As a child, my street was peppered with children on bikes and roller skates, discarded skipping ropes and goalposts made from hub caps. The road was empty but for a handful of cars: the perfect playground. From the playing children, parents became friendly too. Neighbours borrowed garden tools, helped in fixing cars and deliberated world events on the front step.
Twenty years later things have changed. Despite the recent influx of new families to the street, no children play outside. Bikes are a distant memory and roller skates a forgotten invention. At the end of the street, where cars do three-point turns, a football, deflated, peeps through grass as high as kneecaps. The gesture of a wave or smile elicits a response of wriggling discomfort. We live in a strangerhood of people who come and go; eyes glazed with disinterest, focused only on themselves.
Over Christmas, one telling incident occurred. We awoke one morning, 3am, to a woman running hysterically up and down our road. Within minutes her screams woke every house. Unable to ignore anyone in distress, least of all a visibly frightened woman, we went outside to investigate. Asking one of our neighbours what was going on, his only reply was, 'Yeah, my girlfriend's drunk, what's it to you? You're only my neighbour.' He was right, of course; we are only neighbours. But not long ago, that actually meant something. It's a terrible shame to see the descent; to have grown up in a street once so sociable, now devoid of any neighbourly concern.
Today, society is insular. People have closed their minds, and doors, to the prospect of having a relationship with their neighbours. Community spirit is just that; an essence of something that once was.
Why has this happened? Community spirit was once an integral part of our nation's identity. During the Second World War, Britain was known for its street parties; a social gathering of neighbours under a canopy of coloured flags. Tables and chairs of different height and style would line the street and everyone came together. Drinking tea from an assortment of china cups, people joked, children danced and friendships were built - as war raged on around them.
In terms of human relationships, little has changed. But the outside world has altered drastically. With the advancement of technology, children now play indoors; essentially removing the basis for all neighbourhood networks. If the children do not interact, there is no reason for their parents to either. The impact of terrorism and an increase in anti-social behaviour has also weakened local neighbourhoods. People are wary and distrustful of strangers and so we isolate ourselves to feel safe. Combined with the growth in online social networking, there is little wonder why we have seen a steady decline in community spirit.
But think of what we are missing. A step away from our front door there is a wealth of potential on offer. Support, camaraderie and common ground. Friendship. What better reasons are there to go outside and make the effort? Share more than just a party wall and a garden fence.
Reader, what say you?