How Good Neighbours Become Good Friends

Neighbours over a Fence

What have you done for your neighbours lately?  Perhaps you’ve collected a parcel on their behalf while they’ve been out, or helped them fit a lightbulb that they can’t reach.  Perhaps you’ve asked them what they need from the shops as you’re going to the supermarket anyway.

While I was living at my parents’ house before I got married, there were plenty of opportunities to help the neighbours, say hi, or have banter out in the middle of the street, at any time of the day.

Since moving into a flat with my wife, we haven’t really been engaging with the neighbours as much.  However, by working from home and spending so much time at the flat, I have been picking up on my neighbours’ patterns.

Take for example the professional couple who head out at 7am toward the station to make their daily commute to the office.  Then there’s the lively and loving Nigerian mother with four young children, who leave home at 7.30am to walk to school.  How about the gentle old Indian lady who lives in the opposite block on the second floor, hanging her clothes and sheets out to dry on the balcony at 8am.  

There’s also Tony, the chap in his 60’s, with one of the warmest smiles I’ve seen and walking with his head slightly drooped, with a thoughtful look on his face.  As I write this, I see the retired park cleaner, walking around inspecting the estate, dressed with his hat and jacket, the same hat and jacket every day.

So I see these people, day in day out, carrying out their duties and their daily patterns.  The question is, how much time have I made to get to know my neighbours?  To find out what their needs are and whether I can support in some way?  Almost none.

How Good Neighbours Become Good Friends

Do an exercise with me:

  1. Take a pen and paper
  2. List out the 10-15 house numbers or flat numbers closest to your home.
  3. For each home, write the names of the people who live there, their ages, their birthdays & anniversaries.
  4. Write their contact details – telephone, mobile, email, etc.
  5. Write contact details of their closest family or friends in case they need to be reached in an emergency.
  6. Write about their religious & cultural background, and the festivals they celebrate each year.
  7. Write about anything else you have learnt about them.
  8. Write about their most important needs and how you could lend a hand.

Have you learnt something by doing this exercise?  What one thing could you schedule in to do for or with your nearest neighbours in the coming month to improve your relationship with them and serve them better?


Photo credit, cowbark

Never Forget Your Parents


In the Indian culture, there is a traditional hymn that highlights the impact a parent has on their child’s life. It’s titled “mata pitane bhulso nahi” which means “never forget your parents”.

This hymn is typically sung during the prayer meeting after someone has passed away, often reminding everyone else to recollect what their parents have done for them, and if they are still alive, to look after them, the way they looked after you.

Mother’s Day is approaching – please take a moment to watch the video and read the words below, and do what is required right now to reconnect with those who have given you shelter.

Forget Everything Else, But Do Not Forget Your Parents

Bhulo Bhale Beeju Badhu Maa Baap ne Bhulosho Nahin
You can forget everything else, but do not forget your parents

Aganeet Che Upkaar Enaa, Eha Visarsho Nahin.
Their favors are countless, never forget that.

Patthar Pujya Pruthvi Tanaa,tyare Dithu Tama Mukhdu,
They prayed to many gods on earth, to see your face

Punit Jana Naa Kaadjaa, Patthar bani chundsho nahin.
Do not become rocks and crush the hearts of those saintly people.

Kaadhi Mukhethi Kodiaa, Monmaa dai motaa karyaa,
They fed morsels from their own mouth to raise you

Amrut tanaa denaar saame, Zher ugadsho nahin.
Do not spit poison on the ones who gave you nectar

Laakho ladaavya laad tamane, Kodh sau poora karyaa,
Those who loved you immensely and fulfilled all your desires

E Kodh naa purnaar naa, kodh purvaa bhulsho nahin.
Do not forget to fulfill the desires of those who fulfilled your desires

Laakho kamaataa ho bhale, maa baap jethi naa tharyaa,
You could earn millions, but if your parents are not happy at heart,

laakh nahin pan raakh che, E maanvu bhulsho nahin.
Always remember, those millions are ashes.

Santaan thi seva chaaho, santaan cho seva karo,
Expect service from your children, and serve being a child yourself,

Jevu karo tevu bharo, E bhavnaa bhulsho nahin.
Remember the teaching, as you sow so shall you reap.

