Thursday, June 17, 2010

Removing the barriers to being a good neighbour

I read something the other day that said that more and more of us don't know our neighbours. Some people might have thousands of "virtual" friends on FaceSpace or MyTwit with whom they will spend hours chatting with, but have never said anything much to their next door neighbour beyond "hello".

I don't know what the reason for this is, but I personally suspect that fences have something to do with it - that and this modern craving for "privacy".

When I was a kid growing up at the family home we lived in an ordinary 3 bedroom semi. When I was young I would play out in the back garden as did the neighbours kids. Between us were the herbaceous borders and a three foot high cross link fence over which we would talk and play - it made a very good net for tennis or badminton.

Consequently, my mum would often spend time chatting with the mum next door while hanging out the washing or just enjoying the garden. They became firm friends and remained so even after the neighbours moved on. This scenario applied to just about every other home I knew or visited - the low fences meant that neighbours knew one another and looked out for one another as well.

When we moved to our current home this also had the standard three foot high cross link wire fence between us and the neighbours. As a result we got to know them and they got to know us, but when they moved out a few years back and the new lot moved in, the first thing they did was install a six foot high wooden fence between us and them (and the other side too). When I asked why they told us it was for "privacy" - what they hell were they planning to do in their garden I wondered, but didn't ask.

As a result we barely talk to one another beyond the odd exchange out front as we pass. As far as I can tell they don't do anything in their garden that requires such "privacy", but their bloody great fence does a great job of blocking out the afternoon sun from my garden. The thing is, just about every home I go to these days has the same six foot high wooden fence between them and the neighbours - so it's hardly surprising that nobody knows their neighbour anymore.

Let's get rid of these bloody great fences between our gardens, install short cross link fences and start chatting with real people who live next door instead of some fat, balding 50 year old pretending to be a 25 year old Brad Pitt look-a-like online.

1 comment:

Barnacle Bill said...

The housing association in charge of the estate my youngest daughter went to live on insist on low level fences.
With the result there was a vibrant community culture ready to welcome her and my grandson.
In the space of two years she now has more "friends" than she ever has had.