Next Door? Mind Your Own Business!



‘UK neighbourhoods are dying!’ cried this morning’s headline. Research in a new report commissioned by the social network Nextdoor, which aims to link people living in the same area, found that ’60 per cent of UK residents would not feel able to borrow a cup of sugar from their neighbours’.

First, why would anyone borrow sugar at all? Nobody ever runs out of sugar. We’ve had a 2lb bag of the stuff in the cupboard since the old king died and the only time it ever gets used is when the Ukrainian patio builders come to regrout our terrace.

Second, if you’re going to borrow it, leave it in the bag otherwise you’ll have to replace the sugar AND remember to return the cup. Isn’t it time we updated this old saying by perhaps substituting something more useful and modern like ‘phone charger’, ‘e-shisha pen’ or ‘champagne flutes’?

Of course the NextDoor social network is going to find that result. They’re being paid to artificially link everyone together. The beauty of living in London is being able to be interviewed by the police after the man next door turned out to be a serial killer and saying he seemed like a nice bloke who never said much. Besides, have you ever been on Next Door? I joined it for a while, then quickly came off. It’s entirely populated by stupid mad people. Two panicked requests from neighbours on Next Door made me leave;

‘The light in my refrigerator has gone out – does anyone have the number of a fridge repair company?’ Why stop there? Throw the whole fridge away and buy a new one.


‘Help! An emergency has arisen. We’re having a raclette party and our raclette set just broke – does anyone have one we can borrow?’ How do you break a raclette set, for Heaven’s sake?

It’s worth looking up the original article in the Independent and checking out the comments, because most commenters don’t even realise this is a lame piece of clickbait PR produced by NextDoor. One comment runs; ‘Why bother with the neighbours when half of them cannot speak English?’ He goes on to quote ‘EM Foster’ (No relation to the author of ‘Howard’s End’, I assume. Perhaps he wrote ‘Howard’s Way’). The rest off the comments are rabid rants from (presumably) deranged and happily secluded Olds who blame social breakdown on people who want to remain in the EU – don’t even try to follow that one through.

I write this while I’m watering my neighbours’ plants. They’re Swiss-French. I’m also holding the cleaners’ keys for the flat upstairs. They’re Spanish-German. I’m holding keys for someone else; he’s Catalan. It’s Barcelona, so of course everyone knows everyone else’s business. Back in London, I not only know all my neighbours, I go on holiday with them, swap flats with them, take in their deliveries and have dinner with them. If we were any more connected we’d be having surrogate babies for each other.

It’s amazing how few people think of getting involved on any level with their neighbourhoods. I get discount in just about every local shop. Except chains. Actually, that’s not true because the Italian-Albanian guy in Pret sometimes gives me my coffee free.

Youngs, you can fix this. Show them how it’s done. You know how you go on holiday by buying a cheap ticket to Sri Lanka and talking to those pissed Australians at the bus stop and ending up working in a bar in Phuket? Apply that thinking here. Put down your walkie-phones and say hi. Not knowing whether someone has posted on your timeline in the last nanosecond won’t kill you. You thought the internet was going to be all about sharing and it’s not. Hanging with your homies is real sharing, and much more fun.



15 comments on “Next Door? Mind Your Own Business!”

  1. Wayne#1 says:

    Thankfully our community of neighbours are very old school. We all know each other and get along. There are a few exceptions to the rule but they don’t count as they haven’t lived here long enough yet to prove themselves. Maybe once they have been here for a couple of months they will look about them instead of just their phones.

  2. cherry says:

    6 years ago I moved to a Kent town on the Thames estuary. The only residents of my short road who speak to me

    are my next door neighbours who are Lithuanian and speak no English.

    Make of that what you will!

  3. Chris Webb says:

    Cherry, they have probably been asking you for the past six years if they can borrow a cup of sugar!

  4. Steveb says:

    I remember Howards Way!!! Wasnt it written by Mervyn Haisman, who together with Henry Lincoln (co author of Holy Blood and Holy Grail) wrote the yeti stories for Doctor Who in the 1960s?!
    And Im sure I can break a raclette set given the chance. Hard but acievable.

  5. John Peacock says:

    I’m in SE1, where there’s an actual hyperlocal website – -with a real sense of … well, community, I suppose, for those people who are less Diogenes-like than myself (Diogenous?). Definitely more a sense of real (if occasionally characterful) people connecting with each other than the needy bots of NextDoor. It’s actually very useful, and I think a lot of London’s areas have them (I’ve not looked anywhere else because I don’t live anywhere else).

  6. Ian Mason says:

    > How do you break a raclette set, for Heaven’s sake?

    Hand it to a squaddie or a copper and say “Here, hold on to this for a minute, willya.”

  7. Peter Tromans says:

    Raclette set – just visited my neighbour to ask what a raclette set is. He didn’t know either. We aren’t very sophisticated in Oxford villages.

  8. cherry says:

    Chris, better than that we have a barter system going I supply tomatoes from the garden in exchange for eggs from the ir work place!

  9. Chris Webb says:

    I can out-do everyone in the ignorance department. Not only do I not know what a raclette set is, I also don’t know what an e-shisha pen is.

  10. Brian Evans says:

    Same here, Chris.

  11. Helen Martin says:

    Looking up raclettes and e-shisha pens. More deep English no doubt.

  12. Helen Martin says:

    Well, that was interesting. Remember back in the 70s when you had this little pot that set in the table filled with either hot oil, melted cheese, or melted chocolate and you stuck fruit, bread or meat depending on the occasion on a fork and fondu’d it. Hours of fun. Raclette sets are more expensive, I’ll bet, but basically you’re melting cheese to pour over other food. Quebec’s version is poutine (don’t get me started). Then there’s the Mexican thing. Oh, and don’t drink water with these things because cold water will harden the cheese in your stomach and cause indigestion, although I don’t know if you’re likely to see Christmas spirits.
    shisha (not shishi) turns out to be a hookah or the tobacco or other mixtures smoked in one. The e-shisha is like an electronic cigarette and is socially so much better because there is no smoke, but it’s a new product so we don’t know what the health risks are.

  13. Brian Evans says:

    So-it’s a fondue maker!. Bruce Forsythe used to give one away every week on “The Generation Game” in the 70’s.

  14. admin says:

    Raclette is a French cheese with a device that heats one tranche of it, so that you can slide it onto crushed hot new potatoes. It works best with the waxy kind, which are European and harder to find in London.

    E-shishas are popular with children because they have floral flavours, but many contain tobacco.

  15. Ian Luck says:

    I get on fine with my immediate neighbours – the ones that are in the other half of my semi, and the people on the other side are both great; nice people who would, and have, helped out in the past. The people next door to my neighbours, in both directions, are simply, and I’m being charitable here, ar******s. One set has Whippets which whine and howl when the people are out, which is often, and the other side spend hours and hours playing with the engine of a quadbike when the sun comes out, or suddenly deciding to set off fireworks in the small hours.

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