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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 21-May-15 11:27:26

Neighbours - the good, the bad and the ugly

Author Louise Candlish on the perils of moving to a new home - that's unless you've staked out the area first...

Louise Candlish

Neighbours - the good, the bad and the ugly

Posted on: Thu 21-May-15 11:27:26


Lead photo

Nosy neighbours - always a risk when moving to a new home...

The smell of burning brought me to the window one Monday morning in June. To my alarm, a fire crackled in my neighbour's garden, its flames dancing perilously close to the wooden fence that divides us. Two minutes later, next door's front door slammed shut and I watched my neighbour walk off up the street, briefcase in hand. This outrageous man had happily lit a bonfire in the middle of a street of terraced houses and left it unattended while he went to the office.

And you know what the truly surprising part was? I judged this turn of events preferable to having him at home all day! Because at home, just a brick's width from my desk, he'd be drilling, hammering, tile-cutting and all manner of other ear-bruising renovation tasks. (The bonfire, by the way, was to save money on a skip.)

I'm fairly sure I'm not the only one to have been victim to the power-tool neighbour. Some of us have also been unlucky enough to have all-night party animals, squatters, keepers of Pit bulls and/or boa constrictors, growers of 50ft conifers... Unless you are lucky enough to live in a detached property with parkland, then you are at risk of exposure to something you'd rather not experience - even if it's only a child's daily violin practice.

Before you make that crucial offer, make yourself a packed lunch, park in the street and watch.

What interests me is that such dangers often don't occur to us until after we've moved in. Be it a starter flat or a retirement cottage, we spend years saving and planning our move and yet we give precious little thought to the people who'll be living a few feet away on the other side of the wall.

So what can you do, other than the obvious steering clear of any property with a declared dispute attached? Before you make that crucial offer, make yourself a packed lunch, park in the street and watch. Go at different times of day and night. Introduce yourself to your prospective neighbours and see what kind of a feeling you walk away with. Find out if there are residents' committees, community forums, street parties - all the kinds of organisations that promote neighbourly goodwill.

Once in, you're at the mercy of serendipity. Fingers crossed, it might go the other way as it did one friend of mine, who lives on a street of like-minded families who've become so close they all go on holiday together. Their children are like a clan of cousins, wandering through each other's homes as they would their own, and visiting grandparents have forged friendships. Even an overactive imagination like mine can't find the dark side to their idyll.

As for my own pest: after a little over a year, his renovation fever broke, the last bonfire died and he sold up for a tidy profit. Now we have a lovely couple whose idea of a power tool is an electric toothbrush and who don't even complain when our cat breaks in at 6am to paw them awake. Remarkable. And in no way to be taken for granted.

Louise's book The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is published by Penguin and available from Amazon.

By Louise Candlish

Twitter: @louise_candlish

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 21-May-15 11:32:07

I am very surprised no one has yet complained about DGS's drumming practise! grin. The house is detached, but no parkland.

gillybob Thu 21-May-15 12:25:10

......and the down right weird.

DH says our neighbours are weird. Mrs hangs her washing out every day at around 6am. In the rain, the snow and everything in between, except for (it would appear) in the sunshine. DH says he thinks perhaps they don't have a washine machine and she actually hangs the dirty washing out ! They have paved their small front garden and the entire back garden filling up every tiny gap with cement. The garden is built on a slope so the resulting back is a sloped pavement which is useless. She asked me how I got my patio table to stay upright when hers was on a slant confused.

gillybob Thu 21-May-15 12:28:13

The other side are a young couple with a baby of about 18 months who virtually never sees the light of day or enjoys any fresh air. Daddy works offshore and mummy locks herself in with the baby until he returns 3 weeks later. Not long after the baby was born I did once knock to see if they were okay as I was worried. "Oh" she said "I don't do outside when Mr is away". confused

gillybob Thu 21-May-15 12:28:43

We, on the other hand are practically perfect in every way. grin

Gagagran Thu 21-May-15 13:08:56

Thinking of poor Alie with her neighbour problem.

Marmight Thu 21-May-15 13:44:12

My DD's children 'play' : the drums, a trumpet, a saxophone and the recorder. They also shout a lot and bounce up and down on a trampoline. I am so glad I don't live next door to them grin

MiniMouse Thu 21-May-15 14:23:22

You're right Gagagran, as if she needed that on top of everything else she's going through sad

loopylou Thu 21-May-15 14:32:45

My neighbours are great! I'm obviously very lucky when I think of Alie sad

FlicketyB Thu 21-May-15 15:03:53

When DC were teenagers they had bedrooms on the attic floor, both had very different tastes in music and both kept ramping up the music to drown the other. I begged the neighbours to complain as my demands to turn it down were ignored.

The neighbours refused to complain! our semi detached neighbour said they didn't use the attic floor so didn't hear the music and the people across the road said that it helped to drown the traffic noise!

In the end I told DC the neighbours had complained, even though they hadn't, so at last they did turn it down.

harrigran Thu 21-May-15 16:02:24

My neighbours had a dog that lived 17 years and howled every single day of it's life, I lived in purgatory. It made me ill.

ninathenana Thu 21-May-15 16:28:37

My friend had to move because of her neighbours. When DD got together with her new partner it turned out these neighbours were his crazy ex in-laws grin

We are very lucky, although were not the 'pop on for coffee' sort we get on fine with both sides. Often doing each other favours or the men borrowing tools and garden stuff.

PPP Thu 21-May-15 18:27:54

When we moved into our house, the gardens were just pieces of grass divided by a fence. Our neighbours made a point of telling us that they didn't wish to speak or acknowledge us in the back garden! Fortunately, the boundary hedge has grown and we only have to say hello when we meet them at the front.
Nowt so queer as folk.

cazthebookworm Fri 22-May-15 14:38:38

Let's hear it for the good neighbours!!

