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It was a beautiful day today, the perfect autumn day with a bright blue sky and cool air. I planted a Chinese jasmine plant on the awful bare walkway that runs along the side of our building. It ends under my kitchen window, so I put the plant in an old strawberry pot and twined the young shoots around the rusty railings. Hopefully by springtime, it will be covered in flowers and will have advanced a bit further along the railing. It’s already made such a difference to how it looks out there, and I know I won’t really see it except for when I go out to take the garbage down, but it at least makes the area look less dismal and like someone cares about it. I’ve been hesitant to do it in all the years I’ve lived here in case someone stole the plants, but I thought it was worth a try anyway.

While I was doing this, one of my neighbours was coming up from the laundry and we often smile at one another in passing but haven’t really spoken much aside from saying ‘hello’. We had a brief chat where she discovered my name was Rebecca and I discovered her name was Nikki (or Nicky, or Nicki) and she seemed delighted at my planting idea (she also has plants on the walkway outside her flat upstairs). I had also hung a lovely big pink bougainvillea hanging basket outside the kitchen window and she said she’d been admiring it yesterday. She then went upstairs and brought down a tiny little strawberry plant seedling she had growing up on her balcony for me to put in the strawberry pot! I thought that was so lovely. Amazing how the slightest little touch of neighbourly friendliness can go such a long way.

By the same token, the slightest touch of neighbourly unfriendliness can give you a lasting negative impression of someone. The guy who lives on the top floor has been consistently…cool in his demeanour towards me. I wondered whether it had been because on my birthday last year, my brother and I were on the rooftop having a drink and a fairly quiet heart-to-heart, and he came up and asked us to leave. We did so, and I totally understand that he may have been trying to sleep or whatever, but he has never smiled or returned my greetings when we pass on the steps or in the street. He has a wife and baby too, and the wife seems to match his attitude. I thought it was just me, but Meg said that he had done the same to her when she and some friends were on the roof one evening having a chat and I realise that perhaps they just aren’t very outgoing, and even border on the deliberately unfriendly.

I guess you can’t win everyone over. But I’m determined to be as friendly as I can to my neighbours… we’re all living so close to one another it seems ridiculous that we don’t even know one anothers’ names. And I’ve been thinking about how nice Nikki seems all afternoon – just from five minutes’ contact. Goes to show how much positive connections with other people can affect your whole mood and outlook.