Editor’s note: Renting or buying accomodation is a major expense we take on albeit a necessary one; where we live also affects considerably our sense of wellbeing and our ability to work. This week, Alex tells us about his neighbourhood.
I’ve been renting my current house for around ten months now. The area is alike many other suburbs of highly populated cities in the U.K, an abundantly mixed community of all ages and backgrounds. Here, I am a stone’s throw from 3 or 4 districts of South Manchester, essentially living at the borders of some nice and not-so-nice areas. I won’t reveal my actual address, mostly for the sake of appearing mysterious, but let’s just say ‘Students-Ville’
As well as plenty of younger folk attending university or otherwise, the area has plenty retired couples and pensioners. There’s a park, albeit attached to a main road. There is a post office, a Co-op, a pharmacy, charity shops, take-away shops and so on. There are also some families living here, although not as many as there are in neighbouring parts as the houses are all small and are mostly taken up by people in their twenties or people of a senior age. Everyone seems to get along, I believe partly could be due to the local pub being shut down, ridding the area of drunken antics and noise at night times.
However, in particular I’d like to describe my immediate surroundings and neighbours. I live on a quaint-looking and secluded little cobbled side street. At first, and especially during the winter months when everyone tended to stay indoors, I thought the place to be as quiet as I like it, which is very quiet, with hardly any loud parties or thumping dance music to be heard and no nuisance teenagers evident. What has occurred to me more recently is that although it is a nice little area with a lower crime rate to some less savoury places, and all the young people seem respectful, my closest neighbours are very chatty and active, and at times unnecessarily loud. Also, a couple of them seem to be genuinely quite mad.
So it feels like the very epitome of English culture is on my door step. I have an old couple to my right who always spend their days doing much the same, with the gentleman tending to his small car or D.I.Y and the old lady often chatting away with other neighbours or their sons who often visit. They have been living here for over forty years to my knowledge, and in these small houses they’ve managed to raise a family and have probably seen the area change and evolve a great deal since the 1970s.
However, to my left are a noisy family with toddlers, and many other friends and family members seem to come and go, adding to the noise. Previously a few months ago there was an Asian family living there, who also had kids, but they were much quieter and more pleasant. This is not to say I detest the current people living here to my left, I don’t know them, but they do seem to be a stark example of the common English family, with raised voices and swearing apparent. I use bad language myself of course (otherwise an angel). I just normally don’t want the whole street and adjacent alleyways to hear such all that aggression and dispute. Alas, they probably are nice people.
Finally, apart from a few students there is the house opposite me with a yapping dog. This house is also home to the dog’s strange owners, who seem to believe that shouting at the dog from the front porch to “shut up or you’re coming inside” is how to discipline and direct the dog. Earlier I even heard one of them shouting at another dog in a garden a few doors down, as well as muttering to himself with pure frustration. Perhaps his days are tainted with constant barking and yapping, but then he probably shouldn’t have gotten a small mongrel terrier and, more to the point, probably should realise he has no idea how to command a dog and should stick to talking to his flowerbed in broad daylight (I witness some strange things).
All in all it is a typical English community, with little wealth flying about but no great poverty either. Of course some places in Britain are on the brink of real poverty, and lacking hope of revival. My area feels like it either has been revived to a decent quality, and the people keep up with pleasantries as well as a real appreciation for appropriate behaviour. Also, it’s not a cramped place where everyone knows each other’s business but not too big that it attracts hoards of newcomers either. I haven’t seen one bit of violence or vandalism, which are popular pastimes in Britain, nor have a felt an overwhelming sense of jolly unity or character amongst the locals. So to underline it all as ambiguously as I can, it’s just… Nice, not bad really.