bow Wave if you’re anywhere in the vicinity when she turns at the end of the pool.

The Walrus splashes and snorts a lot. Turtle Girl moves along large-eyed and smiley in a shiny swim-hat without so much as a ripple, imperceptibly propelled by the tiniest of arm and leg movements. Mr. and Mrs. Crocodile glide slowly up and down, invariably him behind her in line, with interesting repercussions when they line up behind Half Length. Mrs. Exercise does not swim but dances up and down one side of the pool using a variety of weights and floats.

Others are named because of their changing-room conversation, such as the Scotsman and the Wood Turner. The three Flyers go to the pool more for the conversation than the exercise, wallowing at the shallow end of the slow lane like bathing Romans, exchanging tales about the aeroplanes they own. 

I could mention more, but I’m probably already in trouble for having said this much.

Neighbours …
Just a friendly wave each morning
Helps to make a better day
.

17 comments:

  1. great title.h We don't make up names for people but we do have descriptions like 'the man who looks like my Dad' or 'the woman who's always outside', someone who no matter what the weather was always out somewhere. then there was 'smiley woman' who ran a shop called 'smiley woman shop' which was near 'the shop that sells everything' and 'the shop that keeps changing its name.'

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    1. It sounds very much like you are nearly there: "Dad not Dad", "Outdoor Woman", "Smiley Woman" "the everything shop" and "the changename shop". It amused our boiler fitters last week when they were asked to move their van because because it was in the way, when we told them "that was Mrs. Rat Poison".

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  2. Oh dear. We do this a lot and will probably be in trouble if those involved can identify us. One neighbour is nicknamed Digger Man for his love of big boys' toys which make an awful lot of noise on sunny weekends. Another was Smokey Joe beacause he was always lighting bonfires when I had my washing out. Once, on holiday, we christened a couple of young women the Titz Twins as they used to sunbathe topless every day just beneath our balcony, much to my husband's delight, but perhaps I shouldn't mention that one....

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    1. Same here. Parking is very tight along our street, so there are those who play an intricate game of parking chess in order to avoid being ticketed on street cleaning days yet still are able to park very near their homes. They are the Parking Mafia. I've named the life guards at the local pool: Barky (he easily yells at kids who seemingly misbehave) and Hawk-eye. The teen life guards are sort of lumped under the heading of Not Paying Attention.

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    2. The Parking Mafia! Do they make the street cleaners an offer they can't _refuse_?

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    3. With respect to my immediate neighbors, I think they bribe a neighbor on the opposite side of the street (read: no street cleaning) in order to park in close proximity. Where the neighbor then puts his car is beyond me.

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  4. My husband went to school with a fellow, last name Glasscock. His family owned Glasscock Chevrolet, in town. I truly could not tell which was the man's last name and which his nickname, to my husband's disgust. Once my mother in law invited us for dinner the coming weekend and my husband said Yes, and I immediately reminded him he'd already accepted an invitation to Brittledick's for the next day.On the way home my husband explained why his parents had laughed so.

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  5. When we were kids, my sister and I dubbed a neighbour down the street "Jacques the Potato Stealer." He was French Canadian (hence, Jacques) and worked as a farmhand on a local farm. He liberated potatoes from the farm everyday and stored them in his back yard under a big tarpaulin that steadily grew higher and higher. Then one day we woke up and Jacques had disappeared, lock, stock and potatoes, one step ahead of the police. That man is still a legend to us.

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    1. A far more sophisticated name than any we make up.

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  6. I bet some of those people have nicknames for you too Mr Dunham. I wonder what they might be. Any suggestions? Perhaps Charles Atlas or possibly Adonis.

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    1. Charles Atlas ironically; nine-stone-weakling or sand-in-face accurately. Most of them are old enough to remember the adverts.

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  7. I know a Mr Hermes, and a Mr Yodel. They deliver me parcels every once in a while. Alas I'm no more creative than this but I am inspired by your post.

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    1. We have a Mr. Hermes as well. You'd probably be Mr. Bicycle.

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