Magazine article The Spectator

Love Thy Neighbour

Magazine article The Spectator

Love Thy Neighbour

Article excerpt

Even the most gregarious urbanite pauses at least occasionally to imagine a home far from other people's traffic noise, burger boxes and dogshit. When you're in a 'hell is other people' frame of mind, the nearest people can seem the biggest demons of the lot. You can turn Neighbours off when it is on the telly, but you can't switch off the real-life ones you can hear watching theirs at full volume through the party wall.

If you think that you can get away from neighbours by fleeing from the city, think again. Unless you can find - and afford - a house that occupies its own island, there is always going to be someone next door, even if next door is several fields away. Relative remoteness, though, can be seductive. Twenty years ago, my wife and I decided that we wanted to bring up our family in the country. After months of searching, we found a cottage that we fell in love with instantly. There was not another house in sight, there were open views in all directions, and - best of all - one of the boundaries of the garden was a river, over which a quaint little hump-backed bridge carried the lane. We were certain this was the escape that we had been hoping for. We moved in on 15 June.

This, we discovered, is the first day of the coarse-fishing season. From that day until the following spring, our sitting-room window framed not a country scene, but a carpark. For the three months of the year it had taken us to purchase the cottage, the house had been in the middle of everybody's nowhere; the rest of the time, it was the centre of the coarse-fishing universe. …

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