As It Happens

A sour note: Toronto resident gets not-so neighbourly advice to keep up standards

You can change your friends, but not your neighbours. You can however, leave them passive-aggressive letters if they really bug you. Find out what it's like to get one of those nasty notes.
CityNews TV anchor Roger Petersen, shown with the note he was sent by a follow neighbour in Cabbagetown, suggesting ways to improve his property. (City TV/Roger Petersen )

It's always great to have a helpful neighbour. You know --  the one you rely on for a cup or sugar when you're all out, or the guy who doesn't mind if you keep his power tools a little longer than promised.

Then, there's the neighbour who leaves friendly notes for you. Notes suggesting that maybe you could put away the bikes in your front yard, or take down your Christmas lights. The neighbour who points out that unlike you, everyone else is trying hard to keep up appearances.

Oh, wait. That's not-so friendly advice. You might even say it's a bit passive-aggressive.  

That's what Roger Petersen called it when he got just such a note this week.

The Toronto resident, who lives in the historic Cabbagetown neighbourhood, tells As it Happens host Carol Off that he was "amused" by the note, signed by a "fellow Cabbagetowner."

"It just talked about history of Cabbagetown...It said  it would be appreciated if (my house) could look a little more like it did in the 1800s," says Petersen, who is a local TV anchor at CityNews.

The note was polite, but specific, he adds.

"So, it said the basketball net might be better in the rear alley, the bicycles could go in the rear, and the general clutter cleaned up….And of course my Christmas lights, which I put away about a month ago - the Christmas lights could go to Goodwill. Which I thought was a little harsh." says Petersen with a laugh.

The note writer pointed out that the neighbourhood, which has a large collection of Victorian homes, hosts garden and walking tours, so residents "try hard to show off the 19th century heritage of this community."

Petersen says he has a hockey net and a basketball net in his front yard to play with his 7-year-old son, so he's "trying to strike a balance."  He moved in a year ago, and his house is one of the smallest on his street with a "postage-stamp" sized yard.

"I was thinking I would love to put vines on the basketball and have them growing up and down, and turn it into a climber. I did plant some flowers last year, but I'm not a green thumb….I need low maintenance stuff. So, if anybody out there knows what would go in the front yard of a 1905 house, I'd be more than happy to put it in." Petersen says.

Off pointed out that the area is called Cabbagetown because the poor immigrants who settled there had vegetable gardens in their front yards. She suggested that might suffice.

Petersen, who posted the note he received on social media, made it clear that he loves his neighbourhood, and the people in it,

"They're wonderful people." he says, adding that he's consulted with the local residents association and now plans to paint his house the same colours it would have been in the 19th century.

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