‘There are two things we wish we could all live without: haemorrhoids
S P I K E M I L L I G A N
For all too many people, a neighbour is merely someone who has just run out of something, be it sugar or patience. Gone are the days when neighbours leaned up against each other’s fences and chatted about the cricket while the wives hung the washing out. In most cities, ‘neighbour’ is a dirty word … they are all too often the ones who make the noise, grab the prime parking space, spill their bin-bags or fight with you over the party wall. Crimes committed on a domestic scale have become so mythical that ‘Neighbours from Hell’ programmes are now everyday fare on television and police have been brought in to address actual bodily violence between neighbours.
Don’t feel the need to emulate such people, no matter how frustrating the late-night noise or the chip-fat smells. Avoid litigation too, if you can; once down the route of noise abatement orders and so on, you will always be nervous around your neighbours. If there are problems with the usual neighbour trigger points – noise, parking, rubbish disposal – try your best to negotiate the difficulties amicably and resist outright confrontation.
For most people, especially city-dwellers, neighbours need not just be a necessary evil. Make friends with your neighbours from the day you or they move in, and you will enjoy countless benefits. You can give them keys for when you get locked out, ask them to pop in and feed the cat if you’re away, they’ll know how to turn off the burglar alarm that mistakenly goes off when you’ve just left for your three- week holiday, they’ll take delivery of parcels for you. If your children all make friends, you can offload yours onto them for hours at a time. Of course, these arrangements are reciprocal, and you must be prepared to do the same for them. But just by enlisting them as friends, no matter how artificially, you will have joined the local community.