No, I’m not referring to the absurdly racist BBC ‘comedy’ to which Bill Bryson once referred as “My Neighbour’s a Darkie”. I’m talking about the concept of actually being neighbourly, a concept which, sadly, seems to be dying. However, I recently received a reminder that it does still exist, in small pockets, and when you find it, remember to be grateful!

When I was growing up, I lived on an estate in Basildon, Essex. Although the town itself has, to put it kindly, a colourful history, the area I grew up in was a small community which consisted mainly of an older generation who’d lived there since they were moved in from London in the early Sixties, plus young families taking advantage of the good local primary school and reasonably priced housing. Everybody knew everybody else, and apart from a few bad eggs, we all lived together in relative harmony, with minimal scandal. If you walked past a person, you’d usually say ‘hello’, and you knew your neighbours. All the kids played together in the street or the park and often, extended families lived within only a few roads of each other (my Mum and Dad’s road turned onto my Aunt’s road, which in turn joined to my Nan’s road!). Many of us attended Brownies, or the dance school in the community centre, we all bought fish and chips from the local shops and kids could rarely get into trouble as there was always someone around who knew your Mum!

So, it’s fair to say that I grew up with a sense of community, but as I’ve got older, it seems to be more and more of a distant feeling. These days, neighbours seem to be more of a nuisance than anything else. In one flat that Husband and I lived in, before Sausage came along, we had to telephone Environmental Health on no less than 20 occasions because of the obnoxiously loud, and seemingly never-ending, music coming from our neighbour. And they knew that they were behaving badly, as they’d refuse to even answer the door if we knocked to ask them to turn it down. Then there was the woman who used to stare at us through her letter box as we were walking through the communal hall.

Our neighbours have never behaved so disgracefully as our last set, though, who were a large part of the reason for our moving home. From the moment we set foot on that road, Mr. and Mrs. X decided that they didn’t like us. Yes, we’re a young couple, yes, we have a Bull-breed dog, yes, we both have tattoos. But we also do charity work, our dog is a rescue, we’re educated, come from nice families and generally have a good attitude towards others.

During the 18 months in our last house, we endured unfounded complaints, harassment, Mrs. X watching our every move from behind her curtains as we left the house, knocking on the car window of our friend to demand he tell her why he was waiting outside our house, a knock on the door on the day after Boxing Day, when we all had flu and had rushed Sausage to A&E that night with a temperature of 103, and threatening to phone Environmental Health if we didn’t put our bin bags out, Mrs. X letting herself into our house while we weren’t there and turning off our lights. Yes, seriously. These insufferable pests were octogenarian, though, and Husband and I were raised to respect our elders at all times, so there was never any cross words or retalliation.

Since we moved here last April, the house next door has been empty, until a few weeks ago, when a middle-aged woman named Vi moved in. Within a week or so of her buying the house, she’d come by to introduce herself, let us know she’d be having some work done on the house and wish us a Merry Christmas. Then, a few days ago, there was a knock on the door. Our new neighbour was knocking to tell us that the guys working on her house had knocked some dust and rubble onto our drive, and that she’d swept it all up. Also, there were a couple of minute areas of chipped paint on our house, which she offered to buy the paint for and touch up herself.

Now that’s what I call neighbourly behaviour!

I hope our relationship carries on in the way it has begun, it would be really nice to have a neighbour we like and trust after all these years, and I plan to make sure that the neighbourly attitude is reciprocated with consideration and kindness at all times.

I really don’t think that’s too much to ask.