Charles Nevin: The Third Leader

Good neighbours
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The Independent Online

Actually, I suspect such an address would have received a pretty old-fashioned look even then; a fortiori, the further injunction to "spread your happiness around you as the day goes by".

Today, though, you wouldn't even get a look. Some 60 per cent of Britons don't know the names of their neighbours, and nearly 40 per cent don't even acknowledge them on the street, according to a survey published this week.

But this may be about to change. Internet sites, reports the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, are now offering housebuyers a profiling service which includes the lifestyles of prospective neighbours. You might think this would make things much more chummy; imagine whole neighbourhoods of leylandii lovers or early morning James Blunt aficionados. Marvellous.

But the JRF is not convinced, arguing that it will lead to divided communities, rich and poor, them and us. Against all this, however, is the US research, also published this week, which found that a crucial factor in happiness is feeling richer than your neighbours.

What to do? Difficult. If you smile at your neighbours now, they will automatically assume you've done your research and know you're richer than they are. My advice: smile, but then ask immediately if you can borrow something.