Sunday, September 02, 2012

48. Next-Door Neighbours

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The long, hot summer is over – for some, let’s not forget to take everything with a pinch of salt – well, that is, if by ‘summer’ we understand holidays. Time for a new start. But wait, the previous topic was left unfinished: some practice is needed, and you are all welcome to it (and to comments!)

Next-door Neighbours

[adapted from New Success at First Certificate by Robert O’Neill, Michael Duckworth and Kathy Gude]

Alison closed the door of her small flat and put down her briefcase. As usual, she had brought some work home from the travel agency. She wanted to have a quick bite to eat and then, after spending a few hours working, she was looking forward to watching television or listening to some music.

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She was just about to start preparing her dinner when there was a knock at the door. ‘Oh, no! Who on earth could that be?’ she muttered to herself. She went to the door and opened it just wide enough to see who it was. A man of about sixty was standing there. It took her a moment before she realized who he was. He lived in the flat below. They had passed each other on the stairs once or twice, and had nodded to each other but never really spoken.

‘Uh, sorry to bother you, but... uh ... there's something I'd like to talk to you about’ he mumbled. He had a long, thin face and two big front teeth that made him look rather like a rabbit. Alison hesitated, but then, opening the door wider, asked him to come in. It was then that she noticed the dog. She hated dogs - particularly big ones. This one was a very old, very fat bulldog. The man had already gone into her small living-room and, without being asked, had sat down on the sofa. The dog followed him in and climbed up on the sofa next to him, breathing heavily. She stared at it. It stared back

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The man coughed. ‘Uh, do you mind if I smoke?’ he asked. Before she could ask him not to, he had taken out a cigarette and lit it.
‘I’ll tell you why I’ve come. I... I hope you won't be offended but, well...’ he began and then stopped. Suddenly his face went red. His whole body began to shake. Then another cough exploded from somewhere deep inside him. Still coughing, he took out a grey, dirty-looking handkerchief and spat into it. Afterwards he put the cigarette back into his mouth and inhaled deeply. As he did so, some ash fell on the carpet.

The man looked around the room. He seemed to have forgotten what he wanted to say. Alison glanced at her watch and wondered when he would get to the point. She waited.
‘Nice place you've got here’ he said at last.

I. Choose the best answer.
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1. How do you think Alison felt when she heard the knock at the door?
A Afraid.    B Irritated. C Pleased. D Curious.

2. Who was the man at the door?
A Someone from work.
B A friend who needed advice.
C A complete stranger.
D A neighbour she hardly knew.
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3. What do you think Alison said to herself when she saw the dog?
A 'I wish he wouldn't bring that dog in here.'
B ‘Oh, what a nice dog!’
C ‘What’s wrong with that poor dog?’
D ‘I’m sure I’ve seen that dog somewhere before.’

4. What happened after the man asked if he could smoke?
A Alison offended him by asking him not to.
B He went ahead without waiting for an answer.
C He began to smoke but then put the cigarette out. D He took out his cigarettes but did not light one.

5. Why did he want to talk to her?
A We are not told.
B He wanted to tell her how nice her flat was.
C He wanted to introduce himself.
D She had done something to offend him.
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Try to imagine
(a) what Alison looks like.
(b) her typical day at work.
(c )what she likes doing when she isn't at work.

Can you do the same for the man? Try to imagine
(a) the clothes he is wearing.
(b) a typical day in his life.
(c)some of the possible reasons why he wants to talk to Alison.
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1. B -  2. D - 3. A - 4. B - 5. A 


  1. In my opinion it is the typical story about someone who cares only about himself. Needless to say, I am talking about the man. In the story he shows no consideration whatsoever for Alison’s preferences or feelings so he cannot be a very caring person. In a typical day in his life he gives attention to things relevant to his own interests and most probably he is a selfish person. According to this, some of the possible reasons why he wants to talk to Alison must be related to his own problems.

    Maybe Alison ask to her self if he is conscious of behaving in such a way, if those details are not so important after all, and things like that. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Alison ask to her self if she just should or shouldn’t talk or communicate with him anymore.

