Friends of mine - The Whingies, whom I've mentioned before, have neighbour issues. All their neighbours, according to them, are bastards. They are surrounded by unthinking people who let their children have loud fun in their own swimming pool, or who are mean enough to have an afternoon BBQ and make noise.
What they don't consider is what their neighbours think of them, and I suspect the neighbours can't stand them and call them as many names behind their back as the Whingies do them. After all if you have five neighbouring properties on your boundary and the people therein are all bastards, that seems a little over the odds. Could it be that the common denominator, the people in the house in the middle, is the problem?
We are blessed, on the other hand, with lovely neighbours. So is my Mum - so much so in her case that her new neighbours invited her (and us) to a party two weeks ago that was really an insight into How The Other Half Lives. Money was no object and the Moet et Chandon flowed like water. It was great fun and I think the new neighbours had invited all the surrounding property owners along not just because they wanted to get to know them, but because they knew they were having a noisy bash, and best to include people rather than have them complain about the noise. It's a good strategy. It worked. We chatted to some other neighbours there and they were having as good a time as we were. Not that we could hear the music after we got back to Mum's anyway; we just crashed into bed.
Mum is a lovely person who has always made friends with her neighbours, even the nutter who used to live next door and drive his car over our lawn on odd occasions, or light bonfires full of rubbish outside our door when he knew I (as a little girl) was having a birthday party the same day. He was a bit mad, and everyone was at loggerheads with him except Mum, who was and is firm but nice.
Where we live now is a multicultural area, and out of the eight town houses in our complex, six of them are owned or tenanted by Indian families. We are on chatting terms with most of them - those around the back of the complex like us who we see just about every day going to and from work. We are good friends with one couple in particular and have dined at each other's houses or drop in for cups of tea. We have been sounding boards when my neighbour R wanted to rant about her husband's family who had behaved in a very rude and ungrateful manner. We help them with odd bits of DIY and they help us. R's husband K works for a major brewing company and when he decides he can't drink all his monthly freebie allowance of beer he'll drop some around to us. They have two adorable little boys, the elder of which is fascinated by our cats and likes to visit and talk to them.
Right next door to us new people moved in last year, a young Indian couple expecting their first baby, S & Mrs S (her name starts with S too). The baby was premature and it was touch and go for a while there. We got updates on the little boy's progress and were delighted to see him come home in January. They had planned a special celebration for when he turned three months old. They are Sikhs and there's a special three day ceremony where the main Sikh text is read from start to finish by Sikh priests; it takes all the three days, 24 hours of them. On the final day you have a feast when the reading is finished.
S told us about the ceremony on Friday and apologised in advance for all the cars that would be around over the weekend as people were coming for the ceremony. He then, to our surprise, invited us to the feast on Sunday. I had a suspicion that it may have been a case of "include people rather than have them complain about the noise"! On Sunday there were drums and lots of chanting. Anyway we said we'd be delighted to come, and R & K told us more about what to expect, and what to wear. Luckily I had some sari material I'd made into a dress and had a scarf in similar colours I could wear on my head. My husband wore a woolly scarf tied around his head as he doesn't own a bandanna, and looked vaguely piratical... or a pirate overfed and gone to seed!
All our neighbours were at the feast too, and they all have children under five. S & S's extended family were there, as well as many friends. I think there were about 40 people sitting on the floor, on the chairs, wherever, and we were the only two anglo-saxons there. I felt rather honoured that we had been invited. The ceremony of the food, the friendship, the laughter... it was a lovely day with everyone in their finery and everyone getting on with each other. We also had a good opportunity to chat more with some of our other neighbours and are now planning a night at the rugby together, six of us.
We are very blessed to have nice neighbours, but of course the behaviour of neighbours reflects on how you behave to them. If I tell Whingy about the ceremony she'll roll her eyes and ask how we coped with the chanting and drums, which would have driven her mad, or the small children running about (ditto mad). To be honest, we were having such a good time getting to know our neighbours better we didn't even notice.