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The British obsession with privacy

amancalledgeorgeamancalledgeorge South LondonPosts: 2,254
Hi all,

I've only joined the forums the other day, but have been binge reading over the last month and I found lots of great advice from so many helpful members. One thing that has been surprising for me is the amount of people joining to ask for screening plants. All seems rather paranoid to me, by definition a space like an urban garden is overlooked by its near neighbours and actually it's one of the reasons it's safe.

When famously Jane Jacobs wrote her book The Life and Death of Great American Cities in 1961, she explained definitively how safety in an urban context is defined by the amounts of direct human supervision of the sidewalk (bare the Americanism for some period flavour). Thus to exclude the glances of neighbours, we are making our properties less safe as they are not supervised by friendly glances. That lack of direct supervision makes the perfect breeding ground for antisocial and criminal activity.

I know we are conditioned to dislike the twitching curtain neighbour that keeps an eye on the road, but they are the ones that will report antisocial behaviour and may be that crucial witness if one of us gets robbed. As such I just wave to the neighbours ask them how they do and go about my merry way pottering about. The idea that I'd want to block the view with huge climbers and bamboos is really odd to me. All this agony on who's overlooking your gardens is truly misplaced, come on Britain, think again. Don't be so buttoned up.  ;)

Anyway, thought the above will bring about an interesting conversation, as I'd like to know what this insurmountable fear is that makes people want to  effectively hide in an outdoor space. 
To Plant a Garden is to Believe in Tomorrow


  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 6,539
    I think you're missing the key point that not everyone wants to be living in a built-up, urban environment but housing needs and new development designs these days are forcing it upon us more and more. The 21 metre between house windows rules have been scrapped and gardens have become smaller and more overlooked. People who grew up in villages or areas with large gardens are now buying their first homes on estates where gardens are often overlooked by 6 or more houses.
    Unlike the brain, the stomach warns you when it's empty.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 18,626
    Well, George, I grew up in a tiny village in Yorkshire where everybody knew my family and my ancestors and I can tell you it was like living in a goldfish bowl. No opportunity to express any slight difference in views or dress or ambitions. Any comment made by me went the rounds until it came back to me in an unrecognisable form. Any misdemeanour two generations back was still remembered. People even looked in your windows if they saw that you had bought a new piece of furniture, its imagined cost and wastefulness of money pondered over. 

    As a balance to this imposed straightjacket regulation of ideas and behaviour, the people of the village were the kindest, most helpful, most sympathetic people you could ever hope to meet. A trouble shared was a trouble halved. We literally did talk over the garden wall. 

    I then spent two decades living in various parts of London. At first, the anonymity felt like freedom and a dream come true. Nobody knew me and nobody cared. And therein lay the problem. When my neighbours house was burgled, neighbours I had lived next to for ten years, and I knew that the burglars were still in the house, I called the police.I waited for the police to roll up, while hanging out of my bedroom window to alert them to the intruders’ presence at the back of the house. The first question I was asked by the policeman was “Do you know your neighbours?” It struck me as such a bizarre question that the policeman might as well have asked me if Martians ate cheese.

    Other areas that I lived in had a similar atmosphere of “Don’t ask and don’t tell”. I didn't want to see my neighbours because their was no point. They had no intention of forming any kind of relationship with me. Why would I want someone who had no interest in me looking at me?
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 71,946
    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 29,109
    I have no desire to see , or to hear what my neighbours are doing and nor do I want to have them seeing or hearing what I'm doing. 
    That doesn't make me "paranoid" it makes me a private person who affords the same levels of courtesy to my neighbours.
    I'm sure interfering busy bodies would disagree, but I have no love of interfering busy bodies.
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 3,993
    I think characterising it as an 'insurmountable fear' is a bit over the top. Most people want a bit of screening to an area where they might want to sit and sip coffee and read a book etc without interruption, or to their living room window if their house fronts onto the street. And we're not usually talking about solid 9ft walls all around the space, but light vegetation that creates a sense of privacy.

    I assume you don't have curtains or blinds in your house? Lol
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 29,109
    edited March 2019
    I'm reminded of a story a British actor told about his neighour across the road sending him a note saying " I note you have a habit of walking round your flat naked. Might I suggest you draw your curtains?"
    To which he replied " it's my flat and I like walking about naked. Might I suggest you draw yours?"

    Edited to add, I think it was Peter O'Toole.
  • LoxleyLoxley Posts: 3,993
     :D  :D
  • edhelkaedhelka GwyneddPosts: 1,973
    You are wrong if you think it is a British obsession. Different nations have a different need for privacy, depending on history and culture, but most nations have some need for privacy.
    I am originally from a post-communist country. This means two things:
    1st - I am used to much bigger gardens, like 5 to 10 times bigger than average British suburban garden.
    2nd - Even though I was a little toddler in 1989, I still have part of that paranoia connected to living under an oppressive regime in me - neighbours aren't always friends and they shouldn't see everything. In fact, this is still an ongoing thing, the number of people informing authorities about their neighbours is high and with society divided again, you never know what can be misinterpreted and cause you problems.

    But the most important thing isn't connected to nationality or history, I think this is natural to all people - I can't be myself if I am watched. And if I can't be myself, I can't relax. And for me, garden is for relaxing.
  • TheveggardenerTheveggardener Posts: 1,057
    Love that Hostafan1 re actor. To take it one step further and I'll get shot down for this. When the poster of this thread is in the bathroom does he/she shut his/her window if so what is he/she talking about he/she wants his/her privacy.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 29,109
    I'm happy to work naked in my garden as only one house  ( about 300m away) can see even part of my garden and they don't care if I'm naked or not . As I said to them:
    " have a look by all means. Once you've stopped laughing, I'm sure you won't need to look again" 
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