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Friday, June 12, 2015

When Good Neighbours Become Good...Friends?

I've always had a soft spot for television shows from overseas.  Be it "EastEnders", "All Saints", or "Are You Being Served?", I have always loved a good Britcom or Aussie drama.

Sometimes when I go on sites like YouTube, I watch episodes of foreign television shows, and one time, I came across old episodes of a television show I used to watch on a cable channel called YTV.

It was a show called “Home and Away”, and basically the premise was that a young couple who couldn't have children of their own decided to have foster children to fill the void. The patriarch of the Fletcher family had lost his job in the big city, and the family made the decision to move to a small town called Summer Bay, where they would take over running a caravan park, where vacationers could stay for low cost.

It was 20 years since I last saw an episode of this show, so imagine my surprise when I not only found the show online, but later discovered that it was still airing new episodes in its native Australia. I have no idea what it's currently like now, but one thing that amazed me about the show was the general sense of community that the townspeople of Summer Bay had for each other. When the Fletchers first moved to town, they took in a rebellious stray girl named Bobby, who eventually became their sixth foster child. A storyline where animals were poisoned brought outrage in the much so that the townspeople tried to work together to find out who was responsible. When Tom Fletcher quit his job because of some unsavory remarks about his foster daughter by his boss, the rest of his team backed Tom up. It's that community spirit that I think made me gravitate towards the show. Unlike American soap operas where everyone tries to one-up each other, or have affairs with each other, or plots to murder each other, Home and Away showed warmth, generosity, and heart. Oh, sure, the show also had mystery, murder, and controversial storylines, but the way the stories were told brought these issues to light in realistic ways. If any of you get a chance, check out some of the episodes, because they really are fantastic to watch...well, provided you can ignore the really bad 1980's music, that is.

Apparently, there's another show that currently airs in Australia that is somewhat like Home and Away, but instead takes place in a residental neighbourhood known as Ramsay Street. Appropriately enough, the show happens to be called “Neighbours”, and the show's theme song is where the title of this note comes from.

Admittedly, I do not know as much about Neighbours as I do Home and Away, because Neighbours never aired in Canada (at least not to my knowledge anyways). I do know that it started the careers of singers Kylie Minogue, Natalie Imbruglia, and Delta Goodrem, and was a key launchpad for the acting careers of Jesse Spencer and Guy Pearce. I also know that as previously mentioned that the show took place on Ramsay Street, and that the six or so houses on the street were where most of the main characters of the show had their actions. It was where neighbours had cups of coffee with other neighbours. It was where neighbours gossiped to their neighbours about other neighbours. Heck, I can probably imagine that it was a place where neighbours did the horizontal mambo with other neighbours.

And, this total rambling about television programs that no longer air in Canada does have a point. This note is all about the people in your neighbourhood, in your neighbourhood, in your neighbourhood...

Neighbours. We all have them. Some of them are friendly and outgoing. Some of them are reclusive. Some of them are nosy, and some of them are just bitchy.

You have your eccentric Kimmy Gibbler type neighbours. You have your sugary sweet Pamela Poole type neighbours. And, you have your Marcy D'Arcy type neighbours who don't like you, and who you don't like, but you put up with anyways because you can't afford to move.

I know that the neighbours in my apartment building are quite the crazy cast of characters. In the eleven years I've been there, I've seen it all. Single moms and their children. Elderly couples living out their golden years. The crazy lady across the hall who has yard sales for cigarette money and who sells home-cooked meals to other people so she could buy lottery tickets.

(In regards to that last neighbour I described, yes, she does exist, and yes, she still lives across the hall).

I guess if I were to describe my own level of neighbourly kindness towards people who live near me, I tend to be a little bit on the reclusive side. I mean, sure, if they talk to me, I'll acknowledge them (unless I really, really dislike them - see lady across the hall from me), but I don't really go out of my way.

I'm not sure exactly why that's the case now, but a lot of the people who live in my building are people who I don't really gel with, so there's not really any sort of need to associate with them. And, really, I'm fine with that. I mean, who wants to have people gossiping about your daily business, right? And, in the seven years I've lived in this building, I've gotten to know who those very people are, and have made it a mission to try and avoid them. I'm much happier and stress free as a result of it.

That's not to say that all of the neighbours I've had have been and jaded.

