Monday, April 14, 2008


Do you get on with your next door neighbours?

After years of people in the maisonettes and houses around us moving after a short period of time things are a bit more settled in our cul de sac. Best of all, we're not having any ongoing arguments with anyone, and, even better, they don't want to be our friends.

Finding that balance with neighbours is an ideal state. You say hello to them when you see them outside, but it doesn't develop into a half hour conversation.

The fact that very few people even know the names of their neighbours these days is often said to be an indication that civilisation is heading for the dumper. I'd say exactly the opposite. I hate community, Neighbourhood Watch and anyone who tells you their life story when all you want to do is mow your lawn in peace and quiet.

My parents and our next door neighbours were as thick as thieves. Well, kind of. Mr & Mrs Next Door obviously basked in the glow of the fact that they were sophisticates compared to my parents. Mr Next Door worked as an electrician, whereas my dad was a former coalminer and unskilled factory worker. One of their children had been to grammar school.

I can remember one interminable evening's entertainment round at their house, watching a slide show of their holiday in Spain.

We sat around eating sandwiches (They'd pulled out all the stops. The sandwich filling was *proper*, two-inch-thick sliced ham - even more middle class than Ye Olde Oake Hamme and way outside my normal culinary remit. Oh, and they had chunks of *proper*, boiled for fifteen hours beetroot on the side of the plates!).

Glasses of sherry were passed around among the adults. I wish I could have partaken, just to soften the blow of the boredom.

The slide show lasted for about three days. I don't know if they were aiming for the effect of those Andy Warhol films where nothing much happens for hours on end, but it's quite possible.

Mr Next Door added a few sophisticated asides while smoking a pipe. It was obvious that he saw himself as a cosmopolitan, Cliff Michelmore type.

We learned that the Spanish drink Sangria. Mr And Mrs Next Door had also been to a bullfight.

Mrs Next Door didn't even suggest that people in mainland Europe *went to the bathroom in the gutter* or didn't wash their hands before preparing food. For the mid 1970's, this was pretty advanced behaviour.

We emerged from next door into the daylight, exhausted, dusty and tearful.

My parents muttered something about Mr & Mrs Next Door attempting to "keep up with the Joneses", of course, and said that going abroad on holiday was a waste of time anyway.

From that point on, I vowed never to make friends with the people who lived next door to me.

I have been proved right.

On Sunday morning, the bloke who lives on one side of our house was doing some gardening and he was topless.

Topless gardening, on a chilly April morning. He either thinks he is Iggy Pop, or has a chest like LC, or is mad.

People who live next door to you: give 'em a wide berth.

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Damned right, Betty.
And I'll add a piece of advice taught to me by that most wonderful teacher: Bitter Experience:
Never, EVER shag your neighbours' daughter.
Dive - er, too right. No chance of me having it away with Mr Topless next door. Especially as I've got the milkman and the postman on the go already.
The guy in the basement flat sometimes talks to me: he's nice enough but I can't be doing with much of it.

Thankfully I live in the city, imagine living in the country.

Somewhere out there is a wistful blog post:

Today I even took my shirt off, but she didn't cast a glance my way...

I am afeared of my upstairs neighbours. They are an ASBO family & threw a machete in our back yard once. I am as nice to them as possible.
eeww - imagine living next door to iggy pop?!

(do you think mr pop's first name is, in fact, ignatius?)
An item on Radio Scotland today said that 40 per cent of household insurance claims were as a result of bodged DIY jobs by neighbours (ceilings, party walls and so on).

I am ashamed to admit I think my parents were Mr and Mrs Next Door. My mum was at least. They must have shown those slides of the Adriatic holiday in 1972 over and over again. The shame.
The worst is when you hear them rutting.
We've got new neighbours. They argue all the time - sometimes quite loudly - especially late at night. They have lots of ready meal sleeves in their recycling and look really disgruntled with life. I had a comedy sitcom moment the other morning as I had to stand on a chair to hang out the last bit of the washing (because I am a short-arse). I had previously heard them rowing really badly. As my head went to the level of the fence I could see them both standing at the conservatory window looking out dolefully at the garden. He looked beyond hen-pecked and desperate and she....was sucking her thumb! Ha ha ha - I did a comedy duck-down and I saw the look of horror on her face as she quickly pulled her thumb away but it was too late - I had already seen it all and was running back into the house wheezing with laughter. I have since told two neighbours that the new neighbour sucks her thumb. I am such a cow. She is a schoolteacher and he works in sales and gets shouted at all the time.

I endured hours of slideshows as a child - mainly of my grandparents coach trip through the Dolomites in 1973. It was always sunny outside, the blinds were drawn and we stuck to the vinyl Parker Knoll three piece trying not to die of terminal boredom or in the adult's case - the homemade wine that was actually bleaching agent mixed with turps.
When the neighbours on one side of us asked if we would like to go round to see their holiday film I told them we would love to, so long as they agreed to come round to ours the following weekend to listen to my records of Hitler's speeches.
They don't even say hello in the mornings now. Arsey bastards!
Very nice post Betty...if I didn't think I'd be wasting my RSI quotient I'd nominate it for post of the week. Slide shows and beetroot are the work of the devil.

Sometimes neighbours think they are up your boulevard and then try and be streets ahead of you. It's a cul de sac.
Billy - oh God, living in the country would be awful. All of the friendliness, having to join the Conservative party, bestiality and getting married to your sister or brother. The horror!

Annie - I certainly hope he didn't take his shirt off for my benefit. I'm about ten years older than he is ... the incident with the machete sounds very disturbing, unless it was a genuine accident when it slipped out of someone's hand during a playful bit of knife throwing practice. Perhaps one of them works in a circus?

