Saturday, 17 December 2016

New neighbours

My new neighbours - will they be okay or will they be the neighbours from hell? Will they be friendly and welcoming or will they be sullen, snobbish and standoffish?

It's the question I always ask myself when I'm moving house, and since I've lived in thirteen different homes, I've asked it a lot.

If I knew my neighbours would be a pain in the butt, I might very well have cancelled the move, but usually there's no way of knowing what they're like until you actually move in and find out. Short of grilling all the other neighbours, or spying on them for a week or two, you're in the dark.

We've seen the whole range of neighbours, from the charming couple who took in our parcels when we were out and trimmed our hedge for us, to the anti-social arseholes who had all-night parties twice a week and ignored every complaint.

Most neighbours were neither one or the other, just inoffensive, unassuming types who kept to themselves and wanted no contact other than "hello there" or "have you seen my missing car keys?" Their lives were a complete mystery until the day we moved out. For all I knew, they were kidnappers, drug dealers, internet trolls, bondage enthusiasts, you name it.

When I lived in a bedsit in Abbey Road, London (yes, that Abbey Road) the elderly woman upstairs proved to be an alcoholic who would reel in at any time of the day or night, stinking of whisky and sometimes throwing up on the stairs. She was well beyond help, even if I'd known what help to offer.

In another bedsit at the Angel, Islington, the landlord lived upstairs and was also an alcoholic. My requests for repairs or properly-functioning appliances or removal of the putrid rubbish dump outside my kitchen window would be brushed aside in his hurry to get to the pub and down a few more pints.

Our best neighbours were probably a lovely couple called Ricky and Sheila who became good friends and helped us out of all sorts of difficulties. It was one of our saddest days when we heard Ricky had died in a head-on collision with another car. By some miracle, his daughter Katy, who was in the passenger seat, survived with nothing but a few bruises.


  1. Did you ask yourself what people may think about you as a neighbour ? I do not consider my neighbours as "arseholes" even if they have a Party twice a week and do really not care about their erotic or sexual preferences.You seem to know what life all your neighbours have or had. Quite funny.
    Mia More

  2. Mia: I find that a very odd response. I would say we're very good neighbours, we've never had any complaints about our behaviour. If a bunch of lads have all-night parties twice a week, in a block of flats where they're surrounded by other households, where those other households can't sleep for all the noise, and they just laugh at any complaints, what else would you call them? Model citizens?

    As I said, most of the time I had no idea what life my neighbours had, as they kept to themselves and didn't disturb anyone. I didn't care about their erotic or sexual preferences either. I was only saying that I knew nothing about them (and I wasn't dying to find out either). I think you misunderstood what I was saying.

    1. Sorry but you pick out all the negative behaviour, you spoke about arseholes and alcoholics and the only nice people were those neighbours who helped you out from difficulties.If you live in an urban environment you have to deal with different people and as long as there is no violence some noise problems are nothing in my eyes.And normally noise is allowed up to a certain night hour. May be it's more difficult for elder persons ( maybe an oldie problem),to handle noise problems.
      Mia More

  3. We walked into a development fight when we moved was a very quick way of meeting the neighbours, most of whom are very nice people - excluding of course The Neighbour.
    Otherwise, since student days we have mostly had sufficient room about us not to be disturbed by neighbours and their goings on, but in rural France, just as here, that does not mean that we don't know or talk to each other.
    From what I can recall from student days, medical students had a very bad reputation for booze and noisy parties, though friends' grandchildren tell me that that accolade has now been awarded to law students...
    We in the Flattleship Potemkin reserved our noise for demonstrations.

  4. I try and get to know neighbours but not too intimately. Worst ever was a crack dealer. Detached housing is a good barrier.

  5. We've lived in this apartment for 40 years now and have had very good luck with our neighbors. But I understand your concern. When someone moves out we wonder if their replacement will be noisy.

  6. I know what you mean. We could do with new windows and a couple of other expensive jobs doing, but as the old lady next door is in her eighties and in declining health, we are holding off as long as we can. The dividing wall is paper thin so if someone noisy moves in when she pops off, we'll have to move and we don't want to spend out on stuff we'll have to leave behind (again).

  7. I've had my fair share of annoying neighbors, from the guy who yells at his disabled son to the guy who threw his cigarette butts in our yard (did a post about him once!)

    Fortunately, have also had some great neighbors and going to a Xmas party at my neighbor's house this week.

  8. Like Mia More, the first question that popped into my mind on reading your lament: Yes, Nick, whatever. But what sort of neighbour are YOU? And don't say you are a model neighbour. How do you know what YOUR neighbours think of YOU?

    I could play you a whole sonata and variations on what neighbour I believe you to be. You'd probably freak me out as the guy who'll always give me the time of day whilst barely stopping. Not that it matters. I am not easily deterred. If you don't wish to engage I'll make you. Which, possibly, makes ME the neighbour from hell. Now there's a thought.

    I firmly believe others hold up a mirror to ourselves. Not that I am suggesting you are an antagonistic, hard drinking, noisy, uncommunicative arsehole who doesn't cut next door's hedge. Not at all.