    1. You're right, Carlos!
      Prying, nosy people who don't know how to mind their own business.
      That's how the story goes.

  2. Alison could be a hardworking woman, because she had brought work home, she must be responsible and probably she lives alone in her flat; now she is tired and she wishes to have a relaxing moment. She works in a travel agency, which sometimes can became stressful, as you must coordinate a lot of information, services... and always with kind words, trying to fit her offers as well as possible with the customers’ preferences.
    Her typical day starts at 7:30; first of all, a hot shower and a good breakfast; afterwards,the travel agency is waiting for her at 9:00. Customers, e-mails, calls, her boss’s demands, but fortunatelly she almost always has a little break to have a cup of coffee. Then she has a review of some important topics. At 13:00 it's lunch time, Alison meets Susan to talk about their things over lunch,as they are close friends and share hobbies. At 14:00 she comes back to the agency again until 17:00; as there is a lot of work today, she brings some reports home.
    She loves music, in fact she plays violin since she was a child. She'd like to be a composer. Some times when she's watching a movie sitting on the sofa, a melody springs into her mind, like a little ray of light, and she thinks about it for hours or even days, till she writes the score, composing brief melodies that she plays on her violin. If she didn't work so much in the travel agency, she would have more time for her music.

  3. Wow, I liked that, a very nice scenario for a typical hard-working woman. The naughty thing is...nosy neighbours! Now, who would like to have their peace and quiet disturbed by an uncouth indiscreet man who comes to sit on your sofa with his deep-breathing dog?

    A very good interpretation indeed.

  4. Alison’s neighbour was a man of about sixty, he wasn’t very tall but strong built. We couldn’t say many kind words about his appearance because all of him had a quite dirty-looking: hair, clothes... cigarrettes even seemed dirty and the worst of all was he had unpolite manners too.
    Some of possible reasons to talk to Alinson could be:
    - He’s upset because of the violin sound (some days Alison had played it) and this man thought it was too much for him and his dog, of course.
    - He wants to take a look at Alison’s flat. He loves catch up with every new neighbour. He is very very gossip, really.
    - He tries to sell two theater tickets as he can’t go.
    Well, I suppose we’ll know the true end of this story.
    P.S. I identify with Alison. Several times I’ve been in front of a neighbour wondering what’s does he want, really?

  5. Monday,October 15, 2012

    I imagine Alison is a good-looking woman, she spends most of her time working and she hardly ever has time for herself or for her friends, when she isn't at work she likes having a relaxing bath and loves listening to music. She thinks her life is quite good.
    As for the neighbour, I think he is a lonely poor man who needs attention and friends, he's always been alone and nobody taught him how to socialize or he's never been interested in it due to his introvert personality. First time he saw Alison on the stairs he realized she was a really special person so, he's trying to know her now but he's so rude that probably Alison throws him out....

    1. If I were Alison, that would be all right with me, I mean, to receive a neighbour in a visit to my flat...provided that he isn't rude!

  6. I don't know why, but when I read this kind of storys I think about Black Novels, so I imagine a middle age woman in a dressing gown with a curly, long, blonde hair and a man with a short beard a dressing gown too, very short hair, in underwear and looking at the universe.
    In this king of novels the both has a public work, but not a very important job in USA, like nurse, lawyer... with a boring live and witout family.
    One thing more, when I red this I smelt alcohol and smoke.

  7. I imagine Alison as a hard-working person. She is a manageress in charge of her office of graphic designer who spends a lot of time at work and is always very tired when she comes back home. When she arrives home, she loves to relax. First of all, she takes off her high-heels, puts on a tracksuit and then she cooks while listening to classical music.
    What about her neighbour? Well, I think that he has discovered something about her and he will ask her money in exchange for his silence. I imagine him an old, a lonely man who lives in a small, obscure flat. He spends his time to observe, from the window, the movements of his neighbours. When he turns up in front of Alison's door, he is wearing a pair of brown trousers, a white shirt and a pair of slippers.