In one of the first houses I remember living in, my neighbours were a young family who had two kids. The girl, Brandi, was my age, and the boy, Brandon, was about two years older, maybe three. We got along great and I can remember having many water balloon wars with them as a child in my backyard. Those were good times. Unfortunately, we were separated for a few years because some developer bought all the houses on the street and knocked them down to put up a parking lot. That moment of my childhood could best be described by that Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi”. The part about them paving paradise to put up a parking lot. I loved 35 St. Paul Street, and had it not been for that developer, in all likelihood I would still be living there.

Fortunately, I was reunited with Brandi twice...once in fourth grade, and then again in seventh grade. I haven't seen her since we were thirteen though.

Then we moved to the neighbourhood that was a block away from the local hospital. A neighbourhood I lived in from the age of five to the age of nineteen. A neighbourhood that was filled with elderly people due to its proximity of the hospital. I was the only child on the whole street.

However, the people on the street were nice enough for the most part. There were a couple of people who were kind of psycho (and I'm specifically referring to you, you across the street hoodlums and your demon dog named Sparky that you purposely sent across the street to make dinner out of my leg!), but some people were really, really nice.

At that time, I lived in house number eleven on the street.  The man over at number 15 was pretty cool. The man across the street at number 12 was all right too, even though I wasn't fond of his wife. The elderly lady over at number 30 was a real sweetheart. Her name was Sarah, and I remember that on Halloween, she usually kept her doors closed, and her lights shut off. There weren't really a lot of kids on my street, so as a result, trick-or-treaters weren't all that plentiful. Sure, we had lots of kids from nearby streets, and of course we'd have the “way too old to trick-or-treat” teenagers from the high school who would trick or treat in their football uniforms from the nearby high school. But, her house was never lit up on Halloween night, so her house was always skipped on my trick-or-treating route.

And, yet, the very next day after, when I was on my way to school, she would try and spot me, and she'd hand me a specially made loot bag that she had done up for me for Halloween. I later found out that she had only done that for me, since I was the only kid on the street, and since my parents were always nice with her. She really was a nice lady, and I thought the world of her. Another nice guy on the street that I remember was the man who lived over at number 42. He always had some cool stories to tell, and I think he kind of liked the idea of there being a kid on the street, since as I said before, there weren't a whole lot of us. He passed away when I was about eleven or twelve, and when I heard the news, I actually cried.

So, as you can see, even though there was hardly anyone near my age on my own street, somehow, I made it work to my advantage. Considering how badly I was picked on in school, perhaps it was a good thing that I didn't really know anyone from my school who lived on that street.

Thankfully, I've never really had any psycho neighbours, so I can't really entertain you with those kinds of stories. But, I can tell you that living in residence at university between 2000 and 2001 was an adventure in itself.

For starters, my roommate and I were one of the few pairs of roommates who stuck it out THE WHOLE YEAR with each other. Almost everyone else swapped rooms or roommates at least once. So, in that regard, I guess that was a blessing in itself. Course, my roommate and I were very rarely in the room together to begin with, so maybe that had something to do with it. At any rate, we got along quite well. My neighbours were mostly okay too. I did have a problem with one girl who lived right next door to me...nothing too spectacular, really. I thought she was kind of up herself, and she thought I was a jerk when I basically told her that to her face. :D Not a big deal. We just avoided each other.

But, it was quite interesting to be in residence. Though there was campus security there that was SUPPOSED to enforce quiet hours after eleven p.m., I heard loud music playing in rooms as late as four in the morning. It took a while to get used to, but I slept right through it. There were a couple of people who called rez security every hour though. On the hour.

We also had some strong personalities who lived on our floor too. I won't go into it in great detail because I'd need to write another note (I mean, there must have been like eighty people on the floor alone). Needless to say, it took some time and some patience to feel everyone out, but I quickly found out who I could trust, and who I really didn't want to talk to ever again.

And, really, I think that's what we all have to do with neighbours in general. We don't have to like them, and we certainly don't have to be obligated to donate a cup of sugar every time they drop by...but unless you choose to build a house in the middle of a desolate forest where the closest town is miles away, you're not going to escape having neighbours...all you can do is live your life the best you can.

Hopefully at some point, you'll end up having a neighbourly relationship like the people in Summer Bay...hopefully.

What have been some of your neighbour stories? Have you had a neighbour you really, really loved? Have a neighbour you've called the cops on? Share your stories here if you like!

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