Of course, you can pick your accommodation - you can't pick your neighbours. Sometimes after you've found a place you like, it would be quite nice if you could interview the neighbours to see if you like them as well. But it might not be that constructive. Because often when people have found out they are living next door to some of our worst criminals, it takes them completely by surprise. It seems to me one way to cut crime further in this country would be for the police to ask neighbours what they think of the people next door and if they think they are "lovely", "wouldn't hurt a fly", "last person we'd have thought would commit any misdemeanour whatsoever" - then the Police should keep a very close eye on them.
I've had some shocking neighbours. I had one flat where I had one woman from downstairs knock on my door because she'd just been punched by her boyfriend - who turned out was also her pimp and I was actually living above a part-time brothel which I had been completely unaware of. So I had a prostitute in my flat and an angry pimp downstairs looking for his girlfriend. We phoned the police. They arrived. I moved out. I didn't want the pimp punching me, and me then calling the police and them turning up and questioning me. "Oh - he punched you? So have you started working for him as well?".
I had one flat where there was a bloke in the flat above me who used to bring women back to his flat late at night and he'd try and impress them by playing his piano at 1am in the morning. And if it was occasional and he got a bit of action you wouldn't necessarily mind - but it never worked - they always hated his piano-playing and after about 15 minutes each time you'd hear the woman stomping down the staircase - and then, about five minutes later, him watching porn. I moved out.
I lived in a house which was lovely until the landlord next door converted his house into bedsits for 12 juvenile delinquents. I only found this out when I came home and found one of them lying on my car trying to impress one of the new female delinquents by pretending that it was his car. Not an easy situation to find oneself in - because you don't want to tell them to f**k off and then come back the next day and find your car keyed all down one side. So I said "Alright if I borrow this one for this evening?" - and he said "Fine!" and got off. But I moved out.
But all this compares to nothing - for the worst place I lived. I was in a bedsit myself for six months and I went for a shower in the communal bathroom one morning to find a turd in the shower. Not what you need in the morning. Who does a turd in the shower? There was a toilet next door. Even if you had terrible cramps and a sudden gastric outburst whilst having a shower, who would leave the turd there? I mean, sometimes in bedsits you have to leave notes - "please don't drink my milk" or "don't eat all my bread" - but you don't expect to have to leave a note "please don't poo in the shower". It's like you wouldn't expect to have to leave signs "please don't vomit in the oven" or "I'm sorry your pet hamster died, but please don't leave it in the freezer".
There were nine of us in these bedsits and we all had our suspicions as to who it was. Trouble was I suspected six of them - so I moved out.
But there was no respite from excrement. At the next place, it was the next door's cat. It seemed to have a penchant for pooing everywhere around the outside of my house. The next door neighbour told me that it was fine; "It was just marking its territory". I pointed out that it was not its territory - it was my territory. I shouldn't have to have a poo in my own garden to keep the cats out. If their cat was coming into my garden for a poo, I should be able to nip into their kitchen and have a poo in it's cat-tray.
But given that I have had to move out of so many places, it poses the question about how good a neighbour am I? So I have compiled a handy guide to working out how community-minded you are.
1. Your area is flooding. Do you a) share out sandbags equally between everyone?, or b) dig a trench at the bottom of your garden so as the flooding bypasses your property and goes on to your neighbours'?
2. A ball lands in your garden. Do you a) throw it back where you think it came from?, or b) throw it in the other direction so as it's unlikely to trouble you again?
3. Your recycling box has gone missing from the front of your property. Do you a) order a new one from the council?, or b) nick your neighbours and write your house number on it, thus making it look like its yours?
4. You want to use the internet. Do you a) order broadband from a recognised supplier?, or b) spend an evening trying to crack your neighbour's wifi password?
5. A small child is crying in the next door property. Do you a) do nothing, sympathising that bringing up a small child is difficult in the best of circumstances? Or b) bang hard on the wall going "Shut the f*ck up".
You may wonder how I came up with some of the b/ scenarios in this guide. Imagination. Honest.
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