Tag Archives: house

Housemate Heaven

Moving out of my parents’ house was the best decision I ever made.

I have now settled in to my new abode. The rent is reasonable at £375 a month. For that I pink-new-home-cards-simple-new-house-classic-ideas-wonderful-sample-animal-love-spread-doorget the run of the whole house, next day service on any repairs, a TV with two channels, all bills included and the perfect housemate.

Helen is my age, a lovely, bubbly, tidy, respectful and relaxed tenant with shoulder-length dark brown straight hair and blue eyes. She works at a local hospital organising heart operations, but she wants to be a personal assistant.

She should really be a counsellor, she is so good at listening. Her brother is a psychiatrist so it must run in the family. She will patiently listen to any drivel I spout and look like she is interested. We both like rugby, drum and bass (minus illicit substances) and watching crap on TV (First Dates). That was until my boyfriend “fixed” it. We lost Channel 4 and 5 and now we just have BBC 1 and 2.

So far the landlord’s mum has provided a brand new toaster the day after the old one blew the electrics. I thought I would need to replace the fuse but thankfully it was as easy as switching it back on (thanks Google and the flashlight on my phone). She also does all the washing up and the dishwasher whenever she pops round (once every couple of weeks).  What more could you want?

Credit: Chic On A Shoestring

Leaking-Washing-Machine

Well there is one thing, a washing machine that you can use on any setting. Currently it only works on 40 degrees, delicate cycle and a quick spin. But I am being fussy. The household appliances are a strange combination of 80’s retro (literally from that decade if not older) and brand new, with the “replace it when it’s broken” philosophy. The dishwasher is safe enough but put the washing machine on the wrong setting and you get water all over the floor when you open it. Without a mop it took about an hour to sponge it all up…

It is peaceful here. No nagging from my mother (which was constant and caused headaches), just freedom. I can do no wrong in Helen’s eyes except when I half finish chores (a bad habit).

I have yet to use the complimentary garden herbs – rosemary and lemon thyme. I cooked a meal for Helen the first Friday. I got a discounted pork shoulder joint (only £3.50) and roasted it for an hour with white wine and potatoes. It was delicious.

The landlord is about my age, chatty and excitable with dark brown curly hair and bright eyes. She is a primary school teacher who lives in Bristol. Her parents help her manage the house they helped her buy (worth about £250,000 with a mortgage of just over £500 a month). They hoped she would stay in in the city but she went about four hours away to live with a boyfriend. That did not work out and she ended up staying there for the job which was better.

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Credit: Cardiff Caerdidi Tours courtesy of TripAdvisor.

I spent some quality time with her this weekend. She is also interested in rugby because her father was in a local team. Unfortunately rugby is a risky sport and he broke his ankle, shattering the bones in his leg. He never played again but kept it in his life by being the Chairman of the club and the ticketing association. We watched the Cardiff Blues lose narrowly to Munster (Ireland). I also went round the castle in Cardiff (Wales) and the National Museum. Apparently there isn’t much else to do there but it kept me entertained all weekend.

In other news I failed my automatic driving test for the second time. I failed the first one in February and the second one two days ago. The first time was because I had not had enough practice at parallel parking on a hill and was so shaken up after doing it correctly that I tried to get closer to the kerb wrongly. I ended up reversing out into the road. I forgot to put the car back into forward gear and then turned the wheel the wrong way. I got three minors (for going 40 in a 60 on undulating hills, for not being far enough into the middle of the road when turning right and for not looking ahead through the window before setting off).

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Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The second time I was nearly back at the test centre (at that stage I had passed) when I lost concentration and thought it would only be a minor if I followed a van round a parked car. The man in the car waiting on the other side of the road was livid, gesticulating wildly. Of course it was a major – I should have waited. I got 7 minors including speeding (30 instead of 20), steering (not passing the wheel through my hands correctly) and going through an amber traffic light instead of stopping. If you are preparing for the test please click on this link for some advice.

As for my accommodation, it will probably be sold in a year or so but for now I am quite happy to stay where I am – this living arrangement works.

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New Year New Start – Update

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I have made good progress on my mission objectives. Tonight I met up with my future housemate.

