I used to think that neighbourly love and the spirit of community has vanished. Our houses with their remote controlled garage doors allow us to whip into our garage and then inside without ever having to see a neighbour, let alone talk to them. Our 6 foot fences give us maximum privacy and shield us from the neighbours with gardens that are not too easy on the eye. And the new open plan style houses with gardens and decks that flow off the back of the house ensure that we’re able to exist in our own little universe. Which of course is all fine if that’s what you want.

A year ago we moved house. To be honest, it’s a pretty crappy house very much in need of a big renovation and lots of TLC. Time, motivation and more importantly the cash to afford the renovation has meant that it will probably stay that way for quite a while. There is a garage with a tilt-a-door large enough for the kids to walk through (perhaps the previous owners drove a Go-Go Mobile) – but with peeling paint and a broken lock, it’s far from the remote controlled model. And the ‘garden and deck that flow of the back’ resembles a rice paddy that sits about 7 metres below the bottom level of the house. Oh, and the six foot fences? Falling down and nonexistent in the front garden.

The silver lining? We park in the driveway, we hang out on the tiny front landing (yup – a cuppa, a beer, even dinner with friends)! The kids overflow our garden into the neighbours both sides and there’s always a passing parade of people walking by to chat to. We’ve met all our neighbours and quite often, we’ll all end up out the front helping each other. The little girls on one side are now the best of friends and the teenagers on the other side are now our number one babysitters!

I think perhaps the most wonderful thing about having close neighbours is that we help each other. This week my hairdryer blew up – two minutes later one of the kids had brought me one from next door and then last night when she lost all power to her house, she called me close to midnight. I went into our garage, found our external extension leads and ran power from our house to theirs (so that all the meat she had just put into her freezer would make it through the night). And if I’m home alone with my kids, and need to race one of them to the hospital for their asthma, I know that I can go either side and have someone come and stay with the others while I’m gone.

That’s what neighbours are for – support, friendship, a helping hand and a bit of a laugh – and although I would of course prefer a much nicer house, I wouldn’t trade my neighbours. Have you met your neighbours? Do you help each other out? Share a story if you have one (good or bad) …


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