We live in a heavily populated residential area, about 15 miles from the centre of London, in a charming county few have heard of for the right reasons, Essex.
As a child I grew up in a street very similar to where I live now. My parents, me and my older brother inhabited a semi-detached house with carbon copied houses either side of our road. The area was friendly, close to our school and a few alley way walks to the local park. Our street being situated in this family friendly environment, was full of other families funnily enough and we forged friendships with many of our neighbours. My parents had other couples who they became close friends with and whom we would visit on a Saturday night and be allowed to stay up late while they ate fondue and drank Baby Cham (I was born in the 70s!). Our next door but one neighbour was my Mum’s best friend and I later married her son, not sure if it counts as bigamy actually and should tell my current hubby about it really. I’m sure the marriage could be annulled as we were 6 at the time and my cat played the part of the vicar along with my Sindy dolls as witnesses. Along with my first husband, we had a gang of kids that me and my big bro hung out with down our street, as long as we stayed on our side of the road and didn’t go past No. 21 that is. We met up constantly at weekends and school holidays, with us girls practising our roller skating stunts to the sounds of 5 Star while the boys pulled the legs of daddy-long-legs and chased us with them. There were many happy days in the six week holidays spent around each others houses as the only way our parents could often socialise was to take us with them.
Now I’m a grown up and find myself in a very similar situation. We have the fortune of having met a number of other couples in our street that we not only have the common factor of young children with, but also the appreciation of wine as well. The women of the group I now count as close of friends of mine and we are not only on hand to help cover each others kids/dogs but also to pop in to borrow an onion or an extension lead when desperate. Having spent a few drunken nights in each others company and then having to witness each others hangovers the next morning while pegging out the washing or loading the car up, has meant we have become very comfortable in our warts and all friendships.
However, not every neighbour is the type of person you would cut a spare key for and I have plenty that I would happily swerve a conversation with or rather not take a package in for. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t say I have the likes of Fred and Rose West nearby (as far as I can tell) but there are a few unusual characters too close for comfort. We have an agoraphobic who lives opposite who never leaves the house and only makes herself visible when the pizza/Tesco delivery arrives when a vision of Demis Roussos answers the door and then scurries back inside. Another neighbour on the other side of my road has a forecourt front garden with his and hers flash sports cars, along with landscaped gardens complete with hot tub, yet on a monthly basis the lady of the house and her partner will get drunk, shout at each other in the street and one will fly off in one of their cars returning the next day as if nothing has happened. A few doors from us we had neighbours who recently moved out whose party trick was to have BBQ’s late at night in all weathers while their teenage son revved his scooter in the back garden or drove it full pelt up the service road at the back of our house. My hubby decided to knock at their door to complain one day after we were fed up with our washing being covered in diesel fumes and our twins (then babies) suffering from a constantly disturbed nap time. The Mother of the scooter deviant answered the door and then suggested hubby talk some sense into her son as she had given up!
You eventually learn to live amongst the stranger neighbours when there is a balance of nicer ones as well. Me and my other three neighbouring friends now talk about the goings on in the street by always starting the sentence with, ‘the other day when I was folding my washing’ as if our bout of snooping was unintentional, which of course it is!
Unlike the many soap operas on television, our neighbour friends are unlikely to bury each other under the patio or sabotage each others relationships, but we can count on each other for help or a natter between deadlines, school runs and dinner preparations. When hubby is working a late or night shift, at least once a month, me and my neighbouring friends will try to have a girls night in at mine, which has now become a necessary part of our schedules. It will often involve a bitch about the other neighbours, but it is also a chance to offload about our problems and concerns and receive an unbiased piece of advice in return. It seems that Ramsey Street had it right after all, sing along if you can “…It’s when good neighbours become good friends….”