24 December 2019

What to do when those that live next to you are making what hoped to be your happy home a living hell?

Being a child of the 80's, the social guide that is TV had long instilled the importance of being neighbourly and the value of having good neighbours. 

Through the teachings of the fictional characters of Scott and Charlene, 'Toadfish' and Harold Bishop to name but a few, I had learnt that "with a little understanding, you can find the perfect blend."

I suppose you could go so far as saying "everybody needs good neighbours!"

But what happens when that is not the case?

What can you do when those that live next to you are far from good neighbours and the simple option of moving elsewhere isn't viable?

Well that is the dilemma I'm currently facing.

Empty beginnings

One of the sad truths of the current situation is its not exactly an unexpected one.

Having moved in following the end of my student tenancy with The Northernist in the summer, the switch was driven by necessity more than actual choice, with market conditions in what is supposedly the cheaper North-East still very prohibitive for those on a tight budget.

A property owned by one of Olivia's family, she had lived there for a long time before we met, whilst I had gained some initial memories of this red bricked, mid-terrace in the heart of Middlesbrough from our early days of dating, so we both knew the property and its pitfalls well.

That included knowledge of one of the neighbours who we had lived alongside previously, but one of the things we didn't expect when inspecting the property we were due to return to was to find the place stripped bare of any semblance of life.  

Gone were the furniture, the appliances, wall hangings... literally everything!

Even the row of coat hooks in the hallway had been unscrewed from the wall and presumably sold for whatever meagre amount it could fetch, leaving just a cold, empty shell of a house.  

In an effort to put a positive spin on what was a heartbreaking situation for Olivia, the suggestion that what this horrible situation represented was an exciting blank canvas for us both was made. 

But this was a serious case of dishonesty on my part, for I was gutted too.

Wanting to quickly transform this soulless shack into a splendid castle fit for my Queen, endless days and nights were spent decorating and attempting to fix up things, doing the best I could do with my limited DIY skills and budget. 

Calls for unwanted furniture were answered by friends and strangers alike, as we began to amass an eclectic array of pieces for us to eat on, sit on and sleep on. 

Six months on and the place still has a long way to go to feel homely, but it's certainly better than it was. 

Abusers to the left of me, sex pests to the right...

However, any happiness at the progress on this front has been tempered by matters outside of our control - our neighbours - with the situation getting progressively worse over the last few months or so. 

On the one side, there is a family that largely keeps themselves to themselves, in fact we've hardly spoken aside from the time one of them had driven into Olivia's car when trying to park. 

But it's the addition of an Alsatian and the treatment of that dog that has become a very disturbing worry for us.

Having witnessed endless cries of distress from the dog, with it being left outside on a number of bitterly cold days and nights, we eventually braved ourselves to peer over the wall to see what was going on in the neighbours back yard. 

It was only then that we could see the crudely constructed shelter (if you could call it that) the dog was being left in, whilst locked inside a cage that it could hardly move in. 

The appearance of a crude and dated van, complete with guard dog signs arise further suspicions that this dog is not going to enjoy the life of a family pet. 

And the situation on the other side isn't much better. 

Here we have a house with endless visitors tapping on the window and the base thumping sounds of happy hardcore regularly penetrating through our all too thin shared walls.

The idea that this house is home to a drug dealer doesn't seem too far fetched, given the man of the house doesn't appear to work, yet seems to live to a fairly comfortable standard. 

Further evidence to fit this theory could also be taken from the largely nocturnal goings on of this set of neighbours and the repeated marathon sex sessions during the early hours of the morning we have to endure. 

The full range of overstated sounds coming from the female in question have to be heard to be believed, with her cries of exhalation mixed with what seems like gorilla noises, whimpering and dog like moans to rival that of the Alsatian the other side of us. 

True, I may harbour a modicum of jealously towards the mans incredible sexual stamina and amazing ability to recover and go again at the drop of a hat, but this is not the sort of thing you want between the hours of 3-5am when you have work the following morning.  

Loud sex noises!

But what to do about it?

So here I am, stuck in the middle of these two, but what to do about it feels very difficult?

This feeling is especially prevalent given the very public fallout and divided range of opinion witnessed earlier this year over a neighbours intervention in matters involving a very senior politician. 

The idea that what a person does in their own home is their business and no-one else's is a prevalent belief amongst our society.

But is there a point when this no longer becomes the case, and if so, how is that judged? 

This kind of thinking has already occurred to me when trying to look at things objectively.

Yes, I may have suspicions that impropriety is happening on either side of our boundaries, and yes, our neighbours could be considered to be disturbing the peace. 

But do I have sufficent proof and are those disturbances at a level and frequency that would enable an appropriate authority to take action?

Similarly, if action could be taken in these situations, what form would it take and would I be placed in the uncomfortable situation where I am living next door to people I have reported and who would themselves hold reasonable suspicions that it was me that did so? 

If taking up the matter with a relevant authority seems difficult, the other option of taking things up directly with the neighbours seems out of the question. 

Can you even imagine knocking on anyone's door and saying the words, "excuse me, when you have sex, would you mind doing so a little quieter?"  

However, if I discount both of these as options, this reasonably leaves me with only two others; to move house, or simply endure. 

With moving not possible, the process of elimination concludes that I should just continue to grin and bare it, ignore what's happening and just place my concerns to a dark and distant corner of our mind. 

Yet this doesn't feel an option either, because being a reasonable people I just can't consciously do that, especially given my concerns towards that poor dog.

Naturally, this isn't the first time that I've considered these options either. 

The circle of considerations is a path I've travelled many times now and each journey made without a viable solution just serves to increase the feeling of frustration and helplessness at the given situation.  

And thus comes the crux of this blog post, for to reach an ultimate decision the need to reach out and gather opinion from others, especially those who have experienced a similar situation feels paramount in gaining the courage to finally act.

It is therefore over to you, as I ask; what would you do given our neighbourly dilemma? 

Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours

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