Love thy neighbour?

This brilliant blog from The Good Greatsby  (but then they are always great) got me to thinking about our neighbours since it occurred to me that I rarely know them.  This must be a city thing as I’m sure in less populated areas people are much nosier friendlier.

Being further away from your neighbours must help as living in a terraced row my neighbour’s bathroom is on the other side of mine and I can hear him flush, I think this puts paid to any desire to get to know them when you are overly familiar with their bathroom routine.

Geography plays a part as in the north of Britain people supposedly know each other well despite living on top of each other, but then talking to people is the norm there compared to London, whilst in Manchester I only popped into a shop to buy a magazine and was taken aback by the genuine friendliness and willingness to chat.   If I’d bought a top shelf magazine the outcome may have been very different.

My favourite author Raymond Carver would often write about these relationships, no more  so than on  “Will you please be quiet, please”, “The Idea” where a housewife comments on her neighbours behaviour through the curtains, or when a couple overstep the boundaries whilst house sitting in “Neighbours”.   His genius at highlighting the minutiae of people’s lives would often cover our neighbours, they are a constant throughout our life.

I grew up in a seaside town on the South Coast of England in a 50’s council estate, we were on a cul-de-sac of two up-two down houses, each road is named after a flower other estates streets are named after birds or poets – aimed to create a serene and friendly environment, the layout of houses in the cul-de-sac designed for optimum curtain twitching.

An elderly couple lived next door, their story was intriguing in that they were originally two couples and best friends, their previous partners had both died and finding themselves single they got together.  I can’t vouch for how their partners died but I thought the same thing as you and that future residents will be in for a surprise if they plan to re-lay the patio.

They used to invite me and my brother over to play on their computer, the old man would sit and watch us, I can’t recall what game we played.  This was long before Rohypnol though so the lack of memory was surely just down to my tender years. 

Twenty two years later I moved to London, then proceeded to move around a lot, my first ‘home’ was a bedsit in Earls Court, my neighbours made up of junkies and prostitutes so you can imagine I was not too eager to bother them for a cup of sugar.  Verdict:  Bad neighbour

Another property was in the top floor of a maisonette, below was an old fella never married who had lived there with his mother who had since passed on.  He shared with his yappy dog, the equivalent of my bedroom below was transformed into a giant aviary and the garden was home to a roost of chickens.  He would sometimes be waiting on the steps to our flat as I’d arrive home from work, desperate for human conversation.   Other times I’d come home to find a bag of fruit and veg from his allotment hanging from our front door, this was the closet I have been to knowing a neighbour.   

I moved to a house converted to flats, the neighbours who shared our hallway would leave post-it rules on the door  “Make sure the door is double locked”  “Make sure the mail is sorted”  “Make  sure the bin lids are closed” ……Not so much a neighbour as a dictator.   

In Kentish Town I had the two upper floors sharing the hallway with the ground floor flat.  There was an odd mechanism to the communal front door that you needed a key to get out of the house, usually they only lock from outside and can just let yourself out from inside.  This had its problems when my flatmate would have ‘late night visitors’  and they would leave him in his bedroom on the third floor to go home, but being unaware of our booby-trapped front door found themselves trapped in the hall unable to get back in our out.  I suppose this was a good neighbour as they never seemed to mind being awoken at 2am by strangers desperate to be freed.  

My current neighbour welcomed us to the street by repeatedly banging on the walls throughout the night until the early hours, this went on for about a year, I have seen him once in 2 and  a half years, I said hello and he tuned his back and walked indoors and have never seen him since.   Occasionally a parcel delivery has been left with him whilst we are at work, my attempts to pick them up have not been fruitful since he has decided to keep anything intended for us.  So when I hear him flush I am slightly put out he is walking on our bath mat.  

I may not make the best efforts to know my neighbours but I will always wish them a good morning, and make sure I am considerate by not making a lot of noise, I leave my rubbish out at the correct time before collection day, I deliver their post should it fall through my letterbox, I’d even point them towards the corner shop if they ran out of sugar.

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  1. I don’t know my neighbors, either. I just say hi to them when I pass them in the area. At least I recognize them well enough to know who doesn’t live around here.

    • I think it’s fine to give a friendly greeting when you pass them on your street, but what if you see them further away from your home, in the supermarket or something? Can you say hi then, what if they don’t recognise you without the familiar surroundings. I could really do with getting to know one of them as I could do with a reliable cat sitter.

  2. My neighbour doesn’t recognise me without the familiar surroundings, I ran into him at the shops once and I said hello and he started running down the fruit aisle while looking very worried. It was so awkward so never again.

  3. I would tell you that you are sweet again, but you are probably getting tired of me saying that, so you are not sweet. Not at all. I can’t believe that you don’t dump your trash out all over your neighbor’s cars, and put their mail in a shredder. So there. 😉


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