HERE'S what makes a good neighbour: the ability to let someone know when they nip about their flat in the nude of a morning while getting ready for work there are certain windows through which they can clearly be seen.
Specifically, the ability to do this without making anyone feel like an idiot (me) or a pervert (them). Good thing I've no chance of becoming Queen, eh?
That there's the hallmark of all that is good about very good neighbours: a bit of concern for your welfare, enough nosiness to have a positive impact on your life but not so much nosiness as to be a curtain-fingering gossip.
CSV, the volunteering charity, says it has found the majority of British residents wouldn't recognise their next-door neighbour if they passed them in the street and 70% don't know their neighbours' names. Next month will see its annual day of volunteering and the charity is hoping people will bake banana cake and use it as an ice-breaking excuse to introduce themselves to the ones next door.
I'd say these folks who don't know their neighbours are probably the luckier ones. Bad behaviour generates more attention than good. Ask the majority of people to name their neighbours and they'll probably tell you about that one at No 44 who vacuums at 2am or the couple upstairs who break up loudly and make up even louder. There's the ones with the screaming kids, the ones who slam the door, the ones who kick their football off your car and break your fence and shatter your hallway window with a thrown stone while dressed as Batman. Sorry, got a bit carried away there.
Anyway, last year a survey by Which? found that five million people were annoyed at their neighbours. I'm amazed it is so few. For the record, my neighbours are ace and, in the 18 months I've been in my new home, I've benefited from some real kindnesses and a sense of community. But that seems more rare than it should be. The luckier ones are the ones who don't know their neighbours but the luckiest are the ones who know them and like them. The impact of living in a connected environment can be life affirming and life changing.
In Drumchapel, in the north of Glasgow, the Rev Gordon Thomson has taken what can only be called a leap of faith and this week removed a 6ft high fence that has bordered his church for the past 50 years. He spoke to gang members beforehand and was reassured enough to believe they won't target the ground's new garden of remembrance. He said he felt it was a barrier between the church and the community, between the church and its neighbours.
Churches aren't prone to good press at the moment. They haven't been for some time and quite rightly. But I wonder sometimes if, as a society, we are negatively affected by dwindling church membership only for the chance to gather together for an hour a week and reflect on how we treat one another and how we behave both as individuals and collectively.
To achieve the same aim in a secular society is a tricky businesses but cake, as CSV suggests, seems a fairly good place to start.
Blessed as I am, neighbour-wise, I'm away to preheat the oven.
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