Bhine sui potee ane, sooke suvdaavya aapne,
They slept in wet areas but made sure you were on dry land,

E amimay aankhne, bhuline bhinjavsho nahin.
Do not let tears come to those loving eyes.

Pushpo bichaavyaa prem thi, jene tamaaraa raah par,
They spread flowers in your path with love

E rahbar naa raah par, kantak kadi bansho nahin.
Do not spread thorns in the path of those path makers.

Dhan kharachtaa madshe badhu, Mata Pitaa madshe nahin,
You will get everything by spending money, but not Mother and father.

Pal Pal paavan E charan ni, chaahnaa bhulsho nahin.
Do not forget every loving moment of those auspicious feet.

(source: Never Forget Your Parents)

Peter Thornton on Running A Family Business

On the day of my birthday earlier this month, I had the opportunity to have lunch with Peter Thornton who previously worked in his family business (Thorntons Plc) for 30 years, eventually retiring at the age of 54 as Chairman.  Prior to meeting him, I sent him an email saying…

My grandfather ran a utensils retail business with his brothers when in Mombasa (Kenya), and my father ran a menswear retail business with his brothers in London (UK), and I would love to launch a business several years down the road with my own brother.  There’s something very magical about family businesses, and naturally I’m sure they have their own challenges and a unique dynamic (!)

When you have a moment, it would be wonderful to hear what your top three tips for running a family business would be.

Peter then sent me a very thoughtful response to my request.

I thought what he shared would be valuable for my friends who are reading this blog, so asked if he would be happy for me to publish it and if he would give a little more information about himself, his background and his services, in case any of my friends would get value from having a longer conversation with him or engaging his services.  You’ll find some gems very much applicable to marriage too I’m sure…

Here’s what Peter wrote…

My Top Three Tips for Running a Family Business – before ever starting!

Relationships & Roles

Your suggestion is that this is with your brother only.  Naturally this is far more simple than if there are more relatives involved.  However there is a need for various roles to be covered in the initial team, for more on that see below.

The most successful operations are run by emotionally mature people working in equal partnership.  By ‘equal partnership’ I do not mean that every decision however small or large has to be always taken by all partners mutually but there will be specific areas where each individual has primary responsibility and within which, to understood limits, they can make their own decisions without reference to the other partners.

This paragraph has certain built-in requirements which need to be understood in advance:
‘Emotionally mature people’ – this is of paramount importance, whether in business or in marriage!  The totally emotionally mature person hardly exists most people are immature in some way.  Going into business with your brother has advantages and disadvantages; on the positive side you know him extremely well already, on the negative side you automatically and permanently have an emotional relationship with him.

You need to understand each other’s state of maturity, do you both feel yourselves to be totally independent, adult individuals? have you progressed beyond the childish relationship?  Do you behave like two adults to each other? does either of you have a serious emotional problem, such as the need to be always dominant, or the need to always be right?  Do you entirely trust each other in terms of honesty, intentions and communication in individual, team and family relationships?

A major contributor towards ‘progressing beyond the childish relationship’ will have been to work completely independently of each other in separate organisations doing separate things for a period of time prior working together.  This will establish the individual’s independence, abilities, self-confidence and usable experience to bring to the business relationship.

‘Specific areas where each individual has primary responsibility’ – to run any organisation it is necessary to have specialists in several different roles.  Mike Southern in his Beermat set of books defines them extremely well as: Sales Cornerstone, Technical Cornerstone and Finance Cornerstone.  One or more of these will be the Entrepreneur, most likely the Technical Cornerstone.  The Entrepreneur is essential of course.  The operation can manage without the Finance Cornerstone at least initially because this can be delegated to somebody else part-time.  You therefore need to be certain about each other’s strengths, one needs to be fully capable of being the Sales Cornerstone and the other capable of being the Technical Cornerstone.