I came home on Wednesday after spending 2days in hospital for spinal surgery. My neighbour arrived at 5pm with a home made cottage pie and fresh veg. I asked her if she wouldn't mind getting me a few bananas the next day, which she duly brought, along with flowers and grapes.
I am so lucky to have her next door. I live in a terrace of 4 Alms houses, and the occupants are "old school," they look out for one another.

I have been truly blessed.

Rosannabanna Mon 25-May-15 11:09:29

I would dearly love to live in the kind of place cazthebookworm describes. We moved to our current cul de sac thinking it would be friendly but most people are out at work, several of the houses are let to students and few people seem to want to talk.

We have some new neighbours next door who are the sort who want to talk all the time which feels like a kind of absurd 'other end of the spectrum' - I feel that my rear garden is private space for solace and sun worshipping and I don't want to talk out there or be reminded of other people tinkering about a metre away and talking on their phone at full volume!

It probably makes a difference whether the house is terraced, semi detached or detached and how big the garden is.

The blog advice is very good indeed, I've never done that full recce and I realise now how important it is.

AshTree Mon 25-May-15 17:16:21

When we moved to our current house the adjoining neighbour was a divorced and retired schoolteacher, very quiet, very considerate, very helpful - she was a wonderful gardener and would pop cuttings across the garden wall with advice about where they should go and so on. She was always there for any emergency with DC (young teens) when we were out, e.g. when the school closed early because of bad weather she took them in and fed and watered them till I returned from work.
Then she went into a care home, and we held our breath. But her granddaughter (single and very quiet) came to live there while the family considered their options. She was there for four years, but they finally put the house up for sale. We held our breath again, but we now have a lovely family there, with three teenagers. We rarely hear them. Yes, Mr does a lot of DIY (he's very competent, lucky Mrs!) but they are essential works, and they always apologise and worry that they're disturbing us, telling us to knock if, say, we're unwell and need some peace. It will all be finished before long, so we're not worried. I think we've been very lucky, especially when I hear what some people endure.

Charleygirl Mon 25-May-15 18:11:20

I am so lucky- the house next door is permanently rented so over the years there have been hard working families, students who never appeared to go to college and had sing songs in their rear garden at 2am to drug dealers. The present family are superb and I hope that they never leave.

Each weekend, whoever is up first places the wheelie bins at the kerb. When they have been emptied whoever is around puts the bins back in place. I have done on line food ordering because he did not know how to do it and was around to help with the delivery. They are there 24/7 for me but it works both ways.

There are a few houses in this small cul de sac that I could ring their doorbell and get instant help- we look out for each other and this is London.

henbane Wed 27-May-15 01:07:35

We had one bad experience with neighbours, an old lady living with an unmarried son & daughter. The day we moved in, I pulled up outside while my elderly father who was helping opened the gate, and the old lady came rushing out to tell us we couldn't park there. I said, oh it's ok, we're not parking, just opening the gate, and she said, it's not all right, you're blocking my drive, I've met your sort before, if you don't move I'll call the police.

This set the tone for the next 7 years. When my 4 year old step daughter came to stay and said hello to the middle aged daughter, she got a torrent of abuse and came in in tears. The police were called on frequent occasions, once because one of my sons leant his bike against the garden wall (which was theirs), and once because someone had broken down outside, blocking both driveways, and they immediately assumed it was something to do with us. They alleged that we were running an illegal scrap metal business (don't know where that came from, I worked in the city and my husband was a delivery driver). On another occasion we were supposed to have vehicles with no road tax and the police came and checked them all. The police told us they knew the neighbours were unreasonable but could not just ignore them.

To this day I have no idea why they hated us so much. Fortunately I have been luckier with my neighbours since then!

FlicketyB Wed 27-May-15 09:00:31

I worked with a woman with neighbours like that. Among other things. when my work colleagues got builders in to repair a chimney, her neighbour rang the council and complained that she was building an extension without any planning consent. Her neighbours were also well known to both the police and the planning authority for constant vexatious complaints about their neighbours.

campinggran Wed 27-May-15 13:51:46

The neighbours on the other side of the wall (who we are still friends with) moved to a bigger house and the new owners have been renting it out ever since. It's not been toooooo bad though they can be very noisy and we have had a few occasions where we have had to go round late at night (very late) to ask them to keep their partying down. To be fair they have been very apologetic but they are noisier generally than I would choose. On the other side (not attached) we have the best neighbours you could wish for.

Anya Wed 27-May-15 14:30:21

I've got No.8's dog here at the moment and I'll be popping into No 4 to sit with then feed their cat soon. They will let my chickens out, feed them and put them away at night when I go away.

No 8 has a son who plays the electric guitar, badly and loudly.

No 4's daughter plays the tenor horn and saxophone quite well.

I have noisy grandchildren.


Treebee Wed 27-May-15 20:49:55

Very lucky with lovely neighbours to our left, but newer neighbours on our right give me grief with the 3 Ds, dogs, drums and DIY.
They have 5 yappy little dogs that would bark whenever we went in the garden, and whenever they were left in the house alone. They barked all day at our gardeners and scared my GD in her paddling pool. I lost my cool last year and stormed round there and the dogs now wear electric collars which is an improvement but I hate the thought...
The younger son plays drums in a band and practises...
The Dad loves DIY and bangs and crashes. DH isn't bothered so maybe the problem is all with me as he says.
I do like to sit in the garden and sit in peace and quiet.