Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Woe and Betides of March...

Black cat in white greenhouse at West Dean

(Strange - if you click on the pic above you get a nice crisp picture but it looks fuzzy on the blog itself for some reason..? It has nothing to do with my post anyway)

I've scarcely blogged this year.. a few ideas for posts that may have amused drifted into my mind and just as quickly drifted out.  There has been just too much going on elseblog, a course at West Dean College (see pic above), the Bedsock's flu (proper flu not just man flu!) which I seem to have a lesser version of, the purchase and set-up of a weekend home in Dorset (more on this some other time) and now a tricky situation with a nasty neighbour has left me worn out, anxious and depressed.  So all is not as it should be at Socktowers!

After my lovely elderly neighbour (who I wrote about here) died a few years ago her house was eventually sold to a family who had builders in for most of last year renovating it.  The lovely, if a little old fashioned, garden had provided a wall of mature shrubs, tangling over the decaying shared back wall from her trellis onto mine.  The new neighbour immediately trashed the entire garden, hacking and slashing at everything in sight, stomping over the bulbs and wrenching the shrubs out destroying all the privacy that they had given me and his adjoining neighbours.  "I don't like flowers" he said "I'm going to put a barbeque at the back nearest the shared wall". Somehow he made that sound like a threat. The casualties of his attack extended to my adjoining neighbour's ancient forsythia which was supported by the entwined shrubs reaching over from his garden.  This totally collapsed into a mess of decaying stems right by the side window of my greenhouse.  This neighbour is old and unwell and  I can't suggest to her that I tidy it up as her son lives with her who is quite capable but doesn't bother to do it himself.  Her garden is an overgrown tip but as it is a haven for wildlife it is somehow more pleasing than the barren mud waste of the stripped garden behind me - although I could do without the constant battle with bindweed wending its way from her garden through the slats of my new fence.

I spent last summer putting up with the noise of oiky builders on the new neighbours house shouting inane rubbish at each other, as they do, just to hear the sound of their own voices.  Still we have all had oiky builders in at some stage and he can't be blamed for that.  My privacy was a little restored by my beautiful vine covering my trellis and blocking the permanet view of their washing hanging out on the line. The line that they originally tied to one of the slats of my trellis, reaching over the wall to do so, until the Bedsock suggested that whilst he didn't mind them tieing the line to one of OUR posts the slats were likely to break under the weight.  At this point we began to wonder if these neighbours were perhaps not quite as pleasant as they had seemed and that we would be best to keep a polite distance.

I fought my way through last summer, my garden assailed with builders noise from all directions - the street outside filled with overflowing skips that selfish neighbours allowed to spill into the road and not clear up joining the usual mess from rubbish bags torn open by foxes and seagulls and strewn all over the small front gardens. The only people who took a pride in this street are the older generation now dying off, the young 'professionals' who moved here take no responsibility for anything outside their own self-interested domain.  Don't get me started.... perhaps I am, myself just growing old...

When the leaves fell from my vine my view of the neighbours wasteland was opened up again, the lines of washing - always out come rain or shine, in the middle of a winter, - become a constant irritant.  I have to force myself not to become obsessed - its only washing.  Their converted kitchen boasts  a wall of glass doors onto the garden meaning I can see into their lives and they into mine even though I don't want to.  There is no escape from them and their house with it's lights blazing everywhere the entire time.  Breathe deeply... don't let it get to you... as the Bedsock says the neighbour said he would be putting up a fence when he decks over the garden and then they will be (for the most part) out of our lives.  I am scared he has no intention of putting up a fence, he has asked me about the badly built crumbling low wall which forms the boundary between us and holds my raised garden back from falling into his.  I tried to be as vague as possible about the ownership of the wall - I would imagine it is shared responsibility although most of it's buckled shape is actually on my side of the logical boundary line.  If I claim it entirely as mine I suspect he will say it is dangerous and that he will sue me if it falls into his garden - although it wouldn't be crumbling so much if it had ever been maintained on his side.  I originally said that I was open to discussion if he wanted to do anything about it but now I don't trust him enough to enter into any joint enterprise over it.

Over the winter he has stored some builders junk on top of the wall directly behind my greenhouse window.  My lovely Gabriel Ash greenhouse which is my pride and joy now looks out onto rubbish at the back.  This dumping stuff on the wall feels like an attack on me - no decent or normal person would store this stuff on a shared wall would they?  I breathe deeply, I force my obsessive thoughts to the back of my mind.  It is winter and I don't need to be out in the greenhouse very often.  But every time I go out there to check how damaged my aeoniums really are after the frost-free heater failed on the coldest night - my heart sinks to see his stuff on the wall.  In the end I tell myself I am being stupid.  This man doesn't know how upset I am as I haven't even told him and no doubt if I mention it he will say "Oh yes, sorry, didn't think!" and move it as any decent or normal person would. Or at least I would even if I felt that complainant was being a bit precious about their wall because it would cost me nothing to do and keep the peace and well being of good neighbours.  I am also aware that experience has taught me not to trust people and to expect the worst,  I am frightened that if any of my neighbours take against us they will take it out on my cats and this has turned me from a feisty person prepared to stick up for my rights, into an appeaser.