My last attempt had been unsuccessful when Olivia’s friend returned from travelling and needed somewhere to stay. I thought that was it and was about to give up after a month of looking. I had asked to view another property but they had enough people viewing.

Then, out of the blue, the 30-something landlord replied saying no-one had made a definite offer, did I still want to have a look. She had moved to Bristol to live with her boyfriend. They had split up and she was wondering whether to move back to Sheffield or stay in Bristol, where she had a good teaching job.

I thought it would do and said yes straight away.

The terraced house was entered through the back. The kitchen was a bit small but was modern and well equipped. The living room was 15 degrees but that was because they’d only just turned the heating on and it came on twice a day.

There wasn’t a desk in the room but there was a kitchen table downstairs. My compact room looked out onto a brick wall and the petrol station but I’d only go in there to sleep anyway. My future housemate has said she wouldn’t mind me getting some bushes in pots to break it up a bit.

I could picture myself putting on a roast and nipping outside for some fresh rosemary.

There was plenty of storage space which was great because I have so much stuff. Maybe this is a good opportunity to downsize my clutter as well as my living space. It looked out onto a brick wall and a petrol station. Not ideal, but the curtains had black-out linings. I tested them and they created the bat’s cave I require.

The lounge was nice enough, with comfy chairs and a photo block of the Paris skyline. The TV wasn’t as big as ours and was a bit low but that wouldn’t matter, I have my laptop. The landlord’s bedroom had a Paris-themed duvet.

Paris skyline at dusk from the Hotel Concord roof.

Although it didn’t have a lawn it was near a park and it had a herb garden outside planted by the landlord’s mother, who showed me round. She sighed as she explained that her daughter had never been green-fingered and although she had tried to encourage her to plant some flowers, she was more interested in the house. There was a little patio behind the house.

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I could picture myself putting on a roast and nipping outside for some fresh rosemary. The neighbours on one side were boys in their twenties or early thirties. I could see a nice modern kitchen and they had a lovely little back yard with a square of gravel, a wood burner and some garden furniture. They also had a shed that used to be an outdoor toilet. On the other side was a recently redecorated house for sale.
The landlord’s mother explained that the area wasn’t safe and that opportunists scouted the area on a regular basis. She had been a bit worried when her daughter bought the house. So they had fitted the safest door they could find she said, gesturing to the solid, chunky front door.man-breaking-into-home She asked that I kept it locked even when inside. Where I live we have had one attempted break in almost 30 years and the neighbours had a break in at Christmas, but that was their first. The intruder got as far as the back entrance, breaking through a small back door and setting off the alarm. He tripped over a bucket and falling against the washing machine blocking the way, before running off. The eagle-eyed neighbours saw the delinquent running away and the police were round quickly with a forensics team to check for prints. The neighbour at the end got broken into about five times though, once they even prised open a window and got in through that.

Mum also said there was a “drugs house” near where I was living and said that they would try and break in for drug money. Apparently there hasn’t been a problem since the house was bought though.

The housemate was a 28 year old girl with shoulder-length dark brown hair and sparkly blue eyes who worked at a local hospital organising operations. She was friendly and a good listener. She treated me to a cocktail and we had a good chat. We had lots in common – we both came from medical backgrounds – many of her three siblings were doctors, and we liked the same music and TV programme. Neither of us could cook much but we wanted to try. She had managed to expand her repertoire beyond my pasta and sauce.

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I will have to give up my glamorous lifestyle in this large airy, light house and adapt. The rent is a third of my salary but it’s a small price to pay for independence.assetuploadfile35520800

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New Year New Start

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I started 2016 on the beach in New Zealand but the peace and happiness I returned with didn’t last long.

By October I realised something had to change. After having a good ponder I realised that there were areas of my life that I needed to change and improve.

Mission Move Out house-search

I have started but it is not going well. I spent December looking for a house-share in a desperate bid for independence.

In my city, the average rental price has risen by 4% in five years. It has stayed expensive in my area, with the monthly cost adding up to a third of my salary. In comparison, house prices have risen by 7% in five years. Although this is a modest increase, I still could not afford to stay in the area if I bought a house on my own.

On two occasions I requested further viewings only for the house to get snapped up the same day. I realised I was  going to have to change the game and go with my gut (and not just metaphorically, see below). I tried it today and got “OK, I have a few more viewings this week so I’ll let you know.”

