One day months ago, I was walking out of the flat (as in the building)  when I was approached by a martian. A martian in  full cycling gear, glasses and helmet. “Hi I am Annie, I live at number 1 and we’re having a party tonight with flat number 2, if you would like to come along?”

The alien was charming, smiley and not scary, so I accepted the invite. That evening we made our way down-stairs, flat number 1 was already full with people. Hello neighbours! The martian had transformed into a beautiful Canadian girl. Red dress, high heels, long black hair. She introduced us to her friends and more importantly our other neighbours. When she left us to socialise, it turned out that not a lot of people at this party knew each other- the only person we all knew was Annie.

I was impressed: in a city notorious for the lack of social graces and contact with the people next door, this woman had single-handedly united a whole block of flats. A few weeks later she called me with a message that my flatmate was sitting in her flat after having her bag and all its content stolen. ( Actually, she left me a message saying  that my flatmate lost her purse, which confused me: if she had her wallet stolen, why couldn’t she just phone me…) If we hadn’t exchanged numbers the night of the party it would have been an interesting evening with no one knowing any numbers of by heart anymore.

Mmmm dim sum...

Now we know our neighbours, we smile and say hello when we pass each other.  Our attendance at the amazing rooftop party was also thanks to other kind neighbours having my number and extending the invite. Annie was in Paris at the time, learning how to make croissants and pain au chocolat.  She used to be a project manager but she prefers making pastry. She speaks French too. And Chinese. And, so we found out over a 2 hour dim-sum session yesterday, she did two years of Spanish. I tell you, she could be a one-woman United Nations ( yes, contradictio in terminis- whatever.)

She will be returning to her homeland of Canadia (sic) soon, trying to get back to London if the bureaucracy lets her. I sure hope they do, because this woman seems able to move mountains -one neighbour at the time.

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