    However, are you the sort of neighbour someone would borrow a fiver off till next morning, are you the sort of neighbour who - when still strangers - will be asked for help, knocked at your door in a moment of distress in the middle of the night? Confided in? And vice versa? Or are you just someone living next door? More or less anonymously? Keeping yourself to yourself?

    Glass houses and all that.


  9. www: We've never found ourselves next door to a crack dealer, thankfully. And we're very glad we now have a detached house.

    Jean: To have lived there for 40 years, you must have had good neighbours. A few awful ones would surely have driven you out.

  10. Helen: Many Queen's University students live close to the university and drive the neighbours crazy with their daily drunken rampages and mayhem. Most of the long-term residents have been forced to move out of the area just to get a normal life back.

    Dave: Very sensible to hold off on the updating in case some anti-social new neighbours move in. We've also known party walls so thin you can hear every cough and sneeze!

  11. Bijoux: It's the luck of the draw, isn't it? Some neighbours are brilliant, others are nothing but trouble. We don't get fag ends in our yard, but we do get a lot of chocolate and sweet wrappers from the kids at the two nearby schools!

  12. Ursula: As far as we're concerned we ARE model neighbours, or considerate ones at any rate. We don't make a lot of noise, we don't let the fences fall to bits, we don't let our garden turn into an unkempt jungle. I don't give anyone the time of day, but that's mainly because the neighbours zoom in and out in their cars.

    Certainly someone could borrow a fiver off me - or a bit more. Certainly I would help if someone rang the bell at 2 am. I've taken in parcels for people, put out their rubbish bins to be emptied, shown them round my house when they were planning a similar extension. I think you'd have to work very hard at painting me as a nasty neighbour.

  13. Mia: Sorry there aren't more wonderful couples, but as I say, most neighbours have been just the quiet, unassuming types we didn't have a lot of contact with. Of course there are all sorts living in a city, something we know very well as we've only lived in London and Belfast. But that doesn't mean everyone can behave however they want with no consideration for anyone else.

    As for the party-loving household, I was in my forties and Jenny was in her thirties at the time, so definitely not an oldies problem. It's more an individual thing, I think - some people don't mind any amount of noise, others find too much noise very disturbing.

  14. Except one flat that has been let out on rent as the occupants, her parents, died by the heir, and two recently moved in owners of two flats in a total of twelve flats in our complex, I have lived with the same neighbours for the last 26 years. We have had deaths, marriages, births, hospitalisations etc in all the flats and all the neighbours have been involved in all these matters in the complex. In other words, I would not exchange my neighbours for any new ones, nor I suspect they for me!

  15. This is a new, only 20 year old, condominium with 12 apartments, each owned by a family. Husband and I are the "elderly" here. The families; adults, children, teenagers are all wonderful to us, kind and helpful. We have been very lucky so far.
    Greetings Maria x

  16. Ramana: That sounds like a great community, where people really do know each other and help each other. Something that doesn't happen so much in British apartment blocks, in my experience.

    Maria: That sounds like a great community as well. You're very lucky.

  17. Sorry Nick,there is a small error; what I meant is that, each apartment is owned by each family and not all 12 apartments owned only by one family.

    It takes me long to write in English so by the time I made my comment, Ramana, who hadn't replied yet when I started my comment, preceded me and said it exactly how I would have wanted to explain my condominium - with the graduations, marriages and deaths.

  18. Maria, I understood what you meant! You said that each apartment was owned by a family - as I would have expected. It's great that you share all these important life-experiences.

  19. i didnt know that my jungle-ish garden made me a bad neighbour!

  20. Kylie: Ha, it does round here! You'd be amazed at how neat and tidy all the local gardens are. Unruly undergrowth is cause for much tut-tutting.

  21. that doesn't mean bad neighbours, it means different value sytems. or advanced age. or disability. or a different idea of aesthetics

  22. Kylie: Okay, clever clogs!

  23. The key: Keep lines of communication open. We have turned problematic neighbors into absolute angels.

  24. Hattie: We do keep the lines of communication open, sort of. Our current neighbours are no problem at all, but there's no contact apart from a hasty "hello" as we rush off to work or rush off on some errand.

  25. my god. a little startled by a response here.
    I've been on a wonderful holiday trip to see my marine's son and his family who are stationed in georgia.
    just now came by here.
    still amazed a little at the snappy critique of you by mia more. or whatever her name is.
    kind of used to it by ursula but was just surprised otherwise.
    you were very gracious in your response.

    when I lived in my little cottage I knew everyone inside of two blocks.
    and called several my friends.
    people walked their dogs... mowed their lawns... etc. there were more occasions to meet and get to know them.
    I think apartment dwellers tend to be more private just because of the physical distances in which they live. SO close! you need a bit of privacy.

    my neighbors in these apts all seem to be very nice. we often speak.
    and regarding noise...
    for me... liking excessively loud noise isn't an oldie thing either.

    I don't know how wonderfully YOUNG mia is... but I found her remark to you insulting.
    I have NEVER enjoyed ear shattering music or loud noise my entire life!

    Merry Christmas nick!

  26. Tammy: I think home-owners can be just as private as flat-dwellers if they choose to be. We have very little contact with our neighbours as they tend to shoot in and out in their cars or are rushing to school with their kids in tow.

    Mia was being unusually abrasive, but I can be equally abrasive back!