我在這個屋村居住近十五年了。這期間我右邊的鄰居是一位來自英格利中部的老太太，但我們很少來往，說得確實一點，見面的機會也不多。間或碰頭，相互只說聲“哈罗”。有時郵差給她送郵件而她不在家時，我會替她收下，晚上再讓她拿走。同樣，她也曾經這樣幫過我。盡管如此，我們彼此很少過問對方的事，且不說我的 英語會話能力本來就是“有限公司”。我只知道她一個人獨住，但不時有些人來看望她；這些人大都是在周末或公屑倨跁r來訪，也許是她的親友、熟人或社工罷。 然而一個月前，鄰居老太婆突然搬了家，聽説是得了病，住進了有照顧人員的老人院。她一走，我頓時覺得好像失去什麽似的，到底是什麽，又說不清楚。
老太太還未搬遷時，她每天很早便起床，忙這忙那的。我的臥室与她的廚房只有一墻之隔，所以躺在床上，能隱約地聼得出隔壁正在忙碌的聲響：水龍頭的流水，電視節目裏的對白… … 有時還夾雜著她呼喚她那心愛的小白狗的聲音。雖説聼不清楚她說的是什麽，但可以猜得出，早上是她最忙碌、最充實的時光。忙了好一會兒后，她才出 門去。距我們家約一百米左右処，有一座小小的公園。公園裏樹木翠綠，空氣清新；特別在春夏兩季，景象十分迷人。每天清晨，老太太準時領著她的小白狗在公園 裏散步，吸收公園裏清新的空氣。我曾幾次早上到過公園，意外看見她們“主僕”倆陶醉于大自然的情景，所以後來每當聽見隔壁關門外出的聲音時，便知道她們要 到公園去。除非風雨偏大路滑難行，否則早上縂可以聽到那來自隔壁的熟悉的聲音。對我來說，這聲音已成為早上報時的訊號。每當聽見隔壁關門的響聲，我便起 床，做早餐，然後把孩子們叫醒，再送他們上學。年復一年，這已成爲我的習慣，聼這聲音已成爲生活上的一種音樂。早上若聼不到這連貫的聲響，就似乎意味著外 邊有異樣，或颳風或飄雪什麽的。
人們常說：失去的東西，通常是比現有的東西更珍貴。自從老太太搬离后，我重新認定了鄰居關係的價值，開始意識到維持鄰居友誼的重要。我想，鄰居的友誼，其 實正如友情、愛情一樣，是需要細心經營的、積極栽培的。如果你對鄰居關係總是抱著得過且過、視而不見的態度，那麽這將是你在處理生活方面的一種巨大損失。 由於種種原因，我在鄰居老太太尚未搬遷時，未能自動地進一步發展我們之間的友誼。回想起來，我不免覺得有點可惜；但通過此事，我也算是晤到更多的道理。鄰 居老太太，愿你安然無恙。
We have been living on this estate for nearly fifteen years. Until last month our next door neighbour on the right had been a pensioner who was originally from the Midland. The contact between us was not particularly frequent, though; in fact we did not met each other too often at all and whenever we did, we merely said ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’ and that was it. Occasionally when the postman came and did not find her, we’d collect the delivery on her behalf; and she did the same for us, too. Nonetheless we seldom bothered about each other’s business beyond this line. Partly it was because of my limited English. All we knew was that although living alone, she was often visited by people during the weekends and public holidays. They were probably her relatives or even social workers. Then one day last month, the old lady suddenly moved, probably to a residential home, as she was said to be unwell on her own. I felt a sense a loss after she had left. And why I had this feeling, I cannot tell.
I remember when the old lady was still here, she used to get up early in the morning to busy herself with things. Since my bedroom was only a thin wall apart from her kitchen, from the comfort of my bed I could hear the noises next door: the running tap water, the TV talking, and even her own talking to the lovely pet dog. Although I could not figure out what she was saying, I could feel that the morning time was the best time of the day for her, when she was filled with delight. Often, after a short while, she would leave for the park, which is some one hundred meters away from our flat. This is a small but beautiful park, full of green trees and plants that are wrapped in fresh air so that during the warmer seasons, the whole place becomes extremely inviting. Each morning, the old lady would walk her dog there for the fresh air and the lovely view. I have been in the park a few times in the morning and happened to know that she had this morning stroll habit. For this whenever I heard my neighbour shutting the door in the morning I could tell that they were on their way to the park. Unless the weather was extremely bad, I’d always hear the same noise at about the same time each morning. For me, this noise had become a familiar chime waking me up, upon hearing which I’d get up to make breakfast, then wake my children up and take them to school. Year after year, this had become a morning routine for me, and the noise next door become a note of music. It would feel strange if I did not hear that sequence of noises, when it could mean heavy rain or snow outside.
People often say that what you have are not as valuable as what you have not. Well, since my neighbour’s departure, I have truly begun to treasure the relationship between neighbours, acknowledging even more its importance. Like friendship and marriage, I think, relationship between neighbours has to be nourished and properly managed. If you take it for granted and do nothing to maintain it, you are making a huge mistake. For various reasons I had not done terribly well in terms of keeping us closer when the old lady was still here, so that in retrospect, I feel a sense of regret. On the other hand, though, I have learned a lesson from the past. Wishing you all the best, wherever you now are, my dear neighbour.