I am new to the househunting game so I was stumped. Maybe I had said too much and she had decided we wouldn’t get on? I said I could be tidy but I wasn’t naturally. Was that the clincher? Did this mean she was politely telling me where to go? Did she need more time to make her mind up? Could it even mean that she liked me but didn’t want to let the other potential tenants down?

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When I have a house my living room will be similar.

The place was perfect. Flowers decorated every surface and the lady, Olivia, had impeccable taste, with arty prints decorating the walls and vintage leather sofas. The place was spotless and homely.

She was also perfect. We liked all the same things and had identical schedules that somehow did not conflict with each other.

She even had the same personality. I didn’t think it was possible to find someone even more bubbly and excitable than me.

After a month of touring dismal dumps and meeting oddballs and eccentrics this was a breath of fresh air. Finally, somewhere I could call home if I’m lucky.

I told Olivia about my viewing experiences. There was a hovel with two young male tenants resembling hippies. The living room looked like it hadn’t changed from the 70s. 21231169There were grubby fabric settees and an old television on stilts. Smoking paraphernalia littered the table and street light filtered through the gaps in the blinds.

The kitchen was the only nice thing about the place. I was shown upstairs to a bedroom with such a sloping ceiling in that I couldn’t actually get to the bed. A naked light bulb blinked weakly through the gloom. I went upstairs hopeful for better things and was greeted with another severe sloping ceiling. This time I managed to get to the bed, sat down and nearly went right through it, the mattress was that old. Again it was lit with a single bulb. The only furnishings in both rooms were the threadbare curtains hanging limply across windows which were so tiny and so elevated that you couldn’t see what would have been a great view.

I thought I’d seen it all until they led me outside to the “garden” – a patch of grass with a massive black block of wood over it which they explained had been a door. The builders had ripped it out so the landlord said it was not her responsibility. It had been there for months. I tried to open the “shed” and a mountain of junk threatened to burst its way to freedom and join the door on the “lawn”.

If the house wasn’t ridiculous, the inhabitants were. I visited a property with a live-in landlord. I imagined that we’d have a good natter in the living room over a cup of tea, maybe cook dinner for each other, watch films together…I opened the door to a business-like lady in her 60s. She marched me up to the room which was lovely, so far so good. Then she took me downstairs and explained how I would be expected to stay in my room as the rest of the house was hers.

I asked whether I could possibly share the living room occasionally and she politely but firmly declined. She said I could cross her other living room to use the kitchen. She had forced herself to accept that her tenant would have to go through her living room to get through to the (thankfully shared) kitchen. Having proudly declared that the house was out of bounds she asked when I could move in. She hoped it could be soon because she needed the money. I politely but firmly declined the offer.

I want to move out because I don’t like living alone, it’s too quiet. I don’t like living with my parents either as I want more privacy and we don’t always get on. Currently I am getting comments about my accumulation of some winter insulation – I am 5 kilograms overweight, which brings me on to my next point.

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Mission Minimise

I need to minimise my fat/sugar intake. I can no longer spend the day guzzling from the sweet tin at work. No more cheeseburger snacks either. I don’t burn any calories with my sedentary job so I need to ensure my intake matches that or do more exercise. I have a medicine ball in my room that I hardly use which will come in handy for toning up. It’s easy to be lazy but I plan to get more involved in the walking group at least and do the odd run. There’s nothing like running for cutting the kilos.

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Mission Motor

I will pass my driving test. Automatic lessons are great and I know it will happen if I just put my mind to it.

Lessons are hit and miss (literally if it wasn’t for dual controls) but I feel like I’m nearly at the end of the road. My general driving is usually good but my manoeuvres need some work. I feel like I cracked parallel parking today but unfortunately I was so elated after that I set off without looking. Thank goodness it was a quiet road.

Once I can drive I will be more independent and I won’t have to beg for lifts all the time.

future

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My First “Airbnb” Experience

Prodigy 1

For my birthday I was going to see Prodigy in London with a friend. I was delighted that my cousin had decided to join us.

It was the weekend before the event so there were hardly any places left in the bed and breakfast (bnb) houses we were looking at. Only the expensive or low-rated options were left and the nearest hotel was 5 miles away.

