Today I went into the local Turkish grocery shop to pick up some garlic, chillies, and maybe a pomegranate. Found all of those then wandered over to the pastry counter and found my husband’s favourite greek baklavas and also a feta pie – (these were of course turkish and not greek). Suddenly I was on the verge of tears…almost..cos I really miss Greece. And then I was reminded of the similarities between greek and turkish cuisine…not the same of course…but, you know, similar. And then I was struck by the fact that although many nations are very similar to their neighbours, they often hate each other. And they often love each other (Brits absolutely love France and the French (art/culture/cuisine/wine)…and they also hate them). Why is it like this? Is it like siblings’ love/hate relationship? What? I mean why. And does it matter anyway?
Who else hates their neighbour? Well…I guess many Scots hate the English enough to keep asking for a legal separation. Do the Canadians hate the Americans? The New Zealanders the Aussies? The Venezuelans hate the Guyanese? The Nigerians hate the Ghanaians? I don’t know for sure….but I’d be willing to bet they do.
Right now, right this very minute (midnight), our neighbours, R&N, are blasting out party music in aid of R’s 50th Birthday. They politely warned of their plan last week and I watched yesterday with trepidation as they erected a ‘Great British Bake-off’ -sized tent in their back garden. Their parties had a certain notoriety before the pandemic and was definitely a sore point for their immediate neighbours when large speakers boomed out into the garden well into the night.
We could hate R&N. But we know that it is never worth hating your neighbours. At the height of lock down, another neighbour blasted music out of his flat, in the middle of the day, and both houses in the terrace either side shook. The ensuing exchange on our local street Whatsapp group resulted in a polite note to him asking him to consider people working from home/babies trying to sleep etc…and this seemed to work. We have heard no loud music from him despite this having been a regular problem for his immediate neighbour before (he had actually greeted one of his newly arrived neighbours with something like ‘Hi!…looking forward to doing musical battle with you’).
I’m no expert (I’m not expert about sooo many things)….but I remember one piece of advice from a famous TV traveller whose name escapes me…’wherever you go, wherever you travel, you will go far just by being polite’. And I think it’s similar with neighbours…state your complaint in the politest way possible. To their credit, I guess, R&N have accepted they will be causing problems for those in their immediate vicinity, and unlike their pre-pandemic parties, had warned everyone and promised no outside noise after midnight. They’ve tried, I guess, but (she checks watch) haven’t quite kept to that timeline. So wish me luck as I try to be heard knocking at their front door above a deep and pounding drum base. The last time I did that, I had to give up, climb up a ladder and wave a flag over the back garden fence to draw their somewhat inebriated attention. (Incidentally, if you ever decide to take this kind of action, always send the woman, never the man).
In the UK ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’ which can mean ‘I can do what I like on my patch of land’. This pretty much works…if you live in a field…all of which leads me to believe that what neighbours do can be either wittingly or unwittingly inconsiderate….and that being considerate, politely just talking/listening to each other, can go a long way to reduce irritation, retaliation and even all out war. Nations take note. Now please excuse me while I grab my cricket bat and pop next door.