Rivergirlie - well, I could tell him how much I love The Stooges and that album The Idiot, but I imagine he could be a bit of a tiresome neighbour at times. His real name is Ignoliuss Constantine Popadopoulos (er, not really, it's Jimmy, boringly enough).

Malc - it was the story about the botched DIY jobs that inspired the post. At first I misheard it and thought it meant that people were going round to their neighbours to do DIY jobs, which sounded ridiculous. By the way, Mr & Mrs Next Door really did have a son called Malcolm ... *goes ashen faced* ... ye gods ...

MJ - too true! One couple who lived next door to me used to be at it every Friday night at 10.30 precisely. Other people and their weird habits, eh? It must've been their equivalent of Groundhog Day.

Rockmother - I suppose having jobs as a school teacher and salesman can't exactly be conducive to having a happy home life. When a couple moved in a few doors down from us a parcel had been left at ours for them. We kept going round there but no one would answer. The one time Geoff knocked on the door a couple of times, and through the window could see the woman sucking the blokes toes lovingly (well, it's another sucking digits anecdote, isn't it?) The problem with having to live in close proximity with other people is that you realise that all human beings are entirely weird, beneath the normal looking surface (DAVID LYNCH ALERT!) As for homemade wine experiences ... argg. I can feel the typing correction fluid aftertaste rising up in my throat.

Reg - well, your neighbours ought to get with the modern age. Can't they just post up all their tedious holiday films on YouTube or send them in an e-mail to you? In exchange, you could download all your Hitler speeches for them. Being a virtual neighbour - that's what it's all about these days.

Murph - I've had too many beetroot encounters because of my East European heritage. My dad went through a phase of insisting on cooking real beetroot, probably because it reminded him of the homeland. It is an entirely pointless foodstuff. I live on the boulevard of broken dreams :(
When I was a kid my parents had the shock of a lifetime when they realised that our new neighbour was the Conservative agent for Chorley.
Within a year she had him voting Labour.
And that was Old labour.
Kaz your mum sounds like mine.

The only acceptable time to mix with the neighours is at a time of national crisis, like when you run out of sugar and all the shops are shut because it's a Sunday in 1984.
My parent's had a swimming pool which is a neighbour magnet. At first Dad had a 'No Beer?-No Schwimmen!' rule for the young gentlemen who lived next door.

He soon added a 'bring atleast one bikini clad escort' clause and then a 'here neighbour, you might as well vacuum the pool while my teenage son chats up your bikini clad escort and we drink all of your beer' clause.

I miss my Dad.
fortunately my neighbor is so utterly engulfed by the drama-filled, shouty relationship she has with the pear tree in her back yard that she has little attention left to spend on me.
thank god.
I quickly upset my neighbours years ago when my bass-plugged-into-Marshall-stack vibes got heard by them. It was that loud I didn't hear him banging on my front door at three in the morning. I was having so much fun since nine the previous evening that the time simply flew by.
That's when I found out that sticking egg boxes to my walls was a false economy. Perhaps I should've left the eggs in the boxes.
Kaz - gawd bless your mum. Now that really is good neighbourly behaviour.

Boz - too true. I didn't even get the neighbours involved when I had The Broken Wrist Incident last November! I can proudly say that I've never borrowed a cup of sugar from a neighbour in my 293 years on this earth. Neither a borrower or a lender be.

Donn - blimey, a swimming pool? I am sooo envious. Did Burt Lancaster ever turn up at one of your dad's poolside parties? One of my favourite films, that is ... I miss your dad as well.

FN - sounds like a distant relative of our own dear Prince Charles. The bloke on the other side from us has one of those immaculate and tidy lawns which occupies much of his time (when he isn't opening cans of beer all day long and belching).

Istvanski - yeah, time passes by when you're in an *altered state of mind*, eh? Worse than someone playing bass is the kind of karaoke parties that go on into the small hours on bank holidays where we live. Yup, it's the sound of some gruff voiced security guard bellowing Mustang Sally for the fourth time at 2 in the morning. Great.
That movie was so weird..I should see it again...Burt is always so stilted and awkward...he creeps me out...especially Elmer Gantry.

I forgot to mention that Alice is the name of my good-lady-wife and subsequently I sing that stupid song all the time.
OMG I think I am from the family next door too!
We had to watch my step-father's slide show of his New Zealand trip (circa 1960). The highlight was when he put a slide in sideways by mistake. And he smoked a pipe.
Oh the nostalgia is sweeping me away....
Donn - it is a very strange film, and Burt is creepy, stilted and awkward. Probably says a lot about me that I like him and the films he's in (ie, I'm creepy, stilted, awkward, dead). That song ended up being a hit because it was big at the German beer festivals y'know.

Tom - here I am forty eight years later and there still isn't any likelihood that I'll go to New Zealand :( Mind you, the idea of long haul flights has put me off travelling very far afield anyway ... er, anyway, yeah, it's a good job that slide shows eventually became less popular, but boring sods always find a way to get you to share their memories, whether it's three hours of unedited holiday video footage or millions of pictures of their kiddies on internet sites.
If there's one reason to thank the non-existent beard in the clouds for the Interwebs, it's Flickr.

Q: Have you seen our holiday snaps?

A: [fingers crossed] Yes. And I drank Piat d'Or while I was looking at them.
Tim - fingers crossed that they don't ask any questions to make sure you really did see them, eh? Unfortunately, the sort of people I know tend to make you physically sit down in front of the computer to see their fifteen thousand photos. When you show them yours in return they say "is that it?" when they've seen the full twenty. It's so one sided.
I'm worried about my next door neighbours. I've had the same neighbours for 20 years and they are great people, but Mrs Next Door is now an invalid and housebound while Mr Next Door has been absent for 2 weeks and when he resurfaced I didn't recognise him. Looks like a heart attack has aged him 20 years in 2 weeks :(
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