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Old 10th Oct 2007, 17:14   #1
John Self
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Default Neighbourhood and Community

My parents, who are in their early 60s, know their neighbours for several houses either side of them, and speak to them regularly. They look after one another's houses when they're on holiday, and so on.

Mrs Self and I, both in our (cough) early-to-mid 30s, don't even know our neighbours' names. They're just the ones with the noisy kids, or the ones whose son used to fancy you.

Or we didn't until the past week, and now we know the names of all our neighbours and most of their life stories (including that one has his wife upstairs in a coma for the past year). All this came about when the church behind us put in plans for an extension to their building. I went to the local planning office and was alarmed to see that this was to be a 22 foot tall brick of a sports hall right at our back hedge, and at the back hedges of our neighbours beside us and around the corner.

I called to our next door neighbours, and had to introduce myself as living next door when the mum of the house didn't know me (not that I would have recognised her if she hadn't been the one answering the door). They didn't know about the plans, and we had a good moan about it and discussed what we should do. The next evening I called round on four neighbours on the other side, all of whom were elderly and relieved to see me as they had thought they were the only ones worried about the development.

I spent 30 or 40 minutes in each person's house and by the end I felt I actually knew my neighbours, not just who they are but what they're like. It gave me a tremendous sense of wellbeing to know that I was surrounded by normal, nice people, and made me feel part of a neighbourhood community for the first time. I've been to see most of them again since, and can chat to them if we pass in the street, where before I wouldn't have known them at all. And all in the cause of property-protecting selfishness!

So: do you know your neighbours? Or do you prefer to keep yourself to yourself? Do you have a sense of community where you live?
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Old 10th Oct 2007, 17:22   #2
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Default Re: Neighbourhood and Community

Before I moved last year I knew my neighbours well, and interacted with them, socialised, etc. At the moment, I know the guy next door because he's a frightening individual and I wanted to be on the right side of him!

It's one of those things that seems to demand a little bit of effort, but which pays of hugely.

Now, Tony (the scary guy) is quite chatty and only too happy to talk about my plans for the fence I hope to put up, and also to ask for my views on the drive he's having done, and when's best for the builders to make noise, shut off the water, and so on.

Through him I've also met a couple of other neighbours and people I'd be confident enough to have a beer with if I met in the local.

It's all good.
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Old 10th Oct 2007, 17:33   #3
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Default Re: Neighbourhood and Community

When we first moved to our previous house, there was an active neighbour who made it her business to acquaint everyone with each other, and held little soirees, or, rather, matinees with canapes. She also generated a neighbourhood watch. So for the first 10 years in that house, we knew everyone around us. Then she moved away, and as new neighbours moved in, we never met them.

In our new house, the previous owner held a little party for the neighbours and invited us, so we met them all at once. Mind you, we already knew the man across the road from the golf club. Now, with all the alterations we are having done (these things start small and rapidly get out of hand), I suspect we are in danger of being unpopular - squads of workmen, delivery vehicles, skips etc, and noise from 7:30 to 4:30, so we are making efforts to be nice to everyone round about, but I'm afraid we are not really very neighbourly by inclination.
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Old 10th Oct 2007, 17:43   #4
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Default Re: Neighbourhood and Community

I suppose we're not actively neighbourly neighbours. We certainly know our neighbours - they're the builders who built our house, so they're really useful for household problems and glitches. Their children and ours used to play together but now they've grown apart and there was some difficulty between them but that's over now. We keep an eye on their houses when they're away - called the police a couple of times when alarms and suspicious activity was going on - but we don't go in each other's houses generally, and don't mix socially. As it is, we're generally friendly and chatty if we see them but we don't see them much at all: it's very quiet down our road!
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Old 10th Oct 2007, 17:53   #5
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Default Re: Neighbourhood and Community

We've been living in our current house for just less than a year. On one side, the neighbours pruned a tree (on their land, not our tree) then chucked all of the thick branches over the fence into our garden - I presume so that we'd have to spend the time cutting them up and disposing of them via our green garden waste bags.
On the other side, they have a sticker in their window saying SAVE THE POUND, and we got a note scrawled in capitals through our door once, saying 'PLESE MOVE YOU'RE WHEELIE BIN - IT'S BLOCKING DRIVEWAY'.

