Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Over summer, our neighbours opposite baked us a lovely loaf of bread and brought it over in a wicker basket with a little pot of jam and butter. It was so kind and thoughtful and a wonderful gesture.

Needless to say, five months on, we’ve yet to properly speak to them, have failed to bake them anything adorable in return, and we’ve still got their basket.

I’m useless with neighbours. I’ve always wanted neighbour chums, make every effort to wave enthusiastically and shout HELLO HEY HI I’M YOUR NEIGHBOUR whenever I see them, and have a beautiful tea set ready to go if they were ever to pop round.

The problem is, when I’m at home, I’m rarely in the mood for getting to know people. As soon as I’m through the front door, the hair goes up, the bra comes off, and the manky pants which I deem appropriate “lounge-wear” come out. My charm and charisma plummets and I’m basically just a vessel for eating, sleeping, and laughing too loudly at The Simpsons. Nobody wants to be friends with that. Not even my actual friends want to be friends with that.

Back at my parents’ house we basically had an ongoing war with the neighbours which peaked at Christmastime. Those opposite had masses upon masses of Christmas lights that kept my sister up until 1am every night, like a tacky, Santa-shaped aurora borealis. There was also the Christmas card stalemate, where my mum couldn’t give them one until we’d received ours, because every year without fail she’d forget the husband’s name. “From Jacqui and Neil. Bloody NEIL! Quick Jen fill in the blank and post it through their letter box.”

Those next door with whom we shared a wall were doing perpetual renovations on their house. Not only did this mean that they seemed to be drilling and hammering for 24 hours a day, but their house was also exactly like ours but slightly better: proactive D.I.Y dicks. Plus their young daughters loved nothing more than listening to Hannah Montana and Justin Bieber when they woke up in the morning, and before they went to bed. And pretty much consistently throughout the day.

I just don’t know how to communicate with neighbours, and it worries me deeply. How am I going to get on in life? Who is going to oversee the feeding of and inevitable death of my pet fish while I’m on holiday? Who will provide the ladder when I lock myself out and have to climb through a bathroom window? Who can I dump my kids with at the last minute when I need to go to the pub? Whatever happened to community spirit? I need it so I can use it to serve myself!

Our Christmas card from our wonderful bread neighbours arrived over the weekend. It was addressed “To our lovely neighbours” with a pleasant message which made us all sigh at their kind-heartedness and excellent seasonal organisation, reminding us of what terrible neighbours we are.

On the back it read “Give us our basket back, you shits.” Something tells me I might have found the first neighbours I’ll truly get on with.

Jen Pritchard

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