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Our lovely neighbors are away for a week. They went to a sunny clime with a beach. Couldn’t have been better timing. Their large hound, Jewel, the ‘horse’ to which I frequently refer, cannot do planes and so we are looking after her. The arrangement we have with this family is a great one — the sort where we have almost become one large commune. Certainly their child refers to us as the other half of the family and the dog is so confused she doesn’t know which house she belongs to. So things are pretty casual.

When they left on their trip, Crazy D agreed to feed their fish, clean the fish filters and water some seedlings daily. I am on dog duty and mail pick-up. (Although since Mr. Pants has gone back to Toronto, Jewel now shares ‘the Big Boy Bed’ with Crazy D at night, leaving me (finally) with a houndless room from9 p.m. on. The neighbours’ final comment as they left was, “Help yourself to the leftover food in the freezer. There was so much we couldn’t finish it all.” Now, Crazy D is nothing if not willing to take people at their word…and he’s a shade on the opportunistic side. As in, ‘I’m too tired to be arsed cooking. I think I’ll just go over and troll their freezer to see what’ s for dinner’. And he did.

Today, in the midst of our brutal cold, I decided to cheer everyone up by baking an apple pie. I even bought apples yesterday in preparation. I had the pastry made and in the pie plate, the apple slices were piling up and I reached in the spice drawer for the cinnamon. This is something we always have since we use it a lot. There was none. “People!” I yelled. “Why do we not have any cinnamon? I can’t even go to the store to get more since it’s a holiday and all the stores are closed.”  L’il Sis entered the scene of the crime, looking guilty, and announced that the muffins she made the night before took the last of the cinnamon.

“But don’t worry, Mom. I’ll just go over to the neighbours’ and ‘borrow’ some from them.”

I know Gill is thrilled that we have some nice neighbours. We used to have friends like that years before but we moved and, until now, hadn’t found replacements.. “It’s so nice that you all can just wander in and out, trade stuff. That’s what neighbourliness really means,” she said.

She’s right. It is nice. I guess it’s a fair trade considering I make chicken soup for their dog every day when she’s here (mostly to avoid a dogfight with The Pig) and have given her special dispensation to pee on the sidewalk, barely outside the door, and crap on the driveway in our current sub-Arctic weather. Tit for tat. Shit for spice. Works for me.