Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Are you a good neighbour?

Are you a good neighbour? I'd say we are, and yet we aren't. We like to keep ourselves to ourselves. Hello, Goodbye, the occasional request for help is fine. But we like our privacy and don't like to feel invaded.

I come from a different country and culture, and I also come from the country. I say I come from a specific town when realistically, I come from the middle of nowhere, a mere 20 minutes drive from the major big city. I studied there, I partied there, I consider myself from that city. Plus it makes it easier for people to have a rough idea of where I'm from. Everybody who likes rugby has heard of it because the rugby team tends to go far in the Heineken cup (sorry, Leinster and Munster fans but it's an all French final this year, and WE are in it.) I'll let you guess which town I'm from (although I probably mentioned it somewhere!).

I don't know if it's just my family (extend that to grand parents, uncles etc) but we are not really neighbourly. Growing up, I had 3 neighbours. Two were across the road and elderly, and the third one was way back at the back of the garden. None had children my age. None were my parents' age. I don't remember the neighbours popping in for a chat and a cup of tea (mostly because it never happened, and because we don't drink tea by the bucket either). Even my grand parents who lived in town, never had their neighbours in. We are quite private. A wave across the fence and a hello was the most you would get from us, and we would get from them. Which is probably why I am amazed and fascinated by programs like Corrie and EastEnders. Because I have never experienced that kind of closeness (bordering on invasion) with my neighbours.

My mother in law is very 'old Dublin'. She grew up with the people on her road, they had kids around the same time, they all know each other. Every morning the Tea Brigade (as Mr Foodie likes to call them) pops in for their morning tea and hour's chat, gossip and occasional bitching session. They all know each other's business, dirty laundry and secrets. Personally, I don't know how she does it. When I had the misfortune pleasure of attending such sessions of the Tea Brigade, I heard more or less the same story over and over again. But 'each to their own' as she likes to say, she enjoys it so good for her. In that sense, we probably are not very good neighbours. We announced recently that we wanted to move, preferably to a bungalow, in the middle of the countryside with no direct neighbour as opposed to living on an estate. It suits me just fine because that is the kind of environment I grew up in. Her reaction was 'Ah, you need neighbours.' But do we really?

We have a neighbour at the moment. If you can call it a neighbour. She lives above our heads. We live in a bungalow which attic has been converted into a little flat. We lived in it for a little bit as I mentioned there. She has her own entrance to the side of our house. She has a key to our garden, so that she can use her washing machine in the shed. Since we moved in the main house, we have had 3 people living above our heads. One was a single man in his 30s, which we never heard and very rarely seen. The other one was a single woman in her 40s who was friendly but not invasive. And then, there is Her. 

Her moved in around January. She is in her late 20s. She came down to introduce herself. She looked nice enough. She said that she was doing a course to become a Special Needs Assistant (sorry, love, bad timing, did you not hear that the government got rid of most of them?). We got talking a little bit. I asked her about her course and with whatever little knowledge I have on the subject of children with special needs (thank you Jen!), I quickly realized that she didn't have a clue. Anyway, she reassured us that she was a quiet girl, that she would take into consideration that we had small children when it came to noise level etc. She asked a few questions about cable TV and other utilities. We were being nice and neighbourly. But things have started to go a bit downhill since. And we find ourselves becoming 'bad' neighbours.

First, she started to pop down. Preferably in the evening, when we were relaxing and having a nice glass of wine. Then she started making herself at home, kick off the shoes and put her feet on our couch, looking at our laptops screens. She told us she had a laptop too but no Internet connection. We stupidly nicely offered to share our Internet connection with her (I know, I can hear you laughing.). She promised not to over use it. Sure she doesn't use her laptop much. Just to 'watch movies and go on Facebook'. What she failed to mention was that the movies were not DVDs, oh no, she was downloading them. Oh and since she dropped out of her course ('it was too hard, you know.'), she had plenty of time to watch movies and use the Internet. To cut a long story short, fed up with the slowness of the connection, we changed the WAP key on the modem yesterday. And we started opening the door in the evening half naked in our dressing gowns.

Then there is the noise. She is quite a slender girl. So, how come it feels like we have a herd of elephants living up there! The previous girl was not so slender and we couldn't hear her, so why can we hear Her? Granted, once she sprained her ankle so she had to hop from one room to the next and slide down the stairs. But not anymore! Or maybe she likes hopping, who knows. I don't mind it much during the day, the TV, baby, conversation, drowns the noise but at night, when she comes home at 2 am, then I do mind! And I'll let you imagine what we can hear when her boyfriend stays over. How am I supposed to answer Marie's question at 8am: 'Maman, what's that banging noise?'.

Then, there was the bin affair. She has her bin. We have our bin. The bin system changed and it took us 6 weeks and a 1h53 minutes phone call to the local council to get our bin collection sorted again. She did notice that our bin was going but not hers, so guess, she popped in, yes. And had the cheek audacity to ask me to sort hers out too, because I knew what I was doing. I nicely told her that I couldn't because it was under her name. A big fat lie if you ask me, but do I look like I am her secretary or work for the council?

Then there is the clothes line at the back. As I said, she has access to the back garden so that she can use her washing machine located in the shed. I have no problem with that. She mentioned that her contract said that she couldn't use the line at the back. We told her that we didn't mind. After all, how much washing can one person have? And also we remember what it was like living up there. We used to take our washing to Mr Foodie's mum at the week end so she could wash it and dry it for us. See, although we had the use of the washing machine at the back, we didn't want to invade the people living in the main house, so never used it. Well, I don't know how many clothes she owns, or how many times she changes a day but it looks like 3 clothing lines at the back are not enough! Oh and then she goes off and leaves them there for a couple of days! Hello, there is 4 of us in here too and one of them is a baby! So I turned into a bit of a bitch, I started taking some of the pegs into the house. We bought them after all, and I also have a clothes horse indoors that I use. And this morning, I came back from doing the weekly shopping and found her washing machine on. I had put a load on before leaving this morning and I was out there like a light. And I made sure that I used every single peg available! 1 baby sock per peg, oops and my wrap around cardigan really requires 4 pegs.

But that's not all! Oh no! The cherry on the cake! She once again popped in the other day, this time to announce that she was leaving (I wish), she wanted to have a housewarming party at the week end. Because she never had one. All the while, I was kneading some bread, so had taken my rings off, which she promptly picked up to admire! (Hands OFF!). And her brightest idea to date! She wanted to have a barbecue in the garden! Now, I'm pretty sure that if her contract says she can't use the clothes line at the back, a barbecue out there is not even to be considered! Of course, she will ask her friends (oh, did I mention that she comes from one of the worse neighbourhoods around?) to keep the noise down if the baby is sleeping. Emm, I don't think so! We are not at all comfortable with the idea of our garden being invaded by people we do not know from Adam! What are we supposed to do? Leave the house (that would make a great target!)? Stay there but close all the curtains for a few hours? I don't think so.

Thank god, we will be moving out soon. And the further the neighbour,s the better! Now, I'd better go off and put my dressing gown on, just in case she pops down to see if we have any problems with our Internet connection!

Have you ever had neighbours like that? Did you turn to little sneaky tricks to stop them from invading your privacy

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