BEL MOONEY: Why am I always cursed by neighbours from hell?

Dear Bel, 

I am at my wits’ end and angry at the lack of a peaceful life. I have moved home twice because of very rude, ignorant, selfish neighbours and I thought my last home was going to be the haven I needed.

I have severe mental health issues, mainly because of the trauma of the previous neighbours. I used to be woken at 6.30am to very loud music above and below me. Arbitration did not resolve the issues, so I had to move house.

My second home was fine for a couple of years, until one neighbour retired and decided to ‘save’ a parking space for his 40-year-old daughter until she returned home. When she was due home, he would rush to move his car so she could have a parking space.

Eventually, I had to have a disabled bay fitted by the council because of my disability, but when another neighbour (with Parkinson’s) took to hitting my car every time he returned home, I started to feel quite down-heartened.

This took its toll on my mental health and I made numerous attempts at my life.

But then I moved again, this time out of London to a quiet cul-de-sac with a driveway to my detached house. It was bliss for a few years. Then neighbours moved and new people moved in. Nightmare. They park over dropped kerbs and block my drive. The council refuses to assist me.

A new tenant next door has two children who constantly hit my fence with their footballs. They’ve even hit me in the face.

She is a youngish woman who has a ‘man friend’ who stays over for ‘favours’. She plays loud music while mowing the lawn.

Her man friend moves his cars so she has no problem exiting her driveway. Yet he often blocks mine and is aggressive.

Will I ever find peace and quiet and the space to enjoy where I live? Or am I chasing something that will never exist? All I want is to feel comfortable and relaxed in my own home without interruptions from these ignorant, rude people.

I know this is a widespread issue, but also see neighbourhoods where everyone gets along. I feel so sad I have not achieved this.

I’ve tried the friendly approach, but nobody wants to know. What is the answer?

JENNIFER

This week Bel speaks to a woman who says she is cursed by 'neighbours from hell'

This week Bel speaks to a woman who says she is cursed by ‘neighbours from hell’

Your letter has a similar tone to one I received from TN, complaining about the vindictive behaviour of several shop assistants and also mentioning suicide, mental health, petty-mindedness and victimisation.

Both you and TN ask for advice I find it almost impossible to give, for fear of rubbing salt into wounds.

Both situations are worthy of compassion, yet also very frustrating.

It seems obvious to me that you would both benefit from serious help from professionals, since it sounds as if you carry the seeds of unhappiness deep within.

Thought of the day 

We repeat our mistakes, she thought. 

We know what they are, and we may even know why we make them, where we stumble, where we forget the lines we should be saying and instead say those things we know we should not say. 

And so we repeat ourselves, making the same error again and again.

from The Sweet Remnants Of Summer by Alexander McCall Smith

Perhaps you know the story of the person arriving in a new place who is asked what the people were like in the last town she lived in. She replies in terms similar to yours and TN’s: that the people were unfriendly, selfish, mean-minded, bigoted, bullying —entirely horrible.

Then she inquires what the folk are like in this new place.

‘Oh, unfriendly, selfish, mean-minded, bigoted, bullying — entirely horrible’ is the reply. Of course.

Do you see? Yes, it is true that many people suffer with appalling neighbours who make their lives miserable. But your email clangs out warning bells.

Those prurient words, ‘man friend’ and ‘favours’ are unpleasant. How many footballs actually ‘hit you in the face’?

What superhuman sight makes you so sure that, in those other places, ‘everybody gets along?’ Might they just try hard to live and let live?

And if you were to move into such an imaginary place, would you still find your neighbours ‘rude and ignorant’? It worries me that you throw off: ‘I made numerous attempts at my life.’ It sounds just one vague cry for help in a letter full of them.

I don’t doubt that you find neighbours difficult, but what do you mean by, ‘I’ve tried the friendly approach’? What form did it take?

So strong is the vein of angry unhappiness and misanthropy running through your email, it is impossible for me to imagine how you would define friendship. Easter eggs for those footballing boys? A glass of wine with the ‘youngish woman’ while you chat to her about parking woes and ask for a bit of help? A cheery wave to her boyfriend, rather than a glower?

I wonder if all your anger is really an expression of loneliness and that your dislike for others is (sadly) transferred from yourself. I do feel sorry that discontentment seems to follow you wherever you live, just as I pity the mental disturbance that feels so evident within that other letter, from TN.

But all I can suggest is that both of you consider that the fault may lie as much within you as with other people, so that seeking proper counselling for these issues would be a positive step forward.

My friend’s plagued by a serial groper 

Dear Bel,

I need to help my (much younger) friend.

