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Would you snitch on your neighbours?

Priti Patel says we should dob our neighbours in if they break the rules. Kaye McIntosh says it’d be pretty embarrassing.

The UK has gone curtain twitching mad…

The latest Covid restrictions – work from home if you can, wear a face mask in taxis, leave the pub by 10pm – leave Boris’s Rule of Six in place. A gift to curtain twitchers. But I’m not sure many will be calling 111 to report next door.

There’s a myth about suburbia. Yes, it’s hardly the cutting edge of culture, yes in ‘normal’ times you have to have sharp elbows to win the race for a seat on the hour-long train journey to work, yes the people here are mainly families and the elderly. But we don’t spy on each other. At least, not in my street. Although you can’t help noticing what’s going on, who cares if next-door-but-two get a Waitrose delivery or there’s a new car outside the house on the corner? That does sound a bit curtain-twitchy, now I come to think of it. It was quite exciting when we noticed Maya’s husband was only turning up to collect the kids for weekends – turns out it wasn’t golf he’d been playing on Sunday mornings.

Priti Patel says we should dob our neighbours in if they break the rules. I say it’d be pretty embarrassing. I have to live here. And my street is quite friendly. It’s that ultimate suburban road, a cul-de-sac. A mixture of elderly people who brought up their own families here in the 70s and young families who buy the houses vacated by those who have shuffled off this mortal coil or gone into nursing homes.

It’s nice. The older residents take in parcels and the younger ones keep an eye on the elderly, do the shopping if someone’s not up to it and chat as they pass the front gardens. No-one’s going to lie dead for weeks before anyone notices. In normal times, the generation who have young kids go to the funerals of those who die, swapping stories of the time Teresa turned her garden shed into a witch’s cottage to give the little trick or treaters a thrill.

My 20-something self would have been horrified at the idea that I’d ever join a resident’s association but It organises the annual barbecue and Christmas party.  Don’t bring a bottle, bring five or six. And some Kettle Chips. Oh good Lord, Hilda’s made her coffee and walnut cake again – where can I hide my slice?

OK, I admit when my neighbours round the corner were partying in their garden in August it did cross my mind that if someone blabbed they might turn Adele (the singer) down. At 1.30am they moved on to early Take That and no, it wasn’t magic.

Thanks to Priti, Andy and Sue in the end house – two boys – can no longer take out a fence panel so they can have a barbecue with Emma and Simon and their two girls next door. (Honestly, I was just glancing out of my bedroom window to check the cat had come in)

I guess the Rule of Six means wife-swapping’s out for the time being. (My hairdresser insists it is a Thing locally but no-one’s ever invited me. I don’t know whether to be insulted or relieved.) Maybe it’d work if everyone wears masks, but it’d be a bit disappointing if Guy went home with his own Mrs. That wouldn’t give us much to gossip about…

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Kaye McIntosh

Kaye McIntosh is a freelance journalist and the former editor of Health Which?, Pregnancy & birth and WI Life.

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