Breathe deeply... you are being ridiculous.. just ask the man nicely to move the bloody rubbish off the wall!

I catch him in what can no longer be described as his garden and call to him over the open plan area that forms his boundary walls.  He strides through the washing.

"Hi,  would it be possible for you to move the builders materials you've stored on the wall - only its not very nice looking onto it from my greenhouse." I keep the hard shrillness I am feeling out of my voice.

"Well I'll tell you what" he replies. "I'll think about moving that if you stop your cats from crapping in my garden."

My heart starts bounding in my chest... I knew this would happen, I knew it.  He knows my vulnerability about the cats as I have foolishly told him how anxious I get about them after Luka's death. I should know that the less you tell people the safer you are.

"Actually, whilst I totally sympathise about the cat poo I don't think it's from mine.  Whilst I can't guarantee that none of it is, they do mainly go in the grit box we have for them. To be honest I have to de-poo that so often I find it hard to believe they could do any more poo elsewhere."  I keep my voice on an even keel but every vile swear word I would like to call him is rising up within me

"Well I'm fed up with it" can't you spray your wall with pepper or something? I like cats but I don't want them crapping in my garden."

"I know how you feel - I read a lot of the gardening message boards online and one of the most frequent questions asked is 'How can I stop cats in my garden?' Nothing really seems to work from lion poo to water scarers.  But as I said it is very unlikely to be my cats doing it.  They cost me a fortune in cat grit but I think it's the responsible thing to do when there are so many cats around."

"Oh" he says "you know you told me about your cat that was killed on the road outside my house? Well another one was killed same place at the weekend. Still they have four cats so I don't suppose they will feel so badly missing one."

By this time my heart is thudding so massively in my chest that I feel on the edge of a full blown panic attack.  I want to say "Well if one of your daughters gets killed in an RTA I guess you won't miss her too much as you've got a couple more.." but of course I don't.  His entire conversation has been a thinly veiled aggressive bullying attack on me and I don't want him to gain the advantage of knowing how deeply this has affected me. I have only just trained myself to allow Spook out of sight for a while without panicking that he will be killed on the road (see kitten diaries).  Now all my fears have been reignited and I can barely let him out of the house.

"Well if you could move the stuff off the wall that would be nice" I say by way of closing the conversation.

"Why do you want the stuff moved anyway" he says "its only a greenhouse"

"It's a greenhouse that I have invested a lot of money and effort in making a little happy retreat for me" I smile and walk away from the conversation.

There is no retreat for me there now and never will be.


Mark D said...

A bugger a duck. Not fun. Id like to think of something witty and helpful to say but I can't think of anything. Send him a poo in the post x

Oxonian Gardener said...

I'm so sorry you are going through this. It is quite unbelievable in the big scheme of things. My parents had a similar problem, where initial kindness on the part of my parents to allow use of space, walls etc, turned into aggressive land grabbing and dumping ground for rubbish. It has taken them at least 2 years to get it sorted, and they now have a large brick wall to block them out. None of it was at all necessary where simple, yet evidently rare, courteousness could have resolved any issues from the start.

Lia Leendertz said...

This is appalling. But you have behaved impeccably. It sounds like you kept your head perfectly during this hideoous conversation. What an awful man! Have you got the money to say 'actually it is my wall' and take it down and build another lovely big high solid one the full length? Including behind the greenhouse? You need these people out of your life.

Arabella Sock said...

Unfortunately we don't have the money now to rebuild the wall and it would mean having the entire thing deconstructed and bought through my house - his side is semi-detached and I'm totally terraced. Where we now have the trellis we could put up a fence with difficulty which would pretty much be right up to the back of the greenhouse but this is our last option. The Bedsock says that having waited for so long for him to put up a fence on his side we should just give it a bit longer and see if he does. This is the time of year I spend a lot of time in the greenhouse and every time I go up to that end of the garden I feel anxious and stressed. I need to restore my equilibrium about the whole thing before making decisions one way or the other but at the moment I just don't want to be here..

Ms B said...

