Blog 54 q…Friends, Family & Fences…
What a week we have had! In the run up to the Jubilee my father had become concerned that his new neighbours were not able to understand his distress when they used his garden as a short cut. Petty though it sounds to you and I but when you are 84 years of age and you have a communication problem with someone who does not speak the same language as yourself it actually becomes a major issue.
My father has lived in the same house for 44 years. There has been very little change to the neighbourhood or indeed to his garden in all those years. But sadly things cannot remain the same; untouched by life is a thing of the past. His neighbours of 23 years moved out and what problem is that I hear you say? People do move out and people move in…constantly over the past few months in fact, the neighbourhood is being swallowed up by a different generation of people, but the issue here is what protection is offered to the people who do not move out and opt to remain in their family home until they are carried out in a box? [my father’s words not mine.] Well the answer is actually no protection is offered, no support and no easy solutions. When your neighbours suddenly change into young, go ahead people with precise ideas it’s almost a case of to hell with the rest of you this is what we want…this is what we will have…and so it came about that after all these years of peace and quiet and privacy my father became a victim of today’s society: like so many other lonely pensioners.
My father’s home is a large semi-detached house with massive gardens. The garden at the side of his house used to be a mini orchard of several baking apples and sweet eating apple trees. This orchard swept down the side of the house and was bordered by honey suckle, elder flower and lilac and stopped short of his red bricked garage. The path through the orchard ran down into the raspberry plot, the rose tree garden and the children’s sand pit. The front garden was a mass of bushes, rose trees, iris, forget-me-nots and hedges. The back garden that ran the full width of the house and side garden was lawn, shrubs, more rose trees, a magnificent silver birch that we used to sit in and watch the pensioners bowling on the bowling green that was behind our perimeter fence. To give you some idea of the size of the land; our neighbours who were in the attached semi had a croquet lawn the length of their garden and as young children we loved summer afternoons when you heard the click-click of the croquet bats, the genteel clapping and calls of 'Well done Norman,' from the ladies who were having their afternoon tea in china tea cups whilst sitting in the shade of their lacy umbrellas and sun hats.
Yes it was idyllic, yes it was a fabulous place to grow up in and yes it is far too big for him now. But, with a lifetime of memories of his children, his grandchildren, his nephews and nieces and their children playing in the garden, the summer parties and most of all his memories of my mother tending to her roses: he is more than reluctant to leave all that behind. Why should he? Why can he not just stay where he has been the most happiest?
Well, there is a slight problem in that many years ago his old neighbour on the other side of the orchard, built a garage slap bang on the boundary line, having removed parts of the boundary hedge. Not the type of people to fall out or cause confrontation, my parents allowed this to go through and to be honest it was when my mother was dying and the last thing we as a family needed was the hassle. The garage was built and the bushes grew back and to be honest you didn’t know it was there.
Until he sold his house.
First there was the sudden removal of hedges and plants that have been growing in my father’s garden against the garage wall for the best part of 23 years; then there was the appearance of stones and bricks along the side of the garage: in my father’s garden and then there was a huge gate put up across the back access road which runs behind the row of houses and ends at my father’s garden; his only access to his garage by car.
When asked about the removal of the bushes the reply was that it was so that the new occupants could repair the guttering on the garage side that faces my father’s breakfast room window; now of course he had no pleasure sitting looking out at a grey breeze block building instead of his green hedges and plants.
A discussion about the gate merely left us with the option of full blown neighbourly fall out, reporting to the local council or merely putting up with having to open their gate when needed. My father chose the latter option. BUT there was no way that I was going to allow the persistent entering of my father’s garden to allow the passage of neighbours, their family and friends along their new, roughly formed path into the their back garden via my father’s garden.
Enter good friends. Sometimes it is true that a problem shared is a problem halved. On discussing my father’s plight and how we could best solve it, we were inundated with people who knew someone who spoke the same language and could interpret for us, we were offered support in lots of ways by friends who were wiling to visit the neighbours and explain the rules of boundaries on our behalf and most of all a brilliant friend who came along with his trusty digger and erected a fabulous fence in place of the missing shrubs and bushes for my father in order to regain some of his privacy. He has lost a few more extra inches of his garden but the fence is wonderful. He is private once again and there will be no more sudden appearances of people in his garden whist he is pruning his roses or sleeping in his deck chair.
