Places & Spaces My Pad

neighbourly love in a big city

July 5, 2012

Ah. Big cities. Congestion. Urban jungles. Pollution. Incubators of creativity and ideas. Mixed cultural opportunities. Exciting architecture.

As an urban chick, i’m a huge fan of living in london. Vibrant, cultural, dynamic, exciting, cosmopolitan, it fills me with feeling the rythm of life and affords me endless opportunities. Enough said? Of course, there are many downsides and many of you will cringe just at the thought of living in a big city. I understand!

According to gary hustwit in his latest documentary urbanized, over half the world’s population now lives in an urban area, and 75% will call a city home by 2050. By the way, if you’ve not seen gary’s helvetica and objectified, i urge you to do so, you won’t be disappointed!

For many, living in a big city feels isolating. People complain that there’s no community, no neighbourly love, no one cares. Hmmm, i believe that often we don’t realise that with a little effort and mindfulness we can make connections and form good working relationships with people around us. Maybe i’ve been lucky, or just maybe i’ve put in the work. Whichever way, i’ve been blessed with good neighbours ever since moving to london in 1983.

Today’s post is dedicated to my current neighbours, both in the flats of the house i live in and the neighbours on my street which i’ve got the good fortune to know and chat to on a regular basis. Colourliving is all about quality of life and for me, quality of life starts at home, both with our home surroundings but also with our immediate environment. There are millions of tales of neighbours from hell and i’m glad i’ve never experienced any.

This morning i woke up far too early and since it was sunny (yes, that word still exists in the uk), i briefly walked out of the house to get something from my car. There i bumped into a number of different neighbours and from a smile to a hug to a ‘have a nice day’, my day’s mood was set. As i was standing in front of the house, i was admiring our front garden and fondly reminiscing about the time we had it landscaped.

A few years ago i desperately wanted to sort out our front garden and get in a landscape designer as it was just a pile of mud and stones. We obtained the freehold and so every decision is our own. There are four flats and luckily we all get on and feel similar about the maintenance of our house. Since i’m the designer, these kind of decisions are happily left to me and so i got the lovely nic from nic howard garden design, who did a wonderful job. Thank you nic. Thank you also to my lovely neighbours for always trusting the process and making london apartment living a breeze…..

How lovely and lush the front garden is looking in this light and from the heavy rain we’ve been experiencing. A big shout out to my neighbour elaine, who does ALL of the weeding and tidying of it. It wouldn’t look the same without her continuous efforts!

I’m interested. How do you feel about big city living? Also, do you have neighbour stories, good or bad? I don’t know how long this bright weather will last. I’m just greatful for the little brightness this morning and the warm feeling in my heart.

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18 Comments

  • Reply Theresa July 6, 2012 at 5:44 am

    I love that you’ve managed to carve out a little garden space in the city. Those beautiful blooms and lovely neighbors would be a great way to start the day. I love big city living. I’ve lived in San Francisco, Boston, and New York, and enjoyed living in each city. If it were entirely up to me, I would live in a big city now, with kids. Though, I have to say, the city we live in now is still pretty urban and pedestrian friendly (a very key factor for me).
    Thank goodness we’ve been lucky to have good neighbors. I’ve had the typical noisy neighbors, but luckily no true horror stories. (Knock on wood.)

    • Reply tina July 7, 2012 at 8:25 am

      Well, that’s just the front bit to the street. I do look out on green, lots of gardens and some roof tops. I’m very lucky as really live in central London.

      I’ve always been an urban chick but love living with green and lots of peace and quiet, while in the middle of the hussle and bustle.

      San Fran, Boston and NY….wow, that sounds so cool and cosmopolitan!

      So refreshing to hear you say this. Most people here in London, as soon as they have kids move out to the country side. What makes them think that EVERY CHILD wants to grow up like that? Amazing!

