When you have Friends and Neighbours
When Max Bygraves sang this hit single most of the country lived in houses with outside loos. They sang along, tears in their eyes,their brown envelope pay packets bulging with £7 5 6d ,a fish supper and a long wait for the bus to look forward on the way home from the Hippodrome. Of course the punch line is “When you have Friends and Neighbours you are the richest person in the world.” A great consolation as you scrubbed your door step and the old man came back drunk and gave you and the kids a god walloping. You were lucky. Card box me.
Ah ,where were we? Our neighbours are moving. The lovely Hynas with the perfectamundo children Zack and Sadie. Even as Clifford Chance trained lawyers they find big houses in Putney exorbitant so they are moving to Guildford.(I mean where is it?,of course I know, but does anyone leave the by pass). But in our six years we have enjoyed three street parties, the birth and growth of their children and sharing the two key addresses in the Mr Benn saga.
They are the fourth significant set of neighbours we have had in our 35 years in West Putney. All white, all professionol,most graduates. Three of the eight are lawyers,one a medical entrepreneur, one an ad man,one a teacher ,one worked for a children’s charity, another worked for a theatre agent.
Of their five children that are in work three are lawyers,one a marine biologist another a film maker. Of the others one has just left uni and is finishing his Gap year,another starting uni,a third in the sixth form and two are at nursery school. All the children went to fee paying day secondary schools. In our streets multi culturalism means not having a spaniel.
But no Eden is complete without a serpent. One family suffered the sad death of one of the children from a brain tumour. Like all local tragedies involving children , there was an emotional tide which at the time affected us all. But while we can close the door, the family involved always has the picture on the wall.
Although we are no longer exact neighbours of the other three we are in touch with one couple and regularly socialise with the other two. The only dispute was when I thought I could build on a wall my neighbour had constructed. Soon sorted. I lost.
We have always made a point of getting to know and socialising with our neighbours. Having a drink in the first week is vital. Otherwise shyness and the lack of broken ice can take over. National statistics show that five per cent are good friends with their neighbours and 20 per cent know their neighbours well. However ten per cent don’t say hello and a similar number have no idea who their neighbours are. Over half f eel they should make more effort.
Well I run our street’s neighbourhood watch and have been at the heart of three street parties in the last six years. But even I could only name or recognise 40 out of my streets 65 homes’inhabitants. Many leave their front doors just to get into their cars. Those who cycle, have babies or dogs have much higher profiles. We have only actively socialised with three other households ,have had a drink with four others and are on friendly terms with about ten others.
Those with young children ,as we found in our earlier lives find it easier to strike up deeper local friendships. Here a need and an interdependence is the key, as well as the children being uninhibited by all the social boundaries adults erect. Where families use the same schools relationships naturally grow. Typically when communities were all poor there were many more local relationships based on common experience and mutual self interest.
Today,the reasons given for not getting on with neighbours are shyness, being too busy and never being at home. Some of course have with their families, work and existing friends no room for neighbours. But surely a very real definition of home , is where the nods of recognition, the smiles and the chats start to become thicker on the ground. Social warmth should get hotter the closer you get to your door.
And as for Max Bygraves? Long before he died he emigrated to Australia. So much for Friends and Neighbours.