A “B ‘n B” breakthrough

“What can we do?” I asked my cousin “this place only has a single room left! and this one is a bit too expensive isn’t it.”

My cousin would know best as she was an experienced traveller. On a break in between her Masters degree she had gone to Spain spontaneously on her own. She is a student and I am saving for a big holiday (of course I will blog about it) so we are both skint. We had already shelled out £50 for the gig ticket.

“Well…” she replied “when I was in Madrid I stayed in a really nice air bnb place. It was really cheap and overlooking the main plaza! It would have been really expensive to stay at a hotel in that location.”

“What is air bnb?” I asked. I vaguely recollected an advert on it.

“Is it that one where you sleep on people’s sofas? cos I’m not doing that!”

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I had spent one night on a sofa and hadn’t slept a wink as I tried to find a way to get my long legs spread out without having the arm of the sofa digging in. There wasn’t enough width to curl up. It was a nightmare and there was no chance of it being a dream. I had emerged from that student house looking like I’d spent the night in a hedge, and that probably would have been more comfortable.

My cultured cousin laughed. “No it’s not that one! Though I think there is one like that. It’s called couch-surfing isn’t it? This is similar but you get a proper bed.”

“A proper bed? isn’t that the same as a proper bed and breakfast then?”

“It’s like that but it’s where someone rents out their spare room. You get to meet lots of different people doing it and the ones I’ve met have all been lovely. You don’t always get breakfast but they’re usually in good locations.”

I was intrigued. The other choices were pretty limited so I thought we should give it a try.

You just needed an email address and password to set up an account and it was free. You could search by country as well as by city.

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The places were advertised with a picture of the bedroom with the Google map location on the right. Perfect. We looked and most of the good places were taken but there was one that stood out.

London Luxury

The photograph that I liked featured a beautiful white “Victorian” bathroom with a vintage bath (a new bath in an old style, not a tin one). The house looked modern and spacious for London. Not only that but it was a 10 minute walk from the venue. There was a paragraph or two about the owner, a smiling middle-aged lady who had travelled around Ecuador and liked the theatre. There were good reviews and it wasn’t too expensive.

The house was close to the station and my cousin was already there.

As I walked up to the stained-glass front door I felt a bit nervous. It seemed odd to walk in to a stranger’s house and stay there like one of their friends or family. But my anxiety subsided when our host opened the door and greeted me, grinning from ear to ear.

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She was a warm, friendly lady with a healthy glow and a slight tan. She served us tea and sat with us in their airy conservatory with a view onto a verdant garden. There was a little shed at the end and a trellis with flowering plants.

My cousin looked relaxed and had enjoyed a pleasant chat. I had not expected such peace and quiet. But it was a privileged residential area and of course, only parts of (mostly inner) London are chaotic, dirty and noisy.

I felt that I needed a shower on arrival to the house, as I had been on the Tube and became conscious of the grimy soot sticking to me. I couldn’t see it but I could feel it. That and the gig atmosphere turned the bathwater grey the next day.

Double delight

We were amused that we were sharing a double bed. We had dark wooden drawers and a wardrobe to match, with a fluffy turquoise carpet and curtains tied back. I laid down some ground rules – no farting in bed and no trespassing over the middle line. My cousin broke both rules by the next morning.

We got glittered-up for the rave and headed out. We clip-clopped in our heels through the drizzle along rows of tall neat Victorian houses, shivering. Pretty soon we felt rather lost and decided that we would turn back after ten minutes.

“Did you see the pictures in the bathroom?” my cousin asked.

“Yes, interesting weren’t they!” I replied. There had been pictures of the couple in skimpy 1930s-style carbaret outfits with feathers and pearls.

“Do you think they’re swingers?” my cousin giggled.

“No it’s just fancy dress.”

“Yes but there was more than one of them like that.” We laughed.

Fortunately after a 20 minute totter we found the pub our host had directed us too. But as it was 9pm they had closed for food so we went to the takeaway opposite. It took ten minutes but the kofta kebab was well worth it. As we were late we had to eat waiting for a taxi, sheltering under a tree from the relentless rain.

