There goes the neighbourhood

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The Independent Online
REGULAR readers of this column will remember my initiative to launch a property version of Neighbourhood Watch. This was a service designed to assist prospective house buyers in assessing their new neighbours to be. It is a well-known fact that the most delightful property can be ruined by those who live in adjoining properties. It had been my intention to offer to provide a detailed analysis of a neighbourhood outlining any anti-social behaviour that is not immediately apparent from a conventional scrutiny of a new house. You know the kind of thing: loud music, noisy dogs, domestic disputes, being Belgian.

Unfortunately my scheme got into immediate problems with my first assignment. I had been commissioned to keep an eye on a street in East Sheen. Unfortunately on my first night on duty I was reported to the police and arrested for kerb crawling. I pointed out that I was actually stationary and that East Sheen is not one of the racier fleshpots of south-west London. The officer was just doing his job and, between him and me, her at number 24 was a bit of a pain. If he did not move me on he and most of the Metropolitan Police Force would be looking for gainful employment elsewhere.

I was happy to oblige and, not wishing to run into an unnecessary fracas with the civil liberties movements or become embroiled in the debate about closed circuit television, I made my excuses and left. The people who had been planning to move into number 22 were extremely pleased with my report. They had no wish to live next door to a lady with a direct line to the local nick and duly withdrew their offer.

I wish now that I had kept my Neighbourhood Watch credentials intact. In the recent past I have discovered that the problems of new neighbours are not restricted to those buying houses. They can be equally traumatic for the incumbent residents when newcomers arrive in the vicinity. In the last fortnight I have been blessed with the arrival of two new sets of neighbours who have moved into properties that have been vacant for a period which is entirely incompatible with the so-called housing shortage.

One set of neighbours are distinctly nervous. I suspect they are part of the FBI's witness protection programme. They have littered their property with security alarms and these wretched security lights which are triggered by the slightest movement of a vole, cat or fluttering leaf. Their house is bathed in a permanent bright, fluorescent light, as indeed is my house.

It would be easier to sleep during the daytime when it is darker were it not for the arrival of neighbour number two who is a religious fanatic. I have no idea of his creed but it requires him to wail and chant endlessly for large parts of the day. The first time I heard him I thought he was suffering from Delhi belly after an unfortunate experience with a prawn korma. Sadly not. This man is a serious apostle.

I have wrestled with a solution to these intrusions and have decided on the creation of the Leylandii Preservation Society. These trees are the scourge of suburban society because they grow to enormous heights extremely quickly. I believe they could be instrumental in persuading new and disruptive neighbours to think again about their new abode. The beauty of the scheme is that you do not need to actually plant any trees. I will let you know how my scheme progresses.