It recently happened. And I’m devastated to say it. I uttered those words which I never thought would escape my lips, words which I heard and despaired of as my older peers slowly broke away whilst I vowed to always stay devoted. And it took me by surprise, it caught me off guard, when I turned on the telly at 5.35 one weekday, looked at the screen and said “I don’t know who any of these characters are”. And then it hit me. This is what it feels like to disengage with Neighbours.
It has always been with me, always been a part of me. I grew up in something of a ‘shared custody arrangement’; throughout my childhood and adolescence part of me was always living on Ramsay Street. It joined me to my big brother and sister and closest friends. As they grew up and left home I clung to you, Neighbours. As a sensitive teenager, struggling to negotiate my approaching adulthood, you were my one constant. We’ve had good times and bad times; I mourned the death of Helen Daniels like I would my own grandmother. I took that duck hunter’s bullet which assassinated Kerry. I had my tea every night after school in The Waterhole. And, oh! The sheer joy of taking the day off school poorly and getting to watch the same episode twice in one day!!
I must tell you, Neighbours, that at times my expectations of life were inaccurate, thanks to your guidance. I believed that every human with whom I would ever need to interact would conveniently live on my road, be it my physician, my lawyer, my teacher, my school principal, or my mother’s lover. I believed that if I needed to go to hospital, I would always be in the same bed in the same room. I believed that, when organising a social engagement with a friend, it would be sufficient to say “see you in the coffee shop”, without stipulating a time or day or, indeed, which coffee shop. I believed it would be normal for a member of my family, at any given moment, to enter the room occupying what appears to be a completely new human body – take the numerous actress changes of Lucy Robinson as a prime example. I knew that if I entered ‘the bush’ I was likely to experience great danger or tragedy, although I was unsure of exactly what said ‘bush’ was. I also believed that the residents on my road and their pets (dear old Bouncer) would always be willing to join me in a light-hearted game of cricket without any due caution for the hazards of traffic.
Yes Neighbours, you gave me these beliefs and yet I forgive you. I forgive you because you gave us the music of Craig McLaughlin “Heeeeeey Mo –Na”. Of Stefan Dennis “Don’t it make you feel goooood”. Of Natalie Imbruglia “bla bla bla torn”. Of the twins who played Caroline and Christina (can’t remember how their song went ). And….. of course…… Kylie and Jason. Yes, Scott and Charlene, you are my Wills and Kate. I still cry at your wedding whenever I watch my friend Debbie’s “Neighbours Defining Moments” DVD. (Although, FYI Kylie, we did send you a fanzine which we made in 1989 and continue to await your response with eager anticipation).
Yes, I started young. I’m old-school Neighbours and I admit I find myself becoming impatient with those who I refer to as “nouveau Neighbours”…… I continue to view Karl and Susan as fairly new characters and anybody who can’t remember Des and Daphne can ‘rack off’. Yes, Neighbours, you have shaped my vocabulary somewhat; pash; spunk; mongrel – these are all standardised dialect to me.
Good Neighbours, you have become my good friend. You were my companion growing up but in the past few years, I’ve neglected you. I have not been able to give you the time and commitment that you deserve. I think it’s time to let you go and become an adult (aged 29, it’s probably slightly overdue). It’s time to hand you over to some new kids. So now, please will you gather in the cul-de-sac as I climb into the ‘ute’ and drive off into the distance whilst you wave me a fond farewell? I’ll stick my head out and shout “I’ll never forget you!!” Then the closing theme tune will play over a photo montage of your departing character’s best bits; 2 little girls sitting cross legged in front of the tv as Paul Robinson drives his pregnant wife to hospital in an ice-cream van; 2 sisters and a brother round the kitchen table as Madge searches for Harold on a beach; a happy family doing the Locomotion on Christmas Day.
Goodbye Neighbours, and thank you for everything.