Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

Today I’m looking for advice.

I live in a lovely three bedroom town house which backs onto a beautiful ‘country’ lane (well, it’s South West London but by our standards it’s fairly country!)

I share my neighbourhood with a great mix of people - Irish, Scottish, Norwegian, Asian, Jamaican (we share wedding hats!) and English - I’m also married to ‘Mr Heinz 57’, the product of a British father, Dutch mother and an Australian upbringing.

Then I have my ‘mad neighbour’ - and I’m not using the term lightly.  She’s completely batty and I’m now at the point where I’m torn between the guilt I feel for not trying to be her friend (her behaviour is intolerable) and contacting social services to see if I can get her some help.

‘Nutty Nora’ (as my son calls her and, yes, he’s been admonished!), moved in about six years ago.  We knew our lovely (and sane) neighbours were desperate to move, so hubbie did the ‘neighbourly thing’ and pulled out all the stops by telling her it was a great location, safe for a woman living alone with a great community spirit.

It’s because of this sense of community, and also the fact that I believe I’m a decent caring person, that I have the dilemma.

All went well for a while and then the rot slowly set in.  ‘Nora’ began to accuse us of various crimes.  We supposedly pinched an arm-chair from her (locked) garage when she was out, my husband constantly walked around on her flat roof and we left bird food up there.

We’ve recently moved on to the next phase - the noise of our SatNav drives her mad, (we don’t have SatNav and, if we did, what noise?) and other neighbours have been told that a disconnected fish tank in their back garden is keeping her awake at night.  Every closed car door “reverberates right through” her and the planes are beginning to talk to her.

I’ve lived through schizophrenia (see older post “In Memory of a Friend” - 25 June 2011) and I know the sadness and danger involved - but when it’s a next door neighbour, and not a close friend or family member, what do you do?

Our dining table on the ground floor looks out to our secluded road and there are many nights when we see the wild haired woman peering through our bay window.  My heart bleeds for her - she has no family (or, at least, no-one ever visits), no friends and I’m here surrounded by both in my cushioned world.

As a writer, I ask questions.  What’s her history?  What brought her to live in a fair sized house at London prices to spend her days, nights, weeks, months in solitude?  Maybe she too once had a loving family and something just tipped her over the edge.  As the saying goes, “There but for the grace of God …”

I want to help but I don’t know how.  At the stage she is now, both mentally and in her isolation, I’d be biting off more than I could chew by befriending her.  But what’s my alternative?

A call to social services from anyone other than a family member, and with no hard evidence, would probably fall on deaf ears but I don’t want to sit back and let the inevitable happen.  Partly for her sake and partly because our houses join - if she decides to blow herself up, we all go!  Flippant, I know, but the truth.

I’ve done the right thing in the past and made ‘wrong number’ calls to her, just to see if she’s OK when we haven’t seen her around for a few days, but I feel I need to be doing more.

I don’t want to be one of those people on the news that did nothing and then act surprised when their neighbour’s topped themselves but it’s proving a difficult one to solve.

So, lovely blog readers and my faithful Twitter followers, what would you do?  Am I over-reacting?  Should I just accept it’s not my problem?  I’d really appreciate your views right now.

Have you checked out “Diary of a Mummy Misfit” on Amazon yet?  Libby has the best neighbour in the world, Mrs Sengupta - she’s a laugh a minute, nothing like ‘Nora’!
Now also available in paperback at Lulu.


  1. This is a really tricky one. She is obviously not in a good way and I think a call to social services would be the right thing to do.They may at the very least send a community nurse round. They are not going to drag her out of her home-they may even as you say take no notice but in the obvious absence of anyone else doing anything I think you have no choice. She is suffering paranoid delusions and these could turn violent either towards herself or eve her neighbours so can not really be ignored. Good luck. i hope she gets teh support she needs soon and you can pass this uninvited burden onto someone else x

  2. It is so sad when old people are so lonely and have no family to look out for them.

    I too would be worried by her increasing strange behaviour, but it is difficult to get involved.
    Your neighbour 'believes' her neighbours are the problem, so it may isolate you more from her to get involved.
    On the other hand, she could be a danger to herself, if not well enough to care for herself.

    Do you know which doctor's surgery she is with?Could you let them know your concerns?

    I remember ringing a neighbour's son when I was worried about her, only to be told kindly that I was to mind my own business. The neighbour was not happy with me.

    Do hope you can help in some way. I know I would want to, but it is a difficult call.


  3. I have to say, I also think a call to social services is the only choice you have. And I think, if I were in your shoes, that's what I'd do because it certainly does sound as if she does need some kind of help and support. You're already being an excellent neighbour in the fact you're expressing your concern for the kind of person so many would just choose to ignore, and I really do hope she gets the help she obviously needs - for everyone's sake! She shouldn't be your problem, so let someone else who can deal with matters such as this take the strain, stop you from worrying over something you shouldn't be stressing over, and let her get the support she deserves. Good luck. :) x

  4. I so fully understand how you feel, I can read between the lines! You have a big heart and are naturally concerned. It's one of those frustrating situations that has you running in circles. You want something done, but WHAT and HOW?
    Social services is a good idea, but I was wondering if you know of a good church near by. One that isn't just 'for show', if you know what I mean, but one that really cares about the people in the community.
    If you were able to go and visit the pastor and confide in him your concerns for this lonely lady, maybe he could pay her a visit and get the ball rolling for her to meet others. With something else in her life she may not be so strange, or may even get the help she needs. Just a thought.