Neighbourly Love

Trying to stave off the boredom inbetween jobs is rather difficult when you don’t have too many friends.

But good neighbours can become good friends, right?

Well… they can. I’ve seen over the years how my mum effortlessly makes contact with neighbours and ends up best friends with some of them, good friends to others. She is a true professional.

The rest of us struggle a bit. These days, people aren’t really supposed to get on with their neighbours. Indeed, they’re not even supposed to know who they are.

I live in a close of 16 houses. We should, really, be a very good community. It’s the perfect thing for it. Almost everyone encounters each other at some point during the week. We are a cul-de-sac, so we can have a common enemy, and a common bond. We have shared driveways, and there are a few families with children who spread themselves across the close, especially during these summer months. It should be a good spirit.

It isn’t.

Out of the 16 houses, one of them is mine. So there are 15 sets of neighbours, potentially. I know two of them. Others I have seen. Some of them will say hello. Others will ignore you and give you snotty looks. At least, that’s how it seems. My housemate, way more extraverted than I am, often says hello to them, and he gives me a running report on the responses he gets. It’s really not good at all.

We are such bad neighbours now, in large swathes of the country. We’re just too suspicious. We think we can’t possibly trust this stranger, and it’s even worse because they live right on top of us. Who knows what they’re doing behind those twitching net curtains. They might even be spying on us.

In my experience it takes a common problem to break down those barriers. There needs to be some excuse for people to meet with each other. Whether that’s a dodgy paving flag, a pothole, a broken streetlight, a break in, some vandalism… it’s only when these things happen to do we let down our guard sufficiently to think we might just possibly need some help.

It’s happened with one of my neighbours. I helped her with a PC problem, and since then we’ve got to know each other very well. Sadly, she’s about 30 years older than me. Her husband is also very nice. We’re now very good neighbours, helping each other with stuff, taking deliveries for each other… and I’ve even cadged a lift a couple of times, which is always muchly appreciated.

It’s good for me, as it’s at least provided me with some social encounters beyond the usual with my business and my slightly annoying housemate. And now, such is the nature of how much I’ve impressed, I have secured the inevitable dinner invitation. Except, it was for today. And I’m currently on a train heading North. So I’m going to miss a barbecue. Perhaps for the best, given my vegetarianism. Very fortunate, even. I’m such an obsessive over cross-contamination…

But it just goes to show… I bet there are more people in the close I could make good friends with. If only we’d all let ourselves free a little…

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