Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Say hello to your neighbours

The BBC reports today that 1 in 10 people questioned for a survey do not speak to their neighbours. It goes onto suggest that the streets are empty and that there is a serious decline in everyday interaction.

We live in a typical somewhat suburban inner London street; a mixture of Victorian and modern houses, some converted into a number of flats, some are family houses. We are not on a main bus route but there is a tube station fairly nearby so there is pretty much a constant trickle of pedestrians up and down the road for most of the day. Every match day this number is multiplied many fold. There are also various workmen about completing one project or another.

One of the nicest things about living where we do is that we have friendly neighbours. We are friends with the people who live upstairs from us and frequently pop round to each other's flats for drinks. We are also able to just text each other if the music is too loud, or whatever, rather than letting it annoy each other and cause resentment. It is surprising how low our music can be and still be heard 2 flights up.

We are also on good terms with the neighbours to the side - greeting each other rather than drinking together - and they came round last night with a bottle of champagne to apologise for some rather prolonged building work which had taken up many weekends before they moved in. Last week we popped home to vote at lunchtime and returned quickly to the house. The dog started barking and Mrs Neighbour came to check that there were no burglars. Whilst some people may deem that nosy, I was very appreciative that someone noticed that there was unusual activity in our garden and came to investigate.

Our property is unusual in terms of access to other properties so we do see our neighbours at the back more than perhaps others do as we share an access way and also the gardens are connected. We are on very good terms with the parents of the family and do our best to use our shared parts of land to minimise disturbance to each other. The BBC article indicates that many neighbourhood disputes arise over a lack of communication - something which we have certainly noticed first-hand. Sharing communal parts inevitably leads to differing ideas over how things should be done and whose priorities are more important; an issue exacerbated when one party owns and the other party rents. Communicating with each other regularly seems to have smoothed the issues of contention and both parties have learnt to compromise.

As to other people on the street, well that is harder. People do tend to keep themselves to themselves in London and apart from our immediate neighbours I would not recognise people who live near-by. Free-cycle has introduced me to a few very friendly people in the area but they are not people I see on a regular basis. I know our normal postman to say hello to and he knows which address is mine but it is not always the same postman (or at least I presume it isn't since sometimes the postman hands me the post yet on other occasions our neighbours bring it round as it has been posted through the wrong door).

Whilst I agree that everyday interaction is important there is also a need, especially in a city like London, to be able to switch off at home and not feel that people are constantly haranguing you or being nosy. Personally I am appreciative of friendly neighbours and go out of my way to cultivate this relationship but I also understand that some people do not want to be under an obligation to say 'hello' or even idly chit-chat for a couple of moments if you both happen to be in your garden at the same time or step outside the front door simultaneously. However, I do think that a happy medium is preferable, not least because it encourages a safer neighbourhood and, I hope, lowers crime rates.

1 comment:

missy said...

So True, where my parents live, everyone knows everyone. If someone goes on holiday a neighbour will collect your post and make sure the house is safe.

Where my boyfriend lives is the complete opposite! They stomp up the stairs (which are next to a wall on his living room), have massive and loud arguments at 1am and are just awful! On thursday the police and ambulance were there for next door! I can cope with it and try to laugh about it but my bloke just gets upset as its his 1st place and its ruining the dream!

Anyway take care and enjoy the lovely weather, missy