Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Good neighbours

There is a tendency as you get older to reflect on the "good old days" and remember how much better life seemed to be, how much friendlier and neighbourly everybody was when we were young.  I don't necessarily agree with this: my philosophy is to enjoy life as it is NOW, not to waste time looking back and not too worry about what the future may bring.

Living in a typically Spanish town though does tend to bring back memories of the past.  Our Spanish neighbours are warm and friendly and the local people give a lot of importance to the concept of being a neighbour (or vecino in Spanish).  I'm not saying that our neighbours back in London were unfriendly, as we got to know some of them pretty well, but here everybody speaks to you when they see you in the street, even the children and teenagers.  It takes me back to my childhood, where all our neighbours knew my name and I was aware that, if I got into mischief, it would be reported back to my parents!

Not long after we moved into our apartment, somebody broke into our storage room, which is near the underground parking area.  We hadn't been living there very long, and many people still hadn't moved in at the time as we live in a brand new building.  However our neighbour Isabel had heard what had happened, so she offered to drive us  down to the Guardia Civil to report the theft and she was also willing to wait there with us and drive us home again.  We had only seen Isobel a couple of times to say hello and were touched by her concern.

Then our neighbour José, whom we hadn't met before, knocked on our door and said how sorry he was to hear about the robbery and that there was plenty of room in his storage room if we needed to store anything there.  Not knowing how much Spanish we spoke, José even managed to say all of this in English, though he said he hadn't spoken English for many years.

As well as helping out when things go wrong, our neighbours are also keen to share the good times with us.  In Spanish towns the districts are called barrios and your neighbours aren't just your immediate neighbours, they are anybody who lives in the same barrio, which in our case is San Juan.  One day we were walking up the street several blocks away from where we live when a woman we didn't recognise grabbed my arm and said "Vecinos!"  She then took us to a garage where a bar had been set up and told us it was the local fiesta of San Juan so we had to have some beer, wine and food with them!

Enjoying the folklore festival with the neighbours

This sometimes extends beyond your own barrio.  We were with two English friends during the Folklore Festival last year when Mari Carmen spotted us and told us to go along the road for lunch.  We assumed that she was telling us about a new bar or restaurant, but when we got there it was just a garage with a bar set up in the corner.  However the neighbours of  barrio San Anton insisted on us all sitting down, as we were "Jumillanos" (as people living in Jumilla are called), and we were then supplied with lots of food and drink.  They were hosting one of the folk groups so we even got free entertainment once the group had been fed and watered!

What is it like in your neighbourhood?  Do you know your neighbours - and are they as friendly and helpful as our neighbours in Spain are?

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