Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Know Thy Neighbour

It's often said that in London, nobody knows their neighbours.  We all live in high rise blocks and dash in from work without so much as a nod of acknowledgement in the lift. We lock the door and ignore all those outside of it.  We wouldn't know the name of the person whose front door faced ours, let alone the name of the old lady who we held the front door open for the other day.

But it's not always true.  Today I went to a funeral.  The funeral of a neighbour.  We always invite our neighbours to parties and they invite us around in return.  We even have a neighbour on our pub quiz team (and a few neighbours are on rival teams, too).  We know at least twenty of our neighbours (in a block with 60 or so flats) by name.

When we went to the funeral service today, we arrived to find other neighbours stepping out of taxis, some already waiting by the church door.  All talking, and swapping stories of Jean and how much we would miss her around the building.  We all sat together in the church, and afterwards chatted over lunch and said goodbye to someone we will all genuinely miss having around in our lives.  Pew after pew in the church was full of people from the building.  Neighbours - and friends.

So, whenever anyone tells you that London life is one without neighbours, and without knowing the names behind the faces you see every day - tell them it's not always true - there's at least one building in Wapping where we do all know each other, look out for each other, and when it comes to it we all work together to make the building a great building to live in.

Jean would've looked around the service today, and seen all the faces she saw around the building.  All there to say goodbye to her, and show that we will all be around to help out the loving husband she leaves behind.

Funerals are desperately sad affairs - the only others I've ever been to before today were for relatives - but in a world where neighbours supposedly don't know each other, there was one church in Covent Garden proving that it's not always the case today...