I'd like to be more neighbourly, but I'm fairly reserved. A good level of neighbourliness for me is knowing your neighbours' names, saying hello to them in the street, or smiling, and being able to ask each other to keep an eye on things when the other party is away on holiday.
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Old 10th Oct 2007, 18:05   #6
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Default Re: Neighbourhood and Community

I've been in my house for about 18 months. I know the neighbours immediately on each side of me, but that's it. On my left is an elderly Italian lady who is both deaf and not particularly proficient at English, but nevertheless introduced herself the day after I moved in, says hello whenever she sees me in the street/over the wall, and came round on Xmas Eve afternoon with a plate of homemade mince pies apropos of nothing.

This display of just utter loveliness prompted me to get to know my other neighbour a bit better too. She is a woman living by herself, and is very nice too. Even when I had to knock the door one Sunday because my cat had got stuck in her back garden.

And I know the landlord and landlady of my local pub very well. We lend each other CDs etc now. This may be more of a reflection on my drinking habits than anything else.
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Old 10th Oct 2007, 19:51   #7
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Default Re: Neighbourhood and Community

I've lived in the same house for ten years and know most of my neighbors by name and what vehicle they drive. Most of them are much older and have been in the area for many, many years. I like hearing their stories and I'll try to assist them if I see them and they ask a health related question. Some of them are very kind to encourage me to visit their gardens for lettuce, spinach, zucchini, and even tomatoes and sweet corn. They are, for the most part, very decent people. They don't know me very well because the dynamic is such that I listen to them and don't offer much about myself. By and large, they don't ask. I googled our area once to see the Google earth photos, but it's just a blur. 'No detail available at this level' or somesuch.
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Old 10th Oct 2007, 23:51   #8
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Default Re: Neighbourhood and Community

One of the things we love about living on our boat is the sense of community in the marina. If the weather's warm, everyone's out on their bow with a drink. The dog invites himself into people's boats on the way back from walkies and nobody minds.

We're not especially good with engines etc and very new to boat life and all our neighbours have been really helpful as well.

There is a down side - a bit of 'small town mind' at times; people can get petty and little things can blow up into arguments, but then we live very close together.

The other down side is that, if you do something stupid, as we did at a lock gate a few weeks ago, everyone knows about it by the time you get home. But they're very honest about the fact they had a bloody good laugh at your expense and they like to know you're in one piece first.

Wouldn't change it for the world.
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Old 11th Oct 2007, 8:22   #9
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Default Re: Neighbourhood and Community

I've been in the same house for seven years now and apart from a really dodgy couple that moved in immediately next door a few years ago - she spent all day shouting 'Curtis you c**t' with the said Curtis responding 'Sian you whore' - I know and like all my neighbours. (Sian and Curtis predictably split up after they had polluted the gene pool further and moved away.)

One neighbour I regularly have dinner with, another is an elderly lady whose washing I do from time to time and other little jobs that crop up. I like being on good terms with my neighbours - you know that if you need a favour, be it watering the plants while you're away or borrowing a hoover, they'll be willing to help. I also like the fact that I can give them all fruit and veg from my garden in return for the things they do for me. But saying that, we don't all live in each others' pockets - I wouldn't like that because I like my privacy, but it's very nice to feel part of a community, however small.
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Old 11th Oct 2007, 10:56   #10
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Default Re: Neighbourhood and Community

We've been in our house in an Essex village for seven years and know all our neighbours pretty well and have become very good friends with a lot of our fellow villagers. There are a lot of couples in their 30s and 40s with kids who go to the village school with ours. It is a real mix of London commuters, local workers and farmers and is a genuine community. There is a dinner party, drinks night or party of some description to go to almost every weekend and we rarely stray out of walking distance in our social life any more. I have never been part of a community like this before and I have to say that I love it although it's probably not very good for my liver.
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