ProdigyCard

The Gig – Prodigy the-prodigy

I enjoyed the band, especially the classics that reminded me of student days. Thousands filled the hall with a high ceiling and the lighting was great but unfortunately the sound at the gig was focussed at the front and there were no speakers further back. The sound system was clearly not built or configured for the electronic music either. One of the band did make an effort to remedy this by coming near us to sing (or rather shout, it is that kind of music) on a mini stage in the middle, dreadlocks swinging. Cheers erupted around us as people surged forward. Eyes bulged and hands shot up to follow the beat.

Sweaty beer cheer 89067_ORIG-pig_pen_smelly_kid_peanuts_charlie_brown

The hyperactive crowd fully compensated for the muffled performance when he went back, as they thrashed around with reckless abandon. Beer flew everywhere and drenched us. The air was thick with the smell of that and foul body odours. Every so often I had to move as I would end up in a cloud of it and I decided that I’d grown out of grunge.

Pint pouring

When my cousin had a pint poured down her she lost it, turning round and shouting at the miscreant. He apologised and moved away. She angrily said to the man behind him “I hope you’re not going to pour that down me too!”. This started a conversation which went very well and she ended up on the bearded bloke’s shoulders waving her arms around.

We rocked out until the early hours, leaving as the orange streetlight sky started to pale. It was about 4 when we finally went to sleep after a hushed chinwag.

Healthy host

Four hours later I was woken by the sound of the front door closing as our healthy host ran to the gym. As you do on a Saturday morning. I was impressed but seriously sleepy and dozed off until an hour before our checkout time. It was a quiet area and we were in a little guest room down our own hallway with our own bathroom at the other end.

After a bath I felt rejuvenated (and much cleaner). We had a nice chat with our host, who was back from her early morning workout, and her husband. They were a good-looking, kind and knowledgeable pair. I felt guilty when I asked her if I had woken her up and she said she had heard the door shut when we came in. She assured me that it was fine and we were very quiet. She said she was a light sleeper.

We left in search of the nearest pub breakfast. As we stumbled along I decided that although I would not be going to a Prodigy gig again, I would definitely be staying with airbnb for my next trip…

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Thieving “carers”

Firstly, apologies that I haven’t written for a while – my creative energies are currently being directed towards a novel I’m writing. It’ll take several years to complete but I will let you know if it gets published.

From 2012-2013 there were just under a million cases of personal property theft according to the British Crime Survey. Yesterday I saw CCTV footage of a stealing personal assistant in the news and it upset me. It was even worse that the victim had only just come out of hospital. Sadly when I searched for the topic “CCTV stealing carer” many videos came up, including someone caught red handed and the mobile phone footage of the parent. Both ladies I’ve worked for have been victims of this crime. Unless the amounts are large, compensation is the most common outcome. However I think a jail sentence is necessary to teach them a lesson. This was given to a carer who stole £35,000 over four years from a couple.

They make an example out of cannabis growers, why shouldn’t they make an example out of those who steal from the people they are supposed to help? However, the criminals will not be able to work in the care industry and will probably struggle to get a job now, which is something. This is why if you think it is happening to you you must get video evidence and report it. Don’t leave them with a blank Criminal Records Bureau check so they can target someone else. The psychological scars it causes can be long-lasting.

Sadly it is difficult to stop this from happening – to scratch beneath the surface of someone at interview and see whether they have a good conscience. I wonder what makes these people feel entitled to stealing money from those who need it most. Some have suggested that if carers were paid more this might not happen. But I don’t think this is the case. It’s not desperation that leads these people to steal, it’s something that psychologists term “neutralisation” – thieves override their conscience with a justification that neutralises the guilt. In a 1984 study of American shoplifters researchers found that this was how they justified their criminal activity:

– If I am careful and smart, I will not get caught.
– Even if I do get caught, I will not be turned in and prosecuted.
– Even if I am prosecuted, the punishment will not be severe. – (when compensation is all that is ordered, I expect this is a motivation)
– The merchants deserve what they get.
– Everybody, at some time or another, has shoplifted; therefore it’s ok for me to do it.
– Shoplifting is not a major crime.
– I must have the item I want to shoplift or if I want it, I should have it.
– It is okay to shoplift because the merchants expect it.