  • Reply Ingrid Weir July 6, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Hmmn, Tina- I think you left a comment on my blog saying you knew nothing about gardening. So what is this? It look beautiful and vibrant and lush! I love the foxglove (I think that is what it is?, so English) A little drop of beauty in the world.

    • Reply tina July 7, 2012 at 8:28 am

      I don’t. Truth be told, I have a roof terrace and the only thing I managed to maintain for a couple of years were some herbs. Due to the terrential rain we’ve been having, they have recently ‘deceased’. I’m a little devastated as now there’s no hope for me:) my terrace is looking very bare indeed!!!

      The front garden is attended to by my neighbour, who luckily has ‘green fingers’!

  • Reply Holly July 6, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Like you, I am for sure a city girl. I do not feel isolated in a bustling city, instead I feel the opposite – cities make me feel connected, they make me feel like I have choices, even when I‘m standing alone on the street. Actually, especially if I am alone. Now isn’t that funny…?

    I‘ve never had bad neighbours either. My favorites were a yoga enthusiast (in Mtl) who played her piano every afternoon, and Margaret (my current neighbour) who has me over for tea about once a week.

    Your garden is so lovely! And Tina, you won’t believe this but I took a flower picture last weekend that looks almost identical to one you posted here. I‘ll send it to you by email later – same perspective and everything – hilarious!

    Later I will have to look into the Hustwit films. Haven‘t seen any of them 🙂

    Thanks for another great post Xx.

    • Reply tina July 7, 2012 at 8:33 am

      I feel exactly like you about city living. Could never live somewhere rural and isolated. My living nightmare!

      Can I remind you of Rostock???? 🙂

      Yes, where are the neighbours horror stories? I guess bloggers might excempt from them???
      Send me that photo..

      Holly, you must absolutely see ALL 3 documentaries. I was fortunate enough to see them on a big screen but DVD is good too. You will love them, especially ‘Objectified’ I think. I loved them all.

      As part of a kickstarter project, Gary sold all 3 as a limted edition pack.. I missed that and now it’s sold out!!

      Thanks liebchen xx

  • Reply geraldine July 6, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    What beautiful photography. I adore the Hydrangeas. I love living in London. We’re lucky to have a lovely street, many of us connect via our kids who are around the same age and play together.

    • Reply tina July 7, 2012 at 8:36 am

      Hi Geraldine. Thank you.

      Most people with kids I know move out of London because they say their kids can’t play freely on streets. It’s encouraging to hear you found such a ‘pocket’ in London. good for you!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply annie July 7, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Our neighbours are nice but we don’t have much to do with them. Unfortunately for us we live on the cut through from the tube. We have people walking past at all times of the night shouting stuff and arguing, peeing on cars and generally being really irritating. Our windows open outwards from the bottom so the noise comes straight up from the street into the bedroom. Drives me nuts! I will be glad when we don’t have to see those neighbours anymore.

    Glad you’ve got great neighbours, sharing a freehold is troublesome otherwise x

    • Reply tina July 7, 2012 at 8:51 am

      Gosh, that sounds difficult. Listen we also get the odd drunk, arguing, shouting etc. I suppose I’m never bothered as I sleep to the back of the house, looking onto gardens. You can’t hear a pin drop.

      Generally I’m set away from the road so don’t have noise and as I’m on the top I can’t hear anything except for some non intentional door slamming ( wood, the noise travels ).

      I suffer from noise pollution so all these factors were hugely important in my flat finding.

      When flat finding for clients, I ALWAYS ask how they feel about sleeping out to the street and am often shocked that people don’t seem to mind. I believe it hinders our much needed deep sleep and has all kinds of repercussions affecting our daily lives. Hope this is high on the agenda in finding your new home!!!

  • Reply Lauren July 7, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    I have amazing neighbors which makes up for the fact that I feel hemmed in by suburbia in our current neighborhood. Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing neighborhood. Older and somewhat funky, the kind with mature trees and houses that are all different (not one of those pre-planned things, shudder), but we have to drive to get anywhere, and part of me longs to have the ability to walk everywhere.