The individual running each of these areas will of course have primary responsibility and decision-making powers in those areas.  The overall corporate governance will probably be shared equally between the two of you initially that it will eventually become necessary to decide that one individual will make the final decision in corporate matters having fully sounded out the other’s opinion.  In other words this person will become the CEO.  Whatever happens this role must not be decided on the family hierarchy basis but only on the basis of ability as must every other role.

Future Family Governance Systems.

You need to be fully in agreement in advance of starting the business what your objectives are.  Do you intend always to run this between the two of you and eventually to sell it without involving any more family members or do you intend it to become a family institution for the long-term?

If it is the former it is essential that you do not ever bring in, at a later stage, any other family members because if you do so you will immediately turn it into the latter.

If it is to be the latter then you need to agree with your brother in advance the principle of and some outline rules for the following:

  • The Governance Structure for Business and Family.
  • CEO Succession
  • Agreeing Vision and Strategy
  • Rules for Entry of new family members
  • Future Share Ownership
  • etc.

As requested, a few paragraphs about Peter himself…

I started work in the family firm of Thorntons Plc (manufacturing retail confectionery business) at the age of 10 working during the holidays until I was old enough to start full-time. I became a director of the company when I was 29 and retired when I was 54 in 1989 as Chairman.

This gave me much valuable experience as a director of a family company where at one time there were six members of the family all working together.  Since that time I have studied the theory and practice of family business thoroughly preparing myself for working with family businesses.

Conflict can become very serious and destructive within a family business and it needs an outsider to relieve it.  I offer my services for this purpose and also for prescribing the stages that follow resolution of the conflict so that systems and procedures can be set up to avoid these problems occurring again in the future.

Please contact me at: or by telephone: 01395-548199 or Mobile 07836-212713.

Peter Thornton

Hope you found the above words by Peter useful.  Are you running your own family business at the moment?  What are the highs and lows?  What tips would you offer?  Would these tips translate well into the world of marriage too?

How To Say “No Thanks” If You Get Too Much Junk From Your Friends

Friends want to show that they care. They show that they care by forwarding you a funny story, a virus warning, or a photo that they enjoyed. They show that they care by sending a mass email using the “To:” field and so exposing your email address to a bunch of strangers.

The next time your friend displays less-than-acceptable consideration when emailing you, how about sending them the following response…

Hi there:

Please visit

It’s because I like getting personal messages from you, but don’t want any more email like this, please.

With love,

Freecycle Your Clutter – Make Some Space!

Spent the whole xmas and run up to the new year in the bathroom…. renovating!

Real quality 12 days with dad, demolishing the bathroom which hadn’t even seen a lick of paint since we moved in 17 years ago, preparing the walls, plumbing and electrics, and soon to have the new bath, sink, and all the accessories fitted in.

For the past few years, as we had a bathroom downstairs, the upstairs bathroom was used as a ‘temporary’ storage solution for all the pieces of furniture we no longer needed in the other rooms or were thinking we may be able to pass on to relatives.

When we had to eventually clear out the bathroom, there were two big pieces of furniture that ended up in my bedroom – temporarily of course! We could have either smashed them apart and taken them to the dump yard, sold them, or given them away. They were quite old, but not antiques, so unlikely that we could have sold the chest of drawers and TV stand. Smashing them and taking them to the dump yard was not a good eco option.


We Freecycle’d it! Sunday afternoon I put up a message stating “Offered: Chest Of 5 Drawers & TV Bench (HA7 Belmont Circle)” and gave details of what I was giving away. Within an hour, I received an email from a dude named George who wanted to collect these off me, to take for his daughter who had just moved into a council flat and could do with some basic furniture. I dropped George a note back to arrange that he could collect them the next day (today, Monday).

How cool is that!? My first ever Freecycle experience, that saved me the effort of demolishing this ‘no-longer-needed’ furniture, the hassle of taking it to the dump yard, lightening my carbon / karmic footprint as the furniture would have been dumped into a landfill, and giving me an opportunity to pass something on to someone who it would be better used by.

Check out You can find your local group there (wherever you are in the world), sign up with the group for free, and post up a message that states what you want to give away and your location. Then if someone takes an interest in it, they’ll get in touch and can collect it from you (i.e. take it off your hands!)

Now to find someone to take a pair walking sticks off my hands!