Sunday, October 18

Love thy neighbour..

How are your neighbours? Interesting question, isn't it? One that will inspire some of us to clench our fists and grind our teeth muttering expletives under our breath. As is the case with our friends Fran and Reggie we visited today. Their neighbours of three years are enthusiastic DIYers and have been at it nearly every weekend for the past three years as they both have full time jobs. They also have two kids complete with their own quantity of associated noise.

Fact of the matter is most of us cannot and will not ever escape having neighbours. Now if you are lucky, you either have none (hurray!) or you get on with them very well. At the other end of the scale, we have the poor people that live in appartments, high rise buildings, surrounded by neighbours on all sides and those whose relationship with their neighbour could only be defined as a temporary stalemate (or more like a ceasefire in some cases..) We only have to turn to the news to find plenty of examples about how wrong it can all go but aren't we forgetting one fundamental thing here? Aren't we all human, in the same boat and trying to get on and live our lives in relative peace? 

As the World has grown faster and louder so our control over our private world inside our homes has gained importance. This is where we retreat form the hustle and bustle, where we are the masters and nobody should dare interfere. 'An Englishman's home is his castle' the saying goes. Nice and good and were it only so, as castles have seriously thick walls (think feet rather than inches) and noise then is rarely an issue. I can't really imagine any castle owner even realizing their neighbour was doing a bit of DIY in fact next door's cannon practice would most likely be identified as distant thunder. The reality however consists more often than not of badly built partition walls and un-insulated floors (not really put up with peace and quiet in mind) rather than foot thick piles of rock.

What to do about forced coexistence? Should we be tolerant or should we arm for war? The answer is not clearcut as in some cases the opposing party might simply not have the intellectual muscle or the altruism, nor the empathy required for enlightened coexistence. Best we can do is get on with it, be the neighbour we would like to have and don't rise to the challenge. Don't forget that our freedom to do whatever we want ends where our neighbours freedom begins (and vice versa)and all too often we are taking away someone else's freedom in the exercise of our own.

To make a case in point, imagine next door wakes you up with an almighty crashing and banging in the middle of the night followed by some shouting and screaming, now you can let that put your nose out and start retaliating by banging on the wall or slamming the door or turning up the music and leaving the house next Sunday and no doubt such behaviour would have an effect although it might not be the one you really want (well next door would most likely be annoyed and that might make you feel better but they might also respond in kind which might make you feel worse).

Turn the whole scenario around and presume you get up to go to the toilet in the middle of the night. On the way you trip up and fall down the stairs spraining your ankle. You can't get up and despite the noise and your swearing your partner is still fast asleep and you have to shout to wake him. Your ankle turns out to be broken and you get a couple of weeks home sick which turn out to be not very relaxing because for some reason next door has taken to slamming the doors and banging on the wall at the slightest sound... Get the point?

I suppose this is turning into quite the Christian message of 'love thy neighbour' and 'turn the other cheek' but whatever problems there are with organized religion the philosophical precepts are common sense.

As for Fran and Reggie, well they have bought a yurt which they put up on the parents' farm and where they spend their weekends away from it all, hoping that they will return one Sunday evening to find next door have moved out!

And finally I bet you want to ask me: 'How are your neighbours?' - Well, one lot has two noisy babies and they have lost the power of coherent speech, all we can hear is ooohing and cooing and when we see them out and about the town they always look a bit sleep deprived and ill and the other one has a bad habit of slamming doors and can be a bit of a dick, I can't wait for us to move!

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