This then gave me the wonderful idea of the ‘Gift Of Time’ for his birthday. I organised one of my younger brothers who lives locally, his wife and their two daughters, the ‘Hubby’ and our boys, ‘Bridezilla’ and her ‘Young–man’ and together we cleared his garden of broken bushes, tree stumps, weeds, rocks, stones, bricks, we cut hedges, pruned roses, trimmed the honey suckle, freed old lilac branches from crawling ivy: we planted rambling roses along the fence, the ‘Hubby’ made him 3 new bird boxes, the ‘Cutie-pie’ painted them and the ‘Intelligent-one' held the ladder whilst bird boxes and hanging baskets were put in place. We worked from 8.30 am until later in the afternoon; in the pouring rain: I do mean pouring! The dye from gardening gloves stained our hands and the wet mud weighed down our jeans. Our feet became soggy due to water logged wellingtons. We all formed a ‘Chain-gang’ to place everything into a skip which was full to busting by the end of the day.
Exhausted we ate beef-burgers and crisps and drank ‘cocoa-cola’ in the rain and reminisced about birthday bbqs we had in the past when the sun burnt the back of our necks and we would all sit round the fire telling jokes. We left wet, tired but totally satisfied that we came, we saw and we conquered! [Probably not quite what our father was expecting but it will make life a little easier!]
The rain persisted, the cleared ground became a quagmire and it was unsafe to use the electric hedge clippers. So home time beckoned and we wearily returned to our homes and hot showers and hot toddies or two [or in my case four!] And so it was that the Jubilee bank holiday has been a bit damp to say the least but not without a little added action…
As you know by now I am not a good sleeper and so in the early hours of the morning just as it was coming light I returned from the bathroom to open the bedroom window for fresh air and relief from the exhausted snores of the ‘Hubby’. I had only been dozing when there was an unearthly sound. Not quite an explosion but a definite bang, crash, thudding sound and I shot out of bed as the ‘Hubby’ moaned: “Was that the ‘ Cutie-pie’ falling out of bed?”
I checked; both boys were sound asleep and safe in their beds. I went to the window…not really expecting to see anything but my sleepy gaze was met with the vision of a car sitting on top of my fence which had been knocked into the next door neighbour’s garden…OMG… AND some of the young lads were running away!!!
I hung out of the window like a flaming, screaming, banshee…in fact I WAS a flaming, screaming banshee…from nowhere this voice screamed; “ Get back here, don’t you leave that * car…where do you think you’re * going? Don’t you leave you * hooligans…” [For the sake of decency I’ve deleted the rude words I used…but you can guess what I might have said!!]
Well of course the voice was me…the boys; shocked at the fact that someone had seen them and at the sight of a frizzy haired, half naked, foul mouthed old woman... did actually return to the crashed car for a moment…whilst I grabbed my dressing gown and fled the house leaving the house alarm blaring and the words; “Call the police” hanging in the air as the ‘Hubby’ sprung into life…despite his retort of “But I need the loo…” [I’m putting that politely too!] I had no idea what would face me as I reached the end of our drive but thankfully there was no injured body slumped over the wheel…and in that moment I realised I was standing barefooted and half dressed facing a group of unknown youngsters who were in shock but also looking very guilty and realised for my own safety perhaps it was best not to continue to tell them off and aggravate the situation: instead I offered hot drinks for shock…OMG was I losing the plot? [it was also at this point that I was thankful that I sleep in a bra…now that would have caused even more shock to these youngsters to see my womanly shape at such an early an hour!]
Luckily the ‘Hubby’ came outside having resolved to save his morning constitution for later…we waited quietly for the police and unable to retain the boys any longer they each began to disappear up the road but we didn’t worry as we recognised one of them under his hooded jacket AND it was his mother’s car…so less said about that the better…they weren’t going to get away with this…
Luckily other neighbours understood our recent plight…suffice to say we have had flowers and home made curries and then I also had advice over a cup of hibiscus tea from a lovely friend who knows all about the legalities of this type of situation due to her past career and she put my fears of being left to replace the fence to rest.
It has been amazing how out of so much hassle just lately, we have re-discovered the value of good friends, good neighbours and our family.
18 year’s worth of loving and caring and nurturing hostas, blackberries, rhubarb, mini shrubs…all for some youngsters in a stolen car to smash and flatten in one stupid moment of fun...is so frustrating and upsetting.
But we are thankful that no one was hurt seriously…plus the fact that the driver has confessed: so I do not need to attend an identity parade, thank God.
Ah well…cars can be replaced … new plants can be planted;
…and it’s a good job we know someone who has a trusty digger to sort out the fence…
and I have family who know how to garden…even in the pouring rain...
…well then that’s lucky isn’t it?
Blog 54 r coming soon…next Wednesday…