You move away from your parents house, or out of shared accommodation at university or with colleagues to your dream home – it might be a small flat in the city, it might be a seven-bedroom mansion in the country, you may be alone or moving in with a partner or friend – everything is going to be perfect, you’ll have peace and quiet, you can do as you please…an Englishman’s home is his castle after all. Then you meet the neighbours.
Nightmare neighbours come in all shapes and sizes, some can be difficult in the most surprising ways. Conventionally, we might expect noisy music, loud fights or tearaway kids, fights over access or sarcastic notes through the door. But the friendly neighbour can be just as soul destroying. You want to come home and relax but they catch you in the lobby and keep you chatting for an hour. You’re relaxing in the garden when you get dragged in to cleaning out the gutters of the infirm old lady from the house next door or the neighbours insist that every crack in a wall or creak of a gate is a shared cost.
Ok, so they’re slightly more insidious and much less poisonous than death threat neighbours but the ‘friendly’ neighbours can be just as difficult to live with and there’s nothing you can do about them. After all what can you do when all they want to do is show you their air-fix kit or ask you to watch their five kids – just for a couple of hours – while they pop out to the shops? It’s not easy to say no, especially when you have to live next door, above or below someone. It’s not like you’ll never see them again and life’s never easy when you’re trying to avoid someone.
So how do you deal with the friendly/nightmare neighbour? You certainly can’t call the police and make a complaint about unwanted niceties. The trick is to set ground rules as soon as you move in – if you don’t want a deep relationship with your neighbours make it obvious without being rude, be sure to keep conversations to no more than ten minutes, draw a line when it comes to helping out, a pint of milk when you’re going to the supermarket anyway is fine, posting a letter on your way in to town even but fixing the boiler or cleaning their kitchen isn’t your job.
We are no longer in a society where everyone is expected to feel part of a close-knit community – if you want to form close relationships with neighbours and do things for them, great! But if you don’t, you shouldn’t feel guilty that you wish to keep yourself to yourself. In modern life, when we’re over burdened with work, friends and family don’t allow your neighbour to become another responsibility.