Before Friday the 29th July 2022, I could not tell you the last time that I watched Neighbours. I do know that it would have been when it was still on BBC 1 and that the Kennedys were firmly settled within the most famous cul-de-sac in the world (that doesn’t help narrow it down-I know).
I was more than a little surprised at how compelled I felt to tune in to the final episode. When I heard that the end was nigh for the iconic soap, I was genuinely sad. My heart hurt a teeny bit and I felt bad for letting go of the 5.35pm daily habit that had begun when I was around eight years old.
Prior to Neighbours, I had had a brief glimpse of the power of the soap opera. Coming in from playschool, my naptime was signalled by the beginning of The Sullivans. Waking up sleepily I would often hear the theme tune to Sons and Daughters. When my grandma came to stay memories of Take the High Road, A Country Practice and The Young Doctors are entwined in my thoughts of her, along with the smell of brandy and the Golden Virginia packet that she always had on her.
Those shows though were for the grown-ups. The adults in the house. Neighbours, on the other hand was the first programme that had the magic of bringing everyone in the household together, for twenty minutes of rare familial harmony. The three of us siblings would stop tormenting each other. Mum would soften from her just- got- in- from- work stress grump. Grandma would cease her relentless barking of orders. And we would watch Neighbours.
For the first time in soaps (not kids TV programmes) we were exposed to young characters that had key roles and plot lines that we could relate to; they went to school, had crushes, suffered with low-self-esteem, argued with their families and like us, had to forge their way through childhood and the teen years. In Mikey, Plain Jane Super Brain, Scott and Charlene we had kindred spirits that we could see elements of ourselves in and at the time, that meant the world.
In my head and heart, Neighbours ending, is symbolic of the ending of a simpler way of life all those years ago. Neighbours will forever be synonymous with teatimes after school, everyone shushing to hear the TV, taping the best episodes to re watch on VHS and the joy of being home poorly so you could catch the lunchtime omnibus too.
With feelings of pure nostalgia, I surrendered and immersed myself to every reference of the past that was woven into the last episode of Neighbours. The heroes of the soap were back on our screens, but like us they had evolved and aged. Some were heart sore, some had lost their way, some were grey and lined, but essentially still the same people full of hope and memories of good times. Just like us.
I guess the last episode bought home the fact that we are no longer those child dreamers, whose best part of day was sitting down to catch up with these fictional families and dream of what life would be like if we lived on Ramsay Street too. Neighbours allowed a generation of young people to daydream and imagine a life beyond our own street.
The lump in my throat and the love in my heart stayed throughout most of the episode, except when I thought too hard about the fact that I had never had a lamington, and that how on earth could Melanie and Toady be getting married. Surely, she is old enough to be his Nan?
*it’s Australian slang for goodbye!