In a week when Neighbours celebrated its thirtieth anniversary and the co composer of its theme tune died, I thought I’d post about the pros and cons of neighbours from a personal perspective.
Post student living when neighbours shared a toilet and stole my toothpaste I’ve lived in four separate properties.
In the first, an old fashioned mansion block the neighbours never appeared apart from once to complain about our use of the communal dustbin. Otherwise we might as well have been sailing the Marie Celeste.
The second, an upper maisonette, was blissfully free of downstairs tenants for a few weeks but then a young couple moved in. Apart from the unfortunate fact that their bedroom was below our lounge and ours above theirs, leading to us all being aware of the regularity of the others domestic exercise routines things seemed perfectly pleasant.
Then she left him, he went out with his mates to get utterly bladdered and every night he came home, put Karma Chameleon on repeat and passed out. You can love Boy George and Culture Club as much as you like, people, but every riffing night and you’re crying out for Max Bygraves, believe me. We tried knocking on his door, jumping up and down together ( this was in the days of records on turntables and we hoped to dislodged the needle). I even waited for him one morning but he just told me I should go and do something improbable, and at that time probably still illegal with a root vegetable of my choosing. Eventually he too moved out but by then we were scarred.
We swore we would avoid flats heretofore and thereafter and moved to a terraced house built by cheapskate Edwardians whose construction of our party walls clealry coincided with the invention of cardboard. Mostly we got by. Both sides were considerate people but once again you became very clear when anyone was trying for a family and what were the top ten things that irked each neighbour.
We acquired our first pet here – a black and white cat we, well, I called Sisyphus for her determined yet forlorn attempts to scale our curtains. Sissy liked their flowerbeds as a toilet which is difficult to manage and tends to put ice in relationships.
Sissy scavenged. On one occasion she dragged a packet of four lamb chops through the cat flap. We thought about fessing up but we suspected that might be the final straw and lied. It was to save a life, you know.
Sissy’s scavenging wasn’t always bounteous. I’m rather bat eyed especially first thing. I also wake first and have, for as long as we have been a couple, made morning tea. This particular Sunday I shuffled down the stairs, sans specs, to be comfronted in my blearly state by a steaming pile of turd sitting on the bottom step.
Cursing why we ever got the bloody cat I stepped past the fecal mountain and headed for the kitchen and some cleaning materials. But with what to pick up the mess? Fortunately an old cardboard box lay by the bins. With plastic bag in one hand and newly manufactured cardboard scrapper in my other I approached the less than welcome gift. I knelt. I gripped the tool and approached the stool. I had barely touched it when it jumped and croaked. I screamed and the turd that became a toad hopped down the last step and head for the cat flap through which it too had been dragged.
Our neighbours did prove their worth. During October 1987 the southern parts of England were battered by a hurricane. Sevenoaks became One Oak and a lot of damage ensued. We were in Peru. With some trepidation we let ourselves back in wondering at the possible damage we would find. The Textiliste, for whom roofs fill her waking hours with anxiety, shot up stairs for the attic. Me? I had erected a fence the previous Easter and hoped my nascent DIY skills had stood the test. I wasn’t confident.
But, glory, it was still standing, every panel. I approached the first and lovingly caressed its rough surface. I ran my fingers from one erect panel to the next. I became aware of my neighbour. ‘Looks good, doesn’t it?’
Modestly I agreed.
‘Took me ages to put it back up after the storm.’
Did I detect a grin? Should I check to see if there was evidence to support this devastating piece of news? No. I nodded. Of course it had collapsed. It was made of wood. Everything I touch that is made of wood collapses. I thanked him as profusely as my damaged heart allowed.
‘ Now about your bloody cat…’
Now we live in a house we’ve shared for twenty five years with the same neighbours on either side and at the end. People don’t move much hereabouts. Each neighbour has been discreet and when needed helpful. They haven’t ever complained about our and our children’s loud parties. They really couldn’t be better. However one newish resident chez Le Pard clearly doesn’t think as we do. The Mini may have to go.
We can’t decide if the problem is he thinks his reflection is a rival or he thinks the mirror is a nesting box that won’t let him in. Ah well, hopefully he’ll come to terms with his neighbour before he breaks his beak or the car’s mirror.