What a total bugger it all is & sadly there is probably no real answer to the mess. Where people live in such close proximity there are always such problems simmering away somewhere & ineveitably it is the problems such as yours that cause the most angst rather than the occasional rowdy party. The thing is worsened if you have put extra emotional investment & time into the something that is affected.

I have 3 neighbour's gardens backing onto one side of my garden, 3 at the back & 1 on the other side. The latter is the only proper neighbour as there is an alleyway that runs between us & all the rest. That helps enormously in aggravation stakes although you then get it being used as a dump by some.

We have had irritating problems over the years but nothing that has really caused major upset - touch wood.....which reminds me about the birch tree & the people with the plastic lawn.........

Simon.S said...

I think it's fair to say I don't get on particularly well with any of my neighbours but had always assumed it was me being overly sensitive. I'm sure that what in my mind are vindictive acts perpetrated against us, are no such thing & just the result of neighbours with different priorities who don't realise the impact they have on others. So if you would like a swap with the 80ft eucalyptus behind us, the rather cleverly planted pairs of leylandii (apparently you need 3 trees to constitute a hedge with encumbent rules). The other leylandii (a true hedge) which have not been touched since they were planted. The trees planted a couple of feet from our house. The smoke from a wood burning stove in a single story converted garage which means we can no longer leave doors or windows open. The ever present bonfires. The........

There you are, I've successfully hijacked your blog to have a rant of my own.

I went through a period of depression & all of the above took on a dimension & significance far greater than they deserved. Now, although the trees are taller & continue to grow & little else has changed, I am a lot more sanguine.

No daft moral intended but just to say enjoy what you have & rise above the petty small minded poltroons, you are infinitely better than them.

Simon.S said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
LittleGreenFingers said...

This is awful. It is true when they say "you can chose your friends but not your family" but to this they should really add "and don't get me started on the neighbours".

The worst thing is that they're right there - in the one space you need to retreat to.

The only suggestion I would have is to try talking to his other half. Of course he may be a hideous bully to her too but it's worth a shot.

Oh, and also, keep a record of everything - just in case he gets out of hand.

And plant screening. Lots of screening! How about some very tall grasses - maybe even in pots so you can move them to whichever view needs blocking?

And also, don't worry. He sounds a typical bully which means all bluster and threats - no real action.

So, in fact, that's not just one thing - sorry, I went off on one there a bit!


Arabella Sock said...

Thanks for your support everyone and your suggestions are helpful. I function best when I actually have a plan and a way forward that I can put into action but at the moment I feel quite paralysed with misery over it and I am also unwell, possibly as a result of the stress. I need to be careful now that anything I do (like tacking some opaque netting or something to the trellis to obscure the view of his garden) isn't seen as an attack on him and an excuse for him to escalate the situation. Unfortunately my vine is usually quite late coming into full leaf and doesn't, as yet, spread to cover the bit where he has placed his rubbish on the wall. I think the suggestion of talking to his wife if I see her is a possibility although when I have spoken to her in the past she has struck me as a bit 'hard'. I may leave it to the Bedsock as he isn't as likely to get so emotional about the whole thing.

puddyng said...

Oh dear, feel really sorry reading about your neighbour troubles, and I can, unfortunately, only relate too well. A 3.3 metre high leylandii wall, eh hedge, comes to mind. About the green house, would it be possible to put up one of those bamboo roll-out mats to screen out the view? They don't cost terribly much and do the job, temporarily. The cats: I simply couldn't bear losing one of ours, so we have netted in the back garden, yes, it doesn't look as great as it would do without, but also not as crappy as one might think. The boys can go outside, and I don't sit with my heart in my hands most of the day waiting for them to show up.
As my husband says, something has obviously gone wrong with evolution since pesky neighbours have not been weeded out ;-))


Gardeningbren said...

I was very sorry to read this post tonight. Your new neighbour is a bully I think. Try not to let it make you ill..he only wins then ;-(. Hopefully bedsock can secure a solution, as this will continue to make you miserable which will only make him miserable.

On a bright note, you have a beautiful greenhouse and a lovely garden, (eyes averted). Hopefully things will improve.

I so enjoy visiting your blog.

Arabella Sock said...

Hi Helle

Thanks for that idea about the bamboo canes - I think it could work as a short term measure. My only worry now is that neighbour will see that as an 'escalation' as he is clearly some sort of control freak. Anyway that is too bad as I can't live my life worrying about him although it's difficult when he is at home all day. If he doesn't put up a fence within the next few months we will have to look at squeezing one in on our side somehow although that will probably mean having to cut my lovely vine right back and having the fence squashed against the back of the greenhouse. How I hate people sometimes...

But then I read nice supportive comments on my blog from people like Gardening Bren and I feel some of my faith in humanity restored.