Tonight, I am going to do something I have never ever done before in my adult life. I am going to invite my neighbours to a social event. I know – crazy.
I say I have never done this in my adult life as, when we were kids my sister and I used to invite our neighbours around to watch us do short plays and gymnastics displays we’d made up. Cringe. They were patient souls indeed, and are still very lovely neighbours to my parents.
However, in adult life, particularly in cities, it seems quite unusual to actually know your neighbours. I lived in four different places in London and my total neighbour contact consisted of:
- asking our upstairs neighbours if they could stop having baths as water was streaming through our ceiling and making our light bulbs glow in a scary death-by-electrocution manner
- shouting out the window at four in the morning, the day before my final exams, asking if my downstairs neighbours could ever-so-kindly be quiet (I can’t remember the exact phrase I used but I’m sure it was as polite as that)
- telling our (overjoyed) neighbour that we had found their escaped cat
- hearing all manner of walking about, personal body functions and intimate moments through too-thin walls
In our first Prague apartment I recognised most of our neighbours. They included the mushroom woman who came back every autumn weekend laden with mushrooms for pickling, the man with the little dog, a rather overweight man and his very overweight daughter (I had to take the stairs if they were both in the lift at the same time) and a man of indeterminate age with child or grandchild (hard to tell).
Apart from one neighbour in London (who I also happened to work with) I don’t think I ever even knew any of their names. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a reflection on me – modern city living just tends to be remarkably unfriendly. I have often longed for a Friends-type scenario. A life in which my friends and I could live in loft apartments (which, inexplicably, we could afford despite not having very demanding jobs) with a nice set of neighbours right across the hallway who could pop in for breakfast, pizza and beer or general chilling out. The reality so far falls far short of this (see above).
Our recent move has raised my hopes, however. After just one week our interaction with the neighbours already includes:
- knowing that there are two of them (we think they are a couple)
- knowing his name and that she plays tennis
- him assuring us that they did not mind us filling our shared hall way with packing boxes (kind, if untrue)
- him showing us the fuse box thingy that we needed to fiddle with when all our power cut out
This is already streets ahead of previous neighbour contact and hubby and I are aiming to cement good-neighbour relations this evening by inviting them to our house-warming party. I have high hopes. Clearly, this is also quite self-serving as if people come to your party, they are far less likely to complain about the noise.
Coincidentally, on day one of the new apartment I was standing on our balcony and saw, on one of the balconies of the opposite block, a very fat, bald, sweaty, man sitting in a chair reading a paper completely naked! My very own ‘ugly naked guy’ – a step closer to living in Friends. Not qiute what I was hoping for – you should be careful what you wish for.
We made eye contact. He smiled. I squeaked and ran back inside. I haven’t invited him to the house-warming. Is that mean?