THE summer evening descends. The sun is still shining. You’ve got all the windows open to let in the breeze.

You’re in the garden drinking Pimms and the ‘whack attack’ happens. You get hot under the collar. The first wave of smoke engulfs you and there’s plenty more where that came from. Your neighbour is burning his or her garden waste and has just started an hour-long bonfire.

The neighbour waves and smiles and continues to pile on the pain, apparently oblivious of the discomfort not to say pain inflicted on ‘the audience’.

How do you resolve this one? Neighbours up and down Oxfordshire struggle to deal with it. Here’s how one small South Oxfordshire village thrashed out the debate in emails.

Disgusted of Waterstock: “Yet again I have had to take in my freshly laundered washing today, smelling of smoke. It will need to be laundered again.

“I do not have a tumble dryer and regardless, I enjoy the option of drying my clothes outside.

“Bonfires are not just my bugbear. From feedback I received from other villagers when I last had a moan about it, bonfires ruin the enjoyment of outside space for a lot of people, with many sharing my view that it is an antisocial and environmentally unfriendly way of dealing with waste.

“Could I please suggest a solution for this? Could I respectfully ask that if individuals want to have bonfires, that we select, say three or four days per month that are allocated ‘bonfire days’ and the dates posted on the notice board or circulated via email?

“This way those of us who are negatively affected by the fires of neighbours can ensure their washing is not outside and windows are closed. For instance the other day I came back from work and it smelled of smoke inside our house because I’d left our windows slightly open.

“I don’t think this is an unreasonable suggestion. If any of our activities upset or hinder anybody in the village, we could fully expect the issues to be raised so we could address the problem. We all have to live together in this wonderful village after all.”

Support came from another villager: “I think you are suggesting a very sensible and sensitive solution to the problem and that we should go with this suggestion and discuss the practicalities at a parish meeting.”

The chairman of the parish council, who lives in a chocolate-box cottage, entered the debate with his own agenda: “I certainly think there could be an issue here for the parish meeting, but surely this is just a matter of neighbourliness especially towards naturally nervous thatch owners!

“Cicely (the oldest resident of the village) I remember used to take all her bonfire material well away from the village to burn, and maybe we could agree a communal strategy to do that?”

Some had reservations: “I agree in principle but the only problem with fixed days is that for most of us gardening has to be done at the weekends so it might be difficult to find one day to suit all.

“For me it would have to be on a Saturday or Sunday. The other issue is weather – we save all our non-compostables and have a bonfire once a year, but often have to wait weeks so it is dry enough and not too windy.

“Maybe good old-fashioned communication is needed and anyone deciding to have a bonfire should alert their neighbours or even ‘book it a couple of days ahead of time, weather permitting, and post a note on the board.”

It was a heated debate and one villager stirred the embers. “To sound a contrary note, I love bonfires; it can be a real seasonal pleasure and represents the liberty of living in the country as distinct from the regimentation to be found in town.

“Lest you think me a curmudgeonly sort of person, I have about three fires a year, always check that my neighbours do not have washing out and if the smoke blows towards their windows I put it out.

“I try very hard to avoid burning anything damp which would cause smoke. Hence I do not think there is a problem that consideration and forethought cannot solve without the need for rules, schedules or notices.”

What’s your position on this burning issue? It’s not just a problem for rural residents; city dwellers are at risk, especially people who live near allotments, like the plots in Wolvercote.

And of course anyone can be the target of a barbecue. If your neighbours are having one, you might find your nice clean sheets smell of sausages.