Neighbours – You Can’t Choose Them…

People will search long and hard for the perfect property to buy, whether it’s a condo, or a house, but there’s always one thing you can’t control, and that’s who your neighbours are.

I remember having great neighbours when I was a kid growing up in Ottewell, in the East part of  Edmonton. The neighbours to our South would give us apples from their tree, and we’d laugh and play with their dog across our front lawns. The neighbours to the North were 3 boys and 1 girl, all older than us, but all very “cool.” They were a hockey family, with all 3 of the boys playing professionally, and the youngest was drafted second overall in one of the NHL drafts (he went after Mats Sundin, and before Scott Thornton, but sadly didn’t have a long career). The three boys across the alley would babysit us (my brother and I put them through hell). We also knew most of the people up and down the block, and my parents still keep in touch with some of them. They were all great neighbours.

Our next long-term house was out in the suburbs, and it was a drastic change from our house in Ottewell. Our next-door neighbours were a pain-in-the-butt; they called bylaw on us for having gravel that was partially on the road (it was dropped off for landscaping, and was there for 2 days before being used), and reported us because we pushed some snow onto the road. Seriously? Neither of those impacted the ability to enjoy their property at all, and since it was a cul-de-sac, it didn’t impede the flow of traffic. We hardly knew our other neighbours; people would get into their cars in their attached garages and leave. People didn’t go out walking because there was nothing around to walk to except the mailbox. We were living in bubbles that happened to be near other bubbles.

Moving to my apartment, and then condo, was a new experience as well. I found that I hardly knew anyone in either of my buildings. There were 120+ suites, so probably over 200 people living in the building. I think I knew 2 people in my apartment building, and maybe 10 in my condo building. People would ride the elevator together, get off on the same floor, and yet never speak. It’s almost as though being closer to our neighbours made us want to be more insulated from them. The people above me in my condo drove me insane; they had hardwood floors and little kids that liked to run around a lot, and they brought a piano into the building. For half an hour every day I’d have to listen to the worst rendition of “Old MacDonald” I’ve ever heard. I finally had enough and reported it to the condo board (musical instruments were banned in the condo bylaws). I didn’t want them to get rid of it, just put a dampener on the thing so I didn’t have to listen to it. The guy below me would crank his stereo and watch kung fu flicks at extremely loud levels. A few times a month I’d have to go downstairs and bang on his door for a few minutes before he’d realize there was someone knocking, then ask him to turn it down. There are things I miss about the condo, but I certainly don’t miss my neighbours.

When we bought our house in Strathcona the sellers told us the neighbours were awesome, so when I picked up the keys I said, “So, now that the deal is done, really, how are the neighbours?” Ron, the seller, assured me the neighbours were awesome; it wasn’t just something he said to sell the house. We stepped outside and one of the neighbours, John, came outside to greet me. “So, you’re the new guy?” he asked. I knew we’d get along well.

All our neighbours are awesome. John, and his daughter Camilla, are always playing with their push-scooters out in the alley, often with the kids from across the lane. The family across the lane actually lived in our house for awhile; Charlie is a builder, and he built the house, then they lived in it for 4 years before selling it to the family we bought it from. I tell ya, it’s pretty handy to have the person that built your house living across the alley! We don’t see our other neighbours too often, as they’re extremely busy with various sports year-round, but they’re quite nice, and their kids are great. Their neighbours are a single dad, Al, and his two kids; a boy and a girl (twins). There are other neighbourhood kids as well, and all the kids seem to get along. When we first moved into the house there was a soccer field that spanned our yard and the two beside it, and I was told if I didn’t want the kids playing on our yard, just tell them to stay off. No way, I think it’s great! Some of them will hang out on our steps and porch, reading a book, or sitting around chatting with each other. They used to ask us every time if they could sit there, but Kat and I told them they can hang out whenever they want, so it’s not uncommon to hear little voices coming from our porch.

The neighbourhood is really diverse, and it’s nice to know Brody will grow up being exposed to different ideas and cultural backgrounds. There’s a family where the husband is from Russia, and the wife is from France (they also have a new baby), an Asian family, a Jewish Family, a gay couple, a homeschooled family, a French-speaking family, someone with special needs, plus our Canadian/Ukrainian household. There are families with 1 kid, 2 kids, and 3 kids. Two families have twins (fraternal, and paternal), and it’s a nice mix of boys and girls. The best part is that everyone seems to get along well. People are always borrowing things from each other, knocking on doors to deliver freshly baked treats, or hanging out chatting in the alley (Kat calls it the “man meeting,” because it’s usually the guys out there).

