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Running Away From People I've Not Even Met Yet

On fear of new neighbours and resenting my garden

This week marked three years since Steve and I bought our current home.

It also marked two years since the flat downstairs became vacant. Last week, somebody finally bought it.

And this week, I started daydreaming about moving.

This is no coincidence. I've had the worst luck with neighbours. And I know you think you've had the worst luck with neighbours but my stories are definitely worse. Perhaps not the guy who would let his dog crap in the communal hall. Maybe not the guy who gave his hooker friends keys so they could work in our lobby, broke the front door lock most weekends (plus side: I learnt how to wire up deadlocks), came to my door screaming abuse when he received his eviction notice and scattered a jigsaw up and down five flights of stairs when he finally left. But definitely the guy who murdered another neighbour (in front of her toddler no less) because she complained about his music (One by U2, played at full volume, on repeat, twenty-four hours a day, whether or not he was home).

The prospect of new neighbours makes me nervous.

As it happens, after weeks of me saying, "I just hope they have kids Matilda's age," it turns out that there will indeed be two kids Matilda's age moving in downstairs. I'm getting exactly what I asked for. But I've now convinced myself that the kids' parents and Steve and I will hate each other and it will be horribly awkward every time anyone's out in the garden.

I've started to convince myself that the garden's a huge issue, too.

Downstairs has a private area. We have a private area. Our private area wraps around a shared drying green. Our private area doesn't feel very private at all - I can't very well tell their toddlers not to step over an invisible line onto our patch of grass (nor would I actually want to; I like the idea that the kids may have free run of the whole garden and share each other's toys).

Added to that, to get to our garden, we have to go a long way round and down some stairs and through our neighbours' area. Suddenly, it seems very inconvenient. I can't just open a door and let Matilda run outside; I have to be there with her. I can't carry both her and a cup of hot tea down the stairs at once.

Matilda and I spent a lovely sunny morning last week visiting friends in a newbuild property. We sat in their blank canvas of a private garden and nipped through the patio doors directly into their kitchen every time we needed snacks. It was lovely.

I started to convince myself that direct access to a private garden was essential for a good quality of life. Also a dishwasher.

I went so far as to find out that there is a newbuild three bedroom house which backs directly onto our friends' house, which costs exactly the same as our two bedroom flat is worth. I bemoaned Aberdeen's stagnant property market - there's no (probable) way we could sell up and move at the moment even though it's conceivably affordable.

I started to get quite worked up about this.

It didn't matter that, in terms of square footage, our two bedroom flat is larger than the three bedroom house; it didn't matter that the three bedroom house isn't laid out in a way which would suit our two-desks-and-lots-of-shelves-and-an-attic-full-of-geek-stuff lifestyle; it didn't matter that we love the street we live on; it didn't matter that our neighbourhood has an easily accessible supermarket and the potential new area doesn't; it didn't matter that we adore our flat and all its character and the big, open rooms; it didn't matter that I much prefer somewhere with a nice view to somewhere which looks straight into neighbouring homes. All of that was eclipsed by not being able to open a patio door into the garden (we'd also quite like a third bedroom but not if it's the size of a cereal packet).

And that (ridiculous, #firstworldproblem) complaint was masking my fear of new neighbours.

So, instead of letting myself dwell on what our home and garden don't offer, I'm focusing instead on what they do. I've assembled a garden bench and a water butt; I'm heading to the garden centre with a friend tomorrow; I'm dreaming up ways to make our garden exciting for a toddler (or three). Our garden might not be private or right outside the kitchen, but it really could be lovely.

I've even called a plumber to swap the bathroom radiator for a heated towel rail - something Steve and I have been talking about for... well... three years now, I suppose.

Now fingers crossed that the new neighbours turn out to be lovely - this is the sort of street where people drop by unannounced with homemade jam and bags of raspberries; let's hope that they fit right in!

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