When I lived in London, neighbours could ruin your life, even though they may or may not have intended to. Selfish people might play loud music, and refuse to answer the door when you went to complain. The authorities were so inundated with such complaints, they just didn’t have enough staff to deal with them. Likewise the Police, overwhelmed by incidents, and no time for what they saw as a petty squabble. Live in a block of flats, as I did for twelve years before coming here, and you can magnify the problems greatly. I had people living above, either side, and below. Working shifts, and trying to sleep at ‘unusual times’ made it all worse, as very few people are considerate enough to turn down televisions, stop home improvement projects, or not have radios blaring at all hours. One next-door neighbour went away for a weekend leaving her smoke alarm blaring, until the battery ran out. I was on the verge of smashing down her door and ripping it off the ceiling, when it suddenly stopped.
City living is hard. And living in a five-storey block of sixty flats housing almost two hundred people makes it even harder.
So I retired to a quiet village in Norfolk. Peace at last. For a while.
Then someone opposite started to run a side business of cutting firewood, stacking it in the area in front of his house, and presumably selling it on. Chainsaws. On cutting days, the petrol-driven chainsaws start around 08:30, and continue relentlessly, often until dark. It is not illegal to make such noise of course, but it is completely inconsiderate. When we moved here six years ago, there were a lot of small children around, and a few houses owned dogs. We didn’t mind that. It was nice to see the children having fun, and we had a dog too. Now those children have noisy motor cycles, noisy souped-up cars, and friends who visit with even more noisy vehicles. And not only does every house but one now own a dog, the house next door has become a ‘dog-sitting’ business, with as many as eight dogs yapping and barking, just over the fence.
Then the boyfriend of the dog-sitter started working on cars, in the driveway close to the side window of our living room. Installing more powerful exhaust sytems, running engines, and constantly hammering parts too. Then he expanded, and friends and customers arrived, so he could make their cars run faster and sound louder too. Once again, it’s not illegal. It’s his hobby, and maybe he makes some spare cash from it, or helps his friends for nothing. But we now have at least four cars outside most days, sometimes six. And being young, just working on the cars in silence is not an option. They also have to have the car music system blaring, usually some sort of Rap, or Hip-Hop. They are not unpleasant people. They are a friendly young couple who will happily take in a parcel for you, and give you a happy greeting as you walk by.
But they are not considerate, and pursue their business and hobbies with scant regard for those of us who live close by. Yesterday, I had to go out and talk to some young men working on cars next door. After almost thirty minutes of revving engines accompanied by deafening pop music, enough was enough. I calmly explained to them that it was very hot, so we had all our windows open. I suggested that they turn the volume down, and remember that people are living a few feet away from their antics. The neighbour wasn’t even around, just letting his pals use his facilities in the garage. They did apologise, and turned off the music. Luckily, this is Beetley, and not London, where I could have risked being beaten up by asking the same thing. But they carried on fixing up the cars, making the most of the fine weather and good light, no doubt.
I was left regretting the move to what we thought was such a peaceful place. As new people move in, the area is bound to change for the worse. I mused over my ‘ideal’ residence, and made a mental check-list.
I would like to live where the nearest neighbour was not visible, even using binoculars.
A moat would be nice, with a drawbridge that can be raised.
Perhaps thicker walls, with the living accommodation higher up.
There would have to be surrounding land which I owned, so that nobody could build nearby.
I realised that I had the perfect solution.