    Your garden is lovely, and you’re right, neighbors make it, for reals. The friends I was visiting in LA are *not* neighborly. The feel uncomfortable in their new and neighborly home. I love it. Some of my closest friends are here. The ladies go out for cocktails and we all gather on Fridays in the front yard to chat about our day.

    And you know I love your hydrangea!

    • Reply tina July 9, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      Oh, amazing neighbours is so important. I hear you with ‘hemmed in by suburbia’:)

      I can walk to most places but yet take my scooter, bad habit:

      It’s not our garden. It’s the front bit out by the street (front house garden)
      My neighbours share parts of a large garden and I have a roof terrace an am useless with flowers and plants!!
      It’s nice to be neighbourly. I don’t tend to hang out with neighbours but always happy to see everyone and have a little chingwang!
      Good for you ladies, all living close by and enjoying neighbourly love!!!! It makes for happy home living:)

  • Reply Michaela July 9, 2012 at 8:26 am

    Hi Tina – what stunning photos! I’m lucky enough to live in the country but within commutable distance of London, so I get the best of both worlds! Have you ever been to the Eden project? I’ve not been, but I’ve heard it great for photo opportunities!

    • Reply tina July 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      Thanks, M… gosh that just sounded like Judi Dench in James Bond:)

      Oh, you are one of those that has the best of both worlds???
      No, but the Eden project sounds fantastic. Have seen lots of pics and interviews. When at the Guardian Open Weekend, they had a stand and I met ‘mad Dave’,
      who is brilliant!

  • Reply Gerard McGuickin July 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm

    Well I have tales of neighbours both good & bad. Unfortunately the bad are currently bothering me a lot. I find that some of my neighbours are so egocentric. They think only of themselves & no one else. Little things from leaving our communal doors open to not supervising their children.

    I love big city living but I do think London can be quite an unfriendly city at times. I see more and more people thinking only of themselves and not caring about others.

    I wonder Tina if you might see a different side of London by not using public transport? I use buses a lot and that can be hellish at times. Sometimes a ride on a London bus can cause you to lose faith in humanity.

    So I’m not feeling the London love at the moment… and it bothers me 🙁 xx

    • Reply tina July 9, 2012 at 6:04 pm

      Oh, poor G. Yes, a big city like London can be horrendous and yes, I think a lot of big city dwellers are egocentric.

      I learned a long time ago that I cannot change people so have to work on changes myself, hence the very careful home finding process. No doubt there is luck
      involved but I believe we also create our own luck. I LOVE living in London but worked hard on ‘my lifestyle choices’. It is possible. Contrary to popular belief
      it doesn’t always depend on the how big your purse is but rather on intelligent choices.

      You’re right about me avoiding public transport and therefore seeing a different side to London. The very few times I’m on a bus I’m always SHOCKED at the rudeness
      of the bus drivers, the apathy of everyone and their rather negative and selfish attitude. I used to drive exclusively on a daily basis. When the congestion charge was first introduced I started cycling and then upgraded to a scooter. I still have my car but use mainly the scooter for inner city commuting.

      I think I would always choose to walk, cycle, drive or use a scooter as to not be affected by what goes on with public transport. Yet, I know people who seem to love travelling by tube and bus. Go figure!

      Hmmm, let’s see how we can get you to fall in love with living in London. It’s important because it affects your daily mood, lovely Gerard xx

  • Reply Heather @ Canal Notes July 10, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    What a lovely post! In our last London house, we were quite fortunate to know our next-door neighbor who had lived there for 40+ years. She introduced us to the other neighbors and made us feel so welcome. Even though we moved away, I still try to keep in touch. Good neighbors are priceless!

    • Reply tina July 10, 2012 at 3:42 pm

      Thank you Heather. How are you??? You’re so right. “Good neighbors are priceless!” I think one should print that as a T-shirt!! x

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