Sue used to be a carer and befriended an elderly couple when they moved into sheltered housing in our area, about three years ago.

She is a kind person who would help anyone. So if the man phones saying they need help or asking if she can go round, she helps in whatever way she can.

The problem is his wife is in a wheelchair (she’s 73 and he’s 68) and I suspect their sex life is over.

He has been warned before by the warden about inappropriately hugging the female residents. The most recent incident was when he stood behind a lady, put his arms around her body and his hands ‘accidentally’ went on her breasts.

He says he is a hugging type. Now he ‘accidentally’ touches my friend and she says it makes her skin crawl.

Her teenage daughter does the cleaning for the couple, and is getting the same inappropriate touching. I think he only does it when his wife isn’t there.

My friend takes him shopping when he asks and he often touches her leg.

She says he has overstepped the mark and doesn’t know how to deal with him. He told her how nice she looks ‘in the see-through cotton dress’ she wore when it was hot.

The remark upset her because you could only just see the outline of her legs when the sun shone through the fabric.

She has become attached to the couple (caring for free) and doesn’t want to cause upset. But she knows she needs to stop his behaviour. What can she do?

CAROL

What a painful situation — for your friend, her daughter, other women in the sheltered housing complex and the warden.

But it is also sad for the couple in question that you should have to write. If the man’s wife has no knowledge of his behaviour, she is doubly vulnerable, in being disabled and liable for a shock if somebody makes a complaint.

Yes, I also feel sorry for the sinner here because none of us know what might be going on in his life even though his behaviour is pretty awful.

   

More from Bel Mooney for the Daily Mail…

Of course, something must be done. It would be immensely sad for this man’s wife were your kind friend to stop wanting to help them because she is revolted by the man’s behaviour.

But it would also be utterly wrong for her to continue to allow her teenage daughter to be placed in a situation where she is exposed to unacceptable leers and touches.

So the first thing I would do is remove the teenager from the situation, for whatever reason can be given. If the daughter has a male chum who would like a bit of extra pocket money for pushing a vacuum cleaner around once a week, then so much the better. It is now time for your friend to have a serious conversation with the warden of the complex. The inappropriate touching, hugging and comments are now a recurring pattern which must be stopped. My hope is that a very stern talking to will be taken to heart.

It would be immensely sad for the man’s wife to be deprived of help because her sexually-aware husband couldn’t keep his eyes and his hands to himself. So the warden must intervene — in no uncertain terms.

Imagine how awful it would be if Mr Huggy were one day to get ‘handsy’ with a woman who complained to the police. The warden can also ask if he has any problems he can’t talk about, or whether he can cope with his wife at home.

At the same time, your friend must tell the man that from now on she will get the shopping if he gives her a list, but can no longer take him with her because she has a new arrangement each time to meet an old, needy friend with problems.

Presumably, the man’s wife is always at home when she visits and so this slight change — as well as the removal of her daughter and the talk with the warden — might do the trick. I hope so.

And finally… a message that’s good for the soul

Do you believe the universe can send you messages? I do.

At the beginning of 2004, when I had finally had to accept that my long first marriage was over, I wandered unhappily into the household department of John Lewis. There I was confronted by bright display signs proclaiming, Restore! Renew! Re-start! The intention was to encourage the purchase of a new ironing board or kettle, but I thought: ‘Yes, right — it is time to renew my life.’

Contact Bel 

Bel answers readers’ questions on emotional and relationship problems each week.

Write to Bel Mooney, Daily Mail, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT, or email [email protected]

Names are changed to protect identities. 

Bel reads all letters but regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence.

At a time of real crisis months earlier, at the door of a mission in California I was handed a little religious card which said: ‘Always go forward, never turn back.’ The words meant so much I still have that card. Since then I’ve seen messages on the side of a bus or in a shaft of sunlight …

More encouragement came at the end of May this year, when I was feeling very down at the prospect of packing up all my mother’s possessions.

I was so cheered by a visit to my favourite museum, the Holburne, in beautiful Bath. We went to see the new exhibition of drawings by David Hockney (on until September 18) and there on the wall at the start of the show was the above message — a glorious shout of pink positivity, in Hockney’s own enlarged writing. Ping! It went straight into my soul, saying since life is so short, we must treasure it.

The simple words made my heart sing. Even without that pink message, the wonderful drawings (made between 1963 and 1977) themselves encapsulate the artist’s own joie de vivre. Brilliant Hockney is 85, still painting, seizing the time and displaying his own creative love in everything he does.  

David Hockney's glorious message of positivity

David Hockney’s glorious message of positivity 

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