Every time I wake up to fresh snow on the ground and see my walks have been shovelled, there’s a knock at the door with some freshly baked treat, or I get a little wave as I walk down the street, I’m thankful for the neighbours I have. I was able to choose a lovely house, and I’m so thankful it came with great neighbours.

Have any neighbour stories (good or bad)? Toss them in the comments below…

P.S. Avenue Edmonton has named my neighbourhood (Strathcona), the best neighbourhood in Edmonton. The best neighbourhood with the best neighbours… awesome!

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14 Comments

  1. Bryan

     /  July 28, 2012

    The house next door is a rental property but the people living there have been there since we moved in 6 years ago. They’re great people and we have always had great chats.

    Their landlord, however is bad news, letting the foundation degrade to the point of the family living in a moldy house. He’s also cut down trees on the property line without our consent.

    Yesterday we learned the family will be moving due to their well being. Breaks my heart to see them go, but I shudder at the thought of who will move in. In my experience, bad landlords attract bad people.

    On the other side is a retired couple; as nice as can be. We help them out when they need their gutters cleaned or little things like that, and they tolerate our less than perfect ability to manage our lawn.

    Another thing that has affected my knowledge of neighbors is getting a dog this spring. Three walks a day has led us to meeting more people in a few short months than in the years we’ve lived here.

    Great post!

  2. Oh yeah, walking our dog and baby has lead us to meet more neighbours a bit further away from our house. It’s funny how often you’ll pass by the same people out for a walk, or sitting on their porch. Usually all it takes is a little “hello” and a conversation will start.

  3. Spain. I used to dread Fridays when the family opposite came for the weekend. I would have preferred a truck load of monkeys with jackhammers tipped into their garden than them. At least the monkeys would know when to stop !! Denuncias (police reports) were made. It took 6 months for a court mediator to calm them down. They are quiet as mice now. Will have to get some cheese and a mouse trap in case they kick off again.

    Enjoyed your post. Ralph

  4. That sounds an awful lot like my neighbourhood.

    Actually, it sounds exactly like my neighbourhood.

    Hey!

    That *is* my neighbourhood!

    I’m blushing, Gord 🙂

  5. Alison Geddes

     /  July 30, 2012

    Hey that’s a brilliant account of your neighbourhood. John is forever telling me how great it is. We’ve been chatting for quite a number of years on a discussion site, full of interesting people (though that’s changed now sadly, as people have drifted away). But I’m living in south east London, England and also have a great neighbourhood…like John I’m an artist. I *love* where I live for the same reasons you give. I keep up with John via email.

    I’m planning a big trip next summer, via Russia, which will end up in Canada. It’s not definite because of recent health problems. But I hope to pop in for Canada Day to your neck of the woods…

    Here’s a toast to the cool neighbourhoods of the world…

    (Hope it’s okay that I left a message here..but it was inspiring and feel good).

  6. Oh yes, I love getting comments on the blog. Thanks for dropping by and checking it out.

  7. I adore my neighbourhood because of my neighbours. It’s a unique place to be when you find yourself intentionally living in an area of town most of my friends and co-workers are afraid of (Eastwood/118th Ave area) and yet look forward to going home each day. In our neighbourhood we routinely have backyard family BBQs and wander in and out of each other’s yards to play games, eat, etc. We have alley meetings (mostly men in ours too) and after work car restoration projects. Nearly everyone in our immediate vicinity has had someone else in the neighbourhood lend a helping hand on a construction project (new decks, roofing a house, building gazebos, etc.). In the winter we play poker together, switching off from one house to the next. We know each others cars, schedules, and who has whose house keys. Neighbours definitely make the ‘hood.

  8. UKanuck

     /  July 30, 2012

    Diversity was a big reason I moved; if only you had blogged about this whole ‘diverse neighbourhood’ thing a year ago, I wouldn’t have travelled to the other side of the world to find it.

    Of course, the alternative would have been to become your neighbour again, at which point I’d officially been stalking you 😉

    • And how is England treating you? For everyone else reading this, Grant was one of the 10 people I knew in my condo building.

      • gshepert

         /  July 30, 2012

        Good, but crazy busy with work. City’s mad busy too right now, some sort of big sporting event going on I think. Lot’s of helicopters, cheering, that sort of thing. Distracting.

        Will have to drop you a line, do some catching up.

  9. Fanny Harsono-Teo

     /  August 1, 2012

    Gord..How about us as your ex-condo neighbour? 🙂 Hope you are doing well!

    • Yup, you guys were awesome, and one of the few people I talked to in the building.

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