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  • What the neighbours say

    A recent client introduced me to their neighbour in the hope that she could reveal some hitherto unknown stories about their house, particularly as she had lived there as a child. Her recollections of rat runs, a hidden cache of rotten eggs, and a mystery bell tolling at night added a personal piquancy to the houses’ history that would have been difficult to obtain from any other source.

    I could add a few tales about former neighbours. For instance, the time when the lady who lived below me put some chicken giblets on the stove to cook then went out to buy a paper and got chatting. I was asleep in my flat when I awoke to thick smoke and a terrible smell that wasn’t roast chicken. Fortunately, she returned before things got really bad and it was only her saucepan and kitchen ceiling that sustained damage. We were able to air the building soon afterwards and restore calm.

    Another neighbour used to house swap with a family in Italy each summer and I used to love their visits. There were three generations of them and their laughter and chatter spilled out into the garden and the air was filled with the most delicious cooking smells. They were very friendly and got into the swing of local life each year. While most people were heading off to Tuscany and Umbria for their summer holiday, this family came in the other direction.

    One particular neighbour became a friend and liked to tell her pals about the time I knocked on her door one evening, my leg in plaster, and asked her new boyfriend who happened to answer if he could come and remove a frog from my living room that my cat had brought in. Every time the frog jumped, I jumped which hurt my broken foot, and I was unable to catch it. Said neighbour’s boyfriend did as he was bid, with some trepidation, and sadly their relationship foundered shortly afterwards.

    What might your neighbours say about who used to live in your house?

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