Imagine living on the same street as Mr. and Mrs. Liz and Phil Windsor en famille. Not quite the ‘neighbours from hell’, but nor have they descended recently from heaven. If they weren’t so keen to avoid you on the street, you would probably avoid them. They’re not the ideal model for your kids.
Well-known on the street as a problem family, none of them has done a day’s work in their lives, apart from the youngest boy, Eddy, but he retired in his forties and he’s never to be seen. They all live off State benefits. Liz and Phil tend to keep themselves to themselves, with occasional stern voices penetrating adjoining walls. They are only infrequently seen on the street when they strut up and down with never so much as a ‘hello’ or ‘good day’, avoiding eye contact, hastily gliding along as though escaping from an unpleasant smell. They will sometimes give a minimal wave of the hand as they pass by – more, it seems, to hide their face than to acknowledge a neighbour.
Three of their four children are divorced. Mrs Windsor’s sister, Margie, was a notorious alcoholic and party girl, and the old grannie Betty was a curmudgeon who never forgave her husband for dying young and leaving her in the care of her controlling daughter. She had two nieces with learning difficulties whom she pushed to have committed to an institution where they died in abject poverty, never having received a visit from the Windsors.
Young girls, as they pass, cross the street from the Windsor house at number 27 so as to avoid the leering gaze of the old Phil Windsor – and more so in case rumours are true that suggest the middle boy, Andy, was part of a paedophile ring. Phil, himself, had a long-standing and brazen affair with Lizzie’s first cousin, Alex – what were their boys supposed to make of that?
The middle boy, Charley, grew up under the influence of his Uncle Lou who died in suspicious circumstances. Lou was the old-school type and a strict disciplinarian. Charley has always had problems relating to women – insisting that even his girlfriends call him Mr. Windsor – and some put it down to Uncle Lou being a well-known misogynist after he was cuckolded by his own wife who took off with a rich man from India.
Our street is multi-ethnic, as they say, but the Windsors will have none of it, other than donating a summer-fruit pudding to the annual street party – but only watching it from their upstairs window. Anyway, Phil has often been overheard using racial epithets so he wouldn’t go down well. In fact, their youngest grandson, Harold, is estranged from the family, partly thought to be because he married a mixed-race woman from another part of town. His own mother, Dina, Mrs Windsor’s daughter-in-law, was similarly estranged and finally separated from the Windsor’s eldest boy, Charley, for many reasons, they say – one of them being that she was having an affair with a Middle-Eastern gentleman. They were sure of this when she died in a car accident with him. Anyway, Charley was having an affair with an old childhood sweetheart at the time, so even-stevens.
The Windsors are fanatical patriots and jingoists – even though Phil is part-Danish and part-Greek, only getting a UK passport after marrying Liz – and in spite of the fact that much of the extended family is from as far afield as Russia, Romania and Germany. Liz insisted that all three boys spend time in the military, while their sister, Annie, spent her time playing sports and having affairs with married men. The kids had all been sent to boarding school, too, so many say that it’s little wonder they turned out to be pretty aloof and cold. They never stood a chance, really. Sometimes when the kids come home to visit you can see them waiting on the doorstep before Liz shouts at them to ‘come in!’. Not much love there.
As for the rest of the street, most houses are pretty humdrum, ordinary families coming and going, stopping for a quick chat, the men and the women working on 9 to 5 jobs and kids attending the two schools in easy walking distance. Kids run in and out of each other’s houses, teenagers occasionally scream down the street in flight from a family argument, and you can tell if someone’s off to a restaurant because they dress up. If you’ve a problem with your car, Sid at Number 34 will always help out, and Michelle at number 12 is a podiatrist which is handy for Dave and Jules next door who have such trouble walking. Next door to the Windsors at 29 live Amy and Alan, who run the Neighbourhood Watch. At number 23……