The carer may have taken £20 per week rather than the whole amount in her employer’s purse because she thought that in small amounts it would not be spotted. The thieves obviously see those who they care for as soft targets. Perhaps she was also greedy – the Chanel handbag on the thief’s arm as she walked out of court seemed to suggest that. When I worked as a legal secretary we advised a girl who had stolen from her parents. She showed no remorse and merely worried what the sentence would be. Both the lady who stole £35,000 and this girl bought luxury items with the proceeds, leading one to think that, again, self-indulgence is a strong motivation.

My moral conscience is secure. I would never think that stealing was acceptable. When I looked after an elderly lady I was shocked to hear about her experiences. She was naturally very distrustful of anyone new and was worried whenever I had to run errands in her bedroom without her there. She had been the victim of hoax callers pretending to check her television was working who then stole from her. She had also been the victim of a carer who had stolen things while in her bedroom. When she was in hospital she had her wedding ring taken. She had resorted to carrying a pouch around her wrist with her valuables in and when she went into hospital she wouldn’t let anyone take it off her. She wouldn’t let me have a front door key, so when her door jammed and she couldn’t get out of her bedroom, I had to ring her son, frightened that something had happened to her during the night.

I dread to think of the care I will receive if I ever have to have home help, after hearing what she continuously went through. I asked her why she didn’t report it and she said she had no evidence and didn’t want to cause trouble. This was of course the reason that Lynette Nardone had to pay £1,000 for a CCTV security system as she didn’t feel safe in her own home. A CRB check won’t necessarily help either – whilst they do deter those that have been caught, they will not stop those who have escaped the law or first-time opportunists.

Shopping Errands – Preventing Access To Your Cash

Must we all have CCTV fitted in our homes? If you do have home help I would recommend doing this if a carer has to do shopping for you:

– tell them you will pay them afterwards and make it clear that you will only pay them back if they show the receipt. If they have a contract try and make sure there is a clause covering this in it or get them to sign a statement to this effect if possible

– ask for their bank details so you can make a transfer online when they are away

or if this is not possible:

– have some money ready

– ask to see the receipt

– ask them to leave the room and shut the door while you get the money out

Unfortunately it is impossible to tell who you can trust and who you can’t. It took many months for my employer to trust me after what she had been through. It is probably best to assume the worst.

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Love thy neighbour as thyself

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I’m not religious, but the bible does have a lot of wisdom passed down through the years.

Research shows that one in eight Britons don’t know their neighbours. This figure was higher among those who lived alone. But they are the ones who may need next-door friends the most. A quarter of us do not know our neighbours’ names and 60% of us do not even talk to them.

Mine are fantastic. Yesterday for example, my kettle broke. This was not a life-threatening situation, but it was irritating having to boil up water in the pan. The guy next door brought over a spare. He could get rid of something that was collecting dust and I could have a cup of tea quicker, rather than waiting for my humble two-plate burner to heat up enough to boil water for 15 minutes. An0ther time he brought round some food when I ran out and hadn’t realised. In return when I had too many yoghurts that were close to their sell-by date I let him know and his whole family enjoyed them. In the past our nearby residents have been vital, babysitting us while our parents were out and even modelling for art projects. It makes you feel good to help others and you really get a sense of community spirit which hardly exists anymore in some areas. Being a good neighbour can even add extra value on to your next-door resident’s house, with 40% of buyers prepared to pay more for “trustworthy” and “quiet” neighbours. 

Bad neighbours can be the bane of our lives – messy, noisy and generally irritating. But good neighbours should be appreciated, we should invite them to our parties and help them when we can. When we’re away, they’re the ones who can keep the house going and keep it safe. When we’re in trouble they’re sometimes the only ones who are there to assist. Their proximity means you can share things you both use – some neighbours even share Wi-Fi. Websites have taken off on this idea, with the likes of streetbank.com and nextdoor.com being used by thousands. I am lucky having excellent people on both sides of me. It helps that they have known me since I was a baby and that they get on well with my parents.

On the Telegraph news website you can take a test to see how your good neighbour credentials stack up.

So next time you have food you need using up, next time you’ve baked too much, next time it’s Christmas, pop round. Get to know your neighbours. You never know when you might need them and you could make some new friends.

neighbours-talking

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