Over the years, in various homes, my next-door neighbours have included a creepy guy who lit candles in our shared corridor; "R&B woman", who whacked up the volume when she got in at 2am every Friday night; the couple who enjoyed marathon sex sessions up against a thin partition wall; a middlingly successful drug dealer. Happily, at present, my immediate neighbours are a friendly, peaceable lot – although who knows what they say about me?
But while I've been dealt my share of duds, I think you'd have to be deluded to pay a premium on a home to ensure "nice" neighbours. After all, who can be guaranteed that the elderly couple you met on the day you viewed a property won't move out and be replaced by a dysfunctional family of yapping terriers?
Who lives next door to us is a major consideration for Britons, and a new survey shows that four in 10 of us (admittedly, those who can afford to buy a property) would pay 7 per cent more for "trustworthy and quiet" neighbours. On the average home, that's an extra £15,000, according to findaproperty.com, who carried out the survey. The findings underscore a broader sentiment among the British, that the people next door are always bloody awful until proven otherwise.
The likely awfulness of neighbours is part of the appeal behind a certain type of property programme that is increasing in popularity, the hoarding show. This is television that burrows its way into the junk-packed homes of people clearly suffering from mental disorders that prevent them from being able to chuck anything out. The trend took off with Channel 4's compelling documentary Obsessive Compulsive Hoarder last year; Richard Wallace's home was so packed with clutter (including 34 years' worth of the Daily Mail, ironically), that he had to crawl like a mole through crevices in teetering piles of yellowing rubbish.
Tonight the property TV presenter Jasmine Harman brings us Britain's Biggest Hoarders, which follows on from a programme she made last year about her mother's compulsion to collect. Then there's C5's Supersize Grime, and US shows Hoarders, Hoarding: Buried Alive, plus a hairier variation on the theme, Confessions: Animal Hoarding.
These shows usually roll on a psychologist who "explains" the mindset of the hoarders to slack-jawed viewers, and may try to help the hapless individuals, but the appeal is mainly sensational. "We've got clutter but at least it's not that bad," you're supposed to think, but also, "Thank God, I don't live next door to that."
A reflexive mistrust of the people next door isn't confined to city-dwellers; just listen to folk who live in rural areas talk of their relief at having high hedges and trees to blot out signs of human life nearby. We all like the idea of loving our neighbours, but don't believe it will happen, therefore making it all the less likely. Some of us are even willing to pay thousands of pounds more to live next door to a ready cup of sugar.
The best I let myself hope for is quiet, anonymous neighbours – or even better, one day to be able to live in a detached house.
Some tweet always spoils it
Spoiler Alert! In the age of scene-by-scene blogs and Twitter commentary, is it now impossible to avoid finding out what happens in the final scene of a TV series? I write of Homeland, which concluded on Sunday night for those watching the live version, but might not be finished for weeks if you're trailing behind on Sky+. It is now etiquette on our desk at work to check for objections before any discussion of Don Draper's latest exploits, but this is hardly foolproof.
The problem for audiences now is that TV events are no longer simultaneously experienced. The same goes for football; that Saturday-afternoon results are still preceded by a "please look away now" is mere tradition. Fans can hardly hope to avoid hearing about a score until the evening highlights nowadays – even if Likely Lads Bob and Terry took refuge at a hairdressers, some tweet would spoil it.
One small step for magazines
So Vogue magazine – across its 18 international editions – is banning models that are "visibly" anorexic or aged under 16. You'd be forgiven for assuming that a respected magazine might already have such a policy in place. But it has been convenient for fashion editors, stylists and photographers to take a laissez-faire attitude to models over the years.
I worked on fashion shoots as an assistant for years, and know it's easy to use pins and clips to make a slightly too-large garment appear to fit a thin girl – but tricky to make the same size-six sample fit a model with curves that don't quite squish in.
Meanwhile, for unimaginative photographers it's easier to work with a fashion model who is still a child; their skin is clear, they don't answer back and you're guaranteed novelty. (More ambitious photographers prefer models who have the confidence and experience to "act" in front of the camera).
Vogue has formalised standards that many outside the business would think were a minimum requirement. That it presents this as a "progressive" move shows how out of touch even the establishment heart of the fashion industry can appear at times – not because it's immoral, but because changing the way it works is so dreadfully inconvenient.