Back in 2008 when we decided to move in to our current home the hubster and I had few real reservations about the fact that our house is situated on a busy main road. We were a bit concerned about the lack of allocated parking outside but the times we visited there was invariably little reason to believe that the strip of freely available parking right outside wouldn’t always offer an available space. I grew up living on a main road – albeit on a ‘drive’ set back and a little more secluded from the road by hedges and trees, so I wasn’t too worried about getting used to the noise. I also lived on another busy street in Brighton whilst I was at university and knew that the worst kind of traffic noise occurs when you are too close to a set of lights and have to listen to people slowing down, radios blaring and engines revving.
What we have discovered since living here is that: a) the parking situation can and often is a problem, particularly when you have two small children, a bunch of shopping bags and nowhere to park except down a side road on the opposite side of the main road (logistical nightmare); b) earplugs are a must (perhaps this is just the bad mum in me talking but I have always refused to sacrifice a good night’s sleep for snuffling, sleep cries or general child shenanagins – don’t get me wrong, the earplugs don’t render me deaf and I can and do get woken up for a real issue that needs my attention like a vomiting toddler but at least they block out the ambient noise of occasional cars passing on the road outside); and c) there is no sense of community when you live on a main road.
This last point is the one that saddens me the most. The drive I grew up in was full of families and children around about my age including several of my school friends plus my aunt and uncle and cousins who lived about six doors down, and we used to play outdoors together all summer long. We had street parties (the wedding of Charles & Di anyone? Hello – showing my age here!) and I remember making mud pies and dangling off next door’s climbing frame with my best friend (who I still know and love 40 odd years down the line!).
Our current situation is that we have next door neighbours on one side who have a little girl the same age as EJ – and we never see them. They like to keep themselves to themselves and don’t even use their front door preferring to come and go down the side of the house meaning we rarely bump into them in the street outside. On the other side we have a couple with a 10 year old boy and we have precious little to do with them either (albeit contentious parking issues resulted in a bit of a heated neighbourhood ‘discussion’ last summer and haven’t exactly led to us all becoming the best of friends!).
We had essentially resigned ourselves to being good friends with people living in various other locations round our town, but not good neighbours with anyone until something a little bit miraculous happened over the weekend. I was out in the back garden on Saturday afternoon with the boys and they were having a bounce off on the trampoline which is situated close to the back of our 60-foot garden. From out of the blue we heard a voice calling from one of the gardens which backs onto ours – generally hidden by fences, hedge and foliage. The hubster went over and I heard the man asking if JJ went to the local primary school where their son goes as they’d seen flashes of yellow uniform before when he’d been jumping on the trampoline. I peered round the fence to see a little face I am fairly familiar with – their 6 year old, B is in Year 1 at JJ’s school and his four year old brother is looked after by the same childminder as EJ on the same day. I haven’t crossed paths with the parents as we have all been coming and going at different times and I had no idea they lived in one of the houses behind us.
We quickly discovered that, with a bit of brute force it was possible to push through the obstacles and navigate between our garden and theirs without having to walk all the way round the block, and their boys came and played while I had a chat to their dad and then later they reciprocated and we went back to their house where I met their mum. Their house, in complete contrast, is situated within a little cul de sac which benefits from all the things we lack. I finally feel like we have met some people I am happy to call neighbours – we discussed the benefit of having someone close by to call on in emergencies – for the occasional school pick up or babysit. They told us that they’d invite us over next time there was a street party outside the front of their house and we exchanged phone numbers.
JJ is now slightly obsessed with the idea of ‘popping’ over to B’s garden to say good morning or goodnight and we’ve told him that he can’t just keep going through the hedge whenever he feels like it! Having said that I am so happy that the boys have potentially great friends right on our doorstep – something that has been sorely lacking for the past five years. Fingers crossed this new discovery will remain mutually beneficial and enhance our enjoyment of living where we do.