Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Neighbourhood dispute

resolution has apparently become the biggest issue for those places which handle "citizens' advice" issues - at least according to an article in yesterday's paper. Part of this is due to the fact that, here at least, lawyers may not handle very small claims. People have to do this for themselves.
I had glanced at the article in the paper before I left for a meeting yesterday morning. On my way back I was stopped by someone I know. He lives in a street where there have been two relatively recent arrivals.
He drew my attention to the workmen who had been opposite his place.
      "She had an extra wall put in - and double glazing on the bedroom window."
I know the woman opposite often works night shift at a hospital. She needs to sleep during the day.
Her new neighbours have teenage children. They have erected a basketball pole and backboard against the fence, just outside her bedroom window. The bumping and thumping against the fence (and occasionally against the heavy metal shutter she pulls down to get darkness) was keeping her awake.
She apparently politely requested they put it further down. They refused. They would not negotiate at all. She would have been happy to pay someone come in and cement the pole into place away from her window but that is where they want the pole and that is where it is going to stay.
I am not an assertive person. I normally flee from confrontation but I think I would have sought a court order requiring them to move the pole. It would not have been an unreasonable request. The previous owners did have a similar pole in another location for the very reason this one should have been shifted.
I think I would have been prepared to do it because it is not going to make any difference to the relationship. These people are not going to be thoughtful neighbours.
It reminded me of my train trip on Saturday. The train was crowded because people were going to the Christmas Pageant - a parade of street floats and bands - in the city. I needed to take my tricycle a shorter distance on the train.
The Transit Officer (usually invisible) was not sympathetic although he could have asked parents who were letting their small children occupy seats to sit them on their laps for a short time. It is in fact his job to do such things. He just said, "You'll have to wait for the next one." The next one is not for another hour and I needed to be there long before that train would arrive.
I told him, politely, I needed to board because I was going to work. Yes, I was helping a friend and I had no intention of letting her down.
He shrugged and walked back to the other door of the carriage with the words,
      "Well good luck if you can push your way on."
I did not have to. It was a squeeze but the people standing there had heard him. They sympathised with me. They moved further down the carriage. Someone called out,
       "Breathe in and hold your breath until Goodwood everyone. She really needs to get on."
I thanked everyone (apart from the Transit Officer) and I arrived at my destination feeling positive rather than angry and frustrated. Such neighbourly acts can make all the difference.

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