Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbour

September 20, 2012 7:14 pm

I have recently found out that one of my neighbours has been less than pleasant to my mum. They have called her names behind her back, rudely slammed the door in her face when collecting a parcel that had been delivered to the wrong address, and give evil looks and not have the common courtesy to hold doors open or fake a polite hello.

Now said neighbours, since they moved in about eight years ago, have been both noisy and intimidating over the years, and subsequently have landed themselves with several complaints from other residents in our block, none of which have come from us. However, that wouldn’t have been unjustified as they live in the flat directly beneath us so we get to hear on a daily basis what mood they and they’re screaming brats are in. There are four of them – two adults, two children. The mum, who is the main culprit, can be heard screeching curse words at the top of her lungs at the two children (I believe one is 7 and one is 6), and is the one that is most unpleasant to most people in our block. She purposely flicks cigarette butts in the garden of one of the residents because she complained once about the noise of her children running in and out of the hallway, and leaving one of the security doors open during a prolonged period of time throughout one summer which in all fairness, was a little dramatic. But the neighbour in question is 86 and lives alone, so if she doesn’t feel safe in her own home when the doors are open, and if her requests to said family are being ignored (and also sparking outrageous tirades of unwarranted abuse) why shouldn’t she complain?

The husband isn’t much better, but he seems to aim his anger out on the wife, not us residents. I frequently hear him screaming at his children and at her; I even heard him effing and blinding at someone trying to sell him something on the phone once (we have thin floors, apparently)! But if you bump into him in the corridor of our humble six flat block, he will smile and say hello, ask how you are and (almost unnervingly) drag the conversation out for as long as possible (perhaps he’s secretly judging me too)!?

It’s throwing up those social questions of when is it ok to complain, should the problem be dealt with in person, what if this never stops, and what if they get kicked out, whose problem will they be then, or worse, will they end up homeless?

The cynic in me wants to say, ‘I don’t care actually, they’ve made their bed, they should lie in it’. But in all fairness, they’ve never actually bothered me personally until now, when one of the brats was overheard saying ‘look mummy; there’s that fat cow from upstairs’ as my mum walked past their open front door. I’m well aware this has come from the mother, who like I said above doesn’t even look you in the eye when you walk past, but I can’t for the life of me work out what her problem would be, especially with someone as meek and mild mannered as my mum. Maybe we’re too noisy? That can’t be it, given the fact mum frequently tells me off for TYPING TOO LOUDLY, you can imagine what volume the television is allowed to be on. We are all in all a quiet family who respect the fact we live above others and therefore adhere to certain unspoken rules – don’t have the TV up too loud, don’t put the washing machine on after 7pm, don’t come up the stairs to loudly, don’t slam doors, don’t walk heavy footed, etc, etc. And then you wonder what for. Surely if that was their gripe then they would say rather than passive aggressively take it out in such a childish way? I can’t work it out. But it has got me thinking about the culture in which we live now has us quite shaken in terms of dealing with these problems.

I so very much wish I was ballsy enough to march downstairs and ask what the problem is, but I just am not. My first very churlish thought was to complain to the council – doing my bit for the block and relieving the pressure of taking matters into my own hands would be done, and most importantly anonymously. A few days later, and I haven’t done anything, but am still seething with the angst of it all. I am faced with the dilemma of highlighting my infuriation and this unreasonable behavior towards my family which will potentially provoke more problems, or letting it lie. The majority of people I’ve mentioned this to have advised the latter, but to be honest, if someone called their mum a fat cow I doubt they would feel the same.

This sort of reminds me of an incident on a train I was traveling on recently from central London to Wandsworth. I was running late and had a particularly bad day at work, the train was delayed and then packed as we all squeezed on like sardines to get a seat. I managed to get one right opposite the cabin toilet which stunk to high heaven. All these things had got my back up so I was in no mood for further nuisances or disruptions to my journey. A few stops along, five or six teenagers (between 15-17) got on the train and started being loud and disruptive. One threw a coffee cup into the bin which splattered someone standing close by, one started talking (in quite graphic detail) about his love life (‘two sisters on the same night y’know, bruv’!) in a decibel I can only describe as off the chart, and they were pushing and shoving each other across an already busy carriage. This all resulted in one of them pushing the emergency bell and so the train had to stop. The culprit readily jumped into the empty toilet in front of me and the others disembarked throughout the train as a really pissed off guard came marching through, and between the train drivers announcements and the guards inquisitions of those around about who did it and why no one saw what had happened, it got me thinking again that we really are a nation intimidated by confrontation and feel much safer behind the blanket of anonymity. Nobody spoke a word, we all shook our heads and avoided eye contact when the guard asked his questions, and marched back through the train. We were there for a good twenty minutes before the train journey resumed, and by this point, I was seething with anger, not even at the boys, but at myself.

What was the worst that the boys could have done on a packed train if someone had pointed the fingers at them? Chances are they would’ve been kicked off the train anyway so my guess is nothing, but in these uncertain times of social unrest and with the medias stronghold on gangs, unfortunately you never know so we all must have thought the same – it is better to be safe and bury our head in the proverbial sand than be sorry.

So what is the solution? In my opinion, the ones who stand up are the strongest and people I admire, but is it always necessary to ruffle feathers in an age where ‘thou shall love thy neighbour’ is an already flailing ideal? The world in which we live is in a delicate state already, the hooligan half of me thinks we should certainly fight for what we believe and stand up for those we love in a bid to not let bullies get away with anything, however menial it may seem. The other lives for a more contemplative world, a world of live and let live, a world where you can walk past your neighbour without the fear of… well, anything to be honest. But more importantly if you are hit by unfortunate vernacular from a less than favourable person, be it child or other, to not entertain it and live on, care free. That world may be far away, but I bet it’s a much nicer place to live.

What do you think?


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