In a world where we can judge people not only by what they say or look like but by something as superficial as a Facebook, Twitter or Tinder profile, first impressions really matter.
Everyone has a gut feeling when you first meet someone and it’s hard to shake that off.
Which explains why I’m fretting so much about meeting my new next-door neighbours.
That first greeting is make-or-break.
Too friendly and caring and you’ll be labelled Lonely and Desperate.
But too indifferent or aloof and you’ll be the Nutty One Next-door.
I know all too well how a Nightmare Neighbour can make for an uncomfortable living situation too.
It was only a few months ago that a former housemate was reduced to tears during a doorstep confrontation about a noisy washing machine.
The not-so-nice neighbour moved out shortly after and it still makes my blood boil thinking about it.
Perhaps this bad experience is why I’m so determined to cement my status as the Perfect Neighbour with my own unsuspecting newbies.
It all started a few weeks ago with the sudden and hugely exciting addition of a flowery mat outside their door.
I must have missed them actually moving in, so when I saw the floral foot-wiper in question, I literally squealed with glee and got carried away.
In the middle of some kind of mat-based madness, I made a snap decision to do something I very rarely put myself through.
I baked cookies.
I’m no Mary Berry and only partake in baking on extremely rare occasions.
But in this case I threw caution to the wind and thought, if in doubt, get your cookies out, so to speak.
Joyfully pouring in a reckless amount of chocolate chips, I was convinced it would be the perfect way to say hello.
Toddling to their door, I was disappointed when no-one answered, but left the biscuit-filled box with a friendly note welcoming them to the area.
Feeling like I’d done my good deed for the day, I skipped home and called the boyfriend, who quickly brought me back down to earth with a shattering blow.
In typical bloke fashion, he laughed: “Cookies? That’s a bit much isn’t it?”
Oh god. Neighbour etiquette is new to me and my foolish confidence was soon shattered.
Was baking a bad idea?
Before I had a chance to retrieve the tasty treats, they’d vanished.
For the next few hours, I agonised over what the new arrivals must be thinking.
With the naive note and over-thought (and over-cooked) cookies, I’d leapt straight into the role of Nutty Neighbour.
I might as well have scrawled ‘LIKE ME!’ on a tatty piece of paper and thrown in a framed photo of myself to seal the deal.
A couple of days later, there was still no response. I was gutted. The new neighbours had been a long time coming and I’d blown it.
The previous ones moved out in September and you may remember my housemate left recently.
This clearly left me firmly in the Lonely and Desperate category – a soon-to-be hermit seemingly incapable of talking to new people without some sort of sugary bribe.
But after making my way through a few leftover cookies I began thinking that these newbies have big shoes to fill.
The last ones became friends and used to leave warm, home-made bread by our door for us (seriously).
As it turned out, a few days after the cookie episode, I received a sweet, hand-scribbled note thanking me and saying they’d pop round.
I can only hope they’re not sitting next door worrying what impression they’ve made with the Crazy Cookie Lady.
Plenty of potty ideas for kids’ Christmas presents
Harvesting plasticine poop from a garish canine effigy isn’t my idea of a good time.
But apparently it’s the fun, faeces-related game that kids will go crazy for this Christmas.
Doggie Doo is an ‘action game’ that lets your little ones feed and walk a fake plastic dog before it poops plasticine pellets, giving kids the chance to scoop the aforementioned poop.
There is a competitive element to it though, as the first player who manages to get three pieces of ‘dog mess’ on their shovel wins the game.
Sadly, that’s not the only bowel movement-related board game doing the rounds this year.
The iPotty is a strange toilet-training concept that has failed to make a splash with one particular group of people.
The potty, which comes with a built-in iPad holder, was named the worst toy of the year by the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood.
And don’t even get me started on those freakish dolls that have built-in ‘potty-functions’.
Whatever happened to a good old game of Boggle?
Some festive fun reveals a whole host of hidden talents
YOU think you know your friends well until, on a drunken night out, they suddenly reveal an array of hidden talents you never knew they had.
On a recent YEP Christmas outing in Leeds, we nipped into the Roxy Ballroom on Albion Street for a quick game of pingpong and some pool.
I am quite the competitive one – especially when I’ve had a drink – so had been psyching myself up for the challenge and dishing out the trash talk all week.
It was only upon arrival that I found out a colleague – who I’ve worked with for years – was once a top table tennis player and played at county level.
It would have been nice to have known this information before we wandered unwittingly into what turned out to be a winning venue for the colleague in question.
Beating each and every one of us in turn, it later transpired he even has his own carry case for his £80 table tennis bat, which comes complete with pingpong balls.
Another colleague, it turns out, does a mean impression of Gollum, whilst another is a budding tap-dancer.
On a recent trip to Paris, I also found out my friend has the uncanny ability to speak fake French.
This is a completely made-up version of the language spoken in such a convincing accent that it had me in stitches for days.
Another YEP friend is an impressive baker – as most of our waistlines will prove.
As much fun as the Christmas party was, I’m already looking forward to next year’s and wondering what other secrets my friends and fellow YEP-ers are hiding.